Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Change of Plans

Day 358…

So the plan this morning is to finish cleaning my house…I’m so close.  Closets organized, shelves straightened,  curtains washed…Curtains washed!!!  The writing group is meeting here tomorrow night.  Last night I even downloaded The Paris Wife on my NOOK, thinking I might have time to read after I clean.

But when I wake up this morning a message on my phone tells me there could be a change in the plans.  Melissa’s having contractions. Can I come stay with the boys?

Why, of course.

So here I am, ready for the next adventure.  Maybe the house won’t be completely ready for the writers.  Oh, well.   If Melissa’s daughter is about to make her appearance, it will be good enough.  Priorities, you know.

Writing topic:  Changing the plan

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Something to Be Proud Of

Day 346…

The final project for the summer’s gardening program…the community Taste-a-Thon.   There are four tables of recipes to sample from the vegetables grown…field peas and green beans, okra and tomatoes, dill pickles, and salsa.  In the morning Joshua and DeTavion are looking for some last minute peppers.

Then, along with Brandon L., they prepare cucumbers for guests to sample in addition to the pickles they have already made.  That is DeTavion’s idea.

Brandon, Devon, and Talor set up their award winning salsa tasting table.

Guests begin arriving at 2:00.  Here Brandon H. is explaining how they made the okra and tomatoes.

The last guests to sample the community youth garden produce are the younger children in the summer program.  They listen intently knowing they might be doing this in a few years.

After the last guests leave, everyone pitches in, and within fifteen minutes the gym is cleared and the Taste-a-Thon a very pleasant memory.

Writing topic:  What I’m proud of

School Daze

Day 339…

This morning’s paper reports that seventeen  schools in my beloved district are academically unacceptable.  Unacceptable.  Imagine being labeled unacceptable.  Most of these schools have carried this label for several years now.

I “know” these schools.  I have observed interns teaching classes in almost all of them.  A lot of people are really trying.  The school board has added more technology, structured programs, more test-taking lessons.  But it is so hard to be reminded day after day, year after year, that you are in an academically unacceptable school, as determined in large part by a state test taken one week in the spring.

Something doesn’t seem “right.”  Something is missing.  Maybe these schools need more support from us, not just our judgment.  Something from the rest of us that won’t be “on the test.”  At least not literally.  I don’t know.   I just know this hurts me deeply.

Writing topic:  Unacceptable

Working Together

Day 338…

Just to the left of my front door hangs a 1936 school poster.  I bought it when I was a young teacher (which was not in 1936!)  It reminds me of my “fifth grade teacher look,” the way I got fifth graders to know I meant business.

Katie says I still have that look.  Sorry, maybe it still says I mean business.

But after years of public school teaching, I learned that the art of teaching is much more than a “fifth grade teacher look.”  And it is about cooperation.

I learned this in Nature Lab, my hands-on inquiry-based (education jargonese) science enrichment class for young students.  The students cooperated, and so did I, to make a garden, take care of animals, and explore the world around us.

Not all classrooms are like this.  Many of mine weren’t.  I was the teacher and the children were the students, like the teacher bird in this poster.  We had important work to do.

We are all teachers and students.  Not just in designated classrooms.

At this point it would be easy to slip into a rant and begin giving examples of the misuse of authority, but I think Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it much more eloquently…

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. 

Writing topic:  Cooperation

Telling Her Story

Day 336…

It is her senior year in high school and her mother has a “nervous breakdown,” a catchall term in the 60’s for who-knows-what.  No one talks about the months her mother spends on the ninth floor of Schumpert Hospital, or how catatonic her mother appears at her senior party compared to other more animated parents.  What has she done to her mother to cause this?  She is the oldest child and only daughter;  surely there was something she could have done  to prevent this.

Years pass.  Her mom remains “fragile” and there is still little conversation about “the condition.”

She completes college, secures a teaching position and finds a husband.  And always, in the back of her mind, the fate of her mother.

Soon she has a child.  A beautiful baby boy.  Her husband files for divorce, the first divorce in her family.  What could she have done to prevent this?  What has she done to cause this?

Fast forward through seven years of single parenting and public school teaching.  She takes a sabbatical, packs up her second grader and they move out of state as she pursues a Ph.D.  Surely no one this involved could fall victim to her mother’s disease.

She chooses a second husband and lets go of writing a dissertation.  She is again teaching in the public schools,  raising her son, and trying harder to hold on to a husband.  She has a second chance.  She will not make the same mistake twice.

Fast forward.  Her son has a difficult first year of college.  They do not talk about it.  A year later he attempts suicide. They try family counseling and later marriage counseling.  She files for a divorce and her son moves to the West Coast.  And always, her mother’s condition in the back of her mind.  “I am not my mother” becomes her mantra.

Six years later her son commits suicide.  What has she done to cause this?  What could she have done to prevent it?

She is in her mother’s catatonic state.  It has been her greatest fear.  She holds on to her pen and talks to herself.  Others cross her path.  She talks with them, as she has been practicing with her pen, trying hard to appear normal.  She writes a book.  She is in the middle of a 21st century nervous breakdown.

Fast forward.  Present day.   An artist call at a local theater for a show to run simultaneously with a production of Vagina Monologues.   She is not a visual artist, but it calls to her.

Her entry…A cutout of a sketch her mother did right before being hospitalized.  And a pen and ink doodle she did the year after her son died.  Two women together having their “nervous breakdowns.”

She creates “art” with her biggest fear.

Writing topic:  Your story

The Great Salsa Challenge

Day 334…

In preparation for the community Taste-A-Thon next month at the garden, each group of teenagers created their own salsa recipe.

They decided what ingredients they wanted to put in their salsa, and how much.

There was a choice of  15 different items–such things as vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, corn, sugar and jalapenos.

Ingredients were carefully measured into the blender…

to mix them together.  Here Pamm is carefully securing the top.


After each blending, results were tested.  Dante obviously didn’t like this outcome.  His group would add more sugar.

Everyone enthusiastically participated.  This is Shalon, the community center manager.

I’m a great believer in “hands on activities.”

Writing topic:  On participating in life

It Feels Right…

Day 332…

To spend an evening with Nadine and Lisa creating little flag books.  (Sorry, Lisa, when I got home I couldn’t remember how to put it all together…)

To move my body with others in T’ai Chi and Zumba classes.

To pull weeds from the community garden with teenagers.

To write with friends.

To listen to others’ thoughts about a shared book.

To get excited over new-to-me ideas.

To open to the experience of acupuncture.

To cry and not feel the need to explain it.

To see my nude art hanging alongside others’.

Writing topic:  A good feeling