Friday, June 28, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

With humble thanks

Some kind thoughtful friends have put together a fundraising effort to help us get to Matt's Marine Corps graduation.  The linked website gives the details.  I'm commissioned to help tell our stories on the website they set up for the effort.  I may be writing mostly on this alternate forum for now.  But I'll try to keep the posts linked here, too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Mile is a Mile is a Mile. Or Not.

When I first moved to this very remote area of Minnesota I had a hard time acclimating to the distances here.  The nearest neighbors are a mile away.  The nearest very small towns are thirteen miles away.  Cities are further yet and they are still small cities. 

I had reason to chuckle at this relativity of distance last night.  A friend who lives in the Chicago area was searching his on-line resources to see what national banks were near us.  He said, "Oh,  nope, nothing within 30 miles." 

I quickly said something like, "Oh, no, no, NO!  The closest we'd find one of those might possibly be Fargo, and that's 150 miles.  And really, the chance is slim there.  Otherwise the Twin Cities is almost 300 miles."  We get used to such distances.  But I remember when we first found out we were moving here.  We did a search, just out of curiosity, to see how far to the nearest Starbucks.  The nearest one at that time was Winnipeg, MB, Canada. 

Just out of curiosity, and to illustrate just how remote we are, I made up this little chart to give a little picture of where we live.

City (metro areas) Miles from us Population in 2010
Firstly, the two closest towns to us. They each have a gas station. Oklee has a local bank and a grocery store. The each have a liquor store and an eatery or two. 
Oklee 13 435
Goodridge 14 132
This next round of distance. Thief River has most small city services such as a hospital and clinic, several locally owned businesses and industries, multiple gas stations, two hardware stores, a Wal-Mart and a K-Mart, and a few national chain stores. This is where we do most of our regular shopping.  There are a handful of fast food joints and another handful of full service restaurants.

Fosston and Red Lake Falls each have a few gas stations, a grocery store, bank, hardware and drug stores, branch library, an industry or two, and some locally owned businesses.
Thief River Falls 26 8,573
Red Lake Falls 30 1,427
Fosston 30 1527
Following, you see, we're getting into the next level of distance, and the next level of urban convenience.

Bemidji is still quite a small town, but caters to tourists, has several big box retailers, and even has its own mall. Albeit a quite small one with, I believe two or three department stores, and Minnesota State University, Bemidji.

Grand Forks has a pretty nice small town mall, many big box retailers, and many of the things people consider part of city life. As you can see by the population, it's still quite a small city, but it's the big place to go for all the area towns that are much smaller. Grand Forks is home to University of North Dakota.

But these towns area about 70 miles away each.  We only get to either Grand Forks or Bemidji a handful of times a year.
Bemidji 71 13,431
Grand Forks/East Grand Forks 68 98,461
Oooh, now we're really getting places. We're up into the hundreds of thousands in population. Fargo/Moorhead has a very nice mall, but still probably quite small compared to a big city shopping experience. This area has multiple hospitals and colleges and much business and manufacturing.

We might or might not get to the Fargo area a time or two each year.
Fargo/Moorhead 122 216,312
The closest really big urban area is the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. This area is still comparatively not as urban as many areas, ranking only the 16th in the US. We've only been to the Twin Cities perhaps 4 times in the last 12 years.
Twin cities 285 3317308
The following cities I've included only to give a reference for the next biggest metro areas near us. We do not use them for shopping unless driving through on the way elsewhere.
Winnipeg, MB, Canada 165 730,018
Bismarck,ND 315 61,272
Souix Falls, SD 378 228,261

And so you see, Sudesh, why I chuckled when you said you didn't see any within 30 miles of us.  Basically, within 30 miles, ... There is, well, nothing.  And of course I don't mean to say this nothingness ss a bad thing.  I very much love where we live.  But to those unaccustomed to such an extreme rural existence, this is rather empty.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Synod Convention Memories

Our church body, the Evengelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), has a meeting each June in Mankato, on the campus of Bethany Lutheran College.  The pastors of every congregation, plus two delegates, are the official attendees, but others can attend and listen to the papers and the business discussion. 

It's a time of reunion.  Many people bring their families.  There is also a music camp and art camp that week on the BLC campus, so older kids often attend one of those.

We haven't attended for years.  For a variety of reasons, but the one that's easiest to explain is that it's hard for Joe, with his Gluten Free diet, to stay in a hotel and eat restaurant or cafeteria food for a week.  The first year he was GF, he did attend, and camped in our little trailer and grilled on a little grill right in the parking lot.  That worked well. 

But that was many years ago now.  Many things have changed. 

Joe is planning to attend again this summer. 

The kids and I will not be joining him. 

But thinking about convention, and hearing other friends on fb talk of it, reminded me of this fun story of the the last time all of us went.  At least it's fun now.  At the time, spending the week camping in 90+ degree heat and humidity, being six months pregnant, chasing after six small children... well, it was more frustrating than fun. 

But like many things in life, it makes a good story years later.

The last time we all went, I was expecting John in September.  So Sophie would have been 1 1/2; Clara 3; Elsie 5; Louisa 7; Matt 8; and Jeremy 10.  We camped at the Land of Memories campground.  It was extremely hot and humid, which it always seems to be during convention. 

The kids and I bummed around in the park during the days.  I had two umbrella strollers, which helped to contain the littlest ones.   We took walks and explored.  We also had an enforced quiet time in the afternoons with books and quiet activities planned.  We spent a day at the playground at Sibley Park with several other young moms and kids who we had known when Joe taught at Bethany. 

By by Wednesday, I was pretty fried.  Kids were naughty and whiney.  Joe was frustrated, between trying to help me with kids and also spend time relaxing with his friends, plus the stress of whatever was going on at convention that year. 

We decided to go out for supper that night to get a little air conditioning.  This was before GF days, so we could still do that more easily than now.  We went to the Wagon Wheel.  If I remember right we were pleasantly surprised by the quality/quantity vs price for feeding a family such as ours.

After a supper of trying to keep the passel of little ones in line, in a public place, we sent the four oldest into the restroom to wash up.  Jeremy and Matt to the mens' room.  Louisa and Elsie into the womens'.  After a while, we realized that Matt and Jeremy had not returned in an acceptable amount of time.  Joe went in to check on them, to see what was going on. 


They were playing.

With the soap.

I don't remember for sure if it was a foaming soap, or if they had simply foamed up the regular soap.

At any rate there was a sinkful of foam.  A sinkful!  Bubbling out to other surfaces.  On floors and walls and mirrors.

Joe sent them out to me.  And he cleaned up their mess.

After which we went immediately back to the campground, in a heat of anger and frustration.

And we packed up to leave.  We left Mankato at about 8:00 pm and drove home that night.  Joe just skipped the last day of the convention. 

I remember that the Northern Lights were phenomenal that night.  Really.  I've never seen anything like them since. 

I also remember that I had to wake Joe up after Akeley.  I missed the corner heading north.  In my inexperience of puling a trailer, I didn't slow down quite enough, soon enough to make the corner.  I came to a stop a few yards past the intersection. 

"No problem.  I can just back up that little ways and then head north.  There's no traffic out here at this time of night," thought I to myself.  "Besides, I used to drive tractors with trailers on Steve and Collete's dairy farm.  How different could this be?"  I figured I could handle it without waking Joe.

Yes, well, such was not the case.  In my attempt to back up those few yards, I nearly jackknifed the trailer.  So I did have to wake up Joe so he could fix the problem in his fog of sleep. 

I don't think that really helped his mood.

We made it home and all was well. 

But did I mention that we've not been to convention as a family since then.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Landmarks for Matt

Back: Joe and Matt; Middle: Clara, Elsie, Mary; Front: John, Donna, Inge, Stella, Sophie

There's a stealth video on here that will start as soon as you go to this page.  I do want the video embedded, but I'd prefer if viewing it and starting it on demand.  But I couldn't figure it out, and neither could Techy-Maestro, Joe.  So, well, sorry if it's annoying. 

I haven't been writing much lately.  I'm busy getting my life together after the many years of behindedness.

Like that word? Behindedness.  Say it loudly and proudly.  Behindedness.

I like it.  It's my life in a nutshell.  But it's getting better.  Slowly but surely.

But we have many things happening around here. 

Matt graduated the other day.  Over a week ago already.  We successfully pulled off a Taco Bar open house, but not without help from many.

Connie and Lana spent many hours helping me clean the garage and house; and plan and orchestrate all the arrangements; and collect needed items such as tables, chairs, garbage bins, coolers, etc; they cooked up taco meat and made bars; and they replaced the worn indoor/outdoor carpet on our garage steps with some new-to-us nicer carpet and also extended it all the way to the outside door.

Louisa's friend, Rachel, one of our "adopted" children, came and helped in the house for a day. Among other things, she braved the kids' rooms.

Joe's mom and dad and all our kids helped with all the last minute setting up on Saturday and Sunday between graduation Friday night, and the open house Sunday afternoon.  Joe's dad mowed lawn and other outdoor and garage things.  Joe's mom did indoor cleaning and organizing; and helped set up the garage.  Joe's mom and Clara cut up all the vegies for the toppings.

My friends, Shirley and Marlene, brought bars; and Clara made a big batch of macaroons.  Joe's mom Marlene kept the bars stocked up, and did various other serving tasks, so I could relax and enjoy my day.

And I did enjoy it.  I had a blast.  I never imagined that hosting something big like that would be so much fun.  But it would never have happened without all the help.  I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.  And I'm sure there were others who helped, too, to my apologies if I've forgotten anyone by name.

And now Matt is off to join the Marines.  He is in Fargo at this minute, awaiting his flight to San Diego.  Or perhaps he's already in the air.  Marine Corps Recruit Training is 13 weeks long.

The first week is orchestrated chaos.   Meaning the plan exists, the chaos is intentional, but from the descriptions I've read, it is chaos to those coming in.  These kids have no contact with the outside world during that week.  No watches.  No set schedule.  Meetings and paper work; strange sleep hours and locations, and not much of it;  drill, or the beginnings of drill, since the recruits start out with very little understanding of and experience with working together.  By the end of the week, they will be assigned to a platoon, working and learning under a collection of Drill Instructors, who each play a role, from father figure to bad guy, and various points in between.

After that the training consists of three phases, the first three weeks being the most grueling and overwhelming.  They have usually settled into the routine jumping when and how high the instructor demands.  They've mastered or at least gained familiarity with the many terms and rules and methods, and the history and traditions of the Marine Corps.  These are memorized with rote drilling and mnemonic aids.  Recruits also have a week of swim training and a couple of weeks of rifle marksmanship training, during both kinds of training there is alleged to be less yelling. 

The Crucible a 54-hour field exercise, takes place the final week. in which the recruit must put to use all the skills he has learned in training.  Upon completion of The Crucible, the recruits receive their the Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin, and are called a Marine for the first time.

And after that, the last Thursday of Recruit Training is family day, when family members are encouraged to come spend the day with their recruit.  Friday is graduation.  We hope to be able to attend, but we're still working out how exactly that will happen.  In the last few months, I've been forced to admit that our van is probably not up to the trip.  But we're praying God will work something out for us in this regard.

When I left Matt in Fargo yesterday he was excited, and of course nervous and apprehensive of the unknown.  And of those moments the recruiters advised would come.  Those moments when the recruit wonders why on earth he ever wanted to become a Marine, and is tempted to throw in the towel.  Keep Matt in your prayers.  He will need them at those moments. 

Matt's Great-Grandpa, Stanley Kindler, was a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Matt feels honored to follow in his Grandpa's footsteps.  But also, for that reason, he feels a little extra pressure to succeed, in order to make Grandpa proud.