Category Archives: Learning

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

thinking putty: an experiment in focus

I slept late this morning, but I went to bed late last night. I was working on school work and in the throes of thinking, planning, and writing the time slipped away. By the time I was finished, it was well past my regular bed time. When I crawled into bed, I had to move Ivy who had gone to bed without me and was taking up more of the bed than she should. She was nestled up against my leg when I fell asleep and she was still there when I got up. She beat me downstairs waiting patiently at the door to go outside while I started my coffee.

Gold Rush thinking putty at rest

She and I have a morning routine. When she came back inside, she sat beside the couch looking at me with her ears pulled forward as if to ask, ‘can I?’ I looked back at her and nodded, she jumped onto the couch and I went downstairs to the basement and my office.

November is a busy month. When school is in session all the months are full, but November and February always seem especially full. Thanksgiving is this week and I have two days of school and then we are on break until the following Monday. O is out for break the entire week and she is heading to Disney World with the marching band. She is excited. It will be odd not having her for Thanksgiving, sort of an experiment for what it will be like someday in the future.

I’ve been experimenting lately. I’ve been writing a monthly classroom newsletter for two subject I teach – science and history. I published my latest science newsletter Saturday evening.

I’ve been watching my students and my daughter, O, play with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty . I was wondering if there was something to it and I grabbed a couple of tins for myself, sort of a birthday gift from me to me. It actually is pretty soothing and relaxing to knead the putty stretching, pulling, and squeezing it in both hands. I have two tins Gold Rush and Northern Lights. Continue reading thinking putty: an experiment in focus

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