Friday, December 23, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 10

Happy holidays, reader friends! I apologize for my lack of entries these past few weeks - my last Marilyn post was November 6, can you believe it? 

While I'm certain you don't want to hear any excuses about the last month and a half, it has been a very busy time for me. Between teaching, directing musical rehearsals, life, and other activities, I haven't had a lot of spare moments to write. But you can expect two or three posts within the next week, because this teacher is now officially on holiday break. I love my students dearly and my musical kids have been great, but I am so glad to have some time to recharge these next few days. So without further ado, let's recap where we're at with Marilyn's story.

Even though I haven't been posting regularly here on Certainly Candid, I have been reading M's letters as my time allows. I am currently reading her junior year letters at Augsburg, which span September 1952 into May 1953. Today's excerpts are from September and October. I can really relate to M in these passages, because she writes about how busy she's been with life. In addition to reading her letters, I've been continuing to research the people and places she mentions.

The first draft of this novel is slowly but surely taking a form. I've tried several ways of writing her story and haven't decided on an official style yet, but my goal is that by June of 2017 I have several chapters written. I'd like to line up a literary agent by this time and start getting the concept into the hands of publishers if I really want to see this in print someday. Plus, June brings us round-robin to the beginning of this journey. But enough about that - I know many of you have written and inquired when I'm going to do another Marilyn update, so here are your entries for today.
September 18, 1952 regarding being back at school: You know, I've been a little lonesome already. One thing I really miss is the piano. We asked about renting one today and they're going to come and see if we can get one up the stairway. It will cost $4 a month. [I would really struggle not having a piano as well - I actually inherited my grandmother Jennie's (Marilyn's mother) piano. It is a beautiful Baldwin console upright that looks great in my living room.]
September 23, 1952: I like all my classes real well so far. Schools seems so different this year. Much more fun! I feel like an upperclassman now too. Oh, it's really quite the life! [also in this letter:] Carol, Betty, Joan, and I decided it would be fun to go for a walk early last nite. We were having so much fun when all of a sudden it started to pour down. We were down at the river where there was absolutely no shelter. We were pretty soaked!
September 26, 1952: For our educational psychology class we have to go to one of the settlement houses and teach a group of kids for about hour hours a week. Hilde and I are going to go together. I hope to get a class of 8-9 year-olds and preferably a music class. I really think it will be fun and of course, good experience! 
September 29, 1952: There's the most beautiful music on the radio this evening. The apartment is so cozy, I just love it. It really seems like a home.
October 8, 1952: Dear folks - I'm waiting for my coffee to peak so guess I'll scribble a few lines. Each day I have these two hours free before choir so I usually make myself a cup of coffee. Drop in some day and I might do the same for you! [M and I have so much in common - music, piano, teaching, and obviously most importantly, coffee!]
[From the same letter as previous:] "Us kids" have been listening to the World Series quite intently. Sure hope the Dodgers win - or maybe you don't even know they're playing. [I had to look this up - the New York Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3 in 1952. It is interesting to think about listening to baseball games on the radio.]
October 23, 1952: B [name omitted for blog] is here tonight. She's down to Minneapolis for a teacher's convention. She's as nice as D and so much fun. She can tell such interesting stories about teaching! [I think all my educator friends can agree we have such unique stories!] 
And that brings September/October of 1952 to a close. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday break, regardless of what holiday you celebrate. A very merry Christmas to you, my faithful readers and friends, and I will write again next week. Love always. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Downcast, But Never In Despair

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, got ready for the day, and was driving to Caribou coffee at 6:15 with the goal to put the finishing touches on my upcoming lessons for the next few days. I knew I'd have limited prep time with my many meetings and agenda items ahead, and I wanted a quiet hour in the morning to complete them during the time I do my best work. The starry skies blinked their still visible constellations as I traveled my early route.

But I drove across town with a heavy heart, my mind linked, and yet at the same time, detached from the lessons I had to finish for my classes.

We just spent four weeks reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Year after year of teaching this nonfiction work of literature, there is always one student who says, "It isn't fair that Anne had to suffer because she was different. That's not kind." I spend weeks teaching tolerance. I spend weeks teaching my students that while it's okay to disagree, it is not okay to be unkind. We spend time researching how one person influenced millions to believe that some people were not fit to work, fit to live, and ultimately, these people were sent to die. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 9

It's hard for me to believe it is already November and that it has been two weeks since my last post. My apologies, faithful readers. I had a full-blown cold upon returning from Montana (I even stayed home from work one day, which I rarely do). 

Then to add to this, my theatre season began - and for anyone who has been in showbiz, you know how busy it gets. But while this may explain my lack of writing, it certainly doesn't excuse it! I am going to try to do another post mid-week to make up for the weekly entry I missed.

Today's focus is the conclusion of M's sophomore year (April/May 1952). Her letters these two months are less newsy, fixating more on her spring fever and the soon arrival of summer (which meant her opportunity to return home!). I think we can all relate to that, especially those of us who have had the opportunity to live in the country and great outdoors.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 8

Greetings from Billings, Montana! Since I'm technically on vacation, this post will be a short one. While I do have many more photos of M to share with you now (thanks, Grandma E!), I stupidly forgot to scan a few before road-tripping through the States. Enjoy this photo of Washington Ave. in Downtown Minneapolis (circa 1952) instead. Since Marilyn often writes about downtown shopping with her college friends, I thought I'd include a picture reference.

Today's post spans February and March of 1952. I had originally intended to finish her sophomore year letters for this post, but April/May will have to wait until next weekend. I have a busy week next week, so I doubt I'll have enough time to read more than a couple months worth of letters anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 7

Happy Sunday and cheers to a new week ahead, my friends! I cannot guarantee a post next weekend as I will be road-tripping, but until our next update I hope this is a substantial enough entry. The photo in this post is of Marilyn (right) and a friend of hers at Augsburg.

Today's focus is on November/December 1951 and January of 1952. The majority of Marilyn's letters during this time frame focus on news from home and the people living in Ray (or from Ray). While I know of some of these people, I don't know all and as such, will not be including any of that material at this point in time.

In November/December, M writes frequently about her upcoming holiday plans to come home and all the holiday activities happening at Augsburg. She talks about the pretty snowfalls in Minneapolis and the festivities. Move over, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I'm already ready for Christmas, just from reading these months of letters!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 6

Happy October, reader friends! Autumn is most certainly my favorite season of the year and reading the start of Marilyn's sophomore year letters has reminded me of this. The outdoor football games, the colors of the trees, the warm coats, the coffee (obviously!), and so much more. Marilyn often writes about the nice Indian summer they are having in Minneapolis during Sept-Oct. 1951.

I wanted to share some dormitory pictures, but innocently believed I would be able to find some circa 1951 online. Wrong. After some digging, I have come to the assumption that this building no longer exists (more research to come soon). I did however find this photo circa 1888 in the Augsburg online collection. Interestingly, while researching Morton Hall, I also found out that a current dormitory at Augsburg is none other than Mortensen Hall, which was named after Gerda Mortensen (who M has mentioned in her letters).

Since I don't have other college specific photos, I have included another photo of Marilyn today. My grandmother recently sent me this photo of Marilyn (center) with her friends Joan (left) and Marie (right). This was taken her freshman year during initiation week for freshmen when they had to wear their Augsburg beanies for a week!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 5

Good morning loves! It's hard to believe we are already through M's first year of college at Augsburg and that my next update will be the start of her sophomore year. Today's post focuses on March to May of 1951. I'll be honest - these pages are less newsy than her previous months, so I didn't mark a lot to share with you today. I also didn't include a picture of her letters today. Instead, this photo is Augsburg College's Old Main, circa 1950 (God bless the internet, as M didn't have pictures).

Since my last posted update, I have also made significant progress copying and preserving her junior year letters in electronic format. While those entries here on Certainly Candid won't be for another month or two, I am very excited to share some snapshots of that year with you. She has some fun letters from her time on choir tour (they made it out to New York and she has some very cool postcards!). I will definitely have lots of pictures to share with you as we get to 1952-1953. Marilyn even included some programs from tour - I have one from Town Hall, NYC, and will get an electronic scan to show here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 4

Happy new year! That is, I am onto January 1951 which marks the beginning of Marilyn's second semester of college and a new year of letters for me. In addition, I made good progress this week copying her sophomore year letters (155 pages, as opposed to the 225 of her first year). Next weekend's post will be the last of her freshman year before I move into September of 1951.

Normally I give an overview before jumping right into her passages, but I have so much to still do today! As a result, today's post won't have that substance (but with more to come next weekend, I promise). To compensate, I've included two close-ups of her letters in today's post. Didn't Marilyn have beautiful penmanship? Say what you will about writing in cursive, but you cannot deny it has a lovely appearance in letter writing. The first at the top of this post was written while Marilyn was on choir tour - it was postmarked from Racine, Wisconsin. I found it interesting that the choir members were hosted by the community individuals (practically unheard of in today's age). 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 3

Another week has passed and it is time for another update on Marilyn's letters. I'm sure many of you would love to have a visual of Marilyn, so this photo is Marilyn's 1950 high school graduation portrait. Thank you, Grandma E, for supplying this.

Right now, I am simply taking the time to enjoy Marilyn's stories home. I am 108 pages (of 225) into her freshman year of college and once again, I have so much to share with you. From October to December of 1950, I had to do quite a bit more research online - Marilyn references a lot of things that are unfamiliar to me. Some examples include "Fibber McGee & Molly," a popular radio talk show in the 1940s and 50s, Fostoria dishes (now antiques that can be worth quite a lot), Joe Louis winning a boxing match, and outbreaks of tuberculosis in the area of her college. Fun story: you can actually listen to archived radio episodes of "Fibber McGee & Molly" online. I've put it on my list of things to do when I have more downtime.

In addition to her general news, Marilyn comments much more frequently about the Korean War in this time frame of letters. I am rusty on my history of the Korean War (thank you, History Channel, for the brush-up) but found her first-hand comments to be riveting. As one whose teenage years occurred post-9/11 terrorism, it's interesting to see the connections that span wartime activities between generations. After all, Marilyn was only 18 when the Korean War began. The entries she has about the conscription process and the men drafted spans so many letters, I would have to start keeping a list of all of those she knew who were required to go to war.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 2

I have finished copying, numbering, and organizing Marilyn's freshman year letters but am certainly not close to finishing reading them.There are 225 pages from September 1950 to May 1951. Since some of her stationary is small, some of my scans are actually 2 letter pages to 1 page of printer paper. I am taking a slight break from copying the letters since I want to read each year as I go. I am currently into October 1950, with just a few months left of her first semester at Augsburg.

As I read more and more letters, I cannot help but notice that every generation has a writer in the family. Marilyn was certainly the writer of hers - she was the assistant make-up editor of her school's newspaper, the Augsburg Echo (a make-up editor at the time was responsible for layout and putting the paper together). And of course we know she wrote letters home almost every day.

I am starting to have a clearer picture on the direction of this novel and have started a few rough outlines and even first drafts. I have decided I do not want to lose my initial ideas by excessively annotating, rereading letters, and doing research before I even begin any writing. The project is certainly loose right now and needs a stronger structure, but I know with a little more time and organization, a solid first draft will emerge.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Letters from Marilyn - Update 1

I have taken some time away from regular writing here at Certainly Candid as I work on my novel. Now that I have made significant progress, I will share some background information with you, my online readers. Letters from Marilyn is a working title and while I have not decided upon the style of this piece (purely nonfiction, historical fiction emphasis, infused memoir, etc.), I have enjoyed every moment of reading (and rereading!) her many letters.

Marilyn Solberg was my grandfather's sister and she wrote letters to her mother almost every day during college. Marilyn died too young at 21, leaving behind a family who loved her and a myriad of friends. Our family found her letters when her own mother (my great-grandmother) died in 2004. She had kept them all. Over 60 years old, they contain so much written word from the great-aunt I never had the chance to meet.

Shortly after Marilyn's sudden death, her college roommate wrote this to Marilyn's mother in 1953: I don't know how I'll ever get used to life without Marilyn. We had done so many wonderful things together. It seemed that at first I was too stunned to realize, and now each day it becomes more vivid that my best friend is gone.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Here's What's Happenin'

Hello loves!

In the 5 months of 2016, I have written 2 posts (not including this one, which technically makes it 3). Pathetic, I know. I'm sure writers everywhere are scoffing at the lack of dedication.

With summer just around the corner for this educator, I fully see myself writing more posts here on Certainly Candid. I won't, however, make any empty promises. I am working on a novel project. While not "top-secret" by any means, I will share some teasers in the upcoming months. I am excited to announce that I am almost done with my proposals for it, in which case I will be shipping them off to various literary agencies with the hope for them to be passed along to publishing companies.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


It has been some time since I've done a book review on Certainly Candid (but not because I haven't been reading!). With that being said, I'm currently in a nonfiction phase. I go through these phases every so often, reading books that capture my attention on a given topic. For the majority of 2015 it was astronomy: star charts, manuals on various telescopes, astronomical events, etc. This year the tread is engineering, probably because I considered electrical engineering as a career path once upon a time. As such, I've been pouring through books on electrical engineering for the most part, but very recently Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World caught my eye at Barnes & Noble.

A nonfiction book categorized in the sciences (and surprise, surprise, engineering), the book focuses on innovation and how inventions come to be. I cannot begin to describe how much I learned from just this one book alone. It discusses how inventors have, in the author's terms, a different mindset from the rest of the population. This mindset allows them to see problems in a different way and how to tackle these problems creatively.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the wide range of topics it covers. I learned about 3D printing and its origins, advances in oncology and hematology, how the transistor changed the way we approach building mechanical devices, InnoCentive (a program that allows the general public to tackle invention problems), bioengineering, and so much more. As someone who loved to make things growing up, the creations of the inventions presented in this book challenged me to consider even more out-of-the-box approaches to innovative ideas.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Climb A Little Higher

I have had a lot on my mind lately.

Amidst the grading, the lesson planning, the never-ending to-do list, I spent a good portion of my early morning hours today daydreaming back in the past: the days of living on the farm in the country. I was 12. And I was fearless.

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