Monday, May 23, 2016

a tale of two kayaks.

Have you ever been kayaking? It's my new favorite thing.

Well, new as of last summer, anyway.

One lovely spring day in Minneapolis, James and I rented kayaks. It was something we'd always meant to do while living in Minneapolis, but never got around to it (like so many things). We finally got our chance and took a two-person kayak out on Lake Calhoun. And... it was awesome. Having only ever been canoeing before, we estimated that kayaking would be similar - not too speedy, a little awkward and hard to steer, but a Minnesota necessity.

Turns out that kayaking is ten billion times easier than canoeing - even when you're in a two-person kayak. It took James and me a bit of time to hit our paddling stride, and even then, we ended up soaked. But we could cruise through the water and actually make turns, unlike any canoeing experience we'd ever had.

We tried kayaking one more time at a little man-made lake in Sioux Falls. The kayaking club was having an event in which you could test out their kayaks. Once again, we went for the two-person kayak, having not yet realized that one-person kayaks are absolutely the way to go. And once again, we got soaked. But we were sold on kayaks.
Dorky life jackets and all.
James and I bought our own kayaks on kind of a whim. We were strolling through Dick's Sporting Goods one afternoon in June and noticed that kayaks weren't nearly as expensive as we assumed they would be. And they were on sale! We did some mathing and realized that - thanks to Christmas money from my grandma - we could indeed afford two purchase two kayaks and two paddles. So... we did!

Unfortunately, there was only one of the kayaks we wanted left in the store, so we had to have one sent in from a different store... which took A MONTH. But we were able to take home one bright yellow kayak: James's kayak. We hauled that beautiful kayak to Lake Poinsett by basically tying it to the roof of  my car. It was absolutely terrifying.

The kayak took its maiden voyage in Lake Poinsett with James at the helm, and it was freaking glorious. A single-person kayak allows you to slice through the water like a fish, and it was downright amazing how fast you can travel along the shoreline of Lake Poinsett. Our friends and family all took the kayak out, and before we knew it, our friends (at whose lake cabin we were temporarily storing our kayak) purchased a kayak of their own.
That's my mom in the kayak!
When my kayak - a beautiful cobalt blue - finally arrived, James went to pick it up (and managed to put the first dent in his brand-new car while doing so). By this time, we had acquired a kayak rack, which was really not much better than our tied-with-bungee-cords-and-rope method. The rack wasn't bent the way it should've been, and the kayak holders didn't stay on the way they should've. But we weren't about to pay upwards of $300 (more than we paid for BOTH kayaks) to get a rack specially made for James's car (which is what all the kayak blogs - yes, there are kayak blogs, and yes, we read them - said we NEEDED). We thought we'd be fine.

Ha ha.

One of the great misfortunes (and there are many) of living in Luverne is that we live in the ONLY COUNTY in Minnesota without any natural lakes. Land of ten thousand freaking lakes, and we don't even have one. There was a man-made lake in Blue Mounds State Park until two years ago, when the whole place flooded. Luverne does have a small man-made pond on the edge of town: Creamery Pond. 
It's no Lake Poinsett, but it is a good kayaking place in a pinch. James and I also went kayaking in this slough-like body of water on highway 75, but it smelled like death, and we were pretty sure the toxic-looking pond scum would eat through our kayaks.

No pond scum here.
In August, James and I embarked on a week-long road trip to Colorado... and we brought our kayaks. Because we are idiots. We still had our questionable kayak rack, but we thought it would be fine.

We were totally wrong. And of course we were - this would be a terribly boring story if we had been right.

We took off during late Friday afternoon after I got off work, fully intending to make it to Rapid City that same night. Almost as soon as we got onto the interstate, the kayaks began to wiggle and sway - unsettling, to be sure. James pulled over on the side of the road more times than I could count, and each time, I was sure that he was going to be smushed by a passing semi truck. When it began to get dark, we decided to call it quits. Between the multiple stops and the low speeds, we had been on the road for about five hours and had only made it to Chamberlain - less than halfway to Rapid City. Bahh.

The next morning, James tied down the kayaks extra tight, and we ventured out once more. But guess what? It was super windy. And of course it was, because South Dakota is ALWAYS windy. It was on the interstate shortly after one of the kayaks had come almost completely loose and began sliding sideways that we seriously considered turning around and dumping the kayaks at home.

But we didn't - we soldiered on, having had some success bending the kayak rack in Rapid City (with tools borrowed from the nice guy working at the Dinosaur Park gift shop). We arrived at our first destination - Fort Collins - a full half-day after we planned.

After all that pain and suffering to get them there. James and I would be damned if we didn't use those kayaks. We decided to kayak in Clear Creek in Golden - it was a beautiful day, and there were tons of people in tubes and little bitty river kayaks out and about.
So naive!
What we didn't consider is that our kayaks are not really meant for rivers - they're touring kayaks - and that we are not skilled river kayakers. And the water is super fast.
Check out the rushing water around my ankles. That should
give you some idea of how fast the water was moving.
So what happened? James and I set off on our Clear Creek adventure, and the current quickly took us. The water was fairly shallow, so we had to do our best not to get caught on the rocks. We successfully navigated through some small rapids, which was really quite awesome – until James got stuck in some rocks. I was up ahead, and I heard him yell what I thought was “Wait for me!” Turns out he, in fact, yelled “DON’T wait for me,” but I wouldn’t find that out until it was too late.

I tried to stop myself in the rushing water, but my efforts were quickly thwarted. The water was stronger than I was, and I was almost immediately turned sideways while heading for another set of rapids. And then? The kayak flipped over. Of course it did. I ALMOST lost the kayak completely, but I managed to hook my foot in it before it rushed down the creek. The current was powerful and dragged me along the bottom for a minute or so until I was able to drag myself and the kayak to the bank. I was fine, but SOAKED. James made it over to me and hauled the kayak to shore.
Still alive!
So river kayaking? Maybe not.

James and I were planning on spending the last full day of our trip driving through Rocky Mountain National Park and kayaking along the way. We had read that Lake Granby on our way into the park was a perfect kayak spot. And it sure looked like it as we drove in – with the mountains and the clear water, it looked like we were in the damn Alps. 
But guess what happened by the time we arrived at the launch site? Yes, it was storming. Lightning and all. James and I are not historically wise when it comes to, well, life, but we did decide that it probably wasn’t the best idea to go kayaking in a lightning storm. We did continue through the park, though – and even without kayaking, we loved every single majestic bit. And we totally saw a moose.
On our way home, we stayed overnight in Rapid City and made one last effort to use these dumb kayaks that we’d hauled for a billion miles. We only had an hour or so in the morning before we had to leave, so we brought them to Canyon Lake. It was BEAUTIFUL. There was no one there, and the weather was gorgeous. We had a nice, leisurely kayak trip around the lake, which was exactly what we needed.

We managed to get a couple more kayaking adventures in before the end of the season. We took the kayaks to Palisades State Park and paddled through Split Rock Creek – a short trip, considering we kept getting trapped in rock patches. It was so beautiful, though – looking up at the huge pink quartzite formations. 
(According to Wikipedia, the rock formations are 1.2 billion years old. There’s your amazing fact for the day.)

James and I also enjoyed one unseasonably warm day at the very end of September, so we put on our adventure hats and decided to kayak the Rock River – Luverne’s very own. 
James had scouted the river earlier in the week, so he had our route all planned out. It was absolutely glorious. We packed beer and Cheetos and picnicked on a branch in the middle of the river. 
We paused to explore the banks and enjoy these last few drops of beautiful weather before the onset of fall. Sounds like perfection, am I right?

Well, almost.

The Rock River is 144 miles long (again, thank you Wikipedia), so it cuts through all sorts of land – including pastures. James and I almost got clotheslined not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR TIMES by electric fences. So yeah, that was absolutely terrifying. Oh, and did I mention that the wind was blowing about a billion miles an hour... and it was blowing in the opposite direction of the current? Electric fences and feats of magnificent paddling aside, though, it was a damn good river trip.

We are chomping at the bit to take our kayaks out again. We missed out on a lot of good kayaking last summer because we didn’t have both of them until July, but we’re reading and raring now. And… WE HAVE A PICKUP THIS YEAR. A lot of what stopped us from taking our kayaks out was the horrorshow of getting them secured to a car roof. It took a good half-hour at the beginning and the end, so we needed plenty of time if we were going to go kayaking anywhere. Now? We’ll just throw them in the pickup and go. Just THINK of the possibilities!

Summer 2016 will be the summer of the kayaks. I am determined to make it so. And I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

top ten Tuesday: ten books from Ellsworth story time.

It’s a known fact that I am a lover of books. (You can’t really work in a library and NOT love books, after all.)

Not only am I fortunate enough to work around books all day, I am also fortunate enough to have scored the best volunteer job ever: as a volunteer librarian in the Ellsworth elementary school library.
Seriously, it’s the best. I make displays, alphabetize and arrange books, and (my favorite) read to classes.

Tomorrow is my last story time for the 2015-2016 school year. Since I started doing these story times in fall 2014, I have found some truly amazing picture books. Since I began doing story time, I have spent an awful lot of time sifting through picture book after picture book in order to find just the right ones. (I’m not going to waste the kids’ time on something boring, after all.) And I NEVER would’ve done this had I not started volunteering. As a childless individual who spends most of her work day dealing with books for adults, picture books wouldn’t have crossed my radar without the Ellsworth kids.

And it turns out that some of the picture books I found are about a million times funnier than the adult books I’ve read lately. (On the whole, I stick to funny books for story time. I tend to measure my success by the volume of laughter.)

I present to you, after two years of Ellsworth story-timing, my top ten picture books. All of these are books that I had not, in fact, read before I stumbled across them for story time.

I Don’t Like Koala
Sean Ferrell
I Don't Like Koala is about a little boy who has a stuffed koala that (you guessed it) he doesn’t like. 
The illustrations in this book are hilarious – there’s one in particular where the little boy tries to lose Koala in the woods, but Koala always ends up back in his bed… “closer than close.” 
That is EXACTLY how I feel when James wants hugs and I don’t, or when our cat sleeps on our faces. Closer than close.

Zombie in Love
Kelly DiPucchio
I came across Zombie in Love when I was looking for a Halloween book that was neither too scary nor too corny. Kids love zombies (right?), and the Ellsworth kids loved this book. It’s about a zombie named Mortimer who is looking for love, but he can’t figure out why he scares off all the ladies. 
Poor guy.

The Story of Ferdinand
Munro Leaf
In September, I talk to the kids about Banned Books week, and I read them a book that has been banned at one time or another. I love the banned books lesson, because the kids are always mortified at the thought of anyone trying to keep books away from them. I had not actually read The Story of Ferdinand before last year’s banned books lesson, and I thought it was just lovely. It’s the story of Ferdinand the bull – he would rather smell flowers than bullfight. The book is from 1936, and it was banned in several countries (including Spain) because it was seen as promoting pacifism. The illustrations are in simple black and white, and it truly is a beautiful book.

Jenny Offill
Everyone loves sloths – don’t ask me why, but they do. Sparky! is a story about a girl who wants a pet, but the only pet her mother will let her have is a sloth named Sparky. She then tries to impress her friends with all the tricks Sparky can (supposedly) do, and I bet you can guess how well that goes.

The Day the Crayons Quit
Drew Daywalt
This book was HUGE with the elementary-agers these last couple of years. It’s written in the form of letters from crayons to their kid, and they all have complaints. Red feels overworked, yellow and orange can’t agree which is the color of the sun, black is bored with just being used for outlines, and so on. It’s kind of totally hilarious.

Interrupting Chicken
David Ezra Stein
Interrupting Chicken was part of my lesson on Caldecott medal books – titles that have been recognized as outstanding picture books. Interrupting Chicken is one such book, and it’s about a little chicken who keeps interrupting the bedtime stories her father is reading to her. 
I read this book too all the grades, but the kindergarten and first graders especially loved it. You should’ve heard them laugh.

Meet the Dullards
Sara Pennypacker
Whenever I’m getting ready for story time, I inevitably wind up on the couch with a huge stack of picture books beside me. I read each one, looking for the one that strikes my fancy. When I first read Meet the Dullards, I could not stop laughing. James came to see what on earth was going on, so I read him the book – and HE couldn’t stop laughing. It’s about parents who want to keep their children as dull as possible (no playing, no reading, no color, no nothing). 
The line in the book that had me laughing so hard came from a scene in which the Dullards meet their new neighbor. She says something excitedly, and they respond with, “Please do not use explanation points in front of our children.” HILARIOUS.

Bob Hartman
Grumblebunny is about a super-grumpy bunny who is spending the day with his three syrupy-sweet cousins when they are caught by a wolf. The wolf intends to make them into a stew, and the three sweet bunnies are delighted to be making a new friend and sitting in the nice warm water. Grumblebunny has to use his bad attitude to save the day. As someone who has been known to exhibit Grumblebunny-like tendencies from time to time, it’s kind of refreshing to read a book in which the cranky character is the hero!

Kelly DiPucchio
Yes, Kelly DiPucchio shows up twice on my list. Gaston is about a little bulldog who lives with a family of poodles. It turns out that he was accidentally switched at birth – his family runs into a family of bulldogs with one small poodle sister. They try to switch back, and it doesn’t go well. 
Bonus points for cute pictures of small dogs.

The Princess and the Pony
Kate Beaton
When I announced the title of this book to the kindergartners and first graders, all of the boys in the class were audibly disappointed. They did NOT want to hear about princesses and ponies. They came around after the first page or so. The book is about a princess who desperately wants to be a warrior like everyone else, so she asks for a war horse for her birthday… but receives this:

She does her best to make the pony into a fighter, but things don’t go that well. The princess takes the pony into battle anyway, and the pony totally saves the day. But HOW does a roly-poly pony save the day? You’ll have to read the book and find out.


There we have it: my ten favorite books from the last two years of story times. Honestly, I’m a little worried for story time next year: how am I going to beat this delightful crop of books? Stay tuned… here’s hoping I’ll have another great list for you next May.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

on this day in 2005: excerpts from a journal, May edition.

12 May 2005

Tuesday the 10th was my last official day of high school... ever. I ran into Bob on the way in, and he was SOAKED. (It was raining.)

In choir, Mrs Gilbert had the senior girls rehearse their song, and Bob stood behind me for a while. "I'm here to make sure you're singing." he said. "Is she singing?" he asked Rachel and Tiff.

During study time, I checked out of my locker. Mrs Parry wouldn't sign the sheet until I climbed inside for her. 

We ate pizza and watched Full House in government, and Mr Sampson gave a speech about how we'll all go far. I'll miss Sampsonite. Then, we joined the other class for strawberry cheesecake, and Mrs VanBockern handed out photo albums she'd made for all of us. 

We took a bunch of pictures in bio. After all, it was our last advanced biology class... and I will miss it.

We got cake in English, and we made posters in calc. Amber and I also spent some time running through the hallways: we're seniors, so we can.

Mom, Dad, and I went in for awards night, and I sat between Tiff and Bob. I got medals for psych and soc, which Bob wore around his neck. I got best new actress for the school play, and Bob clapped like a seal for me. During the oral interp awards, Mrs Gross called me "Borklund" three times... which caused Bob to yell "go Borky!" for each subsequent award I received. 

My parents and I ate at Schmidty's afterward, and Dad told me I was "a cut above the rest." Dad rocks.

Mr Lund bought us breakfast at the City Cafe on Wednesday the 11th. Meagan and I got there at 745, and our food didn't come until 9 (we were supposed to be back at school by 830). When we finally got back, we had graduation practice, and then decorating. 

I ran to the Dairy Mart with Meagan to pick up some food, and when we got back, we watched the senior slideshow. Then, Meagan, Tiff, and I went to the band room to get our instruments. We talked to Mr Groon for a bit, and he said, "I'll miss you guys!" We talked about how there's going to be a shortage of band geeks next year, and he said, "Ahh, Darrah and Mitch can follow in your footsteps." And when we left, he saluted us.

I went home and opened my mail from Metabank. Looking at my account statement, I noticed that they'd taken out $15 for checks. First of all, they never told me they were going to do that. Second, I only had $10 in my account... before I knew that money had been taken out. Therefore, I was overdrawn. I quick called the bank, and it turns out the checks from Saturday hadn't come yet. So I was in time... I transferred money from Dad's account to mine. My ass was saved.