Category Archives: Reading

Letter No. 8

It’s Sunday morning and it’s quiet for now. I enjoy the weekend mornings because I can sleep a little later than I normally do during the week and there isn’t the urgency to get up, move, and be someplace. Though sometimes that isn’t always the case.

I let the group walk ahead…..

Last weekend I took a bird walk and had to be out of the house by 7:30 AM Saturday morning. It was an organized bird walk with a trained naturalist at the Morton Arboretum. I signed up in August when I was excited about learning about birds. I still am excited about learning more about birds but the time to learn and watch birds is fleeting with school back in session. The bird walk, added a bit of urgency to last Saturday morning’s get up and go, but it was worth the time. I enjoyed the walk with a group of folks walking the paths and trails and seeing things I don’t normally see. It helped me model the science homework I assign my students daily – be curious and full of wonder. I shared last weekend’s adventures with them last Monday when they asked how my weekend was – a few were interested and pressed for more questions and others were the typical 8th grader. I shared that my newfound curiosity was inspired by a book I had started to read – Where the Poppies Grow by British author John Lewis-Stempel. I discovered the book while reading post on Margaret’s blog, From Pyrenees to Pennines in April. I make the headway with my students anyway I can and I am still reading the book.

This weekend is a little different. O and her marching band have a band competition, but she didn’t need to be at school early Saturday morning as she has in the past couple of weekends. This week’s competition was across town and her band won top honors in its class. So far, this marching season, they’ve had three competitions and I’ve seen them all. Next week they are on the road and we will be, too.

The weather turned for the weekend and there is a fall-ish chill in the air. The skies are clear and it is cool. Yesterday at the band competition the stands faced the afternoon sun and it was in our eyes, but when the sun dipped beneath the horizon it cooled down and there was a definite nip in the air. My body is not quite use to the cooler air, but by November and December my body will be ready for the cold which lies ahead. 

It’s that time of the year when keeping up the blog is a challenge. School is taking time and other activities – parenting, being husband, and taking care of the home and myself take precedence over writing a blog post. This past summer, I didn’t write as frequently as I had in previous summers. But, I had many things going on with a new knee and my son leaving for marine boot camp. In place of blogging, I’ve been writing him letters. So far, I am up to No. 8. I penned it yesterday morning and I’ll pen another this afternoon or evening.

Friday Night’s Lights – the sky was orange (our colors) before the game, but turned red (their colors) to finish the sunset – the Tigers came up short 41-20 but it was never close.
Continue reading Letter No. 8

Day 36: halfway

We’ve been by the lake for a little more than a week. It feels good to relax and take it easy, even if I can’t get into the water, yet. I know my day will come. Today marks five weeks and a day since my last day of school and my summer break has been full of surprises. It also means summer break is at its halfway point.

It’s also been four weeks and a day since my knee surgery and the incision is healing well and it looks good, but I am erring on the side of caution before venturing into the lake or submerging or exposing my new knee to any sort of water beyond a shower. Yesterday, I checked with my physical therapist and she told me to wait, so I will. A few more days out of the water are a small price to pay.

We’ve been spending our summers along this lake since we were married and I recall my first visit in the July of ’92. Each summer has a been a bit different, there were the years before we had kids, the years of infancy and the toddler years – twice, the years with the in-laws and now without them, and now the teenage years and post teenage years, for one. Our kids are growing and so are we. This place is full of memories for me and our kids and there is a constancy in our place by the lake.

Last Friday marked a first, at least for me. I was sitting on the deck reading when I looked up to see a float plane landing on the far side lake. I am certain there have float planes which have landed and taken off on the lake before, but I had never seen one or seen pictures of a float plane on our lake.

Friday, taxiing to the small bay

I grabbed the good camera and took photos. I watched as the plane taxied along the shoreline and anchored in the bay not far from our cottage. I wasn’t alone, almost all of the folks along the lake watched as the plane moved down the lake to the bay. Continue reading Day 36: halfway

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 26 – last day in June

Saturday, the last day of June. July begins tomorrow.  It’s the 26th day of summer and the 19th day since my right knee replacement.

I began writing a post Wednesday morning and never finished writing. I re-read what I wrote this morning and decided it’s easier to re-start from scratch rather than try to re-phrase what I had already written. Delete.

my morning coffee companion

When I began blogging in the summer of 2010, every post began with the number of the day of summer break and a title. Hardly anyone read those posts, but I kept going and writing.

Yesterday, I read a post from Susie at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. I’ve been following Susie’s blog for a while and I always enjoy what she has to share. It made me re-think why I blog and what I get out of it.

Since, I my writing has improved and  I’ve gained confidence as a writer. Practice helps. There have been some good posts and some not so good posts.

This summer has been a journey, much like that first summer. I had total knee replacement surgery almost three weeks ago. I am walking without pain and though I am still sore, I am getting stronger every day. Before the surgery, I had no idea what to expect and I was a little anxious. I’ve been diligent about my rehabilitation and am re-learning how to walk. Because my knees have been so bad for so long, I’d developed a way to compensate for the knee pain. With one good knee, the old way to walk has to go the way of the old knee. After the surgery, I am already looking ahead to TKR#2 – the left knee.

This morning Ivy and I enjoyed sitting outside. I sipped my coffee and Ivy alertly surveyed the yard. It was an unseasonably warm humid morning, but there was a gentle breeze to move the air. Ivy and I enjoyed being out of doors. The leaves gently rustled in the breeze, birds chirped, and I looked up to see a momma cardinal and a poppa cardinal partaking from the bird feeder. I frequently see robins and other birds and I can hear the cardinals with their distinctive call, but rarely do I see them so close. I am not a birder, but I am interested and curious. This summer I began reading a book Where the Poppies Grow by British author John Lewis-Stempel. I discovered the book while reading post on Margaret’s blog, From Pyrenees to Pennines in April and ordered the book. I saved the book for my summer convalescence. It’s the story of English soldiers and their interest in nature as they served along the Western Front in the Great War. The first several chapters describe the soldier’s birding habits. Lewis-Stempel uses excerpts from soldier’s journals and it’s quite interesting to read the descriptions of their observations of the birds, nests, and eggs. They certainly knew their birds.

momma cardinal is hard to spot, for a reason.

Continue reading Day 26 – last day in June

wondering and wandering – it’s shiny!

I am easily distracted, so much so I need to be away from distractions. When I first read Andrea Badgley’s weekly photo challenge, I identified.

Wrigley Field, and me…

I am in the basement, outside it’s rainy, or was raining, and it’s wet. Whether it’s raining or not, sitting on the deck and writing would be a bad idea this morning. The basement is dry, thankfully. The family is sleeping, reaching for that last bit of sleeping in late.

Lately, I’ve been distracted by just about everything. Sunday afternoon, I was writing a letter to my mom – more on that later – and I could not keep my mind on what I was writing and my pen, a fountain pen, would dry and I’d need to constantly re-wet it. I finally finished the letter Tuesday and put it in the mail with four thank you notes. I have another letter I need to write – this one to a former student and I’ve been dragging my feet, or rather allowing myself to get distracted.

It’s the ‘shiny’ stuff that gets me off topic and wandering and wondering.

Last week, I took in two baseball games one by myself, and the other with my favorite daughter, O. I root for the Astros. She roots for the Reds, and the Cubs, but the Reds are first. She’s been wanting to go to a Reds game and this week they’ve been in Chicago. She mentioned it last week and reminded me yesterday.

O is off to high school next week and freshman orientation was Tuesday afternoon with a parent orientation Tuesday evening. Continue reading wondering and wandering – it’s shiny!

satisfaction: bottled sunshine

It’s late July, and it’s that time of the year. Back to school. O and I were out shopping today and stores are in full swing with their back to school shopping sales. I read Jen H.’s Weekly Photo Challenge post and I certainly identify with her, I love school supplies and office supplies. School is around the corner; 24 days and counting for my colleagues and I.

Monday’s sunset – getting in position….

Summer break has been satisfying, though I feel my bathroom scale is lying to me. Perhaps, summer has been too satisfying. O and I returned Tuesday morning for marching band camp. B and Ivy remained Up North by the lake. B’s awaiting her sister and her son – our nephew – who arrives later today. O and I will be back for the weekend. We’re both excited to see them and have fun at the lake. This weekend is race weekend and there will be fun by and on the lake, then fun as spectators watching the canoe race. And who knows what else we will find to do. It will be a great weekend.

At this point during summer break, I begin to panic. Usually, it’s where did summer go? Not this summer, it’s been largely a summer full of satisfaction. I read the week’s photo challenge and as always, it’s wide open. I checked the meaning of satisfaction and Merriam and Webster define satisfaction as:

2a: fulfillment of a need or want
2b: the quality or state of being satisfied: CONTENTMENT
2c: a source or means of enjoyment: GRATIFICATION

Summer break comes along at the perfect time in the school year for kids and adults. The learning and growing and teaching that happens requires a great deal of mental energy and by year’s end we’re both exhausted. This summer has had the right amount of contentment, perhaps according to my scale, a tad more contentment. Continue reading satisfaction: bottled sunshine

#FinishSTRONG

It’s that time of the year. It’s the end of the school year. As of this moment, there are 19 days remaining in the school year, that is if I count school days only. Sandwiched in between those final four weeks are three weekends and one of them is a three-day weekend. The kids know it, the teachers know it, there is no good way to hide it. So, I don’t try to hide the fact that the days are slipping away towards summer break.

Memorial Park – Sunday, April 23 – today was just as sunny, but the tulips weren’t as vibrant.

Right now, it’s the middle of spring. The flowers and trees are blooming and today is a beautiful sunny spring afternoon. The sky is so blue, I can almost taste it. Last night, we had a frost warning, but I didn’t see any frost on the yard or on the rooftops when I looked out across the yard this morning. It was cool, but evidently, not cold enough.

But warmer days will soon be here, then summer, summer break, and before I realize it, I’ll be back in school again. It’s a cycle, the always repeating cycle of life and the seasons.

A couple of weeks ago I got the email below from a student. Continue reading #FinishSTRONG

Road Taken – a photo challenge

It’s late Saturday evening and the day is almost done. The sun set hours ago, and it’s dark now. The moon is visible in the clear western sky. Last night it lightly snowed and this morning when the sun rose its warmth melted the fresh layer of new snow. Spring, at least official Spring, is a little more than a fortnight away, but all indications are that Spring is here.

the road taken – this morning and most Sunday mornings to church

I woke early, made coffee and began work before the sun rose this morning. I was driving to church when I snapped the photo. It’s the road I take to church or downtown or whenever I visit the Northside of town. This morning was the monthly men’s group gathering and I joined this year. Most of the time I am the youngest member of the group. It was my turn to get donuts. Continue reading Road Taken – a photo challenge

A Time for Everything

I’ve been blogging for almost seven years and writing for even longer. It doesn’t seem possible, but I’ve written more than 500 posts and when I click ‘Publish’ it will be 525. Over that time, I’ve written mostly for me and I have developed a small modest following. I am grateful to the friendships and e-relationships I’ve developed. My mom reads and occasionally comments when we talk, but doesn’t leave public comments. But, the original focus was to develop as a writer and maybe, just maybe, write for a broader audience.

the first crocus of 2017

In early January, I noticed an advert in our church bulletin looking for writers for the Lenten Devotional. The advert in the bulletin asked for a scripture reference and I tore off the slip and dropped it in the office message box. A week or so later, I got an e-mail and it read:

Hi Clay,

Thank you for registering to contribute to the Lenten E-devotional. I have you on the list for this scripture passages: Ecclesiastes 3.  Please submit your devotional to this email address by February 10. I look forward to reading it.

Blessings,

So, I sat down and wrote a draft and came back to it a few days later. When I was finished, I called a work colleague asked for editing advice and she told me I had nailed it and offered only a couple of revision and stylistic edits and I submitted the piece.

Yesterday morning, my FIRST piece of public writing landed in my e-mail box, promptly at 5AM. I had no hint of when my devotional would be selected, but it was first. I beamed. I forwarded the e-mail to my mom, my brothers, and my colleague. It felt good. Then, I went about my day.

Before I left the house for school, I received an e-mail from a friend with the message – ‘Enjoyed your devotion. Great Job!’

Below is the Lenten Devotional I wrote.

A Time for Everything

Seasons. That is what I love most about living in the Midwest. I grew up in Southeastern Texas along the Gulf Coast. Most of my family still lives there and my mom still lives in the house where I grew up. Southeastern Texas has two season – HOT and mild, with an occasional dip into cold.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” Ecclesiastes 1:1

Continue reading A Time for Everything

Solitude – a photo challenge

It’s Saturday and I find myself searching for solitude. It’s been a peaceful day, so far: Men’s group at church, a Saturday morning webinar on Tinker vs. Des Moines, a bit of school work, and a power nap. Earlier, I found a bit of solitude at my desk after the webinar and I’m back after the nap. At the moment, I have the sounds of “Still Wild” by La Mar playing. It has a pleasant beat and it’s peaceful and calming.

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl and an unofficial national holiday. I don’t have a preference who win, I only hope it’s a good game. In previous years, I have made my predictions known, not this year. Tomorrow will be a busy day getting ready for the coming week.

I read the WordPress e-mail and post WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude yesterday after school. I pondered the topic this morning; I was stumped. Finally, it came to me this afternoon.

The lake: magic – a photo challenge.

Saturday afternoon’s view the sun shines

We were up at the lake last for Thanksgiving. We had a good time and celebrated Thanksgiving and enjoyed the peace and solitude of being Up North. We invited our neighbor, Mr. Bill over for Thanksgiving dinner, he’s retired and a full-time resident along the lake. He’s also a diehard Detroit Lions fan and they had won the Thanksgiving Day game with a field goal as time expired. I always look forward to seeing him. When we talk, it was always about family, friends, and the peace and solitude along the lake. Especially, the lake.

At school, my science classes Continue reading Solitude – a photo challenge