Letter No. 8

It’s Sunday morning and it’s quiet for now. I enjoy the weekend mornings because I can sleep a little later than I normally do during the week and there isn’t the urgency to get up, move, and be someplace. Though sometimes that isn’t always the case.

I let the group walk ahead…..

Last weekend I took a bird walk and had to be out of the house by 7:30 AM Saturday morning. It was an organized bird walk with a trained naturalist at the Morton Arboretum. I signed up in August when I was excited about learning about birds. I still am excited about learning more about birds but the time to learn and watch birds is fleeting with school back in session. The bird walk, added a bit of urgency to last Saturday morning’s get up and go, but it was worth the time. I enjoyed the walk with a group of folks walking the paths and trails and seeing things I don’t normally see. It helped me model the science homework I assign my students daily – be curious and full of wonder. I shared last weekend’s adventures with them last Monday when they asked how my weekend was – a few were interested and pressed for more questions and others were the typical 8th grader. I shared that my newfound curiosity was inspired by a book I had started to read – Where the Poppies Grow by British author John Lewis-Stempel. I discovered the book while reading post on Margaret’s blog, From Pyrenees to Pennines in April. I make the headway with my students anyway I can and I am still reading the book.

This weekend is a little different. O and her marching band have a band competition, but she didn’t need to be at school early Saturday morning as she has in the past couple of weekends. This week’s competition was across town and her band won top honors in its class. So far, this marching season, they’ve had three competitions and I’ve seen them all. Next week they are on the road and we will be, too.

The weather turned for the weekend and there is a fall-ish chill in the air. The skies are clear and it is cool. Yesterday at the band competition the stands faced the afternoon sun and it was in our eyes, but when the sun dipped beneath the horizon it cooled down and there was a definite nip in the air. My body is not quite use to the cooler air, but by November and December my body will be ready for the cold which lies ahead. 

It’s that time of the year when keeping up the blog is a challenge. School is taking time and other activities – parenting, being husband, and taking care of the home and myself take precedence over writing a blog post. This past summer, I didn’t write as frequently as I had in previous summers. But, I had many things going on with a new knee and my son leaving for marine boot camp. In place of blogging, I’ve been writing him letters. So far, I am up to No. 8. I penned it yesterday morning and I’ll pen another this afternoon or evening.

Friday Night’s Lights – the sky was orange (our colors) before the game, but turned red (their colors) to finish the sunset – the Tigers came up short 41-20 but it was never close.
Continue reading Letter No. 8

The ant and the grasshopper

It’s Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend and it’s quiet by the lake. It’s the last weekend of summer, at least if I define summer as having boats in the water.

image courtesy of read.gov

Definitions of summer are plentiful, though I firmly believe summer is almost a state of mind in addition to being a season. For O and I, school has been in session for two weeks. Both of us have eight days of school under our belts.

The autumnal equinox will arrive in a few weeks and all the earth will be equal for a moment then slowly fall will advance in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. It’s time, it happens each year and again, year after year. There is time for everything under the sun.

O and I drove up North yesterday morning. B had come up earlier in the week bringing Ivy with her. Ivy was overjoyed to see us, though you’d hardly recognize that now as she sleeps curled up on the footstool. B was too, but Ivy was more enthusiastic with her welcome.

When summer ends, there is much to do. Boats, dock, lifts, and lawn furniture to store, gardens and beds trimmed, and the garage organized for the next season. Yesterday one of our neighbors remarked it was Labor Day weekend and we were working, working hard to get the chores accomplished. I reflected and replied – this is the weekend we pay the rent. We work hard at the beginning and the end and reap the benefits of our work in the middle. It’s different from Aesop’s fable the Ant and the Grasshopper, where the ants toiled tirelessly all season long to be able to rest (and survive) when summer ended. Along the lakeshore, we all work together and help each other with the heavy work pitching in when needed. We know that fall is coming and winter is not far behind.

There are few grasshoppers here this weekend, most of us are ants. There is a time for everything under the sun.

Continue reading The ant and the grasshopper

Day 72 – the last one

It’s the last day of summer break, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year. It will be twentieth year as a teacher and it will be my 45th year spent in a classroom as either as a student or a teacher.

This morning, Ivy and I enjoyed one final morning of summer freedom together. I sipped coffee and she guarded the bird feeder from the pesky squirrels. The squirrels chirped at her from high in the tree but Ivy stood her ground.

a Monarch and a zinnia

Yesterday, I took time to visit my classroom and help with the schedule and locker distribution. It was nice to see so many excited faces and help students with locker jams or even simply help with a locker combination. Yes, even 8th graders forget how to work a combination lock. Most locker issues were jammed lockers or the wrong locker combination was given to the student – that happens. This will be my 18th year at this school and the lockers are 18 too which explains why there are jams. 17 years of use can wear on locker.

The past week has been a whirlwind of sorts. We’ve been back from the lake for a couple of weeks but it has been busy at home with W, my son, who’s been preparing for Marine Corps Boot Camp. He reported this past Sunday.

The reporting and shipping out process is complicated. W reported to the recruiter’s office and then was transported to the hotel where he would spend Sunday night before being taken to the processing center before shipping out Monday. Once he had checked into the hotel, he was free until 8:30. We had time for dinner with some time left over.

But, where to go?

Continue reading Day 72 – the last one

Day 61 – patience pays

“What you are looking for and what you find, are often very different and amazing at the same time.” Me

the moth and the black-eyed Susan, a native prairie flower

Yesterday afternoon, Ivy and I sat in the backyard and watched for birds. At least I was looking for birds. Ivy lay patiently at my feet and scanned the edges of the garden. I did see a bunny or two, I am certain Ivy did as well.

my view with Ivy scanning too

It was time well spent. It was relaxing and almost as good as taking a nap, almost.

I observed several bird species including robins, cardinals, and sparrows, I think as well as other species. I also saw a several butterflies and hummingbirds, before I took out my camera.

I was looking for the source of the activity in thicket in the corner of the backyard, when I found the moth atop a black-eyed Susan, hence the quote above.

Continue reading Day 61 – patience pays

Day 60 – Dad’s wisdom

It’s the 60th day of summer break, the 53rd day of my new knee, and my dad was right.

The other night I was picking up O after band camp and I opened the rear door so she could put away her bass drum. And she said,

“It won’t fit!” O sounded frustrated.

“Turn it on its side.” I responded.

She did and it fit. When she climbed into the passenger seat she asked,

“Dad, why do you have to be right all the time?”

“I’m not right ALL the time.” I smiled gently and replied with a emphasis on ALL.

“I’m just right some of the time,” I continued.

 And the conversation shifted to how band camp had gone that day and what she had learned.

another troll….. there are seven 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. More so than normal. He passed away nine summers ago and I don’t think there has been a day when something about him or something he said or wrote has been far from my thoughts, but lately his wisdom has been in the forefront.

Dad was a marine, or I should write is a marine.  W heads off for boot camp in less than two weeks and I think dad’s wisdom about what he learned from being in the Marine Corps has been on my mind, but also dad’s advice about learning and health.

Private Robert N. Watkins, USMC, my dad
Continue reading Day 60 – Dad’s wisdom

Foggy Friday – Day 53

It’s Friday and I am by the lake again, but I should write, we are all by the lake. W and I joined the B and O yesterday morning. It’s a foggy Friday morning and it’s day 53 of summer break, 20 remain.

the lake and the ducks… they are mallards

I love the lake and July is our time to be at the lake. We’ve been here almost every month, but July is the best time to be here. It’s usually warm with cool nights, though sometimes it’s very hot, and sometimes it rains, or storms. But whatever the weather being by the lake is peaceful and relaxing. It’s even better when we are ALL here. Continue reading Foggy Friday – Day 53

Day 36: halfway

We’ve been by the lake for a little more than a week. It feels good to relax and take it easy, even if I can’t get into the water, yet. I know my day will come. Today marks five weeks and a day since my last day of school and my summer break has been full of surprises. It also means summer break is at its halfway point.

It’s also been four weeks and a day since my knee surgery and the incision is healing well and it looks good, but I am erring on the side of caution before venturing into the lake or submerging or exposing my new knee to any sort of water beyond a shower. Yesterday, I checked with my physical therapist and she told me to wait, so I will. A few more days out of the water are a small price to pay.

We’ve been spending our summers along this lake since we were married and I recall my first visit in the July of ’92. Each summer has a been a bit different, there were the years before we had kids, the years of infancy and the toddler years – twice, the years with the in-laws and now without them, and now the teenage years and post teenage years, for one. Our kids are growing and so are we. This place is full of memories for me and our kids and there is a constancy in our place by the lake.

Last Friday marked a first, at least for me. I was sitting on the deck reading when I looked up to see a float plane landing on the far side lake. I am certain there have float planes which have landed and taken off on the lake before, but I had never seen one or seen pictures of a float plane on our lake.

Friday, taxiing to the small bay

I grabbed the good camera and took photos. I watched as the plane taxied along the shoreline and anchored in the bay not far from our cottage. I wasn’t alone, almost all of the folks along the lake watched as the plane moved down the lake to the bay. Continue reading Day 36: halfway

Day 31 – Flying the Flag

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. Independence Day. We spent our day as we usually do – parade, lake, dinner, then fireworks.

My wife reminded me to fly the flag the evening before, but I didn’t put the flag up until the yesterday morning.

It was a beautiful summer day. I got to ride in the boat and watch my daughter enjoy tubing. My daughter towed me to and from the boat on her tube. But, no water for me, other than a shower until I get the green light in a couple of weeks to swim and get in the lake.  I’ll have to wait until later in the summer when my incision is fully healed.

the flag flying on the boat as Olivia follows behind on the tube

The day was a wonderful day to remember Thomas Jefferson’s words; Continue reading Day 31 – Flying the Flag

Day 29 – Miss You

My weekly challenge was to remember my favorite song from five years ago and listen to it. I have no idea what I was listening to five years ago but it certainly was not on the top 100 from July 2013. I had an idea, a better idea, and I went back 40 years to when I was 16; the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. That was the summer of all sorts of memories.

This past Sunday afternoon, we drove north. I had a driver for the first hour and the last hour. My daughter O is working on her driving hours and loves driving. It gave me time to go back in time – 40 years – to the summer of ’78. I checked the top 40 from July ’78. I recognized most of the top 10 but my memory took a jolt when I read #14 – Miss You by the Rolling Stones. That song took me back and brought back all sorts of memories and I found my song…. But first… how I got there.

I turned 16 in November ’77, but I couldn’t get my driver’s license I hadn’t completed the required behind the wheel driving training. Instead of taking driver’s ed during the summer, like all of my peers, I had been visiting by dad in England for five weeks. I took the driver’s training during winter break of my sophomore year and was ready to get my license in January of ‘78. January in Houston, Texas is cold, but not nearly as cold as January where I now live – there is no comparison.

I am the oldest in my family, so I was the first of the kids to get my license and the first child to teach my mom all sorts of lessons she and her sister probably did not teach their parents when they were growing up in the fifties.

When my parents divorced, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia and a year later he and my step-mom moved to London, England. Whatever he had, he took with him or put in storage except for the 1969 blue Volkswagen Beetle. It was stored in the garage. I had my name on it. Or rather, I had put my name on it.

this is my car, but it looked like this…it even had some very cool pinstripes

For a 16-year-old boy in 1978, having your driver’s license is cool, having a car a car is even cooler. Once I got my license, I began to drive the ‘blue bug.’ I could drive to work and back and had to ask permission beyond that. The little blue bug had air conditioning, but it didn’t work and the radio had AM only. I had a job and made minimum wage as a busboy and dishwasher at my next-door neighbor’s Italian restaurant.  By March, I had scrimped and saved enough money to purchase an in dash 8-track cassette player and FM\AM radio and a couple of speakers for the blue bug. I had barely enough money leftover to buy two 8-track tapes – I picked Van Halen’s debut album and Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. I listened to those constantly.

The blue bug was nothing brag about. Beside the AC not working, there was a hole in the passenger side floorboards caused by battery acid spillage. A friend of my mom’s helped with a fix and  the radio and speakers were an improvement. To make up for the lack of AC the blue bug had side windows which could tilt inward and force air into the car. But driving it in the hot Texas spring and summer was pretty uncomfortable and perspiring was the norm. Continue reading Day 29 – Miss You

Day 26 – last day in June

Saturday, the last day of June. July begins tomorrow.  It’s the 26th day of summer and the 19th day since my right knee replacement.

I began writing a post Wednesday morning and never finished writing. I re-read what I wrote this morning and decided it’s easier to re-start from scratch rather than try to re-phrase what I had already written. Delete.

my morning coffee companion

When I began blogging in the summer of 2010, every post began with the number of the day of summer break and a title. Hardly anyone read those posts, but I kept going and writing.

Yesterday, I read a post from Susie at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. I’ve been following Susie’s blog for a while and I always enjoy what she has to share. It made me re-think why I blog and what I get out of it.

Since, I my writing has improved and  I’ve gained confidence as a writer. Practice helps. There have been some good posts and some not so good posts.

This summer has been a journey, much like that first summer. I had total knee replacement surgery almost three weeks ago. I am walking without pain and though I am still sore, I am getting stronger every day. Before the surgery, I had no idea what to expect and I was a little anxious. I’ve been diligent about my rehabilitation and am re-learning how to walk. Because my knees have been so bad for so long, I’d developed a way to compensate for the knee pain. With one good knee, the old way to walk has to go the way of the old knee. After the surgery, I am already looking ahead to TKR#2 – the left knee.

This morning Ivy and I enjoyed sitting outside. I sipped my coffee and Ivy alertly surveyed the yard. It was an unseasonably warm humid morning, but there was a gentle breeze to move the air. Ivy and I enjoyed being out of doors. The leaves gently rustled in the breeze, birds chirped, and I looked up to see a momma cardinal and a poppa cardinal partaking from the bird feeder. I frequently see robins and other birds and I can hear the cardinals with their distinctive call, but rarely do I see them so close. I am not a birder, but I am interested and curious. This summer I began reading a book Where the Poppies Grow by British author John Lewis-Stempel. I discovered the book while reading post on Margaret’s blog, From Pyrenees to Pennines in April and ordered the book. I saved the book for my summer convalescence. It’s the story of English soldiers and their interest in nature as they served along the Western Front in the Great War. The first several chapters describe the soldier’s birding habits. Lewis-Stempel uses excerpts from soldier’s journals and it’s quite interesting to read the descriptions of their observations of the birds, nests, and eggs. They certainly knew their birds.

momma cardinal is hard to spot, for a reason.

Continue reading Day 26 – last day in June