Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow Day

Yesterday it snowed.  T and I baked treats for her work, caught up on Netflix, and otherwise enjoyed the quiet.  We’ve lots to show for our efforts and the relaxation was much needed.  The first snow of the season is a treat that I never grow tired of enjoying.  That’s happy!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Feathering My Nest

I love bedding…..cozy quilts, soft sheets, warm down comforters and pretty duvets make my heart sing.  I like variety in my bedding choices and I add or subtract options as the weather outside demands.  In the past week, the weather has turned colder, especially at night, and the forecast calls for nighttime temperatures in the teens by the middle of next week.

Time for the down comforter.

The last few nights have found me tucked under my down comforter and duvet, warm and cozy in my nest.  I love the feel of the heavy covers and the way the bed gradually warms thanks to the combination of down and body warmth.  I’ve slept deeply, snug against the cold, and well-rested come the morning.  

Thanks to some recent well-done NPR stories on homelessness in America, I’m aware that I am privileged enough to take the blessing of comfortable cozy bed for granted.  Each night as I slip into my nest, I am grateful that I have this safe and snug bed and home to enjoy.  

Friday, December 08, 2017

Food Friday: Spinach Soup

Spinach soup is one of the most delicious soups I make.  It comes together quickly on a school night and is amazingly good.  It can be served as is, or made fancier, with grilled shrimp or chicken; some roasted red pepper, or chopped fresh tomatoes.  As soon as the weather grows cold, this recipe comes to the top of my must-have list.  I made this bowl last night and I’m looking forward to enjoying the leftovers.  The recipe comes from Pioneer Woman, way back in 2010.  I don't use whole milk and it comes out just fine.  You should make it at once!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Pretty Packages

I love wrapping presents and December is the present season.  I especially enjoy wrapping little presents with tiny treats inside.

There are many more packages to be wrapped before the month is over.  That’s happy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Front Porch in December

The pleasure I had when I first put up outdoor Christmas lights on the porch led me to decorate the porch around the year.  Why confine the pleasure to December, I thought?  So it was that December became the inspiration for a different front porch each month, a task that I very much enjoy.  I still take extra care for Christmas.  Greenery and lights are the theme of the month; two of my very favorite things about December’s holidays. Overhead, there are mercury-globed Edison lights, which are a hard to make a picture of, but have a lovely glow come twilight.  The flower basket hooks each have a wreath.  The flag is welcoming.

On the table is a plaid tablecloth that T gave me last year, a wooden bin full of greenery and twinkling lights, a wooden snowman, and red tin house with a candle inside.

The front door wreath is splendid and smells even better than it looks, so that we come home to a lovely evergreen-scented door.

No corner of the porch is free from my attentions.

I love holiday traditions like this; they are my favorite part of the Christmas because they provide a reminder to stop and live in the moment.  That’s happy!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Blowout Sale

I already posted this photo to Instagram, but seriously, it is well-worth another round here because every single time I see the picture, I burst into laughter.  You have to wonder what the marketing team was thinking.

Joke’s on me if they sell out.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

December Mornings

I am an early riser.  Mornings are a time for me to check my e-mail and get some work done.  Whether that’s an e-mail that needs writing or an assortment of quizzes that need grading, I find that my day goes a little more smoothly if I’ve had some quiet to get started.  In the evening before I climb into bed, I set things up for my morning, with a coffee mug and a jug for cream set on a cheerful cloth napkin by the autostart coffee pot, which will finish brewing my coffee by the time I come downstairs in the morning.

In December, I move a few holiday coffee mugs to the front of the cupboard so that my morning has a little holiday cheer.  I’ve been setting out my coffee mug and creamer for at least 20 years now; the December tradition is just about 10 years old.  It’s an easy way for me to enjoy the dark December mornings, a reminder that the simple little pleasures are often the most pleasing.  That’s happy!  

Friday, December 01, 2017

Old Man Tree: December 1

As we approach the Winter Solstice, Old Man Tree is stately, with stark bare limbs, ready for the cold season.  As our daily share of sunlight fades, during the weekdays I most often see my tree in the dim light of sunrise or the darkness of twilight or beyond.  These pictures were made just after sunrise.

I’ve yet to finish all of my Fall chores; there is some leaf collection to be completed and a few more tomato cages to gather up.  The garden catalogs are pouring in and I’ve set them aside for the first snow storm of the season, when I will curl up under a blanket with a warm mug of tea and daydream of the flowers and blooms that will arrive in the Spring.  

The garden that is and the garden that will be both grow under the watchful eye of the tall limbs of Old Man Tree.  Though he’s not in the physical center of the yard, he is the spiritual center.  As I drive home each day, I can see him tall above my house before home itself comes into view.  When we look out the windows, he’s there.  He’s solid and true, Mother Nature’s witness to our lives and the world around us.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Book Report: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

This year, my school has a teacher’s book club.  The book list looked promising, with some books I had read before and some books that had been on my radar and so I signed up.  This month’s book was The Lone Ranger and Tonoto Fistfight in Heaven, a collection of short stories written by Sherman Alexie, a writer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in western Washington.  

The book is a collection of short stories, some of which feature the same characters.  The stories are as much narratives as they are streams of consciousness.  The book was a quick read and some of the stories linger in their sadness, and I’ve welcomed the chance to think anew about Native American life in the United States.  Some of the stories put me in mind of the time I lived in Nebraska, where there were both Indian reservations and opportunities to experience Indian cultural events (oh, the fry bread!).  Alexie’s identity as an Indian is central to the stories and he both reflects on family life among members of his tribe and the larger social setting in which Native Americans travel, sometimes made to feel like foreigners in their own country, on their own land.

I was put in mind of an NPR series about what social service agencies have done to Indian families.  And this week, as the president used his bully pulpit to insult and demean Native tribes, Alexie’s stories felt more important than ever.  This slim volume was well-worth my time.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Neither Great Nor Better

I’ve taught American history for many years.  These days, I teach 7th grade students.  7th graders are at an interesting point in adolescence, at the corner of young adulthood and childhood with both experiences on their minds.  They long for independence, but aren’t always sure what to do with it.  Their brains are moving fast and are occasionally beset by strong emotions that feel new and mysterious and, sometimes, overwhelming.  As each of them sorts out their identify and place in the world, they are sometimes unkind to one another (or themselves); at the same time, they are the first to point out unkindness in others.   It’s easy to underestimate the abilities and talents of 7th graders because they are prone to underestimating themselves.  But it would be foolish to do so because 7th graders are capable of understanding and communicating in sophisticated ways about complex ideas.  In this, they are an absolute wonder to teach because they are absorbing and learning so much.  I learn from them every day and I am aware that they are learning from us all the time.

I teach my 7th graders American history, from the period of colonial settlement in 1609 all the way to the Civil War.  We take on some very difficult topics as we explore these years.  We study the founders and wrap our minds around the philosophical origins of the American movement toward independence.  Together, we read the founding documents and explore the claims made in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  We also explore the disappointing elements of the American story, including the lives and experiences of the Native tribes that were here when colonists arrived.  We talk about the origins of the “original sin” of slavery and we go to lengths to understand both the lives of enslaved people and the lasting legacy of the institution of slavery.

It is in the inequities and injustices of the American story that 7th graders step out of themselves to see both a world that was and a world that can be.  As we wrestle with a document that claims all men are created equal even as it excludes native tribes, enslaved people, and women, we come to understand the complexities and injustices present in the human story; in the American story.

My 7th graders know that painting all native tribes with the broad brush of the name of one of the more well-known Indians is both offensive and ignorant.  In fact, my 7th graders know the real story of Pocohantas.  They understand the complexities of her experience.  They know better than to objectify or dismiss tribal people because they know better than to objectify or dismiss anyone.  Like all of us, it does not make 7th graders better to live in a world where the president’s casual racism is the accepted and tolerated order of the day.  
Greatness comes from honoring one another’s accomplishments, from making an effort to stand outside one’s cultural experience to understand the experiences of others.  It comes from tolerance and empathy and kindness.  It comes from the daily effort to be better.  It comes from the struggle to give promise to the claim that “all men are created equal.”  And it should come from leaders who help us to do these things.