Category Archives: Life in General

Day 61 – patience pays

“What you are looking for and what you find, are often very different and amazing at the same time.” Me

the moth and the black-eyed Susan, a native prairie flower

Yesterday afternoon, Ivy and I sat in the backyard and watched for birds. At least I was looking for birds. Ivy lay patiently at my feet and scanned the edges of the garden. I did see a bunny or two, I am certain Ivy did as well.

my view with Ivy scanning too

It was time well spent. It was relaxing and almost as good as taking a nap, almost.

I observed several bird species including robins, cardinals, and sparrows, I think as well as other species. I also saw a several butterflies and hummingbirds, before I took out my camera.

I was looking for the source of the activity in thicket in the corner of the backyard, when I found the moth atop a black-eyed Susan, hence the quote above.

Continue reading Day 61 – patience pays

Day 60 – Dad’s wisdom

It’s the 60th day of summer break, the 53rd day of my new knee, and my dad was right.

The other night I was picking up O after band camp and I opened the rear door so she could put away her bass drum. And she said,

“It won’t fit!” O sounded frustrated.

“Turn it on its side.” I responded.

She did and it fit. When she climbed into the passenger seat she asked,

“Dad, why do you have to be right all the time?”

“I’m not right ALL the time.” I smiled gently and replied with a emphasis on ALL.

“I’m just right some of the time,” I continued.

 And the conversation shifted to how band camp had gone that day and what she had learned.

another troll….. there are seven 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. More so than normal. He passed away nine summers ago and I don’t think there has been a day when something about him or something he said or wrote has been far from my thoughts, but lately his wisdom has been in the forefront.

Dad was a marine, or I should write is a marine.  W heads off for boot camp in less than two weeks and I think dad’s wisdom about what he learned from being in the Marine Corps has been on my mind, but also dad’s advice about learning and health.

Private Robert N. Watkins, USMC, my dad
Continue reading Day 60 – Dad’s wisdom

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

thinking putty: an experiment in focus

I slept late this morning, but I went to bed late last night. I was working on school work and in the throes of thinking, planning, and writing the time slipped away. By the time I was finished, it was well past my regular bed time. When I crawled into bed, I had to move Ivy who had gone to bed without me and was taking up more of the bed than she should. She was nestled up against my leg when I fell asleep and she was still there when I got up. She beat me downstairs waiting patiently at the door to go outside while I started my coffee.

Gold Rush thinking putty at rest

She and I have a morning routine. When she came back inside, she sat beside the couch looking at me with her ears pulled forward as if to ask, ‘can I?’ I looked back at her and nodded, she jumped onto the couch and I went downstairs to the basement and my office.

November is a busy month. When school is in session all the months are full, but November and February always seem especially full. Thanksgiving is this week and I have two days of school and then we are on break until the following Monday. O is out for break the entire week and she is heading to Disney World with the marching band. She is excited. It will be odd not having her for Thanksgiving, sort of an experiment for what it will be like someday in the future.

I’ve been experimenting lately. I’ve been writing a monthly classroom newsletter for two subject I teach – science and history. I published my latest science newsletter Saturday evening.

I’ve been watching my students and my daughter, O, play with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty . I was wondering if there was something to it and I grabbed a couple of tins for myself, sort of a birthday gift from me to me. It actually is pretty soothing and relaxing to knead the putty stretching, pulling, and squeezing it in both hands. I have two tins Gold Rush and Northern Lights. Continue reading thinking putty: an experiment in focus

driving the bus and the stories we tell

It’s Saturday morning and I don’t know how, or why, it’s been two weeks since my last post, but it has. It’s that time of the year when time flies in the blink of an eye and my ‘cup’ is full, way to fill, a cup brimming over. Perhaps it’s been baseball, or school, or life in general.

The first quarter at school ended Friday and my Houston Astros are battling the Dodgers in the World Series. It’s a long season and there are a few games left before the season’s finished. I’ve been watching the games and rooting for the Astros; staying up late to watch the last innings of each game. Wednesday’s game ended late after going 11 innings and last night’s game ended close to 11 o’clock. Tonight’s game starts at 7, or just after, and I’ll be watching. The Astros need two more wins. I am hopeful.

Last Sunday was my week to drive the bus. The church bus, that is. I drive the bus in my classroom, but that’s rather a figure of speech. I think my students drive the ‘classroom bus’ from time to time when they take control of their learning. But most of the time I have the wheel.

Last year I was asked if I was interested in driving the church bus. I decided that it was a way I could give of my time to the church community, to give back. We’ve been attending the church faithfully since the summer of ’99. It’s the church which sponsors the Boy Scout troop my son belonged to when he was a scout. I’ve take advantage of the Men’s Bible study, though I miss here and there, and I’ve enjoyed the fellowship of the monthly men’s group where I am often the youngest in attendance. There’s a lot I can learn from the experiences of the group and it’s been fulfilling to learn from the men of the church community. But like most things in life, when you give, you often get more in return.

I drive the bus about once a month. I am a substitute drive and drive when the regular drivers can’t drive – there’s a driver for each Sunday in the month. The first Sunday of the month opened last spring and I almost took the ‘job’ but I decided I couldn’t commit with summer approaching and I drove the first Sundays in April, May, and June.

When I drive the bus, I pick up the folks who attend the church, but can’t drive, or they don’t drive any longer. Someday, that’ll be me, for now it’s not.

Most Sunday’s the average age of the bus riders is the mid to upper 80’s, I’d guess. Old enough to be my parents. They all have kids and grandkids and a few have great-grand kids. They’ve lived full lives and since I’ve been driving them I’ve gotten to ‘know’ them, or know some of their stories. They are funny and thoughtful and give me a boost when I drive them to church and back.  I’ve written a couple them thank you notes for making my day.

  • I drive one couple – they’ve been married 72 years and next week, he’ll walk his grand-daughter down the aisle. He was a mechanic in the 8th Air Force when he met his wife in England. They settled in the Baltimore area after the war and moved to Illinois to be closer to their daughter a few years ago.
  • Another rider has been attending the church for over sixty years. She raised her family in the church and attends faithfully – she’s full of energy and the light of the bus when she gets on at the second stop.
  • Another rider, was a cook in the Seabees during the war and remembers the occupation of Okinawa and aftermath of WWII. He had a career with Sears and retired, but still works several days of the week for Home Depot. He’s got a great sense of humor and is full of life.
  • Another rider is the mother of one of son’s former teachers in elementary school.

In all there are at least fourteen riders, though the most I’ve ever had on the bus was twelve. Last Sunday I had nine. I don’t know when I’ll drive next, but I look forward to it.

my riders and me – they make me smile and laugh

I always say hello when I see them at church and they always have a smile for me, too.

At the beginning of last summer, I had the idea to ask the riders if I could record their answers to some questions. It was an idea, and at present it’s still an idea. But, someday, I hope to sit down with several of the riders and ask them some questions and record their stories, but that requires time and some skills that I don’t have, yet.

Which leads me to something which has been keeping me busy. Continue reading driving the bus and the stories we tell

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

3C’s for Sunday

It’s Sunday morning and school is in full bloom and my bucket is full, in fact it’s overflowing. Trying to rationalize how time will be spent between the ‘want to dos,’ ‘need to-dos,’ and ‘have to dos’ is the challenge to leading a balanced life. I am thankful to the time I devoted this past summer break for helping me develop a new habit of starting the day with 20 minutes devoted to thinking about what happened yesterday, what will happen today, and how it will shape tomorrow. It’s in line with my first thing…

my Sunday morning view from the deck…

Curiosity
It takes curiosity to Make the Days Count. I am naturally a curious person and according to my principal in 2014, that’s why he picked me to teach 8th grade science. This is my fourth year as a science teacher and I finally feel like I really know what I am doing. It all comes back to that trait – curiosity and wonder. Last August, in 2016, I wrote a post about the 100 most influential Americans. I promised to reveal who the nine Americans I chose for my classroom were, I never did until this post. Continue reading 3C’s for Sunday