Monday, August 11, 2014

Find the Light In All Things

I suffer from depression. Days like today which included tragic news from a family member, a phone call about a wildfire close to loved ones' houses, the death of a talented genius of an actor/comedian, plus  another friend losing her husband to cancer took a toll. After a day like today I often have wanted to go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep.

Instead I decided to find the light in all things. I am fortunate. My depression has been diagnosed. I have a doctor that has found a good combination of drugs that work for me most of the time. I have a therapist that can help me find the light whenever I need to.

I work at surrounding myself with simple beauty, supportive family and friends, and furry friends that love me unconditionally. When a day like today comes along I count my blessings, take photos of the beauty around me, and find time to just be still.

This is what works for me. Each person that suffers from depression has a different way of coping. Each person is unique and what works for one person may not work for another.   I just pray these individuals can find a way to "live a life of love and find the light in all things. "

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August Funk or Perhaps Respectability

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."
                                                                       -  Sam Keen

The people who know me well know that the hot summer season is not my favorite time of year. It seems silly for someone that loves to grow flowers, enjoys canning and preserving our garden harvest, and also has a bit of time off before returning to school. I have worked  hard at embracing August but plants wither, wildfires burn, power goes off, air fills with smoke and this year I fell into a funk.

Perhaps it was being dehydrated, maybe I have some unknown sleeping sickness, or perhaps I am just lazy. I am in a hot summer coma. I want to take naps, sleep in, rest, and stare. You get the picture.

 Fortunately I have pulled myself out of the coma to capture images of the beauty that surrounds my funkiness. The weather is below 90 degrees today so I think I will survive. I feel energy moving through my limp veins.

I do love the quote though. I think of it now as respectable laziness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Original Common Core: Old School

 A couple of weeks ago we sat in the beautiful gardens at the home of Joy P. The group included my mom, a retired school teacher, myself and Joy with lots of years of teaching experience between the two of us, and my sister that works with students in the Gear UP program.

We were talking about the changes happening in schools and education in general. The instruction of math came up because is seems like the Common Core standards are moving teachers and students to a different way of teaching and learning math. The conversation moved to the arts and  how elementary art and opportunities for students to be creative is moving to the back burner. Joy then commented that the way we learned and the way Mom taught was good teaching. She inquired, "What was wrong with that kind of teaching?"

Today people call it "old school". Is it so old school?As I reflected on our summer school session with students from grades two through nine, I thought about "old school " teaching vs. Common Core.
We taught our program using a one-room schoolhouse model from the 1900s. It was exciting seeing older students teaching younger students or assisting and reading to them. I think the younger students taught the older students a thing or two also.

Students were allowed freedom to read what they wanted. They found books they were excited about reading that "weren't allowed" sometimes because they were too hard or too easy. They discovered books on tape. They loved being read to. They were reminded how much they loved poetry. Teachers don't have time to fit some of these parts of reading in to instruction anymore. Old school? Perhaps, but it worked for us.

Students were motivated and without much reminding they ate their breakfast each day in the cafeteria and hustled to the library to enjoy reading. They were thrilled when the Book Mobile came and they could pick books. They sat intently listening to Sarah, the library lady read Grimms Fairy Tales to them. She connected them to the current animated movies they watch, but I still think they would have loved them.

Yes, we answered questions about reading and practiced math with time tests and games. We were aware of the Common Core standards and worked at weaving them into our teaching. Students excelled by reading, thinking, writing, and performing math tasks.

The days were even more enriching because we allowed them to be creative in art. They drew sketches, painted, created designs, painted, used yarn, colored with Sharpies, and found their muses. Our students just don't get enough opportunities to do this anymore.

When more than thirty students showed up each day during the hot summer, this illustrated to me that old school learning can work. I think of my mom and what made her such a successful teacher. She knew each student personally and cared about them inside and outside of the classroom. She pushed her students to excel and believed they could do it. She was patient and tried new ways of teaching when students didn't " get it".  She found things that students were interested in and brought those things into the classroom. She had art projects, a Valentine post office, guppies, and tadpoles. She read books and encourages them to read books. Old school? Perhaps.

Thanks Joy for reminding me that Old School can work. As I start another school year in a few weeks, I plan to revisit those things that make teaching successful. I think those important strategies will be in place before Common Core.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Daily Routine

Sometimes I find myself getting out of sorts. This week it happened because of a combination of dehydration causes by the high heat, fatigue, plus the thick smoke that enveloped our place set off my allergies. My energy waned when I returned  home from teaching each day. I also suffer from depression. It crept in this week also. Rolling all this together put me out of sorts.
I knew what I need to do to lift myself up out of the cloud of sadness when I returned from teaching each day. It is always so much easier to hide inside while trying to beat the heat and keep hydrated. Keeping a routine is what allowed me to keep moving ahead during a week like this. Folding laundry,taking naps, making a bed, photographing flowers, feeding the cats, sweeping spilled pills, making to-do lists, filling up water dishes for the dogs, praying,and reading uplifting words. The routine tasks help.

When I stumbled across this poem today by Naomi Shihab Nye it made sense to me. She poetically spoke what I was attempting to say. I love a daily routine.


-Naomi Shihab Nye
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flower Gardening: Giving Up Control

In planning  flower gardens I  think about what perennials will grow the best, what is the best location to plant them, is there unique foliage, and how do textures work together. Often color is the last thing I think about. From the first blooming bulbs in the spring until the last standing mums in the fall my gardens take on different color arrangements depending on the plant, season, and weather.

In spring this year I was surrounded by lots of yellow, purple, and orange. I have tried to select a variety of colors of spring bulbs, even though red and yellow always announce spring brightly.

The next cycle of spring includes more purple and pink. I think every iris I own has turned to purple. They are pretty, but I do like some variety. Somehow the strongest surviving roses have been pink and trees bloom in pink. Columbines are now mostly purple.  Of course the lilacs border one large flower bed with different shades of purple.This creates an English cottage garden look that I like.

Right now the gardens are showing off in white. Once I tried to have just a white garden. I think they look cool and peaceful. That was early in my gardening career so the place was not good that I chose. Many of the plants are spread around now. I did have fun last night just photographing just white flowers.

 I use more planning when purchasing annuals for pots and planters around the gardens. This is where I can mix it up a bit. Some years I want a whole theme... like purple and orange or blues and whites. I did quite a mix this year, but tried to grow as many red flowers as I could for an upcoming family wedding.

A few years ago I let go of the idea that I could control what happens in my gardens. I can't.  I can give plants what they need to grow and bloom, but that is it. Sometimes that doesn't even work. That is the beauty of gardening. Plants change colors, some die while stronger ones emerge, and some disappear only to return a few years later. It is a mixed up mess, but I love it.
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