Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Eve - and Lessons from a Kayak

Summer is ending... or more to the point, summer HAS ended for Ed and I. Classes begin this week at our school and last week faculty obligations and meetings kicked into high gear. We are back to a schedule and routine of a teacher. So last night we took a little time and tossed our kayaks onto the roof rack and headed for Creve Coeur Lake for some paddle time.

I can't begin to tell you exactly how paddling a kayak about a small lake will relax you and help you sort things out. Out on the water there is almost always a breeze. We went out at about 5 and the animals along the shores were feeding and drinking. In one cove we counted over 7 egrets and saw a doe and her fawn come down to wade and drink in the shallows. It was so quiet and peaceful. I almost physically felt my anxious thoughts for the week ahead fly off on the breeze. The effort of paddling and moving forward on the water got me thinking of how I move through a school year.


This morning I am at my desk at school trying to wrap up the final tasks leading up to the arrival of new students tomorrow. I will be seeing about 70 per day this term and I am excited to see what the new year holds. What new challenges will they bring to me? What new ideas that I have been concocting will work the best? Will they enjoy the lessons I am planning to launch? Will they get what they need for moving forward in years to come? Lots of things to wonder about.

Teachers get a "new year" twice a year. The one that comes in August/September is just as packed with anticipation and resolutions as the one that comes in January. Happy New Year folks - Keep paddling forward!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Walking at Sunset

Took a lovely stroll after dinner in our nearby park as the sun was sinking low. The park is one of our favorite place to walk and there are lovely paved paths that wind through it, making it a perfect place to go with the greyhounds.

The park tonight was alive with activity. The most noticeable was the groups of kids and parents doing "conditioning" for Little League Football. Now I use the term conditioning with a just a little bit of a grin. The athletes involved were all between the ages of 5-7 years old! So some of them could barely see about the face guard on their tiny helmets. Others were busy doing anything but what the grown-up coaches were barking at them to do. One little guy decided he'd rather do cartwheels than run toward a blocking pad that his dad was holding up as a target. It was hilarious. When they would tumble they would fall into little heaps on the grass and ended up looking like someone ha tossed a jersey on the grass, but then the jersey would wiggle and up would pop a little boy! Funny!

Also in the park were a good number of dog walkers and just plain walkers as well. So there was a lot of tail wagging and sniffing going on. There was a lovely breeze blowing and it was a little hard to believe that it was August based on the temperatures. I found myself making a mental pact with myself not to let the opportunities to walk in the evening slip by once school gets up and going. There is nothing more relaxing than a walk after dinner... even the greys loved it. (Of course, they are presently sacked out on the floor snoozing.) Perfect ending to a perfect day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Thoughts Inspired by Cleaning House (well, really... a File Cabinet)

Worked most of the morning cleaning out a file cabinet. Well, reorganizing it and pitching stuff, that is. It struck me, as I worked, that I actually go into my file cabinet less and less frequently as the years go by. Technology has perhaps changed this more than anything in my teaching life. I don't keep "paper stuff" anymore at the levels that I once did.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of this? Aside from saving a few trees, there are some things to consider as well. Going paperless means you are comfortable shifting your trust in having a tangible copy to whatever computer and storage method you have for keeping a digital copy. We are seeing the downsides of this in the move to digital photos. People have their entire lives and all their memories on their phones! Great until you drop it in the sink... and then all your stories and photos go literally down the drain. So we come up with cloud or backup storage devices for our photos... the electronic equivalent of a file cabinet (or my grandma's shoeboxes in the attic).

Today, I needed to move some files from one digital storage (computer) to another (Lacie drive) and quickly discovered that not all my classroom computers worked with an external drive that just 5 years ago was the go-to device for backing up files. How do we keep pace with this kind of change?

Do I have an answer? Not completely.

I do know that I have found myself watching for cloud storage sites and services, hoping that they will have the means and the stability to give me a place to find things many years down the road. However, and this is ironic, I have found myself actually being very aware of having photos and important documents PRINTED out as well as having digital copies. This is especially true of my photos. I won't print every adorable shot I have taken of the grandkids, but I will print enough of them that my memories of them will be able to be accessible to me wherever I am living in the future. And in the meantime, I enjoy them in their electronic format as well.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Delaying Gratification

When I was a new parent, I remember reading a lot about how to teach a child to delay gratification. Mind you, I was in teacher training at the time, and my daughter Gret got to be a guinea pig for many of the classroom skills I was learning to use. Ed used to laugh at me and state that "she will either end up very smart or hopelessly confused!" I think she's done pretty well as she's now working as a University Vice-President and raising two very lovely girls of her own! (brag moment there, sorry!)

Anyways, the gist of the above is that I am presently reflecting on this very vital life/school skill and actually putting some of it into practice in my personal life. As a few of you know, we recently found the "house of our dreams" for retirement in my husband's hometown of St. Joseph, Michigan. We went up this summer with only intent to "start looking" and literally stumbled upon the house that fit ALL our wishlist requirements. So what do you do? Well, you buy it, of course; because when you are ready to retire, you don't want the house that fits you perfectly belonging to someone else! So we did just that. And now, the itch to retire has become a very present and much more obvious reality. One that I will have to learn to control, since at present I am only 62 and not yet eligible for Medicare. However, we will get to use our "house of dreams" in the summers and on holidays for the next few years, and should grace or gainful employment allow us to relocate in advance of our retirement ages, that would be an added blessing. It's really exciting and awesome to think about a place sort of waiting for you. Decisions about the future are never easy, so having the "where" of this figured out makes figuring out the "when" of it a little less stressful.

Now to thinking about school. I am forcing myself to physically work in my classroom this week... since we go back to meetings next week and start classes the week following. I am making myself get up, do my a.m. routine, and everything. Had fun cleaning and puttering in the classroom today and am sitting at my desk there as I write this. How will I teach my students patience and delay of gratification this year. Will they be willing to trust themselves to wait for good results as they work through their writing and thinking with me this term. I have a large bunch of sophomores this year for a change. I love their puppy-like energy and enthusiasm. They are so focused on the "Big thing" (driving) that looms on their horizon in this year of their lives. They make me smile since I can still recall the first time I stepped on an accelerator with my dad beside me in the front seat bravely believing I would not, in fact, kill him! Patience is a virtue... and we can all use more; myself included! Have a great day!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dinosaur ruminations: Can't We Just Exercise Civility?

Manners have apparently become a thing for the dinosaurs. Today and yesterday we were greeted by news stories about the "Mooch", the man who has become the President's new Press Secretary. Over and over again we had to listen to warnings about the vulgarity of his language. He is referred to as having been "unplugged" After wishing someone would put the plug back in, my main thought was, "Where have all the gentlemen gone?" Okay, I know I am dating myself here, but while I may have heard men of my childhood speak an occasional cuss word, I NEVER heard the "f-bomb" come flying out of the mouths of my dad, or any of the men in my immediate family and friends circle. (Of course, back in my day, even high school guys of my age didn't unplug that expletive without facing down a lot of disapproval! The fact that it is now something a man who is supposed to represent the White House to the public can just let fly out of his mouth is appalling to me as a citizen.

So I have to ask, where has simply civility gone? Is it now "okay" (allowable) to say whatever you wish, however you wish, and wherever you wish? Does public disapproval of the "Mooch" mean anything at all? Should we be able to expect the President to hold his staff to a higher standard as they speak to the American people? Wish I had the answers. I know I wish things were different.


Only a Week to Go

This summer flew by! I honestly have no idea where it went. Ended the school year last May on a high note. Ed and I celebrated our 40th and 35th years of teaching. How strange to consider. I recall as a fairly new teacher observing people celebrate such landmark points and thinking, wow! They are so OLD. (Proof that what goes around does truly come around!)

Travels this summer included our trip to Paris, Normandy, and London. Had an awesome time with a smal close-knit group of 7 travelers. Enjoyed every minute of the time there and saw so many amazing things. Felt very safe in spite of all the news to the contrary about terrorism. The resilience of the people in Europe as they cope with the refugee crisis happening globally and do their best to help is inspiring. The wonderful diversity of people in Europe always makes me feel excited to be living in the times I do. We have so many opportunities to learn from others and to experience cultures that my grandparents' generation never did. It's quite amazing when you stop to consider it. This trip we saw some new things, including the British Library, the British Museum, the Churchill War Rooms, the Fountains of Versailles, and the Beaches of Normandy and the American Cemetery there. All of it was unique and wonderful.

Of course late June meant Grandcamp with the five grandkids. This is our 3rd year doing it. All the kids come to town for a week and we go all over exploring and doing things, This summer their ages ranged from 4-15. Ree was finally big enough to tackle the adventures involved with the City Museum, so off we went. I was so impressed with her pluck as she tried everything that someone 4 years old could do. We were blessed with fantastic weather, mild temps and no rain. We also went to the Muny as a gang of 8 and saw The Little Mermaid. It was a great week!

July has been a nice slow month. We splurged on two kayaks and have done some paddling and hiking. I continue to be a bit more active each week as my progress with Weightwatchers has helped me lose 27#s since last April.  In late July we went North for a week spending time in Wisconsin and Michigan.

The biggest news is that we are ending the summer by purchasing a HOUSE! Yes, we already have a house where we have lived for 32 years, but this house is in Michigan where we hope to retire in the next 4-8 years! So, if all goes well, we will own a house there by the end of August! Stay tuned for further developments!

Friday, February 10, 2017

February makes me shiver....

Well toward the middle of February and winter just won't stay and keeps tempting us with days in the high 60s interspersed with days of 20 or lower. Frustrating! Lots of flu-ish and strep-type bugs floating through the halls of school these days.

On a good note, Gretchen is doing well 3 surgeries down the path from where we started. She is now clear for preventative radiation and we believe that her prognosis is very good. It has been a scary three months or so for all of us as we watched her progress so closely.

Jan 20th came and went and it's now been 3 full weeks since our new President was inaugurated. The state of the Nation is very tense and watchful. I don't even think his supporters feel completely safe these days as programs of all sorts are in a state of upheaval. It remains to be seen if he will last - as it seems each day he breaks some rule of order or fails to follow the protocols of good governing. We may not ever have a first lady in the White House as his wife is not amenable to living in it. It makes one feel uneasy much of the time.

Hoping for better things ahead as spring must eventually come.