Home Life

Rain Broke the Dry Spell

Two days after a full moon, in pre-dawn darkness, it was difficult to see it rained yesterday. It hadn’t rained long, just enough to get the ground wet and start water flowing toward the ditch. It was not enough to seal cracks in the ground caused by a lack of moisture. The ditch near the road has hardly been used for runoff this spring. I hope the dry spell is broken.

After a hiatus, today I return to writing. Garden plot seven remains to be planted yet the hard work of putting in a garden is almost done. Already an abundance of vegetables was harvested even if my favorite hot peppers wait in the greenhouse to be planted.

At the point I realized our yard couldn’t produce enough grass clippings and leaves for garden mulch, and began laying down weed barrier to hold moisture and suppress weeds, everything changed. It was helped along by relenting to the need for fertilizer (composted chicken and turkey manure) and some pesticides used by my organic farming friends. Not everything improves with aging, yet my garden was made better by experience.

May was a month of stuff breaking. We scrambled to cover the expense of new appliances: washer, dryer, range, furnace, and air conditioner. We previously replaced the refrigerator, water heater, water softener, and our 2002 automobile. The new technology is clearly better. I can’t get over how quickly batches of water-bath canning jars come to temperature and boil. Our clothes get cleaner as well. All of this took time in May. We are over the hump, fingers crossed.

The acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk created turbulence in my social media space. The main change is I notice more trolls. I know to block them without question, yet it is an annoyance. I tried Mastodon, Post, and Spoutible and none of them fills the same need as Twitter. Mastodon was too complicated with their decentralized server model. Spoutible and Post have a lot of nice people, yet the depth of relationship is lacking and may become an issue. The other legacy social media accounts (Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook) are doing what they do without issue.

There wasn’t a lot to write about in Iowa Politics this spring. Republicans in the legislature had super majorities and could and did pass what they wanted. The trouble for a political blog writer is getting a handle on the changes and creating an approach that makes sense while Democrats are in the minority. One would have thought logic and reason would be the path, yet no. Republicans now take legislative action based on tropes and whims from the great beyond. To use logic serves their misinformation purposes. Building a story board will require more effort than usual as we prepare for the 2024 and 2026 elections.

Lack of rain is concerning. The Midwestern garden relies upon a consistent amount of rainfall spaced at predictable intervals. As the atmosphere and our oceans warm, more moisture is stored in the atmosphere. Rainfall we were used to became the exception rather than something upon which gardeners can rely. It leaves us with the unpredictability of life. When the dry spell breaks, we can breathe easier, at least for a little while.

Home Life

Iowa Spring – 2023 Edition

Trail walking on April 12, 2023.

My spouse and I noticed the mulberry tree on walkabout Tuesday afternoon.

The mulberry tree was damaged by the 2020 derecho and has begun to die. Branches high in the canopy are losing bark and not regrowing it. Soon it will need to be cut down and recycled. This is the only tree remaining from when we bought the lot in 1993.

We were discussing what to do with the yard. Mainly, we need to plant the area in front of the house where it was cleared last year. A flower bed of some kind will go there.

We took out the maple tree stump last year. We are considering replacement with some kind of tall bush rather than another tree, a forsythia or hydrangea, maybe.

More than half the Red Delicious apple tree is gone due to wind storms yet it seems very robust. Hard to tell if there will be an apple crop this year, yet under normal circumstances, there should be one.

Finally, the trays of seedlings are now outdoors in the greenhouse. It should be easier to water them. Next into the ground are onion sets, beets, and spinach. Hopefully there will be progress midst ambient temperatures in the 70s today.

Now to close this entry out and head for the lake trail for a morning walk.

Home Life

Prairie Home

Selection of books by Garrison Keillor waiting disposition.

It’s time for decisions… about Garrison Keillor.

Specifically, what should I do with this pile of books? Most were purchased at thrift stores for a dollar or less. I may have purchased the poetry book new, and maybe Homegrown Democrat. I can’t recall. Keillor’s books never made an impression on me the way Saul Bellow, Joan Didion, or John Irving did. He fancied himself a modern day Mark Twain, or something. I didn’t see it. Had I read more of Keillor, it may have been different. It’s getting late to start reading him now.

These nine books have been gathering dust in a row on the bottom shelf of the right-side stacks. They have been within reach for years. I could see them from the chair I bought for a buck from L.P. “Pat” Foster at Sharpless Auctions in the early 1980s. It is my writing chair for Pete’s sake! Keillor is a writer! The collector in me amassed the Keillor volumes back when I was in a more accumulating mood.

Disposing of Keillor’s books is a practical problem. Do I expect to read them? No, not likely. Will I refer to something he wrote in my writing? Maybe, yet it is hard to imagine when the radio show made the dominant impression. Do they have sentimental value? Maybe. Are there more worthy books for retention waiting in the next room for shelf space? Yes definitely and that will be the decider.

Keillor’s allure was when A Prairie Home Companion was live on Saturday night, the signal coming through the clock radio atop the Kenmore refrigerator in our Midwestern home. I did things in the kitchen and listened. In important ways, his show made Saturday nights for a long time. I miss them. Will I miss the stack of books? If I would miss them, I might have picked one of them up over the last ten years.

I remember when he signed off the air in 1987. It felt momentous. Our two-year old child wanted to go for a walk in the neighborhood at the same time. No regrets about going with her instead of hearing Keillor live. We all must make choices.

I rigged my cassette recorder to capture the last show while we were gone. When we returned from our walk, I discovered the tape had run out before the show ended. Keillor never went over, except this time. I was able to re-record it on Sunday when it aired on a different radio station that broadcast from the Quad Cities.

We now know Denmark didn’t work out, nor did his then new marriage. He came back to radio. There were other problems, they said. I’m not sure what happened, or in what order. I didn’t pay much attention to his personal life. The star of the show was always the yarns he spun. It felt like it would never end.

In a June 16, 2016 New York Times article aligning with his second departure from the radio program, Cara Buckley wrote, “Everything about “Prairie Home” — the Guy Noir and Lives of the Cowboys sketches, the spots for Powdermilk Biscuits and the Ketchup Advisory Board, the monologues about the fictional Lake Wobegon — sprang from Mr. Keillor’s imagination. But the man spinning the plates at the center of it all managed to stay a mystery, even to people who know him well.”

These days, I’m spinning my own plates. To use a more local metaphor, I don’t have enough time to card my own wool, and spin my own yarn to make a sweater. Plate-spinners have gone out of fashion.

I wish I could have one of those Saturday nights back. Like the one I shared with our child in Colorado Springs in their first apartment there. We went to the grocer together, prepared dinner, and talked to each other with the sounds of a Prairie Home Companion in the background. Those were golden times whose embrace is fleeting.

I will figure it out. These septuagenarian days are also fleeting. In the universe of things to do with used books, these will likely go to the public library’s used book sale. I may have bought some of them there. It seems likely they will find readers in our community, even if I can’t find the time in our prairie home to be one of them.

Home Life

Morning Routine

Western Sky at Sunrise

To keep our sanity, some daily organization is needed. I have a routine, curated over a period of decades, and in retirement, I follow it closely. I had a thought on Saturday, I should post about it. So here it is.

My morning routine is typed and held by a clipboard near my writing desk. I typed it to make sure I don’t forget anything. Depending on the whims of each moment, I could easily get waylaid.

Whenever I go to bed, I sleep four or five hours and then get up to use the bathroom. I return to bed and attempt to sleep until 2:30 or 3 a.m. Occasionally I will sleep straight through. Infrequently, I’ll sleep until 4 a.m. or later. I feel like I get enough sleep.

Upon waking for the day, I sit up on the edge of the bed and take my blood pressure. I record the numbers on a mobile application and then shed my clothing to step on the scale and record my weight. As long as I have the mobile device in hand, I click on The Weather Channel application and check the hourly forecast for the day.

Next comes clean underwear and socks, and dressing in my at-home uniform of well-worn jeans, a t-shirt, and in winter, a sweatshirt. I make the bed, pick up my mobile device, turn off the light, and walk to the kitchen.

I turn on all the kitchen lights and make coffee with my Kenmore drip coffee maker. I take my morning pills, which are Vitamins D and B-12, plus a low dose aspirin. While coffee is brewing, I head downstairs to turn on the lamp in my writing space and power up the desktop computer. In winter, I tend to seedlings started on a heating pad under a grow light. I perform chores like taking the trash and recycling bins to the curb, checking the salt level in the water softener, and cleaning up projects on my writing table to prepare for the day’s work.

Climbing the stairs, I return to the kitchen and pour the first cup of coffee. I take it to the living room where I sit in my chair, check text and email, and view notifications in my Twitter account. I search for breaking news. Once finished, I read at least 25 pages of the current book on my reading list and record the results in the Goodreads application. I head back downstairs.

At my writing table I log in to the applications I will use that day. I do banking, pay bills, record information, transfer photos from the cloud into file folders, and read newspapers. If there are small tasks related to my writing, I take care of them at the time. For example, this morning, I remembered something that should be included in my autobiography, opened the document, and insert it.

When all of this is done, it is usually 5:30 a.m. and time for breakfast. For me, breakfast is the biggest meal of the day and I take time to make tasty food that will carry me until lunch time. Once breakfast is finished, I clean the kitchen, do dishes, brush and floss, and I’m ready for my day.

There is daily variation, yet I mostly stick to the routine. The first shift of writing after breakfast is the best part of my day. What happens after that is based on a to-do list. Yet on many days, it is free form. Regardless what I do, I feel better for having a morning routine.

Home Life

Friday No. 5

Rainbow. Photo by the author.

It’s the fifth Friday of 2023 and winter is here… not for long, though. The forecast through Feb. 14 is mostly for highs in the forties. While this above freezing forecast sets back my winter fruit tree pruning, I will adapt. Adaptation is what it’s about in the newest era of the climate crisis.

For the first time in nine days I ventured out of the house, off property. The trip to the wholesale club, including drive time, took 90 minutes. At this rate, the fixed cost of the car loan is about $50 per trip. If that usage continues, this vehicle will last a long time. To put it into perspective, every time I leave the house, it is expensive.

Needing a new car was an unwelcome surprise. The drive train and body of the 2002 Subaru Outback would have continued for a long time. The problem came in when repair parts for critical systems were not available because they quit making them. Since we didn’t have $20,000 sitting in the bank, we took out an auto loan and that will be paid back over five years. The car will last that long, but the car payment blocks out other spending. Welcome to the world of being a pensioner.

Spending more time at home is revealing how much upkeep owning a home involves. While we bought the best appliances we could afford, they are wearing out, in some cases after more than thirty years of use. The next challenge is how to pay about $1,200 apiece to replace the four appliances next in queue. Basically, we’ll charge them on a credit card, then pay off the balance with whatever is left of our pensions at the end of the month.

Fridays have become my indoor seeding day. Last Friday I planted stevia to grow indoors (Stevia is zone 9). Today is kale seeding in a tray of 50 blocks. The main crop kale is a combination of Winterbor and Redbor. These varieties grow easily, are tasty, and freeze well. I will also plant Scarlet, White Russian, and Dazzling Blue. The tray will be 15 each of Winterbor and Redbor, six White Russian, six Dazzling Blue, and eight Scarlet. Depending upon germination rates, this should produce enough kale to last through the season and in the freezer until spring 2024.

When spending a lot of time at home, we crave order. I’ve tried to frame a weekly order, yet it is not going well. We don’t have “weeks” in retirement when each day blends into the next. Fridays are the most settled pattern because the regular week is over and we’re heading into the weekend.

Our mind works to create structure. I end up framing a week, however imperfectly. I feel a residual cultural need to say, “Thank goodness it’s Friday.” I resist, and attempt to go my own way. There is a song about that.

Home Life

Holiday Gatherings 2022

Vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner from a previous year.

Everyone invited to our holiday gathering was under the weather so we cancelled Saturday’s in-person event and video-conferenced. As we spoke, tissues were passed around and microphones muted while participants took care of sinus congestion. It was sub-optimal, yet worthwhile. Ours is a small family, so we are flexible. Those who tested for COVID-19 were negative.

We have plenty of uncooked leftover food. Enough so this week’s provisioning run will be extra light coming home.

I met a friend for breakfast on Friday at the Tipton Family Restaurant. It was our first in-person meeting since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March 2020. We picked Tipton because it is the midpoint between where I live and he was staying. The restaurant gets three stars, yet to be clear, it is not on the Michelin star scale. Breakfast was fine as was our conversation and walk along the main street.

The rest of the long weekend was highlighted by cooking. We ate simple fare on Thanksgiving, a veggie burger patty with two sides. On Saturday I changed my dried bean recipe from baked beans to bean soup along with vegan cornbread. Sunday I made a pizza for lunch. Since pizza is mostly a delivery mechanism for melted cheese, and I haven’t found a way to make palatable vegan pizza, it was pizza for one. I incorporated home grown red pepper flakes into the sauce. I was sneezing for about ten minutes afterward.

At some point we will make the full holiday meal that includes wild rice, baked sweet potatoes, baked beans, scones and cranberry relish. We don’t know when that will be. Taking the big meal out of Thanksgiving changes the tenor of the holiday. We are okay with that.

Home Life

Clean Pair of Jeans

Garden Jeans

This morning I got out a clean pair of blue jeans and put them on. I’d been wearing the last pair since election day and it was time to get them laundered.

I keep a few pair of “nice” jeans, which means they have no known defects, fit well, and are suitable for outings into society. Currently, these are Levi’s brand, although it varied through the years. To avoid constantly laundering them, I wear nice jeans a few days around the house after an excursion. There are three pair of nice jeans in the closet.

Jeans that fit loosely and have been damaged or have holes worn in them are used when I’m working outdoors or in the garage. These are “garden” jeans. They get pretty dirty from kneeling on the ground and are usually good to wear for several days before laundering. Mostly these came from my time before the pandemic when I wore them to work at the home, farm and auto supply store. I don’t mind if these jeans wear out or get damaged on a tool or fence post. When they get unwearable, I launder them and recycle the denim.

Jeans between nice and garden are those deteriorated enough from being nice and are suitable to wear around the house. This everyday use doesn’t have a special name, yet most of my jeans fall in this category. They take the workload off the nice jeans and eventually will be converted to garden use. I purchased a pair or two of these when we lived in Indiana in the early 1990s. Good jeans last a long time.

One conversation I had with Father was about “work” clothes compared to clothes worn around the house. He felt his best clothing should be worn to drive forklift in the meat packing plant, with inferior or damaged garments used at home. He was trying to get out of the packing plant to become a chiropractor and believed his appearance in public mattered. He died wearing his work clothes while driving a forklift into an elevator. Having driven a forklift in the same packing plant after he died, the work didn’t seem too public, warranting the best clothing. His discussions about it likely led me to my present organization of blue jeans.

Now that the midterms are over it is time to get to work. I spent the days after the election hanging around the house, reading, writing and cooking. I want to say I was thinking about the election yet that’s not accurate. It was more like recovering from the losses. On Sunday I didn’t leave the house at all.

It’s time to turn the page and get to work. For that, a clean pair of jeans is just what we need to get started.

Home Life

Sweet Corn in Big Grove

Putting up sweet corn.

My spouse and I processed local sweet corn for freezing last night. It is a relic from a past when food preservation played a bigger role in home life. We have stories about our lives with sweet corn to tell each other. A simple truth is we can buy big bags of frozen, organic cut corn from the wholesale club for less cost. If local corn is good, the taste of summer on a cob, it is worth the extra effort to buy local and put it up.

We have frozen corn leftover from last season, so our needs this year aren’t that much. Our main supplier went out of business and we’ve been hard-pressed to find a replacement. That is, we haven’t found outstanding sweet corn this year. Weather conditions have been a problem, according to our local ABC affiliate:

ELY, Iowa (KCRG) – Over thirty years as a farmer, Butch Wieneke knows what high quality sweet corn looks, and feels like. That’s why selling anything other than the best, is not an option for him and his family.

Last Thursday, they made the tough decision to stop selling.

“It just dried up. The ears weren’t filling out and I wasn’t going to sell sub-par corn. It’s just…I’m not going to do that. I don’t care what price it is,” said Wieneke.

The quality of sweet corn can change very quickly, and because of the lack of rain Eastern Iowa saw last week, the personal and public orders stopped.

Now, they’re waiting and watching to see how the crops develop.

Libbie Randall, KCRG-TV9, Aug. 2, 2022.

When we moved to Big Grove, I decided quickly to outsource sweet corn growing, in the mid-1990s. After a year or two, I found corn takes too much space and the results were not as good as what farmers produce. Because of today’s shortage, I’m considering a patch of sweet corn in next year’s garden. We’re not ready to give up on the annual family tradition and if I can produce a couple of bushels, that would best serve our culture.

While August grinds into its second week with hot, humid temperatures and plenty of rain, I’m ready to return to daily writing. I’m thankful for the break, yet there are important happenings not being covered by traditional media. When I write such stories, people find my posts and view them. I don’t have an editorial calendar yet, although as something new, I blocked out time today to write one.

The rest of the year is expected to be like drinking from a fire hose as far as news goes. I may as well dust off the keyboard and dig in now that sweet corn is put up.

Home Life

Reading Today

State Park Trail.

Gentle rain suppressed my desire to attend the Amana free-will donation fire fighters breakfast this morning. It is part of my project to get to know Iowa County, which became part of my state house district and will remain so for the next ten years. It was a solitary endeavor and therefore easy to delay until next year. Now that the garden is in, we can use the rain.

I have indoor projects requiring attention, more than I care to admit. A main one is to develop a reading plan for the rest of summer. I closed May re-reading The Great Gatsby, a Memorial Day weekend favorite. Today I hit something of a wall.The books on my to-read shelves seem a tedious chore. Where did my reading mojo go?

Maybe I need a break. My program to read at least 25 pages of a book each day has been good and I look forward to resuming progress. During a break, I need to take stock of what I’m reading and figure out what I need to read. This post is toward that end.

Some dynamics are at work in my reading life. I have been a book buyer since I had an income as a grader. I have been a keeper as well. As a result, I have a large home library which contains as many unread books as those I read. My buying slowed in recent years, yet there is plenty to read a step or two away from my desk. I also bought books with a vague notion of building collections around a topic. For example, I have eight books about Iowa authors and the University of Iowa Writers ‘ Workshop. It is a collection waiting to be read when the spirit moves me.

Research for my autobiography set me on a path to read books to understand the background against which I was born, educated, worked and lived. This year, The Trader at Rock Island: George Davenport and the Founding of the Quad Cities by Regena Trant Schantz is an example. I bought it soon after publication and read it during the time I wrote about the 1950s in Davenport. It was a useful reference about a story that had not been adequately told until Schantz wrote her book. There will be others on my list like this.

I don’t write much poetry yet I read it each year to gain exposure to how other express themselves. I read Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver this year and am looking for my next book of verse. Over the years, I built a large collection of unread poetry, bought mostly at thrift stores and used bookstores. There is plenty from which to choose without leaving the house.

Books about writing are a mixed bag. I have a shelf of them and once or twice a year I read someone different. I have yet to read one this year, so I’ll pick one.

A lot of my time is spent talking to people in person or online. I get book recommendations frequently. Sometimes they work out and sometimes not. It tends to stretch my understanding of what is worth reading. If left to my own devices, I would read and re-read the works of William Carlos Williams, Saul Bellow, Joan Didion, John Irving, Vance Bourjaily and David Rhodes over and over and over again in an unending loop. Recommendations are important to maintaining an active mind.

I have an appetite for good fiction and read a couple books per year in this category. The most recent is The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. With Gatsby, they are the only two fiction books read this year. Perhaps another is in order for the summer. Whatever summer fiction I read, I don’t want it to be too much work.

Finally, there are cooking books. These serve the endless quest to determine new dishes for our kitchen garden. I’m at the point as a home cook where I don’t consult with recipes very much. I know the range of ingredients and techniques and fit them into meeting the needs of ovolacto-vegetarian me and my vegan spouse. One of my projects is to build a cookbook shelving unit for the kitchen-dining room and reduce the number of cookbooks to what will fit on it. That’s a project for winter, though, so I’m still exploring.

With that in mind, here is my draft of a summer reading list:

  • Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking by Anthony Bourdain.
  • The Groveland Four: The Sad Saga of a Legal Lynching by Gary Corsair.
  • Seven Sinners of Shiloh and other Poems by Franklin Walker.
  • The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America and How to Restore Its Greatness by Thom Hartmann.
  • Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by Matt Stoller.
  • The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose 1978 – 1987 by Seamus Heaney.
  • Sarajevo: An Anthology for Bosnian Relief edited by John Babbitt, Carolyn Feucht and Andie Stabler.
  • From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction by Forrest A. Nabors.
  • Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken.
  • Siberian Dream by Irina Pantaeva.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Wish me luck and/or comment with your recommendations.

Home Life

Unexpected Spring Break

Red beans and rice, Midwestern-style.

Home alone, I made a spicy dish for dinner: red beans and rice. There is no recipe, yet it was everything to which decades of kitchen and garden work led me. Supper was life, as good as it gets. The process of anticipation, planning, and pulling items from the freezer, ice box and pantry culminated in deliciousness. The meal was why we pay attention to flavor rather than the names of dishes or ingredients.

I didn’t know I needed spring break, yet here we are. The combination of my spouse helping her sister move to a new home, 45 mile per hour winds and cold temperatures for two days, and a form of isolated winter exhaustion led me here. Break will continue until I see my doctor later this week. I already have my blood test results and the key numbers improved from six months ago. I noted Earth Hour last night and feel rested and ready to get into the garden and yard. The winds subsided overnight.

Saturday I spent five hours participating in the county Democratic convention via Zoom. I don’t like virtual events, yet they are efficient. I’d rather be talking to political friends and acquaintances in person. The upside of a virtual convention is when it is over, there is no need to use an automobile to get home. A couple of notes.

1984 was my first Johnson County Democratic convention. Most people were nice, although I was frustrated with the process. The county convention revisited decisions made at the precinct caucuses and walked away from what voters said they wanted in favor of special interests. That burned me on politics for a while. Since then we spent six years in Indiana. When we returned to Iowa, I was not active in politics for ten years, until 2004. The virtual event was reasonably organized, yet kinda sucked. What’s a person to do? An old Polish proverb applies, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Age is not treating some of my long-term cohorts well, at least from the images presented on Zoom. There are a number of new people, likely more than half. I’d rather step back from organized politics. I volunteered to be a delegate to the district and state conventions to make sure enough people were available to fill 74 slots. The district convention is at a nearby high school across the lakes. When it was time to ratify the slate, all slots weren’t filled. People don’t seem that engaged in politics this year, even if they should be. That may be bias created by the virtual format, yet I’m seeing the same thing in every segment of local culture.

There were ten platform amendments submitted at the convention. The platform is irrelevant, mostly because Democratic candidates for office don’t support every plank, even if they acknowledge a platform exists. Why does the county party spend time on it? The answer, I guess, is it is a way of life for party members who want a shared experience in articulating their beliefs. As a writer, I get plenty of that from elsewhere. As long as we keep the platform’s irrelevance to formal policy in mind, and don’t expect candidates to fully support it, let platformers platform.

I’m preparing to write about my senior year in college when I lived in a small house on Gilbert Court in Iowa City. Artist Pat Dooley rented it from a local businessman and managed the many residents who came and went during that six month period. It was a small, decrepit three-bedroom structure built on a stone foundation. According to Google maps, it has now been demolished.

Dooley was part of a group of writers and artists loosely referred to as “Actualists.” He did the cover art for The Actualist Anthology edited by Morty Sklar and Darrell Gray. Gray overnighted with us for a brief period before leaving Iowa for California. Many Actualists visited our house at Dooley’s invitation, where we socialized in the common room. Alan and Cinda Kornblum, Jim Mulac, Dave Morice, Sheila Heldenbrand, John Sjoberg and Steve Toth stopped by more than once, as best I can recall.

By 1974, I finished required coursework for a major in English and needed to fill out the total number of required hours. My coursework during that final undergraduate semester included French conversation, separate classes in ancient and modern art, Harry Oster’s American Folk Literature, and early modern philosophy. I hadn’t prepared for a career during university, although the Oscar Mayer Company, for whom I worked two summers, called to offer me a job as a foreman in the Davenport meat packing plant. I declined.

There are a couple of additional days before I must get to work in earnest. Spring break, while unexpected, is not over.