Category Archives: Learning

It’s a new (school) year, sort of….

Today was supposed to be the first day of my 2020-21 school year. It will be my 22nd year as a classroom teacher. It was also supposed to the first day of our daughter O’s senior year.

But it’s not. Our first days are a few more days away. My first day of school is nine days in the future and O’s is fifteen.

It’s been a summer of uncertainty and anxiety for many people as the future is constantly changing and beyond our control. I am reminded of a prayer my mother shared with many years ago when I was struggling and needed lifting up,

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

That prayer is better known as The Serenity Prayer. There is so much beyond my control, it is best to focus on the present.

And, I have been. I’ve been making the days count in more ways than I can write about.

Currently, I am on a streak of seven days of walking or working out.

the wooded path from my hike at the Morton Arboretum

A week ago this past Saturday I drove to the Morton Arboretum for a hike, or as it turned out, it was a troll. I was able to take in four of the six trolls on my almost 4-mile hike along the trails at the arboretum. It was my longest hike going back to April and it felt good to walk along the wooded paths and hear the birds and the rustle of the gentle wind through the leaves above.

I believe the trolls – the trolls at the arboretum – are trying to tell us something. Continue reading It’s a new (school) year, sort of….

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

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

W-squared – sunrise

Last Friday’s sunrise. I was fortunate to see it. I was placed in exactly the right place at the right time, by chance. That’s how life happens. I was on my way into Chicago and I pulled over to the side of the road to take the photo. I missed last Wednesday’s wordless post, but I haven’t missed making the days count since and I won’t stop.

I was asleep this morning when the sun rose, but it rose anyway, and tonight the sun will set and maybe I’ll see it, maybe I won’t. But it will come up and in between those sunrises and sunsets, I’ll be making the days count. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

What are you doing in between the sun rise and sunset?

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