Friday, September 20, 2019

Representation Matters

This week, with the death of Cokie Roberts, as I teach a diverse group of 7th graders about colonial society, I am reminded again how very much representation matters.  Roberts, a long-standing political reporter and commentator, was an enduring part of my world.  I listened to her on NPR and watched her on ABC news.  She always brought attention to women, especially women leaders, and gave me an abiding sense that women could matter in the political world.  

If that belief was ever tentative (and I don’t think it was), these days it’s foremost in my mind.  I raised a son who learned to value and enjoy women’s sports and I am proud that at the age of 19 he considers himself a feminist and an advocate for women.  I teach in diverse classes with 12 and 13 year old girls and boys; the girls coming of age in a society that regulates their bodies and is prone to underestimating their brains.  These years are formative and in my class I emphasize the empowerment of women.  I do this for the benefit of all of the students and I search for the examples of representation that show the truth of my words.

But for all of these efforts, it’s examples and representation that matters.  When we open our textbook and look at the picture of delegates to the Continental Congress as they contemplate declaring their independence, we mark who is missing.  We read Abbigail Adams’ letters to her husband, present at that meeting and prepared to ignore his wife’s request that he and his peers remember the ladies.  We don't forget the ladies.

I remind them all that someone must go first for the rest of us to follow.  I show them the Americans who made room for others and I emphasize the power of that small change.  And over and over again I remind them that representation matters.  Cokie Robert's passing is a loss for all of us.  I will always remember her with gratitude for the way she always showed me the enormous power of representation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Early Fall

The backyard is where I first see the signs that the season is changing.  The apple and pear fruit trees lose their leaves first and then the hostas start to look peaked.  The dogwood tree begin to change;  the peach tree follows.  

Old Man Tree takes his time and moves in stages toward the fall.  As if aware that there’s no hurry, he won’t finish the job until the first of November, moving at a stately pace through the month of October.  These pictures were made after I had mowed the lawn and things look tidy.  When the morning light arrives, the once-lush grass has yellow leaves spilt all over.  They clean up when I mow but soon enough the supply returns, more with each cool morning.

Mother Nature prepares for her rest intentionally, moving toward the quiet beauty of Winter with splashes of Fall color that are splendid and lovely, inspiring me to look to my closet for a Fall sweater to wrap around my shoulders in the morning.   That’s happy!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Volunteer Gourd

Last Fall, toward the end of November, the neighborhood squirrels helped themselves to the gourds and pumpkins on my front porch, taking a few bites from each and then moving on for other items on the front porch buffet.  Before the month ended, the pumpkins and gourds were unceremoniously tossed off the porch into the flowerbed below, where they were left to rot over the winter.  I do this a lot, because this produce is good fertilizer.

This year, some of the seeds took root and in August, I noticed a squash vine clinging to a front yard bush.  I’m a curious gardener so I let it bloom to see what would appear.


A few of them, by the looks of things.  The vine is now clinging to several feet of bush, proudly showing the whole neighborhood what a messy gardener I sometimes am.  I’d be embarrassed, but the gourds are nice and I plan to add them to my October front porch display.  In this way, the squirrels can dine again and the cycle of garden life will b complete.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Bulletin Board

Today marks the close of the second week of school.  It’s Friday the 13th and a full moon, so someone in charge has a sense of humor.  By the end of next week, I’ll start to secretly wonder if I’ve contracted a serious medical condition.  Then I’ll realize it’s just my annual start-of-school exhaustion.  I’ll sleep a few extra hours and come October I’ll emerge on the other side, having built up some stamina for the school year.

Right now, my office is a wreck of lost sweatshirts and pencil cases; missing books and nameless folders.  Next week, I’ll get the mess in hand.  In the meantime, I come to school each day and admire my newly designed bulletin board.  It has pictures of things and people I love, examples of craft projects, a few inspirational words, and samples from my collection of buttons and stickers.  All year long, I collect the items that will make up the next year’s bulletin board.  I put it together just before school starts and it always makes me smile.

This year is no exception and that’s very happy.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


I start every summer with a pile of books to be read.  For the most part, I make steady progress through that pile, picking up a new read every week or so.  Books get added to the pile when the mood strikes; others are set aside for a different time.  The existence of a list of to-be-read books is a source of enduring happiness for me; a way of looking forward with ease in my heart.  I see it as a comfort; as a way of looking after myself.

Books are that way for me: comfortable friends who make life richer and happier.  Summer’s relaxed pace and long, warm days ensures that I have plenty of time to sit on the front porch and read.  Come September, mornings on the front porch are too dark to read.  If there is time when I get home, I will steal it on the porch with my current book.  But it’s not as dependable as it is in the Summer. and now it feels like a treat  In the busy days at the start of school, there’s no time to mourn the seasonal transition.  That waits for Winter, when I cozy under a blanket on the sofa and look out the front door to the porch, marveling at the hours I spent out there just a few months back and sometimes longing for the ease of days when I can step outside in flip flops without fear of frostbite.

Seasons change; my habits do not.  I read whenever I have the time.. There is less time when school is in session but I travel everywhere I can with my book. I grab the time that is available.  I maintain a list of books to be read and eagerly look forward to my next read.

That’s happy!

Monday, September 09, 2019

Jam Making

This past weekend, T and I decided to stir up some jam.  Usually, we make jam at the peak of strawberry season.  This year, that peak blew past us.  But there are still strawberries around and the prospect of cold weather without the consolation of fresh-tasting homemade summer jam was unthinkable, so we got to work.  Homemade jam is one of those projects that is always worth the effort.  We canned 7 pints this weekend and will make some more before the cool weather sets in for good.

That’s happy!

Sunday, September 08, 2019


Last week, I had cause to open a new bag of flour when I saw this warning.


Seriously...what? Has it really come to this?  Since this is the case, we likely deserve our fate.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Leaves of Three I, Apparently, Did Not Let Be

My backyard is awash in volumes of poison ivy.  I know what it looks like and I take care.  Not always perfect care, because every summer I get a touch of poison ivy rash.  Usually, it itches uncomfortably but within a week, the rash has dried and I am feeling much better.  

Emphasis on usually.

Sometimes, it doesn’t get better and I need a few days of prednisone to clean things up.

And then there is my most recent exposure.  I knew my ankle had been brushed by poison ivy on Sunday, August 25th when I cut the grass and did some trimming of bushes in the yard.  I washed the spot and moved on.  Four days later, a rash emerged on my left arm.  And then all along my waistline.

A spot emerged on my face and neck.  

And then my chest.  

My ankle was a mess.

By Labor Day weekend, I was a walking itchy and scratchy advert.  And new breakouts kept appearing.  I took myself to the doctor and got some prednisone, first a shot and then six days worth of pills that would gradually taper off.  I also got a steroid cream to use.  At once, my symptoms began to ease.

But now, here at the end of the taper off, I am still getting new outbreaks.  Clearly the exposure was more than my ankle.  In fact, T saw a patch in the front yard where I had been trimming that I didn’t see at the time.  In all fairness to me, we’ve never had poison ivy in the front yard.  In all fairness to poison ivy, I have sometimes taken a cavalier attitude toward its presence.  

My last prednisone pill will be taken tomorrow.  At this rate, I’ve the notion that by Tuesday I am going to remain a very unwilling poison ivy subscriber, this time headed for round 2 of steroids.  Will I ever learn?

That’s a rhetorical question.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Close of the First Week

The first week of school is always a whirlwind of busy halls and energetic students; exciting competing with anxiety to determine who will rule the day.  At my school, the faculty are nearly as excited and that makes for happy and hopeful hallways.  A new school year always feels fresh and full of promise and in this way, I always welcome its arrival.  I am ready for something new.

Right on schedule, Mother Nature brought signs of Fall change.  On Monday, I sat on the back deck and when I looked up at the sky, I saw that old man tree has already begun to change his leaf colors.

Seasonal change is always pretty in my corner of New Jersey and this year is no exception.  Changing colors will help me to embrace the transition to school (and the need to wear shoes!).  Classes started on Tuesday; last night was Back to School Night, and today is Friday.  Sweet, blissful Friday.  That the weekend will be followed by more school is good news.  We’re back and that’s happy!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

September Front Porch

September's front porch is a last cheer for summer’s beauty.  There is a sunflower flag because sunflowers always stand tall and cheerful as the summer comes to a close.

Most of the impatiens have grown weary of flowering but their leaves remain pretty and they cheer on the houseplants that set out here in the summer.  Soon, those plants will file inside to set in sunny windowsills near warm radiators.  But for now, they are in their glory, soaking up the last of the sunny, warm days, while my wooden village tucks around them.

I moved the ruffled pot of ivy to sit by the shefflura and the rocker.  This blue pot has been in my plant world since 1995, when I took it with me to Nebraska.  It’s crumbling apart and will likely return when it’s time for the plants to come inside.  It’s held many plants over the years and I’ll miss it when the cracks finally give way.

The front door impatiens continue to show off, issuing a happy greeting at the front door.  Whenever possible, I’ll find time to sit out here and enjoy the porch.  Cool mornings haven’t yet given way to cold days so there is still plenty of front porch sitting to be had.

This porch is a nice welcome home at the end of the day.  That’s happy!