Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Some years, I look at December 31 and think that next year will be better.  Some years, I look at December 31 and wonder how next year could be better.  This December 31, I wonder what is in store for us next year because this year had nearly everything.

We had Don's retirement, our fabulous trip to Alaska, my surprise birthday party, trips to Austin, Arkansas and the cabin, great times with friends and family . . . it was awesome.  We also had hail storms, fires, and floods that nearly took away one of our family's beloved places to visit.  We lost some close friends, including Mrs. Garvey, who has continued to be a great influence in our lives.  We reconnected with others.  We experienced a number of fabulous and fun weddings, a number of friends have welcomed new ones into their lives.  It has been a year of mostly good, a little sad, a little bad.

In thinking about what awaits us for next year, I pray that my family and friends experience joy and happiness, and when it rains in their lives, that they may grow from it.  May it be the best year ever for all!

The Revolving Door

Revolving doors are wonderful inventions.  As one person comes in, another goes out.  Supposedly they also save energy.  Maybe in theory . . . but not when the revolving door is in a house, as it has been here.  Let me state unequivocably that I love revolving doors, especially when loved ones are going through them!

The Thursday before Christmas, my door started revolving with the arrival of Diana.  The next day, Kenneth and Melinda walked through it.  On Monday, they left just after Don's dad arrived.  Then on Friday, he left just in time for the sheets to get done so that Katie could use them Friday night.  Monday Diana left for Austin, and this morning, Tuesday, Katie left.  And no one walked back through the door.  So sad.

The holidays are so much fun.  Exhausting, but fun.  We had three Christmas Eves, and three Christmas Days.  We lighted the luminarias twice.  We ate well, we laughed a lot.  It was great fun.

We have one more celebration with the Norton family, but it will not be at my house.  So the revolving door is done turning for awhile.  Babs can get back to her normal routine.  We can acclimate to the quiet again.  And we will look forward to the next time the door can begin swinging again.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I frequently remind Diana that as I become my mother, she becomes me.  Her response?  "AAGH."  But I have seen it happen to so many people, I know it is true.

Case in point.  Nellie.  Although both Don's grandmother and mine were named Nellie, in this case, we are speaking of Don's.  Nellie lived to the ripe old age of 98.  She did not take any medicine, except an occasional aspirin.  She drove until she was well into her 80's, because she had to deliver meals to the old people.  The day she pulled out in front of a semi (and survived it) was the last day she drove.

Don's dad used to complain that if church started at 9:30, Nellie started chomping at the bit at 8:45 to go - though she only lived two minutes away.  She was not only early . . . she was WAY early.

I began to notice Don's dad doing the same thing.  If he said he would be here at noon, we could count on him arriving by 11:30.  But when Don started acting the same way, I began to call him Nellie.  Leaving our house at 9:50 for a 10:30 service was just a little over the top.

This morning was the worst.  Don's dad has been here since Monday, and Don and his brother Kenton are taking him to Pratt to meet Kevin and Barb, who will take him home.  They were to be at Kenton's at 9:00, so they could leave just after Kenton's kids left with their Nana.  At 7:50 a.m. - yes, that is 7:50 - they headed out.  Kenton lives 25 minutes away.  So they are destined to arrive at his house at 8:25 or so.  Thirty-five minutes early.  To leave at 9:00.  Crazy.

No wonder while on our Alaska trip Jerri called him the "Butt Crack of Don."  Fits!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Want, Need, Wear, Read

Last year, I read about this gift-giving strategy for Christmas.  Purchase one item that each child wants, needs, wears, and reads.  That's it.

Well, I am prone to over-indulgence - ask my kids.  My mom was, and I am.  So Diana asked me to work on using this concept this Christmas.  She said I go overboard, she is working on being a minimalist, and she doesn't need all the "stuff."  So I tried.

I really tried.  And I did pretty well.  What I found was that it made shopping easier because I had to focus.  Rather than just purchase something on impulse, I really had to think whether it was  a want, need, wear, or read.  And of course, I had to add eat!

I would highly recommend this strategy to everyone.  Although my kids would not have had the extravagant, presents-piled-to-the-ceiling Christmas morning, their rooms would have certainly been less full . . . and I would have perhaps learned a little about restraint.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Missions Accomplished

Well, this has been the several busiest weeks of my life.

Maybe not, but it certainly seems so.  I am sure when I was working, I was as busy or worse, but this past three months have been a whirlwind.  The search process for our priest was interesting and rewarding, as we have called a wonderful woman to be our priest.  But the time commitment has been incredible.  I don't know how Don was in charge of two search committees while he was working!

In the meantime, there were tailgates to hold, a Rotary conference to plan, an Author Dinner to arrange,  a Thanksgiving celebration to help with, and oh yes, Christmas!

The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  And so, that is what I have been doing.  Football season came to an end.  The trip to Austin was great fun.  We called our priest.  The conference and dinner are coming together.  And yesterday, I got the house decorated for Christmas.

Now for the shopping.  One bite at a time.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Aurora We Wished We Had Seen

We love the auroras.  So much so that we have bookmarked a site on the internet (www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/hd-480.asp) that has a special camera for showing the aurora.  Today I happened to open it just in time to see this:

Then the picture changed and this came up:

I have several more spectacular ones.  One looked like fireworks!  Loving the aurora.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An Austin Thanksgiving

Since Kenneth and Melinda were going to be in India for Thanksgiving, we decided to go to Austin to be with Di.  She invited all 70 of the graduate students in her department; thankfully not all of them could attend.  What Di didn't know is that her Aunt Kathy was going to join us.

When we arrived, Kathy knocked at the door.  Di was only a little surprised - and panicked because she did not have four places set.  Never mind, it all worked out.  We stayed at Di's but Kathy stayed in a motel not far from Di's condo.

Wednesday was spent shopping and cooking, enjoying each other, and eating at Phil and Amy's.  After dinner, we learned a new board game, Dominion.  It was a very interesting game, and I can tell it could become addicting.

On Thursday, Di was up bright and early to begin preparing the dressing.  She did not need much help from me, but I was there just in case.  We were responsible for the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes.  The rest was going to be brought by her various friends.

We brought Di some of her grandmother's silver serving pieces (which, by the way, when polished look fabulous), and she and Kathy set the tables for the dinner.  I think they turned out quite pretty.

After the meal, all of the friends went to the loft and talked while we did the dishes.  They spoke a combination of Spanish, Portuguese, and English, so frequently, we didn't know what they were saying, but that was all right.  They were having fun, and that is what Thanksgiving is about.

The trip ended too soon.  We left early Friday morning, hoping to avoid the awful traffic we encountered coming down.  Luckily, we had none of it and returned home in time to rescue Bella from the kennels.  Fun times, and a great Thanksgiving - a little non-traditional for us, but that was what made it special!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So Much to Unravel

Sometimes life is too complicated.

This is not a complaint.  It is an observation.

Several disparate examples come to mind.  (Speaking of complicated, Karen, why not just say different?  Well, Diana would be proud of me for using a higher level vocabulary is one reason, I guess.). Anyway, back to the subject.

For example, today.  The weather is exquisite, so I am sitting outside at Starbucks waiting for a friend.  It was certainly warm enough to be outside, and the sun kept us warm as we talked.  Once the sun went town, however, it started getting cold, and we had to leave.  The complicated part comes tomorrow.  Bitter cold is approaching, which complicates everything from driving, to dressing, to Babs.

As senior warden of our church we are in charge of finding a new priest.  We know who we want; we have had conversations.  But we are waiting for the official approval.  And waiting.  And waiting.  The frustration of waiting.  I thought this would be behind me so I could get on with other things.  Nope.

Then there is Christmas.  Overwhelmed.  Have not even thought about many gifts, much less decorations, food, cards, and all of the other stuff that goes with it.  Fun times.  Grateful to have the freedom to enjoy Christmas.  But oh my.  So much to do.

I keep thinking I am going to simplify.  But that, too, is complicated.  The emotional attachment I have to some things in my house makes simplifying very difficult.  But it is time to unravel . . . and uncomplicate.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Used to Be

Used to be I could not wait for Thanksgiving.  Not because of Thanksgiving but because it meant a few days off with my family.  A few days to sleep in.  A few days to catch up with the laundry, shopping, bookkeeping, and other chores.

Now I look forward to the things that mean Thanksgiving.  Being with the family, finding gratitude in the little things, thanking God for our many blessings.

Used to be, Thanksgiving meant china, silver, copious amounts of food, dressing for dinner, football games.

Now, it means china and silver when possible, dressing up if we can . . . But more than that it means being comfortable with the people involved, not stressing about how we are dressed but instead cherishing those around us.

Used to be Thanksgiving meant being with just the immediate family.

Now it means much more than that.  This year, Di invited some of her friends from school to her house.  The numbers of people have changed, but that is fine.  It is about sharing and fun.  The only rule?  No paper plates!  It will be very nice . . . And fun.

Age has mellowed me somewhat.  And I have learned to enjoy the relationships, the people, the preparation, the anticipation.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  May you enjoy those around you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sweet Bella

Bella is visiting us for a few days while her family is busy.  She is very comfortable at our house, and she is a very easy guest.

I noticed something today, however, that I have never noticed before.  I wonder if Bella knows that Babs is old and blind.  When I put the two dogs outside, Bella is usually the first one back to come inside.  When I open the door, she comes in . . . and then goes back outside.  She stands on the step, looking for Babs.  She will not come in until Babs is on the step, ready to come inside.  She lets Babs in first, and then she comes in behind.  It is as if she is making sure Babs does not freeze or stays out too long.

It is so sweet.  I wish I could look into those sweet eyes and ask her how she knows to take care of Babs.  But she is doing a great job.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Birthday Boy

Poor Don.  His birthday was last Sunday, but we have both been so preoccupied with other issues, that we did not really have a celebration.  I did get him a card - and it was even a nice one.  And we bought him some lights for the garage.  And I let him upgrade the new tv - I would have been happy with a not-so-smart television, but he thought it would be cool to have one.

On Sunday morning, we gave the forum at church - we talked about our Alaska trip.  Then Don had to be the chalice bearer while I did children's chapel.  Then we had to do treats at church.  By the time we got home, we had already put in a full day.  He then mowed the lawn - whoo hoo! We did go to Firebirds, a new dinner place, and enjoyed dinner and birthday treats with the Gaskills and the Manns.

Thank goodness, on Saturday morning, we were invited to our good friends' house, the Dunlavys, for souffled pumpkin pancakes, which were delicious.  At least someone pampered him.  And he got to wear the birthday hat.  Lucky guy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


This has been the several months of weddings for us.  Friends' children are getting married, and we have had the privilege of being included in the celebrations. (Unfortunately, we did not take many pics . . . so just imagine beauty everywhere!)

Each wedding was different and had their own special touches, but one thing in common was how each bride chose family members to provide a portion of the music.  Stephanie's cousin, who sang at her brother's wedding also, has matured into quite the soprano.  Wow!  How that large voice came from such a petite woman astounded me . . . she did a great job.  Then Becky's brother, Chris, and fellow lawyer friends, Ashley and Ben, sang solos, duets, and trios last Saturday.  Fabulous! When brother Chris sang Ave Maria as Becky and her dad came down the aisle, I barely held it together.  And to complete the connection, one of Chris's songs, Roads, was sung at Stephanie's wedding by Rachel, the church's choir director.  Very special indeed.

Another thing in common was the two GORGEOUS brides.  Each one had chosen a dress that suited her perfectly, and they beamed when they walked down the aisle.  Their grooms were smitten, as were the guests, and I saw a few tears from the altar.

Outstanding receptions with wonderful music.  The Wedding Crashers and Lost Wax were the two bands . . . both great bands that were easy to dance to.  Loved them both.

Individual touches distinguished each wedding . . . The Boathouse as a reception venue was new for many of us.  The view was gorgeous, the room plenty large . . . highly recommended.  Tennis courts for the other reception?  Amazing.  Anyone who says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear never talked to Patti and Becky.  The tennis courts turned into a magical flashy place, complete with blinking rings, colorful accents, mood lighting, and mobiles.

Proud families and friends put the exclamation point on each one.  Fathers dancing with their daughters made me cry; smiling elated newly marrieds made me happy; bright futures for all give me great hope.  I love these families.  Our children grew up with them; their parents are good friends.  We are so lucky to be a part of their lives.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Such A Waste

One and a half years ago, Don won a new television.  We were pretty excited, as we would not have purchased such a large one.  It was a 42" plasma, HD television.  What a deal!

Well, not so much.  I really thought we would get more than one and a half years out of it.  On Tuesday, I turned on the television to catch the news.  It was not on yet, so I took a snooze.  When I awakened, the sound was on . . . but the picture wasn't.  In doing internet research, it sounded as if it was easily fixed, so we took it to the most reputable television store in town.

This afternoon, I received the ominous "We need to talk to you about your television."  I knew it would not be good.  Indeed, it could not be fixed.  Three boards were bad, and the parts are no longer available.  Huh?  Two and a half years and the parts are not available?

The television repair man said that RCA televisions usually last about two years.  And in looking at various websites, sometimes they go out within six or seven days of purchase.  Oh my.

What really upset me about the deal is the waste of resources that has gone into making such terrible products.  The oil it took to make the plastics, the energy it took to run the factory . . . all just to be thrown away.  No way to fix it, so it just went into the recycle pile.

What a shame.  So we purchased a television recommended by Hephner . . . one that they say has parts always available and is easy to fix.  I do not think I am unreasonable to expect more than one and a half years from a television set.  Hope we get it with this one!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Closing Chapter - We Think

Last Monday, after our friend thought he was done with issues with his car, he received an email (or call - I don't remember) from AT&T.  The phone that had been stolen had been turned on.  AT&T wanted to know what message they should send to the person who opened the phone, since it could not be activated.  They decided to write "This phone is stolen, and we know you have it at this address.  Please call me at ??????."

Within just a few minutes, he received a phone call from the people who had purchased the phone in the flea market at 47th and Pawnee.  He had paid $250 for the phone and was clearly frustrated that it was not a legitimate transaction.  He suggested that my friend and he go back to the dealer to see if he could get his money back.

The man approached the vendor, who clearly denied that the phone was stolen, and he was not about to refund the money.  Eventually the man called my friend to the counter to verify that the phone had indeed been stolen.  Not about to give in, the vendor insisted that he prove it.  When my friend suggested that the contact list on the phone would match the contact list on his new phone, the vendor agreed to refund the money to the purchaser.  (The vendor also knew that the next step was to involve the police, which of course he did not want.)  Then my friend and the purchaser went to the AT&T store, got the phone wiped clean, and my friend sold it to the man for $50.

On Tuesday, my friend was asked to testify at a trial, which of course he agreed to do.  His new garage door "bwipper" is on order.  He has purchased a car - used and smaller, but his wife likes the color better.  And he hopes this adventure is behind him.

The morals of the story:

1.  Never leave your car keys in a group box, hanging on a rack, or in an unlocked locker . . . even in a place where you think they are safe;
2.  Justice moves slowly, but sometimes the bad guys are caught;
3.  Just when things seems weird, they can get weirder, and
4.  All's well that ends well . . . or maybe it is All's well that is insured.

Anyway, my friend's life is getting back to normal.  But this is not something he will forget very quickly.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Odder Even Yet

For nearly a month, my friend drove a rental car.  He parked outside many times because the hassle of getting out, pulling open the garage door, driving in, pulling it down . . . well, it was a pain in the neck. He got used to his new phone, and frankly, his wife much preferred the color of the rental car.

One day last week, the insurance company called to settle the account.  They assumed the car was trashed, and since it had not be located, they told my friend the check would be put in the mail.

THE VERY NEXT DAY, the police in Arkansas City called.  They had found his car.

"Did you have meth needles in the back of the car?"  the policeman asked.

"Well, no, I didn't," he replied.

Turns out the man who was driving the car was arrested for some other reason, but the car was found in the arrest.  He had removed the license plate, but when they checked the vehicle identification number, voila - they discovered it was a stolen car.

Although my friend has not seen the car, he was told it not only had meth needles in the back, a generator was also stored there.  Apparently his car was being used as a mobile meth lab.  The wrecker driver said it smelled really bad inside, either due to bad gas in the generator or the meth that was being manufactured.

So what happened to the over $5000 in tools that were in the car?  Where is the phone?  The garage door opener?  The answer to a few of those questions tomorrow.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stranger Than Fiction

Well, this is a story that is true.  It didn't happen to me, but it happened to a good friend.  I will tell it in several blogs, so as not to bore you.  But it isn't boring.  And it is a little scary.

My friend treks to the YMCA near us nearly every day.  At the Y, there is a rack where people can hang their car keys so that they don't have to be hasseled with them.  One day, several weeks ago, he finished his workout, reached for his keys . . . and they weren't there.  And neither was his car.

Now, this was not just any car.  It was a copper orange HRV.  Not exactly an unobtrusive thing.  But it was gone.  (In hindsight, I can see the person come in, grab the keys, go outside to see which of those fancy cars was theirs, and the one that opened was . . . orange?  I can hear the swear words fly!)  But that doesn't matter.  He loved the car, loved the color, and was downright angry that his car was gone.  Along with the garage door opener, registration . . . you know the drill.

They called the police, but the police were not real hopeful they would find the car any time soon.  The surveillance video at the Y was down, so they didn't even know whether it was a man or a woman who stole it.  In the meantime, my friend had to disconnect the garage door, since his "bwipper" was in the car.  He had to change the locks on the house.  He had to cancel his phone and get a new one.  I don't recall if he also lost his wallet, but you know what that would have entailed.  It was a pain in the neck.

He and his wife drove around looking for the car, but to no avail.  The police had no leads.  Then two days later, another car was missing from the Y.  This time, the surveillance video was working, and they eyed a woman coming out of the locker room with keys to a car.  She lucked into a black Charger. I commented to my friend that she had been sent back to get a better car, since the first one was such an interesting color.  They caught the woman who stole that one . . . but she gave them no hints on my friend's car.  So he got a rental car and waited to see what would happen.

Which is what you will have to do.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Football Revisited

This week was Rib Day!  That is usually a popular day no matter what, but this was a very special rib day because Trevor and Shelly Gaskill, their three children, and Shelly's family joined us . . . as did several other groups of friends.  We had over thirty people, which makes for a really fun time!

During the tailgate, the band showed up at a tailgate up the road, so we were all able to go watch them. Unfortunately, Willie was not able to join us, though we were hoping!

Before the game, we celebrated Garrett's birthday.  He is five years old.  We had a little difficulty keeping the candles lighted, but he did not seem to mind.  He was pretty excited about the cake!

Garrett's Nona also made football cake pops (see them above to the right of the cake).  They were delicious.  I know how much time was put into making them.  That was why it was hard for me to eat them.  Each one was definitely made with tons of love!

Our 'Cats seem to have finally hit their stride.  The defense has jelled, the quarterbacks seem to be figuring things out, and the game logistics seem to be ironed out.  The day was really pretty, and combined with some really good plays, we had a great time.  Only Trevor sat with us - Susan and Shelly took the kids to other seats - but it is always fun to have him in the group.

And this will be my last band post . . . maybe.  When the Iowa State band paraded onto the track, I thought, "Oh great.  We have to sit through their halftime show first."  That isn't very friendly of me, but I really wanted to see our group.  Was I surprised when both bands took the field together!  They jointly marched and played patriotic music, spelling out USA and then making an outline of the US.  The Iowa State drumline played where Iowa would be; ours played in Kansas.

I cannot imagine the logistics that went into planning the show.  Both bands only practiced together once . . . that morning.  Yet it looked as if they had played together for a long time.  A great Rib Day, an awesome game, a spectacular half-time show, and visitors from Virginia.  Nothing beats it!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Affirmation of What I Know For Sure

I know for sure that outstanding teachers perform miracles.  They do so on a daily basis.

It can be seen in the classroom, in athletics, in medicine, everywhere.  Exposing children to outstanding teachers increases their performance.  Ask football players about Bill Snyder.  They will tell you.

I had the opportunity to watch Dr. Tracz with his band.  Every year, the band gets better and better.  Dr. Tracz sets his expectations high . . . and he gets what he strives for.  For an educator, it was an awesome thing to watch.

The final affirmation came in a rather interesting place - West High School football.  For a number of years, West High's football team was one of the better ones in the city.  Then their football coach, Weston Schartz, left for another school.  Within a year or two, his team at the new school was winning, but his teams at West High began to have one dismal performance after another.  Two years ago, Mr. Schartz went back to West High.  This year, his football team won enough games to qualify for the State tournament.  The man knows how to get the best out of his students.  It is an amazing thing.

I wish every child in our nation had the chance to experience, on a daily basis, outstanding teaching.  Our world would be a much better place.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Third Quarter

As the students filed back into their seats, I asked one of the staff members if the students got to take a few minutes to rest.  After all, they had been going full tilt since 9:30 a.m.  "A little," he said, but I did not see much evidence of it.  Immediately after they got to their seats, they played the fight song and the Wabash Cannonball.  That isn't rest!

Once the game got going, however, the students were each given an apple.  They immediately chomped into them, and I wondered what would happen if they needed to play.  Sure enough, before the apples were completely distributed, the band had to play a song.  I did not look to see how the students handled their mouthful of apples, but I would bet there were apple bits in some of the instruments!  (I am gagging again!)

I did notice then that, at least for a few minutes, the band did not play.  I don't know if that was to give the students a rest, or if it was because the game was rather boring.  Dr. Tracz, while standing on his podium, said to me, "This isn't much fun," to which I agreed.  Within about a minute of his comment, Daniel Sams threw a pass to Tyler Lockett for a touchdown.  And the rowdiness began again!

I wanted to stay until the beginning of the fourth quarter, as I thought it would be fun to see the fourth-quarter song up close.  The players have hand motions that go with the song, and a group of adults in the upper deck do a dance with it.  Since it is hard to see from our seats, I decided to remain with the band until the song was over.  When it started, I showed one of the staff members the group of dancers above.  The particular staff member did not realize the adults were dancing, though they have been doing it since Kenneth was in school (or before).  I enjoyed seeing the routine from a different angle . . . but my legs and feet were getting weary.

I decided to join my family for the last quarter, and it worked out well.  I got to see the best part of the game from a better vantage point (it is hard to see anything that happens when standing on the sidelines.  I watched the large video board the entire time). I did enjoy seeing the final quarter of the game from our seats.  But I am so very grateful to have experienced the Band Director for the Day.  I learned a lot about what it takes to have a strong band program, and I gained a deeper respect for the musicians involved.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Making Connections

Throughout the day, I talked with a variety of people with whom I made connections.  The baton twirlers' coach is originally from Dodge City, and Don's family knew her dad.  One of the twirlers took lessons from Erin Hiers, the daughter of some friends from Dodge City.  I heard that the male drum major was from Dodge, so I asked him if he knows my nephew, Eric.  Not only do they know each other, they were in Les Miz together in high school.  I went to one of the performances, so I saw him in the production.  Who would have known?

Then there were the connections with the young people.  I met several high school students who were visiting from Maize and Kansas City.  As I walked off the field after half time, a number of the band members asked me if I had fun.  One of the tuba players stopped to talk with me.  The dance team members smiled at me as I directed, then encouraged me afterwards. The drum majors talked with me.  The staff members lent their support as well.

The handshake with Arthur Brown and Tyson Hartman, seeing Gordon Dowell from the Foundation (who had Mr. Navarro, another band supporter, with him), running into Casey Scott (who was in our wedding), as well as getting to see Dr. Tracz in action . . . well, I had no idea the day would be so action packed.  Several times I felt dizzy, there was so much going on.  I had no idea . . . and the day wasn't done!


The time has finally arrived.  Half time!  After a not-so-exciting first half, I was looking forward to hearing the band.  The drum majors, dance team, and flag bearers had returned, dressed in Les Miserables costumes, and once the field cleared, they took their places.

I have frequently felt bad for the band when the stands cleared, but never more so than this time.  I had seen firsthand how hard they had worked and prepared.  The west stands had emptied pretty well, but the students remained.  I was glad for that.

After the Homecoming festivities were over, the band came onto the field and began their performance.    They performed several songs from Les Miserables, the dance team performed, and the drum line had a wonderful solo that included drummers shifting from drum to drum.

The flag team is dressed as peasants.

And then it was time for the fight song.  Oh boy.  Amazingly, I was not a bit nervous.  I think it is because I knew that no matter what I did, the band would continue playing.  As I climbed onto the podium, the announcer said I was the Band Director for the Day, the drum major started the band, and we were off!  

I looked at the jumbotron, only to see a fat woman leading the band . . . oh, that's me!  I looked away, and continued directing until the end of the fight song.  It was really fun.  And then it was over.  

The band came off the field, and I once again found myself in the middle of a bunch of instruments.  The students filed back up into the stands to get ready for the third quarter.  There is no rest for the weary!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Game Time!

Back when I was in school, we had a yell leader named Larry Dixon who led the students in cheers.  And we actually cheered with him.  Now Dr. Tracz is the one who gets the students involved . . . and he does so in a big way.  I neglected to mention that at pre-game, when the students are in the stands but no one else is, the students and the band have a whole routine.  The students sit down during the fight song, then suddenly pop up and begin their roudiness.  Dr. Tracz just fuels the fire!

And if I thought things were busy before, once the game started, things moved at lightning speed.  I always wondered how the band knew when to play . . . now I know.  One of Dr. Tracz's staff members stands next to his podium, headset on, voice ready.  He has a direct line to "the god of football logistics."  That person tells him how much time they are going to have to play, what is on the video board prior to the band, or anything else he needs to know.  The conversation to Dr. Tracz from the staff member might have been something like this:

"Two minute break; Junior Wildcat; Fan of the Game; 45 seconds to play."
"No. Injury on the field.  Only 30 seconds."

In that time, Dr. Tracz has to decide what tune the band will play, signal the band members, and be ready at a moment's notice.  Then he may have to change the tune because something unexpected - such as an injury - has occurred.  He has a set of cards that he shows the band, and when it is time, the students know what they are to do.  They have choreographed certain drum movements, trombone movements, tuba movements . . . and they are hilarious.

Now, not to seem like a wimp or anything, but for some reason, despite the fact that I love bands, I am grossed out by instruments that collect saliva.  Let's leave it at that.  So, as I am standing below Dr. Tracz's podium, I see the trombonists start to empty their trombones . . . right next to the wall where my coat is.  Oh what to do?  I don't want to seem rude . . . but I really don't want saliva all over my coat.  So I walked over and began to move it.  One of the trombonists commented that he was really glad I did that because he would have felt really bad if he had dripped on it.  I was so grateful he had noticed and had been careful.  I asked about a suitcase that was next to the coat, but they said they could work around it.  Great . . . frankly I surprised myself that I didn't gag on the spot (but as I type this, I am having a little trouble :)  So I put the coat down out of harm's way, and the game went on!

Every time something great happened, Dr. Tracz got the band going. . . and the students.  He kept the entire section energized, despite a rather lackluster half.  When the West Virginia punter had a little trouble, some of the horn section started yelling, "High School punter."  Suddenly, a football came reeling towards us . . . the punter missed his practice net.  It almost hit me, but I wonder if he did it intentionally to shut the band up.  Didn't work!  Got worse!

At the quarter, the drum majors, baton twirlers, flag team and others left to change costumes.  I wondered what that was about but knew I would soon find out.  Then with five minutes left in the second quarter, the band began to empty onto the track to get ready for the half-time show.  Uh oh.  That meant my directing opportunity was about to come up.  It was going to be fun.  So here we go!

Monday, October 28, 2013


So Dr. Tracz told me to meet him at 2-ish in front of Vanier.  Standing outside the stadium watching all the purple go by was pretty fun.  Little kids get really excited about going to football games.  A few minutes after 2:00, the band started arriving.  I wish I had had my camera.  The two beautiful baton twirlers, in their sequined costumes, were visiting with two young starry-eyed girls.  I could just see those little ones deciding right then and there that they were going to be baton twirlers.  I know I would have been star-struck by them . . . well, I actually was because they are gorgeous women, and they were so nice to me!

Anyway, I waited for a few minutes, and then here came Dr. Tracz - authoritatively walking amongst the band members.  "Where's Karen?" he asked.  I stepped up, and he told me to come with him.  About ten seconds later he said, "You have to walk like a band director.  Let's go."  (I think there was a song like that - Walk Like an . . . oh, an Egyptian.  Well,  a band director walks faster than an Egyptian!)  And I stepped up the pace as we walked arm-in-arm through the gates to the field.

After what appeared to be milling around, but was instead perhaps better described as organized chaos, the band began to assemble in their places.  I put my coat down against the wall (significant in a later post) and waited for my next instructions.  Soon Dr. Tracz grabbed me to follow him.  He made sure I stayed on his right side, because the ball players are big, and he didn't want them to run into me.  I was grateful for that.

We went to the north end zone to wait until the players had vacated the field.  While there, four former players walked by.  I did not recognize two of them - I believe they were the Lamur brothers - but Tyson Hartman I recognized, and then Arthur Brown, Jr. - the Judge.  Boy do we miss him!  We greeted them all, but Arthur made sure to shake my hand.  Not just a passing shake, but an honest-to-goodness handshake.  He is such a quality guy . . . I hope he does well with the Ravens!

Then once the players got off the field, we walked to the west side to watch the beginning of the pre-game.  After the pledge, alma mater, and Wabash Cannonball, we took off around the field while the band lined up for the team's entrance.  In passing, Dr. Tracz mentioned that one of the students was marching in his first pre-game.  Why is that significant?  Well, the student is legally blind.

Although I already was sold on Dr. Tracz, this put a few stars in his crown.  There are "no"people, and there are "yes" people.  When a challenge is placed before them, the "no" people dismiss an idea.  The "yes" people try to find a way to make things work.  I can imagine that there are a number of band directors who would never consider finding a way to include a student with a vision impairment.  But "Yes people" not only consider it, they generally make it happen . . . to the benefit of all involved.  I was so impressed that a student would want to accept the challenge . . . and equally impressed that Dr. Tracz accepted it also.  I know it was a proud day for both of them and for the band in general, and I hope the student enjoyed the experience and will be able to continue marching with the band.

After the team came onto the field and the band started toward the east side, I thought it was odd that the ambulance was moving onto the track.  I was a little oblivious at the time - and buried in a sea of tubas, trombones, and clarinets.  Dr. Tracz pulled his podium up to the wall, the band got in place, and they began playing . . . but the ambulance's lights were going, and I realized something was happening on the field.  (Once I found out it was the cheer squad member who was decked by Willie, I was very worried, but it appears now as if everything is all right.)  Unflappable Dr. Tracz continued with the normal routine, and after the ambulance left, he pulled his podium into its proper place, and we were ready for some football!

Tailgating with the Band

As if practicing from 9:30 - 11:30 and playing during a football game from 2:45 - 6:00 is not enough, Dr. Tracz takes a group of pep band players to the parking lot between practice and the game.  I don't know how many tailgates they play for, but for several years they have played at a tailgate at the end of our row.  So I asked Dr. Tracz if it would be possible for the band to come by our parking spot.

Sure enough, about 12:00, the band begins to walk up and Dr. Tracz informs me that I am going to conduct them.  I put Babs back in the RV (how could I conduct with a dog in my arms?  I mean, really.)  I grabbed my baton, sidled up next to Amy (the real drum major), and . . . the band started sitting down on the ground.  The trombonists were lying down . . . I didn't know what to think.

Amy blew her whistle, and the band started playing . . . at half speed.  The trombonists lazily began to stand up, and at the end of the first verse of the fight song, I thought they would play at a normal tempo.  I started to pick up the pace . . . (and proof that the students know exactly what to do) . . . they just kept the same beat.  Once everyone was standing, then they double-timed it - just as I directed!  Ha, ha!

Afterwards, they started to play the Wabash Cannonball.  Of course, I had to abandon my post for a moment to get involved with the Wabash, but then I went back to help Amy.  I knew she couldn't do it without me!

Then they were off to the next tailgate down the row.

Only Don and I knew they would be there, so our group was pretty surprised . . . and we attracted quite a group of spectators from neighboring fans.

The band members are quite funny . . . and energetic.  And I hadn't seen nothing yet!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Band Practice

When I set up my gig to be the Band Director for a Day, Dr. Tracz briefly outlined the schedule, subject to change when we knew the game time.  (I knew varying game times was difficult for the administration and football team, but I hadn't even thought about the band.  I guess the pre-game routine is fairly standard, but when there is an 11:00 a.m. game, what time do they have to practice?  Yikes!)  Anyway, although I could have attended the 8:00 a.m. staff meeting (which I would have loved to do), we could not arrive in time, so I went to the 9:30 a.m. practice.  By the time I got there at 9:25, the band members were already on the field.

Since I did not know Dr. Tracz, I approached two people who looked like they knew what they were doing.  One was a staff member, one a student, and they both immediately said, "Oh yes, we will take you to meet Dr. Tracz."  Now I expected that of the staff member, but the student?  Well, not so much. What a pleasure it was to be greeted so nicely!

Dr. Tracz treated me very well. He presented me with a band shirt, a purple band hat, a very nice band polo, and my own baton!  Several times as the band was practicing he would mention me, he introduced me to the whole band, and he even let me give the announcements.  I accused him of having a bad second-grade teacher because I couldn't exactly read his handwriting, and he seemed to enjoy the repartee . . . I hope so, or else I received an F!

I had never really watched band practice from close range.  Once the students were on the field, Dr. Tracz was in the middle of them, talking to some, encouraging others.  A staff member in the stands had a microphone as did Dr. Tracz, and they could talk to the band over the speaker system.  No one could accuse them of not being able to be heard.

During the first song I noticed the students were not playing but were singing the song as they marched.  I asked the woman standing next to me why they were singing.  She explained that the students can concentrate better on their marching and it saves their lips for the game.  Makes sense.  I asked if all bands do this, and another staff member said that it is not standard practice, but anyone trained by Dr. Tracz uses that technique.

Anyway, they performed each song once or twice while singing and then they would play it.  During stoppages, Dr. Tracz would walk amongst the band, fixing problems, encouraging, or motivating.  He talked a lot about his and my generation, mentioning that many of our peers were pretty rowdy, sometimes demonstrating.  I agreed with him, and then I chimed in that streaking was also a favorite pasttime.  He jumped on that, threatening to have the two of us streak during halftime.  He didn't hear me say that I think that would cause the entire stadium to empty if I were to do that - ha, ha!

For the last song, the fight song, I was called up to practice.  I knew that they really do not need someone to conduct them . . . once they get the beat from the drum major, they just go . . . but it was surely fun.  After climbing up the podium, I used my baton and my conducting skills from my sixth-grade music class to get the band to play the fight song.  The Classy Cats dancing in front of me smiled encouragement as the band played.  No matter that I didn't exactly know what I was doing.  The band sounded great!

And then it was time to return to the tailgate for awhile.  The band was going to rest and eat, so I decided to go see Don and the fam until game time!  Stay tuned to find out what happened next.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mr. Adrenaline

Saturday I had the privilege of being the Band Director for the Day.  I was not real certain what it would entail, but when I talked with Frank Tracz, the "band man," he told me where to meet him, and  so I did as I was told.

Now I have known several music men in my time, and most of them have been energetic, charismatic people.  They must have learned from Frank.

When we met, it was as if we had been friends for years.  He was funny, friendly, and definitely passionate about his band.  As I watched him work, I marveled at the relationships he had with his students.  The respect they had for him was obvious . . . but so was the respect he had for them.

I learned a lot about marching band today.   That will be in a future blog.  But as in any organization, the leader sets the tone.  After meeting Dr. Tracz, I now know that our band is:

1.  High energy
2.  Friendly
3.  Disciplined
4.  Respectful
5.  High caliber
6.  Dedicated
7.  Funny
8.  A little crazy at times

Over the past 21 years, I have noticed a great improvement in our band.  They have graduated from doing the "World Famous K-State Spin" (which might be kind of fun to do sometime as a retro look), to complicated shapes and words.  They tackle difficult music, their numbers are large (over 400),  and they even sing.  And despite a grueling schedule, they still smile.

Frank says he is so lucky . . . this is what he gets to do for a job.  He says it isn't work because he loves it so much.  After experiencing the band for a day, I can say that KSU is inordinately lucky to have him in charge of our band program, and I am privileged to have gotten to watch him "up close in action!"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Captain Phillips

Sunday night we went to see the movie Captain Phillips.  How can this kind of thing happen?  Pirates in the 21st century?  After seeing the movie, it is easy to see how they still exist.

The movie was excellent!  Tom Hanks was amazing, the Somali actors were scary, the script was gripping.

Once I came home, I wanted to read more about the Captain.  I was stunned with what I read.  Apparently he is not the brave, thoughtful captain that is portrayed in the movie.  Apparently, he disregarded much of the intelligence and information that could have prevented the whole situation.  How disappointing!  It sounds as if he is no Sully.

The movie is still worth seeing . . . just know that Captain Phillips is not exactly as he seems!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Random Thoughts

Nothing real exciting happening around here, but I do have a few thoughts:

1.  The government shutdown ends, and the price of gas goes up 15 cents.  How does that happen?  Don and I fail to see the connection.

2.  Anipryl is an amazing drug.  Babs has been sleeping well . . . to my relief.

3.  October 18 is too early for snow.

4.  The Big 12 is not very strong in football this year.  Hoping my 'Cats can take advantage the rest of its schedule.

5.  Some of the best recipes I have found appear in the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal.  Today's is a yummy-sounding minestrone.  Can't wait to try it.

6.  I attended the funeral of a friend's father today.  It seems like every time I attend one, I leave wishing I had known the person better.  Celebrating the life of loved ones gives perspective to those who remain.

7.  Can't wait to see Captain Phillips.

That's it.  No more deep thoughts for the day.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


We have the Octoberfest thing down pretty well.  Brats, bierocks, Ashley's home brew, German potato salad, and a new addition - Victoria's beer stein cookies.  Add perfect weather, Avon beer steins, Kenneth's lederhosen, and German polka music and you have yourselves a party.

But something was missing.  All of the ingredients were there, but things did not feel right.  There was no excitement for the game.  We all expected to get clobbered so there was no . . . anticipation (sing it, Carly Simon).

The feel of the general atmosphere in the parking lot has changed.  Tailgating continues to be fun, but the fans seem, well . . . resigned.  Resigned that we would lose.  Resigned that we have no chance.

Fortunately, Coach once again proved us wrong.  Once again the 'Cats nearly pulled off a win when no one else thought we would even be in the game.  And in the end, rather than leave at half like we thought we might, the game was exciting until the last minute. And yes, we lost the game, but not as badly as we thought we might, and we had a great time.  So it was another successful Octoberfest after all.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Canine Cognitive Disorder

Last night, as Babs was spending another night eating, wandering, eating, and wandering, I googled "nights and days mixed up dog."  Many entries were immediately sent to me, and one of the first was about an old dog with the days and nights mixed up.  Yep, Canine Cognitive Disorder.  Alzheimer's for dogs.

Babs has it.  Every behavior was exactly what she is experiencing.  Confusion, pacing, panting, wandering.

There is a medication that is supposed to help it.  We have had a prescription for it, but because she is such a pistol taking pills, I had taken her off it.  Until this morning.  She is now back on it.  I don't know how quickly, or if, we will see results, but it can't hurt.  And if it helps her sleep at night, it will help me sleep at night . . . which will be worth every penny!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Catching Up

The worst part of the ten-week trip is the catching up afterwards.  It would have been easier if we hadn't had to leave town immediately after coming home, and then a week later, leaving again.  But we are home for good now . . . and I have been determined to get on top of things.

It has not helped that we are in the middle of a search for a priest and I am in charge of the search, I am in charge of two big events in February, Babs has been staying up most nights, and I still have a pile of mail to sort.  But today I made progress.

Getting all of the bills paid was helpful, but my biggest success was getting to see the three episodes of NCIS that I have missed.  While I was reconciling my bank accounts and paying bills, I watched the three shows.  After all, I have to find out what happens to Ziva.  NCIS is my favorite show, but Tuesday night seems to be the night when I always have meetings.  I had not seen any of the new season's shows . . . but now I am caught up.  Then this evening, while I was printing the last of my checks, I watched the first episode of Big Bang Theory.  Still have two to watch, but they go fast.  Once I watch those, NCIS Los Angeles, Hawaii 5-0 and Person of Interest, I will begin to feel like I am on my way!

So much for serious, education posts!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Art Forger

Our book club has introduced me to some very interesting books.  Some have been educational (Nothing Like It in the World:  The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad); some take on serious subject (Rain of Gold, which is a story of immigration); some classics (Emma).  And sometimes we just get to read some fun novels.  The Art Forger is one of those.

I do not know much about art forgery, but this book exposes a whole new field of crime.  Well-researched, the author Barbara Shapiro weaves truth into a very interesting and fun plot.  In talking with my art teacher, Charles, he confirmed many of the facts in the book.  Which is what makes the story fun to read.

Because the book was a fun, yet informational, read, I loved.  If you want to know more about the art of forgery, this is the book for you!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Other Pictures

As I was going through my pictures I found these that perhaps are better than the ones in previous blogs.  The captions tell where the pictures were taken.

This lovely mud pile is just below the Horton cabin.  Good thing it was relatively dry!

The bridge just above the cattle guard.  The BAER team has cleared out all of the brush.  Notice how clear the bottom of the stream is - no moss left!
Just above Tres Lagunas . . . remnants of the fire on top, beautiful fall colors below.

The top lake at Tres Lagunas.  All of them are this color, but this one has much debris in it, also.

At the cattle guard.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Good

As we took our Stroll Up the Canyon, we were astounded by what we perceived as being the negative effects of the fire and the flood.  Fortunately, we also found some positives.

When we were in the Canyon in July, I took this picture of the river, right at our propane tank.

Believe it or not, below is the same hole, post flood.  The mud and silt is gone, leaving gorgeous rocks and a beautiful, bubbling stream.

This hole, just below the Schneider's bridge, shows the same effect.

Isn't it pretty?  I never would have believed it, but with the silt and moss scrubbed clean, our little stream looks like it is brand new.

Above our cabin, the fire burned very intensely.  Very few trees survived and none of the ground cover was left.  Yet aspens are already sprouting and the seeding that was done by the Forest Service has taken hold.

It is not pretty yet; but it will be.

The burn scar behind our cabin was pretty obvious.  We had growth, and then it stopped.  Now, the area where the burn scar was is very green - much greener than what was not burned.

Although in the shade, the burn scar's green is different from what was not burned.
Many of the native plants are already coming back - holly, aster, primrose are all growing in the burn scar.

In many places, the fire is not evident and the canyon looks just as you would expect it to look.

So despair not.  Even the road can be fixed, and when it is, we will be able to get back into our little Canyon.  We will learn to live with the changes, and we will once again enjoy our little stream, the coolness of the air, and the camaraderie of our friends.

Strolling from #15 to the End

As we walked past the Anderson's cabin, Don and I commented that it could not be much worse.  How much more damage could be done?  After all, we had already seen the two bridges that were taken down at the Holt's and the Talbot's.  That's pretty bad.  And walking past Kelly's, the Horn's, the Conn's, and Ronnie Horn's the damage was about what we expected.

And then we saw the first issue.  The mess around the Reid's.  Early on, they had had a bad rockslide that had provided plenty of water in their cabin.  Chris had built a berm and a swale, however, that would divert the water, and it appeared to have worked.

But the bridge where the culverts are is gone.  The culverts are still there . . . just nothing on top of them.  It is a little tough to drive over this mess.

As we surveyed this area, Don noticed that the river above the culvert is now about four feet higher than it was.  It appears as if the culverts slowed the water enough to leave some of the rocks above them.  It would be good if some of the rocks washed away, as the way the river is now, it could flood the road pretty easily.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

We are standing just off the culvert, looking up the river.  Notice how the river is now about even with the road.
The Percy, Johnson, Lowe, and Rumsey cabins all had water rushing around them.  I understand Chris has notified everyone if they had any damage.  But the most stunning of the effects of the fire and rain (cue James Taylor) was to come.

Back in the late 1960's, a little spring would occasionally run between the Lowe and Rumsey cabins.  My brother and I actually tried to climb to the top to find it, but the ravine was so covered up even back then, we could not get to it.  Over the years, the spring has run on occasion, and when I was doing my research for my book, I actually found a letter discussing the water rights of the spring.  But it did not appear to be a reliable source of water.

Fast forward to the seven-inch rain.  The ravine where the spring is located became a rushing torrent, as evidenced by this channel the water dug through the road.

Yes, this is a gully through the road.

Don is standing in the gully, looking up the road.  He is six feet tall . . . 
The Rumsey's pump house . . . well, the poor thing.  It has been hit by two trees in the past few years, and now this.

Yes, that is dirt and rock piled inside.
The rest of the walk up the canyon was more of the same.  The road was no worse for wear, but the stream was certainly different.

The bridge at the Birdsong's gate.

Between the bridge and the Weaver's . . . note the erosion on the bank.  This is looking down the Canyon.
We have other pictures but they are not dramatically different.  The effects of the water, combined with the defoliation of the hillside, have changed the Canyon permanently.  For us oldsters, it will take some getting used to.  For all of us, it is the new normal.

But there are reasons to hope.  And we have the pictures to prove it!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Strolling from Cabin #7 to #15

So far, the major damage in the Canyon was to the stream and the west side of the road.  But that was about to change.  Just up from the Yarborough's cabin, it is obvious that the water has flooded the road.

Looking closely, it is apparent that where the stream curves from the Anderson's to the Davis's it decided to jump the streambed and go straight down the road.  Its independent spirit probably saved the Davis's bridge, but it did not do much for the road.

Slabs of the road could be found on the sides, rocks and roots protruded through the chip seal, and pot holes had been created.

The Davis cabin is on the left; Yarborough's behind to the right.

Finally, just around the corner, we saw the devastation water can do.  The river skipped the stream bed at the bottom of the Anderson's, and left this in its path:

Wow!  The poor road did not have a chance.  The debris pile at the Anderson's was impressive, and unfortunately, their footbridge was torn off the stream.  A large rock slide on the other side of the river came down to the water, but it did not seem to hurt the cabin at all.  

Part of the debris pile

The river behind the Anderson's.  Quite a bit of new rock has appeared!

Strolling from Cabin #3 to #6

Having just returned from a long trip to Alaska, we were accustomed to seeing rivers filled with rocks that had been deposited by glaciers.  Every stream we passed was filled with glacier rocks.  It was all very impressive.

Imagine what we thought, then, when we saw this just down the hill from our cabin:

This is on the west side of the road.  The waterfall is to the right,  Don is looking toward the Schneider cabin.

Although it looked like Alaska, it it is just down the path from the Brink's cabin that leads to the Schneider's bridge.  At the base of the road was a grassy meadow.  Now it is four feet deep in rocks.

To the left of the path was a ravine choked with dead trees.  It had been impossible to navigate up it, though we have tried several times.  Now the impassable ravine looks like this:

Nary a tree in sight.

Below the ravine and the rock slide used to be a waterfall.  The waterfall that was built back in the mining days, blocking the river to provide water for the hospital, no longer exists.

How many of us have pictures of our children on this rock?  We do.
Walking up the road from the bridge, the one familiar hole across from the rock that looks like a frog is dramatically changed.  The sleepy little fishing hole where many people would picnic is now a rocky one:

Many of these changes are permanent ones.  No one is going to remove the rock slide.  No one is going to replace the waterfall.  So it will take some getting used to.  But we can and will.