Category Archives: Writing

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

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

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

peek – a photo challenge

It’s Saturday night, it’s late. It’s the night before we fall back and return to standard time.

It’s been a full day. I’ve set the all the clocks back an hour in anticipation of the time change. I am looking forward to driving to school in the morning light, it’s been slowly getting darker each morning over the last couple of weeks. But, conversely, I am not looking forward to driving home in the dark either. There is hope, though the days are getting shorter, they will begin getting longer again soon. It’s the cycle and I don’t need to peek ahead, I know the days will get longer soon.

I ran errands this afternoon and took a side trip to the Morton Arboretum. It’s nestled along a highway, though you’d never know it. It’s bounded by housing developments and a river runs through it. It’s a peaceful place to visit and walk. This afternoon I enjoyed the view from the top of the hill facing west into the rainy Saturday afternoon. I’ve watched the sun set from the same spot before and even though I tried, I could not see the sun peeking through the clouds today.

the sun is nowhere to be found…

While I was there, I stood beneath a pine tree and marveled at the pine cones and the water dripping off the needles and branches. It was peaceful and calming. Rainy fall days tend to bring a sense of calm and serenity. The pine cone seemed to be just peeking through the needles at me.

Continue reading peek – a photo challenge

It’s not magic, it’s science

It’s been raining since early this morning. The rain is welcome as late August, all of September, and the first week of October have been dry, very dry. I awoke this morning to Ivy wanting to climb into bed with me, rather than lie at my feet as she usually does. This morning she was up by my head, then my chest, leaping off the bed and running downstairs, then racing back up, before I finally relented and got out of bed and began my Saturday morning. Long before the sun rose.

The rain has been heavy with thunder and lightning, which is what spooks Ivy.

I had a few appointments in the morning before I was able to get back to writing and thinking or thinking and writing. It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Last weekend was a three-day weekend and I started writing a post, but didn’t finish, so it’ll be one of those blogpost topics which flickered, but didn’t light. I haven’t forgotten kindness, but just been focused on school and home, and of course the long season.

The long season is winding down. The Astros, my team, have made it to the postseason and they’ve advanced to the American League Championship Series, they need 2 more wins to advance to the World Series. I am watching and rooting, though sometimes it’s easier just to listen or learn the score after the game, but that takes the fun out of the game.

It’s all about balance, because sometimes the forces of life are beyond my control.

a balancing act, science, not magic

Last week my science students were beginning their study of forces, motion, and energy. Our focus in class has been to wonder and be curious about how things move. I’ve introduced my students to the magnetic cannon and Newton’s Cradle and last week I balanced two forks with a toothpick on the edge of glass beaker. It’s easier than you think, it’s all about finding the right balance and then trusting that apparatus (the forks with the toothpick) will balance and realizing that if they fall, I can try it again, and again until it balances. Continue reading It’s not magic, it’s science

don’t forget kindness

I am back in school and my windows are limited to the classroom, the car windshield, and the kitchen window I look out in the morning. Of course, there are other windows in my world – our bedroom window which we can finally crack now that cooler fall weather has arrived. This morning, I awoke to a nip in the air as the temperatures had dropped into the upper 40s (10C) overnight.

 

My classroom has two windows – one facing the sidewalk and the other facing the outdoor classroom and the entrance onto the parking lot from the street. Occasionally, there is a class in the outdoor classroom and the students are more interested in what is happening outside. Mostly, the views are uninspiring, but my students do peer out and get lost in the outside world, oblivious to the learning within the four walls. I understand. There are days when I feel constrained, too.

I was reading a blog post by Margaret, From Pyrenees to Pennines, this morning and I was inspired. Thank you, Margaret. It is during the summer, or a long weekend trip, when I can gaze through the windows at the lake. I can get lost, like my students, looking out at the lake.

This past summer I took a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a business trip, of sorts. I had a great time and I learned some new ways to design social studies curriculum. I was indoors during the days – all three days, but in the evening, I was able to explore. Continue reading don’t forget kindness

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?

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!