Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thnaksgivng by my litl turke

I luve my famly
I am thnaingkfl for my famlee.
and frens and my pets
and I rile like my famly
and my haos, my room and my legos

luv yur litl turke,

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 23, 2009

fair, with men in overalls

Dear Mr. S.,

I have wanted to get in touch with you for many years. Before Google, I asked about you a bit and found no leads. On and off  I'd look for your name, but it was too common to identify you. I'd heard that you'd gone to law school, but that never turned up any searches either. So, now I have to thank Facebook for helping me locate you. (I'm glad it's done some good!) I'm also pleased to have found Jenny B., who saw my query about you on the Elementary School page and contacted me.

I can hardly expect you to recall the faces or names of all the students you taught, but I'll go for it anyway and see if I can prompt your memory.  I tend to think that I was a nondescript kid who wanted the focus diverted away from me most of the time. I wanted special attention but would not have asked for it. My guess, in hindsight, is that you made us all feel as if we were getting special attention.

I had very few teachers who had interest in challenging me. I was happy performing with the majority and was a pretty lazy student. Your 6th grade class was the exception. I believe there were a handful of us who completed several math books that year in order to add stars to a chart.  And to make you proud. You have remained in my memory as one of the only teachers who ever pushed me out of that complacency. I hope you have pride in those teaching years.

I'll never forget your explanation of "fair", (as in "Life is not fair.") "Fair is where men in overalls throw cowchips for distance." That must have been you. My kids look at me like I'm crazy when I say it, as I remember us looking at you. You can be happy to know that it stuck, eventually.  I get it now.

I became a teacher of special needs preschoolers after college and grad school, and realized that you had been part of my motivation to teach. Challenging the bright ones is fun, and I enjoy working with all kids, but the brains of those who aren't learning are the ones who intrigue me the most.  I like figuring out why they aren't learning and putting the material in a new format which they can finally use. Right now (for the past eight years) I've been home with my two boys.  What comes next is still undecided, but I do hope to teach in some format again.

I have bumped into a parent of a former student a few times since I taught her daughter, my first year teaching.  I have not had an opportunity to have any contact with any former students.  But it makes me wonder what I'd like to hear.  I hope that, whether they remember me or not, (I never taught anyone older than six), they were given a good foundation for future years of school.  I hope that their parents were left prepared for the hurdles of bureaucracy they were aimed to meet.  I hope that I made a difference.

I can say, without a doubt, that you made a difference in my life.

With much appreciation,

I'm including a recent family photo as well as a link to the blog I write.   I have shared this letter on my blog, without names.  I strongly considered including the 6th grade class photo, but you were spared because my scanner isn't working!

Monday, November 16, 2009

still blooming after all this time

We've had the warm, wonderful fall weather of October during November this year.  Many plants, including the blooming cherry tree next door, are confused.  I'm enjoying it however.  Here are the bloomers at this mid-November date.

Sedum is expected to be a fall bloomer.  Not exciting blooms ever, but a nice consistent garden member.  This plant still has new, unopened buds.

Dry summers are better for lantana so it was a moderate bloomer this year. We used to have a dozen of these bushes across the front of the house but have shared all but the two we keep here.  They are smothered with butterflies during the hot weather. It will hang on until the first freeze and get cut back in the early spring.

Purple Heart:  This will continue to show us it's dainty blooms until our first frost at which time it will "melt".  They are petite, but appreciated all summer and fall.  I have been rooting more all summer and hope to have it spread solid next year.

The camelia in our yard is always an early bloomer. Yesterday I noticed about a dozen white buds.  They only look pretty for a day; the white turns brown so quickly that I don't bring them in to display.

My Knockout Rose has underperformed this first summer.  It is getting more shade than I had hoped.  I may give it another year to establish itself (and see if we get any major trees pruned) before I decide to relocate it.  Nevertheless, it has had several flowers in the past few weeks.  This one made it through our last heavy rain.

Of the four old fashioned roses by my front door, only this one is still producing blooms.  A peek inside shows some darker streaks of color.  These roses are consistent Mother's Day bloomers.  I've never seen them with blossoms this late in the season.

Several surprises in our lower woodlands caught my eye.  This is Flowering Quince, one of our first spring flowers to bloom.  February is the usual time of year for the lovely coral blossoms.  I'll take them anytime.

 The last surprise was a view of a blooming azalea.  There is a cluster of a dozen bushes in our woodlands and one of them has gotten confused and shared pink petals in November.  It is the pinkest fall we've ever had in our yard.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

feed the animals

Today we had the sort of weather in Atlanta that we claim to have all year.  This is why we live here.  To everyone in town it was Go Outdoors Day.  So, outdoors we went.

We have a wonderful place in Atlanta called the Yellow River Game Ranch.  I consider it an inside-out zoo of sorts.  The people must stay on the paths, but many of the animals roam freely.  They encourage people to feed and even pet the animals and they sell apples, carrots, peanuts, dried corn, graham crackers and other foods intended for them.  We visited last fall and when I went to look up the directions I saw that they were requesting bags of leaves and acorns.  I sent the kids to collect acorns from the yard before we left and I gathered a few items from the house to take along.

We saw chickens and heard roosters everywhere we went.  Deer wandered over to see if we had snacks, as did ducks, pheasants, peacocks, turkeys and even rabbits.  We discovered who liked which snack (everyone liked the slightly mushy grapes I'd brought along) and who was picky.  It was full of people in the nice weather we had today, so some animals were full and uninterested.  The animals who were kept in cages (local animals with injuries) were sometimes allowed to be fed too. (They have coyote, a cougar, red fox, black bears....)  We ended our visit at the "farm" area where we fed the acorns to happy and fat pigs.  Then the kids discovered a "salad bar" of sorts.  It looked like grocery produce was donated to the Ranch and was dumped in a large cart.  Soon my kids were raiding it to get additional items for the farm animals.  Apples and even a sweet potato to the donkeys, carrots for goats and sheep.

They come close and allow people to pet them, and they search their food areas when they see items tossed in.  The black bear knew to check for new snacks when a new visitor came by. I wondered aloud to CD that it seemed that the wild animals were more likely to walk away when full and the domesticated ones kept eating regardless of how much was handed their way.  I know pets will overeat, but I wasn't sure about farm animals.  In any case, we fed them until we were sticky from the chunks of fruit and had been slobbered upon enough for one day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a day late and a mark short

All the talk about the Berlin Wall has me treading down memory lane, only it isn't well paved anymore!  I've contacted some of the friends who I travelled with, and hopefully this story is somewhat correct.

I spent my junior year of college in Luxembourg.  We had lots of opportunity to travel independently with friends as well as with class field trips.  My experience with Berlin was in 1988 after a field trip from Luxembourg to Vienna. A group of six of us decided to continue on to see a whiplash tour of some of the eastern bloc countries.  In Budapest we went to a bathhouse that had separate sections for women and men.  In Prague, as naive college kids, we exchanged money on the black market and bought crystal - some in our group left clothes behind so they could fit the crystal in their bags! Then we went to Krakow, Poland and had a seven course meal for about $5 dollars.  Still feeling like we were All Powerful Americans, we crammed into a hotel room for two.  The office staff had seen but ignored that we were six when we paid for the room, but now in the wee hours of the morning, they tried to kick us out.  The police were called.  Somehow, with bits of English, French and German we were able to work it out and, barricading the door, we attempted some sleep.  The next morning we took a sobering day trip from Krakow to Auschwitz.  Then we hopped on an overnight train to Berlin.

We woke to a stopped train and disembarked along with a group of Canadian students.  It took a few minutes of coming to before we realized where we were.  When you start from Krakow, you don't end in West Berlin. You end in East Berlin. With no documents and no money and no permission to be there.

It had been dreary and rainy for most of our trip, and we'd been arguing more and more as the week had continued.  The stress from the hotel event hadn't helped.  The day in the East was awful.  We'd jumped a metro entrance (couldn't pay) to sneak into West Berlin so we could officially enter East Berlin with money and permission.  (Naive college kids, remember?)  We did the tourist things we felt obligated to do and took the requisite photos.  I bought a book about American propaganda. We had trouble finding things to buy to use up our money. We spent less than a day in East Berlin.

When we returned to spend time in the West, suddenly the sky was full of sun and neon signs which flashed bright colors at us.  Our moods changed too and we realized how the atmosphere had caused so much infighting and all the bad moods of the past week.  In my photo album/scrapbook, I refer to the trip as the "Trip to Hell".

I remember this old feeling of doom and gloom when I think of East Berlin.  I have looked at lots of the photos that have been published this week and feel optimistic for our world.  I still have this photo of the Berlin wall, enlarged to poster size and framed, hanging on the wall in my den.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

for sale: Indy home, memories not included

I'm excited, but sad.  My parents are moving from my childhood home to be near me in Atlanta.  I've been encouraging them to do this for years, especially since I got pregnant with Pook.  They'd visit GA at the worst times.  They helped me move in to a third floor apartment, in August, before the power (A/C) was turned on.  They'd get stuck on I-285 at rush hour on a Friday of a holiday weekend (think parking lot with eight lanes). I'd push for a February visit to see a spring sneak peek and we'd have an ice storm.  It just didn't persuade my dad.  But the stars have aligned and now they're doing it.   As my friend L puts it: "a mathematician with an impulsive streak...I like it!"

I got a call from my mom that they'd like to see what their money would buy in Atlanta, first.  I spoke to a realtor friend and she gave us a website of houses.  They came to visit that weekend and we took the opportunity to drive around to see a few.  Then we arranged to visit a couple.  Then they decided to make an offer.  Then the offer was accepted.  One long weekend.  And now, a week later, their house is on the market in Indianapolis.  Anyone need a 5BR house?  Video tour link available upon request!

We're going to go up for Christmas this year.  I figure this is probably our last Santa Christmas, and celebrating it in my childhood home feels right.  I'll make my own video tour of it while we're there and there are toys and gifts strewn around.  And I'll get all sappy.  Because it has so much in it that can't be packed.

See the upstairs window closest to the front door?  That was my bedroom.  I could watch the street while doing my homework.  My dad used to start tomato seedlings on my desk there in the sun.  They smelled.  Sister MD had the corner bedroom.  The lower (center) window of the basement?  We had a ping pong table (used mostly as a mere table) where my father challenged me and Sister MD to games.  He played left handed until he got so good he could beat us with either hand. Pook and Bug consider it to be the "game room" and dig out the Lego and stuffed animals when we visit.  My dolls, Jennifer and Susie, are asleep in an old trunk in that room.  I suspect they'll be packed up to come here. The kitchen and family room (far right window) were where we spent most of our time playing and coloring, but the living room with the picture window in the front has strong memories too.  We'd move the tv in there in the winter, since the room was warmer.  We'd sometimes sit in front of the fireplace, drying our just-washed hair while All in the Family or Wild World of Animals played on screen.  Only the left half of my head would be warm and dry as I faced the tv. Behind the photographer is a drainage creek which runs across the front and side of the yard.  There were a lot of leaf boats raced there.  In the backyard, near the kitchen window, I had a tire swing.  I spent a lot of time daydreaming on it, but the swing has been gone for years now.  Pook and Bug never saw it.

We all will make new memories in the new house.  Pook and Bug will bike to see Nana and Papa, bake cookies, build birdhouses and have a second home.  I will see less of my parents more often (hours at a time instead of days) and enjoy sharing my city and my kids.  Two and a half miles away beats 500 miles anytime.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


And now the picture story of our volunteer pumpkin from the garden:

And the story is not over, because I plan to make soup with it in a few days!

Monday, November 2, 2009

by Bug, age five

This gakulanrn yos to be a pumpkin but I krvd it ann lit it.
(The word 'pumpkin' was the Word of the Week at school.)

Wen evr I go chricorchedeing I sa chricorche!
(Here are Snoopy and Robin Hood, ready to go Trick or Treating.)