Saturday, December 31, 2016

As The Year Ends

It seems fitting that I put my back out today. It happened innocently enough - I leaned over to make the bed and felt the spasm. It will work itself out, but it has been a nuisance all day. I can walk slowly and a hot bath helped. Now I'm watching the clock so I can see with my own eyes the start of a new year.

I am ready. The last four months have been beyond stressful. I want to make a conscious decision to start fresh the minute a new year arrives.

At the start of the school year I was working as a special education teacher. I was in over my head but did the best I could for students and teachers. When I learned about an opening for a classroom teacher I asked to be considered for the position. Two days later I heard that I had the job, and I started in the classroom the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I have been a second grade teacher for 17 days. After the first week someone asked me how I was doing. I replied that I am still drowning, but I know this pool. 

I am the third teacher in the room since the start of school, and my task has been to begin at the beginning. Classroom management is my first priority. Getting a handle on curriculum is the second.

Taking care of myself is my third priority. To that end I have seen my osteopath regularly. She told me this week I need time to rest and to heal. There is a lot going on and my body is processing all of it. We talk about how to not take things personally, how to let emotions move through me, how to protect myself with love and compassion for myself and others, how to stay soft when the instinct is to turn hard, and how to accept what happens.

Support and encouragement show up at exactly the right moments ~ a friend calls to check in, another invites us to dinner, and a snow day is a welcome reprieve.

This week another sign came in the form of the daily meditation in Mark Nepo's The Book of Awakening for December 27

     Without hope for the future, without hope that things will change, with no hope of finding what's been lost, and no hope of restoring the past, with only the risk to crack open all that has hardened about me, what will I do with what I have? 
     At first, this might seem scary or sad, but as a tired swimmer comes ashore surprised to find pearls washing through his legs, I lift my tired head again and again to find all I need is right where I am.
     But being human, I stray and dream of lives other than my own, and soon I am busy wanting something else, somewhere else, someone else; busy imagining something just out of reach to strive for.
     It leads me to say if you are unhappy or in pain, nothing will remove these surfaces. But acceptance and a strong heart will crack them like a shell, exposing a softness that has always been, exposing a soft thing waiting to take form. It glows. I think it is the one spirit we all share.

Happy New Year everyone. The journey continues.... 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Light In The Darkness

I am devastated by last week's election. I went to bed before the election results were final because I was shaking so badly my teeth were chattering. I got up at four the next morning, physically ill. I called in sick and thought I'd go back to bed but I couldn't settle down enough to stay in one place, much less go back to sleep. I cried and fretted, checked websites, then got off the computer only to  listen to bits of the news on television and radio. I couldn't believe it. I could not wrap my head around the devastation that is upon us.

I still can't.

The saving grace two days later was a visit from my son and his family from California. They flew east to attend a wedding in southern Maine and were able to stay with us for two days. We kept meals simple and the schedule flexible. My granddaughter Piper is almost four months old, a cuddle bundle who slept in my arms. She needed to stay with her parents in Portland, but our almost three-year old grandson Kenny came for a sleepover Saturday night.

It was exactly what we needed. We played with trucks, read books, chatted and sang songs, went shopping, checked out the living fish and stuffed animals at LL Bean, ate donuts, watched Toy Story, and focused completely on the joy that is Kenny. He is thoughtful, curious, and funny. His obsession for all things with wheels is contagious. Show him a photo of his cousin and he will focus on the truck in the background. We laughed and cuddled and soaked up his unfiltered enthusiasm for life.

He and my other grandchildren are the reason I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and find out what I can do to combat the insanity that is about to attack the very things that make our country what it is today.

And I have photos to remind me every day where I need to keep my focus~


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Now November

Days are long. I start most weekdays by 5 a.m. and  forge ahead for 17-18 hours. I am now sure that I will never get caught up at work. Ken asked me early one morning as I sat working at the computer if it was worth it. I said I didn't know.

I am taking it one day at a time.

Like last year, sewing has saved me. October was right up there with the toughest months of 2015. Through it all I kept sewing. A few minutes here, an hour there...and it adds up. I was able to finish 61 blocks of sixteen 2 1/2 inch squares. I like that that comes to 976 squares, a nice round number.

I started over a year ago cutting those small squares from any pieces I had on hand that would give me a square that size. I made piles loosely organized by color family. Then late summer I laid out some blocks and liked what I saw and started sewing them together. I don't have a final layout but I've had fun considering the possibilities~

My word for the year is "trust." The word chose me. I thought it meant to help me focus on trusting the universe and accepting what happens. I learned early in October that it meant to remind me of something else, trust myself. I am grateful to learn that I still do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


It has been five weeks since I last posted. This afternoon there was no staff meeting, our one Wednesday a month when we don't have to stay. I thought that I would come home early and write a post, but I stayed to do paperwork. By the time I got home and had dinner it was just like every other Wednesday. I am still going to write a post.

This is the hardest teaching job I will ever have. The teaching isn't hard. The paperwork is unending. Every teacher has to assess students and document their progress. The requirements in special education are documentation to the nth degree. There are people who are walking me through each step, but I have to wait for help because I don't know where to start or what to ask so I know what to do next. I can only see what's in front of me, which turns out to be a good thing because I can only be overwhelmed with that...and not all the work still to come.

I am also getting a handle on curriculum for math and reading for 2nd and 3rd grades. The administration agreed to invest in a complete reading program that I have used and believe in. There are hours and hours of work ahead to get the program organized and set up, but once it's ready to use it will provide a comprehensive system to teach reading.

There are people to help me at every turn. I love working with the kids. I am up early every morning, one of the first cars in the rear parking lot each morning and one of the last to leave each afternoon. It's the right job at the right time and exactly the right thing for me to be doing right now.

I have gotten wiser over the years and know how important it is to make time for a life outside school, even when it seems like there is not a minute to spare. My son and his girlfriend came up from Boston in mid-September and we picked apples. My daughter and granddaughter joined us~
Maggie helped
She liked the pumpkins, too
We all had a lovely day. It was our anniversary weekend so the family time was extra special. We celebrated with our Boston family with dinner out Saturday night at one of our favorite spots, which they enjoyed. My daughter rounded out the celebration with a gift of the most gorgeous flowers grown in volcanic soil from The Bouqs Company. The lilies opened three days ago~
Roses and lilies get more beautiful with time
I have also continued to sew, sometimes only for minutes at a time, because it's my creative outlet. I will share photos of my latest project next time~

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Technology, Travel, and Teaching

This August is one for the books. I got a job, my desktop bit the dust, and I traveled to California to meet my granddaughter ~
Piper at three weeks old
I love this picture. Piper was napping beside me on the couch and she looked so relaxed. She's three weeks old in the photo. I swear she grew before my eyes.

I practiced traveling with just my phone when we went to New York in July. In the past I've taken a digital camera and my laptop and downloaded photos throughout a trip. I didn't want to lug my laptop to California this summer so took the chance to travel sans computer in July. I missed my laptop but got more comfortable with the camera on my phone which paid off as I was able to easily email photos of the grandkids home during my trip. Ken appreciated that.

The desktop refused to turn on just two days before I left for San Jose. It's not like it hadn't earned the right to be done after nine years. I wasn't ready to deal with its demise but I wasn't going to replace it until it was absolutely necessary. Thankfully my computer guru determined that the data could be saved to an external drive, so it was the best case scenario and something I could deal with upon my return in mid-August. Luckily by then I had a job and didn't need to access my resume and supporting documents in a timely manner. I had backed up photos but not documents, a lesson now learned.

I have waited to write about the job because I didn't want to jinx it. My contract was approved by the school board this week and only then did I feel comfortable announcing my news to the world. Everything happened very quickly: application made, cover letter sent, call for an interview, interview held, and job offer all within the space of six days. I was offered the job on August 1, one week before I left for California. It still feels a bit surreal, not just that I have a real job after nine years of searching but that I am going back to teaching and going into an area new to me. I will be a Resource Room teacher working with students who qualify for special education services. I will get training and take classes and have a supportive team to help me throughout the process. I am positively giddy about the thought of this job.

It has been an amazing 24 days ~
Me with my son and grandson in CA

Friday, August 5, 2016

Mid Summer

I checked the calendar today. We are at an important mid point, half of summer behind us and half still before us. Phew. Many people are talking about the waning days of this most pleasant season in Maine, and I really can't bear to think of it ending. I still have much to do before I launch into the next thing...more about that in a moment.

Ken and I have learned to plan our vacation earlier rather than later and took a road trip in mid July. We had so much fun in New York's wine country last summer that we returned this year, staying at the other end of Seneca Lake this time. We stayed three days instead of two and then drove to Pennsylvania to spend time with my dear friend of 40+ years. From food to trains to music it was an amazing trip. Here's a snapshot of our adventure~
The FLounge is a gift shop in Geneva, NY that serves sweet coffee drinks and delicious waffles

My grandson is enamored with trains so we made note of every one we saw

The Route 30 Diner in Lancaster, PA served all the best of home cooking

Verna's Fabrics was worth the drive to Mifflinburg, PA - that's Verna

Two happy Mainers on vacation with their friend from New Mexico

Food theme on steroids at Central Market in Lancaster, PA

Outside Central Market we were treated to a concert by students in a music camp
Before I left on vacation I worked diligently to rework my home filing system, take stock of all my sewing projects in various states of completion, review the contents and space in the house to seriously clear away the things someone else needs more than I do. I jumped back into my age-old job search with the knowledge that life would change drastically when I am successful....

I was and it will. More on that next post. In the meantime I know that I will always have time for sweet Maggie~

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Of Flowers And Fire

On Sunday we stopped to see a neighbor in our old neighborhood.  He started laughing because he had just posted a picture of our old house on Facebook ~ he said he takes one every year because "our" lilacs signify spring. We could smell the blooms from his driveway.

I need to research if lilacs might grow in the shade of our current property.  I am going to try forsythia seedlings at the edge of the woods.  A splash of color would be a welcome replacement for the rhododendron that were eaten by deer.

I don't know what to call our yard other than "the woods."  We do have a few flowers~
Wild ladyslippers pop up everywhere
Hardy perennials grow on the hill
Bleeding heart thrives in a corner
The flowers that grow here are able to take care of themselves.  The trees and fallen leaves that cover most of the landscape require little maintenance but demand a certain amount of caution.  We are aware of the fire hazard of the layer of dead leaves and take measures to insure the safety of "our woods."

So I was alarmed three weeks ago when I saw smoke rising from the adjacent property recently purchased by a couple from out of town.  I trekked into the woods to see what was up and met the new owners, happily tending a good-sized bonfire.  I introduced myself, shared my sense of alarm at the sight of smoke, and asked if they had a burn permit.  They did.  I asked how they got one without a water source on the property.  They showed me three five-gallon jugs of water they'd drawn from the nearby stream.  I told them there were strict guidelines for having a fire in this town; they said they were aware of that and had procedures in place to be safe.

Two weeks later I got a call from the neighbor on the other side of us.  There had a been a fire in the woods behind our property.  The new neighbors had not sufficiently doused a fire, the embers reignited, and the flames took off through the underbrush.  Thankfully the fire department arrived in time to contain and put out the fire.  He told me he talked to the new neighbors, who said they weren't planning to have any more fires.  I sincerely hope they hold to that~
View from the road
Stretch of scorched ground
Stone wall that edges our property

I may be a city girl at heart but I take guardianship of "our woods" to heart, too.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

April Survival Guide

April is a transition month.  Spring can't quite settle in because winter refuses to quit.  The wide range of temperatures and odd display of weather is confusing.  In years past even April vacation, the third week of the month, has been frustrating.  I have never been able to cross everything off the incredibly long to-do list.

This year was different.  I took some notes so I can happily survive April next year....

Start the vacation week with company.  My son came for an overnight stay the first weekend so the house was clean and the pantry was full.  That freed us up to visit and play with Maggie~
Maggie "holding court"
Go away for a couple days.  Ken was working out of town so I joined him in Dover, New Hampshire for two nights.  His work schedule got crazy but we made it to our favorite restaurant in Portsmouth for dinner~
The view from our table
Work on a project in progress.  In March I cut into strips the first quilt I ever made out of scraps of the clothes I sewed while I was in high school.  The quilt needed an update and over April break it became clear what I wanted to do - add more color~
Framing fabrics are odd pieces handed down from my daughter
Do something new.  Sometime late winter I learned about the Maine Quilt Shop Hop.  It has been a tradition for 12 years but I just heard about it, which is a loss on my part that was corrected this April when I was lucky enough to visit 20 of the 36 shops taking part in this year's month-long challenge.  The idea is to visit as many shops as you can in the month of April, submit your stamped "passport" for a drawing for very nice prizes, and vote for the challenge quilt of your choice [each shop has one].  Here's my choice for the quilt challenge, found in the Sanford Sewing Machines shop~
A 3-D quilt designed by people in the store
Work with fabric.  Yes, it's true.  I bought fabric at most of those quilt shops I visited.  I have four projects in mind and need the raw materials to make them happen.  The lesson is to get the fabric when I see it because I may not find it again.  I traveled 565 miles to shops all over central and southern Maine, saw parts of the state I've never seen before.  It was so much fun!  Here are the solids I bought, all American Made Brand cottons grown, woven, and dyed right here in the USA~
This is a fraction of the colors available
Spend time with Maggie.  I adore this child~
Maggie went shop hopping too
 I survived April and now it is May.  I need to remember these strategies as the journey continues.... 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Happens

March is a long month.  This year it is particularly long, or seems so, because there are eight long weeks between February break and April vacation.  At this point students are halfway through four weeks of standardized testing.  The weather has been all over the map, literally, and brought two snow days last week, Monday for snow and Friday for ice.

I decided weeks ago to attend a conference on the 31st.  It was a good call.  I always go into a day like today with the thought that I will learn something new and the hope that I will meet someone interesting.  Both things happened today.  I learned the details of a unique initiative to bring state-of-the-art technology to four counties in our state.  I find it encouraging that such a project has been successful.  The interesting person was a woman I met on the walk into the conference from the parking lot.  We laughed about not knowing where we were going and crossed paths later as we enjoyed pastries after registration.  I was pleased when we caught up with each other at lunch and had a chance to talk about common interests.  I know where she works and might get a chance to catch up with her again.

March leaves things unfinished.  In 1978 Ken and I traveled to Maine in March to explore the possibility of living in the state, and two months later we moved here.  In March many years later we moved to where we live now, and that story is still being written.

Eight years ago in March I started this blog.  There were a number of us who started blogging about the same time and somehow found each other in cyber space.  We were in various states of transition ~ children growing up, careers changing ~ and it was wonderful to have a chance to share our stories.

Many of those women have stopped blogging, and I miss their voices.  I am grateful for the women who continue to share their stories and take time to comment here.  I feel like so much is still up in the air for me all these years later, while others have made progress toward their dreams and moved on.

Another March has passed.  Time will tell how the journey continues....   

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Word 2016

This is the latest date on record for me to write about my word for the year.  The irony is that the word came to me at the earliest possible moment ~ I literally woke up to the word on New Year's Day.

Weeks earlier Ken and I had made plans to go away for New Year's weekend.  Our reservation was in an upscale hotel in a seaside town.  We had a lovely New Year's Eve. The first morning of the new year I woke up gently in a comfy bed, and a word came to mind before I was fully awake.  A solitary word presented itself with alarming clarity.   Huh, I thought.  That's interesting.  Where did that come from? 

For the last two months the word has presented itself almost daily, a mantra of sorts.  Apparently the word planted itself in my subconscious to remind me that I know what I'm doing and I can handle whatever comes my way. 

All the while I have been skeptical that that's true.  For weeks I didn't feel any differently.  It felt like I was pretending to be confident, able to forge ahead.  There was still a voice in my head questioning my decisions and wondering if any amount of effort could really make a difference.

I have chosen instead to heed the word and keep going in spite of old stories, worn-out habits.  I have decided to listen to a word that appeared to come out of nowhere, when it quite possibly came to the surface after months of asking the universe for help.   Gradually, I have come to believe that I have it in me to do what I need to do.

My word for 2016 is "trust."  The message is to trust myself.  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mid Winter

Winter is half over, and schools in Maine just had their first snow day on Friday. More snow is predicted in the next couple days. Although we haven't had a lot of snow, the deer are hungry. For the first time ever they have eaten the leaves on the rhododendron~

There is not a leaf left on any of the three bushes. Though they have never bloomed, the plants provided a welcome splash of green at the edge of the woods.

Friday's snow was the type that clings to every surface. The white backdrop was perfect for the lights on the railing~

We've never had outside holiday lights before. I didn't expect to enjoy the evening's nightlight as much as I do. The string of color may stay until spring~

Monday, January 18, 2016


I did not win Powerball. I can honestly say I was disappointed. There were winners, regular people like me who bought tickets because at some point someone, or more than one someone, was going to win the jackpot. I thought, "Why not me?" Well, not this time but I will try again.

I did not get the job I interviewed for ten days ago. I was grateful to get the call because it meant that someone looked at my application and thought it was worth giving me a look-see. The interview was thorough; they were as interested in what I am currently doing in certain situations as they were in what I would do in the position they need to fill. I felt good about my answers but obviously I was not the best candidate. I will keep applying.

We have not had a snow day yet this winter. Snow has arrived overnight with time to clear the roads or the storms have waited for the weekend. I like snow days. They are gifts of time that are unexpected and much appreciated. I hope we don't go the whole winter without a snow day.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

It Started With A Line

It's three days in and I can say that the year has gotten off to a good start. Ken and I decided to spend the first few days of 2016 out of town. I made reservations for three nights at an in-town hotel in Portsmouth, NH. Ordinarily the room is not classified as having a good view, but New Year's Eve we had front row seats at a gorgeous fireworks display right out our window over the parking garage. Fortunately I remembered to make fashionably late dinner reservations, and the meal was everything we hoped it would be.

New Year's Day we made a trip to a nearby mall. We had a few specific things to shop for but mostly we wanted a chance to walk and window shop. Our last stop was JCPenney. I had five items to purchase at the first register we approached. Ken remembered one more thing, so we left the line and walked to another department.

That was our first mistake.

We picked up the five dollar item and joined another line at the "line forms here" sign. The woman in front of us had a few items, but the couple in front of her had several hundred dollars worth of merchandise. The woman moved with her few items to a second clerk when it was her turn. The couple with piles of linens was still checking out when the second clerk at the register became open. It was our turn but a gentleman with one item stepped up the counter. We thought it couldn't take long, and our turn would come shortly.

That was our second mistake.

The second clerk asked the man if he had a JCPenney credit card. He couldn't remember, so she offered to check the computer. It took her four tries to correctly enter his phone number. Alas, he no longer had an active account. The clerk offered to open a new account for him, and he thought that was a fine idea. The couple in front of us had a total of 51 items; the store allows a maximum of 50 items on a receipt, so the first clerk had to start a new ticket. About that time a clerk in jewelry announced that she could take people at her register. We thought that sounded like a good idea.

That was our third mistake.

I started toward the jewelry department saying, "Thank you! We have been in line a long time." Just then a man came out of nowhere and raced me to the register. He got there first. Ken said, "Let's go back to the first register."

That was our fourth mistake.

We walked across the store with our six items and got in line again behind two people. There was a woman checking out with over $500 worth of clothes. She talked loudly about her use of reward points, and the clerk announced that the woman had saved over $250. The customer grabbed her bags filled with purchases. We breathed a sigh of relief because the next woman was holding just one item.

That was our fifth mistake.

The woman stepped up to the counter with one shirt. The clerk reached around to a counter behind her and picked up two bags of clothes which she placed on the front counter. "You want to return these?" the clerk asked. The woman responded in the affirmative. There were two separate receipts so each item had to be matched with the correct one. Ken and I were shaking our heads and trying not to laugh. About halfway through the process the customer shared that she forgot her wallet, so she had no identification. A moment later she explained that the items were gifts and she did not have the credit card on which the items were charged. Then the clerk got on the phone to the manager because she was unable to complete the conversion of the return to a gift card. Ken and I were still discreetly laughing when another clerk showed up. Did we dare hope....

Finally we were able to make our purchase. Other than the fact that I had to bring to her attention to an item she missed, we were successfully checked out and went on our way. It took us 45 minutes to purchase six items at JCPenney. At the 40-minute mark I said that I needed to write about this experience because it was so ridiculous. And because no one would believe it. And because Ken and I were able to laugh at an absurd series of events in a situation that will likely never occur again.

This is my first post of 2016, the result of something that happened that I decided to share here. I want to celebrate that. There were few moments like that to write about last year. The birth of my granddaughter was such a moment, as were the quilting retreats.

I want more moments like that this year, moments where I am so present that I see how miraculous they are or how creative or how ridiculous.

Here's to a year of moments ~