Happy National Poetry Month

1 Apr

Many years ago, after my dog Clara passed, I was walking a Louie, alone, in Laurelhurst Park for the first time. I was a one among many frequent walkers. Many passed us by, but several always – or at least often – stopped to talk.

One was a young woman with long, wavy hair. She had a peculiar stride, you know the one, where the walker seems to be leaning back. I have seen it in a few people in the course of my life and, whenever I see it, I am reminded of the other people with the same style.

This woman, whose name I no longer know, if I ever knew it, saw me with a single dog.  You never really know how you (or your dogs) can become part of a stranger’s life. She seemed especially moved. I don’t recall that she had tears in her eyes, but I remember that she reached deep into the pockets of her coat and pulled out a small bundle.

“I hope this brings you peace,” was all she said.

I didn’t look at the bundle until I got home, but I was so moved by her gift, that I still have it.

Here is what each of the 2″x2″ cards says

  • we’re all soulmates
  • loving is just recognizing your spirit in another being
  • there is another way to live
  • keeping company with hummingbirds
  • lose your shoes
  • it’s all play
  • I visit a tree in the park that was my mate a thousand years ago

It is not traditional poetry, in the traditional sense, but the gesture was poetic and still touches my heart, as good poetry does.

Time on my hands

31 Mar

Despite the my grey hair and the many missives I receive from the AARP, I am not yet a senior citizen. This is important because it means I need to be aware of shopping times, i.e. the shopping times reserved for seniors and other vulnerable people. I know that my nearest shop, the tiny Whole Foods three blocks away, has reserved 8 – 9 a.m. for these folks.

Yesterday morning, feeling antsy, I decided to go to Whole Foods. I played the “let’s pretend I’m not going out without you” game with Lucy, but she had it figured out by the time we hit the sidewalk. The trembles started. Hardening my heart, we took a little walk and then returned to the house where I left her.

I had packed my backpack before the walk, so I could drop Lucy off, grab the bag and be out the door before she could really panic. It contained two reusable shopping bags, yellow Playtex gloves, and my wallet. I intentionally left my phone behind so it wouldn’t get germed. I also just wanted to enjoy my walk without distractions.

I knew I was a little early, but hadn’t realized quite how early I was going to be. As I walked through the parking lot, I saw a gloveless senior citizen raking groceries from her cart and putting them in her front seat, just like I do. Another person exited. He didn’t look like a senior, but he was a little further away. Maybe it was already nine.

I approached the doors, where the security guard stood. This was a new addition to the store the last time I was there. That time they mostly cleaned shopping carts, but I suspect they managed the lines at busier times.

“Am I early?” I asked as I approached, but maintained an appropriate social distance.

“Yeah, you got about 20 more minutes,” she told me, smiling, clearly not thinking of me the way the AARP does.

“No problem. I’ll just take a walk,” I replied as I veered off the other direction into the neighborhood.

Although this neighbor hood is near min and I often walk the major streets, there are many streets I don’t think I have ever been down. I peeked at porches and gardens as I walked past, trying to figure how far I needed to go before turning around and taking a different winding way home. I crossed the street when I saw people coming towards me and got to look at some different houses and yards.

It had rained really hard overnight and there were a few puddles to navigate around. I walked around a park, rather than through it, to a point where I thought I could turn around. Not having a watch or my phone made the actual time a guess. I decided that, as I walked back to Whole Foods, I would try to see if I could see the time through someone’s window. It was harder than I thought it would be. I saw mixers and plants, coffee makers and dog treats, but I could not see a clock. Not on a wall, not on a stove.

As I was about to round the last corner, I passed a house where I could see a large screen TV through the window. CNN was on, and I knew they usually showed the time in one corner or another. I slowed my pace, allowing my eyes to roam from corner to corner, trying no to look too much like a stalker. And the, there it was, in the upper right hand corner 12:07 ET. That meant it was 9:07 in Portland.

I picked up my pace, greeted the the same security guard when I reached Whole Foods, then entered the store ready to get the things I needed.

 

 

Allergic to baths

30 Mar

Lucy and I share many characteristics: we both like to stay home, we both like a cozy blanket, and we both have grass allergies. In fact, we take the exact same medication. My vet told me it was okay, for the record.

My eyes have been itchy and I have had some nasal congestion and sneezing, which, these days, makes me worry a bit. Lucy’s grass allergy manifests in a slightly different way. Her feet and tummy get itchy, and with the itching comes the gnawing and the  accompanying sounds, which are a little gross and a lot loud. The allergy medication keeps her skin under control most of the time, but every March, we have to take things a step further – all the way to the bathtub. And that is where we went yesterday.

I’ve written before about how much Lucy hates the bath. I didn’t have to chase her down this time because, after years of study, I have learned to trick her into entering the bathroom. When I close the door, though, she knows she’s been duped.

It surprises me that she falls for it, because I due her the same way at the vet and when she boards. We walk together to “the door of doom” and then it closes behind her. The only difference between the bathroom and those two places  is that I am behind the closed door with her.

As on any bath day, Lucy stood next to the door, hoping the fickle finger of fate would open it. It has never done so in the past and did not do so yesterday. I scooped her up and  set her in the tub. She acquiesced, as she always does when in this position. The terrible deed was over in ten minutes  – that’s how long the shampoo is supposed to stay on before being rinsed off. Out of the tub, a quick pat down and Lucy tears around the house, trying to regain her doggie scent.

Yesterday, though, she got the last laugh. Shortly after her bath, we went out for a walk. She did not return quite as clean as she left the house.

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Learning curves for everyone

29 Mar

Tomorrow, we are supposed to get details about remote learning from the school district. My principal has warned us that it will have a lot of information. She asked us to look it over, but to not let it overwhelm us. We are having a staff meeting via Zoom on Tuesday to clarify things.

I’ve gotten by with a Google website for many years. We have had other options presented to us, including Google Classroom and Canvas, but I am a simple person and my website has served me, and my students well enough. Knowing that things are about to change radically, I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to present whatever it is I am going to present. I decided to test the waters and dip my toe into Canvas.

I logged into the account I have had for two years, but have never used. I figured the easiest thing to test out would be a reading/writing project I had assigned before we left for Outdoor School. Students already had the details and it wasn’t due yet, so it would be a good test subject. I wrote and uploaded and pressed publish. From my point of view, everything was pretty straightforward and easy. But did it work?

I thought about the two Humanities classes I teach, wondering who I might email and ask to check their Canvas account. I don’t even know if all students use Canvas, although I think most of their Encore teachers use it for their classes.

And then, an opportunity appeared.

It came in the form of this fun email from a student.

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I emailed her back right away, offering suggestions, asking and answering her questions and providing some links to good resources. And, I asked her if she uses Canvas and could she take a look at her Canvas account and tell me if it worked. I confessed to her that this was my first time using Canvas. It seems we are both on a learning curve.

Convocation commiseration

28 Mar

My niece, who has worked hard for the last four years, was told this week that there wold be no convocation to mark the attainment of her B.A. My sister and I texted for a bit about this sad situation and reflected a bit on ours.

I didn’t attend the ceremony for my Master’s degree from Portland State.  I am certain I attended the one for my Teaching degree from Brock University. I have some vague memories of a Spring day and my parents on campus. I do, however, remember the day I was awarded my B.A.

 

It was a beautiful day in June. I don’t remember the drive into Toronto with my parents. I have some memories of hordes of  Vic grads crowding  for our gowns. There might even have been a walk across campus to Convocation Hall.

convocation-hall

 

It’s funny the things I remember and the things I don’t.

I remember that, before the ceremony, as we were putting our gowns on,  we had received a card that had our name and degree on it. As we mounted the stage, we were to hand it to the MC, who announced us.

I remember being surprised when they told us that, the rolled diploma we would be handed on stage was, on fact, just a blank piece of paper. Once we exited the stage, we traded the fake diploma for the real thing. When my turn came, everything went off without a hitch.

After exiting the backstage area, we were sent up to the balcony to finish watching the rest of the ceremony. Moira Gill, who I knew from Margaret Addison Hall where I lived for my first two years, sat to my right. A young man I didn’t know sat to my left.

We were way up in the gods. Much whispering and peering at diplomas was going on as some unknown person gave the convocation address. These were the days before celebrity speakers. The young man to my left looked glum.

“I didn’t get mine,” he told us, blushing and chuckling nervously. We were all incredulous.

“Apparently, I have a library fine,” he confessed, clearly embarrassed.

We all sympathized and commiserated with the young man, while secretly harboring relief that we hadn’t suffered the same fate.

When the ceremony ended, I found my parents. Did we go out for dinner or just go straight home. I don’t really remember. I have always wondered if that young man took his family to the library to take care of his fine.

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P.S. I’m in the fourth row, fifth from the left

The selfie struggle was real

27 Mar

The request came early Thursday morning telling us that we

will work to put together a short video clip of Stoller teachers to send a greeting to our families/students. The goal is a bit of a positive boost for our students.

Short turn around looking to make it in the next 2 days and piece it together. The underlining message is we miss you, take care of yourself, cant wait to see you again.
Please take a picture or a 10-15 second video with your kids, pet, in your kitchen, with pj’s on it doesn’t matter. We are just looking for a Stoller cares video.
Have you ever tried to take a selfie with a sleepy senior basset hound? The slideshow below shows the best I could get. I didn’t even attempt a video.

 

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How do you like them apples?

26 Mar

Last night, realizing that I had six apples in my fridge, I decided that I would make apple crisp this morning. With oatmeal in the recipe,  I thought, it could be considered a breakfast food!

Alas, when I set out to make it, I realized I had used up all my oatmeal last week. Although there are apple crisp recipes that don’t call for oatmeal, I could not bring myself to create such an abomination.

So, there I was, bedecked in an apron and ready to bake. I looked at Lucy, who had roused herself from sleep upon hearing clattering in the kitchen, and asked, “Is there an easy apple cake recipe I could make instead?”.

Of course there was. I did a little online search and found one that required a 9×9 pan. I live alone, and baking a 9×13 cake for one person me seemed extravagant.

And, an hour later, I had a cake. It actually was more like an apple-cinnamon brownie, and it smelled great.

I also happened to have whipping cream in the fridge, so, while the cake cooled I got whipping. It’s maybe a good thing I did PE With Joe this morning!

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Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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