Thursday, July 28, 2011

On an Unintended Long Break

So - I told you I'd be heading to Maine for a week. Been there done that, had a wonderful time. So much to share, so many fun things, so many pictures to show.

One day at home to get ready for the next round - off to the Swanson family reunion tomorrow early afternoon. More fun to share, more stories, more pictures.

Hopefully, by next Tuesday or Wednesday, I'll have time to post. I'm missing all of you - haven't even had time to read what's happening in your lives.

See ya!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Pursuit of Transcripts All Over the World

For 15 years I worked at Colorado State University as the Admission Coordinator for the Master of Social Work applicants. That was only part of my position, but the admission process took up the majority of my time from January through April. A huge part of that process was the calculation of grade point averages for each applicant. Some folks apply for graduate school having gone to only one school for their undergrad degree. Most have 2-3 schools along the way, at least for a class here and there. Some have had as many as 10 schools they have attended in pursuit of their bachelor's degree. Some were so old that the grades were handwritten. Some were typewritten. Computers made things much easier, but there are literally hundreds of different formats.

Figuring grade point averages is a tedious task. I figured out a rough estimate of how many of those documents I worked with in those 15 years, and came up with approximately 5600. I often lamented that I wished there was some consistency - that every college or university had the same format. That everyone had the semester system and nobody had the trimester system. That everyone had 4 points for an A and 0 points for an F. That nobody used + or - with their grades.

So why, you might ask, am I harping about this old news? It has to do with Kevin trying to get back into school to finish those last few credits for his degree. I offered/agreed to help him by ordering the transcripts from everywhere he went to school. He has limited time, ability, and resources to get this done. This is when I really wished that every college or university had the same rules and regulations for ordering transcripts.

Did you know that no matter how long you've been out of high school, and no matter how many previous colleges you've gone to, you still have to dredge up that old transcript and send it to the university where you're applying?

Kev attended the local community college for a welding course, and maybe another 2 or 3 credits. They would not let me order it. He couldn't call it in. He could do it on line - but it didn't work for him. He had to fill out a paper copy of the transcript request, sign it, and turn it in - and since he's far far away, it could be faxed.

Colorado State University has several possible methods, too, but fortunately he was here in town, getting Angie moved, so he was able to walk into the office and have it in his hand in a few minutes.

Biola University was easy to work with - they let me order it by phone, no problem at all.

The biggest challenge of all, as you can probably imagine, was his Africa Nazarene University transcript. He only attended there one semester (long enough to meet Angie, fall in love, and change the entire course of his life, and ours), and only had 12 credits there. I wish we'd ordered several copies before he left there, or the last time he applied for college.

I wrote to my missionary friend at Africa Nazarene University and asked her the name and e-address of the person I needed to contact in Records. I wrote that person - keep in mind that there is a 10-hour time difference between here and Nairobi. Therefore, whatever I send there is seen the next day, and whatever she answers is not seen until the next day, so it's a three day process just to get a message back and forth. She couldn't find him, because they had him listed as Carlson Kevin, not Carlson, Kevin. It took several more days to get that resolved, and I ended up calling her to resolve things. It took another couple of days to figure out how to pay for the three copies we decided we should get, just in case.

Wow, was that ever an ordeal! They charge a ridiculous amount of money to run off a transcript - about 3 times what anybody else charges. Then there's the part about transferring $32.00 from my bank to a bank in Nairobi, which was then put into an account for ANU. The total was $98.00 for 3 transcripts.

So, I thought it was all taken care of. Several days later an envelope arrived from Africa. I opened it to be sure they had sent everything I had paid for. Big mistake. I send the envelope on to Kev, and he sent one copy to the University of Maine, and was informed a few days later that they could not accept the transcript because it wasn't in a sealed envelope. I understand that, I really do. But Kevin tried to convince them that they should consider the fact that the transcripts were from a third world country, but they wouldn't budge.

So - I wrote my friend again and asked her to intervene for us with the Records office - to tell them I wanted them to replace one of the transcripts free of charge, this time sent in a sealed envelope, with a signature across the seal on the back. My missionary friend wrote me back to tell me they would re-do the order, but not free of charge. But they were going to pay out of their pockets. I assumed I would repay them, but so far I haven't heard from them about the amount.

The coolest thing about this latest situation - there was a group from America there working on the campus, returning to the US yesterday. They were to bring the transcript back and send it overnight as soon as they get back here. It really pays to have good friends in far away places.

Well, this has probably bored you all stiff, but I just had to put it all down to believe it! I'm just trusting that U Maine doesn't come up with any more problems with this crazy, convoluted process - a process much ore difficult than any I've ever seen, in my years of working with transcripts.

We're off to Maine to visit Kev and Angie on Thursday - there's much to do in the next two days. Then we'll be home a day and will head to the mountains for time with my extended family. Only about 28 of the 55 will be there, but we'll have a great time. Among other things, we'll be celebrating my folks' 65th anniversary.

Stay cool!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Do I Do in a Very Special Way

Last week-end I attended one of the sweetest weddings ever - in a long line of weddings I have been to, or have been a part of. This one took place in the mountains at our denomination's campground. The bride and groom met when they were working at the camp - the groom's father is the director of the camp, so it was his home. This is the third romance of kids from our church who have spent their summers working at the camp. My nephew and his wife married there 8 years ago, after meeting at camp and even both changing colleges so they could be together their junior and senior years. It was an absolutely perfect day in a rustic, beautiful setting. The path to the "sanctuary" was marked with these clever signs.

The guests enjoyed the beautiful weather as we waited for the processional.

The sister of the bride and her escort --

Very happy for her little sister.

The adorable ring bearer and flower girl - children of the officiant, who grew up in our church, as did their mother - they went to college together, then ended up at the camp with him as assistant director


And here comes the bride on the arm of her dad. (Love her red shoes!)

Levi, the father of the children, did a great job, as did the young woman who wrote the beautiful ceremony.

They had so many personal touches that made the ceremony so special. They did the triple chord ceremony, representing the strength of three strands over two - Jesus being the third strand.

There was laughter.

There were tears.

I've never seen the attendants sing together in any wedding I've attended. Unique and wonderful. I wonder if they had to try out to be in the wedding party!?

And then the Danielle and Ben served communion to everyone. I've often seen the bride and groom and maybe their family take communion, but never the guests. Lovely.

Mr. and Mrs. face the future together --

The camp staff prepared lunch for everyone - typical camp fare, hot dogs and brats and burgers -
everything tasted great.

A blue grass band entertained us as we ate.

I wasn't able to stay through the entire reception, so missed the part where the groom sang a quartet with his groomsmen. He was in my brother's choir in college - one of my brother's favorite guys ever. I did get them in a casual shot inside the lodge.

They ate on the go as they visited with their guests. It was apparent that they enjoyed every minute.

I headed down the mountain feeling very hopeful for this lovely young couple's future.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Random Ramblings and a Bit of a Rant

There are many things going on in my mind these crazy days of summer - lazy and hazy, as the old song used to say, do not apply. For me, the 4th of July is the beginning of the downward slide back to school days and a bit of routine again. At least we can hope.

Livi's been taking a reading class this summer, three days a week, for an hour. One day she brought home a book to read that brought back such memories. I remember this book so clearly from my childhood, and I haven't seen it since. I hadn't thought of it in a long time, but I enjoyed reading it with Livi. Does anybody else remember it?

Each brother had a special physical gift and they traded places with each other to save their lives. It was a fun blast from the past.

These reading classes are held over lunch hour, and the kids eat lunch with their teacher. This is where the rant part comes in - free lunch is offered at several schools here in town. It is a nice thing for the kids - they get to see their friends, eat a good lunch, and it is free. But really not free. I could be called a hypocrite, because I have taken advantage of it on the days I have the girls. But I just don't quite get how this is possible when we are a trillion dollars in debt as a nation. But what bothers me more than that is the waste that goes along with the "rules and regulations." For instance, I wanted to take one lunch for the twins to lower waste. But they told me I'd have to buy a milk for the other one if I took only one lunch for two kids. I clarified with them that they'd prefer I throw away a lunch in place of giving me an extra milk. Adults have to pay $3.50 for the same lunch, which is fine. But you can't eat any of the kids' food rather than throw it away. And you can't take anything home with you, rather than throw it away. Seems a tad wasteful to me.

Changing subjects -- I think I started something the other day that has gotten pretty big. At least, that's what I suspect. I called the city because the street we drive down many times a week was looking very scruffy. When the houses were built and the street was put in, the homeowners along this street put their fences about 4 feet from the curb, and I guess the city landscaped it. It looked nice for years, but eventually the "decorative" rock began to disappear, the black plastic under it began to show and shred. The bushes and trees began to die, and nobody was taking any notice of it, seemingly. It was so ugly. There were also a couple of pine trees that Dwight had noticed were infested with a bug. I was so pleasantly surprised when they were out within less than week, cleaning it all up. It looks so much better. They also noticed some really bad sections of sidewalk that they replaced. Ever since, they have been out there every day putting in new handicap accessible curbs at the intersections. I wonder if, when they came out to check out the trees and bushes, they realized nothing had been done on this street for a long time, or if they already had this work scheduled. Either way, it's been a good thing.

Veering off the path even more - I have quite a few authors I follow as they write a book most every year. Mary Daheim is one of those - her books have been alphabetical, and she's been writing this series for 20 years now. She is up to V, Alpine Vengeance. I love it that you can go to a favorite author's web page and actually e-mail them a message. I have had several answer my messages. I wrote Mary with a comment about the latest book, and it began a lengthy back and forth conversation. She's quite the character and I'd love to meet her IRL. She surprised me with her willingness to not only answer my questions, but give me lots of insight into her journey through this series. What fun.

My family, meaning my birth family, has always had a favorite pasta salad for the summertime, particularly picnics. It must have originated with one of my grandmas, probably my mom's mom, Grandma Wildman. It is made with ring macaroni, made by Creamettes.

It's a simple salad with tuna, peas, celery, a bit of onion, and some Miracle Whip. And of course, a bit of sate, or my preference, seasoned salt. We have never been able to find the rings out here in Colorado, so any time we went to Minnesota, we'd pick some up and bring home several boxes. A few years ago they changed the shape of the box from the rectangular box (like Kraft Mac and Cheese), to this square box. That was okay, as long as the product was the same. When I didn't have any, I made the salad with little alphabet shaped pasta, but I haven't even been able to find them lately. Last summer, we picked some up when we were in Minnesota, and then my aunt sent us several boxes each (Mom, sis, and me). Now, the bad news - my aunt can't find them any more in Monticello, Minnesota. So so sad!!

We love this salad so much that my brother, who rarely gets it, putting a forkful in his mouth, stated, "Savor every mouthful!" Nothing fancy, simply delicious.

As promised, an update on the Dwight Carlson Park - come on over for a cookout any time! I have a couple of boxes of rings left, so I could make a ring macaroni salad - which our family calls "Minnesota salad."

The last iris of the year - one we never saw before - absolutely gorgeous.

I'm not very good at coming up with analogies with life in nature, but these shots of flowers and rocks brought these thoughts to my mind. When I saw this tiny yellow flower growing from this big rock, I immediately thought of how tough life is at times and how it sometimes feels like we're living in such a tough spot. But the fact that the flower is surviving and even thriving in this hard place gives me so much hope. Sometimes lately I have felt like this little flower! And God has helped me grow in this rocky place.

When I saw these beautiful flowers climbing this rock as they grow and spread, I realized that's how it is to get as close to the Rock of Ages as possible.

Hayley told me to take this picture - she has a good eye, don't you think?

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!