Writing project – Profile – December 2010

An oft-quoted phrase, perhaps incorrectly attributed to the Chinese, states “May you live in interesting times”.

To say that this past year has been interesting would be an understatement.

Earlier this week, my daughter was decorating our Christmas tree.  As is tradition with with many families, there are certain ornaments that we have collected over the years that we make sure always go on the tree.

Some ornaments are indicative of interests, like the Shuttlecraft Galileo and tiny Enterprise from Star Trek. There is a small spool of 8mm film representing what has given so much to our family over the years financially.

Others were hand made by my children, as projects in preschool, scouts or daycare.

A few others are special in another way, as they commemorate a series of “firsts”.  A small house with a lit porch light and a silhouette of a man and woman in the window is marked “First Christmas Together”.  This was the ornament that I gave my fiancé in 1990.  We were married 4 days after Christmas that year.  Two others are marked “Son 1991” and “Daughter 1996”.

This year there is another first Christmas, although it will not be the subject of an ornament.  This will be the first Christmas without my mother.

Carol Lyn Mansfield, née Timmons, was born to real salt of the earth people.  Her father, Washington Timmons, could trace his line back to the pioneers of Kansas and then farther back to the frontiersmen of Appalachia.   He was a farmer who raised his family on the income from a single 80-acre section, like many of his neighbors. During the Depression he hunted squirrels and pigeons with a .22 to add meat to the table.  His wife Elsie was born in the Wilhelmshaven area of Lower Saxony in Germany.  Shortly after the end of the First World War, Elsie, her Father and Mother, and two brothers, emigrated to America through the port of Baltimore, and made their way to northwest Iowa.  Life for the Timmons family was not easy.  Washington went through a bout of Rheumatic Fever sometime early in the marriage, leaving him with a weakend heart that slowed his pace considerably for the rest of his life, ultimately causing his death at planting season in 1977. Elsie gave birth to two sons and a daughter.  Both boys were stillborn, and my Mom was the only one to survive.

Carol was only 16 years old when she graduated from Okoboji Township Consolidated High School and moved to the big city, Sioux City, to attend what was then called the Lutheran School of Nursing.  Graduating in the spring of 1957, she received her cap and pin, and went to work as a nurse.  As was common in the nursing field in the mid 20th century, Carol held down several positions concurrently.  During the week, she was an office nurse for Dr. Bowers here in Sioux City.  Weekends would find her being a temp nurse on one of the floors of the Lutheran Hospital, or a local nursing home.

Sometime in the early 60’s, she met my dad, Roger Mansfield, and they were married in the summer of 1965.  Dad was, at the time, the Sports Director of KTIV.  Neither of my folks worked a “normal” 9 to 5 job for several years after they were married, even after I came along in the fall of 1966.  I know that my mom, who went to work in surgery at the newly formed St. Luke’s Hospital in the late 60’s went to work quite early in the morning, what was probably the 6am shift.  Dad was working the 6 and 10 sports, not to mention shooting sports events on the weekends. (You see, being the Sports Director of a small TV station in the late 60’s meant that you were more than likely the entire Sports Department.)  This, of course meant that he was getting home at something like 11pm.  Many days mom would ride the bus to work so Dad would have the car to take me to school.   I vaguely remember picking up Dad after the 6 and eating in the car while watching the Ozark Airlines planes come and go at the Municipal Airport, or perhaps while at Grandview Park. Dad would then drop us off at home so he would have the car to come home with late that night. Having only one car, as many families did then, meant getting the schedules to mesh with the precision of a fine Swiss watch.

Mom was a tireless worker.  All her life she battled asthma, for which she always carried a small rescue inhaler.  Wheezing and shortness of breath were just something to work around, and although I do have some childhood memories of her having to catch her breath from time to time, I don’t ever remember it stopping her for long.  I know that as a child, the asthma caused a lot of hospital stays and medicines that Washington and Elsie could barely afford on 80 acres of income.

As I grew, and started school, Mom was frequently at school for PTA activities, school programs, and bake sales.  One of my funniest memories was of her running the cotton candy machine at a school carnival, and winding up totally covered with the stringy sugar mixture that escaped from the whirling mess at the center of the contraption.  At our 6th grade graduation party, she made sure to give me a piece of the cake that did not have the teeth staining blue frosting, much to my dismay. My sister Dana, 5 years my junior, says in fascination “How did she do this?  Meals, laundry, school for us kids, work…It’s amazing.”

As my own children have grown, and I work through many of the same issues, I seem to have no shortage of new admiration of how my parents, and in particular Mom, kept the house running, and kept my Sister and I on track.  I graduated High School in the spring of 1985, and took some college courses and started my own career in television.  All seemed to be going well until the fall of 1988.

It was then that Dad got sick.  I do not know how she did it, continuing to work full time and also taking care of him as the cancer slowly robbed him of his health.  Chemotherapy, radiation and lots of doctor’s visits became the norm as the fall of ’88 became the winter and then finally the spring of ’89.  I don’t remember much as the days and weeks blurred together as I spent as much time as possible with them when I wasn’t working as the new 6 and 10 director at KTIV.

As the spring approached, hospice was determined to be the course most likely as the cancer spread to Dad’s brain.  However, he never lived to enter hospice and died with Mom and I at his side at St. Luke’s one warm May morning.  I was devastated, and I know that Mom was too, but years later she confessed to me that she accepted the inevitable the preceding fall and grieved silently as he faltered.

Life moved on and she did too.  In the summer of 1990, she took a second job as an overnight weekend nurse at a local care facility.  This was in addition to a weekday job at a local doctor’s office.  Having worked overnight weekends and regular weekday hours at the same time (while significantly younger), I still do not know how she did it.  As I said earlier, she was a tireless worker, although I could tell she was starting to slow down.

In the mid ‘90s, the doctor she worked for retired and the office closed, and she went into a semi-retirement, only working the overnight weekend job. This was not the easiest of positions to hold for a number of reasons, primarily in the winter.  The facility where she worked was separated into 3 or 4 different buildings, and that meant in her rounds she had to go outside to go from building to building, in blizzard like conditions and the intense Iowa cold that winter brings, several times a shift. This caused a lot of problems for her as the cold air severely affected her breathing.

But she worked this job until she was forced to retire after a fall in which she broke her shoulder.  She was afraid that with the diminished ability to do CPR, she would not be able to help a resident if needed.  Having worked so hard for so long, retirement did not suit Mom well.  With her diminished mobility from the previous fall and being diagnosed with COPD shortly before, the last few years for her were very hard.

In addition to her own health issues, my sister went through her own health problems the latter part of 2006 and spring and summer of 2007.  In the fall of ’06, Dana was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism that required a couple of weeks of hospitalization.  Then, in January of ’07, she was diagnosed with Leukemia.  Mom tirelessly went through all this, and the chemo and months of hospitalization again, this time with a better outcome. There were very few days where she did not get to the hospital. With Dana in remission, it would seem that life could go back to normal. Then, mom started to falter.  She was again starting to slow down, and was in and out of the doctor’s office, starting to rely more and more on oxygen. The last part of 2009 and the first two months of this year were the hardest as she fought several opportunistic infections and other conditions that seemed to feed off one another. During this period she was in and out of the hospital several times (Including an ambulance trip on the Christmas Day blizzard) and also did a stint in the care center for therapy.  In the end her lungs, weakened from 70+ years of asthma and smoking, finally could cope no more and gave out on her on a bitterly cold day the first part of March.

It’s the first Christmas without Mom, but although she won’t be here with us, she won’t be far from my thoughts.

Recession still on according to two small business owners. (Final draft)

A resounding “no” was the answer to the question, “Do you consider the recession over?”, posed to two small business owners here in Sioux City.

The Federal Small Business Administration defines a small business as (depending on the type of business) having up to as many as 1,500 employees.  Many small businesses have fewer, and in some cases, many fewer people on the payroll.

According to SCORE, small businesses employ just over half of the country’s private sector workforce, and represent 99.7% of all employer firms (i.e., firms with less than 500 employees).  Small businesses have long been heralded as the ‘engines of the economy’.

That said, two small business owners were interviewed recently about how they feel about the economy today, statements from the government notwithstanding.

Jereme Muller, of local booking agency Comedy Productions responded: “Here we deal with a lot of different businesses and when they call us their budgets are maybe usually half of what they used to be, or their workforce is half of what it used to be, and we’ve had a lot less calls from some of our normal clients.” He relates that half of the comedy clubs that they book for have closed. He goes on: “Last time when the economy was down, people still went out and spent their money, this time they aren’t.”

“Our business is different,” relates Dave Patch of Patch Craft Hobby,”…when the economy is somewhat screwed up, and they don’t want to spend a lot of money to go out . . . say they don’t want to take a hundred dollars to go out to eat for the family, they  may spend a hundred dollars on modeling supplies, but that may last them for four months. The dollar stretches a lot farther in our industry.” When asked about regular customers, Dave continues: “We’re not seeing people as often . . . this recession has drug on longer.”

Whether or not the recovery has or has not begun, or has stumbled, both Dave and Jereme believe that there will be an end, and are working to prepare for it. Muller says: ”It has made us a lot leaner, we have done a lot more marketing, so when the people are ready to buy, we’re still in their face. Rather than wilt and die, we’re trying to fight it and make sure that when it does come back we’re ready to go.“  Dave Patch goes on to say “We’re really looking at all the purchases we make – trying to get the most for every dollar we spend.”


The Quest

The search was short.  Today we were tasked to obtain different items and to write about the quest.  Each person had one of several different items to locate through a scavenger hunt.  The item I was assigned was ‘something with a Morningside logo”.

After entering the library, I stopped to talk to my wife (who had just purchased me a delicious, fresh brewed iced tea).  I then asked Nancy and Jackie behind the Spoonholder counter for an item with the required logo.  After a short but frantic search, Jackie produced a homecoming postcard, apologetically stating, “This is the only thing we have.” I then returned to the classroom to regale my WordPress site with the tale of conquest!

Weekend assignment – quote

“Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could not be any higher. The only next step is a conflict.”

–Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin

Found here.

This is quotable because I think that the Korean situation may very well turn ugly again. If it does, most people will be rather surprised. as many people don’t realize, the war was never officially ended. There has been an armistice in place since the 27th day of July 1953, but there was no surrender on the part of either side.

Writing assignment – 9/20/10

#1 GUN

An armed robbery at BJ’s Drug last evening netted the thieves an undisclosed amount of cash, but the outcome was different from a similar incident almost 25 years ago.

The stores owner, Barney Joseph, Jr., told police that after the less than 1 minute robbery, thieves left in a car parked near the store entrance. In addition, although he had access to a handgun he kept behind the counter, he chose to give the thieves what they came for.

25 years ago, Joseph’s father, confronted thieves and was shot to death.

Joseph relates: “Yes, Dad resisted, I guess.  Anyway, they found him shot to death, his own gun in his hand, and a bullet in the store’s ceiling. I’d rather part with my money than my life.”

#2 Suffolk Downs

One day before the start of the racing season at Suffolk Downs Race Track, Boston, officials are investigating a fire of suspicious origins. Jim Connery, Fire Chief, stated that “Flames were shooting out of the building when we got here.”

15 of the 25 horses stabled in the one story wooden building perished, leaving jockey Albert Ramos, from Miami, FL, to reflect: “That’s my best friends, I love horses more than I do people.  I feel like I want to cry.”

An arson squad is investigating the blaze, which appears to have started in an area away from obvious ignition sources, according to track officials.

Observing the Observatory – final draft!!

The O’Donoghue Observatory.

Comm208 Writing Assignment

Final Draft

By Chris Mansfield

On a chilly, rainy Thursday, students walk quickly by the building without giving it a second glance.  Many students may even graduate without setting foot in it.  On a campus where many of the buildings measure tens of thousands of square feet, it figures out to just 678 square feet.  (Some dorm suites are larger.) According to the latest course catalog, no classes are held here.

The O’Donoghue Observatory sits on the expansive lawn to the northwest of the James and Sharon Walker Science Center on the Morningside campus.  Gifted to the college in late 1948, the observatory, named for Dr. James H. O’Donoghue, was formally dedicated on May 28, 1950, the 60th anniversary of the namesake’s graduation from Morningside, then known as the University of the Northwest. Dr. O’Donoghue’s son, Dr. Arch F. O’Donoghue, gave the observatory to the college in honor of his father. The dedication, following the college’s baccalaureate services, featured a panel of speakers whose names were eventually to grace several other buildings on the campus, such as President Earl Roadman and Miss Lillian E. Dimmitt.

Except for the original door with a porthole window (which was replaced with a solid steel door sometime in the recent past) the building looks much the same as it did when dedicated over 60 years ago. It’s large, silver dome sits imposingly atop a short, stout single story building.  Its tan brick walls provide a firm footing for green ivy that covers them like an airy quilt.  The ivy’s long tendrils are just now starting to assault the silver dome, and have almost covered the building’s name above the doorway.

Appearing to sit dormant for several years, the observatory hosts a 12” reflector telescope “of the German type of mounting which has many advantages and few drawbacks” according to the dedication program from the Morningside archives. At the time of its construction, this was the largest telescope in the state of Iowa.  (It may still be one of the largest, as the telescope atop the physics building at the University of Iowa is only 7”.)

Peering through the windows, the interior walls are decorated with a timeline of the universe.  In several places, the plaster and paint are peeling from moisture, and chips of the same litter the floor just in front of the door leading up to the telescope chamber itself.

As a child, my parents would point out the observatory building to me while driving past, and I was suitably impressed. I could imagine peering through the optics at the craters of the moon, rings of Saturn, or the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. Years later, as a newly minted freshman in the fall of 1985, I don’t believe I ever gave the O’Donoghue much thought as my interests were more fixed on the new television studio and student operated radio station.

We may not know what the future holds for this building, arguably the smallest, but (for me, at least) probably the most memorable of buildings on the Morningside campus.


Introducing Torin Otis

Aspiring ESPN broadcaster and Morningside College starting JV point guard Torin Otis recently sat down with this reporter.  A lifelong Michigan fan, Otis, originally from Battle Creek, Michigan, currently hails from Omaha, Nebraska, land of the Cornhuskers.

Mr. Otis is a Accounting and Finance Major with a Mass Comm minor, and he is a Student Ambassador.

The middle child of three siblings, Torin’s older brother attends NW Missouri State and his younger brother is a senior at Millard South in Omaha, NE.