Saturday, February 16, 2019

Being Caribou - Book Review

Being Caribou - Five Months on Foot with a Caribou Herd by Karsten Heuer is one of the books that I wanted to read this year that is focused on animals and nature.

This is a short book that is heavy on photos which I enjoyed. I learned a lot about this particular caribou herd of more than 100,000 that treks thousands of miles each year in Alaska. The caribou go through icy rivers, high mountain ranges, and passes that are snow-covered.

They come across grizzly bears, human hunters, insects, and wolves. However, out of all of these predators, the worst one, it seems, are millions of bloodthirsty mosquitos and biting flies. Once the insects hatch in the spring, the caribou make a fast-retreat back to their summer region.

The reason for this long migration to thee Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each year is that the females give birth to their babies. The peacefulness of the area and absence of the insects in the early-Spring helps the calves gain strength and prepare for a challenging year ahead.

This is the only area in the caribou's range where a certain kind of protein-rich cotton grass grows. The mothers, who are trying to produce milk for the calves, depend on this grass.

The author and his wife are the only humans to become part of this caribou herd. They followed them, set up their tent, and slept in the same area that the caribou lived. It gave them - as well as the reader - insight into the lives of these fascinating animals.

One thing that was amazing about the calves is that within five minutes of being born, a calf can take its first steps. Within 30 minutes, it walks smoothly. But the end of its first day, it can run, jump, and play with the other calves.

Another thing I learned was that the calves and mothers play games together to form a strong bond. The mothers grunt and the calves bleat over about a ten-day period; and they practice those sounds often so that they know one another. How well they learn and respond to each other's calls will determine whether the calves survive.

I wish there were more books written like this about different wild animals. Learning about them in their environment and not harming them lifts my spirits.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Favorite Photos - January 2019

These are my favorite photos from January. It's hard to believe the month went by so quickly.

We started the month out by going out to eat at the Chinese restaurant to celebrate the New Year. The year started out better than last year when we didn't have water thanks to the line freezing between the well and house. So, we had good reason to celebrate this hear: we had water!!

On Janaury 11th-12th, we went to the Mid-Winter District Conventions for the Lions. The girls came with since they are involved with the Leo Club. The theme was Italy, so the club president got hats for them to wear. Someone dressed up as a Lion and walked around all evening. 

On the 12th, we made a few fleece tied blankets that will be donated to children with cancer. Pediatric cancer is one of the key issues that the Lions are interested in.

On January 14th, Olivia needed a photo of herself to use with a wildlife group she is involved with through 4-H. Cooper sat nicely next to her for the photo. He looks big in the photo, but he's only about 68 pounds.

My friend, Yoshiko, sent me this hat from Japan. It came at the perfect time because the temperature started going down during the middle to the end of the month. This was a typical look for most of January when I went outside. The west pasture is behind me.

On the 17th of January, there was a beautiful sunset. If you look closely, there's an ice pillar (the ray of light that goes from the horizon to the clouds).

The next day, it was Olivia's birthday. She and I get up early, so she wasn't expecting anyone else to be up for her birthday breakfast. While she was outside taking care of the horses, I told Sophia and Paige they should get up quickly and surprise her. They came downstairs and sat at the table. When she came in, they yelled, "Surprise!" Needless to say, Olivia was pleasantly surprised.

For her birthday, Olivia wanted to see the new Bell Museum and Planetarium. The dioramas from the old museum were transferred to the new ones, and the glass was between the public and dioramas was improved. You can't even tell it is there in photos which is nice. 

The wood duck in the tree reminded me of my dad and how he loved putting the wood duck house by the lake each Spring. We had a lot of wood ducks raise families in the house throughout the years. It was always a joy to see them.

There was a wall of squares at the museum that Olivia stood by. I can't believe she's already 16 years old. Time went by way too quickly!

This is a close-up of the wall.

Another diorama was of sandhill cranes. I had never heard or seen a sandhill crane before moving to the farm. Now, each year - late Spring to early-Fall - I hear and see these beautiful birds.

After going through the museum, we saw a show in the planetarium. I haven't been in one since I was a kid. There used to be a planetarium in the downtown Minneapolis Public Library. It was closed and now the Bell Museum built one when they built their new museum.

It was interesting learning about dark matter (which I had never heard of) and seeing some of the constellations that are visible now in the winter sky.

Before the show, the screen in the planetarium was lavender, so that's why the photo of the girls is lavender.

We all enjoyed birthday cake after Olivia blew out the candles.

Sophia was having fun with the tissue-paper decorations. There were 16 flowers - 4 large light-blue ones and 12 little navy blue ones that were hung from the ceiling.

On January 23rd, Olivia and I took a tour with a group from the arts center to see the current exhibit at the Walker Art Center. Olivia is standing by a large piece that is collaged.

We had some extra time after the tour, so went outside to walk around the Sculpture Garden.

We saw the spoon bridge and cherry plus the blue rooster. The former sculpture is one that's been around for a long time; and when we used to visit the Sculpture Garden when the girls were younger, they would go close to it and watch the spray come out of the cherry stem.

There was a sculpture that was new (or at least new to us since we hadn't been to the Walker in many years).

The next day, January 24th, I got a couple pieces back from the kiln at the art center. I was so happy with the colors of the glazes. There are actually only two glazes. The blue in the middle is the color that you get when the two glazes on the outer sides overlap.

The is another piece that I made using the same glazes.

I made another piece that is ready to be fired. It is a tracing of my hand that I cut out and decorated with three different stamps in a random pattern. The hand sign means, "I love you." It will be fired and ready or glazing when I go back to class on February 7th.

On the 26th, I taught a class about Chinese New Year and the 4-H Global Connections project to eight youth who were at a Winter Workshop Day. Olivia helped me set up which I appreciated. She and the other kids in the class are choosing which Chinese candies they want to try.

Sophia was at the Winter Workshop teaching Cloverbuds (5-7 year olds) about how to make a kite. She had fun teaching them, and the kids were happy with what they created.

That evening, there were fireworks at the community center. Sophia wanted to see them since she has missed the 4th of July fireworks for the past two years because of being at the Take Action Camp in Arizona.

It was about 8 degrees out, so we bundled up to watch the fireworks.

There were ones that were low to the ground that went off and others that were higher in the sky.

We both had a great time watching the fireworks...though our hands got a bit cold since we had to take one glove off to take photos and video.

My favorite colors were the blue and silver ones.

By the end of the month - January 31st - I completed the first blocks for a Mystery Quilt that I am doing with the Minnesota Quilters. Each month, they give directions for one part of the quilt. This month, it was using three different colors to create a tri-color block. The little blocks with two colors are leftovers. They can be used either to incorporate into the back of the quilt or for another project.

As I look at the other people who are posting photos of their finished blocks, it looks like I'm cutting my wrong. I don't know how people are cutting them so they get the yellow section to meet exactly at the corners. (You need to trim the larger block down to a smaller size.) I may have a rather odd-looking quilt by the time I'm done. At least it will be colorful.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay - Review

I read the book How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay by Gen and Kelly Tanabe since Sophia is in the process of applying for scholarships as she prepares to head to college in Fall 2019.

There were many examples of strong essays and interview questions. However, they are unique to the person who wrote them, so they aren't things to write down to remember.

There were some tips that I thought would be helpful or general insight that I found interesting:

- Check out The Ultimate Scholarship Book that has scholarships based on field of study, ethnicity, hobbies, talents, etc.
- Sell the scholarship committee on the things that you have done outside the academic area.
- Find a unique topic - what point of view of life experience can you share that is unique?
- What's the underlying question. For example, "Why do you want to study business?" means "Why do you want to study business, and why are you the best future business person we should gift with our hard-earned money?"
- Be passionate about what you've done.
- Give specific examples - not just general statements.
- Expand on your accomplishments. Give details about what was actually involved with the role you did.
- Show positive energy. If you are writing about a problem, present some solutions.
- Even if it takes a long time to fill out applications and write essays, think of it as being paid $500 an hour if you win.
- Use your essay to craft a story showing why you are a unique candidate. Include personal experiences, lessons learned, and how you are trying to improve yourself.
- Give specific examples of leadership, special talents, obstacles, or community service.
- Make sure the essay fits into the values that the foundation/business cares about.
- Go deeper and beyond what is in your application.
- Paint a picture of yourself (briefly), and then explain where you're going and how you're going to get there.
- When talking about leadership, focus on the specifics of what you did in a particular role (e.g, writing an article for the paper, soliciting donations, overseeing volunteers, contacting people).

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

10 Questions about Me

The 10 Questions about Me is a swap in the ESG group on Swap-Bot. Below are my answers to the questions.

Recent photo of myself with my name, city/country, and a brief bio.

Sophia, Olivia, and I with Santa.
December 2018

There I am - the second from the left. A rare photo of me since I don't like haven't my photo taken. Usually, I am the one behind the camera taking photos of others.

I live in Minnesota - and have for my entire life minus two years when I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and another two years in San Francisco, California.

As for a bio: I'm 52 years old, have been married for more than half my life (28 years in October 2018), and have two daughters who were adopted from China when they were 11 and 10 months old (Sophia and Olivia, respectively).

Sophia, Olivia, and me about eight or ten years ago.

I worked in the development/fundraising field from when I graduated from college to when I started my own non-profit in 1995. After doing that for about eight years, I transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom who homeschools both her daughters.

My interests are: education and life-long learning; photography; nature and wildlife; the arts (visual arts and music in particular); cooking and baking; embroidery; sewing; and quilting.

Now the questions...

What's the most interesting thing you've read lately? 

I read somewhere that the trees you plant now should be ones that will survive 20 or 25+ years from now in a different climate. So, as we're seeing the temperatures gradually warm in Minnesota, for example, we need to think of trees that grow and thrive well in warmer climates.

There was a workshop or class about this topic that was promoted on Facebook. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the information; and I can't find the event now. Perhaps it has passed. Nonetheless, it was an interesting thought about being mindful about what you plant; and the importance of looking at the long-term.

What's a fact about you that's not included in your Swap-bot profile?

I was in a car accident on November 14, 2018. A guy wasn't paying attention as he drove up an exit ramp and rear-ended my car as I was waiting at the intersection. The thing was - it wasn't even my car either. It was a loaner vehicle.

Due to the accident, I have whiplash which has required a CT scan and MRI of my neck and brain; and many medical appointments with the doctor, spine specialist, and chiropractor. Next week, physical therapy sessions begin. I've been told by multiple medical professionals that it is a long journey to recovery.

Do you listen to any podcasts? Which ones? If not, what topics would interest you?

I do not listen to podcasts. However, if I did listen to them, I would be most interested in subjects about nature, art, and creativity. A couple that I found include:

Pulse of the Planet. The description says: "Each weekday, Pulse of the Planet provides its listeners with a two-minute sound portrait of Planet Earth, tracking the rhythms of nature, culture and science worldwide and blending interviews and extraordinary natural sounds."

Another that would interest me is Your Creative Push. The description says, "Your Creative Push is the daily podcast that pushes YOU to pursue your creative passion. Every week, Youngman Brown interviews artists, musicians, writers, photographers, graphic designers, and other inspirational creative individuals in an attempt to get them to inspire you to put aside your excuses and START DOING WORK. 

"Each artist opens up to YOU, revealing the things that hold THEM back on a daily basis, and how they FIGHT THROUGH IT. They then give you one final push, in an attempt to motivate you to start doing work as soon as the episode is over. If you have a full-time job or full-time responsibilities and WISH that you had the COURAGE and MOTIVATION to FINALLY do that thing that has been on your mind, this podcast is for you!"

If you were in charge of the playlist right now, which five songs would you play next?

The only time I listen to music is when I'm in the car. Rarely do I listen to music at home. It seems like the current songs keep repeating themselves so often. So, I would want to listen to songs that are rarely - if ever - heard on the radio.

Let's go back in time, shall we?

Jesus Christ Superstar - 1970. My dad had this album and I remember him playing it turning up when the song with Judas, the girls, and angels came on. This was his favorite song. Today was the first time I saw the video (click on the link above), but the song is as vivid in my mind now as it was then. It brings back so many good memories of him and his love for music.

My Dad playing the organ in Pella, Iowa, when he, my Mom,
Sophia, Olivia, and I took a trip there in April 2009.

Under Pressure - 1982 - by Queen. I would listen to this song regularly when my parents were struggling with their own  serious health issues towards the end of their lives (2009-2012 with my Dad; and until 2015 with my mom).

When I was driving by myself to visit them - whether in the hospital or nursing home - I would put this song on and the whole car would reverberate with the music. It was the needed mental escape I needed during a highly stressful and sad period of my life.

Body Talk - by the Wallets. This is a band I used to listen to in college. I watched them many times live at local bars and the evenings were always so much fun. People would be singing and dancing. You always would leave in such a good mood. The video is fun to watch. It was typical of the time period (1980s).

This Must Be the Place - by the Talking Heads. I hadn't heard this song until about a year or so ago on a show that Sophia and Olivia were watching. I liked the melody, but didn't know it was the Talking Heads (a band that I liked back in the 1980s).

You Can Call Me Al - by Paul Simon. This is just an upbeat song that I'd end the playlist on. It, like the others, is one from decades ago. In my mind, though, it seems like yesterday that I listened to these songs and performers. How quickly time goes by. more: Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes - also by Paul Simon. This came from the Graceland album. I listened to that cassette so many times (this is before music CDs were created). So many times I would listen to the songs and sing along to them as a I drove to work, back to college after visiting my parents, and going on driving trips. Lots of good memories when I hear these songs.

What's the best gift you've ever gotten?

I've thought about this questions for a while and nothing material comes to mind. The physical gifts I've received are thoughtful or useful.

What truly is the best gift I've received is time. Time with my family I grew up with: my parents, my sister, and my brother; and my family now.

A trip to Duluth's children museum in 2008.
The girls were dressed up in costumes and playing on the 
equipment they had there for kids to explore.

The every-day experiences, meals we've shared, trips we've taken, talks we've had...all these are so much more valuable and meaningful than any possession I've been given.

My sister, my mom, Sophia, Olivia, and me celebrating 
my mom's birthday on April 24, 2010.

What's your favorite part about living where you live right now? 

There are many things that I love about living here. It is very peaceful and quiet; and on holidays people go out of town so it is even more quiet!

Nature surrounds us which I enjoy. The sunsets and sunrises are amazing; and the beauty of each one never gets old.

Sunset on November 2, 2011.

There is wildlife all over our farm or right by it. I've seen and/or heard a variety of birds, raptors, mink, deer, fox, pheasants, coyotes, turkeys, and bears.

Least favorite?

The cold weather! We've had a very mild winter so far. However, the weather - starting tomorrow - will be getting into the teens and single-digits during the day, and below zero at night. As long as it stays away from being below zero during the day and double-digits at night, I can tolerate it.

The girls throwing snow at each other in the backyard
on February 29, 2012.

What's something that people assume about you, that isn't true?

Some people think that I either grew up on a farm or have always lived in the country since we used to have chickens, sheep, and  turkeys; and we have two horses now.

In reality, my dad grew up on farms in Illinois, but as a child I grew up in the inner city and suburb of Minneapolis. My parents sent us down on a plane to visit my grandparents (my dad's parents) when my sister and I were young; and then my dad, mom, and baby brother would drive down to Illinois from Minneapolis.

My sister and I would get to visit relatives' farms, pick peaches from my grandparents' peach tree, play outdoors, and ride on the tractor. That was the extent of my farm living.

Bailey and Hoss in the pasture.

When we moved to the farm here in 1995 and got livestock, everything was a learn-by-doing process. It was fun, exciting, and something new that I had never done before.

If you had to sum up 2018 in three words, which would they be?

Losses. Challenging. Resilience.

A couple photos from the fire on May 5, 2018, that burned the 
hobby shed, playhouse, 15 trees, and 14 acres of farm land. Also burned 
(but not completely destroyed): the animal barn, deck, and outdoor furniture. 
Melted: siding and window on the back of the house; and car. 

What event/trip/holiday are you most looking forward to?

Going as a family to Seattle (Washington) and multiple cities in Alaska for Sophia's graduation gift. We had originally wanted to go to China, but the political atmosphere is a bit tenuous right now; and there have been enough situations that make traveling there and back into the U.S. too unnerving.

The Space Needle in Seattle.
I went here on June 5, 2016, with my sister.

We want this trip to be fun, memorable, and exciting - not stressful. Hopefully, someday in the future, we will all be able to travel to China to show the girls where they were adopted from; and share stories about their adoptions and the process with them now that they are older.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2019 Nature Goals

During 2019, I would like to work towards the following goals. Some I've done in the past and others are new ones for this year:

1. Keep up-to-date with the new Nature Observer nature journal I received for Christmas.

2. Read 4 books about nature.

3. Visit 1 national park.

We plan to visit Denali National Park this year 
for Sophia's graduation trip.

4. Visit 2 state parks and their nature centers that I’ve never seen.

5. Take 6 new hikes.

6. Go on a camping trip.

Olivia and I went camping in southeastern Minnesota in 2018.

7. Plant on our nature trail 10 trees and shrubs that are native to Minnesota. (Do this after assessing what types of trees we have at the farm and aiming to have at least 25 different varieties after everything is planted.)

8. Have 4 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes.

9. Finish re-grading and sodding the backyard so weeds don't overtake our lawn; and finish the flower and prairie gardens by early June so we can enjoy them during the summer; and wildlife can benefit from them. Use the National Wildlife Federation's checklist for gardening for wildlife as a reference.

10. Learn about and/or interact with two different animals or birds while in Alaska while at the aquarium and/or wildlife conservation center.