Monday, March 31, 2014


Snow shovels, a sharp-edged ice-cracking shovel, ice melt, and the outdoor broom spend their winter on my front porch, ready for duty.  
They’ve seen plenty this year.  Last week, in a spell of spring cleaning that was not accompanied by actual spring temperatures, I was tempted to put them away. Then I paused.  Given the way the chilly season played out this year, I decided to wait a little longer, at least past April Fool’s Day.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


T and I were out in public, as we occasionally are on the weekend, when she spotted a Dr. Suess book and announced that she didn’t know that he had written a lesbian sex book.
Internet, she’s mine.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Flower Friday

A read of my postings for the last 3 months reveals one long whine about the cold and snowy Winter we had around here.  In my defense, in the nearly 12 years that I have lived in New Jersey this past Winter is the coldest of the Jersey winters that I’ve experienced.  If it wasn’t the snowiest, it comes dang close.  Though the days have flown by, as they always do, it seems like forever since I’ve been able to drink my morning coffee on the back deck, let alone comfortably stroll outside in my customary flip flops.

Enough of the whinging and complaining!

Today I pledge to stop the griping about the cold.  It’s Spring and there are shoots of green in the flowerbeds.  Crocus, daffodils, and tulips are on their way and I intend to celebrate.  As a celebration of Spring and the coming warmth and green, every Friday for the next few weeks I’ll be posting pictures of the hearty blooms in my messy flowerbeds.  Check out the profligate bulbs here in the eastern flowerbed.

The tulips bulbs by the driveway are looking good.

And let’s not rule out the flowers that will appear in the western flowerbed in a few weeks.

Heavy rain is expected this weekend, to be followed by warmth next week.  Soon enough a haze of green will envelope my world.  That’s happy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Real Life Texts with T: Permanent Record edition

The backstory:  I have long like to joke about my permanent record, a notion that actually frightened me when I was a kid.  Now that I’m a Middle School administrator, I actually have access to the permanent record file.*  The power may have gone to my head.  I was at school earlier this week, when T and I had this exchange.

Me: It’s quiet here so I may open up the permanent records and fuck with things.

T:  Fix my records while you’re at it.  I didn’t mean to bite that kid.

Internet, she’s taken.

*Such a thing doesn’t actually exist, a fact that would have been handy to know when I was in the 7th grade.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Little Boy Inside

When JT was a first grader he would refer to himself as a little boy.  I was always charmed by those references.  These days there is a deep-voiced, tall, and strong young man in my home and the little boy often seems long gone.

Though this transition is perfectly natural and appropriate, I still miss having a little boy who grabs my hand and seats himself on my lap.  I’ve learned that the compensation for a grown up boy comes in the form of his wicked clever sense of humor, his ability to perform assorted tasks of strength and height, and the pleasure I take in his growing intellectual maturity.

I’ve also learned to embrace the moments when the little boy still inside JT  makes an appearance.  This week, that happened when it came time to spend his birthday gift card on a new Major League Baseball t-shirt.  The fact that he now likes gift cards for presents is evidence of a grown up in the making.  But the preference for a gift card to buy a baseball t-shirt?  Well, that’s all little boy.

JT sorted out his options and settled on two favorite shirts.  His heart leaned toward a Cardinals Michael Wacha t-shirt.  His head was worried that Wacha may not work out this season.  So he did what all careful shoppers do: he consulted with Grandpa in a long-ranging conversation about batting order, Cardinals pitching prospects, and pre-season baseball.  His anxieties abated, he pressed send on the Wacha t-shirt.

I watched it all bemused at this view of the intersection of childhood and grown-up, grateful that the little boy he once was is still alive and well in 5 foot 9 inch young man who lives under my roof.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hopeful Anyway

As I write, there is a brilliant sunlight outside.  But it’s late March and though Spring is on the calendar, Winter is having its last gasp and the temperature outside is hovering around freezing.  Snow is once again in our forecast, a prospective 3-5 inches overnight tomorrow, accompanied by cold temperatures and a frigid wind.

We have had a few tantalizing days above 50, some even featuring sunlight.  The smallest hint of green is around in the form of bulb shoots slowly pushing through the cold soil.  I have to look to see the evidence, but I do look and it is lovely to see.    More than that, it’s hopeful.  

Growing up in California, seasonal extremes were not very great.  I appreciate the natural world much more when I see the variations as I do in the climate here.  That’s not to say that I don’t miss the beauty and ease of the weather in my home state; I do.  It’s just that I value the ways in which more extreme seasons help me to mark the passage of time and see and feel my place in the world.  So I will wait through this next storm, it’s really the only option.  And I will look forward to the lush green reward spring will eventually provide.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Our Sporting Life

Among his strongest passions, sports tops out at number one for JT.  He watches ESPN daily and his iPad is filled with assorted apps to generate scores and stats for his brain to chew upon.  He watches games as well and this point in the year, with March Madness in full-blown effect and opening day of baseball just around the corner, is among his favorites.  He has loyalties to certain teams and schools and the t-shirt collection to prove it.  He’s still enough of a kid to plan his wardrobe around the day’s games (yesterday featured a Wisconsin t-shirt in the morning and a switch to Syracuse for the afternoon).  His Tennessee and UCLA t-shirts are washed and ready for today’s slate of games.

I introduced this obsession and do my best to keep up with it, but JT’s knowledge of sports outpaces my own these days.  When I needed to fill-out my Buffett bracket, it was JT’s help that I sought.  As he grows up and seeks more and more independence, the games we watch together maintain a powerful bond between the two of us.   Not too many years from now, he’ll head off to college and a life of his own.  Until then, we watch games and cheer on our teams and find common cause in these games that are about fun, hard work, and perseverance; all lessons that benefit my sometimes impatient boy.  These days it is one of my greatest pleasures as a Mama.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Invitation to Spring

Last night a thunderstorm came through and dropped some serious rain upon us.  It says a lot about our Winter that rain with temps in the 40s actually felt warm.  In a few short hours, Spring will officially have arrived.  We’ve got some sunlight to go with the day and I heard birds chirping this morning.  I am ready for some green in the landscape and glad that our last remnant of snow has finally melted.  I am looking forward to sitting in the front porch rocker with a good book and a glass of iced tea.
There are promising signs of Spring all over my yard, and I will be particularly happy to see blooms in this planter, which I’ve set out to enjoy the sunlight.
Until then, I’ll keep an eye on the green shoots in all of my flowerbeds.
I’ll eagerly anticipate the first mow of the season.
And I’ll welcome blooms on the lovely rhododendron bushes that frame the front steps.
March is a fickle month and there will surely be some more cold days before Spring really takes hold.  But the calendar is on my side as of today and soon enough I will sleep with the windows open and flip flops will be the only shoes that I need.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What Would Rousseau Say?

Teaching Middle School after years of teaching older students has been an epiphany for me.  While it is new and the comparisons are fresh in my mind, I’m making note of some of the biggest distinctions between middle schoolers and older high schoolers.  These thoughts of mine are sometimes open-ended; I don’t have any big answers.  But I do have plenty to mentally chew upon and I intend to do so.  Today’s topic is rather a big one: the nature of humanity.  

When I taught 11th and 12th graders and we learned about the formation of governments, it was first necessary to have a conversation about humans in the natural world.  Left to our own devices are we good or bad?  Selfish or selfless?  Informed by overviews of the most significant of the Enlightenment thinkers, high school students would talk through the nature of man.  These discussions were always fascinating and one of the elements that always surprised me was the confidence that 16 and 17 year olds have in the basic nature of humanity.  Teenagers often claimed that mankind is naturally good.

Among the 6th graders, as we work our heads around medieval feudalism, I’ve been having similar conversations.  I have asked them, “In a world without structure or a government to rule, how will people behave?”  Their almost universal answer: people are not naturally good and without rules to keep order, there will be trouble.  Big trouble.

It doesn’t entirely surprise me that 6th graders, kids who mostly live in a world of order and structure, believe that the rules make a difference.  One of the hallmarks of middle school is the fact that adolescents are seeking some real freedom and independence, often for the first time.  That they are receiving it on occasion invariably results in some poor decision making.  It’s not all the time, but it happens that children learning to make their way as independent young people name call, taunt one another, tattle, or otherwise seek to distinguish themselves by being unkind.  Freedom entails responsibility and 6th graders are learning their way around this rather complicated fact.

In that suddenly uncertain environment, even anxiety of the smallest kind (will I have a friendly table in the lunch room?  if I lose the cup stacking game, what will the other kids say?), can be unsettling.  Rules, structure and uniformity seems like a much safer option when faced with freedom and the occasional unkindness of humanity.

Just before break, the 6th graders and I started projects to invent our own medieval manor.  They enjoy the idea of being the lords and ladies of their own realm and they are taking care to look out for the needs of everyone in their imaginary estates.   They have seen the unkindness of the real world and are determined to mediate against it when they can.   I find this kindness heartening.  Perhaps it is this instinct that will eventually allow them to be 16 and 17 year olds who see goodness in the natural world?  

Monday, March 17, 2014

On Green

Though we dodged the snow in the forecast (and for that I am so very grateful), there is a cold wind blowing and it’s below freezing again.  This storm is Winter’s last effort to boss us around but I say that Winter can just go ahead and suck it.  For one thing, the calendar at my house notes that Spring begins in 4 short days.  For another, when the last of the snow melted over the weekend, it revealed these promising signs of happy blooms in my future.  They were in this flowerbed.
And this one.
And this one too.
I'll be watching these hopeful signs each day in the weeks ahead.  Winter, I am so over you.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Someone Got a New Thesaurus

In his 8th grade English class, every few weeks JT is confronted by a new vocabulary list and the task at hand is to identify the different conjugations of a word.  We like words at Sassafras House but we hate these vocabulary lists because parts of speech are annoying.  That is to say we find conjugation an annoyance.  The task annoys us.  You get the idea.

I think that we should outsource the job to Pantone, because the people over there clearly have a big fat SAT-worthy vocabulary and they are eager to use it.  Case in point: the description of the color of the year for 2014.  I am speaking of Radiant Orchid.  Of course.  In their press release, Pantone reports that the color is a “captivating purple.  One that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”  It “inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health.”  Dang, I need to get me some of that.

As usual when it comes to the new Pantone color, last year’s color takes a hit.  Pantone writes of the 2013 color, Emerald, that it “served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity.”  Given the state of the economy and the craptastic nature of Congress, Pantone isn’t going to make that claim again.  See you later, greedy Emerald.  Our new friend, that always-captivating Radiant Orchid, "...reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination.  An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”

Well okay.  You go, Radiant Orchid.  Bring it.  Radiant Orchid (light purple if you never got beyond the basic Crayola colors) is “captivating, magical, and enigmatic.”  It sounds impressive but I think that’s actually code for doesn’t match a single fucking thing in your closet.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dirty Jersey

The glaciers of snow around the area really took to melting in the past week, though that turns out to be something of a mixed blessing.  Why, you ask?  Because the people of this state are pigs.
At least once a week, I see people toss trash in places it doesn’t belong and in the winter it seems to be worse.  Come the snow melt, our filthy habits are fully revealed.  We need a statewide movement of trash pick-up followed by a resolution to stop our litterbug ways.  What say you, fellow Jerseyans?  Can we be expected to clean up our state?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Amaryllis: Week 11

We started this week with a glimpse of Spring warmth but are ending it in the midst of icy cold (it was 17 degrees when we loaded into the car this morning).  No matter, because I have these glorious blooms to greet me every day.
It’s actually hard to capture the size of this splendid floral display; it’s nearly 3 feet tall and there are 7 blooms in the two flowers at the top of these stems.
Spring Break is just around the corner and this week has rather worn me out but the amaryllis brings cheer to my days and that is a happy thing.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Last weekend, T gave me this wreath for the front door.  She said it looked like just the sort of thing I would love.  She was right.  Each night I come home and feel cheered and welcomed.  It's a reminder that Spring will soon be here.
That’s happy.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Amaryllis Week 10

In the past week, as the amaryllis has been preparing to bring forth a splendid bloom, Winter’s hold on us has loosened ever so slightly.  On Monday, my part of New Jersey dodged a Winter storm that the National Weather Service had predicted would bring us 6-10 inches of snow.  Another burst of extreme cold followed, but the weekend calls for sun and 50 degrees which sounds heavenly.  The amaryllis is celebrating as much as I am.
It looks like I will enjoy at least two flowers from this bulb, which seems rather over-the-top.  But I’ll take it, giddy as I am at the idea that Spring is on its way.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Like everyone else in New Jersey, I am anxiously looking for signs of Spring.  I check the 10 day weather forecast each day with a heart filled with hope, a junkie waiting for her fix of sunlight and temps above 50 degrees.  This weekend, I had to run back to school for a book I had forgotten and T came with me.  While there, she sighted these daffodils pushing through the ground.
They are in front of the Middle School and each day I greet them and offer encouragement.  Those little green tips are a harbinger of all the lush green that Spring will eventually bring.  It will be most welcome.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Over the weekend, T helped me with some Spring cleaning: specifically, we organized the pantry.  I have a fairly spacious kitchen pantry and I have cleaned it out on previous occasions, most recently in 2009, which is rather too long ago.  No matter how I try to keep up, the pantry eventually looks like this and I can't find a thing:
There was plenty of confusion in this pantry, enough to make me scratch my head for days.  Trouble came in threes.  I had three boxes of lasagna pasta, a food I make less than once a year.  I can serve that lasagna with bread crumbs; I had three shakers worth. There were also three boxes of raisins and I don’t really like raisins.  The collection of vinegars raises some very interesting questions.  No matter, in the end, things got cleaned out and organized.
And then the shelves got labels.
The pantry is much tidier and desired items are easy to find; I’m hopeful that the labels will assist in keeping me organized.  That’s happy!

Sunday, March 02, 2014


I have a spot in the corner of the dining room where I hang a print of a bunny.  The collection started as a gift when I received this snow bunny print.  
I have prints in a great  enough variety to swap them out every few months.  So bunny prints have become a seasonal thing for me.  For the first of March, the snow bunny was replaced by this cheerful bubble-blowing bunny, a Christmas gift from T.
This bunny looks hopeful to me; and that’s how I choose to treat March.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March 1: Dogwood Tree

All my hopes for March have been put on hold; the polar cold has a grip on us again.  When I poured my first cup of coffee this morning the temperature outside was 5 degrees.  Another winter storm is headed our way tomorrow afternoon.  But its March and the birds have begun to chirp in the mornings.  The sunlight today looks cheerful and warm, even in the bone-chilling cold.  The dogwood is standing strong.
This month, when Winter comes to a calendar and meteorological close, offers hope even if the temperatures do not confirm it.  I think that the dogwood tree is holding spring in its heart, telling me, “Soon, dear.  Soon.”