Whirlwind Spring

The last few months have been rather crazy, which is reflected in the last of posting here (not that I am all that prolific a blogger these days…), so I figured I should fill in the gaps a bit for posterity. Last November/December, I had a few people here in town that I know suggest (push?) that I run for the Board of Education here in Marshall. There are 3 slots up, with two of those elected members running again, leaving an open seat (in the end, 5 people, including two incumbents, filed for those 3 slots). The people who suggested I run probably have more confidence in my abilities than I do, which is very kind of them, so I was a bit hesitant to make this jump. First, getting involved in public service like this opens me, and my family, up to folks on social media (specifically Facebook) to criticize and complain about everything you do, which I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of. At the same time, running for the Board would give me an opportunity to influence the educational opportunities my kids, and others, will have here in town. I do have some level of expertise in this area, so if I can be of help, I’m happy to do so!

The other big deal was that I already knew I had 2 faculty positions to fill this Spring, and within a week of filing to run for the Board, there was a third I had to fill, so I knew my schedule this Spring would be pretty challenging (narrator: “it was”). It certainly wasn’t a “good time” to make this kind of move.

To add to things, I was approached to also help out with the formation of a political committee that would seek to raise funds and support a tax levy in our school district, one that is essential to the educational prospects of Marshall. To keep it brief, it’s a $0.99 tax levy that would still keep Marshall below 64% of other districts in the State of Missouri, which is the bare minimum to keep the district competitive, in my personal view. Still, without it, the currently enforced levy will expire in 2025, creating a $2 million per year shortfall that will mean substantial cuts to programs and personnel. As I was running for School Board, certain parties in town offered that I could tie my name to the levy, hopefully promoting both issues at the same time.

Ultimately, I volunteered to act as Secretary of the group, mostly because a). I still type upwards of 90 wpm, and b). I’m organized and can keep an email list to make sure people show up to events. Because I’m on the executive team of the group, that meant meetings. Many meetings. All the meetings, sometimes on Sunday mornings, sometimes Monday nights, sometimes random other days during the week. But yeah, it’s been quite a ride so far, and after April 4th, hopefully my schedule opens up a bit. No matter what, the levy committee won’t need to meet anymore (because the levy will hopefully pass and I won’t have to worry about it any longer), and also, I’ll either be on or off the School Board, so I won’t have that uncertainty to continue thinking about and dealing with.

This past Saturday, as pictured above, we canvassed a few streets here in town, along with other members of the committee, to deliver brochures and get the word out on the levy. We’re sure there’s opposition, but we’ve got about 900 signs up around town, so hopefully that bodes well for the prospect of this levy passing. Unfortunately, Marshall hasn’t passed a levy or bond in nearly 50 years, so while I’m hopeful, I also have history in the back of my mind…

Mostly, I only type this to set a record in case I’m scrolling through this portion of 2023 sometime in the future, wondering what happened to my mental health back then. Fingers crossed I can maintain my sanity for a few more days!

Eclipse Day 2017

The best I could get…

So, we knew last Spring about The Great American Eclipse, which was scheduled to begin here in Marshall on August 21st at 1:10 pm.  There had been a lot of build-up around here, with various folks hitting the media circuit to warn locals of the potential for thousands of extra folks to arrive along the line of the path of totality (where the sun would be blocked out for nearly 3 minutes with a neat “halo” effect around the rim).

Despite the preparation, there wasn’t much we could do about the weather.  In the days leading up to August 21st, the forecast vacillated from “sunny and clear” to “thunderstorms” to “cloudy.”  We proceeded as if we’d get to see it though, so Meg went to school and Brooke kept Calvin home, as the lab school wasn’t going to let a bunch of pre-schoolers outside to stare at the sun.

It was my first day of class, so while I went through syllabi as normal, I abbreviated my 1:00 class to make sure we’d get to stay outside and watch the eclipse.

The setup.

While we were on vacation in Wisconsin, I ordered a special lens filter so I’d be able to get pictures of the sun.  It’s the same material that we had in the eclipse glasses we had, but obviously big enough to cover my 52 mm lens.  While our camera is aging rapidly (Nikon D60) and we only had a 200 mm zoom lens for it, I had hoped I’d be able to get something from it.


Sadly, at the time of totality, this was the best I could get.  Literally, five more minutes is all we needed for the clouds to part and we would have seen it.  Columbia, MO got to see all of it as the clouds pulled out a few minutes before totality was set to begin.  Heck, even a few minutes out of town, people could see it just fine.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

In the next few minutes after totality ended, I was able to get use the filter to get all the shots depicted in the composite at the top of the post.  I was able to get some pretty good pictures out of that old camera!  Just not as many as I wanted…

Brooke got a neat effect with her kitchenware!

While I was on campus, Brooke stayed home with Calvin, as she didn’t want to brave traffic down to Sedalia (even though she would have gotten to see totality down there, apparently…).  She tried a pinhole experiment using a strainer from the kitchen and actually got a pretty neat effect!

Calvin got to look at the sun!

Calvin was at least initially interested in watching the eclipse, though at the time of totality, he was paying more attention to worms on the ground than what was happening in the sky.

Meg had a series of activities out at her elementary school, so she got a good learning experience out of it.  They stayed outside through totality and for a few minutes afterward.  They came out a few more times after the clouds parted so the kids could put on their glasses again.

Ultimately, we didn’t really notice thousands more people around town, though it did feel a bit more crowded.  The skies got darker, the street lights came on a Monday afternoon, and a lot of students from far away got to experience something cool.

Thankfully, there’s another eclipse coming through Missouri on April 8, 2024.  We’ll have to head to the Eastern part of the state to see it, and I’ll have to cancel class that Monday, but I hear it’s worth it!

Garden Update: Mid-June

The main garden area...
The main garden area…

It’s about time I updated everyone on how the garden’s going.  Again, we bought this place with the intention of taking advantage of the extra lot next door to the house with growing some fruits and vegetables, so we’ve been busy trying to get that going.

I say “trying” because rain has been something of an issue.  It seems like Marshall has been getting the brunt of the weather these past few weeks, with at least 10 inches falling since the last few weeks of May.  It has slowed down this week, though, giving us a chance to get some work done and let the sun come out to do its thing.

In the picture above, you can see the green beans pretty plainly in the middle of the garden.  Soup beans are planted in the bottom-left, and broccoli is slowly making headway in the upper-left.  The far-right has peas that are ready for picking, so we’ve been working on those a bit recently.  Our neighbors have been picking theirs for at least a week now, but they planted a bit earlier than we did.  The carrots have been in the ground about as long as the peas, though they still seem a bit on the small side.

Brooke also planted a row of corn where the radishes used to be.  I say “used to” because I pulled them up a few weeks ago.  Of all the things we planted, they were the only ones to really adhere to their prescribed schedule.  They grew pretty well, incidentally, as we got quite a few big ones!

Yes, that's a radish.
Yes, that’s a radish.

That row of radishes turned out pretty well, so I suspect we’ll move forward with them again next year, even though I’m about the only one in the house that likes them (Brooke will eat them on salads…Calvin just spits them out…).

In the background of the picture far above, you’ll also see an A-frame of sorts, where Brooke planted some sweet potatoes.  We haven’t grown any since we were up in Iowa, when Meg would eat them constantly.  We’ll see if we’re as successful this time around – at least we can make fries out of them…

Tomatoes and berry bushes...
Tomatoes and berry bushes…

The other garden plot still needs some work, obviously.  Lots of weeds growing in the front portion (where we still plan on putting some green pepper plants), but we finally got the tomatoes in a few weeks ago.  Brooke started most of them as seeds on our back porch using a heating pad she picked up from Menard’s, but I supplemented with some plants I stole from students at school (they left for summer…oh well…).  A few of those plants disappeared, likely due to rabbits or squirrels, so we’re having to keep them protected with milk jugs until they get big enough.

You’ll also notice the trellises we set up between rows of tomatoes.  We’ve tried a few different methods in the past and have never been all that happy with any of them.  Before we moved last year, we tried making A-frames using PVC pipes.  That generally worked, but a). the middle of the A-frame got zero sun, so no tomatoes grew, and b). we moved before we actually got to harvest anything…grrrr…  This time, we spaced things out a bit more and made two trellises, so we’ll see how they hold up.

In the background, you’ll also see a white frame where blackberries and raspberries have been planted.  I suspect we’ve got critters munching on them as well, but we weren’t expecting to get much out of those plants this year, anyway.  At least their root systems will get established this summer.

Lastly, in the top picture, you’ll notice we’re slowly surrounding the garden(s) with concrete blocks.  We’ve been making them using disposable aluminum cooking trays with leftover Quickrete from our other long-term project:

The concrete path we're making to the side of the house.
The concrete path we’re making to the side of the house.

We debated how to handle this, exactly, and went back and forth between stone pavers, a mulch path, and everything in between.  The problem with that spot is that grass doesn’t really grow there, tree roots are all over the place, and it gets really muddy after it rains at all.  So, we needed some kind of pathway to get from our backyard down to the side area where the garden is.

Brooke eventually found a concrete form that lets you make individual stones from Quickrete, so we’ve been slowly grabbing (heavy) bags and making stones when we get a chance (or when the sun comes out…which, again, has been an issue…).  It’s coming along alright, though the pathway isn’t exactly “uniform” in how each stone looks.  Once we’re done, we’ll spread some sand around it and try to fill in some of the gaps to make it look like they’ve been there awhile, or so they’re more integrated into the dirt.

I think that’s plenty for now!  I’m just hoping those tomatoes get going soon…getting hungry…


A Beautiful Day

The lake at Van Meter State Part
The lake at Van Meter State Part

We haven’t had many absolutely gorgeous weekends lately, though we haven’t really had any terrible ones, either.  Still, we took advantage of the weather and went to Van Meter State Park again to get a picnic lunch in and a brief jaunt down the trail.  We went down a different section than the last time, heading down into a valley toward a lake set up for fishing, with a trail wrapping around it.

Calvin walking by the lake.
Calvin walking by the lake.

The trail is something like 0.6 mi long, and we didn’t get anywhere near that distance.  We didn’t deal with putting kids in backpacks or anything this time, so we tried getting Calvin to walk as best we could.  For the most part, he did fine, though part of the trail got a bit closer to the water than we’d prefer.

Sitting on the dock.

We didn’t end up staying all that long.  Maybe an hour and a half or so.  I suspect Meg, Calvin and I will head back frequently this summer as an excuse to get out of the house and take in some fresh(er) air.  We walked back up the hill to the car (Calvin had to be carried by this point, and Meg wasn’t too happy about her feet…) and headed home.  Calvin took a nap after we got back, Brooke got some painting done, and I mowed the lawn.  Meg had a birthday party at 4:30, and while Brooke took her, Calvin and I got dinner going.

Filet and veggies.  Mmmmm.
Filet and veggies. Mmmmm.

In the end, I think we spent 8 or 9 hours outside today, soaking it all in.  Lots of productivity, lots of play time.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I guess we’ll just have to remember today while we’re stuck in the house tomorrow.

Speaking of “the house,” the next post will hopefully feature our next upgrade.  Tonight, we were able to finish up the paint in “the music room,” though we have a little more work to do in mounting the guitars.  By midweek, we should be good to go.

Onward and upward!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at Nana and Papa's house.  Jake, Kristen, Andy, Meg, Calvin and Brooke
Christmas at Nana and Papa’s house. Jake, Kristen, Andy, Meg, Calvin and Brooke

Again, haven’t posted much recently. I’m still on Break for another two weeks, but much of that has been taken up with various projects around the house (which I still need to take pictures of and post…) and various travels around the state for Christmas.

That, and I’m still fighting with access to this blog from within my own network at the house, as our router isn’t very happy about that…for some reason…

Anyway, Christmas has been pretty fun this year.  Meg has been pretty hyper all week, so my patience has been strained recently, but we’re in Hannibal now completing our week-long Christmas celebrations, so that should subside soon.  Calvin still doesn’t quite understand the concept of opening presents yet, but he certainly enjoys the new toys he’s been getting.

Regardless, this is mostly a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” post.  I’m still working on getting everything working properly with the system at home, so once that’s done, I expect to post quite a bit more often.  There’s much to catch up on!


Oh, it’s been awhile…

So, it’s been quite awhile since I last posted something.  There’s a lot I could delve into, but for now, I’m going to bullet a few points of “updates” to get you a cross-section of how things have been going.

1). We closed on our house on August 6th, and there’s a whole story behind how that went down, but suffice to say, we successfully closed and got everything moved in.  The house is doing pretty well, but we’ve got some long-term projects in process that prevent us from unpacking all the boxes.  I’ll go into this in a later post, but for now, know that we had some plumbing done, getting me all squared away for brewing and getting us a new (more functional) toilet installed upstairs.  Hopefully tomorrow, we will have electrical work done, where our house is going to be effectively re-wired.  This is stuff that needs to get done and we’re glad we can get it moving within a month of moving in!

2). Brooke’s new job (with the same company) is going well, but she has her work cut out for her.  Lots of things to get done, so she’s been busy incorporating her old duties at Bridges CSS (St. Louis) into her new duties at Bridges of Missouri (Sedalia).  She’s enjoying it and things have been steadily improving this past month, but there’s lots more to do!

3). My job is going well so far, but this is only the second week of school.  Our first exams will start late next week and continue into the following week, so while I’m trying to keep ahead on lectures for three separate classes, I’ve also got to do the “in the present” kinds of stuff like grading and test design.  It’s work, but I’m enjoying it so far!

4). Calvin is sleeping through the night.  It started August 23rd, on his 11 month birthday, and has continue on and off.  Some nights are better than others, but aside from a few cries in the middle of the night, he’s staying down from 7:00 pm to 6:00/6:30 am.  Oh, how long we’ve waited for this…and we hope and pray it continues…

5). Meg and Calvin are enjoying their days at the Missouri Valley Lab School.  They started on August 18th and Meg took to it immediately.  Like, I’m surprised just how well she’s done there.  Compared with previous places, where she’d cry for 2-3 weeks as I’d leave her there, she’s been nothing but easy to deal with there.  Calvin, on the other hand, took about a week-and-a-half to get settled where I can leave him with a teacher and not have him scream as I walked away.  Still, that’s been better in recent days, too.

6). I got a new router and a new Linux server, so that’s why the site’s been down recently.  I think I figured it out so it should be working fine, albeit a slight bit slower than it used to be.  We’ll see how it goes…

That’s enough for now!  I’ll expand on some of these points in the future, but this should tide you over for awhile!

Moving On

We posted the news last week on Facebook but I haven’t had much time to write anything here about it.  However, for posterity’s sake, here goes:

We’re leaving St. Louis…again

This time, however, it’s so I can (finally) begin my first “grown up” job as Assistant Professor of Biology at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, MO.  I am charged with teaching Anatomy & Physiology I and II, as well as Principles of Anatomy & Physiology.  That’s going to be 15 credit hours worth of teaching each semester, so I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me.  It will absolutely be challenging, but I’m looking forward to moving off the lab bench for awhile and instead focusing on getting students to appreciate, if not love, physiology as I do.

When we moved to Iowa, Brooke had to leave Bridges CSS and, unfortunately, it took awhile before she was able to find anything comparable (or even acceptable…) doing similar things up north.  Thankfully, unbeknownst to us, Bridges CSS was in the process of buying Bridges of Missouri, their sister company based in Sedalia, MO, which just so happens to be 30 min south of Marshall.  Thus, with a stroke of providence or blind luck, she gets to keep doing what she loves while I begin this new adventure.  She will return to St. Louis once or twice a month to help facilitate the connection between these two arms of the company, but she’s already got her work cut out for her in integrating the workings of the two companies.  She’s excited to mix up what she’s been doing, too!

We’re on a pretty short time table now.  We spent the last few weekends in Sedalia and Marshall investigating houses (more “grown up” things we’re finally doing…) and we think we’ve settled on one that we’re going to make an offer on shortly.  My position officially begins August 1st, but I technically don’t have to be on campus until August 18th (school starts August 25th).  There are all kinds of challenges with pulling that off in a limited period of time, but we think we’re moving in the right direction and can make it happen.

Still, we’ve got a lot of packing to do…