It’s Monday and I am writing my first ‘summer’ post. The definition of summer is, well, open to interpretation, but for me it’s summer and has been for seven days. I am not a meteorologist who define summer as June 1 and the summer solstice, which this year is Thursday, June 21 at 5:07 AM. I am school teacher and I define summer as the state of not having students in class from June to August. This year I have 72 days of summer break and I am going to make each one them count.
The week prior to school ending, I asked my students how they were going to make the summer break count and I passed out cards numbered 1-80. I’ve done this before and the results always surprise me. My students travel and travel far – Dubai, India, and China as well as our border states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri. They look forward to summer camp, horseback riding, and being with friends. Their off to high school in August and their 80 days disappear as quickly as my 72 days do.
Now that doesn’t mean that I am going to sleep away my summer, far from it. In the seven days since summer began, I’ve been back in my classroom three days to work on a project and I am still not finished with it… I’ve been to the health club three times, though it should have been five times. I skipped yesterday and opted to watch the Astros play baseball.
It’s spring break and we are in Florida. Specifically, the Keys. It’s a favorite place of ours for spring break. Summer, of course, is a different matter.
As a teacher I get Spring Break and fortunately, for me, our children’s spring break is the same as mine.
The past three spring breaks, we’ve come here – Key Colony Beach – in the middle Keys. We’ve been here several other times as well going back to our first visit in 2002. My wife’s memories date back to her childhood. It’s where my son earned his scuba certification before his summer Boy Scout high adventure trip to the Florida Sea Base a little further east from where we are currently staying.
We booked our trip well before school started and we’ve been looking forward to coming back since last year’s trip. We were worried that the adventure would be a little different this year due to Hurricane Irma’s visit in September ’17 – six and half months ago.
Where we staying appears to be back to normal. However, there are signs everywhere that there is a new normal. The landscaping where we are staying is all new and many of the properties around us are still being repaired. Several properties have not re-opened and we discovered yesterday Bahia Honda State Park, our favorite Florida State Park, is still being restored, or at least our favorite spot – the beach along the Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading my favorite place – a photo challenge→
It is Sunday morning and it’s that time of the year when we leap forward. I went to bed at a reasonable time last night, but I woke up early, earlier than I normally do on a Sunday morning. I would have preferred to stay under the covers for another hour or so of sleep, but I didn’t.
It was still dark and I looked out my bedroom window at the crescent moon rising in the eastern sky. Friday morning, I was up at the same time, though being up was a conscious choice, the sky was clear and I could see Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter ibn line with the moon. It was impressive.
It’s been over a month since I’ve posted. The late winter and early spring is always a grind. School is busy and home life is busy, too. It’s also the time in my school life when I see the hard work that my students and I have put it begin to blossom.
Several weeks ago, I was greeted with the quote below during my morning routine of the Five Minute Journal.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin (1903-1977) Cuban-American author
It was Presidents Day (2/19) and I planned to write that day – it was a holiday and I was off from school. But, I didn’t finish the post or really start beyond typing the quote and saving the file on my laptop.
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→
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.
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.
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→
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.
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 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→
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been raining since early this morning. The rain is welcome as late August, all of September, and the first week of October have been dry, very dry. I awoke this morning to Ivy wanting to climb into bed with me, rather than lie at my feet as she usually does. This morning she was up by my head, then my chest, leaping off the bed and running downstairs, then racing back up, before I finally relented and got out of bed and began my Saturday morning. Long before the sun rose.
The rain has been heavy with thunder and lightning, which is what spooks Ivy.
I had a few appointments in the morning before I was able to get back to writing and thinking or thinking and writing. It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Last weekend was a three-day weekend and I started writing a post, but didn’t finish, so it’ll be one of those blogpost topics which flickered, but didn’t light. I haven’t forgotten kindness, but just been focused on school and home, and of course the long season.
The long season is winding down. The Astros, my team, have made it to the postseason and they’ve advanced to the American League Championship Series, they need 2 more wins to advance to the World Series. I am watching and rooting, though sometimes it’s easier just to listen or learn the score after the game, but that takes the fun out of the game.
It’s all about balance, because sometimes the forces of life are beyond my control.
Last week my science students were beginning their study of forces, motion, and energy. Our focus in class has been to wonder and be curious about how things move. I’ve introduced my students to the magnetic cannon and Newton’s Cradle and last week I balanced two forks with a toothpick on the edge of glass beaker. It’s easier than you think, it’s all about finding the right balance and then trusting that apparatus (the forks with the toothpick) will balance and realizing that if they fall, I can try it again, and again until it balances. Continue reading It’s not magic, it’s science→