Autumn gifts & graces

blazin’hot & drippin’ humid ♥ damp morning dew ♥ cool streak ♥ one yellow leaf ♥ stuffed peppers october♥ reach out sad soul ♥ prayers ♥ happy times, framed ♥ moving closer ♥ lector ♥ fall candles ♥ this list ♥ coffee & ice ♥ jeans & tennies ♥ Buddy & Trixie ♥ my heart ♥ my time ♥ a working toilet ♥

gifts & graces
Ann Vos @

clean towels ♥ Bud’s nose ♥ email talks ♥ Recovery ♥ PBS News Hour ♥ my sad little Jeep ♥ independence ♥ morning dark ♥ peek-a-boo babe behind the chair ♥ grading essays ♥ blog–caught up ♥ newsletter ♥ farmer’s market ♥ books, books, books ♥ plenty of craftiness ♥ essential oils ♥ one last turtle sundae ♥ neighborhood sidewalks ♥ church on Sunday ♥ arm party ♥ fresh-washed floors ♥ pumpkin fun ♥ butternut squash soup ♥ little yellow locust leaves ♥ tears ♥ kale & squash & cider ♥ Jane Eyre ♥ Miss Pickthorn & Mr. Hare ♥ sizzling bacon ♥ simmering chili ♥ space heater

Cheers to 80 years!

My mom turned 80 last week.

mom's bash
The gang’s all here
Team Elaine
Pedal Power

Her life’s story is hers to tell, but trust me when I say it hasn’t been all sweet tea and cupcakes. Growing up in miserable poverty in Cleveland, she scraped and saved and fought for the life she has now–one, I’m guessing, she never thought she’d realize. Especially since halfway through her life she found herself needing to start all over again after a devastating loss. Mom is generous to a fault and has never stopped giving, even when she had nothing to give. She is the proverbial church lady (and I mean that in a good way) and her faith touches everything she does.

Mom and friend Sue outside our bar stop. Every 80-year-old loves a good wall o' skulls, right?!
Mom and friend Sue outside our bar stop. Every 80-year-old loves a good wall o’ skulls, right?!

So my brother and I decided to celebrate the big 8-0 in style. We got all of the grands and signficant others together for a pedal around town on the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser. No, we didn’t bar hop–took the “easy route” (a bit of a euphemism for those of us over fifty!) that stopped only once for a libation and then another stop for shopping at our city’s beautiful Downtown Market.

Mom was decked out in style from her birthday tiara to her sash and beads. Perched on the back no-pedal bench, this Queen for the Day perfected her Miss America wave as cars honked and waved back. Music blasting over the sound system, we sang along. You are my sunshine. Roll out the barrel. Sweet Caroline.

Team Elainemom's bash2At our first bar stop, Mom played the arcade video game Street Fighter with her oldest grandson and apparently disemboweled his character. She played pool with the boys and my niece–and made a pretty sweet shot or two. The two little great-grands joined us for dinner at a restaurant we love. She laughed, smiled, beamed, and got hugs from total strangers.

I often think about what’s ahead for me as I age, especially when, after I turned 50, I realized my time here is over halfway spent. I worry and fret about money, mistakes I’ve made, dreams that are dashed. On each of my birthdays now, Mom tells me I’m “catching up”.

I should be so lucky.

What teachers do in August


We’re at T-minus 40 hours and counting–and then the rocket ride that is the school year begins. The last few weeks before school is especially intense (I get scatterbrained and distracted and sometimes find myself staring at Pinterest for a lost hour–or two), so I just might be a tad off on my Monday/Thursday blog schedule. If you wonder what your kid’s teacher did in last weeks of summer, read on.

Before I can get to lesson plans and makin’ copies, I need to unpack my room which involves putting away my supply order, weeding out files, organizing my cupboards, putting up new bulletin boards and all manner of fussy housekeeping tasks. (I also washed my desks and white boards because the custodial firm we contracted doesn’t pass my muster.) All that is under control and now I’m tackling lesson plans and long-term planning. I like to start with an outline, at least, for the first month of school. More detailed plans I do weekly, so I can incorporate new strategies and activities, coordinating it all with my teaching partner. I’m set for the first week, at least: copies made, desks arranged, class lists printed.

I’m starting to revise and re-formate most of my yearbook materials so the kids will have a sort of textbook. Schools (even fairly stable ones like mine) –don’t can’t buy new materials very often. (My literature books are over 30 years old and our social studies teachers don’t even have a textbook. At over a hundred bucks a pop, we often try to make do without because money needs to be stretched as far as possible.) That will be a pretty big task, but I’m starting on it today and, hopefully, it will be done this week sometime. In the past I’ve made do with assorted handouts and notes for teaching yearbook style, but the kids need materials to reference for the entire year that are all in one place.

My house is pretty much in order. I’ve cleaned, straightened, frozen some quick meals, and I’ve got a couple boxes ready for Goodwill pick up next week. In four days it will be a disaster, I’m sure, because the first week I come home from school and I’m imobilized by exhaustion. My hubby is taking over grocery shopping this year, so I’ll have that off my plate. Wish me luck–it’s incredibly difficult to give up control of something I’ve done for forty years of my adult life–but I welcome the help. My plan is to make the shopping list together, so that should alleviate at least some of my panic.

All this might make it seem as though a teacher is something of a control freak who is consumed with a bunch of nitpicky tasks. (Just look at the classroom re-dos on Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean!) But there’s a reason for that. We need to take care of whatever little bits we have in our control–like new trim for bulletin boards and storage bins for markers and cute labels for folders–because there is so very much that isn’t. Like did he only eat potato chips yesterday? Or could she resist cutting last night? Or was Mom out partying over the weekend and didn’t come home? Or did he miss transportation from the homeless shelter? Or did she miss her period?

Kids’ lives are tough sometimes and we don’t cut them a lot of slack. We call them lazy or disrespectful or irresponsible, not hungry or depressed or tired.

So I have new posters laminated and new sharpies–always sharpies!–at the ready, trying to steady my heart and mind–so that hopefully the 55 minutes in my classroom is a time of order and calm, and, yes, maybe even something of a refuge, for at least a few of my kids.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but I try. And along the way, you can be sure we’ll get a whole lot of learning done, too.

August gifts & graces

Ikea cubbies ♥ blueberries, hand-picked ♥ a blank page ♥ on the road ♥ quiet time ♥ Little House Wayside ♥ home joy daresweet home ♥ meditation ♥ Pioneer Girl ♥ lake waves ♥ resort town shopping ♥ time to unwind ♥ hope chest ♥ Mom’s pearl ♥ pocket meadow ♥ my heart ♥ favorite shirt, soft & worn ♥ roses yellow, pink, red ♥ anonymous black cat ♥ mules with lime ♥ dad’s wedding band ♥ showing off the girls ♥ driving Miss Daisies ♥ role reversal ♥ purse lining ♥ Eleanor & Park ♥ this is my symphony ♥ serving ♥ broken, but mended ♥ highway driving ♥ sunglasses ♥ lamplight ♥ this old house ♥ creaks, aches, pains ♥ walking Mr. Buddy ♥ willow branches ♥ rock-rock ♥ rose petals ♥ a teen’s heart ♥ love without hope ♥ planner fun ♥ new pretties ♥ retirement ♥ starting school ♥ two bitty babies ♥ Cat’s Meow houses ♥ time left ♥ Little J ♥ Big J ♥ we made it

Everything I ever learned about blueberry picking, I learned from …

Blueberry season is over now, but I managed to squeeze in a little last minute blueberry picking a couple weeks ago.  And good sport that he is, hubby agreed to come with so that we could make shorter work of those end-of-the-season slim pickings.

I say good sport because we were both required to pick blueberries with our moms as kids and it was (for both of us) anything but the idyllic Blueberries for Sal type of experience with ninety Blueberries For Saldegrees and Mom wanting to fill yet another  bucket. No, it’s hot. Sticky. Mosquito-y. Booooooring.

Let’s just say when I turned twelve and was designated Official Blueberry Picking babysitter for my brother and cousin and I could stay home—even with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old—I was thrilled. I was never. picking. blueberries. again.

But when the time came, I loved reading Blueberries For Sal to my littles all those years ago. The classic is the story of a young girl and her mother, and a baby bear cub and her mother, who are all four of them out on the same mission: finding blueberries. Because of that book, the memory I cherish about blueberry picking now comes from that one story which (in true McCloskey fashion) elicits a longing for a time and place I’ve never even experienced.

Blueberry picking
A perfect summer’s day

I learned everything I ever needed to know about blueberries from Robert McCloskey. “Kerplink kerplank kerplunk” became the sound blueberries always made in my kitchen. I’d even measure them out in my stainless mixing bowl so the kids (and I!) could hear the real deal. I once shocked my husband when on a lakeshore hike I bent down and popped some wild blueberries in my mouth. “You just can’t go eating berries in the woods without knowing what they are!” he said, alarmed. Oh, but I did know what the berries were—I had looked at those pictures in Blueberries For Sal over and over again.

Raspberry picking
A delight!

Now truth be told, the ten pound box at the farmer’s market did me just fine for many years. And then I got all nostalgic. (Maybe it’s an age thing.)  My daughter and I went raspberry picking. I survived! And then I returned to pick blueberries—not so bad at all. Much more like the Blueberries For Sal now that I was a sentimental old gal.

How life changes us.  A walk through the raspberry canes with my daughter and grandson is a delight, and blueberry picking on a Saturday morning is the perfect way to start a summer’s day.

Kerplink. Kerplank. Kerplunk.