Category Archives: Life in General

milestones and May 2020

Today is going to be an amazing day and it marks several milestones.

  • It is the first week of my summer break,
  • It’s the last day of May,
  • It’s been over eleven weeks our state closed schools until early April, then early May, and finally for the year,
  • I’ve been living and working by the lake for nine weeks,
  • It’s been five weeks since my last post, AND
  • I’ve been blogging for ten years and two days.

It’s also the last day of my Coronavirus protest beard. The last day I shaved was the last day I went to school – Friday, March 13th. When began my protest, I anticipated being back in school in a few weeks. Today, after I press ‘publish,’ the beard goes.

early morning view of the lake – each hour is a little different

The final day of the 2019-20 school year ended Wednesday. It ended awkwardly and with uncertainty. Many of my students embraced shift to e-Learning, but sadly many did not. The ones who did are the students who had good habits and strong learning skills. The ones who didn’t, are the students who need the routine of school and even with being in the classroom these students struggle with learning or completing learning tasks. Looking back, it’s these students who are the reason I gravitated to teaching and middle school. I was one of those students who struggled in the classroom in middle school and early high school. It wasn’t until I was a junior that I figured it out.

Summer break began Thursday morning but living along the lake for nine weeks has allowed me to enjoy the benefits of remote teaching and learning remotely as well as the benefits of summer break while living and working. I’ve been fortunate to take advantage of the wilderness around us – the forest, the lake, and walking and hiking trails. I’ve taken some amazing walks through the forest trails, along the river, and along the lake shore. Most of all it’s the movement and the freshness of the air that has lifted me in the isolation of quarantine. It’s the balance of nature rising with the sun and resting with the sun’s setting that has made the biggest difference over the past elven weeks.

It’s been five weeks since my last published post, but I’ve started writing posts, stopped and didn’t finish. Mostly because I had teaching – preparing, assessing, and communicating – my primary job that took precedence. I have other jobs which kept me from writing – husband, father, son, brother, friend, dog owner, and self and each of those had multiple tasks – cook, housekeeper, and gardener to name only a few of the many roles I (we all) take on and try to keep balanced.

Walking and Hiking
Since the quarantine began, I’ve been walking and hiking more. Surely the weather has been a factor as spring began and temperatures became warmer and the days got longer.

Hartwick Pines State Park is a short drive from the lake, and I’ve enjoyed the many hiking trails through the park. My favorite hike is the shortest hikes – a little less than two miles, but it’s the most peaceful, even though it’s likely the most popular trail in the park. The hiking trail is through a virgin pine forest and there is a chapel along the route to pause and reflect. The trail passes through a former logging camp constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Continue reading milestones and May 2020

Abundance

It has been a strange week, rather it’s been a challenging year or so.

A week ago, I was in Mississippi helping my elderly stepmother transition from her home to an assisted living facility. I spent almost half of February in Mississippi. My last two posts were from or about my trips to encourage and assist my stepmother.

Even further back, one year ago I was mourning my mother who passed away after a brief illness on March 2, 2019. I wrote about it last year in my post, Where do I start?

However, my church or rather my faith has inspired this morning’s post. My mother was a woman of faith – she had to be. Raising three boys single-handedly – all born within three years of each other and getting all three of to adulthood could be considered a miracle. But she had help, her faith. For the past several years, my church has asked parishioners to write a Lenten reflection to be shared daily. This past Tuesday morning, this year’s post landed in my In box and I re-read my Lenten reflection. It is my second piece of published writing. My first piece was published in 2017 – you can read (or re-read) it here.

I wrote the reflection while sitting in my stepmother’s hospital room glancing out the window at the vase of yellow daffodils. It seems as if the theme of yellow has been in my life subtly for several years. Below is my Lenten Refection.

God will provide

Last spring when our mom passed away, my brothers and I gathered to plan our mom’s memorial service. The church provided a funeral service planning document with the order of the service with suggested Bible passages and hymns. We had so many questions, what would mom want? What were her favorite hymns and Bible passages? What was mom’s favorite color? What kind of flowers would she want? And so on. We had no idea. It was overwhelming. Continue reading Abundance

Home

I took the photograph below somewhere between Memphis, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois. It’ was Saturday evening’s sunset from a little more than 30,000 ft or 10,000 meters above Earth.

sunset – Saturday, 2/22/2020. 30,000 feet above Earth

I was on my way home Saturday afternoon from a week in northern Mississippi helping my stepmother who had been living by herself since my father passed away in July 2009. It was my second trip and there are likely to be more trips in the future for my brothers and me.

Our flight attendant interrupted the quietness of the cabin to call attention to the evening’s sunset. I was seated in the middle seat and my seatmate to the left had to pull up the window shade to reveal the setting sun. I was struck by the beauty of the colors along the horizon.

The weather had been delightful on the last few days of my trip to Oxford. We had an early morning frost on Friday and Saturday morning, but the sun shined brightly and warmed to the upper 40s (about 10C) at the height of the day. Skies were cloudless Friday and early Saturday allowing a brilliant night sky I am unable to appreciate at home in Chicago.

I’ve been home for a more than a full day now and I am back to school this morning. I have missed working with my students and I am looking forward to a fresh new week full of excitement and learning. I know it’s gonna be a great day – full of curiosity and wonder, and a little catching up, too. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one day at a time.

What is going to make your day count today?

yellow – it’s a new year

Good bye 2019. It has been a year. A lot of it has been good and some not so good.

Yesterday we were at the lake and this morning we are home.

falling snow makes a day magical

I re-read my first post of last year – a first Sunday and two sunsets. Last year, I had planned to write more often but didn’t.  There were a lot of distractions AND diversions throughout the year from the beginning until the end. Habits changed, life intervened.

In March, my mother passed away after a brief illness, in May we got a puppy, in August we got the midnight phone call every parent dreads, and in December it all came together and we finished strong.

These three seemingly disconnected events are connected by a common theme – the color yellow. I suppose the color of the year for me was yellow, but I am taking the color with me into 2020.

O has always wanted a puppy. The problem with puppies is they don’t stay puppies, they grow and mature into dogs. O got her puppy in Ivy but Ivy became my dog and she was no longer a puppy. Ivy is an amazing dog, but she isn’t a puppy

It started before Mother’s Day with a text and a picture. Her name was Yellow. She was the same breed and coloration of Ivy – liver and white Brittany Spaniel. The breeder used colored collars to tell the puppies apart, her collar was yellow so she was Yellow.

Then there was a four and half hour Saturday drive to Southern Illinois and back. O drove the first leg with one puppy and I drove the return leg with two.

the first day together – Ivy and Fern (Yellow)

When we brought her home, Yellow didn’t have an official name, yet. O wanted to call her Bailey, but B didn’t think she looked like a Bailey and there was already a Bailey in the neighborhood and bailey ended with a long E sound like Ivy and B contended it would be confusing. Continue reading yellow – it’s a new year

Christmas morning: timing is everything

It’s Christmas morning and the puppies and I are the only creatures stirring. Ivy is content to lie beside me and stare out the window into the yard. A few minutes ago, Fern awoke and needed to go outside. Fern has discovered squirrels and enjoys keeping our yard safe.

This morning when I awoke after a fitful sleep, I peered out our bedroom window and was greeted by this morning’s sunrise. A few minutes earlier, or later and I would have missed it entirely. Timing is everything in life.

This past year has been full of twists and turns and I am full of gratitude. Timing is everything in life from waking at the right moment to getting the care one needs at the precise moment. I am thankful.

I don’t know what tomorrow has in store for me, but I do know today is a day to savor and share with family.

For unto us, a savior has been born and he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2: 11)

It’s a day to remember what the day is really all about.

Today is going to be a great day, possibly the best day ever. So I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Carpe diem! Making the Days Count, one day at a time, using timing to my favor.

What greeted you the moment you awoke this morning?

Fall day…

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post, I am out of practice. Somehow over the past year, I’ve fallen out of my routine of writing. When I began writing making the Days Count dot org I embraced the writing routine. Writing is a healthy habit and I am thankful that my fall from blogging hasn’t been a health issue, but rather a time issue.

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it’s a beautiful sunny day – gonna make it count! #makeitaGREATday

A post shared by Clay Watkins (@makingthedayscount) on

A year ago, last summer, I had my right knee surgically replaced; six months later in December 2018, I had my left knee replaced. My writing took a back seat to recovery and almost a full year later, I am fully healed and pain-free. I can’t tell you how much better I feel and how much easier it is to move. This past summer I was able to do things I couldn’t have imagined doing before the two knee surgeries.

This afternoon my son, W, and I went for a walk at the Morton Arboretum. Continue reading Fall day…

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?

curiosity

We can learn a lot from our dogs. I’ve learned a lot from Ivy, our Brittany Spaniel. Fern, our Brittany puppy is a work in progress. She’s made a lot of progress since we brought her home seven weeks ago, but we have a lot progress to make.

Ivy’s perch and Fern’s new spot…someday she’ll outgrow it.

A couple of mornings ago, Fern and I were out for a walk. I needed to move and so did she. Walking a dog is an exercise in curiosity, walking a puppy is a course in curiosity and patience.

Fern is learning and so am I. As we walked, Fern was discovering a new world, even though we had walked part of the same route a day earlier. Fern discovered objects I didn’t see – pine cones, sticks, and sadly, trash – paper and plastic.

Fern saw insects and birds – I could see them, but she noticed them and followed them with her head and would pull on the leash give chase to them. Continue reading curiosity

Three things for the FIRST day of summer

It’s Saturday morning, the first day of summer, and for the moment it’s not raining – though rain is in the forecast. Three things to celebrate.

Saturday morning used to be my ‘go to’ writing time, but for the past year I have been letting it slip by filled with other tasks. I have been occupied with other things and Word Press stopped its Weekly Photo Challenge. I went back in time to check out my last WP Photo Challenge posted exactly a year ago tomorrow. All-time Favorites… a photo challenge.

Motivation
It’s the first day of summer according to meteorologists. Meteorologists, or weathermen, consider summer to be June, July, and August. Of course, some of us believe summer won’t officially start until the solstice, or in my case until school is out. And there are the folks who hold fast to the idea that summer begins with Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day. But however, you define it, it’s summer.

The school year is a little longer this year. We had five days added to our calendar; two days for snow, two days for extreme cold, and another day was added to school calendar for Good Friday – somehow the Good Friday was overlooked when the calendar was adopted last year. Nevertheless, school is out next Friday for me and next Thursday for my eighth graders.

Every year about his time I look back to where I was in August when the school year began and reflect on the successes and failures of the school year. It’s where the blog began and this post marks the first post of my tenth year at MakingtheDaysCount.org.

As I look back at the year of 2019-19 and the 2009-10 – the two years have much in common. I used that first summer of blogging to practice writing and process the previous year. It was an exciting to write and I began to read and explore other blogs. I hope to reignite that writing passion this summer.

In with the new….
But, not out with the old. Nine years ago, we had adopted a puppy. That puppy is now a dog and she is the best dog ever. Ivy has woven herself in to the fabric of our family.

Ivy as a puppy – four months old. June 2010

Two weeks ago, we added Fern.

Continue reading Three things for the FIRST day of summer

Where do I start?

Really, where do I start?

March has been brutal, in like a lion, out like a lamb. It’s an old saying to describe the March’s weather and while it’s true in the upper Midwest that’s not the reference I am making.

It’s been a while since I started a post, even longer since I finished and published one. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s that I’ve been distracted and not sure what to say and write.

a lone tree overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

I’ve been thinking about what ‘making the days count’ really means the past few months going back to this this past summer. I’ve been a in writing drought of sorts. Four posts in six months.

A friend of mine recently shared with me that he thought I was ‘one of the most positive people’ he knew. The compliment buoyed my spirits at a time when I needed a boost.

It’s spring break and I am, or rather, we are in the Florida Keys for a week of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. I know I am need of all three.

Four weeks ago, tomorrow morning, I opened my Five Minute Journal and was greeted by,

“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”  Ann Brashares.

It was the day I knew, we all knew, was ahead of us. Continue reading Where do I start?