Saturday, November 12, 2016

And This is Why I Teach

Some thoughts--
This week was difficult.  First, on a personal level.  My husband has been having various health complications involving hospital stays which reached a pitch this week with an investigation of his heart. In the end, all came out well, but balancing work and health is always extra difficult when you are a teacher with some 180+ students to occupy with substantive material while you are gone. Teaching is not a call in sick and get back in bed kind of job.

And then, of course, there were these election results.
When I got to school on Wednesday, the anxiety in the students bristled.  "My dad will be deported," a student told me.  "He hasn't passed the citizen test yet.  Will they still let him take it?"
"How can this happen?" I heard.  "How can a candidate who was supposed to be a joke win?"
"How can someone win the popular vote, but not become the president?"
"Are you disappointed in our country?" I was asked.
"Who did you vote for?" I heard again and again and again from children with apprehension in their eyes.
"I'm not supposed to say, " I responded, hoping my tone would be enough of a clue. And then, "But my candidate did not win."
My students are the children of hopeful immigrants whose parents are often cleaners, construction workers, yard men or gas station attendants.  Their parents left unstable or hostile governments in Eritrea or Bosnia or Nigeria.  They are also from Egypt and Vietnam and Colombia, from Taiwan and Nepal and Ethiopia. Some of them are the children who were rounded up at the borders of Mexico and detained.

Sometimes people ask why I do this job. Sometimes I ask myself.  At least once year or more, I find myself exhausted, trolling through Linkedin looking for a different kind of job--one that pays better, one where you can, on occasion, shut your office door, or put your head down on your desk if you have a headache, or at least go to the bathroom when you need to; a job where you don't have to spend your weekends and evenings working even more, a job where you aren't always always always a role model, a job where people don't call you a saint for doing it.

And then comes a week like this and I know why I do it.  I teach because I have to walk the walk.  I have to put my money where my mouth is.  If I want to see change in the world, I have to work to make it so.  I have to immerse myself in the hope of tomorrow--these wily, hormonal, exuberant youths who sometimes can barely read on a third or fourth grade level, who know little of the world and fail standardized tests that are written for those whose parents had time or knew to--or could-- converse with them, read to them, or take them to the zoo or museums or the woods.  I have to embrace these kids, meet them on their level and pull them up so they will not fall into the fatal social morass of gangs or drugs or cyclical welfare.

Youth is inherently optimistic.  Young people believe they can change the world.  And I believe they can too. But they need support--especially kids like I have.  Kids with very thin safety nets.
So, I can't go to work helping people who are selling soft drinks, or running an airline or a television station.  I would never be happy doing that.  I have to help society in my small way, by teaching kids to read and write and be decent human beings.  To be decent human beings.  To add to the world, not detract from it.  To be decent in spite of it all.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Fall has always been my favorite time of year.  I love the way the light shifts and becomes hazy and gentle.  I love how the leaves crunch under foot and float down from the sky or skitter over the ground with the breeze.
Fall is like a big sigh.  Like the world has been holding in or building up as the August temperature gauges push over 90 degrees day after day--then comes that first little sneak of a cool morning, and I know the sigh of relief is on its way.

Yes, it was 85 yesterday, and today too.  But autumn is here.  The pine straw is everywhere!  My roof and yard are starting to pile up with straw and pinecones and leaves.  No use raking it yet though.  There's still plenty more to come.

The heart shaped leaves of these camellias always make me smile when I see them in the driveway.

I have been able to work some on the Convergence Top and it is sweet reunion with my old friend the crochet hook! I got the yarn for this two summers ago.  I didn't feel like crocheting a summer top in the middle of winter when I finally got around to finishing longer projects, and then I lost my mojo and didn't feel like making it at all for awhile.  But oh!  I am glad I am making it now!  It is easy and fun to watch the yarn stripe itself.

Well--I'm off!  Busy as always, and here come the trick-or-treaters!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Work and Play

I really think I have never had a busier school year.  I get to work earlier than ever before--usually by about 6:20.  The principal is on making reminders announcements about then, and then the kids enter at 6:50.  I am on all day. Most days the 90 minutes I have for "planning" is taken by a meeting.  No kidding--I'd say three out of the five days really there is a meeting.  Lunch is 20 minutes, and I work like a crazy woman during every minute of it.  I push myself to leave the building by 3:30, but a couple of days a week I stay until 4 or nearly 5.  Of course I take work home, though I don't always do it, except on the weekend; I have to get everything caught up and ready for the race of the next week.
I don't think people realize what high school teachers really do.  I have fewer students this year than last.  Only 170 or so ('or so' because each week some move in and some move out). Last year I had 200!
But that's how it is.  I am not complaining, just saying.  Really, it's amazing what we are asked to do.
So, I've been doing SCHOOL mostly--All caps this year, and an exclamation point too. SCHOOL!

Last weekend, I really slowed down--and this one too.  Lying around a lot.  Knitting some. Browsing catalogues or watching knitting tutorials, activities I find strangely relaxing.

We also cleared out our sadly neglected garden.  Worms devastated our green beans, so we picked the beans and pulled out the depressing remains of the plants.  We still have some cowpeas growing, but worms pretty much got to them too.  Next week or the next, I think we will build up the planter boxes and try to put in some beets and radishes maybe.  Not too many plants.

A handful of determined little beans!

We've had fair harvest on tomatoes, and really productive poblanos.

The cucumbers and eggplants did not produce well, and I wondered if it was for lack of bees.  Our bee keeping neighbor moved away.  And really, there have been fewer bees.  I wonder what it would take to keep some hives myself?  I am a friend of bees and try to plant bee friendly flowers.  I'll have to look into it.

Aside from work and garden, I have managed to get out and about a little. A friend has an art exhibit downtown.  I love the animalness of her artwork, and these are not too grotesque (as I find some of her work--you know like, interesting but too much to look at every day in your house kind of work--seems a lot of artists I like fall into that realm, now that I think about it!).

Exhibit by Linda Hall at Eyedrum, ATL

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


And why have I been neglecting this blog?  Because I started school--which zaps up a lot of my time, and because I have been preparing for a long weekend in Chicago.

It isn't easy as a teacher, to take a few days away from the classroom.  But this was one of those essential trips.

Essential because I had to take my son off to school.  One of the things that made us laugh was the package of tissues in the parent orientation bag.  (I managed not to cry until I was on the plane home by myself.)  

Oh!  I will miss this boy.  But I am so proud of him and wouldn't hold him back for anything.

Chicago is a most excellent city--vibrant and moving and beautiful.  I had never been there before. Funny how I have been to cities all around the world, but never really visit US cities as a tourist. I usually go to wilderness places in the US. And I have missed out!  

I know it gets cold there in winter--all those revolving doors and ante-room entrances are not just for the fun of twirling around or shaking out your umbrella.  I think that idea of cold has put me off Chicago in the past--the idea of Chicago.  The "Windy City."  I don't like wind.  As a rule.  But, I fell in a sort of love with this place, even though my phone camera photos aren't so good here, and I can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Backyard Stories

Little by little I work on taming this big backyard of mine.  It is a huge chore, and I often wonder what I could do to make it easier.  Last summer I looked into the idea of hiring a herd of goats to come eat down ivy, but it was beyond my budget.  So, no cute goat solution.  Sometimes I imagine owning a couple of goats, just to have them on hand, but I don't know anything about raising goats, and the kind I want (tiny ones) would need a dog to guard them from our occasional predators (coyotes and maybe hawks?).
Anyway, for now the solution is the lawn mower, which punishes the machine because the terrain is full of rocks and decaying logs.

The wild part of the yard

When the children were small, they used to naturally keep all the ivy down. Fallen sticks became swords or huts, and pinecones got loaded up into wagons and hoarded as ammunition.

We also used to have a lot of outdoor parties in the fall and winter.  Under the existing clumps of ivy is the site of our old fire pit. I found the remains of burned wood today, though I've long ago removed all the granite stones that rimmed the fire ring to use as a decorative boarder in the more organized, less natural part of the yard. A few of the almost entirely decayed old stumps people used to sit on by the fire are gradually crumbling back into the earth under the ivy.
Neighbors and friends used to come with food and sing and swap stories and kids roasted hotdogs and marshmallows and ran all over the place.  I remember one party where there were about twenty or more kids armed with glowing light sabers engaged in battle on the more lawny part of the yard away from the fire.
My oldest son celebrated his off therapy party with a backyard cook-out.  A young guest accidentally smacked him in the face with a flaming marshmallow!  So terrible!  It was impossible to see what was black burned marshmallow and what was burnt skin.  I phoned the doctor immediately.  All turned out okay.  The party even continued.  But, what a shock!

Now, I don't have any kids running around, and the dog is kind of old for chasing squirrels.  So, it's up to me to go out and pull down ivy that runs up the trees year after year.  And deal with the cut down bamboo my son and husband got a little over zealous in felling (they enthusiastically to cut down the stalks, but then just left them lying there).  What to do with this bamboo? 

Older neighbors (who have passed on now) used to tell me about Mr. Childs, who owned this house long before I did, and how beautiful he kept this backyard. Indeed, bits of his work still exist, but I am sad to say I am no Mr. Childs.

This morning, I cleared and cut and pulled ivy and dead limbs.  The rabbits ran around for a bit until it got too hot for them and they hid.  Have I got a guard dog here, or the big bad wolf?  More big bad wolf I'd say, but hawks looking down might think otherwise.

Of course, I wasn't the only one out working this morning.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hiking in the Heat: DeSoto Falls

Well, we tried to find somewhere cool.  We headed to the hills, to leafy woods near water.  But it was hot anyway.  Too hot really to be thoroughly enjoyable. The air was thick with humidity, everything everywhere perpetually damp.  But it was a short hike with sweet details along the way.

Late rhododendron. Petals scattered across the trail as we walked.

Moss on more than just the North side.

The trail cut between two waterfalls and we hiked to both the upper and the lower fall.  The falls are not incredibly dynamic in the Colorado or Washington kind of way, but they are splendid nonetheless.

Upper falls--which may be only the middle falls--as we heard that the upper falls trail was blocked by fallen trees that were harder to remove than merely shutting the trail and relabeling the signage.

Lower falls

At the end of the hike, we found ourselves in one of those crazy Southern cooking places--a real House of Heads.  They stared out at us from every wall. Not sure I understand the psychology of this--why you want to admire the beauty of an animal you have killed, or are eating.

Monday, July 18, 2016

High Summer

I saw this banner yesterday, and it truly is high summer now.  I am realizing I only have a few weeks left and then I am back to school again.  In fact, even I was writing this, someone texted me about work stuff and I had to shuffle around in that world a little.  (Ah!  It's like the tide is coming in!)

The Studio Ghibli weekend movies have come to an end.  We had such fun seeing them!  If you are not familiar with them, they are animated Japanese films.  We chose to see the subtitled movies, though some are dubbed.

While, I would say, the beauty of nature is a major delight in all of the movies, several have overtly environmental themes--Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Pom Poko. Pom Poko is about some raccoons that lose their habitat.  It was my least favorite of the movies I saw and I would really put it into another category--the"cute" movie.  Pom Poko and the popular My Neighbor Totoro were both child pleaser type movies with cute beasties and lots of happy images.
I preferred the historical movies like The Wind Rises (about an airplane engineer during WWII) and the sad, sad, super sad Grave of the Fireflies (about orphans in WWII).
Best of all I loved the mysterious, are we in this world story movies Spirited Away and When Marnie was There.  I didn't get to see Howl's Moving Castle, unfortunately, but I think it would fit in this category too and I hope to see it one day.

Haha!  I sound like a real fan, eh?  Well, thank you to my wonderful son who pulled me into these.  I certainly would not have gone to these movies without him! They were so delightful, unexpected, gorgeous, and creative!  I really loved them.

Meanwhile, it rains and thunders.  The garden grows.  I read and knit.  On and on.

Boot toppers--my 2nd venture into cables  Pattern from