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This past Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq returned home to U.S. soil bearing the U.S. Forces-Iraq flag. The ceremony to retire the flag was the symbolic end to the War in Iraq. Under Army custom the flag will be retired and either stored or displayed. I watched the brief ceremony several times on many different television networks, and have read and re-read the remarks from the occasion. I was supposed to be writing the annual Dieter Christmas letter so the holiday cards could finally get in the mail and arrive before Christmas.
MORRIS - Every year about this time, I sit down and try to find a new way to remind you of the importance of shopping local. And I've been thinking about it since the first holiday display appeared in stores, right next to the back to school supplies. But I think many of you have already gotten the e-mail titled, "Christmas 2011 Birth of a New Tradition." I know it's been in my inbox at least three times. There are some valid points included in the message, so just in case you haven't gotten this yet, please read on.
I'm not really a big football fan. However, I have come to realize that football season is a special time, for athletes and parents alike, and there's nothing like a Friday night football game to bring the community together. This was the first season of Tiger football for which I have attended all of the home games. In fact, this was the first time since my own high school days that I have gone to more than one football game in a season and stayed past halftime. And honestly, I was only at the high school games of my youth because I was in the marching band and it was required.
You know what is the best part about living in a small town? Two things. First, there's always something to do. Really. And second, you don't have to be an expert to get involved with something. For instance, this weekend I'll be doing announcing for the True Team section meet for girls' swimming and diving. As part of that, I'll be announcing to the judges what dives the athletes will be completing. This will be my first time announcing diving. Truth be told, for every other meet I've been at, I either have left during the diving competition or haven't paid attention.
I have told you this before, but I carry a copy of the United States Constitution in my purse. When I'm questioned about it, I joke that I'm waiting to be the next contestant on "Let's Make a Deal" and hope that Monty Hall will offer $500 for anyone who has a nail clipper and a copy of the Constitution. Truth is, the Constitution is a really important document and I strongly urge people to read it. Then read it again. Both of my children got their own copy when they entered 7th grade. Often, I will make them name their favorite constitutional amendment and tell me why.
Not too long ago, a couple folks from a marketing firm sat down in a circle with folks from Morris and asked us about our town - what makes it unique, what about it do we most enjoy and why do people come here? It's harder than you think to answer those questions, particularly when you try to think of why anyone might come to Morris. I came here to go to college. I was the first in my family to attend college and Morris was the only logical choice for me. I wanted to be far enough away from my parents so they couldn't just drop in on me.
What do alternative crops being researched at the Soils Lab in Morris have to do with the almond crop in California? Honeybees. According to Christi Heinz, Executive Director of Project Apis m., a nonprofit honeybee research organization, the bees that will be pollinating the California almond crop in February are in Minnesota right now. And they need a diverse floral landscape to start building up their pollen stores for winter.
For members of the Cyrus School Board, it is a chicken or egg dilemma - which comes first, the teachers or the students? The Cyrus district is facing a significant decrease in enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year. They are currently expecting 33 students, down from 76 on the opening day last year. And the school board is struggling with the question of staffing for that number. A special board meeting was held on Wednesday to discuss enrollment and staffing. In July, the board had voted to have two full time teachers and one half time teacher for three multi-age classrooms.
I hate when the weather is its own punch line. Honestly, the jokes just wrote themselves this week. On Monday, I applied three layers of sunscreen, wore an ill-fitting hat and had two gallons of water with me for the Babe Ruth game. On Thursday, I was wearing three layers of clothes, wishing for a blanket and checking for ice in the water bottle at the softball field. The weather just has been overwhelming this year. A long snowy winter followed by a longer, wetter spring and so far, only three days of summer.
My alarm clock went off at 5 a.m. Friday and for once, I didn't hit snooze. First off, it was the buzzer, not the radio, since the local AM station doesn't sign on for another half-hour. Second, I was getting up a full 45 minutes early to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Don't judge me just yet. As luck would have it, I turned on the TV at the exact moment that the bride stepped out of the car and the whole world saw her and the dress. For the next hour and half, I was glued to the TV.