Post #62

I am the first to admit that I am prone to watching more crime dramas than is probably normal, so sometimes I wonder if it shades how I see the world.  Nope, actually I don’t wonder that…I know that it does.  This summer LE and I were driving to see GrandmaLinda and we stopped at a Thruway rest stop to have our lunch.  As we were eating a guy who I guessed might be a truck driver  sat at the table right next to us.  LE immediately smiled and said “Hi!” and I think she liked the fact that he had a beard like her Papa.  I followed suit and smiled a greeting because I really do value common courtesy and kindness, but the longer we sat there the more I started to wonder if I should be teaching my child NOT to do that?  She kept smiling at him and giggling and he honestly never did anything freakish, but it left me wondering what the more important lesson is…being a kind citizen or not talking to strangers?

This is why being a parent is hard.  meh.


Summer Glimpses

Constantly in search of the balance between “getting things done” and relaxing, summer 2013 has so far been a pretty decent attempt.  I am still getting used to not being able to go gangbusters on my “to-do” list as the toddler would probably frown upon it.  There are still some items I really want to accomplish before the start of the school year, but for now, here is a glimpse of summer in West Glenville!


The Peace of the Wild Things

Never much of a poet or a poetry buff myself, this one has always stuck with me, ferociously, stuck to my heart.  This year has been too much.  


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry



Salt and Pepper.

I am a mom.  I teach middle school.

For these two reasons I have to be my authentic self.

Before I became a mom or a middle school teacher I had already established with myself that there would be no dyeing of hair, no wearing of make-up.  I had a variety of reasons for this at the time…

…it takes too much effort…

…it costs too much money…

…men (generally speaking) don’t have the same pressure/desire/need so why should I?…

…i feel like it’s symbolic of trying to hide my real self…

just to name a few.

Those reasons persist, but more so now than ever before I vow never to do these things to honor my authentic self.  This is not to say that those who do these things are not honoring their authentic selves, clearly I don’t know anyone else’s reasons and it’s not my business to judge.  I can only make choices for myself.

My student-self loathed middle and high school.  I hated the constant feeling of being awkward, trying to be something that didn’t quite fit my skin.  I went through a make-up phase and a perm phase (after all it was the 80’s), neither of which boosted my own or anyone else’s opinions of me.  

My adult-self somehow ended up as a middle school teacher.  In my last 10 or so years teaching in various middle and high schools I realize that even as teachers the social stratification still exists.  There are the cool kids and the geeks and the jerks…we all just got bigger.  I have been sometimes not so subtly told I need to dye my hair and wear make-up to be more professional, to relate better to kids, to appear younger.

But the fact is, people, we are human beings who were Created in a Beautiful Image.  I have no need to present younger than my almost 42 years of adventure-filled living surrounded by people who love me.  I will “be more professional” by being a smart, creative and engaged teacher.  I will relate better to kids by knowing who they really are and what they need and by being my authentic self with them so that they feel free to be their authentic selves with me.  

And above everything else I want to be an influence in my daughter’s life that is counter to the culture that constantly tells us that we need to be something we’re not in order to be happy and successful.  I can’t even imagine what the world will be like for her.

So, take that, Culture.  My salt and pepper hair and the wrinkles around my eyes are my silent middle finger to you.  I know you don’t care and that my actions don’t affect you, but my authentic self is the best thing I can be for my daughter, my students and myself.

ImageMurphy…my salt and pepper hero!



Most ponderers of the concept of time understand “fleeting”.  As I sit here in school time is not fleeting…at least as quickly as I would want it to!  But I reflect on fleeting as in “how did these once 6th graders all of the sudden become 8th graders?” and “Where did my first summer off since I was 15 years old go?”  Holy cow, time flies.

I had the opportunity this summer to visit a couple of places that remind me of fleeting times and old formative experiences, and I was fortunate enough to have Lilia E along for the ride.


Here is my sweet LE visiting the creek behind my grandparent’s house.  I spent countless hours/days in the creek losing all track of time and having many adventures with sisters and cousins.  It’s unbelievable how small it seemed to me these days!  I thought the little waterfall was not only immense but also miles from the house…turns out when you climb over the bank, you can see the house not even a hundred yards away.  My mom and aunt are in the process of cleaning up and selling the house as both grandparents have passed.  They built that house, no one else has ever lived in it.  I may not get another opportunity to see the house or creek before it gets sold, so even though the cell phone photos aren’t great quality, they are precious!  Fleeting…


Another summer visit was to the summer camp I attended as a child and then started my quarter-century summer camp career.  It had been almost 20 years since i’d been to the camp but I was pleased to see SOME things had remained the same…same view of the center of camp looking towards the lake, same “staff logs” hung on the wall (the 6 pictured were from my years there on staff and also were made by yours truly).  And, amazingly, a college friend and camp co-worker from the early 90’s has just taken over as the Director (very cool) and a former camper during my time there is the new Assistant/Ministry Director there (super cool) and I was able to reconnect, walk down memory lane, and introduce them to my LE.  Fleeting, but full-circle.


Naptime Project

Now don’t go thinking i’ve actually accomplished anything this summer…the list of goals, which I honestly thought was realistic, has gone approximately 99% unfinished.  It’s disappointing, really.  But one day while little LE was kindly napping I was able to make a bag that I have been wanting to for, ohh, about 3 years.  I guess I just have to adjust the expectations for my summer goals.  Anyhoo…here’s a brief rundown.

1.  Randomly purchase fabric you love, even if it is only available in fat quarters.

2.  Sew fat quarters together to make a piece of fabric big enough to cut pattern out of.Image

3.  Do all of the steps in between and voila!  It’s a reversible shoulder bag!  I have carried it everyday since I made it…lots of room for diaper stuff :)Image

Here is a close-up of the reverse fabric too.  A different random fabric I fell in love with and decided they totally went together.  Reason #4702 I am not a fashionista!  Haha.Image

Lessons Learned from Berry Farming

Disclaimer: This is not a “how-to” on growing berries.  In fact, no one should ever ask for or listen to advice about growing things from me!

As I am harvesting prolific crops of both strawberries and raspberries this season, I find myself reflecting on professional berry growing tips and am able to reflect on the success of those I’ve heeded and the regret of those I did not.  It is easy to make the jump from simple farming tips to life lessons…this is not the first or the last time I will realize that, but I think it speaks so much to our connection to the land (can we get a shout out to Mr. Wendell Berry, please?).


Today I was picking raspberries and was overwhelmed by how many I kept finding that were practically sliding off their conical stems.  The further I looked into the brambles the more deep magenta goodness I found, hooray!  Whilst picking (and tasting the sun-warmed delights) I pondered the following.

1.  Patience is a Virtue…also, Good Things Come to Those Who Wait. 

Sort of the same sentiment and so true in so many ways.  The first season you plant your berries and they start to blossom, berry wisdom says to pluck off the blossoms and forego fruit for year one.  This will make season two much more bountiful.  What??  Jordan was gracious in season one and allowed a couple of blossoms to follow through just so I could have a sweet taste.  Similarly, once the berries DO start to produce and ripen, you could almost burst with anticipation, which may make you pick too early!  Although those berries would be tasty, and much more so than your regular market variety, the ones you can wait until they are at their peak of ripeness are just dripping with goodness (a lesson I still need to work on next season).

As with life, we wait for the good things to come. They often involve a lot of hard work, heartache, delayed gratification, etc.  This is something everyone “knows” but is difficult to put into practice.  Daily stresses wear us out and we just want things to be done so we can bask in the rewards.  A life well lived seems to have more work and wait and less basking.  Berry season is short, but it is oh, so sweet.

2.  Pruning is essential.

This is such a counter-intuitive measure for me as far as farming goes.  I feel that if something is growing and thriving, it’s a GOOD thing!  But anyone who has fruit trees, berries or other prune-worthy plants knows, it is essential for health and production.  I was agonizing over the destruction wrought on my strawberry patch today as I followed the renovation advice from the Cornell Cooperative Extension.  Conversely, I was cursing myself for NOT pruning the raspberries in the off-season as advised as I was untangling leaves and berry stems from dead branches.

However, in the non-farming part of my life, pruning is like second nature.  If I don’t need something I get rid of it.  I despise having things is storage I don’t even remember I own, I have no room for piles of paperwork, either at home or work.  I realize that in many ways these kinds of pruning habits help me to live a less complicated and burdened life, therefore making me feel more healthy and productive…hmmm, how ’bout that!

3.  Change Your Perspective

I often say things to Jordan about how I’d love for the peas and green beans to be differently colored from their leaves because it would make it easier to see and therefore harvest appropriately.  However, as I type I realize that in fact the berries are quite a different hue and I still have a hard time finding them all!  My lovely neighbor Deborah must have thought I was some sort of nut this afternoon crouching on the ground and looking upward through the berry bushes, making slow laps clockwise and counterclockwise.  Not surprisingly, each new angle revealed ripe berries in places where I thought I’d checked three times already!  This reminds me to try and not do things from the same direction all the time.  I tend to be a creature of habit and routine.  I like structure and predictability.  My taking the time to step outside of routines will certainly reveal new ideas and practices, which can only serve to enhance what I already do.

4. There is Always Enough to Share.

Certainly in these times of “economic uncertainly” as we’ve heard it called a million times, having “enough” is a source of stress for many people.  Do we have enough to maintain a lifestyle we like?  Do we have enough to save for an unpredictable future?  Do we have enough so I can feel full?  Do we have enough so I can be happy?  The questions percolate in the subconscious mind.

I love that when the UPS man delivers a package he will stop and pick a berry.  I love that visiting neighbor children (and parents!) will enjoy seeking and picking the perfect berry treat as we shoot the breeze on the porch.  It reminds me that we are Blessed and that we are Given what we need and then some.