Category Archives: Baboon Achievers

The College Years

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms

In the fall of 1960 I became a freshman at Grinnell College. The class of ’64 went on to win a spotty reputation as perhaps the most talented but troublesome classes in college history. The 1960s were a turbulent time in higher education all across the nation.

Those years, for me, were amazingly transformative. I entered that period as a provincial, shy, sanctimonious kid from a small Iowa town. I was some sort of Republican, a passive sort of Christian. I was also a prig who was offended by folks who smoked, drank alcohol, had sex out of wedlock or swore. I had terrible study habits and little discipline. My first crisis was discovering whether I was equal to the challenge of college coursework. I spent my freshman year in terror of flunking out.

Even the simple business of living in a dorm was threatening for me. In high school I avoided two kinds of people: the boys and the girls. At Grinnell I was obliged to live in a dormitory with 30 young men whom I did not know. I soon learned my dorm buddies farted, got drunk and hosed each other down with language so vulgar I didn’t know what the words meant. For a while I wondered if I might be gay because the guys around me were so crude and aggressive that I felt I belonged to a different species.

Grinnell shocked me in good ways, too. I had lived 18 years of my life totally ignorant of the complex delights of classical music. The college offered live concerts with music so powerful it sometimes reduced me to tears. Among my dorm mates were guys who played folk guitar and bluegrass banjo. I fell in love with that until music was so important I couldn’t imagine having lived without it.

Something similar happened with respect to the world of books, social debates, historical dilemmas, appreciation of visual arts, and many other areas. Because Grinnell was so isolated (“in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields”) the college tried hard to import exciting speakers and artists. Attending lectures on fascinating topics was free and easy: all one had to do was show up and listen. I found out I cared about ideas and history and art to a degree I had not known was possible.

The kid who left Grinnell four years later was very little like the kid who showed up in 1960. I’m convinced that all of us change, and in fact we change every year we are alive. But some changes are vastly more significant than others, and my Grinnell years were that.

What about you? If you attended college, what did the experience mean to you?

Double Dog Dare

I was amazed to read today that teenagers across the country have started taking part in an online challenge to eat laundry pods. I didn’t want to encourage anyone by clicking on any of the videos out there, but news reports say they are filled with teens foaming at the mouth, vomiting and some even passing out.

The last online challenge I remember was the ice bucket although I never understood it. I had thought it started as a “if you don’t donate money then you have to dump this bucket of ice water on yourself” and ended up as a “I’m donating money and for some reason dumping a bucket of ice water on myself”.

Both of these remind me of Flick in Christmas Story who caves to the “triple dog dare you” on the playground and ends up having the fire department detach him from a frozen flag pole. Or Marty McFly in Back to the Future who responds with fury to “you chicken?” I’ve never understood the “double dog dare”; it doesn’t make sense that you should do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do just because someone dares you.  And it makes even less sense to do something that is clearly not just unpleasant but potentially very dangerous to your health.

Have you ever done anything on a dare?

Pajama Enforcement

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

Like VS’s friend from last week, when my children were little, I’d search for matching pjs every Christmas. I wanted to photograph them together looking really cute, then use the pictures for holiday cards. Back then, matching pjs of different sizes were hard to come by because clothing sizes only came in age groupings: infants to toddler, toddler to elementary school, junior to adult.  This forced me to go to three different departments in hopes that each one just might have the same pj in the next size up. Now, whole family sets are available, from infants to grown men.

After scoring (when I could), the next challenge was to get my three kids to put them on just for a photo shoot. They wanted nothing to do with fulfilling my desire for matching children.  I cajoled them, bribed them with treats, got angry at them, and sometimes even said that I’d pay them. The age at which they became uncooperative was around six.  I’ll never know whether their obstinacy was due to not wanting to look alike, or due to them knowing how badly I wanted to show them off.

Moving this tradition up another generation, my daughter skipped matching pjs when her five kids were little and started buy them when they were teenagers. For five years running, she’s spent a fortune buying each matching pjs, including a pair for herself. Each Christmas, they not only don them, they spend the whole day in them! This year, they even wore them all day at my son’s house. We always gather there because he has the largest home of all of us.

Maybe her success is because they identify with being a big brood. The older they get, the closer they’ve become to one another and to their mom. In my child-rearing days, my kids were closer to me when they were not yet teenagers. I can no more picture my kids spending all of Christmas day in matching pjs than I can imagine walking a mile in sub-zero weather!

What tradition will you be “enforcing” in 2018?

Brain Exercise

My mom lives at St. Anne Extended Healthcare, the nursing care wing of St. Anne of Winona complex here in Winona. Added on later were the assisted living wings, Callista Court, where she lived briefly until her fall a year ago. Callista’s main entrance is clear at the other end of the block from her SAEH room, and even though they’re connected by a little skyway, we don’t often travel that far when I visit.

Because it was so warm the other day, I took Mom outside in her wheel chair to walk the block to Callista’s entrance, and we checked out the “café” inside. It was pretty full due to a craft  project, so we went on to the (quieter) Library and found a square table with decks of cards nearby. I thought, “What the heck, she taught me to play solitaire when I was a kid…” So I laid out a game of (Klondike) solitaire to see how much she would remember. We were both delighted to find that, although she probably could not have laid out the game, she still remembers basically how to play – i.e., that the rows of declining numbers alternate black and red. After seeing it done once, she could put the aces up top, and she caught some of the moves without prompting. When I laid down some cards in front of her, she asked “Is that The Pile?”

She said afterward that she liked doing that – it was good for her brain. I now have a deck of cards in the “mom bag”, and we’ll play whenever time permits, and we find an open table.

What do you do that’s good for your brain?

Thirty Percent

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

In class the other day, the teacher said, “Thirty percent of your life is doing things you don’t want to do. If you’re lucky.”

What do you think? I think it’s probably high for me in general. I know I am very fortunate to do what I love and have my own schedule. I’ve managed to cut a lot of the stuff I don’t like out of my life.

You may recall I’ve talked about the week of Christmas concerts in December and it all just makes me grumpy. That would be a time where 80% of my life is not what I want. But wait! There are changes afoot! New (temp) music teacher. Concert completely revamped! Not exactly sure what’s going on yet… the secretary compares it to herding chickens. But at least it will be different! (We keep reminding ourselves Change is Good!)

Is 30% high or low in your life?