Turkey Day with a Side of Mercy

While it always hurts to come across hateful comments about my father on social media, last month, I started receiving such comments on my personal accounts. Anger has often been my initial response in such situations. Recently, I did something unexpected, I paused and remembered a song I was learning, a song about mercy and how we all could use it.

I changed my focus and quickly recognized both the hate and pain surging through this troubled individual. The prudent option here was to ignore what was not really an attack, but an individual in pain, lashing out; in addition, adjusting my thinking helped me deal with such posts. I wondered where else “mercy” was needed…

Every semester, I perform for the Music Appreciation class at the college. This time, in addition to the usual presentation about oral tradition and Appalachian folk music, I added a current song I was learning. While the song is still in need of a final polish (and an amp for the strumstick), it felt right to sing about mercy. This holiday season, in addition to thankfulness, where do you need to show mercy? Is there a rift from long ago in need of attention? Are you still avoiding family members with differing political views? Perhaps it’s time to “mend the bond.”

Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Time to stock up on Lip Balm!



Family, Church, and Local Community College

During my first year of college, Dr. John Willson’s history class mapped a substantial portion of America’s history through study of “Family, Church, and Local Community.” Expanding on Dr. Willson’s famous phrase, I observed a connection to education. Last fall, I accepted a part-time position as afternoon secretary at Kellogg Community College’s Fehsenfeld Center. To be completely honest, I questioned whether I should instead pursue a full time teaching position. However, I recognized something special here.

I first began working at the Fehsenfeld Center in the fall of 1996, teaching Transitional English and serving as a paraprofessional. Teaching at this level improved my understanding of the writing process. If students could master a quality paragraph, they could readily transition to the college essay. This experience served me well when later teaching Freshman Composition. I also met fellow instructors; many were members of the local community: Lawyers, high school teachers, business and community leaders, etc. They offered a unique combination of education paired with real world experience.

The Fehsenfeld Center also brings in a lively group of local students who, year after year, often form a learning community. Many become friends, form study groups, and succeed together. As an Adjunct Instructor for the past two decades, I was already part of this process; however, I wanted more. My brother once shared that secretaries are the sergeants of an institution; without their leadership, facilities could not function effectively. In addition to time in the classroom, I discovered that assisting students in the office often increased the classroom connection. I enjoy hearing about their current semesters and future plans, providing assistance if they are feeling frustrated and need a small nudge, perhaps a starting point for an assignment, someone to help brainstorm summer options, or just an ear to listen.

The Fehsenfeld Center offers a unique learning experience for the residents of Barry County:

• Want to complete core classes close to home and transfer to a four year institution? Did you know that 4 out of 10 students who earn a four year degree begin at their local community college? (insidehighered.com)

• Want to pursue a class or two at an affordable price and see if college is the next step?

• Interested in learning a trade? Come learn about our welding and manufacturing programs.

• Want to explore special interest classes? Perhaps you might enjoy Pastor Anton’s Life Long Learning Class, The Bible: A Closer Look.

• Want to earn an associate’s degree and take on the world?

Come see me in the office!

Thanks for reading!

Farm Markets, Nettles, and the Start of Summer

This past weekend was the annual nettle harvest, and Chad made a batch of nettle and asparagus soup (a favorite of Chad’s homemade soups, perfect with crusty bread, and a dish the vegan will eat). I’m excited to begin the Farm Market Season. This weekend, Cairn Hill Farms will have a stand at these markets:

  • 5/25 Middleville (8-1)
  • 5/26 Hastings (9-1)

We offer the following products:

    • Beeswax Lip Balms: A blend of coconut oil, avocado oil, beeswax, and vitamin E
    • Sprays: Enjoy as a room spray or facial toner
    • Essential Oil Blends: Add to a favorite lotion, make a spray, or use for aromatherapy
    • Salt Scrub: Treat your feet with this lovely new product!
    • Farm Fresh Eggs, Veggies, and Nettle Iced Tea

Can’t make it to the market or want a custom blend? Please message me cairnhillfarms.net

Orders can be shipped.

Nettle and Asparagus Soup

Below is Cairn Hill Farms Summer 2018 Newsletter.

Thanks for reading!

A Message for All Americans


I keep seeing stories about the protests and even cases of civil unrest after the election. While I don’t condone the violence or support students’ skipping class, I understand the sadness, confusion, and frustration. In fact, I remember voting in my first Presidential election, only to see my candidate lose. I remember sitting among fellow shocked classmates the next day. Our Economics professor entered, took one look at us, and focusing on economics, devoted the entire lecture to any questions we asked. While I lack the skill to create such an impromptu lecture, I decided to prepare a few words for my students:

The day after a Presidential election brings many emotions. Many of you just voted in your first Presidential election. If so, congratulations!!! I remember the joy of voting in my first election, the shock of watching my candidate lose, and in future years, the glee in watching my nominee win. Moving forward, my nudge to you is to think outside the box, look beyond the candidates, the political parties. Instead, which issues motivate you?

Take the time to learn about what motivates you! This is the same wisdom I share with the research class. If you truly want to understand a topic, you must examine and learn about both sides. If you study politics, that means you must devote time to look at what both the right and the left have to say. Look for flaws, strong points, bias, and identify the leaders of each issue. Examine both sides and determine what you truly believe. You might even want to take time to journal about these issues during class or start gathering data for future college essays (Hint Hint!).

As an educator, I’m reminded that while I might not agree with some students’ political views, I admire their passion and dedication for examining the issues. Their dedication only strengthens our nation! So during this holiday season, if the young members of your life want to discuss the issues, please listen, share what’s important to you, and attempt an amicable exchange.

Thanks for reading! Peace, friends.

The Greatest Generation Goes to College


With April Fools’ Day just around the corner, I decided to share a classic prank from my mom’s notebook collection.  Over several years, Mom rode the California Zephyr to Denver each month to take care of Grandma Clare.  She always had a notebook with her to keep busy during the long journey.

Long journeys provide the ideal time for reflection.  This past winter, in particular, provided many afternoons to remember, reflect, and record.  My blogging adventure started 4 years ago.  The journey has given so much, healing during tough times, direction and focus when challenges emerge, improvement as a writing instructor, and keeping up with old friends while making new  with each post.  From time to time , I will share some of the earlier, more memorable entries.

Thank you, readers!

The Greatest Generation Goes to College by June Bernard Roche

Originally published November 22, 2012

…While horses were not my favorite animal, I grew up around horses because of my Uncle Bill and other horse people who were trained to invade Italy at Anzio because the invasion was too rough for a mechanized assault and would be completed with horses and mules. I grew up with Cavalry jokes like, “a pack of Horse Dropping Cigarettes–untouched by human hands.” (Which hit me as great humor in 4th grade)

The cartoons of Bill Mauldin were part of my life after the war. I loved the one of the old cavalry sergeant shooting the disabled jeep. Willie and Joe were a good impression of my thoughts about WWII.

Bill Mauldin jeep

Later in life I got to know the real Willie and Joes who came home and went to college on the GI Bill. At my school, they would tell the tale of these men who had survived the Battle of the Bulge, had shot at Kamikazes coming at their ships and survived the war often with wounds both physical and mental.

They came to campus and among the adjustments were things like getting in trouble for lighting a cigarette. One group of them presented a little surprise at chapel one day. They had filled all the pipes at the Hillsdale College Baptist Church with chicken feathers. The next morning the school assembled for mandatory chapel. The opening hymn began to the accompaniment of a flurry of poultry feathers. As these feathers floated, sometimes in little puffs powered by crescendo from the organist, the chapel became a very scene of collegiate glee as the prank was one of the greatest ever dared.

Our ex-GI’s paid to have the organ cleaned, graduated and went on to become successful in all sorts of endeavors. Eventually one became the President of the Board of Trustees at Hillsdale College as well as numerous trustees. They were the greatest supporters of our little school as were their wives, many of whom they met at the school.

At homecoming they always returned, and I felt privileged to work with, travel with, and party with this greatest generation. They have been leaving us slowly over the last ten years, but the spirit of these boys who weathered the depression and then were sent into the hell of war was the example set for my generation who followed them. We are still trying to live up to your noble sacrifice and courage.


June Bernard Roche was born in Brooklyn, NY, during the depression and spent her early years growing up in Pennsylvania on the campus of Lafayette College. Ironically, she was to live on college campuses for nearly forty years. In 1955, she married George Roche III. They lived in Virginia and Florida while George completed his years of service in the Marines. Later, June taught high school French while George completed his Ph.D at CU Boulder.

They moved to New York in 1965 when George was named Director of Seminars at FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education. June taught French at Dobbs Ferry High School. In 1971, they moved to Hillsdale, MI, where George became the President of Hillsdale College. In June’s words, “We were at Hillsdale until 1999, and we worked very hard to make the college the best institution possible. Since 1999, I’ve dealt with cancer, much memorable travel with family and friends, open heart surgery, the joys of grandchildren and now my first great-granddaughter, and learned how to deal with the winds of change that buffet our lives.”

Remember your Roots

dad and mom

George and June Roche, Dad’s Graduation from the University of Colorado

A few weeks ago, I placed a few requests on social media, asking for comments about my parents and their time at Hillsdale College. The thoughtful responses brought back many memories from several generations of students. Growing up at Broadlawn, the students of Hillsdale College were central to my parents’ lives whether through day to day college business, a student in need of additional financial assistance (one of Mom’s many missions), or a student in need of a home-cooked meal or family movie night (usually John Wayne westerns). I loved seeing the students come and go; several of them are friends today. I’m thankful for the example my parents set regarding students’ needs outside the classroom. I think it makes me a more effective educator…

My father and your father were great friends. That friendship was formed with their evolvement with F.E.E. And The Mount Pellerin Society. I met your father briefly in the early 70’s and I could not help but be impressed by his obvious intelligence and boundless energy. Most importantly to me though was was a kind man. It was what drew me to Hillsdale. I met your brother George, who was in my class I believe, and we had some fun together. I also had the honor of introducing your father at a school business function. I was so awed by reading his credentials that I must have looked shocked, but he saved the day with his big warm smile.

~Henry Hagemann

I graduated with your brother and his wife, and worked for the college after graduation. During those years, I had the opportunity to witness your mother in a variety of social and business settings. On each occasion, she conducted herself as a great lady should, with intelligence, integrity, compassion and grace. Hillsdale was lucky to have her.

~Cheryl Lieblang

I had the pleasure of meet George Roche while attending Hillsdale College from 1993-1997. A great guy with a ton of knowledge.

~Tommy Sudduth

I attended Hillsdale from 1975 to 1979. As editor of the Collegian in the fall of 1978, I had a number of dealings with your father, all of which were cordial and even when we disagreed about publishing a story he did not like, they were still very respectful. Your mother was a wonderful woman, always warm and welcoming when I came to the house for an event.

~Benne Hutson

It wasn’t any particular story while I was there. It was after. His power of personality, immense gift of observation was mind blowing. To come back 10 years after graduation and be met with a handshake, by name with no tag, and throw my jersey number in for good measure! Wow, wish I had paid as much attention while I was in school. What he understood was how to make an environment of immense learning without many of us even realizing the absorption we were experiencing. That’s my memory and fondness for George. A name I was required to use when I attempted a meager Mr. Roche at that very meeting.

~Jim Shuster, Class of 1985

It is with great joy that I share my glimpses of June and George Roche while a student, and then an employee, at Hillsdale College from 1976 to 1983. My first memory of seeing June Roche was when I was a transferred-in sophomore in 1976. Mrs. Roche was walking with her husband and President of Hillsdale College, the George Roche, near Central Hall. They appeared to be in deep conversation and thought, walking slowly side by side, listening to each other and speaking with one another with great deliberation. They made a striking couple and that vision of them expressed many of the elements embodied at Hillsdale—tenderness, concern, beauty, listening, discussing, elegance, timeless grace. At that time I did not know who these two were but later discovered their identities. As busy as they both must have been that urgency of day to day life did not show in their demeanor as they walked and talked with each other. After that I saw June many times at Broadmoor as I would walk into town from Waterman Hall. She was often in the company of her youngest, their daughter Maggie. Seeing them together was dear to recall. June gave off the “aroma” of gracious calm that came from living a life consecrated to God, family, school and country. That kind of spiritual beauty cannot be bought, manipulated, falsified or affected. I infrequently saw June when I attended CCA lectures and cultural events on campus. My deepest memory of George was as a student, a senior, who was a few credits short of graduation requirements. I was told by the registrar that I had to go see George to obtain approval for walking across the stage with my class of 1979 in May. Having not really known him while studying at Hillsdale, this mission was daunting. I laid out to him a solid plan to attend summer school in June and July of 1979, finish the few classes I needed to fulfill the requirements of my BA degree, on a promissory note of sorts to follow through on my plan. His side of the conversation was comforting. He said I could walk across the stage with my class and would be handed the leather “holder” of my degree but no degree. That was a perfect solution. It was principled, easy, and only I would know. While this may have been a standard practice at Hillsdale, to me it was a sort of “salvation” which meant everything to me and for which I have remained every grateful. When I began working in the Admissions Office I would see June and George at various recruiting dinners held at Hillsdale, at Homecoming events and always at the seasonal CCA lectures, dinners and cultural events on campus. Their stewardship of Hillsdale College as the President and First Lady was impeccable, thoughtful, firm, compassionate and lovely to behold.

~H. (Kuhn) Bryant, 1976-1979

I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. & Mrs. Roche both as a student from 1975- 79 and as an employee of the College from 1979-81.  On one occasion as a student, I was part of a group invited to have dinner at Broadlawn with Jack Kemp, it was impressive to listen to these fine American leaders.  Dr. Roche was always very supportive of our efforts on the football field.  I remember Dr. Roche and then Athletic Director, Jack McAvoy being very close and spending a lot of time together on campus and on the road raising money for the school. As a member of the Development Staff (now Institutional Advancement), I had the opportunity to watch our charismatic former president and his family interact with many supporters of the College.  They always treated me and those I observed with respect and dignity.  Dr. Roche had a presence and like he friend Coach McAvoy was an intimidating figure – together they were a powerful combination.

~Keith Otterbein

Any one who wishes to add thoughts, please share your comments! Thanks for reading!

You’re Never Too Old…

quiz pic

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently read about the National Science Foundation’s basic science quiz and was motivated to create a Language Arts equivalent. Special thanks to the grammar guru for your input and my research subjects (hubby and the kids). It’s just ten questions–give it a try and let me know how you did.

1. A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea.  True or False?

2. Vitamin supplements (improves, improve) daily health. Which verb is correct?

3. Which sentence is correct, A or B?

A. I couldn’t care less.

B. I could care less.

4. An adjective describes verbs.  True or False?

5. Which sentence is correct, A or B?

A. Between you and I, the judge was too harsh.

B. Between you and me, the judge was too harsh.

6. The verb is always found somewhere after the subject of the sentence.  True or False?

7. Which sentence is correct, A or B?

A. Every one of the girls remembered her homework.

B. Every one of the girls remembered their homework.

8. Driving into the pounding blizzard on a dark night and wishing the weather would offer a break for travelers.  Is this a fragment or a run-on?

9. I asked my Aunt to join me for lunch. Is this sentence correctly capitalized?

10. The president of the Student Council began the weekly session without taking attendance.  What is the subject, “president” or “Student Council”?


1. True
2. improve
3. A (A unique explanation to this answer can be found here.)
4. False
5. B (Between is a preposition. Prepositions use the objective form of pronouns.)
6. False (Here’s an example of a sentence where the verb comes before the subject: There were many loyal fans at the hockey game.)
7. A (Every one is a singular pronoun; therefore, the pronoun her (also singular) would be the correct choice.)
8. Fragment
9. No (Only capitalize aunt if her name is included: Aunt Jackie or if referring to that person by name: I’m going to the store with Mark and Dad.)
10. president (Student Council is part of a prepositional phrase, so it can be excluded as the subject.)