Saturday, May 31, 2008


We were sad to have the occasion to, but happy to be able to, return to Dad's today to attend the funeral of Lyle Opdahl, husband of Dad's cousin LeeAnn as well as Dad's elementary school classmate and lifelong friend. The funeral was in Battleview in the afternoon, so it was another daytrip for the Dickinson Mobergs (see this). We got to Dad's in time to have dinner at noon with him and Beverly before the funeral.

My sisters and I have always been friends with Lyle and LeeAnn's kids, our second-cousins Kim, Val, and Jeri, as well as with Lyle's nieces Cheryl and Veronica ("Prudie"), who went to school with us and rode the same school bus (Prudie to not-so-qualified substitute bus driver Eilaf: "Keep your eyes on the road!"); so it was very nice to get to visit with them before and after the funeral. I was too much younger than Lyle's other nieces, Debbie and Theresa, to know them well, but Theresa was at the funeral and told me that she remembered me as a nice little tow-headed kid who bopped onto the school bus and then sat quietly in the front. I said, "'Nice'? 'Quietly'? Are you sure that was I?" (Sisters, you're probably thinking that, too, aren't you?!)

In the evening, we extended family members were invited to join LeeAnn and her kids for supper, which they brought to the church to serve in the fellowship hall downstairs (people had brought them so much food in the days before the funeral that they wanted to share it all). There was plenty of time for visiting with Lyle's family as well as with other relatives and community members whom I saw often while growing up when they were my neighbors but don't see much anymore unless it's at holidays, weddings, or funerals. I'm grateful to be living close enough to "home" now that we're able to make quick trips back for such occasions; when the drive from our house was five or more hours, we weren't as free to come back without planning ahead, taking time off from work, etc.

The route between Dad's house and our own in Dickinson is lousy with deer of a summertime evening, and this trip was no exception. I have to keep a keen eye out for the creatures, which love to congregate in the ditches, laze along the shoulder of the road, meander across the highway, and generally make even more unpredictable the already potentially dangerous drive along the curvy and mountainous nighttime roadway. Here are some of them plotting to leap, gazelle-like, into the path of oncoming traffic:

And here is a pretty nighttime view of the Four Bears Bridge spanning Lake Sakakawea west of New Town:

We have a little wooden pig that looks in on us through our patio doors as we sit at the dining room table and eat; it's a recent purchase to decorate our veranda. The girls have named it Lyle Jerome Opdahl, Jr., the Pig in honor of Lyle. Also in honor of Lyle, here's a little music from Johnny Cash--a song called "Unchained" that might relate to Lyle's transition to Heaven:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Veterans in the Family

Although our family uses each Memorial Day as an opportunity to honor the memory of deceased loved ones and decorate their graves, it was originally intended as a day of remembrance of those who have died in military service to our country. Yesterday I asked my dad to help me think of family members who fit the bill, but we couldn't think of any who have fallen in battle. We did come up with a list of those who have served in the military:
  • my great-uncle Raymond (my dad's mom's brother)
  • my dad (Specialist 4th Class in the Army)
  • my uncle Jerol (my dad's sister's husband)
  • my cousin Jerry (Jerol's son)
  • my cousin Jeff (my dad's brother's son)
  • my uncle William (my mom's brother)
  • my uncle Curtiss (my mom's brother)
  • my uncle Herman (my mom's brother)
  • my uncle Leroy (my mom's sister's husband)
  • my cousin Herbert (Leroy's son)
  • my first-cousin once removed Christopher (Herbert's son . . . and my godson!)
Family members, is this accurate? Any additions? Please click "comments" and let me know.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Memoriam

Some light reading to get you in the mood for this post:

"Nothing but Death" by Pablo Neruda

"I Have a Rendezvous with Death" by Alan Seeger

"Go Down, Death" by James Weldon Johnson

"Death, Be Not Proud" by John Donne

"After a Death" by Tomas Tranströmer

"Age and Death" by Emma Lazarus

Today we rose and shone early to hit the road for Dad and Beverly's. Our plan was to visit Mom's grave and place flowers there on behalf of us and my sisters, Cathy and Sandy. Then I wanted to take Susan and the girls to some area cemeteries and show them the headstones of some of their relatives, both distant and not-so-distant.

We got distracted in New Town by our curiosity about the Four Bears Bridge attraction, past which we drive every time we use the new (well, as of 2005) bridge to get to and fro Dad's. A large chunk of the old bridge stands at the new version's west end and is surrounded by a park featuring benches, decorative concrete sidewalks, and several monuments with plaques explaining historical details related to the bridge, the Native American nations from the region, and their interconnection. A walkway winds from the park underneath the bridge to a pedestrian path across the river and into New Town on the north side of the highway (about four miles). It was cold and windy, and we had been later leaving Dickinson than I had hoped, but why not stop to explore and take photos?!

A section of the previous bridge looms over the monuments to the Native American cultures represented on the new bridge.

The new bridge with four native (small "n") Americans in the foreground.

Hillary standing on the decorative concrete walkway near the monuments.

When we finally arrived at Dad's, he was outside in the yard doing some work, so we visited there, and I got a good look at some fairly recent improvements to the house's exterior: refurbished front and back steps (from crumbling to solid faux-marble), blue metal roof, and repainted foundation.

This step used to be a deteriorating pile of concrete chunks and powder. Now look at it!

After dinner around noon, Susan, the girls, and I were off to the cemeteries. Our first stop was Bethel outside Battleview to place flowers on Mom's grave and visit Grandpa and Grandma Moberg's grave. There are several other Moberg and Aune relatives in that cemetery, so we took photos of their headstones, too. (In fact, the very interested among you readers may like to stop by our house when you have a free afternoon to view all the photos that I snapped in the cemeteries today! There are a lot . . .)

The wreath in the center is from Susan, me, and my sisters; the three bouquets surrounding it are from Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary.

My dad's parents, Grandma and Grandpa Moberg

We went next to Lindahl between Tioga and McGregor to visit my uncle, then to Zion north of McGregor to visit a couple aunts and uncles, and finally to Scandia northeast of McGregor to pay respects to Grandma Roloff and several other Roloff and Hanson relatives there. There used to be a church at Lindahl Lutheran Cemetery, but it has been torn down and replaced with a doghouse-sized model, which had the girls curious (how could anyone ever have attended such a tiny church?!). They seemed to enjoy the stories I told about various relatives and neighbors as we encountered their headstones in each cemetery, and we have plenty of photos of the girls posing at this or that relative's tombstone.

Apparently the world's tiniest church!

At Scandia, Suzanna Marit Moberg poses near the headstone for my grandma Marit "Mary" Roloff.

At Dad and Beverly's, the girls had a good time playing with Bandy and "playing school" at the desks stocked with office supplies out in the heated garage. We visited and had a good roast supper and then headed for home at night. But wait: one more monument! The engraved marker commemorating the discovery of oil in ND just south of Tioga. We drive by it every time we make a trip to McGregor, so I made the ladies pose for one more photo in the cold. It was a less emotional visit than the other monuments throughout the day, though. We miss Mom very much, and stopping by her and my other relatives' graves brought back many fond memories mixed with sadness.

Daddy! (Dear Readers, those of you who are relatives, whom does Dad resemble?)


Stone marking the Iverson well that made Tioga "The Oil Capital of North Dakota"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stand at the Grave and Weep

After church this morning, we drove to the cemetery where Susan's mother is buried in northeast Dickinson to put flowers on her grave. The weekend has been overcast and rainy with a strong, cold wind, weather that seemed entirely appropriate for our sad task today. It has been nine years since Sue died, and we still miss her very much.

Those who knew Sue will likely agree that her daughter and granddaughters strongly resemble her. Suzanna was the only grandchild whom Sue ever met, but all three girls know how much they are loved by Grandma Gustafson still, even though it must be from afar.

While at that cemetery, we stopped to pay our respects at two other spots: the side-by-side graves of Susan's grandparents (Sue's parents), Lester and Susan Morey; and the relatively fresh grave site of Mr. Wolberg, who sold us our house nearly two years ago.

Tomorrow we will drive to my own mother's grave outside Battleview, ND to place flowers, share stories, and cry together. We will also visit the graves of all my grandparents and several other relatives there and at cemeteries north and northwest of my dad's place (and we'll spend the day visiting him and my stepmom).

Since I'm in a sad, reflective, memorial mood, I'll share a poem that's commonly used at funerals as well as a choral arrangement of that song. You may find them depressing, but they're supposed to bring you comfort and a sense of peace as you think about your own loved ones who have passed away and whom you miss and remember fondly.

"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" by Mary Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Photo Splashed Across the Pages . . .

Faithful readers will recall my having participated in this event at DSU and my having shared photos of it afterward. Well, I'm famous again! Check out this issue of The Good Stuff: The Official Magazine of the North Dakota Library Association. The cover has photos from the event, and more photos (including one of me!) and an article about it are on pages six and seven.

Thanks to friend Curt for alerting me to this article . . . and this periodical, of which I had never before heard! It looks like a good one.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iowa Road Trip

This might be the only Iowa-related song I know. It's "Iowa Stubborn" from The Music Man, performed here by Chaffey High School of Ontario, CA (see more here):

Fun, huh? Okay, that is related to the topic of this post only in that the word "Iowa" appears in both.

I just got back from Ames, IA, where I presented at a regional conference of the National Academic Advising Association. Mary Jo, my former boss from Dickinson State University--who is now at Iowa State University (in Ames)--and I presented a panel with one DSU colleague on training university students to serve as peer advisors for freshmen and transfers, and we presented a second panel with another DSU colleague on bringing together a university's academic affairs and student affairs division in a joint academic advising effort during students' First-Year Experience.

Unlike all other conferences the past couple years that I've attended and presented at, for which I've flown, this one we got to and fro by driving. It was a long drive: about 11 hours, including brief stops to buy refreshments and meals or use the restroom. We had nice accommodations in Ames, though. The hotel where we stayed is run by ISU (and students in its Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management program) and has a conference center where most of the conference events were held. The opening and closing events of the conference were held on campus in the Gerdin Business Building, which is a nice, relatively new facility. Monday evening a few of us returned to campus for a guided tour by two students, who walked us around the lovely campus and told us brief histories of several of the buildings. With a student body of around 25,000, you can imagine that it's a large and sprawling campus.

Everybody whom I met at the conference was so genuinely friendly and down-to-earth, and all the conference sessions were worthwhile--and our presentations were well received, too. I reconnected with a gentleman who was a classmate of mine in a graduate course on educational foundations several years ago, and I made new friends with colleagues at other ND institutions of higher education. Also important was the chance to spend time with Mary Jo and her daughter, Lucinda. They made us (the DSU contingent) a delicious breakfast Sunday and joined us for supper Monday and breakfast Tuesday at The Café, a misleadingly simply named restaurant with a French theme and incredibly delicious food. (Without Mary Jo, my colleagues and I had a great meal Sunday night at Legends in the Campustown section of Ames.)

Seeing them, having a chance to visit and to vent about the stressful goings-on at work, and successfully delivering (and now being done with!) both presentations has restored my mental health somewhat. And being back now in the House of Blonde Beauties certainly helps, too!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ivory Ticklers

I wasn't in town to attend it (stay tuned to Pensive? No, Just Thinking for more details on why I wasn't), but our two piano-lesson-taking daughters had a recital tonight. Suzanna and Abigail take lessons from Mrs. Vold (and Hillary will begin next year), who is married to a minister and thus who held tonight's recital in his church (Our Savior's Lutheran) where her students could play on a lovely piano in a location with good acoustics. Susan said the girls did a great job, playing very musically and making her quite proud. To verify, I asked the two pianists themselves to describe the evening:

"I had no idea what I was going to do because I was so nervous. I stood up at the wrong time, but then I pretended to be restrapping my shoe. The song that I played was called 'Kaleidoscope Colors.' It was a very pretty song. I messed up in the beginning and did two fingers instead of one. I was dressed very prettily, and my song was very pretty, too. After the whole recital when everybody finished playing their pieces, we went outside of the sanctuary and ate bars, cookies, and punch."

"I was really nervous because I didn't feel ready to play my song, but if you ask Mom, I did 'such a wonderful job.' I played a song called 'Spanish Caballero.' I was wearing a really pretty skirt and shirt. When Mrs. Vold was giving out awards, she called the names of all the children who had gotten 'superiors' in the piano festival, and Abigail and I were the only people in our age group up there. We were so proud of ourselves! After the recital, I felt that all the hard work we had spent during the year getting these songs ready really paid off."

P.S. Recall last year's spring piano recital?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Light (in the Dark) on Their Feet

First, some background: Susan and I are happy to have our daughters involved in a variety of activities, but we want to maintain some sanity in our family's weekly schedule and be able to eat supper together every night. During the school year, here has been the girls' schedule of activities:
  • Tuesday: piano lesson for Abigail, dance class for Hillary, dance class for Abigail and Suzanna (together)
  • Wednesday: Susan and the girls work out at the community center, church choir for Hillary, church choir for Abigail and Suzanna (together)
  • Thursday: piano lesson for Suzanna, gymnastics class for Hillary and Abigail (together), Kevin and Suzanna work out at the community center
  • Sunday: Sunday school in the morning before or after church (depending on which service we choose that day)

School will be out soon, and the girls' summer activities schedule is much more hectic; but by then Susan will be out of school, too, and free to shuttle them about at various times of the day. In the meantime, the schedule above keeps them active but not overly involved (in fact, sometimes not active enough--the community center visits have fallen to the wayside in recent weeks).

In any case, tonight all three girls joined their classmates from the Academy of Dance to present a recital of dances for the public to show off the results of their Tuesday night lessons. The girls' teacher hadn't planned to hold a public performance this spring but decided at the last minute to do so in order to be fair: the older girls had had a performance opportunity in Bismarck, so she wanted the rest of the students to have a chance to perform, too.

Hillary's class danced to "Tamourine Dance":

Abigail and Suzanna's class danced to "Enchanted Suite":

The girls' dances were too brief and were preceded and followed by "dead air" moments (for costume changes? herding ballerinas into place?) that were far too long (poor planning), making for a herky-jerky and plodding evening in the auditorium. Also, the man seated directly in front of me talked loudly and continuously throughout every number, commenting to the people next to him on what he saw on stage or chatting with the little children in his lap, apparently unaware that he should shut up at an arts event where the audience has paid to see/listen to the performance and not to the mental vomit of some uncouth schmo who isn't paying attention to the stage anyway and should just have stayed home if all he wanted to do was talk. But other than that, it was a great night!

No, really, the girls did a fine job. At least that's what Susan told me; I didn't get to watch because I was trapped behind the camera view-finder, waiting for a daughter to pop into my view and then snapping madly, hoping that some small portion of the photos would be in-focus enough to salvage. From what Susan said, they moved gracefully and demonstrated growth from when they first started dancing years ago. Their dances brought a tear to Susan's eye--and in a good way. The tears in my eyes, however, were from digging my nails into the armrests of my seat to avoid reaching out and strangling the jackass in front of me. The arts can be so cathartic, can't they?!

P.S. Recall last year's spring ballet recital?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day, Susan!

Remember how last year Susan got some flowers the day before Mother's Day and then even more gifts on the actual day? Yeah, well, it happened pretty similarly this year, too. The girls and I did some day-before shopping, part of which involved flowers that Susan then watched us trim and place in a vase of water when we returned. ("Surprise!") We held off on the revelation of the other gifts, though, until this morning. What with church and Sunday school early in the morning, we got up at the butt-crack of dawn in order to allow time for gift opening right away:

Taken in medias res, this photo captures the excitement of not only Susan's face and mouth ("All those gifts are for me?!") but also Hillary's hair.

Not sure why Susan's holding the greeting card so high in the air, but it's her day, so she can do that sort of thing if she wants. The girls seem intrigued, in any case.

The gifts include scented candles and body sprays from Bath and Body Works, a colorful metallic rooster to add to the kitchen/dining room decor (of the same theme), and some items made in school by the girls. The girls consider a vanilla candle to be a traditional Mother's Day gift in our family, so the white one above is scented "warm vanilla sugar." The other--"enchanted orchid"--is lavendar to match our bedroom.

Family resemblance?

Big smiles!

Another part of Susan's gift was not having to cook any of the meals. So we took her out for pre-church breakfast at Hardee's, the Dakota Diner for dinner (raspberry chicken, ham, garlic mashed potatoes, Southwest corn, soup, salad bar, dessert), the Dairy Barn for another dessert (free sundaes for moms today--regular prices for everybody else), and the China Doll for supper (a variety of delicious dishes to share, including the tastiest egg rolls that I've had in a long time).

Well, actually, Susan ordered in the Chinese and then baked brownies to serve with Schwan's vanilla ice cream for dessert as we watched some DVRed episodes of a History Channel program on the Presidents (by the way, check this out). (In the afternoon, she and I had caught up on several weeks' worth of DVRed episodes of Lost.) We all rolled to bed absolutely stuffed from all the large-portioned meals throughout the day. Susan, too, keeps us well fed on a daily basis; but today we let someone else do the feeding for her. We love you, Mommy/Susan!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Snow on May 10th?!

If you don't like the weather in North Dakota . . .

. . . just wait a few hours . . .

I don't know why it chose to snow today; it hasn't snowed all winter long. But, as is evident in the photos, it didn't last long, and most people regarded the snow as welcome moisture for the fields and lawns. The girls got in a little playing-in-the-snow time, but the green grass poking through the snow made the scene a bit surreal:

Today Dickinson State University graduated its largest class ever, and I spent my morning at the commencement ceremony to applaud them all. Faculty and staff march in and out before the graduates and wear their own academic regalia, so I slipped into my own fancy garb before leaving the house:

Hillary giggled and said that I looked like a girl. Really? Even with the beard? I think she's been hanging around women who need hormone therapy.