Everytime I need a rock
solid and dependable beneath me…

You set yourself up as a wall,
fixed and immovable, nearby me.

Rocks are foundations
on which we build ourselves.
Walls keep us out or in.
They separate and divide.

Rocks are spirit filled,
hewn from nature,
slow to form.

Walls are man-made,
erected from rocks that have been shattered
and carried away from where they grew.

I stand on the rock,
sure of foot and free to look out on the landscape before me
taking a step away when I am ready to be on my own.

I stand against the wall,
with my back to the firing squad
or facing it, unable to pass through, to move forward.

Support isn’t made of walls.
Support is built on rock.

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Olbermann and the Flood


How ironic that as I type, Keith Olbermann (msNBC’s Countdown) is addressing his frustration with the conservative opposition to health care in light of their support for mandatory property flood insurance.  I listen having just spent an hour reading and remembering the Rapid City Flood of 1972. I’d forgotten how much I remembered about that night.

Just a week before, I was wading in the Rapid Creek, where I made it only to the middle before a friend’s father had to fish me out.  The waters were already high and running strong that spring.

We were supposed to go camping at Deerfield Lake that weekend, but Mom didn’t feel well, so we postponed our trip.  I still remember my parents waking me that night to help “bail out” window wells at our base home.  They were filling so fast from the heavy rainfall…I had a hard time keeping up with the rising level, pulling water out with a kitchen sauce pan.  I was just 9 years old.

My mother told us the next morning about the flood.  My father and Cal had gone to town in Dad’s fishing boat, looking for survivors.  I remember hearing that the waters came up to the base gate, though I don’t know if that’s true.

Mom went in to help with the injured (she was an RN at the city hospital)…and eventually to help look for a friend’s new wife who had been swept away in the waters when their car was hit by the wall of water pouring down the canyon from failing dams.  Their were so many bodies, they had to be laid out in the local churches.

Children from the trailer park who had lost members of their family came to stay for a while with our neighbors on Jefferson Street.  I don’t remember how long they were there, but I remember how quiet we all were, sitting with them on the curb outside our houses. It was not a time for playing all-ye-all-ye-in-come-free.

The city was a mess for a long time…debris everywhere.  I remember that they were still finding bodies throughout the summer. All told, over 230 people died in the Rapid City Flood.  Twenty-five years later, we lost a home to the Red River Flood in Grand Forks North Dakota, again encompassed by the unexpected havoc water can play on homes and lives.  But, oh how blessed we were not to lose any lives.

So, Keith, your point is just that much more poignant tonight.  The health and lives of those we love is more precious than any property we hold.

The Essence of the Liberal Outlook


The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. – Bertrand Russell

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Picking up the Pieces


Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, recently wrote in his Change of Subject column an article titled: Sidewalk activism `strangling progessive politics’ one disillusioned employee at a time.  In the wake of my daughter’s experience with PIRG, the article was vindicating (though some of the comments not so).  Considering the magnitude of what this organization has been promising/doing to our young people over the years, it is surprising how few have gone after them with any real bite.  There is the class action suit in California…for overtime pay…but that is limited in it’s ability to help the 1000′s of young people who have been dealth their first taste of cynicism from the hand of an organization which proposes progressive and positive change.

It’s an ongoing struggle to maintain support for causes I certainly believe in (the environment, public transportation, etc.) when they are hand-to-hand with PIRG, an organization who not only physically abuses it’s employees (14 hour days without regard to weather or safety issues), but also disillusions them by forcing them to spit out a scripted sales pitch that takes no account of the circumstances of the people who are being solicited from.  These young canvas crews…mostly idealistic…would be buffeted between the shame they felt at asking too much from people who had so little…and the fear/anger they experienced when some of those people became downright aggressive in their responses to the insensitivity of the solicitations.

I am glad that Jo’s out of this.  If I had known (and we didn’t know) that taking a “fellowship” with US PIRG mean becoming a canvaser, I would have advised against it.  We’re still picking up pieces… a trip to Ohio ahead of us next month to pick up her furniture from her “first apartment” where just a few short month ago she embarked so excitedly on her “professional” career.  It’ll be longer, I think, before we manage to pick up all the pieces of her broken spirit and shattered idealism.

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Landing on the Moon and Resting on our Laurels


I always get nostalgic in the summertime.  With the anniversary of the 1st moon landing, I am pulled back to my formative years.  Beyond the general pride and excitement felt by the American citizenry, I remember coming to understand something more, when watching this (and ALL of the Apollo missions) from my classroom in a DOD school (my father was in the USAF).  America had a place in the world…as a leader in looking beyond what was known into what was possible.  I believed in that vision of a better world, as well as a better America.  I still do.

In 1969, we certainly were not without our political messes, (McCarthyism, Vietnam…), but our democratic ideals were intact as we, the people, protested and marched to change the way things were done.  Those popular ideals were entwined in the same popular media that reflected our ventures into space. Star Trek, the original airing from 1966-1969, had creators (and characters) who were altruistic in their desire to explore new ways of doing things and to promote peace among cultures.

In 1969, we were world leaders beyond our military strength.

The most disturbing part of America’s modern notion of patriotism is the tendency to focus our vision inward.  The concepts of leadership and championship have morphed from their foundations in idealism (where in that position, we would look to the interests of those whom we lead or champion) to one more solidly based in the framework of competition. We’re out to win the prize.

I’m not so naive that I don’t recognize the race for space–the cold war in general–as an early generation of this self-centered phenomenon…but I do believe we were, as a people, more innocent of our government’s machinations back then.  Now days though, we “the people” often express ideals that are jaded by a belief that we are “better” than others.  What we do is too often couched in “what’s in it for me/us.”  We are wholly convinced that we are the best, and we rest on the laurels of our past as we demand our “due”  and ignore our responsibilities to those less blessed.

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Slow Goodbyes at the Aase Place…



For my tenth birthday, my aunt gave me a copy of Mandy, by Julie Edwards (a.k.a. Julie Andrews, of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music).  The story embraces a young girl who lives in an English orphanage where she is treated well and enjoys the friendship of other girls.  But Mandy wants a home of her own.  When she slips beyond the walls of the orphanage to discover a tiny cottage with an enchanting garden and shell encrusted walls, Mandy begins to imagine the cottage as her own.

The book spoke to me, my young life having been spent living in and moving between military housing units.  The only permanency I could claim lay in the small rural community of Spink, South Dakota, where my grandparents and mother’s extended family lived.   Less than a year after I read Mandy, my parents purchased a farm there…in preparation of my father’s military retirement.

We moved to South Dakota in June of my eleventh year. There were only a couple of short years left to my childhood when we arrived.  I filled them with a rich fantasy life. I often imagined our new (old) farmhouse as a “little house on the praire,” homesteaded and all our own … a real “home” for my family.  All I needed to complete the picture was a playhouse.

During the mid 1970′s, in the rural midwest, farmers were consolidating land (larger equipment allowed for larger farms) and recently abandoned farmhouses dotted the landscape.  My older brother, David, along with his friend Steve, adopted the Locke place — down the hill from the church, along the creek bottom where Steve’s uncle farmed.  Reached most easily by motorbike, the place was, in any case, off limits to little sisters.  But closer down the road, about a 1/2 mile, sat another recently abandon house…the Aase Place. With it’s victorian charm, octagonal floor-plan, and dumbwaiter to the cellar, the house was magical.  Sometimes alone and sometimes with other neighboorhood kids, I dug treasures from the “burn pile.” and set up house. I had found my cottage, just like Mandy.

Over the years, the Aase place has remained “mine,” although I don’t technically have any ownership rights.  I left South Dakota at eighteen to take up my own transient life. In almost thirty years, I’ve never lived in any home longer than the seven that I lived in Spink. Regardless of distance, I’ve come home often to visit, and as often as I have come home, I have visited the Aase place–weather allowing–documenting, with my camera, it’s decline.

The massive barn (once the largest in Dakota Territory) burned twenty-some years ago and the still impressive foundation is now home to an “inside” forrest of trees and fallen timber. The silo houses a lake of rain water.  Scavengers have stripped the house of its stained glass and cornice molding (though, with permission, I have possession of a few ornaments they left behind).  A decaying roof and broken windows have allowed harsh winters and wet springs to ravage the interior….leaving the floors rotting and unsafe. About five years back, the beautiful front porch collapsed and now the elegantly curved front steps lead nowhere.  Experiencing the decline of my playhouse has been a bit like the bitter-sweet experience of life … of growing older.  I’ve held hands with her as she slipped away from me.

Less gentle will be the loss to come.  The “little house” where my parents still live sits in the shadow of a proposed Hyperion oil refinery…the first to be built in the U.S. in the thirty years since I left childhood.  The tiny community of Spink, grounded in agriculture, cannot survive the encroachment of industry.  At a time when my children are leaving me for lives of their own and my parents are aging, I can’t help knowing that this loss will be more heartbreaking, the impact more devastating, than the loss of my playhouse.

I continue to visit home … to document the “end to a way of life” many in the area refuse to see coming.  Today, my daughter had me take her down to the Aase place to shoot her “senior pictures.”  It’s an appropriate place to begin this documentary, I think. In just a year or so, the Aase place is sited to serve as the front gate to Hyperion’s refinery.

Two Weeks In…


Two weeks into summer and I’ve managed to sort, create, post, search, twitter, order, transfer, meet, review, and throw….and feel totally overwhelmed by all that I could be doing.  Par for the course, my days and nights are upside down (hence, a 2:30 a.m. post when I need to be up at 5:00 a.m.).  Tomorrow I’ll be heading with Connie K. to the flea market.  I don’t really  need more “stuff”… but it’s fun to look.  I’ll try, try, TRY to control myself.  The BIG project for the summer…that I am avoiding, as usual…to get some things onto ebay (sell, not buy).  Ah, lordy, I crave simplicity, but worry that I would be terribly bored if it were to settle upon me.  How ever will I keep up with myself?

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Virtually Attending the Whole Time…


Reposted from LibraryRemix.com

With semester exams and end-of-year details, attending this year’s Games, Learning and Society Conference (GLS 5.0) in Madision wasn’t a possibility (booooo!).  But then again, through the magic of “Twitter” I was practically there, if only wandering the halls, evesdropping on the buzz, rather than actually participating.  While I was thrilled to be part of the Educator Symposium held on Saturday (great panels), it was painful to hear all the “backchatter” and know just what a great conference I was missing. 

That said, the BACKCHATTER game was interesting, particularly in light of the Twitter Analysis for GLS09 provided by Mike Edwards, who, along with others, set up and ran the game.  Wishing I had a stronger background in stats, I am still gratified to find my other self (hattiebb) figuring “loudly” in the chatter.  Everytime someone asks me why I’ve (recently!) taken up tweeting (something many argue is nothing more than naked status posting) I have to defend the meaningful possibilities in the tool.  Twitter allows me to push content (my own and that of others) beyond my limited sphere of influence and do what library information and media specialists do…find it…share it…and, in some market it.

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On LibraryRemix, I wrote:

Piles of papers surround me…articles, ideas, thoughts I’ve collected in 12 years of professional practice.  I am beginning to realize the real beauty (for me, anyway) of the blog (and micro-blogging, such as Twitter).  There is a certain freedom in simply linking to information rather than gathering and storing it.  And search…oh how I love search!

I am not entirely sure I trust this to my personal life yet.  I know so many people who have all their photos saved on Flickr.  I’ve seen too many movies like “Mad Max,” “The Postman,” and “Waterworld” and only recently read Cormac McCarthy’s, “The Road” (I admit, these tales intrique me).  What fantasy’s of fear keep me collecting things….

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Inspiration….’nuf said.


Watch Eye of the Tiger Kids on CollegeHumor
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