Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 31: Tending the field

"Whatever we set our days to might be the least of what we do, if we do not also understand that something is waiting for us to make ground for it, something that lingers near us, something that loves, something that waits for the right ground to be made so it can make its full presence known."
--Clarissa Pinkola Estes, The Faithful Gardener

We've made it to the last day of the annual Slice of Life Challenge!  For thirty-one days, almost two hundred and fifty participants have been showing up and writing, supporting each other in the process.

I finished reading Estes' book, The Faithful Gardener, this morning.  Her final thoughts are on the lessons learned from her foster family:

"Through the lives we lived, I Iearned the harshest gift-lesson to accept, and the most powerful I know--that is, knowledge, an absolute certainty that life repeats itself, renews itself, no matter how many times it is stabbed, stripped to the bone, hurled to the ground, hurt, ridiculed, ignored, scorned, looked down upon, tortured, or made helpless."

There have been some hard stories shared in my fellow Slicers' posts, and joyous tales, too.  A lot can happen in thirty-one days.  Just by showing up each day, we've made space for what Estes calls "this faithful force", "that which can never die".  That force has shown through our words and our stories, even on the days when we had nothing to write, but wrote anyway.  

Thank you, fellow Slicers, for holding this space with me this March.  May our fields of words continue to grow into forests of stories, producing seeds to inspire our learning communities to do the same.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 30: I got nothin'

Source: CC0 Public Domain

Day thirty of this March blogging challenge, and I've hit the writing wall.  Every idea that flits through my mind gets summarily dismissed as mundane and deflated:
  • an ode to my morning coffee (seems silly to me this morning, don't feel like being silly)
  • the clutter I face at my desk (already written/ moaned about)
  • recent, important child event (not my story to tell)
  • the pain in my neck (blah, humbug, un-expandable)
  • my love of nail polish (beauty-blog-ish, not feeling it)
  • my personal quirks (just how much personal info do I want out in cyberspace?)
  • "Just the Way You Are", the Bruno Mars earworm that won't stop playing in my head this morning (already wrote about earworms in a previous SOLC)
  • library happenings (We had state testing this week, and my library schedule has been caddywhompus.  Testing is, frankly, boring, not to mention that we all signed oaths not to talk about the details.)
  • seasonal allergies (not exciting, would be a whiny post)
  • the ghost supposedly haunting our school (great topic, not a whole lot of details to write about)
So there you have it--a post about basically nothing. I'm hoping the writing Muse lands on my shoulder before tomorrow and whispers a fabulous topic in my ear, so that I can wrap up this challenge with a flourish! 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 29: New moon days

The clouds have been obscuring much of the sky since yesterday; the hours just before my alarm were punctuated with thunderclaps and lightning flashes.  My lunar phase stickers in my planner tell me there's no moon viewing to be had, anyway.  It's the week of the new moon.

New moon days are for taking stock of what is and planning for what we'd like to be.  I find myself taking a harder look at my home (cluttered), my finances (stretched), and my health (diet and exercise routine derailed).  I feel the urge to make changes; the challenge lies in making attainable goals with specific deadlines.  Both are hard for this Piscean dreamer, as I tend to overplan activities and underestimate the time it takes to get things done.

Paying attention to the lunar cycle seems to help, when I remember to look at those moon stickers.  There's something comforting in tapping into the monthly rhythm of planning (new moon), doing (waxing moon), celebrating completion (full moon), and resting (waning moon). My planner has space for doing end-of-month reviews and next-month planning, but tying that in with the new moon near the end of each month makes the process seem more holistic.

I believe women, in general, are drawn to cyclical patterns by virtue of our biology. Now that I am in my crone years, I can let the moon be my guide.
Image from Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 28: Time well spent

I knock on the door.  My white-mustachioed neighbor answers.  "Come on in!" 

"Actually, I was wondering if Becky would like to join me on my porch," I reply.

"She's working right now, but--" He gets interrupted by his wife.  "I'll be done soon.  Be there in a few minutes," Becky calls from her seat, momentarily pinned down by her laptop.

I head back to my house, catalogs and magazine in one hand, libation in the other.  The afternoon sun is beginning to strengthen, reaching farther into the recesses under the eaves.  Tiny flying insects of varying shapes flit about, and I'm thankful that for now, mosquitoes aren't among them. 

I'm a few pages into the first catalog when Becky joins me, her own beverage in hand.  She takes the other seat, and we proceed to get caught up on each other's day.  Talk of students, testing, the political climate--sticking mostly to climate, not politics--and future plans of travel and learning.  That's one of the many things I love about Becky--she is always learning, always reaching for that next new experience to broaden her horizons and her knowledge.  She glows when she talks about learning something new; that radiance doesn't just come from the knowledge itself, but from her appreciation for those who teach her.  A bit of that glow rubs off on me, after hearing her stories.

Porch time with Becky is always relaxing and refreshing. It is time well spent.  It is the stuff of memories.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." --Maya Angelou 

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 27: Different can be frustrating

Change in our routines can be jarring.  When we moved into Army barracks in Germany, I remember almost coming to tears one night when I wandered into my parents' bedroom in search of the bathroom.  In our old house, it was down the hall to the right of my bedroom; in the barracks, it was on the left. This morning, a change in routine might have rudely awakened my husband.

On Saturday night I was frustrated, my fingers crawling up and down the dial with the tiniest of movements on the wheel, attempting to find a radio station to awaken me in the morning.  No such luck; the receiver had given out.

Luckily, my husband had given me a new alarm clock several years ago when I thought the old one was dying.  Just when it seemed completely gone, a station would appear loud and strong, as if the machine was taunting me.  So the new clock had stayed in the box on the floor near my bed, until Saturday.  I plugged it in, read the instructions, and set the alarms.

I awoke unusually early on Sunday, and turned off the alarms so as not to wake my still-slumbering husband.  Turning the alarms completely off is easy; there are sliding buttons on the far left and right, and I know they are off when the lighted dots go out.

This morning I awoke to the alarms for the first time, and had a moment of panic when I realized the reset button is a bit harder to find in the dark.  It's tiny and located in the middle of the clock's top, so there were a few second of fumbling and feeling around before I figured it out.  I can only imagine what my husband was thinking, knowing his alarm goes off an hour and a half later than mine.  I will have to study the buttons tonight and imprint locations in my memory, or risk having a crabby spouse later!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 26: Root bound

The Meyer ferns on the back porch were in a sad state.  The fern in the eighteen inch container had never recovered from the frost; there was nothing left but the stubs of dead branches I had cut back a few weeks ago.  The other plant in a twenty-four inch pot had a half-dozen new green branches, but the dead stubs of several years' growth threatened to crowd out any newer shoots.

I decided to work on extricating the smaller, dead plant first.  I didn't want to just dump out the pot because I wanted to save some of the soil.  So I dug in with pruning shears and a trowel, cutting into the roots and pulling them out.

An hour and a half later, I was able to remove the heart of the plant.  It took me another hour to cut and pull the rest of the roots and their large nodules. The fern had been rootbound twice over; last summer, this container had replaced one which cracked open from the forceful underground growth.

I couldn't help but find a life lesson as I hacked away on this project for hours.  As important as it is to have roots, we cannot afford to become rootbound.  Old ways of thinking and doing can become as restrictive as old pots. Every once in awhile, it's good to examine our long-held beliefs and habits, see what fits and what's holding us back.  We need to give ourselves room to expand and change and grow.  

It may take some pruning, as I did with the other fern, cutting away the dead woody bits and half the root system and separating it into two new plants, with plenty of room for each to grow and spread with fresh new soil and fertilizer to feed them.  I left plenty of roots alone, of course, to continue feeding the new growth. We need to feel grounded enough to have the courage to reach for those new ideas and habits. 

Are you feeling rootbound?  If so, what can you do to change those feelings?  What things, beliefs, relationships, situations need to go, and what needs to stay?  I'll be thinking about those questions today.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 25: Light chatter

"Bioluminescence is the most widely used form of communication on the planet."--W.H. Beck, Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights

I've read this sentence ten times this week, as part of my Book Nook time with our kindergarten classes. There are some weird and wonderful facts presented in this great nonfiction book, but the quote above is my favorite pause-and-comment point during the read-aloud.

Think about what this sentence means, I tell the students as I repeat the words.  

It means that that are more living creatures who use light to talk with each other than there are

people who use words
lions that roar
dogs that bark
cats that meow
crickets who chirp
birds who tweet

all the sounds that creatures make to communicate with each other.  

Light wins over sound, mostly because at least half of the living creatures on earth exist underwater.  I find these facts fascinating, leading to thoughts of the dark, silent depths of our oceans and the amazing creatures scientists are finding there.  I'm also looking forward to the return of the fireflies in our yard and park beyond.  

Bioluminescence--light chatter-- is the word of the week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 24: A dab here, a swoop there

My grandfather was an artist.  I remember seeing india-ink sketches of dogs on his wall; I can picture a stub of drawing charcoal in his hands.  He hadn't painted in years when I asked him for a picture for my college graduation; he obliged his only granddaughter with a pastel-yellow floral still life, one that I display every spring over the mantel. It was his last painting.

I have my mother's first and last paintings, too, the first a landscape, the last a still life in autumnal shades.  She didn't get to finish the latter herself; ALS weakened her limbs before the background was done.  A kind friend who attended the same painting classes finished it for her, only signing the back in case we wondered about the discrepancy in style.

High school art classes were challenging for me.  I gave my one and only oil painting, an abstract of a blown-up clock, to my brother.  Since then, my only forays into creative expression on canvas have been sessions at sip-and-paint franchises, following step-by-step exercises in the hopes of duplicating the instructor's picture.

I set a goal for myself this year to paint an original piece.  The universe must have heard my intentions, because within weeks I opened a Seton Cove flyer to find a class entitled "Painting for Well-Being".  My last two Thursday evenings have been spent in the Cove's beautiful cottage downtown, paintbrush in hand.  Our small group was led by Christiane, who gave us seemingly simple tasks to stoke our creativity and focus, and then allowed ample time to create, building on or even covering that which we painted first.

The two-hour sessions flew by quickly.  My usual end-of-workday tiredness slipped away as I focused on color and placement, texture and emotion.  I felt so much more relaxed on my drive home.  I think my grandfather's easel will be dusted off this summer, and I'll be visiting the art store for some fresh acrylic paints.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 23: Important item

I was asked once again to be the reader of the prompt for our fourth grade writing camp, and promised to use that same prompt for my next blog post.  My writing assignment this morning :  Think of an item that is important to you.

I received a very unexpected gift twenty-eight years ago, one that I thought I would never get from anyone. Many of my friends had received similar gifts, and their lives were much different than mine as a result.  Since I truly did not anticipate ever getting such a gift, I was content in enjoying their good fortune.

What's funny is that I picked out my own present, without knowing it.  My boyfriend had taken me shopping early in the fall.  We walked into a jewelry store, and he suggested that we look at the emerald jewelry section.  My favorite color has always been green, so I happily obliged, looking at necklaces and trying on rings.  We left without purchasing anything.

With Christmas around the corner, I thought I might receive a piece of emerald jewelry as a gift.  But Christmas came and went--no jewelry.  My early March birthday arrived--still no jewelry.  I put the thought of our window shopping out of my head.

St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday that year.  It was also the last day of school before Spring Break, and my students had been a bit rowdy.  I was feeling grumpy by the time I got home and needed some time to decompress.  The phone rang almost as soon as I closed the front door, interrupting the quiet space I craved.  

My boyfriend was calling, telling me I needed to be ready to leave in an hour. He refused to answer questions about where we were going, which made me mad because I didn't know what to wear.  I finally settled on some white shorts and a green top--it was Saint Patrick's Day, after all.

He picked me up in his car and drove to Mount Bonnell, a scenic park in Austin overlooking Lake Travis.  We climbed the stairs and walked a bit along the path, not saying much because I was still ill-tempered from my school day.  Coming to a spot with a chair-sized boulder, he asked me to sit with him; I refused to sit on the rock, because I was wearing white shorts!  So I sat on his lap, and we looked at the water below for a few quiet moments.

Out of the blue, he prefaced his next question by stating my full name--first, middle, confirmation, and last--and ended with a marriage proposal.  I said yes without a thought, feeling the weight of the question after my reply. My boyfriend presented a beautiful emerald ring, and slipped it on my finger.  I was in a much better mood walking out of that park!

Years later, my husband told me that he almost didn't propose that day, because I was so grouchy.  I'm so glad he did!  My engagement ring is a very important item. I admire it every day, thankful for my husband's proposal and the wonderful life we have made together.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

2017 Day 22: Rude awakening

Soundly asleep, in need of even more
A dull ache pushes and pulls
Like a heavy wave begging to stay in the deep ocean
Being stretched thin toward shore against its will

It crawls up my neck
Deposits itself in the back of my skull
Unchanged as I roll my head, readjust pillows
Growing heavier and more insistent

The alarm goes off and is silenced quickly
Set again for twenty minutes
Thinking sleep, sleep must be the answer
There are no other reasons to have this pain

I cannot ignore the next alarm
This day must begin
Chores and coffee, reading and writing
Vigorous exercise replaced by gentle stretching

The ache has ebbed
Leaving traces behind my eyes
Like the heavy seaweed at the tide's edges
Reminder that the waves can return.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 21: Too little sleep, too much to do

Turning off the TV at night is one of the hardest "adulting" tasks for me.  I know I shouldn't even turn the TV on in the bedroom, but it helps me deal with the drudgery of folding towels.  

The good stuff on PBS always comes on late.  Last night I tuned in halfway through an "Arts in Context" episode called "Home", about artists exploring details of African diaspora (I had to look up the definition of "diaspora"--"The dispersion of any people from their original homeland.")  My drowsy eyes and ears were drawn to the photographs, poetry, and expressive interviews, not that I can recall more than a detail or two this morning.  

I was momentarily jolted by my husband's coming to bed, realizing it was beyond eleven o'clock, an hour past my preferred bedtime.  I clicked off the TV, took off my glasses, and hoped for a deep, if short, night's sleep.

I got up with the second alarm just before four thirty a.m.  Bathroom, scale, changing into workout clothes, making coffee and emptying the dishwasher all happened in order.  I read my three little "daily" books, got my coffee, and settled in to write this post.  

I'm anticipating that without a steady stream of caffeine and water today, I will hit a wall sometime around two p.m.  The majority of my classes will be done by then, thank goodness.  I will put the TV remote on my husband's nightstand, too--one less distraction before a decent bedtime...I hope.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 20: Locavore learning

My son and I went on a field trip together yesterday, to a Sunday farmers' market down the road.  The morning was bright and beautiful as we drove past patches of bluebonnets and the welcome sight of a full lake by the dam.

We hadn't been to this market before; I usually go to the Saturday one just across the road from our neighborhood, in the mall parking lot.  But the teenager knew he'd be sleeping off a full Friday of amusement park fun on Saturday morning, so we hunted down a Sunday location from the list his AP Environmental Science teacher posted on her website.

The market was small, maybe twenty or so stalls.  We huddled in the middle of the walkway for a few minutes to go over the questions on his homework, and garnered the attention of one of the vendors in the process, who thought the assignment was interesting.

Some of the questions were easily answered by observation--list some fruits and vegetables and protein sources for sale, find several varieties of a specific produce, list something that seems missing.  

Other questions required interviewing the farmers. The first stand we visited had gorgeous tomatoes and broccoli.  We eavesdropped on a conversation with the shopper in front of us as the farmer explained how he'd been ripped off by a major grocery chain, who stopped buying from him as soon as they found out what seeds he used and employed cheaper labor south of the border to grow the same crops.  He brusquely, but in detail answered my son's questions about tending the soil.  We learned that he mixes it with hay, and plants clover to oxygenate the soil in winter.  Bugs are tended to with soap and water.

At another certified organic vendor, a young woman was eager to answer more homework questions.  She explained how the farm operated and the importance of the location.  Situated within 100 miles of our city means that the food is fresh, does not need extra treatment like waxing or chlorinating to extend shelf life, and cuts down on fuel required for transport--which is good for the environment, which in turn is good for the plants.  She encouraged my son to pursue organic agriculture, citing a dearth in young people studying that field.

The last blanks to fill had us speaking with a bison farmer.  We learned the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished.  The latter refers to the practice of fattening up beef just before slaughter by feeding them grains.  This does add weight, but also adds fat, which we pay for with our money and our waistlines.  She showed us a piece of bison meat, a rich red steak with very little fat, higher in protein and iron because it ate grass to the finish.

One of my goals for the year is to shop the farmers' markets more often, and the education I received yesterday encouraged that resolution.  I enjoyed learning alongside my son as much as I enjoyed munching on my purchases afterward.  Only produce this time, though now I am tempted to try bison...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 19: A table for four

The first to arrive, I mentioned to the young, friendly hostess.  I'm expecting three friends, and yes, a booth please.  

"How about this?" She gestured to a half-open booth directly in front of the door.  "That way your friends can find you easily."

The art teacher showed up not three minutes after, mini balloons and cards in hand and a smile crinkling a face that belied her elder status.  We settled in after a big hug, and a waitress appeared out of nowhere, asking us for our drink requests and inquiring about the balloons.

"It's a birthday table," we answered.  "We all have March birthdays."

We chatted for just a few minutes, showing pictures on our phones, before the English teacher arrived--with fresh eggs from her hens, of course.  More hugs, more photo sharing, and then the Spanish teacher, the freckle-faced baby of the bunch and the last to leave our campus-in-common, joined us.

What topics we covered during our visit!  Children and grandchildren and the cool things they do.  Retirement, campus changes, job woes and triumphs.  Cruising with girlfriends and losing the mommy guilt.  Preschool politics and the joys of working the baby room.  Overcrowded schools and district bonds. Tattoos and misjudging people by their looks.  Art and nude modeling for artists and small world moments.  Jaw surgery and recovery.  Ob-gyn visits, and those who train ob-gyns.  The absence of medical supplies in doctors' homes.  National politics, but only a comment or two since we all agree on that topic. Downsizing, the benefits of renting, selling homes, and changing states.  Books, and more art. 

Whether elicited by our own chatter or something more ephemeral, the four of us attract those with stories.  Both our waitress and manager had tales to tell, of fluffy feathered chickens, broken jaws and mama bear instincts, and the business history of several popular restaurants in Austin.  We soaked them all in as we consumed the fabulous food.

The conversation had continued an hour after we were done eating, the staff graciously refilling our water glasses without as much as a hint that the table was needed. Several bathroom trips made us realize just how long we had monopolized the space, and it was time to go.  I distributed my gifts of homemade shamrock cookies, and we hugged our goodbyes.

An elementary librarian, art teacher, high school English teacher, and Spanish teacher walked into a restaurant.  They walked out two and a half hours later, spirits filled with good food, good talk, and love.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 18: End of break blues

I could feel it coming on yesterday, like a train spotted in the distance while you stand on the track, feeling the rumble.  

The light rain in the morning changed my plans to walk and garden, so I spent time planning my day's activities.  Major cleaning projects needed to be tackled, as did chauffeuring of the teenager, grocery shopping, baking and cooking.

The teenager had to be dropped off at 830a. As we passed the grocery store on the way, I remarked that I should have planned better and brought my list, so I could shop on the way home.  My son commented that maybe I needed to use my brain power instead.  Taking that as a challenge, I did get groceries after dropping him off, and managed to remember everything I needed for today's menu.

It was still gray and misting when I got home to a quiet house.  After unpacking the groceries, I reheated my coffee and sat down to read for a bit.  I noticed my energy decreasing as my mind wandered from the pages to think about all the unfinished tasks I wanted to accomplish this spring break, and the things that absolutely, positively had to be done this weekend.  

The train had arrived; the end of spring break blues had hit me.

I thought making the cookie dough would cheer me up; baking is usually a meditative process for me.  The kitchen counter needed a good cleaning first, but I used my favorite scented cleaner, which brightened my mood a bit.  I gathered the ingredients and began creaming the sugar and shortening.  So far, so good...until I opened the nearly-full container of flour, and spotted little moving brown bits.  Crap!  Where did they come from?  My baking process was now interrupted by dumping the flour and thoroughly washing the container with hot, soapy water, so I could dry it and replace the flour with a fresh bag.  I got the dough made, but the spell was broken; the bad mood returned.  

Avoidance by napping is a go-to vice, and the couch beckoned.  A half-hour later, I awoke with the urge to go for a walk.  Gray skies accompanied me on the path, illustrating my mood.  I got home and started attacking my pile of shoes and the mess on my vanity.  I got some satisfaction from vacuuming hair balls, dust bunnies and cobwebs; once I detached the wand, I became a dust-seeking machine, even attempting to clean the bathroom ceiling vent.  

Taking a break, I remembered that I still had to call the insurance company to get financial details for my son's upcoming surgery.  For my forty-five minutes, I got the runaround instead; my mood worsened.

Shoes still littered our dressing area, but I realized the dough was chilled enough to bake.  I dove into rolling and cutting eighty shamrock cookies, watching the timer to turn the baking sheets every three and a half minutes.

My husband came home as I was halfway through icing the cookies.  The dressing area was still a mess, and I hadn't started dinner yet.  The end of spring break blues ...bah, humbug!

Friday, March 17, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 17: Irish much?

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  My mother's full-blooded Irish family gives me a wee bit over half-Irish status myself, a heritage which fascinates me.  I am drawn to things Celtic--the lore, the land, the spirituality.

My husband recognized this early on, and honored that part of me by proposing on this day, twenty-nine years ago.  The emerald in my engagement ring is a beloved reminder of that wonderful moment.

Each one of my three tattoos has green coloring--a four leaf clover on one anke, triquetra knot on the other, and now the green owl perched on my shoulder.  No worries about getting pinched here!

Last night, I attended a "painting for relaxation" class.  The instructor had us start by painting a circle using cool colors, then spiraling that circle outwards.  I took her directions literally, so when I ran out of room to continue my spiral, I looped it up into another, and then another...and made a triad.  I stuck with the same colors as we applied a second layer. Turned on its side, it looks like a shamrock.
This morning, my teenager will look for gold (chocolate) coins left by Seamus the leprechaun.  I believe he's left forty of them lying about the living room.  Later, I'll be baking iced shamrock cookies and cooking colcannon--potatoes and cabbage--for dinner.  I'll also be raising a pint in honor of my dear mother and her Irish family.

Do you celebrate Saint Patrick's Day?  What are your favorite traditions?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 16: Mucking about

It was a beautiful morning for a walk, clear skies and cool temps, so we took advantage.

"Brushy Creek or Williamson County Trail?" I asked my still-sleepy son.  "Brushy Creek," he mumbled back, started to peel off his bedcovers.

An hour later, we were in the car. We hoped to start at the dam and walk eastward.  Pulling into the west-end parking lot, we spied barrier fencing, concrete mixers, and a construction crew.  The dam was still off limits.

We got back on the road and entered the parking lot at the center of the trail, deciding to head east from there.  I started my fitness app on my phone and my son checked his FitBit on his wrist. The birdsongs we heard through the crisp air became punctuated by the crunching of gravel underfoot.

This part of the trail was wide enough for four people across.  There was quite a bit of traffic; pedestrians and bikers of all ages passed us coming or going every few minutes.  Reaching a fork in the path, we decided to head to the right and cross a bridge to the side farthest from the main road.

A red bobber appeared as if by magic as we looked over the edge, ripples breaking the smooth surface of the creek.  We passed two young fishermen as we continued down the path.  

This route was bordered to the left by trees leading down to the creek; on the right were the backyards of the neighborhood in which my students live, some close to the path, others separated by swaths of silvery-beige wild grass. We chatted about the style of the houses, the wildflowers we encountered along the way, the sculpture-like beauty of dead trees tucked among budding branches.  
Out of curiosity, we left the path to climb a well-manicured berm to see what was on the other side--a storm reservoir, empty except for lush green freshly mowed grass.  Tiptoeing carefully over bluebonnets, we got back on the trail and walked until we came to a loop.  Continuing eastward was a thin, well-worn path.

"Do we take the loop and head back, or do you want to see what's down this trail?" I asked.  "We can always turn back, if we continue on."

"Let's see what's down the trail," my son answered.  

This path was one-person wide, so I forged ahead. Blue skies were replaced by a canopy of trees; the path was packed earth that quickly became strewn with rocks.  We dodged spider webs, stopped to look at rock ledges to our right, and realized we were getting closer and closer to the creek's edge.  We crossed a rivulet leading to the creek, stepping on wobbly stones, disturbing a crayfish hiding underneath. 

Packed earth turned to leaf-strewn muck.  We picked our way carefully, trying to avoid deeper patches.  At one point the creek's edge covered the path. Someone had placed an old plank over the mud, which sunk a bit as we walked its length.

Suddenly, the path came to an end, and the only way to move forward was to climb upward.  The rocky edge was rough, but slippery; my fingers sunk into a squishy puddle as I looked for a handhold. I managed to pull myself up, my son right behind me.

From the cool shade of the creekside trees, we emerged blinking in the bright sunlight over another immense, well-manicured field.  A few steps over the grass took us back to the gravelled path.  I gingerly pulled a tissue from my pocket to wipe away as much mud as possible, then handed it to my son to do the same. We spied a playground with a restroom facility in the distance, and decided to wash our hands before heading back.

As much fun as the muddy path had been, we took the gravelled, roadside trail the mile back to our parked car. The roar of cars rushing past seemed to insult the sounds of running water and birdsongs on our left.  My son, ever the spy for details, stopped to take pictures of an iridescent beetle on a retaining wall.

Our soles were dry and clean by the time we returned to our car, thirsty and thankful for our muddy, mucky creekside adventure together. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Day 15: Be grateful for everything

I woke up with the dismaying thought that my spring break was nearly half over, and I haven't really done much.  Then I came across this quote, which took up two pages in my morning pocketbook reading and ended with this thought:
This got me thinking of all the things that have gone right this morning:  

Before dawn has even graced my horizon, my alarm went off.  
Because we are on break, I rested another twenty minutes, giving myself time to stretch and wake up my brain before sitting up.
My eyeglasses were within reach, with a recent prescription.
I was able to walk on my own to the bathroom.
Indoor plumbing--need I say more?
The heater kicked on as I walked down the hallway without stubbing my toes on the stuff that needs to be stored.
The living room lamp and kitchen light went on at the touch of my fingers.
I have my favorite coffee, and my own little brewer.
The dishwasher worked last night; there were clean dishes to put away.
My birthday flowers are still looking pretty in the vase on the table.
I remembered to take out the chicken to defrost for tonight's crock pot dinner.
I am home today, to make a crock pot dinner!
I have creamer and sweetener for my coffee.
I had time to read what I wanted, time to write this post, time to plan my day.
Our internet access is working.
My husband woke up, and is drinking his coffee while playing on his computer.
I have access to a little money, to do some gardening and socializing this week.

The list could go on and on.  So much is "going right" already, and I've only been up for an hour and a half.  Do I really have any room to complain today?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 14: When the moon hits your eye

We celebrated my husband's birthday yesterday with a big dinner at a steakhouse, followed by chocolate cake and ice cream at home. Lying in a food coma on the couch afterward, I looked out the window and spied the moon. Naturally, I grabbed the camera and headed outside into the cool night air, my feet crunching through the grass still damp from the day's rain. Steadying my hands on the back fence, I took a few photos of the Virgo Full Moon:
I love how the trees and rooflines can frame my shots.

We have just a little digital Canon SureShot, but it takes great pics on infinity mode!

I have little stickers for my planner* that help me remember the moon phases.  I try to go outside under each full moon.  It reminds me to look up, breathe, listen, get a global perspective.  

Last night was perfect; cool and clear, when the bugs aren't attacking and the air is easy to breathe.  Moongazing is one of my favorite things to do.

*I found my stickers here, on Etsy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 13: Planners

Teachers are, by nature, planners.  Whether we do it by principal's decree to have the 5Es turned in each week, or we are left to figure it out on our own, we know that facing a classroom of children each day without a plan of some kind can lead to chaos, especially on rainy days.

When I taught resource classes in my first go-round as an educator, I planned out each child's lessons by the month.  My principal allowed me to do this so that I wouldn't have to rewrite each week due to an absence or learning obstacle.  With thirty-six subject areas to teach (taking into account varying ability levels and groupings), it was the only way I knew how to keep up with tracking IEP goals and state essential elements.

This naturally spilled over into my personal life.  I invested in a series of planners--remember when Day Runner came out?  I tried weekly pages, two-page-per-day, one-page-per-day formats.  I had the blank pages for notes, the monthly pages for planning ahead, the address book pages.  My go-to size at that time was the 3in by 6in.  I took that dull gray planner with me to work, meetings, and back home again.  I planned my wedding in it, my chores, my exercise, my prenatal visits.

My daughter's premature birth slapped me out of my planning reverie.  Ten months of pregnancy turned into prescribed three months of bed rest, which turned into four days of bed rest and giving birth.  My daughter was bound and determined to be a September baby, plans be damned.  Four months later, my husband was laid off from work, and a few months after that, my mother was diagnosed with bulbar ALS.

We make plans, and God laughs.  I didn't touch a planner for three years.

But like a safe harbor for sailors, I got drawn back to my planning ways.  This time I invested in 5in by 8in pages, in a zipped brown cover that could contain my burgeoning receipts, birthday party invitations, newly recorded addresses.  That planner lasted through my ARD facilitating days, until it became too cumbersome, filled to the hilt with loose paper.  It still sits under a pile of papers on my desk, the contact information the only section I occasionally use when stamped letters are called for or a phone number is needed. 

My latest planners have come from Leonie Dawson's Shining Life product line.  They are colorful, weekly, and have space for monthly wrap-up thoughts and goal setting.  I'm a sporadic user and tend to plan more than I actually get done, but there's something satisfying about making a list and checking off completed tasks that brings structure to my day.  

The lessons from my daughter's birth and subsequent events have endured, however. One must leave room for the unexpected.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2017 SOLC Day 12: Happy Holi!

My teenage son and I enjoy participating in 5K walks/runs together.  He's a pretty good pacer, as I have to take two to three steps to his one long-legged stride.  He also encourages me to jog a bit during the walks, an action that does not come naturally to this non-athlete.

I am fully aware how lucky I am that my teenager chooses to spend this time with me!

We prefer to do walks that benefit others.  Today's event incorporated a celebration of Holi, a Hindu spring festival, with a fundraiser for providing eye surgery and care for people in India.  We had never done a color run before; the spirit of joyous spring renewal and reparation made it even that much more meaningful.

The preparatory email told us all we needed to know--wearing sunglasses to keep the colored powder out of our eyes, keeping our mouths closed as powder was thrown, even covering our car seats for the ride home.  

It was a cold morning; our layers couldn't keep the chill from creeping in until the warm-up began.  First some traditional moves and stretches from a fitness coach, and then some Bollywood dance moves to get us going.  We eagerly started the walk, just to keep warm!

Five color stations later (and an orange face swipe from a well-meaning, apologetic walker), we crossed the finish line in under forty-five minutes.  A personal best--and probably the best I've ever looked at the end of a 5K!  I hope the Sankara Eye Foundation decides to make this an annual event.