Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Day Musings: There Was a Time...

... when I looked forward to starting school again. I loved getting ready -- planning the authors we'd read; developing lessons that were fun and creative; searching for new video clips or ideas to incorporate into my classroom; and, seeing students grow and learn about themselves in a new way.

That feeling is gone.

Now, lest you think I am wallowing in self-pity, I am not. Okay. Maybe a little. But, more than that, I am thinking about why the anticipation has been replaced by dread.

It comes to this.

Education has become a one size fits all. Instead of decisions being student driven, it is motivated by funding, government rules, or political beliefs. It has become a forum for making "everyone feel good about themselves" rather than challenging one to grow beyond their comfort level. It has become yet another forum for pop psychology instead of one of standards and the recognition that we need garbage collectors AND doctors. (Frankly, I adore my garbage collector every week; my doctor, well, a few times a year. Both have their place and role. One is not better than another, yet, in academia, there is a snobbery that the garbage collector has unrecognized potential and should aspire to more.) This is yet another reason the passion is gone; the failure to acknowledge that there are limits to ability and that some folks, to be honest, just aren't college material. And, by the way, that is perfectly okay.

Reporting - completers, retention, financial aid, assessment, recruiting -- are just a few of the ways an institution can spend time looking at itself and find ways to self-aggrandize as well as a way to avoid confronting the real issues -- academic freedom, academic standards, not to mention faculty salary and professional standards. Those instructors who are most popular carry teaching loads twice their colleagues, yet those colleagues remain mediocre because they tick the right boxes politically or through their academic rhetoric. There doesn't have to be substance, just compliance.

The jargon, the philosophies are more important than the ability to effectively meet a student where they are and lift them. Gatekeepers to programs or student goals impede success rather than inspire it. No one can say what power human desire and motivation can have over a low placement score or underdeveloped critical thinking skills. This hamstringing of weaker students destroys potential and, ultimately, deprives society of perhaps the next Einstein or Emerson. Neither were stellar students either, by the way.

And, so, here I am, one day from reentering a world that I feel I no longer belong, in which I feel I am a minority. I want to teach and be left alone by all the outside distractions. I want to spend this first week back on campus meeting with students, working on lesson plans, building enthusiasm for my content. I want to have my time respected. I want to feel appreciated, necessary, in a meaningful manner rather than spending my time checking the box for seeing so-and-so video or attending such-and-such meeting.

Teachers have a saying that, "what really matters is what happens when you close the door to your classroom." I am trying to hold on to this thought, this belief. I feel what a drowning person must feel. I gasp the air, hold my breath, and push up again.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Things I've Learned This Week...

My sister and I contracted with our parents to paint the interior of three rental houses this week. On day three, my Sissie awoke with a softball-sized MRSA infection. So, I have plugged on solo. Following are the things I have learned this week:

10. Break the ice. Go ahead and drop the open paint can. On the carpet. Without paper towels handy.

9. If there is still a little ice to break, step back into the paint tray. It is always good for a laugh.

8. Make sure one ladder is only five feet tall. That makes reaching the nine-foot ceilings even more interesting as well as a great work out for your abs and shoulders!

7. When painting the kitchen, walk on the counter tops, moving the ladder along with you. Then, when the ladder tips over, you can enjoy the challenge of dismounting without spilling your paint. Again.

6. Always start by painting the closet trim. That way, when you back out, you can back into the trim and have a lovely white stripe on your backside. But, don't worry. It will match the white spill down the front where you dismounted from the kitchen counter.

5. Never select your own painting tools. That way you will have the pleasure to spending a day with a roller on an extension handle that spins every time you start to roll the ceiling OR put paint on the roller. Now, your hair will match your shirt and paints.

4. When working as a team, be sure to avoid any communication of what each of you are painting. That way, when you finish washing your brushes for the day, you can enjoy the discovery that you each thought the other was painting the attic access. Yay! One more time up the short ladder!

3. If you sing together, be sure to know who can carry a tune. That way, when you are belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the less talented singer falsetto's into "Let me go!" , you won't be caught with your arm over your head when you burst into laughter nearly slinging yourself into the floor with the paint. Again.

2. Always turn your shirt wrong side out when driving home. After all, you have dismounted a counter top, stepped in paint, dropped a paint can, and backed into wet trim. You don't want to get paint on your car.

And, my personal favorite...

1. When stopping at the grocery store on the way home, shirt wrong side out, paint on most of your body be prepared for the, "Are you painting?" question with a witty response, "No, I was painting my toenails and got a little carried away."

Don't you wish you were me?

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I was in a really terrible mood all day. I mean REALLY terrible. Can't say why, exactly, but nothing pleased me. I cleaned the downstairs, did laundry, baked chocolate chip cookies, knit, and even watch a bit of an old movie. Still miserable -- sometimes the world is just too much with us, I guess.

So, I decided I needed to clear my thoughts by taking a walk and being mindful. As Thich Nhat Hanh said:

 Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future.
If we can acknowledge our fear,
we can realize that right now we are okay.
Right now, today,
we are still alive,
and our bodies are working marvelously.
Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky.
Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.

And the miracles I saw changed my whole outlook... 

Deer Trail Down the Bank..

Joe Pye Weed. I saw this as a specimen in New England. Here, it is a weed!

A bird's nest, empty, blown from a tree. I collect them. What a gift!

This lovely let me photograph it and then flew above my head as I walked. Angel? 
By the time I arrived back home, my spirit was quiet, my legs tired, a gentle moisture from the rain on my face. I was alive. My body worked. All is well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


This week we are busy getting farm chores done. While it is hard to think about winter when it is 88-degrees, we know it is coming and we have to be ready.

The girls inspect limbs that will become kindling for the wood stove. 

Dead apple trees make the most wonderful smelling firewood!

Mister working on a pine.
Thoreau was right; wood does warm one twice!
Don't let the sky fool you; it was blistering hot!
Twilight walk. I love the evening light more than sunrise.
Uh-ho....too early to see this!

In addition to all the farm work, I am putting by garden goodies. My Grandmother's four gallon crock is full of cukes soaking in brine for icicle pickles. They are my favorite. Mister doesn't care for pickles, so the 14 pints will be Just Enough. Squash has been frozen and tomatoes are coming on in a week or so! Can't wait!

What have you been into this week? How do you prepare for winter?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Welcome everyone who is dropping in from Rhonda's lovely post! I am flattered to have been featured on favorite place selections!

I hope you will enjoy visiting and come back soon!

Have a seat and enjoy your visit! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Projects, Pigs, Pals...

Feeding and watering the pigs is always fun! They are so cute and have such interesting personalities....and their favorite thing to do is to rub against me to scratch their backs. This means I leave the pig pen covered in mud. Sometimes, they put their noses against my legs to smell where I have been and I leave with a perfect oval with two small holes from their snout. Trust me. If pigs had thumbs, we'd be working for them...

Clara, more faithful than the pups... and won't be still...
Out of the 21 goats, Clara is the most faithful. Where ever I go in the pasture, she is right by me and will knock the others out of the way if they dare to get closer than she!

Me, 18, Monterrey Beach
Been cleaning out pictures this week during the particularly hot and steamy parts of the day. I found this picture and could taste the way the day felt to me.... Isn't it funny how a photograph can trigger such a tangible memory? I spent the better part of two years, three months of it on beaches, bumming around the country starting when I was 18. This day was cool, by beach standards, and the sun was sparkling, the sky astoundingly blue. Delicious...

Cutest booties ever...
Finished the baby blanket and sweater and had enough yarn left to make these adorable booties. Honestly, they knit up in less than 30 minutes and are the cutest things ever! And, since they took so little yarn, I see that these might become my go-to project for leftovers! I like to give pregnant students a little something handknit for their babies and these would be perfect -- fast, inexpensive, and useable!
Evening walks..
Every day ends with a lovely walk. The pups love the swimming that comes with the walk... I love the stillness to bookend my days...

Equipment repair
And, as always on the farm, one repairs rather than replaces. Installing new handles, a little scrub of a wire brush, some oil, and these are good as new. This week, I am teaching myself to change the oil in my tractor. It won't be today, however. The rain has poured all night and we have flash flood warnings. So, it is a "finish in the house" day -- touch up some paint in the upstairs bath, finish the three doors in the dining room, rough up the trim in the downstairs bath and repaint.

What are you into this week?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A few snaps ...

... from my evening walk.

I love how Day lilies turn to the sun, don't you?

Pork Chop has been in the mud; pigs do this to stay cool and to keep from sunburn.

Queen Anne's Lace lines our road

Moose gets a cool dip.

The bottom pasture is full of these lovelies... The Soil and Water folks planted them... Aren't they charming?

They just make me smile....