Monday, May 31, 2010
This weekend's return home was late. I was supposed to return Sunday night, but my friend and I couldn't think of a reason not to delay departure for another 12 hours. There was still food in the fridge, movies to watch and one more sunset to enjoy. Staying seemed to be the reasonable thing to do. With a Monday holiday extending the weekend it was the right kind of late.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
The cardinals are the loudest, as they sit perched in a nearby tree trying to draw the attention of their own kind. Herons soar through the skies above without a sound as newborn rabbits scurry about in the late afternoon sun. The sun is setting, slowly at first and then with purpose as the daylight hours draw to a close.
It is peaceful. I am content.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Today I was kayaking around Blackwater Wildlife Refugee near Cambridge, Maryland. In the span of an hour I saw three eagles perched on various tree branches. Being on the water was treat enough, but seeing three of these monster raptors was even more special. I saw a fourth one standing in a newly plowed field as I drove by... that was icing on the cake.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Things I didn't know I loved:
I always knew I loved the rain.
I always knew I loved spending time with friends.
But... I didn't know how much I loved sitting underneath the shelter of an old porch, on weathered Adirondack chairs with my best friend, talking about nothing in particular as the clock struck 2:00 AM.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Today a whole lot of my friends were spending time on Facebook, but I don't think they were wasting time. They were sending me birthday greetings. I received more birthday good wishes today than I have in years, simply because people I've lost touch with are now in my cyber social circle.
Messages came in throughout the day, and each time they did I smiled.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sarah was the girl that had been picked on throughout her elementary school years. By fifth grade it had become so bad that her mother decided to enroll her in private school.
Jason was the boy who seemed determined to challenge me everyday. In a moment of exasperation I sent him into the hallway for a time-out. The punishment did not deter his behavior; he mooned the class.
Tommy was a tough one as well. I can't recall any specific behavior, only that he always seemed to be in trouble. He was the first, and last, elementary school student I knew who was given an out of school suspension. He was a good friend of Jason and the two of them kept me on my toes the entire year.
Tommy came by to see me the next year. He had moved to DC and stopped in to say hi when he was in the neighborhood. He apologized for being so bad. A year later it was hard to recall the specifics of his poor behavior. I never saw him after that and often wonder what became of that fiery redhead.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Many students see the tests as a sign that the year is over. It really isn't over at all. In fact, we have 4 more weeks of school. The challenge is getting the kids to realize this. Behavior problems have been constant over the last few days. I can only hope that after our last test next week we can settle in for the last 15 days of school and still come out happy in the end.
Monday, May 24, 2010
There have been a few downers this year as well, but it seems easier to look back and take note of the good stuff. Isn’t that how it should be? I know I spend a lot of time thinking about the low points of the year while I’m wading through them. Sometimes the energy I spend in those down moments can leave me physically and emotionally exhausted, so why deplete more energy by rehashing it now?
It’s been a good year.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Spring arrived just about the time everyone was sick of looking at the dirty snow piled everywhere. The flowers started blooming again and the days grew longer. My bike came out of hibernation and I took my kayak out for the first paddle of the new year. I was thrilled to get back out on the canal path with camera in hand to see and record the first signs of spring.
Other memories of the year come to mind but they’re more like flashes of fun; watching the smile on my nephew’s face grow as he recounted the positive feedback he received on his sketchbook during his interview for acceptance to the New Hampshire Institute of Art. His younger sister had the same sort of glow as she looked up at the lights in Time Square last December. She was awestruck to be in the city that she hopes to call home in the next ten years.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The start of the new school year came about quickly. So did the painful symptoms of Achilles tendonitis and Plantar Fasciitis. The fall was about getting settled into the school year and fitting in twice-weekly physical therapy appointments to mend my aching peds. I also audited a class so between that and therapy there was always someplace else to be after work. I welcomed a return to relative normalcy in January but was then quickly thrown for a loop with an irregular mammogram.
In the end it was nothing, but I don’t have any desire to see one of those long biopsy needles ever again. The bright side to the entire experience was that the biopsy fell on the day before a major snow event. Since I didn’t go to work that day and was done with my appointment by about 10:30 I was able to beat the crowds to the grocery store and stock up on all the needed snow supplies. The storm came as predicted and I enjoyed an unscheduled weeklong vacation at home. It was fabulous.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The summer started off with a bang. The fourth of July found me driving north with my sister and her three children. We enjoyed whatever fireworks we happened upon as we made our way from Maryland to my brother’s house in Upstate New York for a few hours of sleep. Seven hours later we were back in the car to our second destination, The New Hampshire Institute of Art. My 17 year old nephew was going to be spending two weeks there as part of a pre-college summer semester. We dropped him and his suitcase off and continued on to Maine for a little gal time.
Our time in Maine was delightful. I was with my sister and her two daughters. We enjoyed, among other things, a 16-mile bike ride through Acadia National Park and a great lobster dinner with a good friend. We walked along the rocky coast and I shared my interest in sea glass with Megan and Mary. By the end of the week we had all amassed our own little collections of blue, brown and green glass.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
On the TV show, “Mad About You,” one of the main characters had a tradition of taking a solitary walk on his birthday to spend some time processing the events of the previous year. I guess birthdays are as good as any other day to take some time out to dissect the events of the three hundred sixty five days that have gone by. Well, maybe dissect isn’t the best word. I have no interest in ripping apart my memories of the year and processing them until they are nothing but a haphazard group of over-analyzed thoughts. Whatever- it might be fun to take a look back
The year started off with a bang when I was completely surprised by an impromptu gathering of friends who somehow stole away from their busy lives on a Wednesday night to take me to dinner. Really, isn’t a birthday just about saying to someone, “Hey, I’m glad you’re here?” I definitely felt the love that night; it was a super way to start off the year way.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I was reminded of those days as I cruised up and down the aisle at the local drug store in search of a few items. There was a group of four teenage boys in the school supply aisle. I'm not sure what they were looking for but they were huddled around one item and exchanging ideas about who would use it. I could sort of hear what they were saying from the next aisle, but didn't think much of it.
By the time I made it to the end of the aisle to grab some milk before heading to the cashier I could see the manager casing the school supply aisle. He was bothered by the four boys and was determined to keep them in eyesight. As far as I could tell the boys weren't doing anything wrong, anything other than being teenagers without an adult in a store.
I noticed them walking out as I stood in line waiting for a free cashier. The manager was tailing them.
"And you do know what I mean." He scolded.
As the boys kept heading for the door, the fourth one in the exit line responded, "Actually, I don't know what you mean."
The encounter reminded me of a day many summers ago when friends and I rode our bikes to a local nature center. There were three of us together that day. We parked our bikes near a fence line and started to walk toward one of the nature trails. There was a group of elementary age students at a summer camp nearby. One of the kids spotted us and pointed.
The other kids looked in a mixture of awe and fear. Much like the boys in the store today we had already been labeled as trouble. We didn't understand why, so we just shrugged our shoulders and kept on walking.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The kids have started counting down the days to the end of the year. Someone in my homeroom was asking how many more days we have left and 27 was the immediate response from the other side of the classroom. One of my homeroom students is leaving on June 4 to spend the summer with family in his home country of Egypt, so he has his own countdown going.
I've been counting down Mondays...with today taken care of and the Memorial Day holiday thrown in I'm left with four more Mondays that I have to listen to the sound of an alarm clock at 5:15 AM. That sounds just dandy to me.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Wireless caller is a tough one but since it was an area code that I didn't recognize I started to put the phone down and head back out to the patio. Then I stopped. I considered the possibility that it was my brother, who lives in New York. My dad is staying up there this week so I thought they might be calling to fill me in on my mother's trip to Ireland.
Well, it wasn't them, but I'm glad I answered because on the other end of the line was a good friend from high school. Ed and I don't get to see too much of one another these days. He lives on the west coast so we have a whole lot of states and a few time zones between us. It's great that a phone call can so easily erase all that space and time.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
My windows are open today and as the soft breeze blows through I can hear the sound of a saw in the distance. A few unidentifiable bird chirps clash with the bark of a neighbor's dog. The bird feeder is getting a steady flow of fly-by customers.
My cat is stretched out on the window seat with his eyes half open. He enjoys the comfort of a soft blanket, and even though a part of him would likely enjoy a catnap, there's also a part of him that can't keep his eyes off the backyard show.
Friday, May 14, 2010
There were a few of us recent college grads working in personnel those days and we bonded pretty quickly. We enjoyed lunchtime naps under the trees on the mall and lunches that often lasted much longer than our allotted sixty minutes. We were new to DC and enjoying life on our own for the first time.
Tonight I met up with two gals that I worked with at the time. We had dinner at a local music club and listened to some bluegrass while we caught up with each other. The three of us haven't worked together in twenty years. The Smithsonian was just the first stop in three very different career tracks...law, education and federal employee.
The conversation and laughter included the requisite reminiscing about life in "the castle." It also included an update on recent life events, an update that included a breast cancer diagnosis, the need for reading glasses and the latest tales from the world of motherhood.
Our time together passed quickly. We exchanged good-byes in the parking lot and acknowledged how great it was to spend time together on a rainy Friday night. I climbed in the car and smiled.
Great. That's precisely what it was.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
A great day for all five classes, there was exciting chatter in the room as the small groups worked together to make sense of the thoughts and actions of the novel's characters. There was some disagreement but for the most part it was respectful in nature. It was one of those days where everything went as planned.
And that's all I've got to say about that.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
So it looks like I've got a bit of the challenge for the end of the year. Can I turn those negative murmurs into smiles of appreciation for the opportunity to talk about books? I certainly hope so.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Today I was treated to a bird quarrel, a few squirrels scurrying through the trees showing off their acrobatic talents and one bright redheaded woodpecker. I'm always impressed with the woodpeckers; their imposing size and bright red tops are always startling when compared to the smaller sparrows that are frequent flyers through the backyard.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Thanks to my mom I’ve learned a variety of things…important things. When thinking about the different lessons that have been passed down from mother to daughter I’m able to come up with five solid, enduring understandings. I think of them as The Principles of Pie.
Think Outside the Box
It had been about twenty years since my family had taken a vacation together. We were together one more time in
One winter day after a good three hours of sledding on the local hill my brother Joe ran in the door with his friend Eric. They were clearly boys on a mission. Their mission: locating my brother Mark’s canoe. The one he had “found.”
“What do you want with the canoe?” my mom asked.
“We’re taking it down the hill!”
“I’m in!” I yelled.
My friend Phyllis and I ran out the door behind Joe and Eric followed by my mother. We climbed up the hill across the street with the canoe in tow and somehow managed to squeeze us all in. With a final push from Joe as he hopped in we were off.
We screamed and laughed as the canoe sped down the hill at twice the speed of any Flexible Flyer. What a ride it was.
It was also the only ride we ever had in that canoe. As the yellow piece of fiberglass neared the bottom it hit a bump. The canoe went airborne, the bodies went flying. When it came down in a crash the fiberglass split right along the bottom seam. The pile of bodies rose slowly, shaking…with laughter. We still talk about that great ride. We’re just don’t talk about it in front of Mark. Twenty years later he’s not quite over the loss of his canoe.
Simplify When Possible
My mom taught me early on that when it comes to volunteering to bring items for a class party sign up for napkins, paper plates or anything else that can be easily bought.
Protect Your Home
In the early 70s Halloween was big. Just as big was the mischief that went along with it. I was never an egg thrower or a pumpkin smasher. I stuck to window soaping and some occasional toilet papering. My mom didn’t seem to mind being the victim of a window soaping here or there. However, pumpkin smashing was an entirely different thing.
One year my mom got wind of a bunch of kids who were ready to go out on Halloween and smash up some pumpkins.
Her response to the tip was something to the effect of “well they’re not smashing my pumpkins. Just let them try.”
That Halloween when most mothers would have been stationed near the front door handing out candy my mother was holed up in the laundry room. Conveniently the windows were on the ground level, hidden by the bushes that lined the sidewalk to the front door. She stayed by that window, with hose in hand, her grip sure and steady on the sprayer nozzle. With the window cracked she sat and listened as kids scampered up the sidewalk toward the door. It took only one comment for her to spring into action.
“These are some nice pumpkins….”
The poor girl didn’t know what hit her. To her the spray of water came from nowhere. “What the?...did I step on a sprinkler?” she screamed in confusion.
It only took that one spray. Our home and the pumpkins were safe and in tact the next day.
Use Your Resources
There are two things that I keep in stock at my own house at all times; Q-tips and Band Aids. My mother never seemed to have either one. I’m not sure what happened when we were bleeding but I have no trouble remembering my mother’s own version of the Q-Tip. It involved a bobby pin with a piece of toilet paper twirled around the top. It wasn’t a very soft tool, but it did the trick. Although the painful memories of the hard metal curve of the bobby pin in my ear keep me from using the same trick today I am not afraid of improvising when needed.
The shag carpets of the 70s provided many frustrations for someone that aspired to have a clean, orderly house. The fibers would stand up tall, like soldiers at attention, when vacuumed correctly. Unfortunately, once a bunch of kids ran through the house it looked like the recent sight of an alligator wrestling match. Undoubtedly, this dilemma caused my mother some frustration. She’s a woman who likes things clean and orderly.
It didn’t take her long to ease her frustration. Her cure? The garden rake. Raking the shag would return all soldiers to attention in seconds without needing to haul the vacuum cleaner out of the overstuffed closet.
Care for Those You Love
That seems like kind of a no-brainer. Any mother would care for her loved ones. It’s just that my mom took this principle quite seriously.
When I was about 7 my grandmother, my mom’s mother-in-law, suffered a serious stroke that paralyzed her from the waist down. Before the stroke Mom Mom had lived in a two bedroom apartment with her sister, and my namesake, Mary. She never returned to that apartment again. Instead we moved to yet one more rental property, one that had a basement apartment big enough for my grandmother and great aunt.
While my mother was caring for four children under the age of 12 she was also caring for her 70 year old mother-in-law. She did what she could to prevent bed sores and to make her comfortable while she kept up with her family.
Some twenty years later she stepped up again when it came time to care for her own mother. She helped her mother move into a trailer on her brother’s property when it became apparent that it was time to give up the big house that my mother had been born and raised in. As time wore on and got the best of my grandmother’s health and mind she made the agonizing decision to put her in a nursing home. She visited her twice a week, logging many miles between her home north of
Mom made that same trip many times of the span of more than three years. When her mother’s health took a turn for the worse she sat by her side for three days comforting Granny in her final hours.
Parents often try to force advice on their children. My mom never did that. She just lived her life and I watched.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
A few things were different, most notably the 11:00 PM closing time. The stainless steel counter was right where it belonged, but the booth that we usually sat in was missing. The wall it sat against was gone thanks to renovation and the addition of another dining room.
The old ladies were still there, ready and waiting to take orders and bring food. They still wore the signature white pants and top, looking more like nurses than waitresses. Our waitress had an odd demeanor, she seemed nervous and reminded me more of Adrian, Rocky's girlfriend, then Flo from Mel's Diner.
There were still burgers and fries, and of course, milkshakes. It was a nice step back in time.
Friday, May 7, 2010
When I arrived home I was surprised to find a small dog wandering around in front of my house. He looked up at me as I walked down the sidewalk and trotted over to see me like we run into each other every day. I've never seen him, but noticed his tag and decided to help him find his way home. It took about ten minutes to locate the owner. I tried the number on the tag first and wasn't too surprised to get an answering machine. Little Pili, wasn't very thirsty when I brought him in the house so I figured he hadn't been gone too long. I decided to try and make a home delivery.
He settled in nicely to the passenger seat of my car and as I looked over at him in his curled up ball self I considered the possibility that the owner would never be found and I would get to keep this adorable little canine. That, of course, didn't happen. As soon as I neared the address on his tag I saw a young mother and her son with heads turning to and fro. I rolled down the window.
"Are you looking for your dog?" I asked.
"I got him right here." Pili lifted his head and stood up to look out the window, his tail wagged in delight as he saw his missing people.
The smiles said it all, but Mother replied, "Thanks, you made my day."
It was a great day.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
"It wasn't a big deal, ya know, since it was a school night, but we did have spaghetti and then later after my brother's practice we opened presents and had cake and ice cream."
"Did you get to choose the dinner?" I asked.
She smiled and nodded her head.
I returned the smile. "I used to always pick lasagna."
She was gone in a minute, off to catch up with her brother for the walk home, leaving me to reminisce about lasagna birthday dinners at my great aunt's apartment. Dinner was followed by cake, my favorite is devil's food with vanilla icing, and then finally presents. They were simple celebrations, but ones I still remember today.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I often find it surprising that when you get a group of teachers together and ask someone to volunteer to speak the room goes silent. Heads are cast down, eyes avert, and pens or pencils are dropped and slowly retrieved, all in hopes of avoiding being chosen to speak. Are there really that many introverts in the teaching world? Count me in as one.
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for some, our PLC facilitator knew it was unlikely anyone would nominate themselves speaker for the group. The names of all were put in a box and the decision was made by the luck of the draw. It was one day I was happy to be a loser.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Today I finally got around to restocking the empty bird feeders and waited for the avian appreciation to begin. No luck so far...
Saturday, May 1, 2010
"Who are those people, there?" she asked.
My mother replied, "Remember their family didn't have enough money for a plot so you gave them two of yours."
My grandmother shook her head a bit, "Hmmph, guess I wasn't such a tight-ass after all."
Now, that's what we call a Grannyism.