Sunday, July 31, 2011

Save Our Schools

I found the link for this speech as I was reading through my Twitter feed last night. Matt Damon spoke at the Save Our Schools march in Washington.  It is uplifting and will make you feel good about being a teacher.  Just thought I would share the text of it here. We all need to feel good about our profession at the time of year!


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Morning Parade

It's Saturday morning at the lake--check out day for those who rent cabins. As I sit here reading and writing this post, the parade of cars and boats has been constant.

They look tired, these vacationers. They cram a lot of fun into seven days. Late nights, early mornings, hot weather, swimming boating, trips to Arnold's Park.  Lots of vacation in seven days.  And (to me), they also look sad as they see me sitting under my umbrella with a mug of coffee in my hand. Oh, if we only had a trailer like that I hear them think as they pass by.

In a couple of hours, there will be a parade of a different kind. The new renters. Full of excitement, they will unload what they believe they will need for a week of fun in the sun. Much too much stuff, but for now, it seems essential. The floaties will appear on the beach. Towels will be flung over the deck railings, wood piled beside the fire pit, coolers close at hand. And they will cram a summer's worth of fun into seven days.

And then, they will leave.

Chloe and her new haircut!
Chloe watches the vacationers intently as they leave today. She knows she's a lucky dog. We'll be here for a couple of weeks. And even when we leave, we'll be back in a week. They will have to wait another year.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Writing Workshop

The changes I want to make in Creative Writing classes this year aren't for the students who come in already wanting to write. What I do works for them. The changes I want to make are for the students who are taking the class solely for the English credit. The ones who are shocked that we will write EVERY DAY in Creative Writing.  The ones who mistakenly think this is a sluff class.

So, here I sit staring at the lake, with a pile of books and notes sitting in front of me, thinking about changes I want to make.  I know I want to do more procedural mini-lessons at the beginning of the year.  Get those routines established, you know.  I want to create a space that is comfortable for writing--and a safe one too.  Sharing needs to become more prevalent this year and does celebrating our writing.

So, I'm back to the pile. First book up is Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi.  Although focused on elementary writing workshops, it is easily adaptable to my situation.
Favorite line so far, "Only the student can decide what can be learned." Love it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

But First....

My summer mind is fighting for survival and before I can let the school mind take over completely there are a few things that need to be accomplished...

I need to
Watch more sunsets
Swing more golf clubs
Drink more Sangria


I want to
Ride the roller coaster
Swim in the lake
Play with the grandkids.


I know I should
Plan a few lessons.
Read professional books,
Ready my classroom.

But

I will
Take sunset boat cruises,
Visit with dear friends,
Enjoy the rest of the summer!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mind Flip

'In With The New (January 1/8)' photo (c) 2010, Emma - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/It happened this morning. My mind flipped. There had been little flashes of it throughout the summer. I went into the building twice. I opened up professional reading books. I wrote a couple of things down in my notebook. But this morning, it happened for real. My school mind came back!

How do I know it came back for real?  Well, I woke up at 6:30am for the first time in a long time. And I "needed" to get up. The first thought I had as I opened my eyes this morning was, "I wonder where the writing workshop book is?". As I looked for it (yes, I looked for it at 6:30am). I found another book that I had scavenged from the local area education agency and had never had time to look through. It's sitting waiting for me right now.

Trouble is, I still don't know what I am teaching for sure. Evidently, it's not important for high school teachers to know before workshop what classes they will be teaching during the coming school year! I am planning on Creative Writing, freshman English and Speech, but I really don't know. Well, I know I will teach Speech, I'm the only one qualified to teach it. But what about the rest?

However, I will be thinking and reading and writing about school these next few weeks--we start workshop on the 15th of August (ugh--seems waaaaaaay to early!). Students are back on the 18th. It's time for the mind flip...

Friday, July 22, 2011

"It's a Girl Boat!"

Captain Robin, driving her "girl boat"
It was a special summer night, that started with a text, "Going on boat ride! U want 2 join?"

"Sure!  I'll be down."

 It's been 110+ degrees all week. It was like winter. No one really left their trailers. We hibernated. So today was for fun! I took a bottle of wine and walked down the road.  There were four of us to start, a fifth we picked up later. Three women and two men (that will be important later). Just a nice sunset cruise around the lake. Perfect.

And it was. No bugs. No heat, No stress.  An ideal summer day.  Until the boat "died".

Really. It quit.

Hundreds of yards from shore.

And we laughed. A lot. Giggled out loud like little kids.

"You're out of gas!"

"No. We put a lot of gas in--we've only been out four times!"

There had been an "incident" a week ago.  The boat wouldn't start. Men were called. They fixed it and the question was asked, "You saw what I did. Right?"
Poor Mike, trying to fix the boat.
"Yep. You took off this big thingy and then you took off this thingy. And then you messed with this flipper thingy....."

Tonight a search for tools by the men.  "You do have tools?"

"I think so."

Nothing.

"It's a girl boat!  I don't have tools!"

Our heroes to the rescue
A call to shore was made. Help was found and on the way.

A tow to the lift. A gorgeous sunset. Friends. Priceless.




Thursday, July 21, 2011

Love, Grandma

'Love Note 1' photo (c) 2008, Lindsay - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Dear Grandsons,
Grandma here.  I've been spending a lot of time with you boys this summer and got to thinking about all the things I want for you. The things Grandma thinks are important for boys to know.  I know about boys, you know. I raised your dads...I took them fishing, taught them how to throw a ball and how to catch one, hid some things from grandpa and made grandpa deal with others. I know about boys. 



1. Don't assume your mom can't do something just because she's a girl.  Moms are tougher than you know. So are grandmas.

2. Be nice to your sisters. This is how you will learn to be nice to your future girlfriends.

3. Learn to cook. You shouldn't have to depend on the women in your life to feed you. Pay attention to your grandpa, dad and uncle. They are pretty good at it!

4. Learn basic car maintenance.  The women in your life will expect you to know something about this.

5. Pick up your clothes, do your own laundry, figure out the iron. Especially the iron. If you buy a piece of clothing that demands an iron, then be man enough to use it.

6. No matter what your dad tells you, "Febreze and forget" is not a laundry solution!

7. Wrap presents that you give to the women in your life--a Walmart bag with a bow is not wrapping.

8. Flowers are an appropriate gift for any occasion.

9. Temper tantrums are less and less cute the older you get. You won't always get your own way. Learn to compromise with those around you.

10. Don't be a stupid sophomore boy forever.  Think for yourself. Be yourself.

11. Reading is cool. I have a long list of great books for you to read.  Ask me!

12. New isn't always better (well, except maybe with technology). Check out some old movies, old books, old music. You will find some really fun things.

13. Don't be afraid to try new things.

14. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.  Mistakes are good when you learn from them (and there's no such thing as perfect.)

15. Dance.  You don't have to be good. But most women like to dance and want a man who will go out onto the dance floor with them.  So just dance!

16. Keep having fun. Laugh. Be silly.  Even when you are a grown up.

17. Find something you are passionate about and keep it in your life. It might not be your job (although that is ideal), but if you do something with passion, the rest of your life will be happier.

18. Love your family--even when you don't like them very much. Make the time to stay connected.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Art of Doing Nothing

I think I'm going to write a how to book. It will be called "The Art of Doing Nothing: A Guide for Adults". Most adults feel like they have to be accomplishing something, but it's not always necessary. It's hard work doing nothing.  Really. It's difficult shutting down those voices in my head ordering me to: do the dishes, make my bed, pick up Chloe's toys, read, write, walk, dust, vacuum....

Instead, I will just breathe and:  feel the wind in my face, put up my feet, and let my mind roll with the waves. The I will watch the birds fly, Chloe sleep, the flags fly, the boats bob, the buoy dance, and wonder if the pink tube will blow away. Lastly, I will watch the shade move around table.

Some would call this avoidance. I call it, the art of doing nothing....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lake Morning

You know when you get those silly emails from friends that ask you to answer questions like "What are you wearing right now?" or "What's your favorite--beer or milk?". One of the questions is often, "What's your favorite smell?"  I always answer "the lake". I wish I had the words to describe the smell in the air and the feel of the breeze this morning. I've been sitting here enjoying it for over an hour and thinking of all the words I could use to describe them. But nothing would do them justice.

Here in Iowa, we have been under an excessive heat warning since Saturday. It is supposed to last until Wednesday night or Thursday. That means while the temperature is in the upper 90's, the added humidity makes it feel MUCH warmer--like around 110-115 degrees. That's hot. And there's only two places to be when it's this hot. In the air conditioning or in the lake.  Saturday I spent in the lake. Sunday I spent in the air conditioning (I meant to go in the lake, but I watched the women's soccer game instead). I'm not complaining , though. This is MUCH better than the snow day we had in April. I told my friends at lunch last winter that I couldn't wait for the days when I would sit and sweat.  These are those days!

This morning, however, is heavenly.  I'm sitting in the shade, with the breeze in my face and Chloe at my feet. And I'm not sweating! So here we will sit until the sun and the heat force us inside. But for now, the dishes, the bed and the dusting can all wait. I think I'll have another cup of coffee.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just For Today

Just for Today

I will
Pretend
Bite my tongue 'til it bleeds
Smile
Act like nothing is wrong

Just for Today

I will
Be the bigger person
Enjoy the sun and waves
Practice serenity
Breathe

Just for Today

I will
Laugh
Enjoy
Talk
Smile

Just for Today

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Lady in Pink

Pink Lady 093photo © 2009 Manu | more info (via: Wylio)
She has been in my head for two days--ever since I saw her across the restaurant. At first, from the back, I thought she was a teenager, but when she sat at the table next to us, I saw she was much older. Probably in her late 70's, although she could have been younger. Her face was so kindly, it was hard to determine her age.

I think it was the way she had her hair pulled back that gave the impression of a teenager. There was a little pink scarf wrapped around the bun she had put up on the back of her head. A slight woman, she pulled off the head to toe pink outfit very well. One of friends thought she looked very Southern, and I'd have to agree, although we never heard her speak. She was very proper looking in her pink flower-print skirt that flared out as it hit just below her knees.  A pink knit top with a coordinating pink sweater buttoned over her shoulders, gave her an old time librarian look.

But the best part for us were her shoes--canvas slip-ons. Pink, of course, with white polka dots. They seemed to give her such a playful, carefree appearance.
I watched her eat--cutting her muffin and fruit very daintily, very precisely. She chewed each bite before she spoke.  Elbows off the table. Politely listened to her companion who was dressed in jeans and a dark shirt, as if to give the stage totally to her--the Lady in Pink. She was a lesson in old time manners. A throwback to days gone by....



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Early Morning Musings

Bleary eyed, I look at the clock. 3:39am.  Crap!  The alarm didn't go off. I meant to get up at 3:00am to give myself a little time for coffee and something to eat. Now I'll have to rush to get going on time.
Quick shower while the coffee perks, a quickly dashed off Slice of Life, and I am out the door.

It's 4:20am. My mind is on a dear friend facing a lumpectomy this morning. She checks in at 5:45am and I want to be there with her. Because of A LOT going on with other family members, she is facing this without any of them there. So it is important that as many of her "other family" are there with her and two have traveled with her from western Iowa to Rochester.  She doesn't know I am coming.

I drive down the street and notice a house with all it's lights on and many cars in the driveway. My mind races---what could be going on?  Are they up because they work an early shift somewhere?  Or maybe someone works the night shift and just hasn't settled down after work.  Maybe there is something wrong.

The drive is long this morning, although it is only a little over an hour to Rochester.  My mind continues to think of my friend and what she has been going through. There is, of course, a chance that they will not be able to do a lumpectomy and the doctor will have to remove the breast. How will she handle that? How would we all handle that?

Time is racing and my car moves too slowly it seems.  Will I make it on time? Will I be able to see her before they take her away for surgery?

The morning sky is beautiful. To the west it is dark and stormy looking, but the sunrise in the east is breathtaking. Full of the hope and promise of a wonderful day.

I arrive. Once parked I send a text to find out where they are at. And lo and  behold, they are still in line at the admissions desk right in front of me. The look on my friend's face when she saw me made the early morning drive worth it.

I am happy to say my dear friend made it through surgery with flying colors. As I left them in the early afternoon, she was in good spirits and wanting to get home to her healing place--home to the lake.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Morning Hugs

Sleeping soundly, until I feel someone watching me.  I turn over and open my eyes. There stands Tony with a tired grin on his face. I pull back the sheet and in he crawls, snuggling next to me.

"Gramma..."

"What Tony?"

"I love you."

"I love you too."

We cuddle a bit more and I just enjoy the morning. Tony, who asks a million questions a day, starts in (I'm sure so he can make his quota of questions).

"Gramma, can I play golf?"
"Gramma, can we go swimming today?"
"Gramma, where are your glasses?"
"Gramma, what's that noise?"

It's Chloe, shaking herself awake. I open the bedroom door and in she flies, jumping on top of Tony and I, devouring us with her kisses. Giggles ensue. And then we all settle down for a few more minutes of morning hugs.

Monday, July 11, 2011

6 Adults, 6 Grandkids, 3 Dogs and a Cat


Can six adults, six kids, three dogs and a cat live together in small confines for five days and live to tell about it?  You bet! (To be honest, two adults and a dog left after two days, so that eased things a bit).

Our sons and their families both came to the lake to visit over the fourth. I had spent the weekend before trying to organize the trailer to maximize space and have a place to put everyone's belongings. (You have to understand that the trailer was a camper in a previous life--maybe 25-30 feet long with an addition the same length and width)  I rearranged  the cupboards and the fridge so we had more space for the food needed to feed everyone. I cleaned coolers so we had a place for beverages (the fridge is just too small to hold food AND beverages). I found the kid DVD's and had them ready to go. I brought extra towels from home---you never have too many towels at the lake.  I was as ready as I was going to be!

Also in the mix were my mom, sisters, nieces and a nephew. They had rented a small cabin at the resort for their comings and goings. Some came Saturday, some came Sunday, some came on Monday, the 4th. It was a huge family weekend. On top of this, our best friends son was home for a visit from Poland for the first time in six years.  Now, this man was like one of my own kids when he was younger, so the weekend was packed!

We tried to keep things simple all week. Paper plates and plastic silverware when possible. When everyone was around on the 4th we went with sloppy joes in the crockpot, along with salads and fruit. That way everyone could eat when they wanted. The rest of the week was similar. The less fuss the better was our motto.

Bedtime was an adventure--one night I actually slept on a mattress in the kitchen!  But as long as there was floor space and enough pillows and blankets, we were good. The poor animals slept wherever they found space.

It was a fun week, a long week, a special week. But I was sure happy to get home and into my own bed!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pool Party

The first job I ever had was running the pool shack at the country club in my hometown. My best friend, a friend from church and I were in charge of keeping the concession stand open, stocked with supplies and clean the summer after my sophomore year of high school. We made what seemed like a fortune--$1.25 an hour. Now,  considering that the girls at the local A and W made a whole 75 cents an hour, we were rolling in dough.

The funny thing about this job was after an initial meeting to explain what we were to do, no other adult ever checked on us the rest of the summer. It was teenage heaven. No one told us what to do. We decided the work schedule. We ordered the candy and ice cream. We cleaned the french fryer and grills when need be. 

Some of my favorite summer memories revolve around my sixteenth summer. We flirted with the lifeguards,  caddies, and members. We listened to the Watergate trial on the radio (spurred on by one of the lifeguards--a college boy!), sang along with the Top 40 hits on the radio, tortured the flies (a LONG story) and lived the teenage dream. We made enough money to keep gas in our cars--of course, gas was 35 cents a gallon at the time. And if we knew where to look, there were gas wars that brought the price down to 25 cents a gallon! We could buy all the cute new clothes we wanted, so we could start the new school year with just the right look. 
Fireworksphoto © 2008 bayasaa | more info (via: Wylio)


As the 4th of July approached, we spent a good two weeks looking for the perfect outfit. We had to work all day and wanted to look our best. And once work was over, there were the fireworks to enjoy. We opened early, took turns sitting by the pool, and kept things running smoothly during pool breaks. It was a long day, but we had a lot of fun and got paid besides!

Once summer was over I was asked to come inside and waitress during the school year. I never did get to run the shack again, but I often gazed out the windows at the pool while working and smiled as I remember a golden summer.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Memories

The smell of suntan lotion brings back one memory every time I smell it--summer at the pool.

Haggerston Castle Swimming Poolphoto © 2008 havenholidays | more info (via: Wylio)



When I was a kid, summer was spent at the pool. Mom bought a family season pass every year for my sisters, brother and I and we walked or biked the half mile there every day. It opened at noon and we were almost always one of the first ones in line. We'd swim and play until five, when it closed for the dinner hour. It reopened at six, and many days, we went back until it closed at nine.  What a life.

When I was in eighth grade, the pool became more than a place to cool off on a hot summer day. It was our social paradise! It was such an important place to be--how else would you learn to flirt, make important high school connections or find out the latest gossip?

Finding exactly the right spot to lay your towel was essential. You couldn't be too close to the kiddie end. You would look like a little kid and ran the risk of getting splashed on by the annoying little boys. You didn't want to end up too close to the diving boards because there was just too much activity there and it might block your view of the cute lifeguards ( is it a requirement to be cute when you are a lifeguard?). Nabbing the elite spot just behind and to the right of one particular life guard stand was the goal of the day.

Once there, you needed to lay out your things. Towel, transistor radio (tuned in to the cool station of the summer), Seventeen magazine and, of course, the baby oil and iodine mixture to help get that summer glow.

Laughing, flirting with the lifeguards, strutting our stuff around the pool, giggling at the silly antics of the boys on the diving board. These were the days of summer...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wicked Witch of the East

Both Ruth at ruthayerswrites.blogspot.com and my chapters in Spilling Ink talked today about noticing the every day around you and writing it down. Ruth wrote about noticing idiosyncrasies and writing them in your writer's notebook. As I was reading, Chloe began barking non-stop. I knew it had to be at the neighbor lady. She creeps Chloe  out--and me too. So, here she is...

Old womanphoto © 2008 Ed Yourdon | more info (via: Wylio)
She skulks around her yard, bent slightly at the waist, mouth pursed into a perpetual grimace, scanning the area around her for trespassers of any kind. Dandelions, litter, a neighborhood dog or cat. a neighbor... anything that dares to enter her realm. Dressed in her uniform of jean capris, knit shirt and white Keds with white ankle socks, she checks the surveillance cameras installed around the perimeter of her small green bungalow daily, making sure they work correctly when nothing shows up on video. She slowly creeps around the side of the garage, peeking through the bushes, making sure no one is following her. The neighborhood dogs bark as she creeps.

She's lonely, I know. She speaks to no one (except to reprimand them for indiscretions) and no one speaks to her. It is better not to. Better to not find out what is going on in her crazy mind.  Better to not know that she believes she is being watched. Better to not know that she believes the neighbors are coming into her yard after her. Better not to know...







Today's quote from Spilling Ink: "Sometimes ideas only show up when they think you're not watching."