If there’s any recurring theme to 2016 it’s that hardly anyone will miss it.  This year has been absurd, ridiculous, disappointing, sad, and mentally disturbing.  I think what makes it so bad for me is that I cringe to think what 2017 will bring.  Every other new year always fills me with a sense of renewal and hope for better things but I don’t feel that right now.  Oh, I still believe in hope but it’s a hope delayed.  It’s a hope that ‘s going to have to be worked for.

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By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, you might not want to read on because the best part of the movie is the very last scene and articulated in just one word by Princess Leia.  The audience in the theater erupted in joy and wonder just seeing her face and hearing that one word, “Hope”.  Well, it wasn’t really her face but still it was magical.  It was a scene unexpected but it explained the  struggle so completely.  It felt like the one little crumb that 2016 was going to toss to us before we wrote off the entire year as a sick joke.  Then a few days later we get the news that Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, suffered a heart attack and it’s unknown whether she’ll make a recovery or not at this time.

It’s been a trying year to put it mildly.  My life has been going okay, (knock on wood) in 2016.  The fears I have for the future aren’t self-centered.  It’s not just about me.  Yes, life this year has had its challenging moments and personal losses.  We all go through a lot of difficult times but at least during those times it was always reassuring that the world wasn’t falling apart around me or teetering on the edge of total societal collapse.  I might be overreacting.  I sure hope I am but I just don’t have any hope in our leadership whatsoever, probably because we don’t have any true leaders at the moment.

I think as Americans we all got a little too lazy.  I like how one lady worded it in a comment to an article I read about the country going backwards on racial and social justice issues.  “Well, coffee break is over America.  Get back to work.”  If there’s going to be any hope in 2017, we’re going to have to make it happen, individually and collectively.

I’ve thought a lot about what I can do because essentially my interests and my concerns aren’t going to have a voice on the national stage for the next couple of years.  I’m a science major and science is being attacked.  I’m a conservationist and conservation is being attacked.  I’m for civility and civility is being attacked.  I almost feel like a Rogue One character having to go underground to protect the planet and its species from being annihilated by greedy oil barons and dimwitted politicians floating overhead like a Death Star. It’s insane. How did America become so ridiculous?

All I can do is do good where I am with what I am.  That’s all.  That’s where I’m putting my hope.  Well, actually my real hope is in God but I still have to do the work I’m called to do.

My intention isn’t to depress anybody because there’s still a lot of good in this world.  And no, I don’t think you’re a horrible person if you voted for Donald Trump. I think you should have done your homework better but…  I know we’re constantly bombarded with all the bad stuff but there’s hope out there.  It might be cruising around on a disc drive in a space ship light years away but there’s still hope!







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I always feel like I’m experiencing PTSD after finishing another quarter at school.  The schoolwork is demanding, yes, but I’ve been through this enough to know I can handle it.  It’s just all the unexpected things that happen on a daily basis as a wife, mom, and soon-to-be grandmother that makes it so difficult.

Determining soil sand, clay, and silt content in a hydrometer.

Case in point, last week I was finishing up two major projects for a couple classes when my daughter was in the hospital with pre-term labor symptoms.   I thought I was going to have to camp out in a waiting room for a couple days with my laptop, writing a 25-page term paper about a watershed in Idaho.  Like my mind was on Idaho!  Luckily, they were able to stop the labor and I went home…to Idaho, at least in my mind.

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By Gh5046 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by gh5046., Public Domain, Link

Above, Idaho is pretty amazing!

This week I’m sick with bronchitis, probably because I was in a building full of sick people the week before.  Luckily, I had enough energy early in the week to finish another paper.  In-between moments of heavily medicated mental fogs and exhaustion I was able to study enough for my soil science final exam to not bomb it.

I really think anyone earning a degree as an adult should receive a special distinction.  If I wasn’t truly passionate about my major (natural resources), I sure as heck would’ve quit a long, long time ago.  Whenever I feel like it’s not worth it, I look at the birds outside my window and realize, they’re more than worth it.  Plus, I’ve come this far.  I’d be stupid to quit now.

So, here’s to all the adult students out there.  You are amazing, just like Idaho!






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Thanksgiving is just a couple days away and I can’t think of any more appropriate holiday to address the mood and seemingly deep (let’s face it, an abyss) divide between red and blue Americans.  For my family, Thanksgiving was always an awkward day – at least through the eyes of a child.  It was the one day of the year in which family members from near and far gathered under one roof and caught up on the past year’s events.

This was way before Facebook and other forms of social media.  Most of us had absolutely no contact with each other except for Thanksgiving.  The event was always held at my Great-Grandmother’s house in Taylorville, Illinois.  She had a small, old house located across from an old train station that had sat empty for years.  Peeling paint, gray weathered wood, large and sagging overhangs over the wooden platform where so many had waited for arrivals and departures sat as a reminder of days gone past.  I always felt like I missed something by never seeing the station as it had been.  It represented a time before me that begged to not be forgotten.

And now Thanksgiving is so different.  Many of the people that filled that little house are gone but I remember them well.  How could I forget my great-uncle’s new wife that we were all, well, basically terrified of.  As soon as she entered the house everyone took to their battle stations.  Those that were in the kitchen hoped that by looking busy that the dark cloud about to descend would pass them by.  Us kids ran into the bedrooms and hid.  My dad suddenly felt the need to go wash the car, in November, when it was 20 degrees.  My mom chopped celery with precision, trying to hide behind the bowl of stuffing.

Then with a swift dreaded arrival she entered the kitchen and swung her tin cans of cookies onto the counter with a clang.  A chill went down my spine.  I think I heard someone scream faintly.  Everyone tried to remember how to breathe.  Suddenly she clapped her hands and said without abandon, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

She had a habit of clapping her hands whenever she entered a room or had something important to say.  Even though she was new to the family, she certainly wasn’t sheepish about trying to fit in.  She barreled her way in and we were scared.  But she was family and families learn to put up with each other, no matter what.

Donald Trump (5440995138)

This Thanksgiving feels a lot like that in America.  We have a president-elect who is a lot like that new odd family member we’re not quite sure of.  Can we trust him?  Is he as awful as some are saying?  I don’t know yet but yes, we are all one big family now nonetheless.  It’s never been easy to get along but if my family made it through Thanksgiving with the clapping aunt, America can make it through with Donald Trump.

Oh and in time, I grew less scared of her.  She was still loud and never one to fade into the wallpaper but we learned to hold our defenses.  I certainly wouldn’t remember those Thanksgivings nearly as well without her.

Btw, the featured image for this post is from my dad’s side of the family.  Sadly, there’s no photos of any Thanksgiving from my mom’s side.  Imagine that.  Back then, nobody even thought to take photos at family events.  All I have are the pictures in my mind.

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It’s almost Halloween, which means I usually have a blog post about, well, Halloween and maybe I still will but I am absolutely swamped with assignments this week.  I’ve felt overwhelmed before but this quarter takes the cake. Have mercy!


I also discovered yesterday that I have 6 or 7 additional classes that I have to complete before I can graduate.  What a kick in the gut.  I thought I was going to be done in the spring.  Nope!  I’ll still get to participate in the graduation ceremony in June but I won’t officially be done until the summer, or fall, or I’m still holding out hope for this lifetime, depending upon when the remaining classes I need are offered.

The bright side is, I keep telling myself, is that I’ll be able to gain a lot more experience this summer before I enter the job market next fall, whether it’s an internship or lots of volunteer work.  I’ll be gaining hands-on experience and important professional contacts, which I do need.  I also won’t have to spread myself so thin trying to take on 6 classes a quarter just trying to finish by a specific date.  Still, it’s a major bummer.  I was really looking forward to being done.

Well, it is what is.  I’ll just have to suck it up. I’m definitely not the first college student to find out they have extra classes to finish before they’re able to graduate.  A friend of mine thought she was done and even went through the commencement ceremony.  She cried.  Her parents cried.  It was a wonderful day.  A few weeks later she thought she was opening her official diploma but instead received a letter informing her she hadn’t met all the graduation requirements.  She cried again.  Cue the Price is Right Loser Horn.

I just hope that after all of this work, sweat, tears, years, and debt that it will have been all worth it.  I think it will but there’s days when I question it all.


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Hey, Decatur!  Fall is always such a busy time for most of us, including me.  My calendar in October has been full but that’s okay.  I’m still trying to fit in a campfire in my backyard but either I’m not home, or it’s raining, but I’m going to schedule it in this weekend.  I’d feel like a total fall failure if I didn’t roast a marshmallow or two.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the world is a little crazy out there.  Watching the past three presidential debates has made me question humanity.  I read a study a few days ago indicating that many Americans are experiencing significant mental stress, from both sides of the aisle, from the non-stop absurdity that has been the 2016 presidential campaign. I believe it.   And, for us St Louis Cardinal fans, toss in the fact that the Chicago Cubs are probably going to the World Series, and it just feels like the world has been turned upside down.

Luckily, life has continued to go on this fall…

I’ve been learning how to test soil for my soil science class.  It was fun!


I’ve dug soil pits to expose soil horizons.  The shoveling wasn’t so much fun but I love doing research.

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I’ve discovered funky fungus balls in the forest.


A met a super cool caterpillar who doesn’t care about politics or the Cubs


I’ve helped carve pumpkins for Boo at the Zoo


I’ve harvested seeds from the prairie for Rock Springs and Midewin (pronounced Mi-day-win) National Tallgrass Prairie



I’ve discovered beauty and tranquility in nature.


I’ve seen the face of my grandson and it doesn’t get much better than that.


I’ve realized there’s till a lot of hope in the world and to not give up the faith that  one day things will feel normal again but just in case…  Cursed goat, do your magic once again on the Chicago Cubs (and Donald Trump).  We’re counting on you!


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