Monday, May 30, 2011

for James

In two months, we will meet little James--a new grandchild, a second son for our daughter...this boy named after her father, my husband.  Her dad and I talk about him all the time and pray for him (and his mama) every day.  I just like saying and hearing his name, a name now doubly precious to me.  We wonder what he will look like, what personality will manifest itself, and what his presence among us will bring.  Our family expands.
Over the past several months, I have been knitting for little James, dreaming of him nightly though my fingers.  Several years ago, I discovered this pattern. The combination of garter-stitched stripes of color, edged with braided tassels results in such a joyful baby blanket.   I have admired Mission Falls yarns and patterns ever since I chanced upon them online, and I always knew when the opportunity arose, I would knit at least one of these baby blankets.  I just finished it this week--seven different colors of yarn and more braiding of tassels than I ever imagined.  Someday soon, I hope to see a little head resting on this blanket and little fingers playing with those tassels.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Packing Up

As I walked in the door a few minutes ago, my husband chirped this greeting:  "11 more days!"  In 11 days, I  relinquish my trusty computer, hand over my keys, and close the door to my classroom (room 212 South)  for the very last time. In 11 days, I will be a retiree.
From last September to this coming June (next week!), I have thought a lot about this what it means to retire. I knew in August  that my desire for this year was to be intentional, both with my students and with my colleagues.  I hoped somehow to use up and give away the best of what I have learned.  My way is certainly not the only way but I think I have learned a little bit about teaching kids to read and write and think and speak.

The past several days before I leave for the day, I have been cleaning out the bookcases, drawers, files, and closets in my teaching space. I make three choices--pitch (almost daily, I have filled all three waste baskets in our room, as well as respectfully recycling), pass it on (and what fun that is..gifting a book I think someone will use or an artifact/memory I have shared with someone), or bring it home, for my summer project of organizing my study to reconcile my teacher life with whatever comes next.
So here it is--the crate that brings it home and the piles now forming. There is a certain lightness to it all, really there is....

p.s. The first two pictures were taken by students of mine when we did a mini unit on seeing...both in our world and the world of reading.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Those days

Teaching, frequently, seems more like marching and less like dancing; however, there are those days and those moments when teachers and students riff, departing the score and improvising; it is there and then when magic occurs.  These days keep teachers returning to the classroom, day-after-day and year-after-year.

Yesterday, was such a day.

It is the tradition of our English Seminar (a class I have now team taught for six years) to hold an end of the year picnic as a celebration of who we are and what we do.  The "who we are" part is that we are a class of struggling high school readers and writers.  The "what we do" part is that we strive to create a classroom community that seeks to methodically strengthen skills and build confidence in kids for whom school is not place where success comes easily. After a lot of pushing, pulling, nagging, encouraging, repeating, and reteaching, growth really does inevitably occur.  The purpose of our celebration is to name that growth and celebrate it together.
Our picnic was rained out by a week's worth of rain that made the ground soggy and slippery. Plan B was to set up tables and have a buffet/dinner party.  Smaller, more intimate, and ultimately lovely.
 We had pulled pork and hamburger barbeque. One of kids made the most amazing mousse-filled, Swiss chocolate cups (he dreams of going to culinary school and I have no doubt he will!).

 We gave out awards to each student and books to our "graduating" 10th graders.  We were loud, there was music playing, and  plenty of laughter.  These really are the days....

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Tomorrow I head off to a bridal shower, one of those wonderful rituals women have created to usher their daughters into new passages in life.  My friend Karen is gathering friends and family to shower her daughter with practical household items and a collection of women's wisdom to go with them.  On a 3 X 5 card, we are asked to pass along hints and advice.  Here is mine:

Advice from my mother:  "Always clean up as you go along."

Hints for cleaning kitchen appliances:  to rid yellowing from white appliances try this:  Mix together 1/2 cup of bleach, 1/4 cup baking soda and 4 cups warm water.  Apply with sponge and let set for 10 minutes.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.

I have been married for almost 40 years, yet I must confess that only within the past 10 years have I heeded and thus come to appreciate my mother's rationale--it makes cooking and cleaning up afterward more efficient and much easier.
 Note:  these traditional ball band dishcloths still remain as my favorite pattern to knit and certainly, the most durable and hardy washing and wiping cloth to use (my husband told me so, totally unsolicited a few weeks ago!).

On the flip side of the card, I pay homage to my grandma, Mildred Bame Herman. One of my most vivid memories of her is going "calling" one sunny, summer afternoon.  We carried split-wood baskets of vegetables picked that morning from grandpa’s garden and flowers cut fresh from hers, the most beautiful, abundant, and varied flower gardens I still have ever seen. Had I only appreciated and applauded her and the beauty of her art when it was so vividly before me every summer...

What my grandmother showed me by her example:

"I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn...

...To every house you enter, you must offer
healing; a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chase touch."

-excerpted from
"What I Learned from My Mother"
by Julia Kasdorf

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I became a mother at barely 20 years of age. Honestly, I grew up right alongside my children.  Getting married at 19 and giving birth at 20 is truly is not the typical trajectory for women, yet were I given the choice to do it all over again, I would...exactly..the same. Marrying Jim was the smartest, illogical decision I have ever made.  Yesterday, my two sons each (and separately) gave me roses.  I talked to my daughter (who is away at an artist residency) three times.  I love being a mother, but then I learned how to do that from the best--my own mother, gone now almost 11 years.  I will never stop missing her (and Dad)....