Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Week Without a Schedule - SOLSC

In another week as school reopens and my students return, our own children will be back at college and 2011 will be only a memory. The holiday rush has ended and I now have time to read, write and relax.

While snow usually covers the ground by now, this year it's been late in coming. The temperatures have been higher than normal. Memories of the blizzard that halted traffic and school for a few days last January come to mind. I know our world will soon be white. That's part of winter in the Midwest. Those unplanned days when snow slows down our world create special memories.

Our family Christmas Day celebration included five dogs, thirteen family members and a home buzzing with activity. The days leading up to Christmas were filled with sending out cards, shopping, decorating, wrapping, baking and list making. Now our guests are gone, our children are sleeping in and our two dogs are dozing on our daughter's bed. My husband is working and the house is quiet. The only sounds are the dryer tumbling clothes dry, the heat being blown into the room, the keys being tapped on my Mac and the sounds of birds at the window feeders.

I'm thankful for the quiet this week brings, but wish winter break could linger a bit longer. Unscheduled time is so precious.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Putting the (Winter) Breaks On - SOLSC

We are busy getting ready for family gatherings. Decorating the house, planning menus, sending out cards, baking and completing last minute shopping. We already had a holiday celebration with my sister and her husband. On Christmas we will have 13 people celebrating with us. We are still trying to figure out how to get the whole group in the dinning room without a kid's table.
Our kids are both in college. Our house no longer has shoes and other belongings scattered everywhere. As they arrive, all of that changes and our home is transformed back to the everyday world of their childhood and teenage years, laundry and all. They are used to their freedom and their own schedules now, so adjusting back to life at home takes some time. They sleep late and stay up late, something we don't do often anymore.
Winter break is here and my days are less scheduled. I have time to read, sip coffee at the table, write, nap and take the dogs for longer walks than usual. It's a welcome break from the routine that surrounds me the rest of the school year. I'm thankful for this time and the chance to slow down. Life moves so fast most of the time, I'm happy to have a chance to put on the (winter) breaks.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some Days are Like That

The school year is in full swing and my life has been busy with teaching, meetings and classes not to mention life at home. I haven't posted on my blog in a long time, although I have been writing in my Writer's Notebook.
I'm feeling pretty good about where my students are in their journey as writers and readers. I see them enjoying Writer's Workshop and mastering the expectations for various activities during the day. They are well on their way to my 30 book goal for each of my fifth graders. Not without challenges, but my class is a wonderful blend of personalities and interests. I enjoy working with them and seeing their progress. If only I could just remain in that environment and not have to be involved in the politics, power jockeying and meetings that invade my day.
This week has been difficult and I am thankful I am off Friday. I need to distance myself from the energy that seems to feed on negativity and misunderstandings. It reminds me of the scene in "Ghost Busters" where the evil simply boils up and surrounds everything. I need to find a way to overcome this feeling of being swallowed by the negativity. I know it's not everywhere, there is so much good out there to see. I do my best to remain positive, to forgive others when minor misunderstandings occur. I wish everyone could do this and look at the sunny side of situations.
I will find a way to call my inner "Ghost Busters" and remove myself from this funk. For now all I can think of is how Alexander felt..."Some days are like that even in...."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Old Faithful

We just came back from a vacation out west where we hiked, fished, enjoyed the mountains and took in the many sites.
One site was Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Like clockwork, the geyser erupts several times a day entertaining the throngs gathered anticipating this wonder. We walked the boardwalk trails, stopping at the many other geysers and then waited for Old Faithful.
Afterward, we walked around the Inn, a beautiful building built over a century ago from rustic materials with a charm all its own. Like everyone around us, we were equipped with a camera, capturing memories to remind us of our travels. Entering the upper deck at the inn we found rows of benches with "Old Faithful Inn" carved into the backs. Our daughter wanted to take some pictures of the benches and we sat down as subjects in the shot she was setting up.
I didn't really think about the picture and its significance until we returned and I loaded the nearly 700 vacation pictures onto my Mac. That's when I noticed the unique quality in this picture. Our picture shows us sitting on a bench with the words "faith" and "faithful" showing.
Yesterday marked our 24th anniversary and having faith and being faithful are the cornerstones our marriage has been based on since 1987. I love this picture, the memories it will bring back and the message too.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A New Perspective in the Mountains

We are on vacation in the Gallatin Mountains this week, staying in Big Sky, Montana about an hour from Yellowstone. The views are so different from here; streams, rivers and mountain lakes. The vegetation is unique as well. Instead of the mix of deciduous tree and evergreens, here there are mostly spruce clustered together on the mountainsides. The flowers growing wild along the trails are colorful, ranging from light yellows to dark purples. As you ascend the variety changes too. Reaching the upper meadows it seems spring has only just begun, the ground is moist and some plants are just beginning to sprout from the ground. The temperatures are different too. Morning temperatures start out in the 40s and inch their way up to the high 60s or low 70s. As you work your way to higher elevations the temperature shifts about 2° every 100 feet. Snow is still visible on the mountain tops and if you are determined enough you can hike up to small patches of August snow.
We took a four hour hike yesterday to Bee Hive Basin. The trail wasn't too difficult at first, but soon we were working hard navigating hills covered with stone. We had to traverse streams and take breaks along the way to catch our breath. While we could easily have given up, we marched on anticipating the mountain lake and the view from the top. Giving up might be easier, but our joint determination pushed us on. At times the trial plateaued and we enjoyed the beauty in the meadows with clear water rushing past in the streams. Our efforts were rewarded as we finally reached the top. We found snow patches and the most amazing view of the valleys below. Yes, there were larger peaks in front of us as well, but our journey had been a success. We celebrated by making snowballs and gazing into the distance remarking that this hike was worth the extra effort.
In life we often become accustom to the views we are most familiar with and think everyone experiences life from a similar vantage point. Taking trips like this provide us with an opportunity to look at the world from a different perspective. We realize there are struggles and sometimes it's easier to give up than continue. What's important is that we journey on anticipating what awaits us if we are willing to work.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Unexpected Adventure

 Some of the best life stories come from unexpected adventures. Last weekend provided us with yet another story to tell of a unique adventure. It is etched in our memories to be recalled along with other family stories.
  We were at a family reunion on a lake in Tennessee. We had brought our boat, as we have done for all of our lakeside reunions, and spent time on the water with various family members enjoying the ride, skiing, tubing, knee-boarding and swimming. The lake we were on was over 60 miles in length and most of the banks were rocky and steep with only a few marinas peppered along the shore and scattered houses high above on the foothills. We seemed to have the whole lake to ourselves.
  Saturday morning was a bit cloudy, but the temperature was quite warm and some of the younger cousins were eager to get out on the water. Adam went first on a tube and had a great time riding through the boat's wake. Evan's turn was next. As he rode along we saw rain in the distance falling in sheets and soon the drops were pelting us as well. That's when the thunder and lightning began and we needed to find a place to wait out the storm.
  My husband pulled the boat into a remote cove and set the anchor. He told us we needed to swim to shore since a metal boat on a lake in a thunderstorm wasn't a good place to stay. Our daughter called him "Captain Obvious" at this remark.
  We were all soaked already, so swimming to the bank wasn't a problem and we were soon climbing up the rocky shoreline as our captain made sure the boat was properly anchored. (My daughter with her underwater camera on her wrist.) By the time he was ready to swim to shore the boat had drifted closer to the other side so he was soon standing on the opposite bank with the rain pouring from the sky.
  Standing on that large, flat rock together looking out at the water and completely soaked we began to share stories of other memorable adventures. Biking in the rain and seeking refuge in a barn in rural Kansas, a boat on the ocean in North Carolina with waves crashing, a storm on a lake in Wisconsin and the wild ride back to the marina and driving through the Midwest in snowstorm. We've all had adventures like this at one point or another.
  The storm passed and we swam back to the boat. Climbed the ladder and continued tubing and skiing. By the time we were back at the dock we had dried off and laughing about our adventure. We shared our story with the other family members. For the six of us it will be a special story that we will remember and retell throughout our lives.
  Unexpected adventures make wonderful stories we can share over and over again. They shape our lives, make us laugh and connect us to others. Isn’t that what stories are all about?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Last Week of July

It's Monday, my last unscheduled day for a while, and I'm already creating lists. There is a value in planning, setting goals and looking towards the future. There is also value in having down time. July is quickly coming to an end, August is only a week away. There is so much planned for the weeks between now and the start of the new school year, I know the time will fly by. My summer list hasn't been completed (are they ever?), but I've managed to accomplish a lot from it.
August, a time to savor the last few weeks of summer with family time in places far from home, pack up the kids and send them off to school, shop the back-to-school sales and enjoy the glorious "Dog Days" of summer.
I'd like time to slow down, but it never does. The kids are grown, attending college and building futures that will take them away from here. I'm sure my mom felt this way too. I don't remember. From my perspective then time didn't move fast enough. I was always in a hurry for the next step from high school to driving to college to moving in to my own place. I understand better then ever that old Simon and Garfunkel song 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy.)
What I need to remember is to slow down, even when it's September and I'm beginning another year with a new class and my list has grown in length. I need to take the time to savor the moments, connect with my students and others, and feel "groovy."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mid Summer Planning

It's hot today, too hot to be outside weeding or mowing the lawn. I'm inside and find myself working on ideas, resources and plans for the upcoming year. Yes, I know it's over a month away, but I just can't help myself. Most summers I spend some time in my classroom, reorganizing and reflecting. This summer I can't as the school is under construction and I won't be able to work there until the week before the start of school. Perhaps I'm a bit anxious about getting my room ready to welcome my new students. Perhaps I'm just avoiding the projects I should be accomplishing around the house. Whatever the reason I've found myself creating new Flipcharts for my interactive whiteboard, reading educational journals and selections from books and trying to come up with a beginning of the year theme to hook my students. While the time I spend on this isn't helping cross items off my "to-do" list, I know it will be worth it. It's a bit like growing a garden, you need to weed a bit and fertilize too if you want the best results.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Old Videos - Windows to the past

It's summer, so I have less structured days. I teach fifth grade and from the middle of June until the middle of August I have time to tackle projects that have been put off during the school year. This summer, as I created my "list," I decided it was time to finally move all of our old videos into a digital format to preserve them.
I was amazed at the hours and hours of video that I found. Tapes in boxes and on shelves seemed to multiply as I attempted my task. After importing a video, I would watch to see what was truly worth preserving and what could be left behind. Each tape provided a glimpse into the proverbial "rear view mirror" starting with our wedding. I was able to see not only how I changed, but how others did as well. I cherished the opportunity to look on in fast-forward at our kids growing up and to see once again loved ones who are no longer with us. Sure we look older, have added a bit of weight and extra laugh lines, but the most remarkable discovery was our non-scripted conversations. These conversations spoke volumes about who we were and who we would become.
We are all on a journey, our learning never comes to an end. We grow and change. Our experiences help shape us. It's good to look back through the windows of the past to see where we were and allow us to reflect on that journey and what may lie ahead of us on the road to the future.
I am not nearly finished with this project. It has taken hours and hours already. I've learned along the way how to import video from various tape formats, how to clip movies and the steps required to move them to a DVD format. 1987 - 2000 will be preserved before mid-August. It's my goal. I'll need to save the rest for next summer.
As I wait for yet another DVD to render and burn I began to think of how this process parallels the learning in my classroom. Looking back to beginnings in September, first steps and how we have grown over the year helps us look ahead too. These windows to the past help us reflect and celebrate. We determine what we will do next based on our past experiences. Life is a journey, not a destination. Our teaching needs to reflect this too.