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The job has changed

18 Mar

I got weepy in Advisory yesterday as we processed the murders in Atlanta yesterday.

It can be a little awkward talking about these things with 6th graders because some are very attuned to the news and some have no idea what happened.

At some point, I said something along the lines of “This isn’t what I signed up for when I became a teacher, but I seem to be having these conversations with students more and more,” and that made me sad because it’s true and because most of my students are of East or Southeast Asian ancestry. So I got weepy. Each and every one of these conversations connecting to the one before, and the one before, in an endless stream.

When I became a teacher in 1988, the hardest conversation I ever had was telling another teacher, who was wearing white pants, that she’d gotten her period.

My students are good, though, because yesterday, in our study of the three philosophies in Ancient China. I had connected them to The Tao of Pooh, and one of them made me laugh because commented that more people should be like Pooh. That led to comments about Taoism in general and how more people needed to be kinder.

I left them with a suggestion to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and to take a moment today to do a kindness to someone, or make someone smile for no reason except to restore some balance to the world. I know some of them will do that. I have faith and hope in them.

The DST Struggle is Real

17 Mar

I am a morning person. So why am I struggling so much with getting up in Daylight Savings Time?

I go to bed and fall asleep just fine, despite the time change. But getting up has been a struggle. And that is unusual for me. Since Monday, I’ve tried to hit the snooze button, but, because it is a button I never really use, I fail to give myself ten more minutes on the clock.

My first year in Colombia, the country experienced a drought. A number of policies were put into place to manage water resources. Since most of the electricity came from hydroelectric dams, electricity was rationed. For several months, we had only 12 hours of electricity a day. Each week we alternated between 6 am to 6 pm and 6 pm to 6 am. Additionally it was decided to implement Daylight Savings time for the first time ever. Colombia lies just above the equator, so daylight hours only vary about 30 minutes from one solstice to another.

Some people accepted the decision, some resisted, and some were confused. Many would ask “Old time or new time?” when you made an agreement about a time to meet. I think I finally understand this thinking. As I struggled to get up this morning, I thought My body thinks it’s 4:30 not 5:30. My body is living in old time, but my brain is living in new time.

Hit me with your best shot

16 Mar

The only real side effect I had from the second COVID shot, was tiredness. I believe this was the result of following advice given to me by several people: take Tylenol before the shot then every six hours afterwards for a day or two. It worked like a charm.

I passed this advice on to my teaching partner, whose second shot came over the weekend. Her side effects were also minimal. This preventative measure got me thinking about another time I had to take preventative medication.

It was December 1993 and I was living in Colombia. A wisdom tooth needed some attention. I’d seen my dentist and we’d scheduled the extraction for our Winter Break from school. He wrote me a prescription for penicillin injections to be delivered twice before the day of the appointment. This could be done at any pharmacy, so in a timely manner, I arrived at my neighborhood pharmacy on the first day my dentist recommended.

The pharmacist was a jovial pot-bellied man, middle-aged with thinning hair. He looked at the prescription then told me to come on into the back. A lot gets done in pharmacies abroad that would happen in a doctor’s office at home, but I followed him back, and began rolling up my sleeve. The pharmacist gave me a funny look then kindly explained that it had to be delivered intramuscularly and, for this shot, that meant the buttocks. I gave him a look of incredulity. He smiled. I turned and dropped my drawers. It was over in seconds.

The walk home started the movement of the penicillin through my body. It also got me thinking about the second shot. The sting of that thought was far greater than the pain of the needle itself.


15 Mar

The high school most of my middle students will attend has a tradition of inviting former teachers to send messages to students who will graduate. Because the school’s teams are called the Sunset Apollos, the messages are called Apollograms. I have only been at my middle school for six years, so my first group of 6th graders won’t graduate until 2022. However, the elementary school where I used to teach also feeds into the same high school.

Because kids haven’t been in school buildings for a year, and because we are scheduled to return to buildings in April, the decision was made to move the due date forward so graduating students can receive them upon their return to the building.

When our secretary sent out the list of former Stoller students who were graduating, I looked over the list and knew no one. I was a little disappointed, but then I realized that if we’d been sent a list, the elementary school I taught at probably also received a list. I reached out to the secretary and she did not disappoint.

I like to keep Sundays quiet. So yesterday morning, as rain fell outside, I snuggled on the sofa under a blanket and filled out my Apollograms.

As each name came, I pictured the student who I last knew as a 5th grader. Because I’d been the school librarian when they were kindergartners, I knew all but one student. I wondered what they looked like now. Would I recognize them if I had the chance to meet them? Each of their names brought a smile to may face as I thought back to my years at that school, and this group of kids.

The Saturday morning walk

13 Mar

The Saturday morning walk is
different from a weekday walk.
Some of the other dog walkers are familiar,
but the runners are not.
The streets are quieter,
with fewer people
on their way to work.

Today, it’s sunny
and the sounds of birds fill the air.
As does the staccatoed hammering
of the northern flicker
atop the telephone pole
a nest hole.

Sunday mornings
are surprisingly busier
as golf carts shuttle parishioners
to the white church
around the corner
and those fortunate to find parking
walk to the service.

But this Saturday morning
things are still quiet
as we mosey along
stopping to smell the flowers –
daffodils and crocuses –
that seem brighter than yesterday
on this sunny morning.

Shot #2

12 Mar

Yesterday, I woke up a half hour before my alarm. It was the day of my second shot and, after the stress and long lines of the first shot, I had a well thought out plan I wanted to roll out.

My appointment was at 9:00 a.m. My plan was to be there by 8:00, in case the lines were long. The tricky bot of this was Richard. You see, he’s has fallen in to habit of getting up with me and eating his breakfast then going back to bed for three more hours. I’ve been worrying about how I am going to have to retrain him before we go back to the school building April 19th, so today was a great day to test his ability to get up earlier. Fortunately, he passed with flying colors.

There was frost on the car, which needed scraping, but I was on the road, by my targeted time and arrived at the parking lot of the Oregon Convention Center a bit before 8:00. There was lots of parking and no lines, so I was seated with the nurse and vaccinated by 8:15. I know it was 8:25 because my exit sticker said 8:45 – they make me wait 30 minutes because I am allergic to sulpha drugs. Mission accomplished before my actual appointment time!

When I got home, I dug out all my old vaccination records an added my new card to the pile. They include shots for yellow fever, cholers, typhoid fever, and polio. I don’t have a paper record of receiving a smallpox vaccination, but I have the scar to prove it.


11 Mar

I don’t remember where or when I ate moqueca for the first time, but I suspect it was sometime during my three years in South America. Moqueca is a Brazilian fish stew, and my only trip to Brazil lasted about an hour when I was in the Colombian Amazon. There’s a point in the extreme south of Colombia, Tres Fronteras, where Colombia, Peru and Brazil meet. Make one step one way or another and – voilà – you are in a different country.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about moqueca. It’s delicious and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Fortunately, it’s easy to make.

While the fish is marinated in lime juice and garlic, you sauté onions, green onions, red peppers, and tomatoes. And add lots of paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

When it is cooked you remove half, add a layer of the fish, then cover the fish with the other half of the vegetables.

Next, you pour in coconut milk and let it simmer. Garnish with cilantro. With a side of rice, it is a delightful meal.

Pulling rank

9 Mar

The kids had just started on their reflections about the governments of the four river civilizations we are studying when a question came up:

If first is gold, second silver, and third bronze, what is fourth place?

I’d asked them to rank each civilizations government and given them a wide berth. Their reflection could be in written or visual, by hand or electronic. They rise to the creative options. I had shown pictures of ways to represent or rank four things and many had latched on to the idea of a winner’s podium, hence the question about winner’s medal colors.

This sparked a discussion of alternatives to metal medals. Ribbon colors were discussed and I had a burning question You see, as a kid in Canada, I remember red being the first place ribbon. One of the upsides of teaching remotely is that I can text my twin sister in real time. I asked her my burning question and her reply came back quickly:

in sports: red, blue, white
in a fair: blue, red, white

I shared this news with students, but also let them know that they could choose whatever color combination struck their fancy. Their reflections aren’t due until Thursday, but I am already looking forward to see what students produce – and which colors they chose.

What the hail!

8 Mar

It was a dark and stormy weekend. That meant listening for the rain to stop, scanning the skies for signs of clearing or at least enough of a respite from the rain to make a walk tolerable.

I thought I’d found the moment.

The sun had come out, making the wet sidewalks and glisten. The sky was pure blue – not a raincloud in sight. I set down my knitting and coaxed Richard off the sofa. I put on my shoes and jacket, and got Richard into his harness. We were ready.

Oh, the difference a moment makes.

Once outside, I noticed that the sky was no longer blue. Instead, it was grey and a dark cloud loomed on the distance. Right, I thought, just a short walk around the block.

We had barely descended the back steps when the hail began. I noticed the sound first, the pinging making me think it was just large drops. I raised my head from the sidewalk, where I always scan for things Richard might eat, saw large objects falling from the sky, and looked down again as we made our way to the corner. By the time we got there, the sidewalk was covered with a layer of hailstones. The walking was simultaneously crunchy and slippery.

The young man across the street hunched his shoulders and peered inside the bag he held in front of him. Baby? Pet? Lunch? Richard seemed unfazed by the sudden onslaught so we continued forward, crossing the street to the next block.

The hail abated, then ramped up again. By the time we reached the end of the block, the hail had turned to rain. By the the time we came to the next corner where we would turn for home, the sun was out again. As the hail melted, the sidewalks sparkled in the sunshine.

Once inside the house, Richard returned to the sofa, napping through the on and off again storm I listened to through the rest fo the afternoon.

High lonesome

7 Mar

I’ve lost my reading mojo in the last few weeks. I know it will return, but for now, the thought of reading a print book or even listening to an audiobook, does not bring the joy and excitement it once did.

What am I doing instead? Revisiting old albums of my youth.

My sister and I talked about this yesterday and we both had the same name pop into our heads: Brené Brown. One of her ideas that I love is the value and importance of community singing. We did choral music k-8 at school. I was part of my school and church choirs. And it all stopped in high school. Maybe that’s part of the reason why teenagers get sointo their music.

In any case, my sister and I were talking about how we sing to ourselves. We’ve both been listening and singing to full albums and, it amazes me how I can remember so many of the lyrics.

It turns out, there was a particular artist we have both been listening to lately and my sister mentioned a particular song. I’d been listening to a different album, but her mention of that one brought me back to my year in Denmark and the friend I had who was also a fan of this artist.

When my video chat with my sister ended I knew what I had to do. I pulled out the album she’s mentioned and listened to it. Then I went back to the song she mentioned and grabbed my phone. The chorus has a bit that Brené Brown would call “high lonesome” and I knew Richard could do it. I played the song and knelt beside my sleepy dog on the couch. I made a low “Oooooo” in his ear.

One eye opened.

The song continued and I oooooed some more. His lips puckered and sound began in his throat.It took a few tries, but I got Richard’s high lonesome howl just as the artist got there. I sent it to my sister.

Community singing may have changed in these weird times we are living, but it’s power and magic haven’t disappeared.

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