Category Archives: Life in General

It’s a new (school) year, sort of….

Today was supposed to be the first day of my 2020-21 school year. It will be my 22nd year as a classroom teacher. It was also supposed to the first day of our daughter O’s senior year.

But it’s not. Our first days are a few more days away. My first day of school is nine days in the future and O’s is fifteen.

It’s been a summer of uncertainty and anxiety for many people as the future is constantly changing and beyond our control. I am reminded of a prayer my mother shared with many years ago when I was struggling and needed lifting up,

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

That prayer is better known as The Serenity Prayer. There is so much beyond my control, it is best to focus on the present.

And, I have been. I’ve been making the days count in more ways than I can write about.

Currently, I am on a streak of seven days of walking or working out.

the wooded path from my hike at the Morton Arboretum

A week ago this past Saturday I drove to the Morton Arboretum for a hike, or as it turned out, it was a troll. I was able to take in four of the six trolls on my almost 4-mile hike along the trails at the arboretum. It was my longest hike going back to April and it felt good to walk along the wooded paths and hear the birds and the rustle of the gentle wind through the leaves above.

I believe the trolls – the trolls at the arboretum – are trying to tell us something. Continue reading It’s a new (school) year, sort of….

Father’s Day – 2020

It’s Father’s Day and I am in northern Mississippi visiting with my stepmother. Last year on Father’s Day, I was on my way home from visiting her.

My father died 11 years ago this summer after a fall and a brief illness, and I began writing a year later.

My stepmother had been living independently in Mississippi since he died. Neither my father nor my stepmother is native to Mississippi, but they decided to relocate here after my father retired in 1998. It’s a beautiful town and they have a lovely home.

However, this past winter that independence came to an end after a fall and brief hospitalization. I am grateful that my brothers and I were successful in moving her into an assisted living facility before the COVID19 lockdown shutdown the country.

But life is full of next steps, our next step is convincing her that living in northern Mississippi 621 miles from me in Illinois, 621 miles from one of my Texas brothers, and 630 miles from my other Texas brother is no longer sustainable, especially in the time of COVID19.

visiting on her porch – social distancing and being safe.

Tough conversations. Much like the conversations my dad and I had years ago.

Life is full of twists and turns; it’s full of beginnings and endings where one ending is a new beginning. Continue reading Father’s Day – 2020

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

Tuesday’s Tune – Everything’s not lost

It’s the third week of self-quarantine and I am as hopeful as I was when I penned my last post, Abundance.

Yes, I AM hopeful. Positive. Confident. Certain.

When I started writing and blogging at Making the days Count almost ten years ago, it was a choice.  It was a choice to make my day better every day, even when I failed or fell, or came up short. I chose to look at the ways I could do better. I am still learning.

After I clicked PUBLISH on Abundance, I called upstairs to my wife, B,

“Church at 11,” I made another cup of coffee and went upstairs showered and dressed for church.

It was a bright sunny day. It was a big blue cloudless sky. When I started the car, Coldplay’s song “Everything’s not lost” began to play.

My car’s radio and my iPhone connect and sometimes a song from iTunes begins to play when the car starts. iTunes selects a random song, most of the time I stop the music, that morning I let the song play.

….If you ever feel neglected
If you think all is lost
I’ll be counting up my demons yeah
Hoping everything’s not lost

The church we attend is a short drive and the song, “Everything’s not lost,” was almost over when I parked the car. Chris Martin crooned,

I don’t let it stand in our way
‘Cause my head just hates when I think of
The things that I shouldn’t have done
But life is for living, we all know
And I don’t wanna live it alone

That Sunday’s church service was uplifting, and I left church knowing that everything’s not lost

Since that service on the Ides of March, we’ve been to e-church and we will continue to do so until the COVID19 crisis is over.

my favorite stained glass window – there is light and everything’s not lost

In full disclosure, I started writing this post yesterday, and I am finishing it today on Wednesday. I am not playing an April Fool joke on you by posting a Tuesday’s Tune on Wednesday. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune – Everything’s not lost

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?