Category Archives: Family

numbers

“I don’t know my mom’s phone number,”

I was thinking the other day. It was a random thought that passed quickly through my brain.

I realize that the statement sounds awful, but it’s true. What I really mean is that I don’t remember her phone number. I do have it and I call her often, but I have to look it up in my address book. Simply, press the name – mom cell – in my favorites on my cell phone and the number rings.

It’s a sad consequence of the digital age.

My mom’s phone number was 713-494-2240, it was mine, too until I moved away in the mid-1980s. My mom had the phone number until a few years back when she dropped it in favor of an internet phone and a cell phone to save money, but she has since dropped the internet phone. Now, she only a cell phone number and it’s in my cell phone’s address book along with a picture I took in October 2016 when we were visiting. The picture shows up on the screen when she calls. It makes me smile.

My mom still lives in the house where my brothers and I grew up. This past August she celebrated 50 years in the same house and the same address. We moved into the house in the summer before I started kindergarten and I lived there until I moved away in college. My brothers moved away to start their lives on their own after I did, but they still live in the area.

We grew up in the era of rotary dial phones. The kind of phones you couldn’t speed dial and had to place your finger in number slot and turn it all the way and let it return, then repeat the process until all of the numbers had been dialed.

When we first moved in, all we had to do was dial four numbers for local phone numbers, just the last four.

As a kid, I knew all sorts of numbers and I still do. Robert and Jimmy were 3351, Jimmy and Jeff were 3355, and Jimmy and Chris are backdoor neighbors were 2267. With exception of Jimmy and Jeff, whose parents still live in the neighborhood, all of those kids and their families have long since moved away. Scattered like seeds in the wind.   Continue reading numbers

weathered – a photo challenge

Sunday morning. It was cold out -11 if you use the metric system, or 12 if you use the English system. Whichever scale you use, it’s still cold. It was much warmer Wednesday and Thursday with rain and all the snow melted, but on Friday, January’s cold returned.

I shouldn’t be surprised, it is January and I do live in the Midwest where January temperatures are often below freezing. Often, well below freezing.

my favorite deck chair, weathered and exposed

Freezing temperatures create problems for us here, they harden the ground and create potholes in the roads making travel sometimes hazardous. The freeze and thaw season comes later in winter when the sun’s rises higher in the sky and temperatures rise above freezing during the day and plunge back below freezing at night. That’s when the real weathering begins – freeze and thaw – and it wreaks havoc on roads and anything manmade, or even natural. Rocks break down into smaller rocks, then pebbles, and even smaller. It’s a vicious cycle, yet it’s an essential part of our world. Nothing is really permanent, everything is in transit – from somewhere to someplace.

It’s Monday morning and it’s -7, 18F or so, it’s actually warmed up, so to speak. It began snowing Sunday evening and the ground which was bare this morning, is coated with a fresh layer of white snow. The world is a much brighter place this morning.

trees out back, the snow continues to fall

The days pass quickly and like the weather, a new day is fresh, clean, and ready to be weathered away by time and the elements. Continue reading weathered – a photo challenge

Happy New Year – 2018

I’m a day late with this post. I had hoped (and planned) to write yesterday, but didn’t. I found time for other things beside blogging, more important things – family, a walk along the frozen lakeshore, preparing and eating dinner, and having fun playing dominoes and watching the bowl games with my family.

It’s good. It was a very good day. The first of many in 2018.

I am not much into New Year’s resolutions. I used to develop New Year’s resolution, but they were often abandoned as the year progressed. Now, my ‘new year’ tends to land at the end of the school year and beginning of summer. I make my resolutions in late May and early June as I reflect on the previous school year and get to audition for retirement. I always ‘fail’ my audition and get to go back to school every fall. Someday, I hope to pass the audition and I’ll retire from teaching, but I don’t intend to ‘retire’ from life.

Last year I made an exception and took on writing and mailing, with postage, a thank you note each day. I began in January and did well writing the first few months, but my writing dropped off as the year progressed. Though I fell short in my writing, my thankfulness and gratitude grew. I plan to continue being thankful and writing (and mailing) thank you notes into the 2018 and beyond. Continue reading Happy New Year – 2018

from turkey to soup – a transformation

It’s Thanksgiving break and I am thankful. I was thankful Thursday morning and I am especially thankful as the break winds to close. It’s Saturday morning, I’ve been on break since Wednesday, really Tuesday night. Three days have passed seemingly in the blink of an eye, or rather two eyes.

I’ve been taking advantage of the break to a couple of nights of good rest. Wednesday and Thursday morning, I was up before the sun rose. Friday morning, I slept late and the sun was up and Ivy was gone. This morning, I was awakening as the sun was rising and Ivy was still nestled up against my leg.

On Thanksgiving Day, the turkey is my job. It’s a pretty simple job, though I have leared that some people make a mess of it. I follow a simple plan.

  • I remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to rest in the sink for an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Unwrap the turkey, rinse, and pat dry.
  • Place the turkey in the roasting pan
  • Pour 1 quart of cold water in the roasting pan
  • Season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.
  • Insert the oven probe in the thigh, making sure not to hit the bone
  • Place the turkey in the oven
  • Set the oven temperature down to 325F and the probe temperature to 175F.
step 1 – roasting the turkey

That’s what I do. I use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey when the oven probe reaches 175 – just as a backup. This year, I added another 5F to finish the turkey and removed the turkey from the oven and covered it with foil until we were ready to eat.

When we were ready with all the fixings – mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with coconut topping, Brussels sprouts, dressing, and gravy, I carved the turkey and re-heated to make sure it was hot. Then we sat down for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was delicious, but it tasted better because the family was together.

After Thanksgiving dinner, W cleaned up. An hour or so later, I finished the job and got down to the business of transforming the turkey into turkey vegetable soup.

I removed all of the meat from the turkey and broke the carcass into smaller bits that fit in the stock pot.  I cover the bones with cold water and placed the pot on the stove over medium-low heat. The stock then slowly simmers uncovered and it takes several hours to render the turkey stock. Before I went to bed Thursday night, I turned off the heat and covered the stock pot.

step 2, making the turkey stock

Continue reading from turkey to soup – a transformation

temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

It’s Sunday morning and I am slowly getting a start to the new week. I am on my second cup of coffee and Ivy has been outside on patrol and she’s back inside. She’s curled up at my feet beneath the desk where I do much of my thinking and writing.

Ivy loves resting in the leaf pile, I think she feels camouflaged….

Friday was my birthday. It was also the coldest day of school year so far. I checked the temperature and it was 16°F. I smiled and thought back to when I was 16 years old. I’ve grown up, but in many ways, I am still that kid who at the age of 16 was looking ahead at the future and wondering and dreaming. It’s been 40 years since that birthday. You can do the math, but I don’t feel like a 56 year-old, however a 56 year old should feel.

Age is a number and it’s temporary. I am constantly learning and growing, or I should be.

Yesterday, I slept late. It was nice to sleep past my normal weekday wake up time of 4:30 AM.

It’s Fall and the cold weather has zapped the trees and the fallen leaves have covered the lawn like a thick blanket with leaves sticking in the beds along the foundation and fences, wherever there might be a stopping point from the wind.

the yard before work began in earnest

The leaves are temporary. They sprout in the Spring and last until the Fall. The cycle is lasts a little less than 200 days from mid-April to early November, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on the year. We have a couple of trees that are now leafless and several trees which are relentlessly holding on to their leaves. By the end of the month, the trees will release their grip and the leaves will fall to the ground. Continue reading temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

driving the bus and the stories we tell

It’s Saturday morning and I don’t know how, or why, it’s been two weeks since my last post, but it has. It’s that time of the year when time flies in the blink of an eye and my ‘cup’ is full, way to fill, a cup brimming over. Perhaps it’s been baseball, or school, or life in general.

The first quarter at school ended Friday and my Houston Astros are battling the Dodgers in the World Series. It’s a long season and there are a few games left before the season’s finished. I’ve been watching the games and rooting for the Astros; staying up late to watch the last innings of each game. Wednesday’s game ended late after going 11 innings and last night’s game ended close to 11 o’clock. Tonight’s game starts at 7, or just after, and I’ll be watching. The Astros need two more wins. I am hopeful.

Last Sunday was my week to drive the bus. The church bus, that is. I drive the bus in my classroom, but that’s rather a figure of speech. I think my students drive the ‘classroom bus’ from time to time when they take control of their learning. But most of the time I have the wheel.

Last year I was asked if I was interested in driving the church bus. I decided that it was a way I could give of my time to the church community, to give back. We’ve been attending the church faithfully since the summer of ’99. It’s the church which sponsors the Boy Scout troop my son belonged to when he was a scout. I’ve take advantage of the Men’s Bible study, though I miss here and there, and I’ve enjoyed the fellowship of the monthly men’s group where I am often the youngest in attendance. There’s a lot I can learn from the experiences of the group and it’s been fulfilling to learn from the men of the church community. But like most things in life, when you give, you often get more in return.

I drive the bus about once a month. I am a substitute drive and drive when the regular drivers can’t drive – there’s a driver for each Sunday in the month. The first Sunday of the month opened last spring and I almost took the ‘job’ but I decided I couldn’t commit with summer approaching and I drove the first Sundays in April, May, and June.

When I drive the bus, I pick up the folks who attend the church, but can’t drive, or they don’t drive any longer. Someday, that’ll be me, for now it’s not.

Most Sunday’s the average age of the bus riders is the mid to upper 80’s, I’d guess. Old enough to be my parents. They all have kids and grandkids and a few have great-grand kids. They’ve lived full lives and since I’ve been driving them I’ve gotten to ‘know’ them, or know some of their stories. They are funny and thoughtful and give me a boost when I drive them to church and back.  I’ve written a couple them thank you notes for making my day.

  • I drive one couple – they’ve been married 72 years and next week, he’ll walk his grand-daughter down the aisle. He was a mechanic in the 8th Air Force when he met his wife in England. They settled in the Baltimore area after the war and moved to Illinois to be closer to their daughter a few years ago.
  • Another rider has been attending the church for over sixty years. She raised her family in the church and attends faithfully – she’s full of energy and the light of the bus when she gets on at the second stop.
  • Another rider, was a cook in the Seabees during the war and remembers the occupation of Okinawa and aftermath of WWII. He had a career with Sears and retired, but still works several days of the week for Home Depot. He’s got a great sense of humor and is full of life.
  • Another rider is the mother of one of son’s former teachers in elementary school.

In all there are at least fourteen riders, though the most I’ve ever had on the bus was twelve. Last Sunday I had nine. I don’t know when I’ll drive next, but I look forward to it.

my riders and me – they make me smile and laugh

I always say hello when I see them at church and they always have a smile for me, too.

At the beginning of last summer, I had the idea to ask the riders if I could record their answers to some questions. It was an idea, and at present it’s still an idea. But, someday, I hope to sit down with several of the riders and ask them some questions and record their stories, but that requires time and some skills that I don’t have, yet.

Which leads me to something which has been keeping me busy. Continue reading driving the bus and the stories we tell

people are like onions

This morning when I opened the Five Minute Journal, I was met with the week’s weekly challenge.

Yes, I am challenged to smile at myself in the mirror for ten seconds. I smiled when I read the challenge and took a screen shot. Not a difficult challenge at all, nothing like the weekly challenge from a few week’s back when the Five Minute Journal challenged me to start a conversation with a stranger.

It made me think of a time when I did have to smile in the mirror.

It also made me think of this week’s photo challenge – layers. It made me think of the following conversation from the movie Shrek.

Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
[Shrek walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

Shrek is right – ogres AND people are like onions, we have layers. Continue reading people are like onions

memory, never forget

16 years ago, this morning, my day was just beginning. It was my son’s first day of school.

our flag flies at half-mast today,

I was teaching geography, the water cycle to be exact. It was the end of second period when she walked into my room. She looked nervous. The bell rang, the students left, and another class walked in, sat down, and then she spoke. It was a prepared statement. When she was finished, she left the room and took the air right out of that room with her.

Our lives changed in that instant. It was quiet and we waited.

But our lives moved on, we learned to help others and be tolerant and work together. Sometimes it was easy, and other times very difficult. But we’ve moved forward and we look back. Abraham Lincoln wrote,

“The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.”

It’s been 16 years. This morning, I’ll teach science and U.S. History to 8th graders who hadn’t been born when it happened. I’ll share my passion to learn and grow daily, even just a little. I’ll share the video below with my U.S. History class and speak every name aloud.

16 years later, my son is in college and he has faint memories of the morning, mostly from listening to our stories – he was 3 years 7 months 10 days old. But, I’ll never forget and every time I teach the water cycle, I remember.

I am a teacher. I am a servant leading with my heart, following with my head.

I am passionate, curious, persistent, thoughtful, energetic, positive, dedicated, caring, driven, faithful, thankful and grateful, tenacious, innovative, creative, courageous, strong, always learning, hard-working, diligent, patient (well, sometimes) understanding, inquisitive, old-school, and loving.

It’s gonna be a great day. I know I will make a difference today, and every day forward. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one little step followed by another.

What will you day to make today a great day?

Three things for Saturday

It’s Saturday morning and I am Up North for three days – Saturday, Sunday, and part of Monday. I am not counting Friday, because we arrived a little after midnight this morning. We left home Friday afternoon along with thousands of others escaping Chicagoland for one last moment along the lakeshore with family.

sunset. standing on the dock looking west in the sprinkles

It’s an old photo, but it perfectly captures the spirit of the lake.

Houston AstrSchool is back in session and the routine and structure of a daily schedule has returned. It’s a good thing, but it means less time to write. I’ve been yearning to write, but haven’t, I’ve had other things besides school on my mind.

First thing – Harvey
If you’ve been reading Making the Days Count for a while you may know that I am from the Houston area and all but one of my family members live in the area. I lived in the Houston area for the first part of my life from the early 60s until I moved away in 1987. In all that time, I remember only a couple of tropical storms and one hurricane – Alicia in 1983. Since then, the area has been hit by several large hurricanes and tropical storms. Recently by Hurricane Harvey this past weekend. Fortunately, all of my family are safe and their homes weren’t affected by the flooding. But there were thousands of area residents and many folks who my family members know who were impacted by the flooding.

Last night as I drove north, I talked to my mom and she shared all of the good things that are happening in the Houston area. I’ve read the stories about how the community is coming together to help those affected by the storm. It renews my faith and makes me #HoustonSTRONG. Continue reading Three things for Saturday