Friday, February 04, 2022

Brrrr

We are smack dab in the middle of Winter right now and last week’s storm made this clear.  The snow was pretty and the light at sunset was splendid.



This Winter has seemed darker than usual and so I turn to familiar comforts.  Bright colors and stripes are lined up in my closet.  My cozy red flower hat helps to keep my eyes on the prize.  


Living in floral hope around here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

February 1 Flowers

 If there is one truth in my world, it's that flowers make everything better.  To say so long to the struggles of January, I brought home some pink tulips.


That's happy.



Thursday, October 07, 2021

Week Five

Every school year, sometime around week five, I become convinced I have developed a terminal illness.  My body aches at the end of the day, supper seems like an enormous undertaking, and I crawl into bed at 9 pm, already half-asleep.  I debate how to tell my family that my time is up.  Then I call my sister, a fellow teacher whose year starts a bit earlier, and she reminds me that it’s week five, and my condition is chronic but not terminal.  Soon after that, I gain my school legs, and I’m fine. 

This morning, I got up at 5:30 am, crawled into the shower, and was pleased to discover that overnight my vision had magically improved so that I could see clearly.  Two seconds later, my glasses were dripping wet.  I had gotten into the shower with them on.  

It’s week five, y’all.




Monday, October 04, 2021

Fall in Sight

The backyard dogwood tree is rather a harbinger of things to come.  It’s my first sight of Spring in April and come September, its leaves begin to turn ever-so-slightly.  I enjoy a daily check of the changes at hand.  This was the tree three weeks ago.   


Last week, a few more leaves had begin to turn.
  



Yesterday, color was coming to all of the leaves on the side of the tree that faces West.  



This tree barely reached the roofline of the first floor when I moved here in 2005.  These days, it’s rather larger than that, though still very much in the shadow of Old Man Tree, and always a treat when I spy its branches.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Old Man Tree October 1

September of any school year is typically exhausting but September in pandemic school was well beyond that.  In the first full week, we quarantined more than 20 kids;  the next week brought another dozen at home.  Students have been a bit off the rails on the adolescent behavior front.  It’s been a challenging month.   Each day, I’d come home and take some time to admire Old Man Tree, the sentinel of time in my back yard and a reminder of the many things that endure even as life seems upside down.       


For all the difficulties of September, the teaching and learning - with every kid in class and none on Zoom - has been absolutely splendid.
  I love that part of school again and it’s a most-welcome development.    As we settle into October’s shortening day, learning feels almost normal.  Mother Nature has been kind to us when it comes to outside recess and the changing leaves are here.


Old Man Tree is getting ready for the next season.
 Under his careful watch, I’ll be ready as well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

September Front Porch

This is the last full month that outdoor porch sitting will be an option on a daily basis.  I am determined to make the most of it.  Happy green plants surround my tiny New England village.


The flag is a cheerful sunflower.


I come home tired most days in the first month of school and this porch is a welcome place to arrive.
  That’s happy!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

I’m Vaccinated and I’m Angry

I am growing weary of claims by unvaccinated people that vaccine mandates are a limit on their freedom.  Freedom is such a tricky concept and Americans are woefully ignorant of how freedom actually works when we all must live in the same society.  We wave the flag and shout the word freedom as if it gives us the right to do whatever we damn well please.  But that is not what freedom means; nor has it ever meant that.  In otherwise free societies, once human beings live with one another, freedom is necessarily bounded so that we can live safely and well alongside one another.     

All day long, your freedom is restricted.  Consider just one day in my life.  I must drive on the right side of the road because the law demands it.  Worse than that, I must follow a speed limit because safety and order for other drivers is important.  I must stop at red lights, signal before I turn, and abide by speed limits.  I’m barely out of my house 15 minutes and already my freedom has been restricted.  How do I bear it?  Well, those restrictions apply to all of us and they keep me - and you - safer as we drive our cars.     

Most limits on freedom fall into this category - restrictions made to benefit the safety of us all.  They don’t endanger my life, neither do they put me at risk.  They do set limits on what I can do - limits on my freedom.  They do that to keep me - and everyone else - just a smidge safer.  Vaccines - and masks, these days - fall into this category.  A vaccine against a potentially fatal and airborne illness helps to prevent me from contracting it.  And vaccinated people keep all the rest of us safer as well.  We have been using vaccines for years — smallpox vaccines were common in the 1700s - and we know that vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, is safe and effective for the vast majority of us.     

There is, of course, an enormous amount of vaccine disinformation, propagated by ignorant people who are afraid.  Fear and ignorance is a potent combination and for some of us it will be deadly.  But the fear of some of us must not prevent our government (a government by the people) from taking action to protect the health and safety of all of us.  

I make it a life habit to avoid anger and hate.  They are emotions that kill joy and I want no part of them.  But my fury at the unvaccinated and the risks they create for all of us is a potent force right now.  I am not proud of it, but I find myself not giving a damn about unvaccinated people who are dying of COVID.  I don’t even care about the suffering and pain of their families at this largely preventable loss.  The willful choice of some of us to keep a pandemic alive when we could stop it is unethical, immoral, and the height of selfishness.  To claim freedom as the reason for exposing us all to a greater probability of illness and death is beyond ignorant, it’s just plain stupid.     

If you want true and absolute freedom, then go where there are no other people, in a place where your actions can never affect any of us.  That’s going to be hard to find because it is an impossible goal in a planet occupied by people.  Until then, your freedom is limited by the freedom of the rest of us.  Roll up your sleeve and get the fucking vaccine.  You’ll be safer and so will everyone else in the world.  In a world in which we must live with other people, that is a really good thing.  


Thursday, September 09, 2021

School, Actual School

After nearly two weeks of meetings, actual classrooms full of real-life students arrive in the building today.  My classroom is organized; lessons are set; my first-day-school skirt and blouse are steamed and at-the-ready.

Like any start of school, there is the expectation of the unknown.  The pandemic makes this an even greater concern.  More than 80% of my students eligible to be vaccinated have had their jab.  All of the faculty and staff are vaccinated.  For now, we are not teaching hybrid and I am grateful for the chance to get to know my students before we navigate whatever madness Covid-19 brings. 


This is my 20th year teaching at my school, a landmark of sorts, and my greatest hope is for a year of healthy in-person learning.  That seems like a modest goal but if I have learned anything in the past two years of teaching, it’s that the seemingly modest goals are the most important of all.  


Giddy up, y’all.  Here we go…

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

New School Year, New Bulletin Board

Every year, I organize a new bulletin board for my office.  


Two parts inspiration and one part the story of my last year, each year’s board is organized to bring me daily happiness. The usual suspects are all there: UCLA; anthropomorphized British animals; books; flowers; people I love; a nod to my home state; my first celebrity crush, Smokey the Bear...and more that makes me smile).  


This year’s theme is female empowerment.
  I have grown weary of being taken for granted and underestimated because of my gender.  I see being a woman as my greatest superpower and I’d advise the universe to take note and get the fuck out of my way.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

The Body As Politic

When I was in the 5th grade, and 10 years old, a visit to our family pediatrician resulted in an event that lingers in my mind to this very day.  She told me that I was “too pretty to be chubby.”  What followed were a series of family diets - none able to combat the food dysfunction already well-built into our family DNA - and, for me, a growing distrust and dislike of my body.     

In the aftermath of the visit to the doctor, I remember having the feeling that what I saw in the mirror and what she saw when she looked at me were two vastly different images.  She saw a pretty face with an un-pretty body.  After that appointment, that is also what I saw.  Since then, even with the help of loads of therapy, I cannot see my body with any sense of accuracy.  For the most part, I strenuously avoid encounters with my appearance, having long ago perfected the talent of looking in a mirror but not seeing myself.     Education in feminism has ensured that I now understand the many ways that women’s bodies are a public commodity in a fashion that does not occur for men.  From hair color to the shape and style of our clothing, women’s bodies are never fully their own.  All women’s bodies - thin or not - are subject to comment and regulation in a way that never occurs for me.  The media, strangers, medical practitioners, friends, and family offer “helping” commentary that is almost never helpful and is more often cruel.  It is hard for many of us to develop any veneer of protection to these pressures.     

With the help of good therapists, I learned to tamp down anxiety about my appearance and to never present a public face that rejects limits on the right of my body to exist, to take up space.  I started this as a fake-it-’til-you-make-it strategy and, many years later, it has worked fairly well.  Movement - a run on the elliptical or a walk in the woods - and pregnancy helped me to be on friendlier terms with my body.  I no longer regard it as my enemy.  I would love to actually value and appreciate my body on a consistent basis, but that remains a work in progress.  I have always been able to value my mind, and when others have actively underestimated my intelligence, that dismissal never affected me.  You’d think I would be able to accord my body that same protection, but I have not been able to consistently do so.     

At this point, it’s been a 43 year project to value my body as I value my mind.  I know now that it’s the project of my lifetime.  This work-in-progress is vastly aided by the growing body positivity and health-at-every-size movement and I am grateful for that help, which has been essential to my continued faith in myself.  This post, a declaration of human vulnerability in a realm where I am the most protective of myself, is another step in that direction.  It’s a reminder to 10 year old me that my value as a person is inherent and not a function of anything other than my human existence.