Category Archives: Learning

a first Sunday and two sunsets

It’s been a while since I’ve penned regular posts. I’ve gotten out of the habit writing weekly or writing at all.

As the new calendar year began, I made note of some things I wanted to change. I suppose I could have selected another place on the calendar, but the timing coincides with my return to work (tomorrow) after five weeks off due to my second knee replacement. I now have matching scars.

The past half year has been busy…..

In June, I had my right knee replaced at the beginning of summer break and I planned my left knee replacement to coincide with winter break knowing I would be missing the last three weeks of ’18 in recovery. Ironically, two of my other school colleagues were experiencing similar journeys with their knee or a spouse’s knee.  

In November, our son graduated from marine boot camp and we traveled to southern California to be with him. Our son left home for boot camp in August and I replaced blogging with letter writing. In all, I wrote seventeen letters. I haven’t written a letter since late October, but it is on my list. Our son is still training but he has his phone and computer and it’s easier for him to communicate electronically – he texted me several times yesterday and it was nice to hear from him. But I’ll resume the old-fashioned way with an envelope and a real stamp. We had a day to unwind after his graduation and I snapped the photo below of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. It was a peaceful end to an exciting couple of days. The day after our son’s graduation from boot camp was my birthday and it also happened to be the USMC birthday.

the sunsets at Imperial Beach, California – 11/9/18

After our son’s graduation, he was home for a week before he returned to finish his training.

Continue reading a first Sunday and two sunsets

In the beginning…

Merry Christmas.

I was 7 years old when the photo above was taken. Every time I see it, I remember listening to the Apollo 8 astronauts reading the first ten verses of Genesis as their space capsule orbited the moon. I can remember sitting in front of the black and white television in my pajamas with my two brothers. I was in first grade and enamored with the American space program.

50 years later, I am still amazed by what lies beyond Earth. The past few weeks, I have awakened early in the morning to see Venus brightly illuminating the pre-dawn sky. The sun brightly illuminating the sky. This morning, it was a reminder of what lies beyond.

Each time I see the moon, I marvel at the achievements of America’s space program – despite what a professional basketball player recently denied, men did reach the moon and return safely.

But today, I marvel at the photo and the possibilities that exist for our world. As Bill Anders, one of the three Apollo 8 astronauts, remarked,

“We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth,”

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders
Continue reading In the beginning…

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 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

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 18 – trolls

It’s the 18th day of summer break and it’s 11 days post-op. I am doing well, very well. I’ve been up walking, with support, since the first day. Hours after the operation, I was up with a walker and an assistant and I made my first steps on my new knee. Those first steps were tentative at best. Each day is better and each day I get a little stronger and more flexible. I am thankful.

trolls….

Going in to the operation I was excited and anxious – I wasn’t sure what to expect and I tried to envision what it might feel like, but I had no idea what lay ahead. I had talked to folks who had had their knees replaced; each told me that once they had completed the physical therapy, they were surprised how normal their knee felt. Normal meaning pain-free. They encouraged me to do the exercises and do the physical therapy – with integrity.

My surgery over a week ago this past Monday and I was home the next day late int eh afternoon. Before I came home, I had a visit from a physical therapist to see how far I could walk and if I could manage stairs. I passed and got my walking papers. Since, I’ve been up and down stairs – carefully – one step at time and I’ve been faithful in my physical therapy, I listened.

My first physical therapy appointment was Wednesday morning and I’ve had two more sessions on Thursday and Friday. Then the weekend arrived, I did my exercises, moved, and made time to ice my knee. I’ve also been careful with my meds and with managing my pain. I came home with some pretty serious stuff and I’ve been able to forgo the meds (for the most part) and manage the pain with Tylenol for arthritis

I listened. I’ve been doing heel-slides, calf-presses, leg lifts, side leg lifts, marches, standing side leg swings, leg curls, and calf raises to name exercises I can name. All of the exercises are basic, simple, easy to perform, and designed to re-build my right leg’s strength, range of motion, and endurance. Each day gets better. Continue reading Day 18 – trolls

Marvelous Monday: Day 7

It’s Monday and I am writing my first ‘summer’ post. The definition of summer is, well, open to interpretation, but for me it’s summer and has been for seven days. I am not a meteorologist who define summer as June 1 and the summer solstice, which this year is Thursday, June 21 at 5:07 AM. I am school teacher and I define summer as the state of not having students in class from June to August. This year I have 72 days of summer break and I am going to make each one them count.

coffee with Ivy – she sleeps, I sip. It’s a fair trade.

The week prior to school ending, I asked my students how they were going to make the summer break count and I passed out cards numbered 1-80. I’ve done this before and the results always surprise me. My students travel and travel far – Dubai, India, and China as well as our border states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri. They look forward to summer camp, horseback riding, and being with friends. Their off to high school in August and their 80 days disappear as quickly as my 72 days do.

Now that doesn’t mean that I am going to sleep away my summer, far from it. In the seven days since summer began, I’ve been back in my classroom three days to work on a project and I am still not finished with it… I’ve been to the health club three times, though it should have been five times. I skipped yesterday and opted to watch the Astros play baseball.

It’s a Marvelous Monday because…… Continue reading Marvelous Monday: Day 7

All-time Favorites… a photo challenge.

I’ve been blogging for eight years now. That’s a long time and much has happened in my life since I sat down to write that very first post the Saturday morning after school let loose in 2010. That happens to all of us.

I’ve been inactive on the blogosphere for quite a while. 64 days… my longest stint of inactivity, ever. I had attempted several Weekly Photo Challenges and I started writing a couple of other posts, but didn’t finish them and when I had time to complete them, they were no longer relevant or the original idea had escaped me. The photo below was a for a post which did not make it……by the way, I love clouds.

thunderstorm clouds over Saginaw, MI as seen from Grayling, MI over 80 miles away. Incredible.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a couple of high school classmates and they asked me about my absence and I explained I had just been busy, very busy. Family, school, and me. Sometimes in a different order. They urged me to write again and I said I would.

So, I was surprised to read that this week’s photo challenge is the last.

Yesterday morning I poured over previous weekly photo challenges going back to the very first post in April 2014. I remember that first photo challenge post well and I recall writing many of the posts and can recall where I was sitting while I worked. Memory is a remarkable gift. Along the way, I’ve met some remarkable bloggers and I began following many new folks seeing new things and new places. I’ll miss that……. Continue reading All-time Favorites… a photo challenge.

indoor flora

It is Sunday morning and it’s that time of the year when we leap forward. I went to bed at a reasonable time last night, but I woke up early, earlier than I normally do on a Sunday morning. I would have preferred to stay under the covers for another hour or so of sleep, but I didn’t.

the purple hyacinth slowly opens up and blooms

It was still dark and I looked out my bedroom window at the crescent moon rising in the eastern sky. Friday morning, I was up at the same time, though being up was a conscious choice, the sky was clear and I could see Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter ibn line with the moon. It was impressive.

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted. The late winter and early spring is always a grind. School is busy and home life is busy, too. It’s also the time in my school life when I see the hard work that my students and I have put it begin to blossom.

Several weeks ago, I was greeted with the quote below during my morning routine of the Five Minute Journal.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin (1903-1977) Cuban-American author

It was Presidents Day (2/19) and I planned to write that day – it was a holiday and I was off from school. But, I didn’t finish the post or really start beyond typing the quote and saving the file on my laptop.

That was almost three weeks ago. It seems like the other day, a blink in time. Continue reading indoor flora

Snow day – three things for Friday

It’s a snow day today. I am in my basement office chair listening to a new favorite band – the Avett Brothers. It’s peaceful and calm and using the morning to catch up on stuff that needs catching up on. I have a stack of papers in my school backpack that I plan to get to, but for now, at this moment, I can be present and reflect on the week behind and the week ahead.

the morning view through the front window

The SNOW DAY
Yesterday the buzz in the hallways and classrooms was all about the impending snow day. There was a lot of energy flowing- the kids, the teachers, everybody. I told my students that what we started Thursday was due Monday, regardless. So far, I have four ‘My Life as a Water Molecule’ stories handed in. Pretty good considering they’ve got three more days to do it.

I was on my way home when I got the call, or rather the tweet. First my daughter’s school district and a second later my school district tweeted – no school Friday.

I’d stopped at the grocery store on the way home for food and supplies my wife had asked me to get. She’d been shopping earlier and our fridge is full. She was working on a pot of chili when it began to snow. There is no good reason to leave the house today, except to clean the driveway or play in the snow.

It’s supposed to snow all day today and snow more tomorrow and Sunday. Then, next week rain is forecast for Thursday. February in the Midwest. Spring will be here before we know it.

SPRING is on the way….
My students and I have been tracking weather and sunshine data for 37 locations across the globe ranging from Tromso, Norway to Stanley, Falkland Islands since December and 35 more locations in between. Last week, we crossed the ten hours of sunlight threshold and we are headed for equal daylight and night on the equinox March 21st. Today we have 10 Hours and 23 Minutes, even though it’s cloudy and snowing. After the snow storm, the sun will shine brightly and the sky will be clear blue. Continue reading Snow day – three things for Friday