Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28, 2014

“A book, being a physical object, engenders a certain respect that zipping electrons cannot. Because you cannot turn a book off, because you have to hold it in your hands, because a book sits there, waiting for you, whether you think you want it or not, because of all these things, a book is a friend. It’s not just the content, but the physical being of a book that is there for you always and unconditionally.”

~ Mo Willems

     This morning in my online perusings, I stumbled upon something in the Guardian about 'The Year of Reading Woman Authors'.  Curious as to what that meant I read the article and then made the mistake of scanning through the comments.  Vitriol!  
    As a young child, I had no idea who the authors were, I just loved the books: Madeline, Curious George, Babar.  When I read on my own I gravitated towards women authors because they wrote about my interests:  Carol Ryrie Brink, Louisa May Alcott, Catherine Woolley, Lenora Mattingly Weber.  It never crossed my mind to think I should be broadening my horizons by reading male authors.  
     When I look at what I read now though, my reading does lean more heavily toward male authors, not by any conscious design.  I admire the spare writing of E. B. White, Wendell Berry, and Verlyn Klinkenborg.  I just discovered the exquisite writing of Melville Davisson Post.  It doesn't matter who is writing the book:  what matters is good writing.  
     Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie write male main characters very convincingly.  Wendell Berry wrote Hannah Coulter beautifully.
    The arguments quickly segued into bitterness about this being a man's world.  How comforting that as a Christian I can see it as all part of the Creator's design, accept the way things are, and go curl up with a good book.

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014

     I love the scene in The Lord of the Rings where this takes place:
"But what about second breakfast?"
" Don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip."
"What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?"

   I think of it on 'snow days' like this when I wake up before dawn and eat breakfast.  Then I am hungry again at 9:30 since that is when we have snack at school, and lunch is at 11:10 so that would be elevenses...It all seems so cozy and quaint.  Unfortunately it may be similar to the time I bought the Wind in the Willows cookbook and started snacking like Mole and Rat when they stumble onto Badger's home.  Ideas that are whimsical and charming in books end up with different results in reality.  But just for today, I will indulge in their world.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014

  A light snow fell during the night, turning the landscape into an enchanted world this morning.  When everything looks clean and fresh I think of the passage:  Your mercies are new every morning.  (Lam. 33:2)  As cold as it is, it is hard to go inside and leave the beauty and wonder of that white world.  Wallace Stevens says it better than I ever could in 'The Snow Man':

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014

     My goal for writing every day has brought a few of my interests together, which is a serendipitous surprise.  Years ago I loved to cut beautiful photos out of magazines and make collages for my room.  Now that I have switched to reading online, I hardly have a magazine in the house, but I have begun to collect images online and use them as writing prompts.  On a whim I started January by seeking out all the Monet winter images I could find.  It has been a joy to look at them throughout January.  It sparked my idea to choose a theme for February of all kinds of hearts and it was very enjoyable seeking out interesting photos of them to use for future writing ideas.  I am so thankful to have online mentors who are reminding me to go back to what I loved as a child to rekindle my joy: reading, writing, making art, having fun...I sometimes forget what that is like in the tumult of every day life.

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24, 2014

      January is ebbing away, but winter still has a tenacious hold on us.  Next week we are supposed to have the coldest days of the year.  As long as I am warm and cozy I don't mind it so much, but my students are like colts kept too long in the barn:  they need to get outside in the pasture to run around.  Somehow running around in a gym is not an equivalent to fresh air and sunshine in the great outdoors.  But we will hunker down, soldier on, all of those expressions of fortitude that one must have when one chooses to live in Wisconsin.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23, 2014

Before the sun even rose today, my sister texted me a Bible passage as I was preparing for the day.  What a thoughtful, sisterly thing to do during this week that hasn't had very much to be thankful for.  It is something one gets used to, having someone always live through the year before you so one can kind of think:  this is how it is to be this or that age.  Now our ages have kind of evened out, but she still goes through things before me:  first child married, first grandchild, and many other experiences.  It is comforting to know that we will most likely end our days as we began them:  saying our prayers together. Lovely thought.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 21, 2014

      Willow, weep for me...
There have been a few days in a row that meet this adage:  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  Murphy's Law has been in effect lately.  Today was no exception and is best forgotten even though words spoken keep running through my mind and I think of a myriad of things to say now that it is too late.  Sorrow.
All things work together for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  What would I ever do without holding to that promise?

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

Langston Hughes

     Ever since this summer when I went to a conference on hope, and then read a book about the power of hope, I have chatted with my students about reaching goals and how there will be obstacles in the paths to what they want.  The subject keeps coming up in Christ Light and then in Reading.  Last week we talked a lot about how hard it was for Langston Hughes to reach his dreams and it all ties together again today in reading about MLK and Rosa Parks. What a blessing it was to go to that conference on a whim and then to attend a lecture at Marquette in November and read the book by Shane Lopez.  It has changed my outlook as an individual and as a teacher.  This poem sums up all of our work together this school year.  We have come so far!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19, 2014

  The faint sound of a plane engine overhead brings me back to lazy summer days of childhood, lying on my back in the grass, chewing on a blade of grass watching the plane soar overhead.  It made me long for those days, and then I compared that feeling to that of my elderly parents.  They could feel that way now if they chose to, not a care in the world, being taken care of, yet they fight it every step of the way and feel useless.  
      When we mature,  we get so used to being in charge it is so hard to let go when we aren’t able to anymore.  They used to call ‘senior moments’ ‘being in your second childhood’.  I like that so much better, it has a more positive spin, even though it was meant sarcastically.  We slip backwards into helplessness, and need to be taken care of again.  Why can't we embrace it?  Sit back and listen to the plane engine overhead, watch the clouds scud across the sky.  Why is it so hard?  Because everything is behind us now, instead of ahead?  We know what we have become, instead of dreaming of what will be?  
     Much food for thought today.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 18, 2014

     5:30 on a winter morning, the world is quiet and still.  Through the back windows everything looks gray as we wait for dawn,  the trees and outbuildings all silhouetted against the sky.  The grayness is broken for a moment when headlights sweep the driveway as the paper is delivered.  Another day begins.

Friday, January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014

    Winter has a stark beauty all of its own.  The branches stripped of their leaves have a sculptural look.  They contrast with the sky so much more than they do in any other season especially when there is snow on the ground.  There is a crispness in the air that is visible as well as tangible.  The snow squeaks under my booted footsteps as I trudge through the drifts.  Because of the bitter cold, I have this snowy world all to myself...a world that seems vast and unending with its cover of white as far as my eyes can see.   The wind swirls around me and slips insidiously under the scarf wound around my neck. Somehow it is able to find any vulnerability and strike with its icy sting, one that makes me head for the coziness indoors.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16, 2014

"Write what should not be forgotten." Isabel Allende

     The sunset the other day was incredibly beautiful.   The ephemeral beauty of a sunrise or sunset should be documented somehow, since it will never be the same scene twice.
      There are so many things in life like this.  Little every day things that we take note of but quickly move on to something else.  There are so many moments during the day with my students that I should treasure:  like Hannah saying in her inimitable way that she is going to be a seamstress when she grows up, that she received a real sewing machine for Christmas, and next she would like a mannequin to make clothes for.   Soren saying his hopes and dreams for the world are that everyone would believe and go to heaven.  These moments should be cherished, but we must keep on schedule and they are soon lost in the shuffle of the day.  So I will document the beautiful moments here, with photographs and words so that they are not forgotten.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 15, 2014

     An online mentor recommended this book and the title intrigued me...12 kinds of ice?  I wondered what they were, never realizing what memories this little book would trigger for me.  The children in the story had an ice rink made by their father on their farm.  My parents made our back yard into an ice rink during the winters my 3 sisters and I were in our early teens.  I can only imagine the effort they put into it to keep their daughters and two little boys occupied and entertained in winter.  Our backyard became an icy wonderland where anything was possible as I twirled on skates under the stars. We joined the neighbor kids in a raucous game of Crack the Whip at times.  But my favorite memory is of singing 'Most of All' by B J Thomas as I spun around the tree feeling a happiness that is hard to recapture now.  It makes me realize how much our parents loved us to take the time to create something that would be very fleeting but would give us so much joy.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 14, 2014

      A fresh snowfall is predicted for today and it is being anticipated so that it will cover all the unsightly charcoal colored snowbanks that have appeared since the weekend thaw.  Winter is lovely when it is icy white and powdery clean swirling to make everything pure and new.  But when snow starts melting and refreezing, when the plows throw the debris from the road up on the snowbank along with the fallen snow its time for another blizzard.

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014

     Monday morning, and so another week begins.  A fresh start...but a huge cup of freshly brewed coffee is needed to face it.  Many times it seems like it's Monday:  off to the races!  Meetings after school and another after a hurried supper, errands to run before the lines get too long, rush home, correct papers, fall into bed and read 3 pages of a mystery novel before nodding off.  These winter days are much too short and way too full of things to accomplish.  If only there was more of a balance between these days and the long languid days of summer.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014

     Animal tracks in the snow tell a story that we would not be aware of otherwise.  Every morning there are new tracks in the garden outside of my kitchen window displaying a drama that happened overnight.  Small tracks furtively searching for seeds when larger tracks spring on them from behind is a common scenario.  Then there is a blur in the snow where the scuffle takes place.
     Right now I am reading A Toad for Tuesday to my class in which an owl captures a toad in winter and saves it for his birthday treat next Tuesday.  It is interesting how writers can take a story from nature, that doesn't usually have a happy ending, and make it into an enjoyable piece of fiction.  There is drama, suspense, the building of a friendship between predator and prey, a twist in the plot, and since it's a kids' book, a happy ending.  Stories are everywhere if we take the time to find them.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 11, 2014

     I love how sometimes getting prepared for the next week of school can take me out of myself and bring me a new focus.  This week we will be reading Me and Uncle Romie by Claire Hatfield.  I have to be honest, I had never heard of Romare Bearden before we started using Storytown Reading series.  It opened up a world unknown to me: the Harlem Renaissance.  I can now tie together Langston Hughes for poetry, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong for music, Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence for art and When Aunt Lena Did the Rhumba for dance into a rich, deep learning experience of Black History.
    In doing so, it took away some of the stings and disappointments of this past short week back at school and brought me back to why I do this: to grow along with them.  (And of course always, to do my best for Him.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

January 10,2014

     January thaw... who thought it would come so soon after the polar vortex?  Suddenly everything outside is a sloppy mess instead of a winter wonderland.  If spring was right around the corner it wouldn't be so bad, but spring is still a long time away.
     School has resumed stirring up all kinds of tumultuous emotions.  It is a time to reflect on what we have done so far, and to attempt to make the rest of the year more successful.  Meetings to determine future plans have been held almost every day after the current school day with all of its joys and failures.  My word for 2014 is hope...and with that and prayer we will persevere. (or as one of my students put it a few years ago: keep on keepin' on.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 8, 2014

     In the late afternoon, there were interesting shadows and sunlight on the surface of the snow.  There is so much fleeting beauty in winter, I am making it my goal to try to capture it on film.  Years ago I first became aware of the different colors shadows make in the snow through the photography in Victoria magazine.  I should have realized it myself, but sometimes it takes someone else's artistic eye to bring it into focus.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 7, 2014

      Being that we are in the midst of an arctic freeze and then getting an email about Siberia, I wondered how people survive there.  Aren't we being a little over protective and extreme in not going out at all?  Apparently not:  they only bundle up in furs and layers to go from one place to another.  They do not hang around outside.  Well I guess that answers some of my questions.  I became curious as to why they live there.  Originally it was just a temporary place for nomadic reindeer herders.  Sounds reasonable.  Then gold was discovered so miners came up to settle there.  When the tsarist government toppled they decided to send dissidents there, very few survived.  The people that have been born there feel it is their home, so they stay.  Maybe that's why we stay here, so I can't judge.

Monday, January 6, 2014

January 6, 2014

     Today was supposed to be our first day back to school after Christmas break, but the dangerously frigid air is giving us one more day (possibly two) to kick back and relax.  It is pretty rare in this area for the school district to do this, so we really appreciate it when it happens.
     The wind blows wickedly from the southwest and whips around the corners of the house with a most formidable sound.  I can only imagine how it would sting the only part of my face that would be needed to be uncovered to see where I am going.  With each breath I would taste the coldness of winter.  Any scent of winter would be frozen before I could even identify it.

       I slip back in time to the school playground where we always went out to play King of the Mountain on the huge snowy hills that lined the edge of the parking lot.  I remember eating a homemade chocolate chip cookie out of my mittened hand and deciding that it tasted even better with the frozen air as a complement.  I loved every part of winter as a child. It now takes an effort to enjoy something that was once so effortless.   That feeling is lost so quickly as we get old enough to drive in the slippery conditions and risk our lives as we do so or fear falling instead of sliding with happiness across a patch of ice.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 5, 2013

      Everyone is wishing away this winter weather and dreaming of spring, but we have a long season to get through yet.  Today it is supposed to drop into bitterly cold below zero temperatures.  It reminds me of my first years of teaching near Green Bay.  I had a huge winter coat and continued to walk across the bridge to school each day, even though it was 19 below.  People would stop and urge me to get in their car, but I was bundled so warmly it didn't bother me.  We even went out for recess in the huge field behind the school.  I would never dream of doing that now.  So...it is what you make it.  I live here, not in a warmer climate, so I feel the need to accept what we have and embrace the beauty of the season.  When it is still snowing and freezing in April, then I will definitely be having a problem with the weather.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January 4, 2014

  You know you are deep into winter when the sun rises at 7:22 am.  It is to be so bitter cold here that area schools have canceled classes for Monday 3 days in advance.  This will lengthen our Christmas break by another day, so there is much reason for happiness.  I have been learning to weave which is very therapeutic, although humbling and frustrating as well.  It took forever to set up the loom and untangle the yarn once I had made a mess of it.  I thought of how when I was younger I would have already given up, and felt an ounce of pride for persevering.  I will probably have to restart for the second time, but I cut myself some slack since I don't have all the weaving tools.  Women in the pioneer days spent the winter weaving, according to Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so it is a wonderful feeling to experience a bond with the past, and hopefully have a beautiful scarf to wear before winter ends.

Friday, January 3, 2014

January 3, 2014

     The sky to the west this morning is the exact definition of 'sky blue' with just a tinge of pinkish hue.  But we pay for the beauty with a temperature that is harsh -7 Fahrenheit.  The snow from yesterday makes such a beautiful landscape it is hard to listen to people complain about it.  It covers a pretty desolate looking land at this point, so I will enjoy how it brightens up the world.  Today I venture forth into reality with the running of many errands.  I have put it off as long as I possibly could, but reality always returns, sometimes with a vengeance. This time out of time has been a beautiful, much needed gift.  I hope I can retain some of the peacefulness when school starts again on Monday.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January 2, 2104

The morning sky is gray today with no hint of a sunrise.  Another day of snow from the east.  It is a gift to be able to stay put and not venture out into the driving wind and slippery roads.  At first it was hard to fill the days during this vacation, especially when the hours loomed ahead with no schedule.  Now it will be hard to go back to a schedule on Monday.  I found a wonderful book of short stories by Victorian writers that I love: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, even Edgar Allen Poe.  It has inspired me to read more Sherlock Holmes stories again.  I look forward to exploring other Victorian authors that were featured.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January 2014

There has been a steady fall of snow all day, slanting from the east.  Lake effect snow, they call it, and it is supposed to fall through tomorrow night.  It is so beautiful out of the back windows, covering the orchard in front of the huge gray outbuilding belonging to our neighbors. It is my favorite view in every season, but especially in winter. I have my comfortable chaise lounge and reading lamp strategically situated to enjoy the view.
     There is not an animal to be seen, but every morning there are tracks surrounding our house indicating that something has been hunting for a meal. 
      I try to enjoy the fact that I don't need to go anywhere or slide around trying to drive through the storm.  Whenever that happens snow becomes my enemy instead of the beautiful gift falling from the sky.