Turnover Day at Birch Haven Resort

Shortly, my daughter Kate and her daughters, Maddie and Emma, will be packing up the back of the jeep with cleaning supplies, vacuum cleaner, rags, clean sheets and rugs, and paper products. Then they go forth, attacking one cabin after the other, recreating the space for new guests. Seven of ten cabins to get ready this weekend.

Meanwhile, Kate’s husband Jerry, his son Justin and Bernie do the outside work, collecting trash, cleaning the grills, cutting the acres of lawn, and readying the boats and pontoons for use. The day promises to be pleasant, not too hot and sunny. Moods tend to go along with the weather.

It is always a bonus for the work to be done early enough that the owners can take a quick nap, shower, and put on their welcoming smiles by 3 pm check-in. I am in charge of washing sheets throughout the day. Before the end of the day I want to have folded the last clean sheet folded to put away in the maintenance room.

My daughter Heidi is here with her three kids. She doesn’t get into the cleaning as long as she has a three-year-old to watch, but her older children, Charlie 11 and Ana 8 are put to work wherever they are needed. They love coming here. They don’t get to choose which cabin to stay in, but every time they come Charlie tells me that the one they are in is his favorite. Once work is done, they get to swim and lollygag like the other kids who come to the resort. They will have a little money to spend in the lodge on candy or ice cream.

It is 8 am. Check-out time is 9, but two families left last night and some may get on the show on the road early. Gotta run…

Midsummer, Fleas and Birdsong

Usually people think of the middle of summer to be the Fourth of July, it being the only holiday between the two long weekends of Veteran’s Day and Labor Day. There is sort of a building up to the climax that we do, an opening up that feels like freedom. It is rather intense here in Minnesota where our warm days are so precious. After the Fourth, a small dread sets in as there is a descent toward the end.

But the fourth of July is not really midpoint between the two holidays. This year, it is July 15. Honoring the actual middle makes the crescendo of the first half longer last longer. The climax is rather disappointing, however – it is rather ordinary compared to the parades and fireworks of the 4th.  For children, the midpoint would shift depending on the last day of the school year and the beginning of the next.

The real middle of summer is the midpoint between the two solstices, August 5. That would make the crescendo even longer.

What a strange use of my brain this morning.

Here at the Minnesota Northwoods Writer’s Conference, the participants were treated to poet Camille Dungy read last night. For me listening to poets read their work is far better than reading poetry, except that in reading, I can always go back to chew on the words and phrases that I find especially interesting. What struck me last night was not the quality of her work, though it was quite extraordinary, but Dungy’s amazing curiosity. She said she’d written a poem about a tick that is killing the penguins in the arctic. The cold used to wipe them out each year but now, with global warming, they are able to live to do their harm.

This is the kind of curiosity I have. My husband remembers that on our first date I told him what I had learned in biology about the sex life of worms. He should have taken that as warning not to pursue me any further, I suppose.

My interest in what should be considered the actual middle of summer is my current curiosity. Another involves the song of a bird that visits the feeders in our yard. My grandson and I have had many conversations about this bird. While we have found a possible match in my Audubon bird dictionary, the song is not included on my CD of Minnesota bird songs. This is gnawing at me. Charlie has learned to imitate the bird’s song. I think what I might do is take him to the bird store in St. Cloud where he can sing to the store’s owner. When we find out it will be like the proverbial maiden who found her lost pearl.


Cabin Work

I think I washed a tooth filling down the drain last night. Chewing on a piece of pinepple sends me through the roof this morning. I will just be careful as I plan to stay at the resort all week and don’t want to have to change my plans to find a dentist.

Kate and I spring-cleaned three cabins yesterday – hope to do 3 more today. Bernie and Jerry have been commissioned to do some flooring in two cabins. What was life like before Birch Haven? Time’s a wastin’…have a good productive day, Y’all.

Barometric Pressure

I was telling someone recently what it means to be weather sensitive. I discovered this about myself years ago when I noticed four children all crabby at the same time while a crabby mother reacts. It always seemed to happen on rainy days. At first I blamed the fact that they could not go out to play or because the sky was grey, but when I checked it out, I found that the barometric pressure is the culprit.

In my case, a lowering pressure, often before the rain, means a queezy stomach, aches in my  joints, and edginess. Not a good day to work out marriage problems. Once the rains come, relief comes with it. A rising pressure means sleepiness and sometimes a headache. It sucks to be sleepy when the sun finally comes out after days of rain. While everyone else is out playing I am napping.

Yesterday was a rising pressure day. I took two naps, the second during the dinner hour. Then I had to drag my bag around to get through supper and dishes. Bernie asked me if I was mad about something. No, I told him. He asked me two or three times more until I got mad at him for asking. I went to bed at 8:30 and fell asleep before I got through two pages of my book. I woke up this morning at 7:30: 12 hours of sleep. My reaction to the change in weather seems normal for me and sometimes inconvenient. It is something I have learned to live with over the years.

I learned something new this time though, that I hadn’t noticed in the past. I found myself hungry through the whole ordeal. Starting at about 4  pm, I ate  until my head hit the pillow. I ate half a (large) bag of Doritos at 4:30 and it went downhill from there. I started to think about the chocolate candy my daughter had given me for Mothers Day. After taking a few too many, I gave them to my granddaughter to get them away from my addicted self. But yesterday, after the Doritos, I regretted this and thought maybe I could sneak into her bedroom and find them. Unfortunately, Maddie was in the kitchen when I went down to Kate’s house. “You sure are getting tall,” I said. I wanted to ask her if there were any candies left, but I was not ready to share my state with her. Nor was I ready to show Emma my madness when I picked her up from school and wanted to stop at the grocery store for chicken wings.

You might say I was saved by my shame. A good thing, too, because the barometric pressure is steady now and I feel safe again. Rather than  regretting the Doritos, I am appreciating the fact that I did not eat candy and chicken wings.

Parent Educator – a History

Her name was Dolores Curran. She was the keynote speaker at a religious education conference, a parent educator from Colorado. She was funny, realistic and honest. I knew then that I wanted to be a parent educator. I had no clue how one would do that.

I already had a career in the church. I began to chew on the idea of working with families and I found that there were protestant churches that had staff who worked in this area. It was glaring that ministry to families was common in the non-Catholic churches but nowhere to be seen in any Catholic parishes that I associated with. I tried to find a college that offered a program in family ministry; I found only two. One was at a college out east where one would have to attend full time for two years. This was out of the question as I still had children at home and a husband that still needed me around to iron his shirts. The other was in Boulder, Colorado. This one was attractive because it required 3-week intensive study periods three summers in a row with independent specially designed study in your work place during the years between. But the cost was out of the question. I didn’t have any knowledge about grants and let it go.

One day, I came across an ad in the jobs section of the newspaper for a parent educator. I called the number and asked, “What is a parent educator?” The voice on the other end referred me to a professor at St. Cloud State who chaired the department of family studies. I went to visit Glen Palm and when he showed me the curriculum, I knew this was for me. Coupled with my degree in Religious Studies, I felt that the program offered in Child and Family Studies I would qualify me to work in family ministry.

It took 4 plus years to complete my studies taking one or two courses at a time. When I was finished, I asked my parish education board if they would consider a change in my job description. I would keep some aspects of the work, add programs designed for families, and I asked them to add a part time position to do some of the youth ministry work. They turned me down and I went to another parish where the board of education had visions of shifting to a family-based model of religious education. Unfortunately, I learned that this small board did not reflect the parish as a whole and when I began making changes in the programs, there was considerable resistance. The parents wanted the traditional CCD model of passing on the faith through a school-type experience.

Simultaneously, my mother was having some serious health issues and I found myself overwhelmed with attending to her. Eventually I quit my job only to have my mother die two months later. Without a mother to care for or a job, I proceeded to do the work required by the state of Minnesota to become licensed as a parent educator.

Once officially qualified, I had several years of teaching in a variety of venues. Primarily, my work was in Early Childhood Family Education. For those of you who live in states that do not have ECFE, it is a program that brings young parents along with their preschool children together for structured learning and play. At one point, parents go into a separate area where they discuss parenting issues under the guidance of a parent educator.

I had the opportunity to work in other situations also. These included speaking before parents, parent/teen groups, to parents of children with special needs, and to grandparents. I taught in a church preschool setting for a couple of years and in our local county jail for five years. I loved the work.

I am retired now. I miss the work now and then. I sometimes think it would be fun to teach grandparents. This isn’t in my plan right now, but it could be in the future.

Have a good day.


Go Figure

A very quick post this morning. And a moment of truth.

Bernie and I met for lunch in town yesterday. It was Taco Tuesday at Taco John’s and we usually go there to support the owner, son of a friend and also because we like their tacos. But having tender tummies as we both are coming off the flu. Bernie said, “Let’s go to Subway instead.”

So we did. We both ordered Italian meatball and pepperoni sandwiches.


My granddaughter Cynthia asked if she could add my name to a list of people that would recommend her for a student loan. Don’t these people know that a grandparent’s comments would be biased…biased for the good, I mean. Student loans have to be payed back. I sure hope the economy is such when she finishes her schooling that she can get a job that can handle the debt. My faith in that is waning. But, like my father, I believe in the value of education. So if she ends up unemployed she can carry on a meaningful conversation with the other people under the bridge.

My father made the comment about believing in education years ago when I informed him that I wanted to drop out of college after 1 ½ years and go to nursing school. I never finished nursing school and I didn’t go back to finish my undergrad work until I was in my 30’s. To my defense, at 18 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life outside of getting married and having kids. I was curious about a lot of stuff, though, and did a lot of reading.

I am retired now. I think once in a while that going back to school would be fun. I would love the reading and the discussion. I would even like writing papers. My youngest daughter Heidi is planning to go back to school for her master’s degree. She is in her 30’s which was my age when I went back and her youngest child, Jack, is the same age she was when I went back. Going to school after a few years of life experience was amazing. It seemed that every concept thrown at me had a connection in my life that either supported it or refuted it. I know I didn’t feel that when I was 18 years old. Most of what professors tried to teach my young immature self was simply theoretical and pretty much went over my head.

I have often wondered why it is the tradition to go to college right out of high school. Most people I know who went to school after a few years of life under their belts were way more engaged and motivated. They also knew what they wanted and didn’t waste money on studies that didn’t end up useful in their life’s work. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from waiting to attend college. But I would not discourage the traditional path either. I am relishing in the awakening occurring in my granddaughter. Her life down the road will be different because of all that she is learning and pondering right now.