Father’s Day – 2020

It’s Father’s Day and I am in northern Mississippi visiting with my stepmother. Last year on Father’s Day, I was on my way home from visiting her.

My father died 11 years ago this summer after a fall and a brief illness, and I began writing a year later.

My stepmother had been living independently in Mississippi since he died. Neither my father nor my stepmother is native to Mississippi, but they decided to relocate here after my father retired in 1998. It’s a beautiful town and they have a lovely home.

However, this past winter that independence came to an end after a fall and brief hospitalization. I am grateful that my brothers and I were successful in moving her into an assisted living facility before the COVID19 lockdown shutdown the country.

But life is full of next steps, our next step is convincing her that living in northern Mississippi 621 miles from me in Illinois, 621 miles from one of my Texas brothers, and 630 miles from my other Texas brother is no longer sustainable, especially in the time of COVID19.

visiting on her porch – social distancing and being safe.

Tough conversations. Much like the conversations my dad and I had years ago.

Life is full of twists and turns; it’s full of beginnings and endings where one ending is a new beginning. Continue reading Father’s Day – 2020

milestones and May 2020

Today is going to be an amazing day and it marks several milestones.

  • It is the first week of my summer break,
  • It’s the last day of May,
  • It’s been over eleven weeks our state closed schools until early April, then early May, and finally for the year,
  • I’ve been living and working by the lake for nine weeks,
  • It’s been five weeks since my last post, AND
  • I’ve been blogging for ten years and two days.

It’s also the last day of my Coronavirus protest beard. The last day I shaved was the last day I went to school – Friday, March 13th. When began my protest, I anticipated being back in school in a few weeks. Today, after I press ‘publish,’ the beard goes.

early morning view of the lake – each hour is a little different

The final day of the 2019-20 school year ended Wednesday. It ended awkwardly and with uncertainty. Many of my students embraced shift to e-Learning, but sadly many did not. The ones who did are the students who had good habits and strong learning skills. The ones who didn’t, are the students who need the routine of school and even with being in the classroom these students struggle with learning or completing learning tasks. Looking back, it’s these students who are the reason I gravitated to teaching and middle school. I was one of those students who struggled in the classroom in middle school and early high school. It wasn’t until I was a junior that I figured it out.

Summer break began Thursday morning but living along the lake for nine weeks has allowed me to enjoy the benefits of remote teaching and learning remotely as well as the benefits of summer break while living and working. I’ve been fortunate to take advantage of the wilderness around us – the forest, the lake, and walking and hiking trails. I’ve taken some amazing walks through the forest trails, along the river, and along the lake shore. Most of all it’s the movement and the freshness of the air that has lifted me in the isolation of quarantine. It’s the balance of nature rising with the sun and resting with the sun’s setting that has made the biggest difference over the past elven weeks.

It’s been five weeks since my last published post, but I’ve started writing posts, stopped and didn’t finish. Mostly because I had teaching – preparing, assessing, and communicating – my primary job that took precedence. I have other jobs which kept me from writing – husband, father, son, brother, friend, dog owner, and self and each of those had multiple tasks – cook, housekeeper, and gardener to name only a few of the many roles I (we all) take on and try to keep balanced.

Walking and Hiking
Since the quarantine began, I’ve been walking and hiking more. Surely the weather has been a factor as spring began and temperatures became warmer and the days got longer.

Hartwick Pines State Park is a short drive from the lake, and I’ve enjoyed the many hiking trails through the park. My favorite hike is the shortest hikes – a little less than two miles, but it’s the most peaceful, even though it’s likely the most popular trail in the park. The hiking trail is through a virgin pine forest and there is a chapel along the route to pause and reflect. The trail passes through a former logging camp constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Continue reading milestones and May 2020

hidden

It is a glorious day. The sun is brightly shining through a cloudless sky.

I’ve been up since six this morning. I have been awake since before five this morning when I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. I gave up trying to sleep after almost an hour of tossing and turning in bed.

Through my bedroom window I could see the faint outline of the trees as earth came back to life early this morning. I remembered reading that three planets: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars were aligned and visible in the early morning. So, I climbed out of bed, dressed, and started the coffee.

deep blue lake, predawn

The lake was still, and the lake was shrouded in a deep blue hue in the pre-dawn light. Along the southeastern I could see one planet with the naked eye and could faintly make out the other two. I quickly snapped a shot and then used an iPhone app – Skyview Light – to visualize the early morning sky.  What my eye could see, my phone could not – not enough light.

But the three planets were there – hidden in the light.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” Henri Bergson

Continue reading hidden

Asynchronous

I love complex words. I am teacher and a learner or a learner and a teacher. The two go hand in hand. Learning never ends.

I began blogging at MakingtheDaysCount dot org almost ten years ago when I was teaching 7th grade English Language Arts. Really 7th grade ELA was my teaching assignment and I was really teaching kids. Teaching 7th grade ELA sharpened my curiosity and honed my knowledge of words and word parts……

chron means time, -ous means full of, syn- means with or together, a means without or not

asynchronous – without any particular time or timing or as Merriam and Webster defines it, not simultaneous or concurrent in time

A few years after my first blog post, I was reassigned and moved to science and a new grade level. I embraced the change because that’s who I am – curious, positive, passionate, resilient, flexible, and determined.

 

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Yesterday’s walk in the woods – fresh air and sunshine – good for the heart and mind #makeitaGREATday

A post shared by Clay Watkins (@makingthedayscount) on

Last week I learned I was moving again, this time to 6th grade. I’ll will be teaching science (and social studies) but most importantly I’ll be teaching kids. Continue reading Asynchronous

light

It’s Easter Sunday and there is light. Let’s set aside dark and heavy for a day, and focus on light instead.

Last night, O called attention to the lake shore and the evening’s sunset. B and I walked to the shoreline to watch the sun set over the lake together with O.

light1
Saturday evening’s sunset. A sunset on the lake is never the same, Never.

I have been taking sunset pictures for longer than I can remember. Continue reading light

Orchestrate: Our Lake

It’s Good Friday. As i reflect on the past few weeks I am grateful there is a much more good than bad. of course, we are still in lockdown which really means we should stay home and not gather in large groups but, we are healthy and safe.

Orchestrate: To arrange or control the elements of, as to achieve a desired overall effect.

Our schools are shuttered until April 30th, at least until April 30th. Several states have closed schools for the academic year, but Illinois has not. Yesterday, I spoke with my colleagues and my principal via Zoom and while it’s great to see them and talk with them, it doesn’t replace the spontaneous interactions of popping next door into their classroom or the conversation at the end of the day about something amazing a student did or said, or simply asking what my colleagues were looking forward to over their long three day weekend. I miss the girl in my last class of the day who always asked me what I was doing over the weekend. That’s what I miss the most.

After the first couple of weeks of quarantine and e-Learning, spring break started. It was an eerie beginning for a spring break. Our plans to travel to the Florida Keys and warm weather were cancelled by the virus, so we decided to travel to our lake home in Michigan to visit for a couple of days. We were only planning to visit for a couple of days so we took what we needed to survive for a few days – clothes and enough food for the five of us (me, my wife, daughter, and our two puppies) to subsist without contacting the local population.


We arrived late Sunday afternoon, unloaded, and took in the lake and the lake house. We unpacked and allowed the puppies – really a dog and a puppy – 10 years old and 1-year old run and stretch, while we did the same. I took a nap and broke my stretch of eight days in a row of exercise.

The next day we spring cleaned the yard and moved purposefully – yard work and a long walk. Continue reading Orchestrate: Our Lake

The ice is melting

The sun is shining brightly today. It was cold this morning, but the sun melted the early morning frost and has warmed the open spaces.

The lake ice is melting and the open space between the shoreline and the ice has more than doubled since Sunday. Soon the ice will be gone, a distant memory, until next fall when it reclaims the lake for another winter. Once the ice melts, the lake will be open for summer.

Fern, our Brittany puppy…. contemplates the lake, should I or shouldn’t I she seems to be thinking. She did, twice. The water is cold.

Our Brittany puppy, Fern, tested the waters wading into the lake along the shore up to her chest earlier. She discovered how cold the water was and was quickly back ashore. The earliest I’ve been in the water is late May and there is a chill even then. The lake is at its warmest in early August and the docks and lifts come out Labor Day weekend.

It’s been a great day and it there is more in the day to come.

Making the days Count, especially when the sun shines and the lake is melting for the season.

Where are you today?

Last night’s sunset – the sky cleared and sun shone

Today’s post is inspired by the daily prompt at WordPress’ Inspiration – Open. In these days of lockdowns, closures, and physical distancing, what does Open mean to you?

 

Tuesday’s Tune – Everything’s not lost

It’s the third week of self-quarantine and I am as hopeful as I was when I penned my last post, Abundance.

Yes, I AM hopeful. Positive. Confident. Certain.

When I started writing and blogging at Making the days Count almost ten years ago, it was a choice.  It was a choice to make my day better every day, even when I failed or fell, or came up short. I chose to look at the ways I could do better. I am still learning.

After I clicked PUBLISH on Abundance, I called upstairs to my wife, B,

“Church at 11,” I made another cup of coffee and went upstairs showered and dressed for church.

It was a bright sunny day. It was a big blue cloudless sky. When I started the car, Coldplay’s song “Everything’s not lost” began to play.

My car’s radio and my iPhone connect and sometimes a song from iTunes begins to play when the car starts. iTunes selects a random song, most of the time I stop the music, that morning I let the song play.

….If you ever feel neglected
If you think all is lost
I’ll be counting up my demons yeah
Hoping everything’s not lost

The church we attend is a short drive and the song, “Everything’s not lost,” was almost over when I parked the car. Chris Martin crooned,

I don’t let it stand in our way
‘Cause my head just hates when I think of
The things that I shouldn’t have done
But life is for living, we all know
And I don’t wanna live it alone

That Sunday’s church service was uplifting, and I left church knowing that everything’s not lost

Since that service on the Ides of March, we’ve been to e-church and we will continue to do so until the COVID19 crisis is over.

my favorite stained glass window – there is light and everything’s not lost

In full disclosure, I started writing this post yesterday, and I am finishing it today on Wednesday. I am not playing an April Fool joke on you by posting a Tuesday’s Tune on Wednesday. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune – Everything’s not lost

Abundance

It has been a strange week, rather it’s been a challenging year or so.

A week ago, I was in Mississippi helping my elderly stepmother transition from her home to an assisted living facility. I spent almost half of February in Mississippi. My last two posts were from or about my trips to encourage and assist my stepmother.

Even further back, one year ago I was mourning my mother who passed away after a brief illness on March 2, 2019. I wrote about it last year in my post, Where do I start?

However, my church or rather my faith has inspired this morning’s post. My mother was a woman of faith – she had to be. Raising three boys single-handedly – all born within three years of each other and getting all three of to adulthood could be considered a miracle. But she had help, her faith. For the past several years, my church has asked parishioners to write a Lenten reflection to be shared daily. This past Tuesday morning, this year’s post landed in my In box and I re-read my Lenten reflection. It is my second piece of published writing. My first piece was published in 2017 – you can read (or re-read) it here.

I wrote the reflection while sitting in my stepmother’s hospital room glancing out the window at the vase of yellow daffodils. It seems as if the theme of yellow has been in my life subtly for several years. Below is my Lenten Refection.

God will provide

Last spring when our mom passed away, my brothers and I gathered to plan our mom’s memorial service. The church provided a funeral service planning document with the order of the service with suggested Bible passages and hymns. We had so many questions, what would mom want? What were her favorite hymns and Bible passages? What was mom’s favorite color? What kind of flowers would she want? And so on. We had no idea. It was overwhelming. Continue reading Abundance

Home

I took the photograph below somewhere between Memphis, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois. It’ was Saturday evening’s sunset from a little more than 30,000 ft or 10,000 meters above Earth.

sunset – Saturday, 2/22/2020. 30,000 feet above Earth

I was on my way home Saturday afternoon from a week in northern Mississippi helping my stepmother who had been living by herself since my father passed away in July 2009. It was my second trip and there are likely to be more trips in the future for my brothers and me.

Our flight attendant interrupted the quietness of the cabin to call attention to the evening’s sunset. I was seated in the middle seat and my seatmate to the left had to pull up the window shade to reveal the setting sun. I was struck by the beauty of the colors along the horizon.

The weather had been delightful on the last few days of my trip to Oxford. We had an early morning frost on Friday and Saturday morning, but the sun shined brightly and warmed to the upper 40s (about 10C) at the height of the day. Skies were cloudless Friday and early Saturday allowing a brilliant night sky I am unable to appreciate at home in Chicago.

I’ve been home for a more than a full day now and I am back to school this morning. I have missed working with my students and I am looking forward to a fresh new week full of excitement and learning. I know it’s gonna be a great day – full of curiosity and wonder, and a little catching up, too. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one day at a time.

What is going to make your day count today?