Tuesday, September 30, 2014


The first spring my husband and I were married we planted a garden.  I continued to garden when our children were little and I was a stay at home mom.  When I returned to college to get my teaching certificate and even in my first several years of teaching we planted a garden and harvested beans, tomatoes and corn.  Ironically, the year we decided that the busy fall season of education and canning our produce just didn't work for us, I was laid off.   That year I could have easily preserved anything we’d grown.  By then our former garden was now reseeded to grass.
In past years several friends have offered us their excess tomatoes.  Some years I decline, but this year our friend Ron offered, and after refusing them, I changed my mind.  When we picked up the crate of tomatoes he had kindly included freshly picked eggplant, peppers and a red cabbage. 
I spent Monday night in the kitchen.  I reminded myself of how happy I’d be to have a shelf full of wonderful tomatoes.  I trudged off to bed far later than my usual ten p.m., glad I was able to finish the task in one night.  The tomatoes are now sitting pretty on a shelf in the basement.
The rest of the week was busy, with several meetings, an unplanned dinner out of town, and only one home cooked meal all week. Saturday, as I began cleaning I told my husband it must be fall; because I was sure we had a dead mouse.  We felt silly as we walked around the kitchen sniffing but he agreed it must be true.  The putrid smell couldn't be ignored.  We pulled out the stove and other than the shock of the filthy side of the stove -- nothing!  With the side of the stove now clean and the stove back in place Wayne headed off to the golf course. I wondered how difficult it would be to pull out the built in dishwasher, and did I really need to wait until he returned to do it? 

I continued to clean the kitchen; I moved the neglected cabbage still on the cupboard, thankfully before I pulled out the dishwasher.  Next year ALL produce will go in the fridge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A New Year

At the end of the last school year I was told my pre-kindergarten class had been eliminated and I would be moving to third grade at another school.  That change did not happen.  I’m still in my same room and I’m back at the same Pre-Primary grade I’ve been in for the past four years. 
Even without the changes I’d been expecting this year started out crazy.  A new principal, late arriving and ever changing class lists, a new student on day two and another new one on day three, all made for a chaotic month.  I spent four days in August in math training and another two screening late registering families.  I also had hand surgery and catered a meal for my husband’s boss.  I’m now in week four of school and I need a vacation!
Last year’s class was the most challenging group I’ve ever had.  Several retired teachers assured me that a really tough class is always followed by the best group ever.  They were right.  While this group has academic challenges including two cognitively impaired children and a child who doesn’t speak, I’m relieved to say this class hasn’t stolen, there has been no destruction school property and we are missing the drama of two oppositional defiant children playing off each other, the class and the teacher.
As I watch last year’s group travel down the hall I just smile and thank God they’re heading for the classroom down the hall.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Raisin Bread

I was raised in a family of 5 children on a small farm.  Most Saturday mornings my dad would go to the local grain elevator.  Even as an adult I’m not sure what he did there.  Possibly he checked the prices on commodities, discussed farmer topics with other farmers; I do know he often bought supplies for our farm, and he purchased random grocery items my mother requested from town.  As children we occasionally went along but usually our Saturday mornings were spent cleaning the house in anticipation of Sunday.  On Sunday we went to church, Sunday school and had a huge lunchtime meal, we called “dinner.” 
Sunday breakfast often included the raisin bread my dad would have bought at the local store.  He loved the cinnamon and raisin loaf, he would man the toaster as the kids one by one would emerge from the bedrooms dressed in our finest and ready for church.  I now realize that he provided a breakfast that was quick, rather tidy to eat and did not require cooking or clean up on a busy morning.
In the cloud of grief that surrounded my sister’s death I found myself buying raisin bread, a treat I’d largely ignored in my own household.  In the seventeen years since her passing I’ve occasionally purchased the treat but not as frequently as I did during those sad days. 
The last in Friday in August, I scheduled my mammogram.  Yes, on my last day of vacation, before a busy holiday weekend I had an 8:00 appointment for my screening.  Since my sister’s passing at age 40 from breast cancer, my yearly exam is never postponed or ignored.  My planning time is different this year, so is my lunch break.  All week I’ve tried to respond to Tuesday’s call from the test result desk. 
The times I’m free to call they are “away from their desk, or on a call with another patient.”  I’ve had meetings after school, and they were gone for the day before I was home.  I was becoming increasingly impatient.  On Thursday I returned home late from my third day of school to find a letter from the hospital, asking me to schedule an ultrasound mammogram.  My new exam is scheduled for today, I’m trying to remember I’ve been through this before and it wasn’t cancer.  I’ve even had a biopsy, that wasn’t cancer either.  My head knows that, my stomach doesn’t

Since Friday night I’ve consumed a whole loaf of raisin bread.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Different Kind of Beauty

Several years ago I purchased window boxes with a small inheritance from my grandmother.  As time passes I remember how much she and Grandpa loved flowers too.  As life-long farmers Grandpa and Grandma had amazing flower gardens in their suburban retirement home.  The flower beds were so stunning they often had bridal parties ask to use their yard as a setting for wedding pictures.

I enjoy the full beauty of my window boxes.  Most years I find myself selecting flowers of reds, blues, yellows and white as I wander the local greenhouse.  My south facing windows require morning and evening watering.  The north and east side boxes are less prone to dry out and I can water them once a day. 

Last summer my husband and I went to Texas to help our son and daughter in law and their family move back to Michigan.  We were gone a week in the middle of July. To make watering easier I removed all the boxes from the house and grouped them on our north facing patio.  My mother graciously agreed to drive over once each day to water the window boxes and my various containers of flowers.  By removing the boxes from the hot sun she was able to water them only once a day.  Mom also shares the love of flowers and she was happy to help.

This summer our travel plans include a mid-July business trip to Greece.  We will be away from home for 11 days.  As planting time the window boxes stayed in their storage spot in the garage.  I miss the colorful frame at the bottom of our windows.  I’ve missed selecting and planting this year’s colorful combination.  My other flowers have missed my twice a day trek around the house with a watering can.  I’ve noticed many more weeds springing up since I’m not out there to pull little weeds several times a day. 

This is the summer without flowers.  I’ve concentrated on the excitement of a wonderful trip, yet I still miss my window boxes full of blooms. Yesterday as I walked back to the house from the mailbox I looked up from the bills and thank you notes clutched in my hand.  The flower beds looked beautiful.  I’ve been missing the obvious beauty.  I still have flowers to enjoy. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Reading

My Fed Ex delivery guy goes to our church.  What are the chances of that?  We go to church 20 minutes away in the community where I was raised.    Bernie is a mountain of a man.  He has willingly played the part of the giant in several children’s productions at church.  I fondly recall the Saturday; the long waited third Harry Potter book was delivered.  It was a summer day and the whole family was in the yard.  As Bernie pulled up our teen aged son went running to grab the package.  Holding the box above his head, Bernie laughingly said, “sorry, this isn’t addressed to you Brad.” “I have to give it to the addressee.”  He walked up the drive and over to me as Brad continued to jump and miss the package.
 I do a lot of professional reading in the summer.  Most years I read 10 or more books for work.  I’m switching grade levels this year.  I am rereading some books I own, looking with a 3rd grade focus, not Young 5’s.  In the past two weeks I’ve bought and read The Writing Thief, Culham, I’m almost done with Read Write Teach, Reif and I’ve been flipping through Chart Sense by Linder.  I’ve got 3 more books, on order.  As I decide I want to read a book I tend to immediately place the order. We live 45 minutes away from the closest book store so I use Amazon often.  I’ve done that 3 times in the past days.  I’m fortunate to have Amazon Prime, so my scattered shopping habits don’t cost me extra shipping charges. 
Last week, as my husband and I walked into church Bernie said to Wayne, “I’ve left a few packages at your house lately.”  Wayne shrugged and muttered, “I never know what’s she’s buying.”  That is true, especially at Christmas time, but in my defense he doesn’t mind my reading or purchasing habits.  I jokingly turned to Bernie and told him we needed to review the purchasing confidentiality rules.
This morning’s task is to make a list of the mentor texts Culham suggested.  I’m planning on checking which books I have in my library at school.  Yes, you’d think I’d know what I already own, but several of the titles may have looked familiar because I’d bought and shipped them to my grand-kids!   Bernie doesn’t deliver those.  Whew! 
This afternoon’s task will be to check the list against inventory and then—place another Amazon order.
It’s a good thing I’ve finished paying for our kid’s college educations, this summer’s reading might rival a tuition bill.  I’m thinking I may need to avoid Bernie in the next few weeks.

            My Fed Ex driver goes to my church.  I should get off the computer and go get dressed before Bernie knows WAY too much about me.


As a young girl in the sixties I read Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.  I dreamed of solving cases.  I read biographies and dreamed of new inventions, thought about what made a person into a powerful leader.  I also read the Cherry Ames student nurse books.  I never once dreamed of being a nurse.  I have a notoriously weak stomach.  As I helped my mother around the house and saw some of the chores she dealt with without a shutter I wasn’t even sure I could handle being a mother.  

As a teacher I’ve solved my share of mysteries and crimes and I often lead a mighty band of ruffians down the hall, but I still possess a queasy stomach.  I’ve passed out looking at my own bruised leg.  I lay down to have my blood drawn and I always close my eyes before a syringe comes near me. 

As a daughter in law of an elderly frail woman I’m finally learning that love can overcome revolting sights.  My own children began to teach me this lesson.  They were helpless and needy and my love overcame.  When our son Brad broke his arm, I never looked at the injury, just in his eyes as we waited for the ambulance to arrive.  When my husband shattered his ankle I confess I had to put my head between my knees, and that second ambulance attendant was kind enough to take my pulse, but I should get credit for staying conscious and later for beating the ambulance to the hospital.

I’ll spare you the details of my day, but I believe I acted in love and concern and hid how uncomfortable spending the day in nurse’s aide role made me.  I hope my love has shown through. 
I hope her daughter, the family nurse, has the day off tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ten Things

Ten things I’ve enjoyed on my first day of vacation
1.      The first watermelon of the summer.
2.      Going to the doctor and not needing to write sub plans the night before.
3.      Ordering 3 professional books and knowing I’ll have time to read them right away.
4.      Anticipating Friday’s full moon without worrying about behaviors.
5.      A clean house!  OK, change that to cleaner.
6.      Waking up at my usual time and falling back to sleep.
7.      Drinking liquid anytime I want!
8.      Bed sheets hung out on the clothes line.
9.      Freshly mowed grass.
Anticipation of my first in person celebration of our granddaughter Lucy’s fourth birthday, Texas was a long way away

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It’s not easy to be a teacher in Michigan.  Budget cuts and educational priorities have repeatedly blasted the teaching profession. New laws have changed what our contracts can provide.   I was hired just before the turmoil started.  I’ve been a library media specialist, a third grade teacher, laid off for a year, a long term sub in the High School, and then a kindergarten teacher, assigned to split my week between two building.  I also taught sections of Young 5’s and Kindergarten the same year.  Finally 2 years ago I was assigned a full time Young 5’s position.   I actually spent the past 4 years in the same room.    Since I entered the profession in my forties I plan to retire in the primary grades. 
That was yesterday.
Yesterday morning I arrived at work, returning from a week long business trip with my husband.  As we stood chatting in the hall I sensed awkwardness.  Finally someone told me, our incoming group’s enrollment number was drastically lower than expected.  My position has been eliminated.  I still have a teaching job, but in what building, or grade level has not been determined. 
I’m heartbroken.  I have worked so hard to be the best I can be for my high poverty students.  I’ve spent countless hours learning the needs and development of five year-olds.  Two years ago I successfully committed myself to improving my writing instruction.  Last summer I devoted myself to improving my math instruction.  I read many books and applied what I’d read to my instruction.  I can prove it!  Look at my cloth ten frames, for acting out building numbers!  See the class set of rekenreks I wrote a grant to buy those!  Watch our morning routine, my kids really get decomposition of numbers and love all things mathematical!
Look at those 350 books I purchased with my own money so my students could have high quality books for at home reading! I want my students to love books, so I have glossy high color books.  My kids may be poor but they deserve the best.   I’ve bought many pricy learning games and toys for my deprived students.  Dang, I even have two new items for free exploration time that I haven’t even had time to unpack and bring into my classroom.
My small district has 4 young 5’s teachers and 8 kindergarten teachers, and all but one have been placed or hired in the grade level after me.  I’ve mentored, shared and written curriculum.  Yet by the decision of a newly hired district administrator, my school has positions eliminated, resulting in me being displaced.  I love all the people I work with in primary, and would hate to see any of the lose their spot, but right now I’m grieving my hard work and the fruit I hoped to continue to see from my efforts.
Now what?  There is a 5th grade position in my building, with a close staff I hate to leave.  But 5th grade is a world away from Young 5’s and I’m not sure I can do it justice.  Or is that just grief talking?  I could move buildings to 2nd or 3rd  grade position .  I keep hoping this is all a mistake, but as I recall denial is a part of grieving.  As I look around my classroom I realize my guestroom is going to need some new shelving!  My grandchildren are going to have some amazing toys to play with at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Don’t even ask how many books they will need to listen to each time they visit.