Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween, then and now

Halloween isn't just for kids anymore. Maybe it never was, but during the last couple decades, it seems that adults have really embraced the idea of having fun by getting into costume. Costume parties for adults seem to be the rule during Halloween, and even we older folks like to join the fun.
From left to right-Biker, FBI agent, Little Red Riding Hood, Captain Jean Luc Picard.
Frankenstein's Monster and his Bride hosted the party.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cobblestone Farms, Michigan

The Email invitation to perform my show at Hallow Harvest at Cobblestone Farms, a living history farm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had adventure written all over it, especially since it contained a message from board treasurer Audrey Barkel inviting Nancy and me to stay at her home in nearby Saline, where she lives with her husband Barry, a professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She encouraged us to stay a couple extra days to visit some of the nearby attractions. We accepted and the results yielded material for several  stories: Hallow Harvest Day at Cobblestone Farm, staying with the Barkels, and a visit to the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in nearby Dearborn, Michigan.
Cobblestone Farms consists of a grand cobblestone house and farmstead set among tall maples displaying rich colors. Since it is in a very populated area, visitors did not have to come far.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To be 100.. Visit to Goldfinch Estates

Lydia will be 101 on February 8, 2011. 
She tells me my books are "...the real thing."

After performing my book, A Farm Country Halloween, at Goldfinch Estates, Fairmont, MN, I visit with some of the residents.
Lydia tells me that her specialty for the trick and treaters was her home made fudge.
We discuss putting up loose hay and pitching it on the wagon and several other farm memories. When she was little, her job when putting up hay was to tramp the hay on the wagon so it packed and made a better load.

She tells me she really liked my show and my books because "This is the real thing."
"Are you going to be around awhile?" she asks.
"Yes," I answer.
"I'll go back to my room and get some money. I want to buy your Halloween book," she explains.
She handles her walker with confidence and grace. She' returns in no time at all.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Pictures removed 11-25-12
Walking into a small school is like walking down main street of my home town of New Market, Minnesota,when the population was less than 250 people. Everyone greats each other with a smile and a nod. The stranger in town is greeted with a smile and a hint of skepticism until the townspeople know his purpose for visiting.

 Well, everyone knew my purpose when I walked into Hancock Elementary on Friday, October 8, 2010,  dressed in a bibbed overall. They knew I came prepared to perform If I Were a Farmer, Nancy's Adventure to K-1 and A Farm Country Thanksgiving  to grades 2-4 and grades 5-6. I did not feel like a stranger. I felt welcome because everyone seemed to be expecting me, and that's a great feeling.

Mrs. Christianson, who organized the visit, lets me set up in her room immediately and invites Nancy and me to watch as she conducts kindergarten class.  We are impressed with the enthusiastic participation of the students as they examine their Weekly Reader.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The making of Gettin' PLowed, 2012 Calendar

Nancy and I always feel lucky to be invited to this event. You see, all the other guys bring tractors with plows, and they are ready to spend the day plowing with antique tractors without cabs, exposing themselves to the wind and cold for hour after hour, which is, of course, exactly what we all did when we we helped our parents actually farm with the tractors.  Not to worry, though, because these are hardy fellows, many of whom are used to challenging the weather while they do all sorts of hunting, fishing, and farming.
In my case, however, I bring Nancy and her camera. I walk around with her as she spends part of the day taking great pictures. Then she carefully crops them and uses them to create a calendar she calls "Gettin' Plowed."
Nancy and I both love the atmosphere of the whole day, the crisp fall temperatures, the bright and varied colors of the leaves, the musty smell of the earth as the plow turns the soil over, and the jovial attitude projected by all the participants and their audience. It all mingles to create an experience that no one wants to miss.
This year we arrive at Cousin Dan and Deb Cervenka's place about 10:30 AM on Saturday, October 2, 2010, and the group is ready to assemble for a quick photo before heading out to the field.
From left to right, Scott Cervenka, Deb Cervenka, Dan Cervenka, Bob Hrabe, Ben Cervenka, Dick Mushitz, Dick Franek, Brian Cervenka, Emil Chlan, Gordon Fredrickson, Gertie Chlan, Nancy Fredrickson, Lori Cervenka.
Nancy and Lori are both taking pictures, and more photographers and observers will arrive as the day passes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Big Day at MEMO Conference

At 5:00 A.M. on Friday, October 1, 2010, as I back the car out of the garage to begin the drive to the MEMO Conference at the Civic Center in St. Cloud, Nancy comments, "It sure is dark out there now, but I think it's going to be a great day." 

Although I'm hoping her optimism comes true, I say nothing, which is unusual for me, but my thoughts take me back to April when I received the Email invitation to attend the MEMO conference. When the email explained that MEMO meant Minnesota Educational Media Organization, I immediately emailed back a positive response. Why wouldn't I want to be at a convention attended by hundreds of media specialists from the great state of Minnesota? These are very busy professionals who manage the libraries and media centers of our schools and schedule events that bring in authors and other artists. I knew it was a lucky break for me.

As the car accelerates into the darkness, I have some doubts, but the journey is smooth and we arrive at the Civic Center parking lot before 7:00 A.M. and a coin operated gate requires only four quarters to let us park all day. "Unbelievable low rates," I say to Nancy. 
As we enter the Center we find that check in is less than 50 yards from our parking spot. "This never happens," Nancy says. 
"I hope we haven't used up all our luck," I add, always ready to spot the cloud behind the silver lining.

The MEMO staff are cheerful and efficient. Joan, the lady on the right, gives us our badges and tells us that we have our choice of author tables.

All the tables offer great views of the River.

It's early so we stroll over to the MEMO display of books and we are pleased to see that MEMO has all five of our books for sale at their table along with books from many other authors who are at the convention today.

We eat a tasty hot breakfast and stay for the keynote speaker, Buffy Hamilton, who discusses how to meet the many new challenges facing the media specialists today. As she compares the work to a balancing act, her words ring true and take me back to my days of teaching.

After her speech, it's time for the author spotlight, where each author has a few minutes of stage time to highlight what he or she has to offer at a school visit. Wanda Erickson, an enthusiastic media specialists from Upsala, introduces our session.

After the spotlight, media specialists stop to chat with authors and schedule them to visit schools.
A couple schedule us immediately and others plan to send an email after checking with teachers.
Nancy and I enjoy talking to these professionals because they are interesting, hard- working people, who dedicate every day to providing the best leadership they can for their school programs.
However, it's especially fun, when we meet people we know from the present and the past.
Cousins Nick and Joyce Cervenka give us a surprise visit, and I am especially happy when they ask me to autograph my newest book, A Farm Country Thanksgiving, for them.  After they leave, I remember that we should've taken a photo with them.

When a former student, Sandi (Kasper) Ferris, stops by and we both recognize each other immediately, we take out the the cameras without hesitation.

I notice her smile and personality are even more winning than they were when I was her high school English teacher. She is now a Media Specialist at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School.

Another former student, Nancy (Girard) Eull stops by to say hello. We both readily recognize each other.

Holly Thompson introduced herself as the daughter of Donny and Julie Speiker. Donny and I grew up in the same farm neighborhood, and although he was a few years younger than I, we shared some of the same farm experiences, like chores and threshing. It was great talking to Holly, who now works at the Osseo School District.

Seventeen authors are at the event, each with special talents to offer schools they visit. I feel really lucky to be part of a group of such diverse and wonderful authors.

Note that I am not the only author in costume.
Here I chat with David Geister and his wife Patricia Bauer, who are each authors on their own but take great joy in working as costumed interpreters at Ft. Snelling.

We stay for supper, which is at 6:00 P.M., and share a table with several fun people, including Tami Tagtow, a media specialist at Atwater. 

Tami agrees to take a parting photo of Nancy and me before we start on the trip home.

Our smiles are genuine because we had a great time at the conference. We sold books and met new friends, old friends, relatives, and neighbors. We met many wonderful media specialists, many of whom I am sure will become our friends. 
And the authors I met were wonderfully talented and unique. Nancy and I wish them all the very best.