40 years ago, today

My parents divorced in 1975. I was in seventh grade and twelve years old. After the divorce, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia, remarried, and started over. My dad had visitation rights each weekend and half the summer – 45 days. The weekends were a moot point – a weekend commute of almost 8,000 miles one-way was not practical. Especially in 1975. My communication with dad was limited: letters took weeks to traverse back and forth with a reply. I have most of the letters saved in a box in the basement. Phone calls were too expensive and the connection was shaky, too.

sugarland_saudi_)map

Forty years later a much has changed, but a weekly commute still is not practical. There is the internet with e-mail, blogs, Skype, and more. Even a phone call is made easier, too.

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the four of us – Warren, dad, me, David – taken before the trip in front of the garage

That first summer, my dad got us for 45 days, the summer of ’75. I think it was more my mom sent us to dad. All three of us, at the same time. I have memories, my passport, getting shots, a few slide pictures from the trip, but not much else. Memories come back in bits and pieces, jogged by an anniversary or a probing conversation with my brothers or mom. Sometimes those conversations are painful and the memories are not there and have been lost. Continue reading 40 years ago, today

Door

“Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things.” ― Pablo Picasso

Our cottage has two doors, one in front and the other along the side. A key unlocks the side door there is no key for the front door. The front door faces the lake and I’ve spent many a morning sipping coffee talking to grandma, B’s mom, or sipped coffee alone and thought of the times we shared our morning coffee. Lately, it’s been only Ivy and me. Ivy curls up on the footstool leaving barely enough room for my feet and gazes out over the front yard as I enjoy my morning coffee. She keeps an eye open for ducks in summer and deer in winter.

the front door and the view over the lake
the front door and the view over the lake

In the afternoon, the doors open to yard and the sounds of play, wind, and the lake.

I’ve seen every season through that door and it’s held back every season, too. It’s kept the cold and snow out and allowed the sunshine in to bring us light. I’ve watched the sunset in the evening and the sun creep across the yard from behind the house each morning.

W on the fourth of July in 2001 - my he's grown and the doors have remained the same....
W on the Fourth of July in 2001 – my he’s grown and the doors have remained the same….

Yet, not all doors are physical. Sometimes doors are barriers keeping us from exercising our free will and then, there are those that declare our freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Continue reading Door

What a difference two days make

“If you don’t like the weather wait a day and it will change” anonymous

I’ve heard that said about the weather almost everywhere I’ve lived and visited. I heard it in Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and when I visited – London, Paris, and northern Michigan. And, yes, it is true to a certain extent. Weather does change and it should because that is what weather is – change.

The weather yesterday and day before was cloudy, blustery, and downright chilly, especially when you consider it was the last day of June and the first day of July. This morning, it’s chilly but clear and looks to be a million and six times better than yesterday.

I taught geography for fourteen years and most of my 7th graders always mixed up the two terms – weather and climate. Weather is the day to day change in the atmospheric conditions in an area and the climate is the long term pattern of weather in an area or region. I wanted my students to understand that climate influenced where people settled, where cities grew and civilization developed.

Weather changes, climate should not, but it appears that our climate has been changing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and is the change is accelerating

Two weeks ago, Pope Francis issued his encyclical on Climate Change and it was the hubbub of the news for a few days, and then it disappeared. The subject will reappear after the next large weather event and folks will be concerned for a moment and then all will be forgotten. It’s an awful cycle – for a moment, a fleeting moment, we are concerned, then we return to the behavior that got us here.

It was 48F here when I began writing and 83F in Paris yesterday it was 103F. Yikes, that’s hot. It’s too cool here and far too warm there. Not normal.

Continue reading What a difference two days make

muse

It is morning Up North. O, Ivy, and I loaded the car and left home yesterday and after a couple of stops, we were on the open road headed east, then north. We pulled into the cottage driveway a little after sunset, but the lake was bathed in blue with a crisp orange and red northwestern shoreline. Venus and Saturn provided bright white punctuation marks in the evening sky. B and W followed in another car a few hours later.

the first sunset of summer - at least for us at the cottage
the first sunset of summer – at least for us at the cottage

It’s sleepy and peaceful this morning Ivy sleeps on the footstool in the front room while O watches a video on the iPad on the couch. B and W are still sleeping and I am here struggling with the right words to match the photos. Continue reading muse

My brain hurts

My brain hurts AND that is a good thing; it’s a very good thing.

School has been out for sixteen days and today is the Day 17. When I first started blogging in 2010, I numbered all of the posts – Day 1, Day 2 and so on. In 2010, Day 17 was in France and the first full day of my trip to Paris and take my dad back home. Looking back to 2010, Day 17 was June 14th and this year it falls on June 26th – the days do not line up because every summer is different. Some summers begin early and others start late, some summers are influenced by the weather and others are not. This summer is no different, we had bitter cold this winter and it cost us three days; it really cost five days when the last day of school was moved from a Thursday to Tuesday and enveloped a weekend –swallowing two additional days of summer break. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it’s too cold to go to school, too snowy, or too wet, or even too hot – we’ve had bad weather days almost every year I’ve been a teacher. It happens. This summer is no different, we’ve been on the rainy end of a wet and stormy weather pattern for almost two weeks and the area has had over 6 inches of rain in June – well over the average of 4.5 inches for the month.

The Pope issued an encyclical on climate change last week, it got a lot of coverage in the press, and then it disappeared off the radar. But, is shouldn’t have, the issue of climate and climate change should be on all of our radars. That’s one reason my brain hurts, I am thinking and wondering, but there are other reasons.

I was in class last week – material science class. It was amazing and I walked away with many ideas of how to incorporate what I learned in science class this coming year. I melted metals, bent glass, made pottery, played with polymers, and all sorts of materials. My brain hurt all week trying to soak up new ideas and meld them with old ideas to form a composite.

This week, I am in class again. This week’s topic has been water. Clean water, storm water, sewage water, stream water, ground water – all kinds of water. The class began with a trip to the Jardine Water Filtration Plant in Chicago where the water I use to drink, cook, clean, and flush begins its journey to my house. The plant processes about 400 million gallons of water a day and provides water for Chicago and several suburbs with a population of almost 4 million people served.

the quarry - not even close to being full
the quarry – not even close to being full

We visiting a large storm water facility that is an old quarry and it can hold a lot of water – something like 2.7 billion gallons of water. Which if you do the math is like letting faucet run from the Jardine plant straight to the quarry for a little less than a week. That is a lot of water and part of why my brain hurts.

Continue reading My brain hurts

Learning Never Ends: It’s a Fair Trade

This week I am taking a professional development class at a local college. It’s a week-long seminar and I am blessed to be a part of it. The class, or camp, is sponsored by the American Society of Metals and the organization promotes awareness of the use of materials and careers in material science. I vaguely remember taking Material Science at Texas A&M, but yesterday I had a flashback to thermal expansion problems and coefficients of thermal expansion.  That’s about as ‘sciency’ as I’ll get this morning. But, one of the more interesting activities we did was to melt tin, cast a tin bar, and do splatter tests for tin. It was very fun and I am looking for ways to do it with my own students in the coming year – they would have a blast. Watch as a tin pellet melts before your eyes.

Also, summer is in full bloom and I can read and write more than I am able during the school year. Woohoo. I was asked by Eli over at Coach Daddy blog to write a guest post, so I did. Our paths like many bloggers he found me and I found him and despite a distance of 500 miles we follow each other and live parallel lives. Eli is a blogger and has kids about my kid’s age. We are both football fans and enjoy sport and the life lessons sport teaches us about hard work, toughness, perseverance, and teamwork. I am proud to call him one of my friends. Take a look at the Coach Daddy blog – read today’s post about how Learning Never Ends and poke around a bit while you are there.

 

Continue reading Learning Never Ends: It’s a Fair Trade

Off-Season

“It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” Paul “Bear” Bryant

The first game in 2015 high school football season is 75 days away. The first official practice is a 56 days away. School is out for the summer and summer football camp started last Wednesday. The 2015 Tiger football team began preparing, for W it will (likely) be his last football season as a player. He has learned a lot and grown a lot as an athlete and as a person. Being part of a team has helped hone his sense of responsibility and preparation as well as his sense of service. He is a team player – that’s what it takes for a team to be successful – players willing to put the team before themselves.

NIU_tigertalk
Coach Muhitch addresses the team – the good, the bad, and the ugly – that’s why he is 103-24 with 3 state championships and 2 runners up – preparation

It’s during the off-season that the players come together and learn to work and play as a team. It’s the off-season when the coaches develop players and teach. There is a lot that will happen between now and the first game – a lot of growing – mentally and physically.

Continue reading Off-Season

Day 3: The Transition

It’s Friday morning. It’s quiet, it’s gently raining, and I’m listening to “Stormy Weather” and going back in time. I went back a year ago and skimmed posts from last summer while I was doing research for an upcoming post and new page.

mydesk

Summer so far has been feeling like a LONG weekend, so far. I wrote the Superstition post before moving on to other tasks Wednesday and helped B and O pack for Ohio Thursday. They left yesterday and will be gone all weekend long. That leaves W and I to our own devices for a couple of days. W has been up and out of the house before 6 AM all week long – since Tuesday. He has wrestling camp followed by football camp until noon. Then, he’ll come home and sleep. He’s busy all weekend with scout event this evening and more football on Saturday.

A  teacher’s summer isn’t what many folks think. It’s full. The first couple of days are always like recovering from a hangover or a hard workout – rest, relaxation, and recovery. I hardly drink any longer, so it’s been a while since a hangover and I haven’t exercised that strenuously for a while, either. But, I remember how it feels. The transition to summer is like changing jobs – I’ve only changed twice, but I remember the awkwardness of feeling change. One day, I’ll step into retirement and permanent summer. I had better have a plan. Continue reading Day 3: The Transition

Superstition

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my view – US Cellular Field – 6/7/2015 – Tigers 6, White Sox 4 FINAL

I love sports. Football is my favorite sport, followed closely by baseball and auto racing, though auto racing does not get my interest as much it once did. The truth is that I enjoy just about any kind of competition.

Last week, I was invited to go to the White Sox game and tailgate with a group of men. I knew one of the men, Mark a teacher at my school; the other two were teachers in my district from other schools I didn’t know. The four men go to a White Sox game at least once a year and tailgate; they even travel to see an NFL game together. I joined because, Kip, one of the men, was sick, he has ALS and couldn’t attend. We had a good time, but for the entire trip, I was Kip. The trip was a ritual of sorts – getting ready, driving downtown, the seats in the van – I sat in Kip’s seat, parking in the same spot, setting up, cooking, eating, picking up, even to playing a game of beanbag toss. I had a good time, but the Sox lost.

it started as dreary rainy morning  and ended a bright sunny day
it started as dreary rainy morning and ended a bright sunny day

On the way out of the ballpark one of the guys remarked,

“You know, every time we come, they lose. Maybe we shouldn’t come as a group!”

“Nah, that’s not it, the Sox suck. The pitcher gave it away today.”

Continue reading Superstition

Vivid: memories, colors, and flowers

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the poppy is a brilliant, vivid orange and yes, that is my foot

It’s Saturday morning and I am finishing a few school tasks before heading out to do some yard work. There is one more day, really two – but only one with kids. It’s been a good year and I had my end of year meeting with my principal Wednesday afternoon, sort of an exit interview – but I’m not leaving. He was new this year and his approach is different from previous administrators. He asked the questions you want to hear, but do not want to answer – but I did anyway. He asked what was good, bad, and ugly. I have many vivid memories of all of them – the whole gamut. In the coming weeks, I’ll be reminded that the good outweighs the bad and the ugly. It was a tough year full of learning and growing for me, and my students. I am not certain who learned more; regardless it’s always a fair trade.

Last week, I posted photos of the peonies along the fence in our backyard. We had rain last weekend and the peonies that had bloomed are beginning to fade and shred. They continue to bloom and provide glimpses of vivid brilliant color from the kitchen window and almost everywhere in the backyard. Earlier this week, the poppies began to bloom. The poppies bright orange bloom is in sharp contrast to the pink and white peony blooms. Continue reading Vivid: memories, colors, and flowers