The Thank-You Project

Dear the three people who read this blog:

Today I am starting a new project on a new blog that will run along side this one for the next 365 days. (Makes it sound like I actually still put up regular posts here, which I guess hasn’t been strictly true [or in any sense true] lately, but maybe getting back into the habit of blogging at all will make it more true this year?)

Starting today, I am going to write a thank-you note to someone who has touched my life every day for the next 365 days. If you’d like, you’re welcome to follow along at The Thank-You Project, which is also linked in the menu above.

Here’s to a year of gratitude and writing!

❤ Laura


Glaciers, Part 1

When last I left you, Dustin and I were standing at the top of Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, like so:

Iceland Waterfall Selfie 6

And I was admiring the ice cap glaciers visible in the near distance. They are absolutely remarkable, and until I saw one with my own eyes, I had no idea how deeply impressed I would be by glaciers.

I started to wax poetic about how cool glaciers are, and how incredible it would be to actually visit one.

“What am I supposed to do?” Dustin asked. “If I have something like that planned, I can’t tell you about it now, or it wouldn’t be a surprise. But if I don’t have it planned, and I don’t say something, you’ll be disappointed and not surprised.”

“That’s easy,” I replied. “If we get to the top of this waterfall and I see we can reach a glacier by hiking for an extra hour, I’ll ask you if we can do that, or if I should wait because you have something else planned. But if the opportunity isn’t right at hand, I’m having fun so I won’t ask.”

And y’know what our next stop was?? Here’s a hint:

Iceland Glacier Selfie

Just around the corner from Seljalandsfoss waterfall lives the Sólheimajökull, an outflow glacier, which means a bit of glacier that is oozing in slow, geological time out from underneath another, bigger glacier, in this case the M<>jokull (I swear I’ll come back and spell this right later) glacier. A short hike led us back to where we could see it, just sitting there, flowing in the minuscule, macro, magical way that only megatons of ice can do. No picture can describe how immense it actually feels to be looking at this thing.

Iceland Glacier 1
This is a really big piece of ice, and I’m walking right toward it. 
Iceland Glacier 2
It’s right behind me now! (And, most likely, also under me. There’s so much debris at the tip of a moving glacier you can’t always see the ice.)
Iceland Glacier 3
I touched a glacier!
Iceland Glacier 4.jpg
I stood on a glacier!
Iceland Glacier Selfie 2
And I liked it. 🙂 

And once again, I have so many more adventures to share, but I’ve run out of hours and pictures. I’ll compose on the plane tomorrow. See you then!


Overheard at the Museum of Natural History Geology Exhibit

My wonderful husband humored me by allowing me to spend our last day in DC at the Geology, Minerals & Gems exhibit of the Natural History Museum. (He came too, to be clear.) I enjoyed the heck out of it. I love all the bits about planets and extraterrestrial geology. I love the minerals. The gems are okay, but overrated and less interesting than the other stuff. This is one of the busiest times of year in DC, and one of the most popular exhibits in the Smithsonian. It was swarming with people, a lot of whom I caught saying really interesting things.  A young boy, maybe 8 years old, as he stomped through the planetary geology exhibits:

I wanted to see the gemstones, and there’s nothing in here but meteorites. METEORITES!! I want to see the gemstones. Ooh, look at this… (as his attention was caught by a volcano display)


An even smaller girl, holding her mom by the hand and peering into one of the large mineral displays with eyes as wide as saucers, pointing at one mineral and then the next and then the next, etc:

Ooh, mama, look at this! And this! Mama, look at that one! And that! Ooh, look mama, look! And that one!” ( (I stuck around long enough to watch her point out individually at least thirty of the items in the display, each more wonderful to her than the one before.)


A twelve-ish-year-old-girl to her mother, coming away from a display of enormous topazes:

Well, now you know what to get me for my birthday.


A man coming out of the Hope Diamond display:

I thought it would be bigger. I mean, I guess it’s pretty big, for a diamond. (He’d probably also just come from the giant topaz display.


And my favorite, courtesy of a high school age girl:

They said this was a geology exhibit, not geometry. There’s way too much geometry in this geology.

pyrite cubes

Saving the Bees, Part 2

When last we saw our heroine, she was busy saving the bees from being too hungry in early spring.

This time around, she is trying to save the bees from anxious neighbors.

Bees (1)

That’s my bee-tree. The man in the bee suit is Bill.

Because the bee-tree is close to an apartment, it shouldn’t have surprised me that some of the residents were rather wary of sharing space with things that go “buzzz.” They requested that someone get rid of the bees, and I somehow found out about it. I begged the apartment manager to let me find a non-lethal way to get rid of the bees, and he agreed.

Enter Bill. Bill is from a local Black Hills beekeepers group. Bill came out this morning to inspect the hive, to see if the bees could be safely moved. It turns out, the hole is so tiny that they cannot be vacuumed out (an approved method for bee-removal). On the other hand, the tree is so hollow that it might topple over any minute. (Erk.)

Bees (2)

This is Bill trying to peer into the hole to see what the bees are up to. He only wore his suit because the bees have recently been riled up by some folks who thought they could be encouraged to leave if their hive got all wet. (Pro-tip: doesn’t work that way.)

Two young men who have been working on repainting the windows in the apartment stopped by to chat with Bill. He told us all about how bees make honey, and how if you can’t get the queen bee out, you’ll never get the whole hive out. He pointed out how, even though the bees can’t be removed right now, they’re in a very safe location, high enough above the heads of pedestrians that no one will bother them, and therefore shouldn’t be bothered by them. Bees will only sting if they feel threatened, and a single sting kills the bee. Nothing like nasty, vicious wasps.

Bill was also able to confirm that a second batch of buzzing insects nearby was also honeybees, not wasps or hornets. That hive is in an even trickier location.

I was disappointed that the bees couldn’t be moved – I’m still not convinced that someone won’t try going after them with chemicals some day – but I think it was pretty awesome that Bill took the time to talk to me and the workers (along with a couple apartment residents who stopped by) to allay any fears and hopefully encourage everyone to consider saving the bees rather than murdering them, if at all possible.

(The fact that he mentioned there are probably hundreds of pounds of $8-per-pound honey hiding out in these hives, not to mention Bill’s credentials as an explosives expert, may also have helped…)

If I can talk someone into chopping down that tree to facilitate the saving of my bees, I will keep you apprised.


Sleeping Bee


I love bees. Some day, I will keep bees. (Some day I’d also like to keep bats, but maybe I shouldn’t do both at the same time, mm?) Until then, I have to settle for taking care of the wild bees.

About a week ago, the weather finally started to warm up. Not one of those fluke 70-degree days in January, but a good, sturdy March day pushing into the 60s. These are the days when you know spring is really on the way in (especially when such days are preceded or followed by six inches [or feet] of snow).

My garden boxes, empty and covered with leaves for the winter, were suddenly full of prowling bees.

“No, bees!” I cried. “Stay home! It isn’t spring enough yet! There aren’t any flowers for you!”

I worry about the bees.

But the nice weather has persisted all week, and for some reason, the bees keep looking for food in my empty garden boxes. I imagine the moldering leaves smell sweet and possibly tasty, but I can’t imagine they actually are either of those things.

Remembering some info I read about bees in the past, I did a bit of looking and discovered that yes, bee keepers do supplement their bees’ diets from time to time, especially in early spring. With what? Sugar water! I can do that.

So I put out a frisbee full of sugar water (after perusing several apiary forums to make sure I wouldn’t screw it up and accidentally poison the bees). The frisbee (‘scuse me, “flying disc”) was bright orange, and I thought that might attract them. Y’know, like flowers.

I watched the frisbee and I watched the bees. They completely ignored it. They keep nosing around the dead leaves as if that was so much more interesting than a bright orange disc full of tasty, fake nectar. So I put a little of the sugar water on some of the leaves around the disc, and a few of the leaves into the disk. The bees immediately took interest in the water on the leaves around the disc.

I was running late for work, so I contented myself that they could probably figure it out from there.

When I came home eight hours alter, my frisbee was completely empty. I was confused. Had the neighborhood kids come over and spilled it all out? Maybe a dog had come by for a snack? Had the leaves I’d draped over the sides somehow wicked the water out into the surrounding leaves? It couldn’t have evaporated – only a few sticky smudges remained in the bottom.

Rather disheartened, I filled the frisbee again and set it out. Perhaps it had been eaten up by the bees.

When I left the house this morning, I nearly fell over from surprise. Apparently word had spread, and my bee-feeder was full of bees.


Huh. Somehow it looks less full of bees in the photo than I remember it looking. Here, have a close-up:


I took these photos when I came home at 11:20 to pick something up. No liquid remained in the frisbee by then, the bees were licking on the damp leaves to get whatever was left.

And down the hill, in the tree where I know they have their hive, the bees are flying happily in and out and I’m a little less worried that they’ll starve before the daffodils bloom.

Yay bees! Don’t forget me when it’s squash-pollinating time.

Dryer Lint Shorts

Soooo I had to make a call to a radio station with a billing question, and the gal who answered put me on hold. Their “hold music” was a talk-show program where angry men of one political alignment were bashing men from the other political alignment. I dropped my head to my desk and wept a little, because I am seriously depressed by the negativity of all public servants (and their pundits) in this world. I don’t care who’s bashing who – none of it is okay with me.

I put the phone on speaker because I couldn’t handle having that babble directly in my ear. The gal I wanted to talk to didn’t come back and didn’t come back and didn’t come back. Finally, the angry guys on the talk show wrapped up for a commercial break and I heaved a sigh of relief.

Then the commercials came on.

I didn’t pay much attention through the first few, but then one came on for environmental responsibility. The first bit of the ad claimed that if we wanted to be more green, we could consider riding our bikes to work instead of driving. If just 1 in 5 Americans did this, we would save X-hundred-billion barrels of oil a year. (Okay, that’s nice.) Other ways to be green included something something about reducing plastic use – “see how your life could improve if you just remove plastic from it!” and then – please understand, my attention was wandering a bit – the nice advertising man suggested I could try using dryer lint to make a new pair of shorts.

My jaw dropped and I turned my full attention to the phone — just as the person I was waiting to talk to picked up the line.

Now I will never know who thought I should make new shorts out of dryer lint, and I’m seriously bummed out about this. The commercial had to be some kind of a spoof, right? Poking fun at heavy-duty environmentalists? I tried googling it, and found out that there’s a very nice man who has a really nice mustache and all sorts of ideas about how to recycle dryer lint:

But nothing about making shorts.

I’m considering calling back and asking to be put on hold again. Listening to those lint-heads flambe’ each other might just be worth getting to hear this again.

My Future as a Professional Whistler is Nearly Assured

This story begins with an office party. There’s one every year, of course. It’s usually in January, the better to make sure everyone can be there. For the first several years I worked at the office, we had the party at a local restaurant. Five years ago, we had it at the Deadwood Social Club, which has a beautiful black box theater, complete with a stage. After eating our delicious meal, a few of us sat staring at the stage, pondering how awesome it would be if there was something to watch happening on the stage.

The the idea of the Office Talent Show was born. The next year we had the party at the home of some of the bosses, and the Talent Show was mandatory. There was a lot of grumbling, but everyone wound up participating. There was a kazoo band incorporating may of the humbugs, to magnificent effect. Other acts included a classically trained pianist playing ACDC’s TNT (classically), which was hilarious, several of our staff members who are in local bands playing original songs (impressively), some of our singers singing, one of the owners riding a unicycle, one of the owners doing a Monte Python sketch, and me demonstrating my infallible knowledge of Disney music (ending with a rousing audience-participation chorus of Mulan’s “Be A Man”).

The second year met with less variety in talent and much more grumbling. (“How can you force us to do this? It’s cruel and unusual punishment!”) But the show went on. There were ukuleles and card tricks and singing and Eddie Izzard and I demonstrated my proficiency in sign language, accompanied by a friend singing an opera aria she and I composed an hour before the party. It was a little lame, I confess.

The third year – last year – full-out rebellion set in. Our employees refused to come to the party if we forced them to participate in a talent show. So there was no talent show. The party was okay – there was food and drink and some chatting – and then everyone left. It felt very unfulfilling.

And so this year we re-instituted the talent show, under a “not quite mandatory” policy. And I like showing off, so I was happy enough to volunteer…

Especially when I realized I have an actual talent.

You see, there is a particular employee in our office who is well-known for whistling badly. Christmas songs, mostly. And one day I was walking by while someone was talking about his bad whistling, and I thought to myself – “heh, heh. Poor guy. I bet he wishes he was as awesome a whistler as I am.” And then it struck me – I really am an awesome whistler.

It is a talent I inherited from my Grandpa George.

I can whistle on-pitch, on-tempo, and I can trill, which isn’t too shabby at all. So, curious, I hopped over to YouTube and searched for “good songs to whistle.” Up came a slew of videos relating to the World Whistling Championships, which I didn’t even know existed. And let me tell you – there are some really amazing whistlers out there.

Finally, I saw an interview with the 2009 Whistling Grand Champion, and she mentioned that maybe next year she would tackle Bohemian Rhapsody.

Well obviously, if the World Whistling Grand Champion thought it was a good idea, so should I. And it fit the talent show bill perfectly – something talent-ish, but more importantly, entertaining. Everyone knows Bohemian Rhapsody, and it’s kind of a silly song. Perfect.

So I started practicing.

You know what? Bohemian Rhapsody is not a piece of cake. Normally, I can pick music up very quickly by ear. After listening to Bohemian Rhapsody for two solid days on endless repeat, I was still losing track of which key I was supposed to be in during the middle section, so I downloaded the sheet music. Turns out the song changes keys three times, and time signatures another three times. I complained to my friend Carlynn, a Doctor of Cello and Graduate of Freddy Mercury Week(tm), who said to my pain: “that guy [Freddie Mercury] was not messing around.” She also pointed out that the dude hates shirts.

True enough.

So I kept practicing, using my out-of-tune piano as a crutch. I’m glad I had a full two weeks to get it under control. I probably could have used one more.

Finally the moment arrived: the Not-Quite-Mandatory Talent Show that All But Three Employees had volunteered for. Suddenly, it turned into Only Three Employees who were interested in performing. Whatever. I had a talent and I was ready to go.

After a rousing accordian chorus of Louie Louie (Louis Louis? Lewie Lewie?), I was called to the stage, in front of my massive dining room table. I called for a B to begin my a capella intro to the song and launched into it.

(Disclaimer, in case you elect to watch the video: my accompaniment was provided by a laptop, making it rather hard to hear. Also, I especially love the bit in the video when Dan checks to see if I’m really whistling. 🙂 )

My talent was received with exactly the enthusiasm I had hoped: delighted giggles from the first folks who realized what I was up to, applauding, and maybe even a little whistling along.

What I did not expect was the rousing endorsement I got afterward. Apparently, I really amazed my coworkers with what may be a legitimate talent. I promised that if I made it into the World Whistling Championships, I would invite them all along.

And you know what? The World Whistling Championships are hilarious. I looked them up after everyone went home, and here are some of the guidelines I found:

“You may not accompany yourself … [because the] judges need to watch your facial expressions and particularly the use of your lips.”

“But for serious whistlers whose goal is to become an international grand champion, they must enter both the classical and popular categories.” (Which leads me to believe there may be room in this competition for kicks-only whistlers. Also, it leads me to believe you can’t accidentally win.)

Regarding your selection for a Classical Entry: “Composers to be considered are usually those of Europe and the United States. … If Asian, African or South American compositions, a professional music authority must vouch for authenticity of your choice.”

Regarding your selection for a Popular Music Entry: “…the choices are wide and varied from folk, blues, jazz, county, rock and roll, western, reggae, and many mixtures of music for the ‘masses.’ Your selection could be from ancient ballads to the most current pop song. When in doubt about your choices, you may wish to use the New Harvard Dictionary of Music edited by Dan Randel, or discuss your selections with musicians who have graduate degrees in music.”

That last one is really long, but it was so funny, I had to post it all.

All said and done, I have come to this conclusion: if the World Whistling Championships ever come to South Dakota, I am SO there. Or a state fair. I would almost certainly enter a whistling competition at a state fair.

Stay tuned, and if Dustin uploads it and it’s not too embarrassing (I did run directly into the dining room table when rocking out to the last section of the song), I’ll post a link to my awesome performance.