Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fall daze


I know spring gets tremendous respect for all its new growth, so many plants emerging from slumber, and the world opening up in so many gorgeous ways. But, I think there is as much, if not more, to discover outside in the fall. It is truly a time of harvest and possibility - reaping nature's rewards. It helps to have my young granddaughters (Frog, 3 years old, and Bird, 1 year old) making keen observations about the world around them, noticing everything 

from the breeze 
to drooping flowers 
to birds eating on the lawn
to the moon outside in the daytime.
These two are truly budding scientists, who love to be outdoors as much as possible. 

I enjoy bringing home nature's treasures on my walks, and sharing them with Frog and Bird. On a recent walk, a girlfriend and I found tons of buckeyes - which I promptly put in a basket for the granddaughters to discover on their next day at our house.

Yes, we have had some fabulous fall days, and lots to do and see. Today was blustery and clear, much cooler than it has been. We loved it! We were out and about, walking the yard and the neighborhood. Everything must be touched - or looked at closely. My neighbor's lamb's ear is a popular pitstop, and is still flourishing soft in October. Frog declared this a "much touch" a couple years back, and now her little sister wants in on the fun.

For the past two days, I've been watching this praying mantis in my lavender. I first noticed it on Sunday, as it devoured a bee. Oh, nature!

When Frog arrived this morning, we went looking in the lavender to see if this 'friend' was still visiting. Instead - we discovered its gift of an egg sac, that's pretty cool! Imagine, as I read on Gardening Know How, "The adult female lays eggs before she dies with the first frosts." Should this egg sac survive the winter, there will be hundreds of new mantises right at my front doorstep this spring - woohoo!

Frog will learn something about hope and time, as we watch this egg sac over the winter. 

We are already watching a chrysalis, in another plant. Yes, a few weeks back, we discovered a black swallowtail caterpillar on my parsley...soon thereafter, the caterpillar formed a chrysalis. What was news to me, this caterpillar "winters" in a chrysalis ... if all goes well this winter, we'll have a beautiful butterfly in the spring.

So much to learn in the outdoors!

I'll close with a pumpkin photo...I heard on the radio that today is National Pumpkin Day, so it was only appropriate to take this photo of granddaughter Frog enjoying ours!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Home Work

These past few months, we've been living in a rather sad version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, with one simple home improvement idea (hey, honey, let's get our wood floors refinished!) leading to - unearthing, really - a host of other issues. Isn't this always true of houses? Of teaching? Of any work? One sweet idea and the next thing you know, you are immersed in something tangential, then something else, and else again, on and on.

I've been surprised at how sad I am about the discovery that we have major repairs to make to the existing structure of our home. Yes, truly sad. Quite unexpectedly. 

Here's how I know: when the contractor shared impressive, clear, careful details of the work we must do, I burst into tears as soon as he left our house.

A good friend suggested that I am perhaps feeling a sense of grief, a sense of loss. The more I think about it, I think she is right.

We have an older home (1938). I like to say - "old enough to have problems, not old enough to be anything extraordinary." But, we have loved this home. It's been my home throughout our marriage (my husband bought it before we married) - some 33 years now. It's full of our fixes, our repairs, our "make do's." As one little example, let me share a photo of the kitchen "backsplash" that I painted 25 years ago, because we couldn't afford tile: 

I have been so content with this painted backsplash through the years! Ha! It makes me smile.

Our remodeling will begin any day now (we are waiting on blueprints...). I feel like a young child on the verge of a tantrum when I say: I really don't want to think about the innumerable details of this new work! 

But it is work that must be done. 

These structural repairs mean that a lot of the little, personal touches we labored on through the years will vanish. (Yes, the backsplash, too. I know - the time is past due. I hear you.)  This is why I am feeling such a sense of grief - it feels as if we're tossing aside memories, erasing our life.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I am making peace with the reality that the timeline will be long, inconsistent, unpredictable - as is true with most remodeling projects, but especially during this time of pandemic when every contractor is in hot demand and working on several things at once.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I remind myself, it's a good life, right? We are so blessed. Change is always, change is constant, change is needed.  

Of all the unforeseen and unfortunate problems in the world, this is a good problem to have. Quit my bellyaching!

Breathe in, breathe out.

Realizing I am feeling grief, I decided to work my way out of my blues. Action is needed! We "popcorned" ideas about things that need to be done around the house that are NOT this structural issue, that do not require a professional, that we can do ourselves. We came up with quite a list, big and small things. (Think - painting projects, culling belongings/extras, donating furniture and other items we no longer need.) Now, we are chipping away at these - and it feels WONDERFUL. Seriously. It helps to be accomplishing something.

This past week, we repainted four radiators (before the onset of cold weather). Here's a 'before and after':


(Yes, there is a goof of paint on the tile above the right corner. 
Thank goodness for "Goof Off"!)

It also helps to write poetry - ha! Just yesterday, EthicalELA offered the inspiration to write an "Abecedarian" poem. I thought about our house and its overwhelming but necessary repairs, and an A-Z poem just flowed out of me. I love it when writing just tumbles forth, as if a release valve has been opened. Yes, it was truly a release. 

I guess the truth of it is, remodeling doesn't soothe my soul...I'd rather be writing.

Falling Apart Alphabetically

Absolutely excited to 

begin home improvements, the

contractor was summoned to

develop a plan of action.

Emotionally unprepared I was

for his first question,

Goodness, why is your ceiling sagging?

How is it that we never noticed?

I have asked this many times since.

Jarringly, it is all we see now.

Knowledge is sight, I suppose.

Lamentations aside, we have

mustered courage (though

nerves and tears still rule on many days) and we’re

opening ceilings

paying for blueprints

querying engineers contractors designers websites friends 

rapidly learning about beams and 

structures and foundations.

Things fall apart. Yes, indeed.

Unexpected challenges and loss, it is said, may also reap

very real opportunities, silver linings, transformation -

wisdom I should print on index cards or

xerox and post everywhere, reminding, as we

yearn for this work to be done, it simply

zigs and zags, ebbs and flows, starts and stalls.


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

On Gratitude and Learning

One recent day
I sang Five Green Speckled Frogs 
over and over again
while crouched in front of the toilet
where my young granddaughter was perched
she would pee

I sang Five Green Speckled Frogs 
with hand motions as well
many times in a row
at her insistence 
and perhaps a bit of mine
as I tried to lighten and normalize 
this new learning

while in a nearby room
I heard her young sister crawling about
knocking things over
chattering and cooing

and was immediately thankful 
for the other caregiver in the house
dear Poppa will tend to the littlest one 
I need not worry about her

just keep on singing

and thinking
isn't it extraordinary
a miracle 
such a luxury
to be proficient at
using the bathroom

somewhere along the way
I started taking it for granted

why not feel 
the magic and wonder 
each day 

the sheer amazing learning
the accomplishment
the good skill
of so many of us

despite so many obstacles

again and again we are reminded
this is such a divisive time
with passionate zealous strident adults 
believing so many different truths
often in direct opposition to one another

where is 
grace and delight
about what we have in common

we are toilet-trained


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!


P.S. Just in case you need the words to Five Little Speckled Frogs - hahaha

Five little speckled frogs
Sitting on a speckled log
Eating some most delicious bugs - yum! yum!
One jumps into the pool
Where it is nice and cool
Now there are four green speckled frogs...

[Repeat lyrics with descending number of frogs - four, three, two, one, until you have no green speckled frogs...]

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tuesday flowers


Today's bouquet

A few weeks back, my granddaughter Frog, who turns three years old later this month, found a small bud vase at my house. My youngest son (Frog's uncle) made it years ago in a college ceramics class, and over time it had made its way to the 'land of forgotten,' way in the back of a kitchen cabinet. I suggested we find flowers to put in it by walking around the yard and seeing what was in bloom. She thought this sounded like fun - I mean, it did involve the outdoors, a breakable vase, and a pair of scissors, what's not to like as a youngster? 

I am once again reminded: there's nothing like a preschooler to transform something from a "once and done" into a regular routine. This simple activity has become our latest ritual on our babysitting days - we walk around the yard together, investigating and discovering, cutting a few blooms as we go, usually just a single blossom from each plant. Frog is learning the names of every plant, and notices the different colors and textures. It can take many minutes to fill this little vase, when the work is greeted with such concentration and respect. This time of year, flowers are going to seed, yet a few blossoms in a tiny vase and there is beauty. Frog helps me see the extraordinary in what is, truly, a very ordinary yard.

After she fills the vase with water, she sets it at the center of the breakfast bar, where it smiles and shines throughout our meals together. 

Such a time of simple delights! 


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!