Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Book Report: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

I enjoy a well-written mystery book and prefer those that limit the gore.  I can’t recall how I first found the Flavia de Luce mystery series but these books, by Alan Bradley, are keepers.  Most of them take place in England, in the imaginary village of Bishop’s Lacey, circa the 1950s.  The “detective” is 12 year old Flavia, the third daughter in a gentry family.   She lives in her ancestral home, the crumbling Buckshaw.  The de Luce’s are titled but strapped for cash thanks to the disappearance of mom Harriet, who carried title to the family estate but was lost climbing the Himalayans.

Flavia’s family story is bittersweet but not lost in sentimentality, as our nosy 12 year old heroine has a wry sense of humor, an eye for the truth, and a boundless interest in the field of chemistry.  I began reading the series the first year I taught 6th grade and had developed a keen appreciation of the 12-year-old mind.  I eagerly await every book in the series and the latest, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, finds Flavia starting classes at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, a boarding school in Canada.

In previous stories, Flavia has spent hours alone biking the village streets, shopping about, and performing experiments in her Chemistry lab.  She was a happy loner.  Now in a school teaming with girls, Flavia is a bit homesick as she sorts out a new place.  Happily, she’s still a snide observant of the world.  

She describes the head of her new school this way: “Her hawk nose and dark complexion gave her the look of pirate who had given up the sea for a career in education.”

Explaining how she can sleep through class by cupping her chin and tipping her head so that she appears thoughtful, Flavia assures us, “In all of recorded history, a teacher has never been known to question a thoughtful pupil.”

Unhappily silenced at a time when she has something to share, she notes, “…as with so many of my best ideas, I kept it to myself and moved on.”

Alan Bradley’s ability to see the world through the eyes of a 12 year old while writing a story that appeals to adults is clever.  Flavia is just the sort of kid we all would have liked to know and her rich eye for detail makes every book in this series a treat.

Polka Dots

I’ve enjoyed a lifelong love affair with polka dots.  They are cute and cheerful, tidy and matching…..all the things I love in life.  I’ve declared today Polka Dot Day at school and I am wearing my polka dot skirt.  I started the celebration this morning with my polka dot creamer and linen so that even my morning coffee feels cheery.

That’s happy!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Front Yard Flowers on Monday: Week 1

Since late December, I’ve devoted each Tuesday to a post about my amaryllis.  Last wee, in it's ninth week, it bloomed two splendid flowers and so our amaryllis Tuesdays are complete.  

Anticipating flowers is one of those activities that brings me hope and happiness on a daily basis.  There are bulbs peeking a green tip through the cold soil in my front yard flowerbed.  Perhaps they've taken a cue from the amaryllis?  I’ll replace my weekly appreciation of the amaryllis with a weekly appreciation of the daffodil and tulip bulbs in my front yard.

There’s still plenty of waiting to be done, but the signs of Spring flowers are already present amongst the ivy in my front flowerbed.

That’s happy!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On Bedding: An Occasional Celebration

The backstory: I love bedding - sheets, quilts, duvets, and pillows make my heart sing.  Living in a climate with defined seasons is an excuse to add and subtract different kinds of bedding to my nest.   This year, I plan to take pictures of the different seasons of bedding I use to feather my nest.

For Winter, I like a down comforter with a cheery and warm duvet.  I have a flannel duvet and down quilt if crazy cold settles in, but for most of the cold season, this red duvet cover keeps me warm.

That’s happy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Not a Fan: Congressman

The backstory: On Instagram, I follow a woman named Jen Hatmaker.  She lives in Austin, Texas and writes about her life as a wife, mother, and Christian.  On the face of it, we don’t have much in common, but I like her sensibility and her sense of humor.  From her, I’d adopted the idea of an occasional rant about the small annoyances in life.  She calls her rants “Not a Fan” and that rather sums it up, so my occasional rants will also arrive under that title.

Today's "Not a Fan" rant is about the gender neutral titles.  Are you using the phrase Congressman? Cut that shit out.

I have spent my adult life teaching about American government and I have always made sure to use gender neutral descriptions of elective office.  it’s an important distinction that signals to girls and boys that these are positions that can be occupied by both women and men.  Some titles are gender neutral on their own: President, Senator, Supreme Court Judge, Governor.  They have an association with men, of course, whether because men have exclusively served in the positions (looking at you, President) or because men have most often occupied the roles (looking at you, every other office in America).

Women have made the greatest progress in elective office is positions in the state legislatures and the House of Representatives and we need to reflect that progress by being sure to use gender-free descriptions of those positions.  It’s not a Congressman; it’s a member of Congress and the title is Representative.  If your state legislature has an Assembly, don’t call a representative an Assemblyman.  Go for Representative or member of the Assembly.

Train yourself to be inclusive by default and imagine all the little girls (and boys!) who grow up to believe that there is no limit to their political aspirations.  Then, when we elect our first woman president (and that had damn well better be in my lifetime), you’ll know that you played a part in the achievement.

Friday, February 24, 2017

February, Why Are You This Way?

The structure of this blog means that there is a running tally of the number of posts I generate each month.  I’ve often wondered why February’s totals are lower than average but, by the time I think about it, February has long passed.  This February, as I struggled to find even a few minutes to sit down and collect my thoughts, it’s been clear to me that this month is a crazy busy one, punctuated by evening events at school, an abundance of wrestling tournaments, and the usual busy chaos of life.  

It’s been so busy that I wrote a draft of a post for JT’s birthday and only realized today, a week later, that I never converted the draft to publish status.  The birthday message is up now and the delay is yet another reminder of how quickly time passes.  The days fly by and bit by bit we head toward the longer days and sunlight of March.  Something tells me that time has no plans to slow down and so I remind myself to enjoy it all and embrace the chaos.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Amaryllis Tuesday: Week 9, February 21

Perhaps the weekend sunlight and warmth inspired the amaryllis as much as it inspired me.  I think so because the flowers are here and they are splendid.

That’s happy!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Birthday Boy

JT turns 17 today.  When he was first born, a friend told me, “the days are long, but the years are fast.”  At the time, I wasn’t sure what she meant.  But today, it’s abundantly clear.  On Monday night, as he sat at the table making a Valentine for his sweetheart, he reflected that he’s changed a lot this year.  These sorts of conversations, with a son who is self-aware and thoughtful, are the rewards of being the mama of a teenager.

It makes up for the piles of laundry, the occasional bad moods, and the messy bedroom.

This past year has seen JT challenge himself both athletically and academically.  It’s given me the satisfaction of hearing my son say that he enjoyed writing a History paper.  I’v cheered him across finish lines, both real and figurative.  The past year has shown me how well he knows himself, a happy development.

A few weeks ago, I had the same dream a few nights in a row.  In the dream, I was looking after a friend’s baby, bringing the baby outside to return him to his family.  In my dream, the baby was familiar and lovely with dark hair and even darker eyes.  I handed him over to his family and then woke up to realize that the familiar baby was my baby; JT as an infant.  It doesn’t take Freud to interpret the thoughts of my subconscious.  I’ve known for a while now that I’m getting ready to send my bird from his nest and into the world to make his own way.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure that I am ready for him to leave the nest.  But with each day that passes, I can see that step-by-step, he’s closer to launch.  I am as proud of him as I can be.  Happy Birthday, sweet boy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


T got me tulips on Sunday.  They are beautiful and make for a cheerful greeting when I sit down for my morning coffee.

I’m spoiled.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Amaryllis Tuesday: Week 8, February 14

When I first come downstairs in the morning darkness, I give the amaryllis a little pep talk.  At the start of this week, there are four weeks between me and Spring Break.  My amaryllis bloom looks to be even closer than that.

Spring is on its way and I’m practically giddy about it!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pretty Packages

Wrapping packages is one of my favorite things and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for polka dots and ribbons.

That’s happy!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Weight of it All

“Trying very hard not to let the weight of it all drag me down. I will not let this administration steal my belief in the goodness of people.” — Donna Lutjens

I read this tweet by a friend and thought of the Quaker saying, “this friend speaks my mind.”  Like Donna, I find the daily political news draining.  As my frustration with current White House action grows, anxiety follows and I find myself wondering about some of my fellow citizens.  I question their intelligence, their compassion, their judgment.  When I think of all those Trump voters, it feels as if I am living among strangers.

There is no Trump policy with which I agree.  I think that the new president is ignorant and arrogant; in that position to feed is ego and his bank account.  I feel that his advisors are dishonest and uninformed.  I think that some of the Republican leaders in Congress willfully ignore the damage their party and their president are doing to our nation because they are winning and victory is all they care about.  There is seemingly no end to the daily news of national cruelty brought to us by Donald Trump: immigration raids on hard-working, undocumented people; a trade ban on people coming to the United States in search of the freedom and opportunity that we have historically been proud to offer as a beacon and comfort to the world;  attacks by the president on the court system, as if one branch impugning the integrity of another is just politics-as-usual, not a deadly threat to the very core of our constitutional system.

I could go on and on.

But in the midst of this, I sense a power in the community of resisters that is real and good.  My friends at work have an e-mail chain with action steps we can can take now.  They are small but meaningful and remind us that we are in it together.  Whereas I once would avoid political discussions with strangers, I find myself speaking my mind and finding community.  It’s happened too often to simply be happenstance.  When I picked up my new glasses, the clerk in the show and I shared our pride in the  Women’s March.  At the gas station, the attended heard NPR on my radio and commented that it’s a sea of reason in the insanity; we agree that the Muslim ban is cruel and wrong.  At the Latin American grocery in town, the checkout has jars collecting for immigration lawyers to work for people detained and when I add a dollar the clerks nods and so I say, “we are in this together,” and she smiles.

After the election, as it became clear that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, I kept saying that fact mattered.  It matters right now more than ever,  There is a majority and it is those of use who see our nation as a beacon of hope; a place where our differences make us stronger.  I believe that America is still here.  It’s in the protests and the donations to the cause we believe in; it’s in the community we find with one another in gas stations and grocery stores; on street corners and at school.  It’s every day for as long as it takes.  The stakes are too great to let the weight of it all drag us down.  Each act of resistance and protest brings us closer together and makes us more powerful.  We are the good that we seek and we will not be silenced.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

You Made Your Bed, Now Lie in It

My parents are coming to town on Wednesday.  My multi-staired home is not a good fit for my dad, who has difficulty walking.  While my mother and I were sorting out a plan to obtain a daybed for the downstairs study so dad could avoid the stairs, dad pressed send on his own and had a box spring and twin mattress shipped to my house.  So it was that I spent a few hours last Saturday afternoon putting together a box spring.

And then unwrapping a mattress.

There is now a day bed in the study.  Bedding was collected from the closets; sheets and a cushy mattress pad were acquired.

The study is a lovely room with French doors and a load of windows.  It's chilly in the Winter but come the open-window season, it's a nice room.  I am currently daydreaming of obtaining a bunch more pillows and enjoying breezy afternoons spent reading in this corner of the study.  Of course, the jury is out on whether this bed is at all comfortable.  I expect that dad will provide his assessment after a few nights spent in his new rack.

Talk about sleeping in a bed of your own making……

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Snow Day!

We have had some snow this winter, but mostly just a bit here and there (and on Saturday, the equivalent of a Winter middle finger).  We’ve not had enough to have a snow day from school.  Until today, anyway.  As this week unfolded, the forecast for Thursday looked better and better for a snowstorm at just the right time for a day off from school: starting overnight and dumping the bulk of the good stuff during the morning commute.  Snow always generates excitement and this storm was no exception.  Thursday’s snow day was declared at 4 pm on Wednesday, providing enough notice for a happy sleep in on Thursday morning.  When I woke up, the storm was working its magic.

Snow ended by 2 and the sun came out by the time JT and headed outside to shovel the walkway and driveway.  Our labor earned us some hot cocoa.  There was a time when I had a little boy and made hot cocoa so much that I knew the recipe by heart.  These days, it’s a treat only recipe, but it’s as delicious as ever.

We sipped our cocoa and remembered snow days when JT was in and out all day long, churning up the backyard, building snowmen, and making snowballs.  Today, the backyard is untouched.  

Sunlight, blue sky, and snow is a brilliantly beautiful combination; the sort that makes Winter worthwhile.   

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Front Porch in February

At the start of the month, I took down my “Let it Snow” flag, figuring there was no point in inviting trouble.  But Winter still has several weeks to leave its mark and this morning brings news of an impending storm that may drop as 10 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow.  That will mean a snow day.  We haven’t had one in two years and the students are filled with excited energy today, full of plans to sleep in and celebrate Winter’s best offering: No School!  Meanwhile, my porch is cheerful for Valentine’s Day, with a basket of pinecones and hearts and a vase of red berries on my plaid tablecloth.

The front door's heart-shaped wreath and polka dot ribbon is just my sort of thing.  Though this Winter has been mostly mild, it has still featured enough cold to make a cheerful porch a welcoming place at the end of a Winter day.  That’s happy!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Amaryllis Tuesday: Week Seven, February 7

This past week, I moved some of my plants around to ensure that they can soak in all the Winter light that is available.  The amaryllis has joined a fuchsia and schefflera on my plant stand.  The amaryllis can use the support as it grows taller every day.  

These pictures were made in the early morning today, well before the sunlight began to peak over the horizon.  I remind myself that the days are growing steadily longer, a fact that both the amaryllis and I embrace.

This bulb has grown rapidly and I expect the flower will show itself by the end of this month.  That’s happy!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Of Dating Age

A few weeks ago, JT and a buddy hatched a last-minute plan to double-date.  In New Jersey, you must be 17 to have a driver’s license and so JT’s transportation involved the girl’s mom driving him home to his other mother’s house.  There’s been talk of this girl for a few weeks, so none of this was a surprise to me.  But as the planning unfolded, I realized I needed to make sure that he had informed girl A and her parents of his family situation: not just that his parents aren’t together, but that his parents are two moms.

On the one hand, JT’s been at our school with me since he was 3 and I’ve always been out, so I suspected that A probably knew and was okay with JT’s family.  On the other hand, parents and kids can have different levels of tolerance, and I didn’t want JT to be surprised by how his family was received.  Normally, I’d have time to think out this conversation but the last-minute nature of the date and the fact that JT and I both needed to head to class meant that I had to just come out and say what I was thinking.  So I did…..”buddy, does A know you have two moms?  Do her parents know?  Some people might not be okay with that….”  I let the notion linger.

He looked at me and then smiled, “Do you think that I would date anyone who wasn’t okay with my family?  She knows.  Her parents know.  They are cool with it.”

That boy of mine is a keeper.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Real Life Conversations with T: In the Stinky Gym edition

The backstory:  Since the new year began, T and I have spent a portion of nearly every weekend in a large gym filled with wrestlers.  The man stink can take its toll, as it did last weekend.

T:  If you had a girl, we’d be watching basketball right now.

Me:  I can’t argue with that.  Enjoy the grapplers, honey!

The boy we’ve got loves him some wrestling.  And so we watch wrestling.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

February 1: Old Man Tree

When Old Man Tree was trimmed last fall, I had the ivy which surrounds the tree girdled so that come Winter, I could pull it off the tree.  That’s a task I haven’t yet taken on, but it’s on the agenda for the month of February.

In the Winter, the season of rest and stillness, the tree is getting ready for the next growing season.

We’ve had some light snow and cold has returned for the start of February, but thus far the Winter has been bearable.  I know that in the seeming quiet of the season, the tree is laying in supplies for the growing season to come, soaking in the light of the slowly lengthening days, just as I do.