Category Archives: Challenges

W^2 – farming

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, July 17, 2024

It is Wednesday morning, and I have returned to the lake after a quick trip to Houston and back. The lilies are still blooming, and Fern and Ivy are enjoying their time here, just as we do.

soybean field along highway US 61 near Holland, Mississippi. Sunday, July 14, 2024 12:29 PM

I flew to Houston last Thursday morning and drove back over the weekend stopping Saturday night at my favorite bed and breakfast in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I had gone home to collect a cedar chest which had belonged to my paternal grandparents and had been sitting in storage since we had cleared my stepmother’s apartment this past January.

I arrived in the wake of Hurricane Beryl to find Houston reeling in power outages, downed trees, and sweltering heat and humidity.  Though the latter is normal for summer in southeast Texas, the lack of power and air conditioning made conditions in the city much more unpleasant.

My trip was successful, and I was able to visit with my brothers and nephew, clear out the storage locker, collect the chest, and take in two baseball games at Minute Maid Park as well as collect more material, aka stories, to share through MakingtheDaysCOUNT.org.

I left after breakfast Saturday morning, and I took the long way home stopping in Vicksburg Saturday night. I had planned a side trip to Oxford to take one final look at Juliana’s home which sold in February ‘23 before finishing the drive home on Sunday.

In all there were three planned stops, at least 1,265 miles, and over 19 hours of driving. Continue reading W^2 – farming

W^2 – day lily

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Grandma’s summer day lily. Lake Margrethe Grayling, Michigan Monday July 8, 2024, 10:48 AM

It’s been thirty years this summer that the cottage my kids and I know has been here. For my wife and her siblings, it goes back to their childhoods.

When we were first married, I visited the ‘old cottage’ a few times. It was a cozy two-bedroom log cabin with an open kitchen, dining, and gathering area with a large window gazing upon the lake. in the summer of ’93 my wife’s parents made the difficult decision to re-build with an eye on the future and the cottage I know was constructed in 1993-94. Since my first trip to move in and setup in July ’94, I’ve been here countless times. First without kids then one, and the other.  Our kids learned to fish and ski , both water and snow, and they’ve found lifelong friends and we’ve been here in every season: summer, fall, winter, and spring.

When I see the lilies blooming in summer, I think of my mother-in-law and her passion for the summer day lilies. We planted and gardened those first few summers planting day lilies along the front facing the lake. One spring, fifteen years ago, she arrived to discover the deer had dug up the lilies and eaten them. We spent the summer of 2009 replacing them. While the deer still roam when we aren’t here (and even when we are), the lilies have remained undisturbed since.

these two young bucks were waiting in the front yard when my wife arrived in June

It’s astonishing how our brains are wired to recall past events and how seemingly disconnected things are connected. Today is going be a great day. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time making time, remembering how I got here.

What does a day lily, or any flower, remind you of?

W2 – glassware

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Clean glassware drying on the drying rack. Naperville, IL Monday, June 3, 2024, 12:54 PM

It’s summer again, this year it’ll be my 25th summer break as a teacher. I have four more summer breaks after this one, then it’ll be permanent summer break.

This summer, and for the past twenty-four, I’ve simply been auditioning. Continue reading W2 – glassware

W^2 – baseball is back

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, May 8, 2024

NOTE: This post was originally titled “Baseball”, but after reflecting overnight, I changed it to “baseball is back.” Enjoy

Tuesday night baseball at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday April 23, 2024, 7:09 PM

It’s baseball season, again. Baseball season begins at the end of March and lasts until the final out in late October. Every team will play 162 games, the good ones will play more, and the best teams could play 173 or more. It all depends, because baseball is a funny game.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game — it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

“Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams

I made it to my first game of the 2024 season two weeks ago and I am just now making time to write about it. I’ve been to Wrigley Field more times than I can remember. My first game was in 1993. Wrigley Field opened with its first baseball game one hundred ten years ago in 1914. It’s the second oldest ballpark in the major leagues and there is something magic about watching a game there. Continue reading W^2 – baseball is back

W^2 – history

WARNING: it’s Wednesday so I titled the post W^2, but it’s hardly wordless.

It’s spring break and we’ve escaped then blustery chill of a midwestern early spring for the Florida Keys and sun, wind, and sand. Mostly sun.

I remember my first visit to the Keys with my in-laws in 2002. Our son had recently turned four and my wife was pregnant with our daughter. We arrived in Miami and were picked up by my in-laws at the airport.

Until then, my only experience with Florida had been passing through the airport on the way to somewhere else: Venezuela or England to spend the summer or Christmas with my dad and stepmother.

With my father-in-law at the wheel we wove our way through Miami traffic to Homestead and US1. US1 is the only road from the Florida mainland at the tip of the Florida peninsula to the Keys where it terminates at Key West.

US1 travels along the path of the defunct Miami to Key West extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Construction of the railroad began in 1903 and was completed in 1913. The railway operated until 1935 when the Labor Day hurricane washed out the rail bed in Islamorada and the railroad abandoned the railroad. Two years later the Florida Highway Commission purchased the right of way and began construction of a highway to Key West. They used the old railroad bridges constructing roadbeds atop the concrete viaducts and bridges built by the railroad. Over the years, the highway has replaced the original railway bridges with wider end more modern concrete bridges.

The view from the bridge to the Atlantic Ocean

The first several miles of the two lane road travel along the path of the old railway. First through the thick mangrove swamps and across Lake Surprise before reaching Key Largo where the highway opens up to the Atlantic Ocean on the left and Florida Bay to the right.

As the highway bridges were replaced, the original railroad bridges were left in place. Most have been repurposed as fishing platforms or observation decks and others have been left to decay and breakdown in the elements. The Seven Mile Bridge has a two mile extension from Knight’s Key Key to Pigeon Key open to walkers and bicycles with breathtaking sunset views.

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon my buddy and I (we are here with another couple) took off on an adventure stopping at the western approach to the Bahia Honda Bridge.

The original railroad bridge on the left and the new highway bridge on the right. Looking west from Bahia Honda State Park – photo from 3/28/2017

The old bridge has been abandoned since the present bridge was completed in 1977. The original railroad bridge is an iron trestle bridge which was only wide enough for a single railroad track and the passage of a single train. The highway engineers decided to construct a two lane road atop the railroad trestle to connect the two keys, or islands.

Continue reading W^2 – history

W^2 – spring (again, but in ’24)

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, March 6, 2024

It appears Spring has sprung, but the Spring Equinox is a little less than a fortnight away. This year, the vernal equinox is Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at 10:06 PM.

“The first blooms of spring always make my heart sing.”
— S. Brown

According to the meteorologists, it is spring. We had a mild winter here in the upper Midwest. I read a report that this past winter was one of the five mildest winters on record for the Chicagoland area. We hardly had any snow and only a very brief cold snap where temperatures went below zero (Fahrenheit). We did however have two bad weather days where I could teach from home, some folks mike call that ‘good weather.’

Daffodils blooming on March afternoon. Is it spring or winter? Wednesday March 6, 2024, 5:17 PM

Continue reading W^2 – spring (again, but in ’24)

W^2 – expected

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, January 24, 2024

On approach to Midway International Airport, Lake Michigan ice. Wednesday January 17, 2024 1:14 PM

Lately it seems that my life has been filled with all sorts of unexpected things, so much so that it has distracted me from the expected things in life.

It’s January in the upper Midwest. It gets cold in January, that is expected. When it gets cold here, ice forms on Lake Michigan. What is unexpected is why I was flying on a Wednesday, but there is more to that story, for now there is lake ice on Lake Michigan and a glimpse of the Chicago skyline.

Today I am going to focus on the expected things in life – family, school, taking care of my puppies, and taking care of me. So I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day, and press publish. Making the days Count, one day at a time, exploring, learning, and being curious and focusing on the expected things in life.

What’s been unexpected or expected in your world?

W^2 – ducky

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, August 30, 2023

It is Wednesday and I am feeling ducky. I am five days into my twenty-fifth year of teaching and feeling like a duck on dry land, or perhaps skewered on a car antenna.

Rubber duckies on a car antenna, Naperville, IL, August 19, 2023 10:30 AM

I spied these rubber duckies on a car antennae a couple of Saturday’s ago while volunteering at Loaves and Fishes. The car’s owner is a regular and she lifts us up with the joy she shares with the world through her personality and her sticker adorned car.

I noticed the rubber duckies were a new addition and I talked to her on her way out.  She shared her story of how the week before she’d been on a trip with her family and collected more than a dozen rubber duckies playing a game and decided to skewer them on her car’s antenna.

A new school year is full of joy and excitement. It’s also change from the carefree life of summer break and audition for retirement. I inched a little closer this year to retirement this school year as I began my twenty-fifth year of teaching. Interestingly, this year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of my own year as a sixth grader, time marches on.

This morning I am more than just ducky; I am filled with joy and passion and excitement for learning. Today is going to be an amazing day, it just might be a million and six times better than yesterday. I get to teach kids and share my passion and curiosity.  So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the days Count, one day at a time, exploring, learning, and being curious.

How is your summer finishing?

me, first day of school. 25th year of teaching and 50 years since I was a 6th grader, Wheaton, IL August 24, 2023 6:40 AM

W^2 – anthem (renamed)

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, August 9, 2023

It is Wednesday, and I am in Baltimore for another baseball trip. This city and ballpark make 25 of 30. I have one last trip before school starts in less than two weeks.

These baseball trips have been more than baseball. Each stop has been an adventure full of curiosity, history, learning and growth, and excitement. Sometimes it is planned, but most times it simply happens.

the Star-Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry Baltimore, Maryland August 8, 2023 2:14 PM

Yesterday, I arrived my flight from Chicago arrived late morning. I had planned to visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine before checking in to my hotel. Fort McHenry guards, or guarded, Baltimore Harbor in 1814 during the War of 1812. The British had planned to invade and take over Baltimore in September 1814. The War of 1812 was started by the fledgling United States who was losing the war to the might British Empire. Only weeks before, in August, the British had routed the Americans in Washington, D. C. and burned the White House.

But the British attack on Baltimore is the unravelling of the British advantage and the strengthening of American resolve. In battle it isn’t always might and strength which decides the outcome of a conflict. Sometimes it’s an idea.

During the British bombardment of Fort McHenry an American, Francis Scott Key, watched the battle from a ship in Baltimore harbor. When morning came, he looked across the harbor to see the fort and he saw the American flag flying through the ‘dawns early light.’ He retreated to his sea cabin and penned a poem which spread like wildfire across the young American nation.

In 1931, the United States adopted this poem as its national anthem. We know the poem as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

The poem was four stanzas, and we sing only the first. Last night before the baseball game the crowd rose and sang the song proudly.

Today is going to be an amazing day, it just might be a million and six times better than yesterday although Tuesday night’s ballgame was the best baseball game, I’ve seen this season. Who knows? So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the days Count, one day at a time, exploring, learning, and being curious.

What adventure are you off to today?

POST PUBLICATION NOTE: I decided to change the post’s name, from O’ say can you see to anthem.

Arch Rock, created slowly over time

Arch Rock Mackinac Island, Michigan USA

We toured Mackinac (pronounced – mack-i-naw) Island in a horse drawn carriage Monday with friends. One of the stops along our tour was Arch Rock. Our tour guide shared the Ojibwe legends of a young woman whose tears slowly created the arch and another of how angry pileated woodpeckers slowly pecked away at the rock so a maiden could see the lake. But erosion, and science, explains the arch.

Mackinac is the Ojibwe word meaning ‘turtle’ as the island looks like a giant turtle shell emerging from Lake Huron. The Ojibwe were the Native American tribe which inhabited the island and the region long before Europeans explored and settled the region in the seventeenth century.

We had a wonderful time with our friends on Mackinac Island. They returned home yesterday while we helped our daughter move into her college apartment before the new term begins. Sometimes, I should simply stick to six words as Debbie from Travel with Intent suggests.

It’s Saturday and today is going to be an amazing day. After week with friends it is back to life andI have a long list of chores with all sorts of diversions possible. But I am going to try to stick to six words and make the day count. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, carving away at the to-do list. (My Saturday six words)

What are your six words for your Saturday? Or Sunday?  

My video of our trip to and from the island on the ferry.