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What really matters

Posted by on 24 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: editorial, Family Matters, friends, Gardens and Life, good things, Making a Difference, musings, Uncategorized

I started this month with every intention of making my goal of 50,000 words for the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. But between working, the conference and this last week when I really couldn’t write, I know I won’t make that goal.

And it’s okay. I made it almost to 18,000 words, which would be a reasonable amount most months. Here is a small graphic that shows how close I got to my goal:

They aren’t good words, the story doesn’t hang together and it’s not worth revisiting. I posted the writing I did as PDFs, but rather than linking to it here, I will tell you it’s under the Fun category, subcategory Literary Pursuits. If you choose to visit it… ye have been warned! (insert pirate laugh) And so I am letting go of this goal. I can try again next year, perhaps my mind will be more clear and I will be less distracted and distractible.

I went to the National Council for the Social Studies convention in Seattle last weekend. It was everything I had hoped for, and then some. I had to make some tough choices about what sessions to attend and what sessions I should hope to hear about later. I intended to go to a naturalization ceremony that was presided over by the amazing Sandra Day O’Connor, but I was so miserable with allergies that I decided to take some antihistamine and wander around the exhibitors’ hall. I was sad to not see one of my heros even from a distance, but it was better to rest and take care of myself than to push.

Because I followed my intuition, I met several people I would have missed otherwise, and a wonderful man, Dr. Mark C. Schug, and I had a nice conversation about his book Economic Episodes in American History. I like the innovative approach. Viewing history through economic decision-making allows students a lens to think about how their own decisions affect their lives — future lives, as well as present — and to see how other people have chosen in similar situations.

I also met Susan Austin, who gave me a copy of her book, The Bamboo Garden. A fun, easy-to-read novel I am enjoying reading it slowly when I am in the car waiting for kids. It is set in a time that we don’t often think about, and the painterly descriptions of people and places are marvelous. I am thinking about how I would use this book to teach intermediate-grades empathy as well as descriptive writing (something that I enjoy helping students learn).

I had intended to read voraciously this past week and this weekend, all the materials I obtained at the convention. But my eyes, which struggled so much in grad school, decided to hit me again. Between all the reading I was doing of materials that are not printed at a size that works for my eye defects, the dry air of the convention center, the antihistamines and sheer exhaustion I have barely scratched the surface.

So I am letting go… the materials will be here on the days I don’t work, I will have plenty of time to read over the two weeks of winter break and on the inevitable snow days this winter.

The garden is in decent shape, though already I have lost a few plants that should have been brought inside earlier. We have pruned two trees, and vacuumed out the cars today. We didn’t dig up the dahlias, and we didn’t move all the gardening equipment down to the wellhouse yet. It will happen, and the garden next year will be a lot quicker to start and a lot easier to maintain.

It is hard to let go, to realize that it’s okay to not get to everything. It is hard to choose which single thing should be done today, this moment, and which will simply have to wait until time, energy, opportunity or money allow.

I had a lovely conversation with a friend on the phone this evening. We could have talked for hours, but we talked about mostly one thing, and then let the rest go until another time.

I have been thinking about the loss of my dear friend, Hetty, earlier this month. When I saw her last time, I promised that “next time” we would play scrabble… and next time won’t happen. I won’t get another chance to see Sandra Day O’Connor, either. I won’t have another chance to attend the workshop that was titled “Teach Like a Pirate” (I heard later that it was excellent). And I won’t be able to bring back the dozens of dahlias that disappeared over the last many years.

But in the time that I have had, I have made progress. When I was with Hetty, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. And when I attend a different convention someday I will have other opportunities.

What really matters, in the end, is not what we intend to do, or what we didn’t do — what matters in the end is what we are doing in this moment.

What really matters, is being present to what we are able to do, right here, right now.

What really matters?

Repost: 2009 “Writer Profile”

Posted by on 23 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: musings, parenting, stidmama, teaching, Uncategorized, writing

I wrote this for the class I took called Ecology of Language and Place. It was posted on April 13, 2009. Although I would rework it some today, the essence of the piece is fairly intact. I was actually looking for something else, and discovered that the class blog was still active! Here is a link to the original, I believe you can get to other things I wrote at that time through this.
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Science and Experience (delayed post)

Posted by on 24 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Gardens and Life, musings, Uncategorized

I began to write this in October 2012. Here at the beginning of 2014, now finally teaching and dealing with flexible thinking as I and the family adjust to the changes of the last year, I am putting it up for comment — I do not consider this a completed piece, but a holding post until I can get the time to do justice to this topic. Thoughts and comments are invited!

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Not happening. Or maybe it will.

Posted by on 12 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Family Matters, garden, Gardens and Life, musings, NaNoWriMo, parenting, Uncategorized

NaNoWriMo has not been working out for me. I have been distracted by real life, and real life has not been a lot of fun. SO…. halfway through the month I will try to get more written, but it’s not looking hopeful. Meantime, I was prompted to write a short intro for a teaching website, and this is what I wrote:

I became a certified teacher after my own children were almost grown and gone. I have loved working with learners all my life, from the time I helped in a reading group at a library when I was ten, through high school and college when I tutored my peers, to homeschooling and volunteering in classrooms when I became a parent. My certifications include Elementary Education, Middle School Humanities (social studies and language arts grades 4-9), and Reading (all grades). In addition, I am fascinated by science and mathematics, and devour new information in those areas. I love learning! I have a large yard with a garden (fruit trees, flowers and fabulous veggies), a family that includes my spouse of over 20 years, two children, and a dog.

Life, Love, Loss and Learning

Posted by on 05 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, good things, musings, social justice, Uncategorized

Feeling a little or a lot sentimental this evening, I am thinking about what it’s all about.

If life isn’t about (and for) doing good, even great, things, then I am barking up the wrong tree.

So, what is great, or even good? Does it mean becoming someone like Steve Jobs? He was apparently so enamored of his own greatness, or at least genius, that he rarely ever listened to others. He was certainly no great philanthropist. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to remember or imagine what life was like before the Apple products changed personal computing and communications. He opened up the world to so many people.

I think, though, that genius is not as important as love. It’s what motivates, stirs the imagination, and helps people persevere through the most difficult times. Love gets the tired parent up in the middle of the night to tend to an ill child, prompts one spouse to work longer or harder so the other can rest, inspires a stranger to reach out to help another. The list is long, the tasks whether small or large are powerful, and the results are often miraculous.

It’s what gets us through times of loss, which I am sure the Jobs family is experiencing, and what many others who knew him or followed his journey will go through as the reality, the finality, of his death hits. Loss is a motivator, too — wanting to make a difference before it’s too late, to leave something behind. But what?

For me, it’s about learning, but not selfish, sponge learning. It’s about learning that allows people to do or be better than they were. To learn to write in order to communicate. To learn to listen in order to hear. To learn to consider, to weigh evidence, to explore. To learn to get along even while standing up for those non-negotiable issues and projects that light up our lives. We learn, and then we do. We learn, and we become. We learn and our lives, and the lives of those around us, are made better.

What’s it all about?

It’s about living, in the best ways we can, each of us becoming great in ways small or big.

Carpe diem. Each, and every day.

Random poems in advance…

Posted by on 31 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: climate, education, environment, fun, Gardens and Life, good things, grad school, hope, musings, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Uncategorized

This is an edited version, I wrote this originally Tuesday night, for posting Wednesday, and wasn’t awake enough to edit for “time sense” — thanks for being patient!

Next month (tomorrow) begins national poetry month. On the drive home from school Tuesday it hailed, snowed, rained, sleeted and was generally stormy. Somehow, poetry felt like the only way to respond. Here are a few pieces of doggerel I composed yesterday evening.

white flakes mingle
with falling cherry petals

according to these test results
I am a statistical

teaching is my passion
learning is my lot

why do you need these numbers
to see the child in front of you?

Yes, the focus of today’s instruction was standardized testing. The potential benefits, the all-too-common harms, and the ways the design and implementation — along with the uses — of the tests either support or challenge social inequities. Good discussions, but exhausting.

Enjoy national poetry month.

Here are two links for your enjoyment:

Out with the Old

Posted by on 31 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, musings, Uncategorized


This feels like a momentous year for some reason.

I know I was busy, I know the children were busy, and I know that Tom, throughout, was calm and patient and steady.

The year began with me in pain and taking a half load of coursework as prerequisite for graduate school. I liked the class, I didn’t like the pain. The year ends with me able to walk some days without a cane and taking a full load in a Master’s program. I am still slowed down, but since we have no answers yet on the hip pain there’s not much to do except keep on with plans while we keep looking for answers.  In between the summer was extra busy with guests, classes, plays, travel and The MEETING.

The children began the year in school, and end the year in school, similar activities and similar results. They are good, solid students with engaging personalities and many friends.

Tom is… Tom. Calm, patient, steady — the rock to which we all cling as we weather life’s storms.

Lucky… began the year at my feet, waiting for me to throw the ball, and ends the year (one guess where and why).

The yard is a mess. But it’s a healthy mess, and it’s ready for me to start working in it again. As long as it stays “normal” for weather, there should be some hope for the tubers, and the trees… well those that are still alive need a good pruning before the spring growth begins.

What I did right in 2009: I kept up with schoolwork and still had time for the family. I made new friends. I established myself as a strong student and good colleague. I discovered another allergy and by eliminating it eliminated migraines as well.

What needs improvement: I want to continue to work on my physical strength so I can dispense with walking sticks altogether. I want to do better with staying ahead of the clutter in the house, not letting it pile up to scary heights before I panic and put things away. I also want to do a better job staying in touch with friends and family. I would also like to be more diligent at writing for myself — blog, story or “whatever.”

And that’s enough.

For the world, I wish a return to some sort of balance — that people don’t feel the need to force their beliefs and practices on others and that we can all learn to trust each other again. Truly, none of us need be tolerant of abuse, but we can let go of expecting everyone to be carbon copies of a single cultural model.

Happy two thousand ten!

Quiet Day of Light and Shadow

Posted by on 28 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: children, education, Gardens and Life, good things, grad school, musings, parenting, Uncategorized

A week after the official start of autumn, and it’s cooler. Won’t get into the 70s today, and the sun keeps getting swept behind the clouds by the wind. It’s going to stay in the 40s at night and not get above the 60s much from this point on. I admit to some regrets that we didn’t settle in Hawaii sometimes. But the wetter weather that is on the horizon (literally, I can see the clouds coming) heralds one of the best times of year for me: harvest time, the turning of the year to a time of connection between past and future with the “now” at the fulcrum. A time to take stock of where we are in our lives and look at what we really want or ought to do.

I am taking it easy, my last day of freedom before my classes begin. I slept in, woke to listen to the radio and read email and news online. Played some of my favorite online games. Going to read for a while. Thinking about getting the rest of the workbench cleared off this afternoon… got the desk in working order last night.

I am ready for tomorrow, will check through everything one more time this evening, and put it in the car. Undecided what I should wear… will take some foods that I know to be safe since it’s an all-day retreat and I am always nervous when I don’t know what a kitchen staff is like. I might ask to drive in with Tom tomorrow — the retreat is near his office. A little time with the person who is being most affected by my time back in school. He is so patient and calm, a solid rock for my antics.

The children are off at school — so far they seem to be doing fine. Will know more in a couple weeks, once the full impact of the three college classes (a full load) hits the elder child. They are being good about pitching in with a few extra chores, and the house is not “clean” but livable again. We’ll keep working on it.

I helped several times at the younger child’s school last week, since it was lovely weather and I had the time. I will miss being there on a regular basis. But, I keep reminding myself that it’s okay for me to take these two years for myself, to learn and grow and get prepared for the second (third?) phase of my life.

Growing older doesn’t mean we have to stop learning, stop improving, or stop reaching for the rainbow.

As the sun casts longer shadows through the days, as the plants and animals get ready for hibernation, I wish you all the opportunity for rest, for reflection and for recreation. Don’t forget to play!

The turning of the season

Posted by on 21 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: citizenship, education, Family Matters, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, grad school, musings, Uncategorized

Last day of summer, first day of autumn, this is a bitter-sweet time of year for me. Usually (and this year was definitely the epitome) I had lovely plans for the summer which quickly filled up and became unmanageably busy. The two or three things I had longed for usually never happened, and the growing season passed by so fast that half the enjoyment of fresh fruits and veggies was lost in the rush to bake and preserve.

This year, I was overly busy with school, running kids back and forth, and working. I missed the blueberry season entirely. I missed the strawberry and raspberry seasons, too. I managed to can two batches of jam using the plums from our tree. I didn’t cut flowers once, for my own home or anyone else’s. I didn’t even manage to sit outside in the shade and read.

And I had little time to play or otherwise connect with and enjoy my family.

Those are my regrets for the season that is passing. The lack of connection is foremost.

For the upcoming season, I dearly hope that I will not have to ignore my children or my garden overmuch. I hope I will have time to play with the dog, even if it’s only a little time, each day. I hope that I will be able to rest, to dream, to cook and to sew.

I hope to revel in savory dishes, sipping hot cider as I study.

As we wend our way toward the thinning veil between this world and the next, I hope that I will honor my ancestors and inspire my descendants with brave, gracious and loving acts.

The waning light sees me contemplating whether I use it well — do I make the most of my available time?

Future generations will know.

Passages: Sam Hinton

Posted by on 11 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, editorial, Gardens and Life, good things, hope, Making a Difference, musings, passages, Politics and War, social justice, The Fallacies of 911, Uncategorized

Sam Hinton. The world will miss you.

Though I never had the chance to meet Sam personally, I grew up looking through a book he had written and illustrated on the sea life of the coast of California. I think we all grew up knowing some of his songs.

As an adult, I rediscovered him through his granddaughter who became a penpal, and have set a goal to learn how to play the harmonica, an instrument both my grandmothers played, as well as Sam. But he was far better than any of us!

Far better, not just with the harmonica. It seems Sam was one of those bright stars who light up the lives of everyone they encounter. He brought new awareness to the beauty and fragility of the oceans. He helped re-introduce folk songs to the United States, founding a local group where he lived. He genuinely cared for people, individually and collectively.

He was a good man.

Today, there are tributes to the insanity of war. I would much rather our nation and the world focused on those people and events that heal… people like Sam. People like the public school teachers who do so much with so little for our children. People like hospice volunteers, designated drivers who take their role seriously, emergency responders. People like street performers who play the fool or bring us beauty, people who dream of better things, and those who help us unite around common causes.

Today, let’s focus on the essence of being “American” — not our beliefs, our language, our politics; let’s focus on the American willingness to stick our necks out for strangers, to stand up to injustice, to speak our minds in the face of tyranny. Let’s focus on that wide-eyed optimism coupled with hard-earned skepticism that allows us to simultaneously be enthusiastic about new prospects while spotting the flaws in time to fix them. This, more than our affluence, our laws, our governmental structures, makes Americans unique.

[Side note for my friends in other places: how do your countries’ traditions and legends inform your sense of self? What are the qualities that make your people unique and ready to set the world to rights? In other words, how would you define your positive national identity?]

Let’s look at what has gone wrong in the last decade, and the reasons for failure, and let’s do the right thing: fix the problem, and get on with our lives.

We don’t need to dwell on the horribleness of everything in order to pay tribute to the brave and innocent who lose their lives in tragedies. We can focus on the gifts they brought to the world and help realize their vision.

Rather than focusing on the gap Sam leaves behind as he exchanges one existence for another, I am going to focus on the ways he enriched the world, and how I can emulate him to the best of my ability. I think, if the world had more Sams in it, there would be fewer 9/11s.

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