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The elephant in my summer vacation

3 Jul

I love my job, working with gifted 6th graders. I especially love 6th grade because I get to guide these wide-eyed newbies into the world of middle school.

But our numbers are down.

Just over a month ago, our admin team came to tell us and said that our four person team would be reduced to a three person team if the numbers stayed the same. They also said they had applied for an additional position, which, if it were to be granted, would keep us a four person team. They also said that, if it didn’t come, we would go from 2 Humanities teachers to one. That meant my job or my teaching partner’s job.

I worried that last month of school. I was the newer Humanities teacher. I was the one who had changed jobs and/or rooms five times in the last six years. Finally, the last week of school, I heard that, although they were still hoping for the additional teaching position to be added, I would be the one to change jobs.

And so I am enjoying summer, trying desperately to ignore the elephant that is with me on vacation.

The team I would move to is wonderful.

I wouldn’t have to change rooms, though I would be teaching regular 7th grade.

Even though this year’s 6th graders have moved on, I feel as though I am leaving them.

I try not to check my email and phone several times a day, hoping for the message that say we got the position. It has yet to come.

I figure I can pretend and ignore the elephant through July, but once August rolls around, I might need to accept reality – unless that call finally comes.





29 May

Several weeks ago, I planted cilantro and basil seeds in pots on my front stoop. The packages said to sow them 6″( basil) and 12″ (cilantro) apart. when I opened the packet, though, the basil seeds seemed so tiny. How could I plant single seeds 6″ apart when I found it impossible to pick up a single seed? So, I didn’t. I sowed both herbs liberally.

I waited and watered and waited some more. The basil seedlings appeared first. It was almost another week before I saw signs of life in the cilantro planter. I was pleased and relieved.

Now, some 4 or 5 weeks later, I can see that the package hadn’t exaggerated. Each pot is packed with herbal goodness.

I needed some basil over the weekend, so I thinned it a bit. And now I am thinking that, when I have thinned a little more, I might add the leftover seeds to the pots to ensure a constant supply of my two favorite herbs through the summer.

Chicken pox? Chicken pox!

1 May

A colleague’s diagnosis of shingles (or chicken pox or maybe hand-foot-and-mouth disease – the doctors still aren’t sure) got several of us reminiscing about our childhood bouts.

I have a few distinct memories. I remember soaking in a tub of epsom salts and giggling with my twin sister as our mom covered us in pink polka dots of Calamine lotion. I still love the smell of Calamine lotion! But my most vivid memory is set in my bedroom.

My mom was a great bed-maker. We loved asking her to tuck us in at night, which meant pulling the sheets super tight and tucking them in. We’d squeal “tighter” and make her adjust our sheets until we felt sufficiently snug. Our old school flannel sheets with pink stripes were a comfort long into my teenage years, but chicken pox struck me and my sister around age five or six.

I remember being in bed during the day in my bed while my sister was in her own bed. I recall the room was dark when Mom came in carrying a tray with two bowls of strawberries. My sister and I were alert and excited. We were never  allowed to eat in our rooms, let alone in bed.

As she delivered a bowl to each of us, she said, “Whatever you do, don’t slop!” Mom was strict and I knew she meant it. She left and I did my best, but, you guessed it: I slopped.  Although I was trying my hardest, a slice of berry fell from my spoon and onto my flannel sheet, leaving a red spot I couldn’t hide from my mom.

I suspect I didn’t enjoy the rest of the berries, but I don’t really remember. I do remember worrying what would happen when Mom returned. I expected the worst.

But the worst never came.

Instead of getting mad, my mom got a cloth and rubbed out most of spot. She might have eventually changed the sheets, I don’t remember. I do remember feeling relieved and surprised, as though I’d had a great epiphany. It was my first step towards understanding that my mother was a much more complex person than I’d always thought she was.





Solar power

24 Apr

The sudden shift from April showers (and downpours) to warm weather over the weekend saw many neighbors out planting flowers.

I was there too, planting in the small the courtyard of my condominium. I first planted the accent flowers in the window box style planter I had set on my stoop.  Then, I intended to plant cilantro and basil seeds in separate pots, but as I emptied the potting soil bags, I realized I was going to be  a little short. I could fill one completely or one half way, or I could do both about three-quarters full.

As I weighed my options, my neighbor in #4 came into the courtyard carrying in a very dead houseplant. By the end of our observations about the weather,  and a discussion as to whether one could dispose of a dead plant in the compost bin, I had a brilliant idea.

“If  there is any soil left once you’ve discarded that plant, I’d be willing to take it off you hands,” I offered, seeing a potential win-win here. She agreed and a few minutes later she was at the foot of the steps leading to the sidewalk, calling my name.

“Actually,” she said, “You could do me a bigger favor.” She went on to tell me she had recently been diagnosed with cancer and had just had surgery. All had gone well and they caught it early and she’d be starting radiation (or was it chemo) next week. However, she wasn’t allowed to lift. If I helped her shift the big bag of potting soil in her garage, I could take what I needed to fill my containers. A bit shocked at the news, I quickly agreed.

Before too long, we both had potted our plants. I know I was feeling energized by the warmth of the sun on my skin as I worked. My dog, was also enjoying a little sunbath beside me. And my neighbor, she, too seemed to be benefitting from the summery weather we were having. I hoped that it gave her extra power to keep fighting the good fight as she enters into the next phase of her treatment and recovery.slice-of-life_individual

Ode to Dandelions

30 Mar

I saw these dandelions (Scientific nameTaraxacum) on a walk. As I said the Latin name, the rhythm of O Tannebaum popped into my head. A new song was born.


Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How lovely are thy petals.
Your leaves are green and edible
Your roots grow deep – incredible!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
You’re often called a noxious weed
Your seeds fly far – that’s guaranteed!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Kids turn you into crowns and chains
Then return home covered in stains!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Canine good citizenship

29 Mar

My hands were empty when I arrived home. Lucy was with me, but the poop bag I’d been holding was no longer with me.

Literal and figurative CRAP! I thought. I, who rail against people who don’t pick up after their dogs had left, had left my own pick-uppage behind.

There was nothing else to do. Poor Lucy looked confused as we went out once more, retracing the path we had just taken. Fortunately, the sun was out and there were sniffs to be sniffed and her perplexity was soon replaced by curiosity and interest at each blade of grass.

Before too long, a flash of pink appeared up ahead on the sidewalk.


Ironic that I dropped it near someone’s trash cans.

With my goal in sight I urged Lucy forward a little more quickly until I picked up the offending bag. At that point, Lucy and I slowed down, enjoying a more leisurely pace as we completed our walk around the neighborhood on this beautifully sunny Spring Break day.

From the ridiculous to the sublime

21 Nov

I was sitting in the pub, awaiting friends, when the host began helping a man set up his screen.  Must be celebrating a birthday or something, I thought.

My friends arrived, we ordered and talked, and I forgot about the group. And then the first image was projected onto the screen: The Beer Chorus. An MC took a mike and explained that they were the Portland Beer Choir. From that point on my attention wavered between my companions and the Beer Choir. They had a hymnal! They sang songs I’d never heard, some I had, and some to tunes I recognized with words I did not.

(Sing to the tune of “Do, a deer”)

FA, a long way for a beer

SO, I need another beer

LA, la la la la, la beer

As our dinner progressed more and more beer choir people appeared. I was fascinated.

We got up to leave, just as they were singing and pounding the table to The Wild Rover.

It was a beautiful Fall evening as we walked the few blocks from the pub to the church, where the concert that had called my friends and I out, would be held. We have seasons tickets to Cappella Romana, a vocal ensemble that performs early and contemporary sacred classical music in the Christian traditions of East and West. Saturday’s concert, entitled Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure, featured sacred works from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Estonia.

For years we’ve had tickets in row D. This year, due to a transition to a new office person, we have tickets in a variety of seats. For this concert we were in row A, the very front, and it was a powerful place to sit for this amazing concert.

The piece they sang for their encore, the Sandstrom arrangement of the hymn Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming which slows down this hymn that has long been one of my favorites. It was sublime.




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