Thursday Poetry: Rivers

This week I decided to give Poetry Thursday a whirl. You can find the site here. The topic this week is rivers.

Our Rivers: Washington State

In Washington state
our rivers flow out of the mountains,
connect to guide travelers,
merge with the ocean,
and thunder to the Great Columbia.

Coastal Indians paddled the Nisqually, Nooksack, Quinault,
Northern bands camped on the Kettle, Colville, Sanpoil, Okanogan.
Explorers relied on the Spokane,Yakima, and Palouse,
Missionaries journeyed close to the Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla.

Locals love the sound of Methow, Pend Oreille, Puyallup,
Wynoochee, Chehalis, Skykomish, and Elwha.
But when it comes to trying to spell them-
My favorites are Green, Snake, Lewis, and Rock.

Finally, Roses!

Before I moved to my present house I never grew roses. I thought they were complicated, high maintenance flowers. I also believed I would have to use sprays and other toxic things. Now I have studied roses and realized there are a few key things to consider. One is the location of where they grow in your garden. They need lots of sun! Another is the type of roses to purchase for your zone.Winterizing them is another crucial part of their growing success. These are roses which are hardy and get lots of early sun which is why we are seeing blooms so early. The one at the top and above is a William Baffin. It is a climbing shrub rose which comes from Canada and is well-known for being winter hardy, disease resistant, and a repeat bloomer. Those are the words I like to read about a rose. The second rose is a Betty Prior which is a florabunda with the same characteristics. Other favorite hardy shrub and florabunda roses I recommend are John Cabot, Nearly Wild, and Lemon Zest. My mom has been happy with the hardy Fairy Rose and is trying the Rainbow Knock-Out rose this year.
a close-up of the Betty Prior blossoms


Here is another favorite poem that didn't make my April poetry post collection.

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole,
not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
- Naomi Shihab Nye

Little Ann Living Up to Her Name

a quiet morning before the action started

When I bought my springer spaniel she came from registered parents Steptoe's Dante and Ms. Pauleen of Bishop Hollow. I had never had a registered dog so I decided this puppy needed a famous or dignified name to match her parents. I brainstormed place names, girl names, dogs I remembered from books, and went to baby names online. At that same time JEJ was reading Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. The dogs in that book are hounds, but I remembered how Little Ann was a strong female dog character in that book. Even though my puppy was a spaniel the name had been decided. Her registered name became Little Ann of Bloomfield Farm. We just call her Annie.
This week-end Where the Red Fern Grows came up again. My niece Z2 was visiting and had the novel in a lit book to read over the week-end. It led to conversations about the power of that book with children, when we first had it read aloud to us, or when we sat down and read it to outselves. Mom inquired if students of mine still read it. Raymond Pert had never read it again after fifth grade and wondered if it would be as emotional now. " It was for me," I explained to him, remembering sitting down one afternoon to read that classic one more time and not being able to put it down. I also had kleenex ready as I cried through the end of the book.

(If you are not familiar with this classic children's book, the boy and the hounds romp the Ozarks hunting for raccoon. He enters a hunting contest with his dogs also.)

I was awakened this morning with JEJ coming in to get a flashlight. " There is an animal under the deck," he muttered as he headed for the back of the house. By the time I got out of bed and shook the cobwebs from my brain the animal had headed up a tree.
look closely to see the raccoon

Annie lived up to her name. Little Ann of Bloomfield Farm treed a raccoon. It was a young raccoon that could climb very well. Annie just sat under the tree obsessed with the raccoon. Once we got the dogs contained, the raccoon found safety.

How often do events occur like this? From naming your dog, to Where the Red Fern Grows, to Little Ann living up to her name. I love it when these connections just happen in the course of week-end. By the way, if you haven't read this book, add it to your list of must-reads. It is a classic favorite!
Shelby, our Australian Cattle Dog helped with herding the raccoon from under the deck, but then watched her sister Annie in puzzlement from a chair. She was thinking," Is this what herding is in England...just standing under a tree? In Australia we herd our animals around the corral!"

Sunday Scribblings: Simple Pleasures

Today's Sunday Scribblings prompt is simple. You can find other posts here.

What immediately came to mind when I saw the prompt was simple pleasures. I look forward to week-ends when my family is able to visit. Friday I hit the jackpot! Silver Valley Girl and two of my nieces ( yes Princess....we miss you and your dad) drove up from Kellogg and brought my mom with them. Saturday Raymond Pert arrived after spending a few days in Kellogg. I couldn't think of a better way to spend Memorial Day week-end.

All of our lives have been very busy lately. I have struggled with a terrible cold bug. My niece Z2 was also feeling under the weather when she arrived and was worn out from a full week at middle school. Raymond Pert was able to take a deserved break from student papers and teaching at LCC , Mom had been watering, planting, cooking, and organizing to get ready to come, and Silver Valley Girl just tries to keep her head above water with the the business of raising three daughters, working, writing, performing, and fund raising. I decided we needed a retreat week-end. I purposely didn't do my usual event planning making sure we had excursions, activities, and a schedule to follow. Instead I have sat back and enjoyed the simple pleasures of having many of the people I love at my home for three days. Kiki Aru did a good great job of reminding me not to forget the plan "Spoons" and JEJ was a grand garden tour guide and kept peace with the dogs, cats, and family members! The picture above is a simple pleasure. The rhubarb that had gone to seed in the evening sun just before everyone arrived. Other simple pleasures were:having our first peonies opening up to greet our visitors, serving locally roasted coffee in the morning (This is Meyer Falls Blend sold at a local organic market of the same name),and a geranium in full bloom after a winter in the greenhouse.
I love that my nieces are low maintenance and can create a makeshift bed just by rearranging furniture!

Another simple pleasure in the morning was having Silver Valley Girl make breakfast. She used her Pampered Chef (a little plug for the product) apple peeler, slicer, corer to do potatoes.
She has created this incredible potato recipe that I insisted she make while visiting. You can get the recipe here. It was one of the best breakfast potato dishes I have ever tasted. Everyone couldn't get enough of the breakfast of eggs, those Special Potatoes, lemon muffins, and melon. Actually, this may be considered more than a simple pleasure... perhaps a very complex pleasure! Here are some other simple pleasures the day created. Annie taking a rest with Z2.An evening that began with a traditional game of " Spoons" . Next we moved to a rousing game of Yahtzee which always includes chanting "Scratch My Yahtzee". Our dad used to shout that then immediately scratch him armpit. It was fun to teach my nieces the tradition. The evening was rounded out with Rice Krispie Treats and a hilarious game of Scattergories which pitted siblings, mom/grandma and nieces in a fun competition. It is a simple pleasure for me to play board games with the group. It always builds fond memories.

After all our incredble food Silver Valley Girl and I took a quiet walk at twilight to shed a few calories!

I had to end this with the picture above of the blooming Thanksgiving/Christmas/Valentine cactus. Now I guess we can call it the Memorial Day cactus... or perhaps the holiday cactus. Such a simple pleasure gathering around the table with family sharing good food, enjoying games, and gazing at this beautiful plant. I can't wait to see what Sunday will bring.

Sibling Assignment # 22: Remembering Grandma West

Our sibling assignment this week was to write about our Grandma West. We did an earlier piece on Grandma Woolum, so this was a request from our mother. Grandma lived in Orofino, Idaho and the family took a vacation trip to visit every year in August. Raymond Pert's is here. Silver Valley Girl's is here.

We didn’t get to see Grandma West as often as Grandma Woolum. In many ways the two were alike. They both raised their families without a husband present most of the time. They were close in age and were both were passionate about gardening, canning, cooking, family, and creating a comfortable home. The two women loved seeing each other. I remember one Christmas when we went to Orofino we took Grandma Woolum. I wished secretly that they would become close friends and see each other more. Because neither of them drove and the distance between Orofino and Spokane at that time seemed to family members like a “real journey” it didn’t happen very often.

Visiting Grandma West’s house was a contrast from our own home. Our home was crowded, noisy, and busy. Grandma’s house was quiet, orderly, and homespun. She always had an afghan on the back of the couch that she had crocheted. Doll clothes, hanger covers, and beautiful pillows were other items she carefully crafted. We shared a common love for the color lavender. It was the color commonly used in her threads and yarns.

Every afternoon while we visited she would come in to rest after working in her garden most of the morning. The house was cool. Grandma would sit in her rocking chair stitching or crocheting another project. I loved that time of the day. I could stretch out and read a book. It was a break from the hot sun outside. Grandma often dozed off a bit. I think I acquired that love for naps from her.

Mom was an excellent cook, but we still had stuff out of the box sometimes. At Grandma’s everything seemed fresh, wholesome, and homemade. Fresh picked raspberries were waiting in a bowl in the morning to go on our cereal. Cream from the Creamery a block away was always in the old refrigerator on the sun porch to pour on top. The family would sit on that sun porch for dinner ( even though it was very hot) and pass around home grown menu items that included a steaming bowl of fresh picked green beans, juicy slices of fresh tomatoes, and corn on the cob that had been picked that morning. Grandma always sliced her corn off the cob because she had false teeth. I wanted false teeth also because I loved to eat my corn just like Grandma did. She would also make pies ahead when it wasn’t so hot and have them waiting in the freezer in the basement. Then some evening for a treat out would come this amazing homemade apple pie and ice cream (also from the Creamery) .

As Grandma tended her garden I saw her exhibit patience, determination, and a love for beauty. As I stood in the sunroom in the morning I had a perfect view of her garden. I was in awe at the rows of brightly colored gladioli. Every time I see a gladiolus to this day I think of Grandma West. I never saw these flowers in Kellogg, but they always grew in Orofino. Grandma and my Autie Lila had blooms in every color. Once a week Grandma would tenderly harvest the glads, bring them in and place them in cool water, then arrange them for the Christian Church across the street and the Methodist Church she attended. She always enough left to place in a special vase that sat on a table by the front door. That table just seemed right for those glads. Grandma had other beautiful flowers, and a productive vegetable plot, but the glads are what I remember. I did discover as I grew older that these beautiful flowers did grow other places. My mom has grown them. I now have them in my garden each year.

Grandma left us in 1990 at the age of ninety-six. Tears streamed down my face at her funeral as I heard these words from the song “In the Garden”.
“And he walks with me

And he talks with me
And he tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.”

I am blessed to have known Grandma West. I certainly inherited her love for beauty which I have worked to weave into my garden. The fancy needlework will need to be carried on by somebody else, unless I get a sudden change in skill and craft patience!! I see Grandma West’s determination in my own mom when she gardens. She also works outside many hours in the morning sun, but then takes a rest in the cool of the house in the afternoon. Sometimes I think she may sneak in a nap also.

Spring Bouquet #8 and #9 and Tips for Prolonging the Life of Garden Flowers

This first bouquet is held in a beautiful window vase I received from a friend for Christmas. The silhouette of the bouquet sets off the clear aqua color of the vase.

The combination of spring flowers always makes for an exquisite bouquet in color and scent. With this combination of iris, dame's rockets, columbine, and cat mint you have the best of both color and scent.

I love having cut flowers for my own home, but I 've also sold them at farmer's market and provided bouquets for church, a friend's bed and breakfast, and casual celebrations. People often ask how I prolong the life of flowers from the garden. Part of it always depends on how mature the blooms are when they get to the bouquet. It is best to pick flowers when the bloom has just opened. This is easier said than done. If there is a beautiful rose in bloom I will add it to a bouquet even if it is mature. It just won't last as long.

Actually there is a debate on whether it is better to pick flowers in the morning or evening. The flowers will be less likely to wilt if cut in the morning. The evening is better for me. The plants have been photosynthesizing all day, the stems contain more carbs, which makes them last longer. It is best to wait until the air has cooled.
When you get the flowers inside fill a vase halfway with tepid water. Cut 1 inch from the stems and strip any foliage that will be underwater. Put the cut flowers immediately in water. To prolong vase life you can use this homemade flower preservative:
To 24 oz. of water, add 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and one crushed aspirin tablet. Change water as needed.
I think a bouquet of fresh flowers can bring the garden in to any room in the house. Even if I only have a few flowers blooming I get creative and look for interesting herb leaves, branches of shrubs, and tree leaves to add to a bouquet. The possibilities are endless.

Spinach Harvest and Another From the Recipe Box

Weeks ago the first harvest of rhubarb earned a post. I didn't celebrate our second harvest because the tiny radishes were gobbled up before a photo shoot could be done.

Today our third harvest was spinach. I have a hard time keeping track of when vegetables are ready. The veggies are JEJ's department. I didn't have all the ingredients to make my favorite spring spinach salad, but we enjoyed the tender leaves of spinach in a simple salad. The tomatoes and cucumber did come from the store folks! In this late spring time I love to harvest greens. They haven't bolted. They don't taste bitter. Spinach is still full of flavor and tender. When the heat comes this changes.
I have many spinach salad recipes, but the one below is a nice blend of June berries and vegetables. The recipe is from The Pacific Northwest: The Beautiful Cookbook.
Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Poppy Seed-Berry Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup canola or safflower oil
1/3 cup berry flavored vinegar
2 bunches spinach, stemmed
2 cups strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 cup thin-sliced fresh button mushrooms
1/2 cup thinly cut green onions
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
To make the vinaigrette: Place the poppy seeds, mustard and honey in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the oil until all the oil is used and the mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise. Gradually whisk in the berry vinegar to thin the mixture to the consistency of heavy cream.
Place the leaves of spinach in a serving bowl. Toss with the strawberries, mushrooms, green onions, almonds and enough vinaigrette to moisten them. Pass around the extra vinaigrette.
Serves 6-8 Enjoy!


Today at school we got a call for a lockdown right before 1:00 p.m. I only had my boys in class. The girls were having a special celebration in another room with the counselor. I had just excused them and I asked a student to bring them back. Fortunately they had not left the hallway.

We had practiced where we would go and what we would do. Because I am away from the main building, we get a phone call for lockdown instead of hearing it on the intercom. As I pulled the drapes and locked the doors the boys moved quietly and swiftly to our designated "safety zone." I knew we were planning on having a drill , but that was supposed to be in a week. Was this real? I could see by their faces the boys were wondering the same thing.

I emailed my attendance and placed a green card under the door out to the hall that meant "all okay." I had leftover bottled water from another day so we passed it around and sat quietly in the dark, sipped water, and waited. I was surrounded by a group of young men that I had know since they were five years old. I had many of them for reading in summer school when they were in lower grades. I had watched them grow taller, heard some voices change, and groaned at their silly jokes. I had this mother hen protective feeling as we sat in close proximity on chairs or on the floor. I wanted everyone to be safe.

My mind moved back to Saturday and the shooting that occurred in Moscow, Idaho. I often teach at the university in the summer and know many people that lived in the area around that church. On Sunday my friend B emailed to say she had dropped off a friend close by the church fifteen minutes before the shots were fired . My other friend E was watching the news and thought somebody had lit firecrackers. It was hard for both of them to believe. Like me they were shocked.

As we continued to sit quietly I watched the classroom door. I also remembered Virginia Tech and all those students in classrooms that day. We knew there was an old fallout shelter through a trapdoor in the classroom closet. Could we all go down there if gunshots were heard?

When you sit in a lockdown the time seems to move slowly because of the unknown.The boys got restless and the air got stuffy. Just then the phone rang and we were informed that the drill was over. Relief. We had sat there about ten minutes.

We quietly gathered our things and went down the hall for a debriefing. The girls arrived and described what happened in the main building. They tried to get into one room, but it was locked. A teacher helped them into another room, then the girls heard screams, banging, and a bat slamming on the door. The principal allowed the middle school students to ask questions, talk about what they would have done if they were outside, what worked and what didn't.

The drill planned was for an angry parent to come through the building with a baseball bat. The parent (staged) yelled and tried to get in classrooms. The drill was also held at the end of high school lunch and passing time to see if students could get to safety if they were in the parking lot or heading to class in our building. I was caught off guard which made it very real.

School safety is important. We want to be prepared for all types of emergencies. I understand the purpose for drills, but when I am sitting side by side with a group of boys in a dark room during lockdown I silently pray that they will be protected from violence and the dark forces in our world.
I wanted everyone to be safe.

One Writes to Make a Home for Oneself

One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper,
in time, in others' minds.
Alfred Kazin

JEJ found a like-new scanner at a yard sale for ten bucks last Saturday. I dug through pictures at my mom's house recently in hopes of being able to scan pictures eventually. Perfect timing!

The two children in the photo are myself and my brother Raymond Pert. We were living at 14 E. Portland in Kellogg, Idaho when this photo was taken. I found a fitting poem in my collection that reminded me of that house when I was old enough to hold the memories in my mind.


Sometimes I remember
the good old days

sitting in the kitchen floor
at night with my brother

each on our own squares
of cool linoleum.

I'm fresh from the bath,
wearing baseball pajamas.

Outside the screen door
summer breezes stir.

Mom gives us each two cookies,
a cup of milk, a kiss goodnight.

I still can't imagine
anything better than that.

Ralph Fletcher

Brunch on Tuesday

Before I host any special event I drive myself crazy during the preparation time. I have this desire to have things just right. During any pre-event frenzy I run through a mental checklist of questions carefully. Do plates match napkins? Are flowers picked for the table? Are coffee beans fresh? Do we have ingredients for favorite recipes on hand?

One Sunday night I was going through my getting ready for bed ritual. JEJ was already reading a new book in bed as I was turning off lights, checking doors, and filling dog water dishes. My eye caught the church bulletin from the morning service on the kitchen table. I missed church earlier that day staying home in hopes of getting caught up, knowing I would be leaving Monday for another week teaching away from home. I wanted to catch up on church news so I flipped on the stove light to skim the contents before going to bed. An announcement on the second page caught my attention instantly.
“Tuesday prayer meeting at JEJ's house…. brunch potluck to follow.”

I stopped breathing. My anxiety level hit the ceiling. I rushed to the bedroom door in an attempt to learn more about this unscheduled social event from my husband. I tried breathing again, that deep kind, the breathing that is supposed to calm you down.

“Sweetheart…when were you going to tell me that a prayer meeting and brunch were going to be held here on Tuesday? I won’t be here Tuesday. We aren’t ready to do brunch on Tuesday. I don’t even have coffee beans or paper plates in the house!” As I sputtered out my words the volume and pitch of my voice bordered on hysteria.

Looking up from his book calmly JEJ peered over his reading glasses as I stood in the doorway still finding it difficult to breathe.
“I was not going to tell you dear. Since you weren’t going to be here I thought I would just take care of things myself,” he explained.

“Just take care of things? Have you ever done a brunch? Do you know where to find vases, serving trays, pitchers, all the stuff?”
“It will be fine. We will just sit outside and other people are bringing the food.”
“Outside,” I groaned, “The tablecloth is dirty, the flowers haven’t been deadheaded, the weeds…..”
“My dear, it is a prayer meeting. I’ll just have them close their eyes.”

Recipe for Overnight Breakfast Casserole

( or breakfast casserole that can sit in the frig until Tuesday brunch!)
8 slices sourdough bread
6 eggs
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
(Optional: add 16 oz. of cooked and drained pork sausage, chopped, cooked ham, or cooked bacon)
You can also add ½ cup sautéed onion or celery

Spray 9x13 baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray. Trim crusts from bread, tear slices and place bread on the bottom of the dish. If using meat, spoon over bread. Sprinkle with cheese. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl until blended. Pour over prepared layers; do not stir. Cover and place dish in refrigerator overnight or for at least five hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until set. 6 servings

Sweet, Simple Things of Life

" It is the sweet, simple things of life
which are the real ones after all."
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Here are some sweet, simple things in my life today:
a columbine with exquisite color

irises blooming along the picket fence
the bridal wreath spirea bending toward the light a lovely contrast between the flower and the leaf

honeysuckles full of beauty

Sibling Assignment #21: Our Love for Reading and Writing

My brother’s friend has read all three of our blogs. Last week she asked him a question.
“ What (or who) instilled in the three of you the love for reading and writing?” That became our sibling assignment for the week. You will find Silver Valley Girl's here. Raymond Pert's is here.Mom was here visiting earlier in the week so I posed the question to her. She thought for awhile then listed many examples of how reading and writing were brought into my life from a very early age.

Grandma Woolum was very instrumental in laying the foundation for our love for the written word. She had gone to school to become a teacher and taught a year in Kentucky before heading out west. It was her strong belief that all children should read and be read to. I still have books she gave us as gifts on birthdays and Christmas. She also brought books home to us after going on trips. When our family was still living up on E. Portland I have strong memories of reading The Cat in The Hat, One Fish Two Fish, and Green Eggs and Ham. Grandma got us the subscription to the “I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Book” series. I know we would get excited when a box with new books would come in the mail.

My dad was relieved because he wouldn’t have to read The Fly Went By another 10 times to me. (That was the first book I learned to read.) Ninety-sixty-two was a banner year for books from Grandma. I have The Hole Book by Peter Newell that she gave to my brother and I. It is a story of a shot that goes all the way through the book with a hole in the middle of each page. At Christmas she gave me The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. It has always been a holiday favorite. At this early age my writing consisted mostly of letters and notes. I saw lots of writing modeled for me, especially when I went to school with Mom and spent time in her classroom. Reading and writing were activities I looked forward to doing.

Good reading models were also important. I had exceptional teachers in elementary school that shared a love for reading and writing. I can still remember books that were read aloud to me after lunch each day. In kindergarten Mrs. P. introduced us to Mother Goose and nursery rhymes, and traditional children’s songs. Mrs. D. read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. She also introduced us to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Mrs. T. started my love for poetry by having us memorize a poem a month. I can still remember the words to “When the Frost is on the Punkin”, “Oh Captain, My Captain”, and “Barefoot Boy”. That year we also wrote poems for Halloween and stories about a Trip Down the Amazon. These models continued to build my love for reading and writing.

The other strong reading model was my dad. He loved to read. When he arrived home after work he read the newspaper page by page. He pored over the sport page and also read magazines and books about different sports. He was thirsty for knowledge and guided us to the encyclopedias and the dictionary to learn facts when we had a question.

Having access to books made a huge difference. We got library cards when we were old enough to sign our names to the cards. At school I loved to order from Lucky and then Arrow Book Club. I couldn’t wait until the new flier came out and I could scan the pages of new books. We also had shelves of books at home. I still love to curl up with a good book and share book titles with other avid readers. My students keep me up on new young adult books.

When it came to writing I wrote letters, reports, some poetry, and a column in the high school newspaper. That is when my creative side emerged. Mom then let me write some of the family Christmas letters. Later I wrote articles for the local paper. As I moved through college and began teaching I began to love writing, but I never made time for it.

Now I make time for reading and writing. After studying literacy education for my Master’s degree I saw the value in the written word. It comes as no surprise that you become better at reading and writing by doing it. I began to really do it! I continued to help my students by being a model just like my family members and teachers had done with me. In recent years I have had the privilege of participating in workshops with published writers. Through these I have learned more about the craft of writing and have passed that learning on to other writers and teachers in workshops I have done.

Through this whole process I realized I had stories I wanted to tell. At first the stories were for me privately. Then they became humorous Christmas letters that relayed the past years’ activities. As I have matured in my writing life, I am now willing to share the stories that have shaped my life. In writing memoir I now see past events through new eyes. It also helps me connect those past events with my life today and make some sense of it all.

Sunday Scribblings: The Teacher Mask

The topic for Sunday Scribblings this week is Masks. You can find the site here.

Each day of teaching is truly an adventure. I think that is why I enjoy it each and every day. I can spend hours preparing lessons, organizing the day, and thinking all will go well, but somehow things don’t always go as planned.

That is why I wear my Teacher Mask.

Scene #1: The students enter the classroom at the beginning of the day. I am ready to enrich their minds with new knowledge. We are disrupted by a puppy that somehow got into the building and took up residence in our classroom. Of course, the puppy hadn’t gone to the bathroom outside either!
Put on Teacher Mask. “Yes, this soon will pass. They will get back on task soon.”

Scent #2: All the handouts for the day are next to the overhead. This teacher is ready to introduce a new form of poetry. A student takes her chair off the table and hits the coffee mug. All the papers, overheads, and handouts are soaked with a nice new blend of coffee.
Put on Teacher Mask. “We can move to plan B… but what is plan B?”

Scene #3: The day begins with students filing in quietly getting ready for the day. All of a sudden it happens. It begins with loud crying in the room, the sound of footsteps in the hall, and girls rushing to the rescue. Yes, once again C and W had a disagreement. C began crying and rushed down the hall. Friends moved in to comfort her. W came back to my class and covered head with hood. Ah, young love.
Put on Teacher Mask. “Do I introduce new parts of speech today or begin a support group?”

Scene #4: One night this teachers' dogs had a run-in with a skunk. In the middle of the night we were looking for tomato juice, googling skunk smell removal recipes online, and melting down. The smell was horrible. Unfortunately, after the skunk odor is around you get used to it. Did I notice my clothes and school bag had been touched by my dogs? Should I have known that the smell would permeate everything I owned? I forgot. When I entered the school people let me know immediately that I reeked of skunk. The students’ eyes were watering, some had headaches, and one sweet girl actually begged me to stay in one corner of the room. Febreeze just didn’t work.
Put on Teacher Mask. Run to phone and call JEJ and beg him to bring any clothes that don’t smell of skunk. Now… what was the lesson today?

Yes, my Teacher Mask always looks the same. I work hard at trying to be level headed each day with the highs and lows of middle school teaching. I had a student tell me recently that he could see through my mask. “ I can tell that smile is really saying ‘I am really upset, but just trying to smile.’” How perceptive that student was. I guess sometimes my Teacher Mask gets a few cracks in it.