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

weathered – a photo challenge

Sunday morning. It was cold out -11 if you use the metric system, or 12 if you use the English system. Whichever scale you use, it’s still cold. It was much warmer Wednesday and Thursday with rain and all the snow melted, but on Friday, January’s cold returned.

I shouldn’t be surprised, it is January and I do live in the Midwest where January temperatures are often below freezing. Often, well below freezing.

my favorite deck chair, weathered and exposed

Freezing temperatures create problems for us here, they harden the ground and create potholes in the roads making travel sometimes hazardous. The freeze and thaw season comes later in winter when the sun’s rises higher in the sky and temperatures rise above freezing during the day and plunge back below freezing at night. That’s when the real weathering begins – freeze and thaw – and it wreaks havoc on roads and anything manmade, or even natural. Rocks break down into smaller rocks, then pebbles, and even smaller. It’s a vicious cycle, yet it’s an essential part of our world. Nothing is really permanent, everything is in transit – from somewhere to someplace.

It’s Monday morning and it’s -7, 18F or so, it’s actually warmed up, so to speak. It began snowing Sunday evening and the ground which was bare this morning, is coated with a fresh layer of white snow. The world is a much brighter place this morning.

trees out back, the snow continues to fall

The days pass quickly and like the weather, a new day is fresh, clean, and ready to be weathered away by time and the elements. Continue reading weathered – a photo challenge

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

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

temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

It’s Sunday morning and I am slowly getting a start to the new week. I am on my second cup of coffee and Ivy has been outside on patrol and she’s back inside. She’s curled up at my feet beneath the desk where I do much of my thinking and writing.

Ivy loves resting in the leaf pile, I think she feels camouflaged….

Friday was my birthday. It was also the coldest day of school year so far. I checked the temperature and it was 16°F. I smiled and thought back to when I was 16 years old. I’ve grown up, but in many ways, I am still that kid who at the age of 16 was looking ahead at the future and wondering and dreaming. It’s been 40 years since that birthday. You can do the math, but I don’t feel like a 56 year-old, however a 56 year old should feel.

Age is a number and it’s temporary. I am constantly learning and growing, or I should be.

Yesterday, I slept late. It was nice to sleep past my normal weekday wake up time of 4:30 AM.

It’s Fall and the cold weather has zapped the trees and the fallen leaves have covered the lawn like a thick blanket with leaves sticking in the beds along the foundation and fences, wherever there might be a stopping point from the wind.

the yard before work began in earnest

The leaves are temporary. They sprout in the Spring and last until the Fall. The cycle is lasts a little less than 200 days from mid-April to early November, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on the year. We have a couple of trees that are now leafless and several trees which are relentlessly holding on to their leaves. By the end of the month, the trees will release their grip and the leaves will fall to the ground. Continue reading temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

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

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