Category Archives: Writing

W^2 – last time?

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, January 4, 2023

I’ve been in northern Mississippi since Monday afternoon. I flew Southwest Airlines, yes that Southwest Airlines. The airline that melted down and cancelled hundreds of flights for an entire week beginning the day after Christmas. It’s been my go-to airline since I began travelling to Mississippi to visit my stepmother or care for the house these past three years.

the moon rising at 5:08, cant’s see Mars and my stepmoms home in Oxford

Yesterday, I engaged a realtor to sell the property. The day began with thunderstorms racing through the area and a tornado warning. By noon, the skies were clear. I took care of a few errands and decided to walk around her neighborhood one last time. Oxford is a beautiful town, and I understand how she and my dad came to love it.

fifteen minutes later and mars is visible

As I finished my walk, the sun had set, and the moon was rising. I’d gotten a message from an app that the moon and mars would be in conjunction and the best viewing time would 5:06 PM. It was still light out and the moon was visible, but Mars wasn’t. I pulled a lawn chair out onto the drive and sat and watched. Within twenty minutes Mars became visible as a small dot above the moon.

I savored the moment; it was a beautiful January evening, and it was pleasant enough to sit outside without a jacket.

twenty-seven minutes after sunset

I’ve enjoyed my visits over the years, but I am hoping this is my last trip to Oxford.

I had entertained the idea of driving to Vicksburg and staying at the Baer House and visiting the Vicksburg battlefield one more time but decided to get home and finish up a few things before school restarts Monday.

It’s a beautiful sunny day at the Memphis airport, but it will be good to get home later this evening.

Today is already an amazing day. I got to the airport ahead of time, I am checked in, and waiting on an airplane. I know it and I can feel it, so I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, looking forward to getting home.

How is the weather where you are?

annus mirabilis

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, I reserve life changing promises for the new year which begins at the end of school, when teachers and students have an entire summer to reflect and reset for a new year. Sometimes these promises work and sometimes, they don’t.

The beginning of 2023 is no different. I’ve been reading posts on the blogosphere and social media disparaging the recently completed year, 2022. I suppose for some 2022 wasn’t the year for them. I read support for the recently completed year, as well.

On the whole, 2022 was, at least for me, an improvement on the previous year. It wasn’t perfect, but most years aren’t.

Early this morning, I discovered a new word – annus mirabilis, or a remarkable or notable year. I found it checking the meaning of another word with my Merriam-Webster app.

I’ve been blogging since the end of the school year in 2010. Blogging was a resolution then, but really it was more of a reaction to an annus horribilis. This post will mark my 728th post that I have published across fourteen consecutive years. That one resolution has changed my life in so many ways.

a Northern Cardinal at the feeder, Monday December 26, 2022

As I reflected this morning, Continue reading annus mirabilis

W^2 – measuring up

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A couple of weeks ago, I was mowing our lawn on a Wednesday evening after school, when I looked up to discover this young boy and his mom investigating the handprints in our sidewalk. His mother was patient as the young boy placed his hands in each of the handprints and repeated the process.

a young man investigates the handprints in our sidewalk, When, IL, Wednesday, September 7, 2022 6:18 PM

The first was the handprint made by our daughter who was four almost five years old and the other, our son who was eight years old at the time. Beneath each handprint, my wife had scratched their initials and the date. The year was 2007.

Our kids are grown. Our son is married, our daughter in college, and one day this young boy will be making his way after leaving his mark somewhere along the way.

We all leave a mark, sometimes it’s visible and sometimes it’s not. It’s in the things we do, the way we made people feel, thew tings we say and write, and the contribution we made along the way.

Today is going to be an amazing day. I know it and I can feel it, so I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, leaving my mark.

How has your Wednesday been?

Summer’s exit and Fall’s arrival

Autumn officially arrives on Thursday at 8:03 CDT. The sun will rise at 6:40 AM and set twelve hours and nine minutes later at 6:49 PM. We experienced our last 7 PM sunset this past Thursday and its bittersweet.

I am enjoying the morning outside at my summer office. The day began cloudy, but the clouds have been replaced by a clear blue sky with a light breeze that gently tickles the wind chime the tree branches above me.

a poppa cardinal and sparrow partake at the feeders Sunday morning

The forecast for the week begins with high temperatures in the low 80s and finishes the month with temperatures in the low 70s. It will warm enough by day, but cooler overnight lows dipping ten degrees to the mid 50s by the end of the month.

Fall Hiking
Last fall, I accepted the forest preserve’s challenge to Take a Hike in collaboration with Edwards-Elmhurst Health. Each week I get a reminder email on Thursday get out and move. I enjoyed last year’s challenge, but I have gotten out and hiked this season. Continue reading Summer’s exit and Fall’s arrival

twenty-one years later

Twenty-one years ago, this morning, I was welcoming my seventh graders into my geography classroom. It was early in the year in the year, and we were building routines and learning. I was learning their names and faces and the lesson for the day was the water cycle.

The water cycle courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

I don’t remember the first two classes, but I do remember when a counselor came into the classroom towards the end of the second class, about 9:20 AM or so. She waited until the class ended, the third period class had entered, and settled and until after the bell had rung and then she made the announcement that earlier in the morning America had been attacked. Her message was scripted and every classroom in our school go the same message at the same time.

I don’t remember the exact text of the message, but I can close my eyes and go back to room B111 on September 11, 2001 and picture the layout of the room on that morning.

On nine-eleven two thousand one, I was 39 and my students were 12.

This past spring, I began volunteering regularly at Loaves and Fishes on Thursday after school. I had been volunteering on Saturdays since early 2020, but I decided to add a new day. Soon, I had been asked to be the lead volunteer for my part of the operation on Thursday afternoon. Loaves and Fishes is a wonderful place, and I am thankful to be part of an organization that helps people in need, especially when the cost of groceries and gasoline have increased significantly. I have also discovered a community of people who care about others, and I have met several parents of former students who volunteer for the organization. It’s a small world.

It was the last day of school and summer had begun when I walked into the market at Loaves and Fishes for my Thursday afternoon shift.

I saw Michelle and we greeted each other, and she shared a story with me. It went something like this:

Michelle – you teach at Scullen, right?
Me – yes, I do.
Michelle – Do remember Judy? She was the nurse.
Me – Yes, I remember Judy and I remember having her son Joey in class. It’s been a log time.
Michelle – I was at a going away party last weekend for Judy. She’s retired and moving to Wisconsin, and I mentioned I had me you at Loaves and Fishes. She remembered you and we were talking, and Allison overheard us and joined our conversation, do remember her?
Me – yes, I do. I do remember that name – it was our first year at the school and we were all new.
Michelle – well, she remembers you.
Me – WOW. Really? I remember her, too. I hadn’t thought about that name since she was in my class. That’s a long time ago.
Michelle – yes, it was and she does. She told the two of us that every year on 9/11, she remembers being in your class and being scared and that you were calm and reassured her and the class that everything would be okay.
Me – WOW (and at this point I am beginning to tear up)
Michelle – Ally’s married and has two kids and lives in the area.
Me – We all grow up, thank you for telling me this.

That’s how I remember our conversation and it’s stuck with me since.

This summer I started my baseball trip in New York City. The first game was Sunday at Yankee Stadium and after the game I drove to Washington, D. C. for another game. I returned Tuesday for third game and the possibility of visiting the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the time I was in New York City. But I figured I could at least visit the Memorial before I left for my Philadelphia and game four.

Tuesday night I set alarm for early Wednesday morning, before sunrise. My plan was to walk to the memorial which was less than a mile away from my hotel. It was early morning twilight, and I was surrounded by tall buildings blocking much of the light. New York City was beginning to waken, even though I suspect the city never sleeps, it’s always moving. Cars, buses, and trucks were beginning start the day and few people were walking with me. Some going to work and other heading home.

I passed a church that was refuge on 9/11 and the days after as people sought comfort. Continue reading twenty-one years later

day is done

It Sunday and the second day of a three-day weekend. It’s Labor Day weekend where we spend the weekend working to put away summer and prepare for fall.

the sunset on wide angle

Three years ago, we weren’t here, but our neighbors along the shoreline pitched in and put away our stuff. It’s a community here, a microcosm of what the world can be if all of us could simply get along. I am full of gratitude for that act of kindness and concern and always will be.

There is power in community.

Yesterday we toiled to pull boats, move lifts, unbolt dock sections, and worked together as a family and a community.

Then when the sun began to set and all of us stopped to watch the sun slowly dip beneath the horizon and declare completion to the day.

the sunset on zoom

Last night, I waded into the lake to capture last night’s sunset and it did not disappoint, it never does. The sunset always amazes me as it has countless people going back in time.

It’s Sunday, there is more work to be done. The kids are still sleeping, exhausted from a full day and then being up late with their lake friends. By the time the sun sets this evening, we’ll have summer packed away until next year.

It’s going to be a great day. I know it and I can feel it. Sunday by the lake in early September means making the day count by pitching in and doing what needs to be done. So, I had better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days count, one day at time.

How is September going for you?

The Lion Sleeps Tonight – part 2

Yesterday was my twenty-fourth first day of school, well, not completely. I was with teachers and administrators for meetings and new school year information, but kids will arrive Thursday. I am excited and I am sure the kids are, too..

I have one more day of meeting and a FULL day to work in my classroom and prepare for Thursday’s real first day of school with kids.

After school, I asked a colleague to film the solution to the riddle I posed in last week’s Tuesday’s Tune – The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight

Before the solution reveal, let’s review the rules.

  1. The raft needs at least one animal to paddle it across the river, and it can hold at most two animals.
  2. If the lions EVER outnumber the wildebeest on either side of the river (including the animals on the boat if it is on that side), the lions will eat the wildebeest.
  3. The animals cannot just swim across – there are crocodiles in the river, there are no tricks, the animals must use the raft as described in rule #1.

Did you give it a try?

If so, how long did you persist in the challenge?

And now the solution…… Continue reading The Lion Sleeps Tonight – part 2

last day of summer break

It’s Sunday and I am sitting at my summer office and listening to the gentle whirrrrr of the hummingbird at the feeder to my upper left. It’s Sunday morning quiet and except for the occasional car, truck, or airplane I can hear the birds singing in the trees. Fern and Ivy laying nearby enjoying the time outside.

Friday evening, I noticed it seemed darker than normal at 8:15 PM. Early Saturday morning, I read the morning New York Times email which confirmed Friday evening’s observation, summer is waning.

Confirmation of my observation piqued my curiosity so, I researched. As it turned out, Wednesday August 9th was also the final 8 PM sunset for this summer where I live. The next 8 PM sunset won’t occur for another 274 days or until May 9th. Being curious, I researched further, here are some lasts and nexts, in case you are wondering:

  • the last 7 PM sunset 9/15/2022, the next 7PM sunset, 3/17/2023
  • the last 6 PM sunset 10/22/2022, the next 6PM sunset, 3/12/2023
    change in daylight savings time occurs 3/11/2023
  • the last 5 PM sunset 11/5/2022 at 5:41 PM but the shift away from daylight savings time makes the sunset on 11/6/2022 – 4:40 PM, the next 5PM sunset, 1/27/2023
  • the earliest sunset occurs at 4:21 PM between 12/3 to 12/14/2022

If you are curious, you can research your location using the Time and Date sun calculator. There is a plethora of information: sunrise, sunset, sun angle, and more.

I am an early riser. At the height of summer, the sun rises early, and it is light before 6 AM. The sunrise has been later each day, too. Summer is waning. Continue reading last day of summer break

greetings from our garden

I love our garden and our backyard. I enjoy sitting at the patio table outside and working. We’ve lived in our home almost 31 years and it has evolved and grown.

The backyard is peaceful and calming unless a lawn crew next door or across the street. But lawn crews are here briefly, except for Saturday morning, but I am usually out of the house volunteering at the food pantry. The birds nor the flowers seem to mind.

hydrangeas on the south side of the house

This morning Fern and I woke before six and we spent our morning routine outside on the deck. The birds chirped, mostly house sparrows and cardinals, but I have seen American robins, black capped chickadees, house finches, and an occasional American goldfinch at the feeders. And the hummingbirds, occasionally I’ll hear a buzz to my left and look up to watch a hummingbird move in for a drink. Continue reading greetings from our garden

Tuesday’s Tune – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

As a kid I never gave thought to what teachers did over summer break. I was free. I could sleep late, stay up late, and read what and when I wanted.

I am finishing my twenty-third summer break as a teacher. That first summer, 1999, really wasn’t a break at all. It was spent applying for jobs, and interviews, and finally landing a teaching job in the middle of July.

photo courtesy of the Express – click to read the article – King of the jungle: Dramatic moment ferocious lion kills wildebeest in just 60 SECONDS

I remember that interview well, it was more a conversation than an interview. I remember walking out of the principal’s office and seeing the eleven o’clock interviewee waiting and thinking that I had nailed the interview. Actually, we both did. Both of us were hired that year and will still teach at the same school, today.

Now twenty-three year later, I know teachers are busy but I can still do those things I did as a kid. But school is coming and it’s like a lion.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight

The end of summer is like the lion, it sleeps and then roars. School begins next week, and I’ve spent summer doing those things I said I’d do when school was out, and I had more time. I’ve also spent time thinking and re-thinking how I am going to approach this year. I took a class, and I taught a class and though it all, I am ready to get back to school next Monday.

Last week, I taught a class. It was a one-day teacher’s camp, and it was optional for all of us – teachers and learners, though only teachers came. The class I taught was titled, Lions and Wildebeest – using Puzzles to Engage 21st Century Learners.

The class was based on a lesson that I taught last spring. It was a Monday lesson before spring break. My science classes had finished a major unit the previous Friday and taken the test. We had five days before spring break with three days of state-mandated testing set for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Experience taught me not much beyond testing would be done that week and I needed a lesson to encourage my students to be curious and full of wonder and be ready for the fourth quarter which would begin the Monday after break.

at my summer office… the tools needed to solve the puzzle

So, I introduced Lions and Wildebeest. It’s a riddle. The riddle challenges students to think and collaborate. Exactly what was needed for our students. The premise is simple, Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune – The Lion Sleeps Tonight