Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

I have an attitude problem, one I've had a couple of years. I'm ageing, in fact, have been ageing for a number of years now. I find it very difficult, so I beat people to making comments about it. I go on the defensive. "Come on," I'll say to younger people, "I'm an old lady, blah, blah, blah...."

I have come to a crossroads: I can continue down this "I'm so old" road or take the road less traveled: I can keep alive and mentally oiled and conditioned to accept age and make it a calling card. I'm going positive.

There are, of course, problems in going positive. I have a mother who is so very critical. "I tell the truth," she says, like an Old Testament prophet anointed to do just such, as they did back in the day. Her "truth" to me is that I am losing my brain, meaning it is declining. She says it is noticeable. I say poppycock! After I stopped teaching English, my brain did start to decline. You know, if you don't use it, you lose it. Now that IS something I hold true. 

Years ago, I broke my foot and could not walk on it one whit and used a crutch as a substitute for that leg. After several weeks on that crutch, my good leg developed muscles and the bad leg withered to almost half its size. Again, a point to make: After seven years of not teaching, I went back into the classroom as a French teacher. Voila! Talk about using one's brain! J'ai enseignie beaucoup d'étudiants . Nous avons mangé du pain et bu du café en classe . Nous avons visité Natchitoches , la première ville de Louisiane. Mes élèves étaient heureux d'y aller. (I taught many students. We ate bread and drank coffee in class. We visited Natchitoches, the first city in Louisiana. My students were happy to go there.)

The newest brain research indicates that memory is not static, that it changes with experiences which greatly impact how the brain develops or declines. In other words sitting in that rocking chair can rot the brain, whereas taking up fishing or making quilts enhance the brain because of the new-ness and the challenges of the experiences. Learning technology would also be an experience-enhancing challenge! 

Here is a link to what researchers have discovered about the brain and how to evaluate brain research sites:

Please read further into this fascinating field.

So, back to my resolution. It is based on the truths of three people.

Number one is my sister, who is an organizational wizard. She worked a number of years for a company and notably the manager whose job was to take businesses in trouble and teach them how to fix their problems. As his personal assistant, my sister also learned how to do what he did. I have been in such a spiraling decline (not brain), that I needed help in getting organized and climbing my way out. She has been my teacher and promoter and cheerleader.

Secondly, Joel Osteen is a television preacher, and, of course, a megachurch preacher. His sermons, criticized by some as "feel-good" sermons, have made a big impact on me. He is the champion of the power of positive thinking. Words have power, he declares, and he admonishes people to be wary of what words they allow into their brains. 

Thirdly, I saw Jane Fonda on a late night show recently in which she promoted her newest movie, which is about youth and ageing. She is 74 and says she feels like a newbie. She felt old at 20 and 30, but now she has once again re-invented herself. Madonna does this, the wild and wooly Miley Cyrus does this. Staying the same old person you once were is ageing. I know many people like this who stay in a rut.

So, my resolution is to face the future unafraid, to grasp opportunities, shoot, even make opportunities. Only the truly ageing person will sit down and turn into a potato. I'm striking out in new territory.

I'll let you know how it turns out in a few months....

New rant and praise: Neighbors

My house is the second house from the end of a two-block street in a fairly established neighborhood, created in the 1970's. I bought this house after my divorce and have been here 13 years. 

The first buyer on the street was a major in the Air Force, an engineer. He chose the house on the end next to the local park. With no one there to contest him, he bought a huge chunk of what should be my back yard on the west side. He bragged that his land stretched from pole to pole (telephone poles, one at the edge of his property, the second ten feet into what should be my property.  No one told me about this disgrace when I looked at the property. I assumed the line went straight down from the fence, not a 45 degree angle.

Well, the old man died a couple of years ago, and his son "gave" the house to his 19-year-old son. Yes, I know, a teenager, and his live-in girlfriend. However, those two, and including his mudding friends, have been wonderful neighbors. No one drinks or smokes (maybe one friend) or even curses. They don't play loud music even when they have cookouts and swimming parties. 

Even at her young age, the girl/woman is a school photographer with a side business. I really like this slightly chunky blonde with the beautiful face. The dude is medium height, nice-looking, and has curly brown hair which is ALWAYS covered by a sideways cap from his collection of cap. I mean ALWAYS! However, he is one the most polite young men I've ever met!

So, what's the rant? Uh-oh, you missed it--his grandfather bought some of what should be my land. "His" property is shaped like a pie wedge, and mine is a lesser, reversed pie wedge, while all other properties up and down the street have straight boundaries. One day, Young Dude tells me that they plan to extend his fence to the bayou to encompass his land and prevent his dogs from roaming my land (to do business). Imagine a fence at the top of the flat section, then draw a diagonal line over onto my property. I told him that I would be blocked from getting my lawn mower down there. (I call my back yard Down Below because we have two levels, the street height, and the hill extending to the bayou which marks our northern borders.)
Know what he said? "We'll work something out." I trust his word.

Note: I'm concerned that they've broken up. Her car has not been there in a month, her two big barking (and annoying) dogs are also absent. His friends no longer hang out there. Maybe someone is in the hospital. I don't know.

So much for one set of neighbors. It's late and the other neighbor is such a piece of work that I need to have a clear head to write about her.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Politics 101

Who should be president? Do you "like" any of the Republican candidates? Hillary? Why and/or why not?

Right at the beginning, I'm going to declare my disdain for Hillary and leave it at that. What this blog is about, then, is my opinion of the Republicans.

Beginning with the first Republican debate, I have been impressed with all of them, both tiers. 

So we do have really qualified men and women willing to tackle the office of president. Of course, they must have big egos and nerves of steel and backbones that won't break under the intense scrutiny they undergo on a daily basis.

What I most like about these candidates is their high intelligence, a willing commitment to the ideals of the presidency, a knowledge of American history, and a litany of what can be done to restore the integrity of our national pride.

In "The Sound of Music," the nuns had this to say about Maria: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" She was irrepressible, full of high energy, and committed to being free and following her own star. So, I say, is Donald Trump.

Do you remember bra burning (if you're of a certain age). Its point was to shift the pendulum from the extreme of the '50's with women in their place. "Burning bras" had the audacitty of swinging that pendulum from staidness to free-ness. Damn those bras. "Let it all hang out." And it did. And so does Donald Trump.
He's like a petulant child, uttering forth all his glib comments. However, they make us think. Is he speaking our minds? Are we allowed to say those things? Of course not, but here is a presidential candidate saying them. Political correctness had reached a point of silliness--no "Merry Christmas." It had to be "Happy Holiday" or "Happy Winter Solstice" or some such.

Truly the country was founded on religious freedom but in a bifurcated way. On the one hand, freedom was granted to those "like us," but not to those who practiced a variation of Protestantism. The word itself was a precursor to the rabbling of voices that finally grounded itself into the new country. If the country was founded on religious freedom, then the opposite, devil worship, or even the hint of it, almost destroyed communities. The witches of Salem threw out accusations, setting the path of future behavior. Does not the Donald make variant accusations like the girls of Salem, planting ideas of questionable behavior or differences.

Attacking Fiorina's looks, saying he will deny Muslims entrance into the country, promoting Putin makes me think the Donald is not a serious candidate.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What is fishing? Ch. 8: Cheating....

Yes, cheating. I didn't think so at the time, but later had to admit that I probably cheated. What pointed me in that dire train of thought? I had had no luck catching anything for days. Someone, probably my mother, told me to buy catfish bait and throw it all around my part of the bayou. So I did. What stinky stuff!!

Nothing happened for a couple of days. Then the barometric pressure changed: rain was on the way. What happened next was my messenger about the barometer: fish started biting as if they had not eaten in a good while. I would throw in my line and -bam!- my cork started bobbing, then running this way, then that way, then down! I had so much fun playing those fish.

I would think I had them, then whoosh--the line went limp. Over and over, finally  victory and I pulled out a beautiful fish. I caught eight fish that day, mostly blue-gill bream, a couple of gorgeous sun perch, and surprise, surprise, a nice fat striped bass.

It is that striped bass that caused me to think perhaps I had cheated. He swallowed that hook! Oh, how I hate that. I have my needle nose pliers but this hook was too deep to avoid injury. Ug, half his tongue came out with that hook.

I always imagine giants in the sky treating me as if I were a fish, with identical torment that I bestow upon fish--and even worms. When I tear those Canadian Night Crawlers in half, I imagine the screams that must rip through their bodies.

Anyway--the aggression with which the fish attacked my worms, the powerhouse way they tried to evade capture made me think that, maybe, just maybe, I had cheated by using the catfish bait.

"No, that's not cheating," my sister assured me. "Have you ever watched fishing competitions on television? They use every method known to man, woman, and beast, plus things the audience knows nothing about. So forget this cheating notion." So I did.

My day ended well into darkness. My happiness, I'm sure, lit up my surroundings. One last cast--and they were still biting. Wow...

Addendum: Click on the following clip to see just what monster hood a striped bass can grow into: (I think you need to cut and paste) 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What do you read?

Addendum to this post:
We live carefully or we live randomly. It may seem that  I am looking for excuses for my reading habits, but I am not, or believe that. I just finished one of "those" books. A question that piqued my interest: If today is the day I die (no matter the age), will it be all right? Have I lived enough to say I've lived and be okay with dying? So I say: I've had an interesting life, considering all the "dry places." What would you say?

Blog begins below:

You are what you eat. We know this is true, especially for diabetics. Is it also true that you are what you read? Or, that you are like those you hang out with, you know, birds of a feather? Or, that you become like those you live with?

Case in point: My sister was married to a man who was psychologically and abnormally stressed by things in sight in "his" house. Thus, nothing, not a thing, was kept on the kitchen counters. Everything had to be put out of sight, including coffee maker, canisters, etc., even his precious bourbon bottle. My sister did not grow up with an aversion to things in sight. Things used in everyday life were kept on the counters: coffee maker, canisters, toaster, and so on. So, one summer the family had gathered at my mother and step-father's place on the lake. It was time to cook and my sister, a take-charge kind of gal, was taking over (she's like that). Guess what she said? "Oh, good grief. Look at all this junk everywhere!" and she proceeded to remove everything from the counter tops! Indeed, she did! So, I try to remind her of this at every proper opportunity. BTW, these two are divorced but you're not surprised, are you?

One more example: My brother, sister, and I grew up speaking proper grammar. However, this same brother married a girl who used poor grammar, not because she didn't know better, but because she thinks it's cool. Yes, of course, my brother sounds like her and has for years. This has always stressed me.

AS for reading: Is it true that one's reading choices reveal a person's character? Let's take me for example. I'm a retired English teacher, a life-long reader of all kinds of literature, and a collector of all kinds of books. So, what do I read?

Honestly, the books that make me happiest are the Jack Reacher books. Why? What psychological trait am I revealing by reading this series? Jack Reacher is a man retired from the military, not forced, before his regular retirement time. He's a man of high honor, even though he kills when necessity dictates. A conundrum? Not in a Reacher novel. William Faulkner used to put his plot lines on paper posted around his writing room. That way he kept up with his twisted plot lines. I think Childs must do something similar. His plots are painstakingly 
detailed and reveal methodical thinking that goes on in Reacher's mind. 

Another thing about Reacher: He wears the same clothes for several days and irons them by laying them out straight under his mattress. When I say mattress, I mean motel, not home, because Reacher does not have a home. He travels like the birds, going willy-nilly, and involving himself when a situation piques his sense of justice. The book is truly wishful thinking by the author. I guess such a character could exist, but not likely.

I like Reacher for many reasons, but the main one is that he is a bad-ass, not intentionally, not maliciously, but because circumstances dictate him to be. But first, he reveals his reluctance to be violent and his absolute dedication to being violent if necessary. Woe to those who dare to challenge him. As a teacher I was challenged too many times over the years and found myself in a position of non-action. 

Addendum: Wow, did I really admit my true reading preference? But I do read other things. Currently, I'm reading Temple Mount by Keith Raffel. My sister and I live several states apart. We talk up to an hour daily. The other day she wanted to discuss the Temple Mount in Israel. I started googling and found this book on Amazon, so I ordered it and have read about 50 pages. I'll report later. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

What is Fishing? Ch.7: The best time to fish

Chapter 7

I finally learned the secret for the best time to fish! 

Last week I spent several days fishing and caught almost nothing! Yes, yes, of course, the throw-backs, the fingerlings, the ones who need to grow up. They always go back into their watery depths. But keepers? Only a couple. What's the deal, I repeatedly asked. Have I fished out all these fish along my part of the bayou? But how is that possible? There are no boundaries underwater, are there?

About this time I decided to find a fishing magazine. I found In-Fisherman. Here is the blurb about this magazine:

"In-Fisherman Magazine is known mainly for the extensive information it provides on many different species of fish. In-Fisherman magazine also includes equipment reviews, fishing advice and secrets from professional fisherman, and information about popular and local fishing locations in the United States.
Readers of In-Fisherman magazine are treated to information about countless species of fish. The magazines writers provide information about bass, walleye, catfish, panfish, pike, muskie, trout, salmon, and many other species. Readers find out where they can catch these fish and what they will need to bring in order to be successful.
The equipment reviews contained in In-Fisherman are widely respected. Each issue reviews tons of lures and poles for those fishing in different locations or for different types of fish. Also included are reviews about accessories like rain gear, electronic equipment, and tackle bags. Some of the gear articles are strictly informative, like one titled The Fishing Line Evolution that chronicles changes that have been in motion since the 1970s.
In-Fisherman magazine is known well for the fishing secrets and advice contained in each issue. Its expert writers go into detail about different fishing techniques and specific types of fishing that readers may not have tried before. One article talks about the equipment and know-how that is needed before one can go on a successful ice fishing trip. In-Fisherman is also known for articles like the one titled 10 Best Bass Fishing States in America that let readers know about the best places to fish."

The October/November issue was worthy reading cover to cover. I especially enjoyed the article about shore fishing (since, of course, what I do is shore fish). The author authenticates shore fishing by describing his largest catches--from shore. I can affirm his experience. I caught my three and one/half pound bass three feet from water's edge. Indeed, I did. I've seen two more times other huge bass fishing for their own meals right there at my feet! In fact, I hooked another large bass two feet from my feet, but it shed the hook when my reel caught and a slack happened in the line.I cannot describe the sheer enormity of watching a huge fish swish at your feet. Swish is not a powerful enough onomatopoeic word for what happens when a bass seeks his meal  like that!

But I brought In-Fisherman to your attention because it answered my query about why I was not catching fish last week into this one. Toward the back was a Solunar Calendar. It tells me that next week will be horrible fishing, so I guess I will take the week off. Meanwhile, the rest of the week promises excellent fishing!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What is fishing? Ch. 6: Wildlife

Chapter 6  Wildlife

Fishing takes a person into the world of nature. It's up to the fisherman how
intent that experience will be. Personally, what I find every time I go fishing is a host of creatures. 

Imagine this: A couple has been fishing across the bayou from me for the last three afternoons. They come with all their gear, including a boom box. And they keep it turned on, though not loud. My question is: Why? 

I like to listen to all the surrounding sounds: all kinds of birds from robins to woodpeckers to erratically chatty little wrens. The loudest is the blue heron, yes, a blue heron, a gigantic bird. Every time I disturb him(her?), he flies off, squawking, no, bellowing his displeasure, that I had interrupted his feeding time. However, this afternoon, we scared each other. I took my rod, loaded up worm, got in my favorite spot, then glanced six feet over, and wow! That blue heron was standing there when he suddenly saw me and gasped and flew away. Mutual admiration, maybe.

Daily, along the bayou's edge, close to the point that water meets land, I find some kind of animal tracks. Could be a cat's because I've seen a cat wander the banks, but the paw prints are too large for Boo (neighbor's cat, Boo short for Beauregard). Could be beaver tracks, or maybe possum, or raccoon, --I've seen all these animals at one time or another.

A squirrel currently has a nest in the majestic cypress and enjoys throwing down the cypress balls that grow in the tree. Same is true for the huge pecan tree which half hangs over my property. Ha! 

Did I mention snakes and turtles and mosquitos? I guess all beautiful things have their drawbacks. I've watched a snake slither just under water's surface. One even surfaced his freaky little face and eyeballed me. I guess snakes are curious, too.  

The most marvelous yet perilous things I've seen on this bayou happened twice this week. Right in front of my eyes, three feet from me, a large-mouth bass, a large one, leaped right up out of that water intending to catch his breakfast then and there. However, breaking to the right was a tiny silver fish. I froze in disbelief. Then again the next day further down the bank, another? the same? bass did the same leap.

It's just awesome ("awe"--def. extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear) to see such things, and to know that someone created all this beauty in its magnificence and fear.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What is Fishing, Ch. 5: When do fish bite?

Chapter 5

So, the most important question in a blog about fishing is this: When do fish bite? 
Image result for images fish biting

Let me be scientific: I have fished early morning, mid-morning,  noon, mid-afternoon, and late afternoon leading into evening. 

I have fished during blazing hot days, windy days, full moon times, misting days, and early mornings with a bit of chill in the air.

On some early mornings I caught fish; others, not. The same with other times and conditions. Frankly, I could not determine when they would bite and when they wouldn't

Bottom line,  fish bite when they dang-well want to.

Other than that, it's a mystery to me.

Addendum: I must change the vote tally. I HAVE found a most propituous time to fish: when a barometric change  is imminent. They also tend to bite when light rain is falling. I learned these things in the interlude between now (12/27) and the date of this blog (9/30). Fall? Weather changes? Natural events?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Another souvenir from world travels

Wherever I go, I find ethnic treasures to take home and display, not for others, but for myself. This is a tea towel I found in a linen shop in Ireland, Dublin to be exact.

I didn't want to use it as a tea towel and decided
to frame and hang it. If it pleases you, please study the towel. (Click on the picture for a larger version.) There is one cat turning his head toward the viewer and having the smuggest look on his face. Then notice the cat sitting next to him and her baby!                

Monday, September 28, 2015

What is fishing? Ch. 4: What's underneath?

blue-gill bream

Chapter 4:  What's in a Bayou?

I've been fishing along the bayou at the end of my property for four months now. I've lived here almost sixteen years. Why did I wait so long? My 94-year-old mother quit fishing and abandoned her several rods. When my brother, nephew, and I went fishing, he fixed me up with one of those rods. I fell in love with it--it's a lefty. I'm comfortable using a lefty. After we fished, the rod became mine!

And how I've used it!! I fish several times daily: early morning, mid-morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, late day. How can I do this? I'll be doing something and, suddenly, I have to grab my worms and rod and head on down. I call it Down-Below. Remember, the area from deck to bayou is all downhill. (Yes, I do my own mowing--what a job, mowing on a hill!)
small-mouth bass

What's a blog about fishing if I don't talk about what I actually catch? Frankly, it is amazing the variety of fish in this bayou! I've caught three kinds of bass: big-mouth, small-mouth, and striped. How do I know this? Google images. My sister insists that striped bass don't live this far south, but they do. This bayou was probably stocked.

large mouth bass
The big excitement was catching a three and one-half pound large-mouth bass! I freaked out. Wow, what a battle--he swam this way, that way, pulled down, ran twisty curves, and gave me a great powerful run. However, I really regretted ending his life. He was so magnificent!

Image result for sun perch
sun perch

Mostly, I catch sun perch--from ridiculously small to large like the bass. I have caught the occasional blue-gill bream and even two catfish. I return twice as many as I catch to their watery homes for another day.
However the most unusual catch was a four-inch-diameter turtle.                      

I have learned to catch the tiniest fish. And I do mean tiny--I call them fingerlings. Three big-mouths--fingerlings. But I think of these small babies as practice because the babies have the same moves as their grown-up counterparts. Just this morning I caught two more fingerling big-mouth bass--I would have claimed they were larger--until they passed that magical line between water world excitement and the reality of the actual (you know, above water and in the air). 

(When I learn how to convert photos from camera to laptop, I will include my actual photos of these fish)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What is fishing? Ch. 3: Grandmother

Chapter Three

What is fishing? When I come out out here to fish--every time, I am reminded of my wonderful grandmother. Connection? My grandparents lived in a tiny country town, not even a town, but three general stores, a post office, a school, and farms and houses, country-style. Their property sat on a slanting hill with a man-made pond on the lower half. It was lined with trees and also trees growing in the pond.

The fishing was outstanding! My grandfather would get up at the crack of dawn to go to work and my grandmother and I would get tin cans and go down the hill to dig huge night crawlers which lasted all the morning. We fished until we had enough for lunch, rowed in, cleaned our fish, and she cooked them. I loved my grandmother and our time fishing.

So when I go fishing on my bayou, I remember my time with my grandmother. A wonderful time, a happy time, a time of being loved.  What is fishing? It's something more than catching fish. It's also memories..

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What is Fishing? Ch 2: Flood devastation

Chapter Two

The bayou behind my house flooded in the spring.

There's a short little bank at the edge of the water. The rains brought the water  up to the bank, then over, then up. There is an elevation from the bayou to my house. Actually, it's a short hill, that whole area. In late spring, rains came and came and came. The water came up and up and up, all the way to the deck. It killed my heavily laden fig trees, both of them. It killed my beautiful St. Augustine grass. It drowned my tomato plants, all ten of them. When the waters finally receded, all that remained of my tomato plants were dried stems.

But the most sickening was the loss of my fig trees. I would tell myself that I didn't lose my house like other people did. Sure, I was grateful, but, still, I was so sad to lose those two trees that I had nurtured for six years and more, especially now that they were loaded with their first full crops.

The biggest problem with having fig trees on land that borders a bayou is that beavers who live downstream LOVE fig wood. Whether it is for eating or using to build their lodges I don't know. I do know that those beavers and I had fierce battles for every limb. Of course, when I first put in that tree, I added a little fence around its trunk. However, a problem developed that I could not anticipate: the tree grew large enough to hang its limb over the fence. So, I added another line of defense--several times, ending with four distinct fences. 

Finally, I hired someone to build a fence encircling the trees and far enough from them to allow growth that would surely protect the limbs and branches for a distant future. 

Didn't matter. The beavers didn't get the tree. Floods did. And my heart.


Monday, September 21, 2015

What is Fishing? Ch. 1

Chapter One

While my cork bobs, I watch a little yellow leaf float by. A haiku comes to mind:

Dainty yellow leaf--
swirling, floating, magic thing
Lovely, silent boat 

The point? Fishing allows thought, meditation, relaxation, and perseverance, and, occasionally, annoyance. Right on the edge of this water body--in my case--a bayou, grows a significant cypress, scarred by beaver teeth around its lower trunk, the part along the water's edge. 

However, this cypress has become my Christmas tree. I'm adding ornaments, one at a time, my little orange bobbers, source of my annoyance. At this point I've already added five. One dangles by its gossamer line, almost touching the water. I fish between it and a low-hanging branch. Eventually, my line will be caught by one or the other. And it is. My fishing line and the decorative line entwine and I yank both right off this majestic tree. Less one ornament, a gain of my fishing line. The lines entangle and I fish with two bobbers with only a short line allowing the hook to sit just inches below the surface.

Ah, fishing.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Think It Up: A Teacher's View

"Think It Up," a one-hour special about education, teachers, students, projects, and donations has mixed reactions from this reviewer.

The least effective, and, frankly, the one segment that seemed totally useless in promoting the program was the tuneless song performed by Justin Bieber. Say what?

However, most of the program was really effective: famous people with a parent who was a teacher, or those who could speak first-hand about the efficacy of a teacher. But my favorite part was interviewer on the street asking how schools could do things better. Reinvent high school was the consensus. 

One teacher was recognized and celebrated doing just that-- using new and innovative techniques to teach students to think critically, a point suggested by several students interviewed on the street. What I recognized in this
segment was methods employed in the Common Core curriculum. What she is doing is being done by teachers all over the country, or those who are required to teach Common Core.

About Common Core: I am of mixed opinion. Common Core is exhausting to teach. It is extremely planned out, very detailed, with so many nooks and crannies. Every nook comes with instructions for teaching it. Nothing is left out; nothing is left to guesswork. And, therein lies the rub: there's no room for teacher individuality. None. No imagination, no spontaneity. Just follow the plan. Everyone reads the same novel. There's no sense of history, no continuity. 

So let's weigh the two. One emphasizes critical thinking; the other a continuum of a country's literature. Does it matter that we lose this history of a literature,  but then, that's the point. Critical thinking follows a person throughout life. However, critical thinking was easily incorporated into the historical approach. I know because I did that. Does it matter that students lose Ben Franklin's almanac, or Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, or Dickinson's sublime poetry? Do you see what I'm doing? Back and forth, back and forth, with neither earning a winning slot in my mind. Both ways  have advantages. 

That's where "Think It Up" comes in. In a script, the idea of students and teachers working together looks great. Getting it done is another. Will students participate? Years ago I asked my high school students to design what they thought would be the perfect school. They worked in groups and produced a wide variety of schools, from excellent, insightful schools to poorly planned ones. What made the difference? Commitment, perseverance, intellectual depth. Some students simply do not have the edge to accept challenges. 

Will "Think It Up" work? Frankly, I don't know, but I certainly hope so.

Here's a link to "Think It Up:

and the positive side of Common Core 
and the negative side is

Friday, September 11, 2015

Working vs Not Working

I could be retired, and, in fact, made decisions not to submit applications, or otherwise do anything that would lead to a job. I was tired. The last two years of my working life were, by far, the hardest. Here comes the shocker: I worked 43 years as a teacher or librarian. Yes, 43 years! I remember back in the day saying that anyone who stayed in teaching for 40 or more year must have something seriously wrong. No,  the explanation is simple. It's just what we know and certainly beats many other jobs.

All that and still I've not reached my topic: working vs not working, specifically at retirement age. So far, I've worked nine years past retirement, spent two years in graduate school, and only two years not working at anything except what I've wanted to do. As you can imagine, not working makes for a fast day. There are no broken spaces where the day is in chunks, as it is when you're working. A non-working day just zips by. There are no markers like work has: no bells, no deadlines, just one whole day that is over by the time you turn your head.

I have a retired friend who sets a schedule for the day. She chunks it, making her day have  interludes, thus slowing it down.  But then, she is structured and I'm random.  I don't keep a schedule, except in my mind's eye, but I know I will spend time sewing, time in the yard, time de-hoarding hoards of stuff in my house. Oh, I didn't mention my vast hoards of stuff? Just another dimension of my interesting (and troubled) character. My day is over before I have time to think.

But the main reason not to work is the liberation it brings. No one tells me what to do, except, of course, Uncle Sam and my 94-year-old mother who informed me the other day that she is a boss. OK, so retirement is not totally free, but close enough. In fact, I was telling my mother just today what I think of not working. There was a billboard along the local interstate shortly after my divorce years ago. It said: Got bills? And every single time I passed that billboard, I shouted: Not any more!! You see, the ex-'s name was Bill. So, working? I feel the same way: Not any more!!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

So long, Old Faithful

OMG! It's been since February when I last wrote. My old computer would not allow me to access this blog. Until today on my laptop. I didn't realize it was the old Mac. In the last three weeks, I have had nothing but trouble and freeze-outs from my once reliable Mac. So time for a new computer. But! What a fabulous computer for oh, so long. I bought my G4 Mac in 2003, updated when necessary, and finally I could no longer update. I had reached the end. Not only that, but it wouldn't download so many things.
I was being left behind in the cloud. With fondness in my heart, I bid you farewell, Old Friend.

Hello, Asus, my new friend....

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Common Core and PARCC and Poverty

What worries Americans? Terrorists? The economy? The various discriminations? Yes, of course, these, and then there is Common Core. What about it? What does it do? Keep it? Throw it out?

First, what is Common Core? The important thing is that it is built on standards. According to the website, "Read the Standards" (, "the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy build on the best of existing standards and reflect the skills and knowledge students will need to succeed in college, career, and life."

What does this mean? Perhaps this list best illuminates the topic:
    "Standards are:
  1. Research and evidence based
  2. Clear, understandable, and consistent
  3. Aligned with college and career expectations
  4. Based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills
  5. Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards
  6. Informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society"
 Instead of traditional textbooks, students read a novel, for example, then multiple-related and varied items of literature involving that subject. For example, accompanying texts might include poetry, essays, documents, short stories, or another  novel. The first core work, the novel, read at the beginning of the year is less complex. As the year continues, the novels become more and more complex with more challenging assignments. The essay is at the core of writing, from basic to complex. Higher order thinking skills are the heart of Common Core.

Why Common Core? Some educational expert woke up one day, observing that American students go to college lacking the writing skills to create freshmen level essays. In fact, American students have to take a year or so of remedial level writing before they can handle college level writing.  So, Common Core was born. And with it--PARCC (or The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).

So what is it? Start over. Begin in kindergarten. Restructure everything. Plan a national curriculum that is formula for all grades, all teachers, all schools, all districts, all state, and one nation to follow. A national curriculum designed to cure a lack of intellectual richness. The fallacy is that there were many teachers in isolated pockets teaching students dedicated to that higher order of teaching and learning. It has always been there, but not enough, especially in areas where resistance to education is dominant.

However, this is America. We were created on the premise that all men (women) were created equal and that each child has the right to a good education. However, until poverty is part of the dialogue, this dream world of equal access becomes moot. We are a bifurcated country: we want the best under circumstances of the worst.

Poverty changes everything (depending on the individual). My school is doing a book study on "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," by Ruby K. Payne. It was written for educators, employers, policymakers, and service providers. It is an essential read to understanding the ravages of poverty.

Until Common Core (and unrealistic goals in education), early education teachers claimed the necessity of pre-teaching words and concepts before they could begin the actual grade level. Does that sound familiar? The goal of Common Core is to prepare students for college because freshmen, far too many, have to take remedial classes in English before they are ready for college level (if ever).

In  one of the group meetings for "Understanding Poverty," my assignment was to make a presentation on Chapter Two. Two facts stand out in my memory, two things that trumpet the depths of undertow of impoverished and unprepared students. First is this: "A three-year old in a professional household has more vocabulary words than an adult in a welfare household" (32). Think of that!! Second, Mainstream American English, spoken by the middle class and above, is really a second language to children in poverty. They must learn this middle class language because it is the language of empowerment. Thus, they enter school unprepared and stay behind unless something significant is done to break that cycle of poverty and the impoverishment of language that goes along with it.

As hard as educators work, their task is quixotic. If a child is born in poverty, how can he succeed? Psychology says that just one adult, one important adult, who tends to him both physically and emotionally, can make a difference. But that adult must take that child out of poverty and show him other things, other worlds, other ways. Unless he knows of these other things, he cannot know to educate himself toward being part of that other. It is difficult, but it is possible. One person can make a difference. Volunteer in your neighborhood school. Take coats to your school. Provide crayons, paper, writing utensils. Help sponsor a trip to a museum or anywhere new and significant. Give of yourself. Find a way. If not you, then who? It can be done!

For more information about Common Core and related topics, follow one of these links:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Why study Canada?

Indeed, why should we study Canada? Do you know that most American students don't study anything about Canada? Isn't that odd?

Canada is our northernmost neighbor with whom we have many treaties and agreements.The idea of overlooking learning about an important country--which happens to be a neighbor-- is simply ridiculous!

To reconcile what isn't with what is was simple: I planned a short unit to study Canada before we finished our novel and moved to the next unit. We are reading Hatchet, which is set in Canada. Where in Canada I don't know, nor does Brian, the main character. When the pilot of this very small, two-seater airplane had a heart attack, his jerking movements knocked the plane miles off course. How far, neither Brian nor the reader knows, except that it's just far. So, I located a map of Canada and started trying to deduce where in Canada Brian is. I took the question the next day to my sixth-grade Gateway students. We started in Hampton, New York, as provided in the novel and moved northwest, aiming for the tundra oil fields, where Brian's dad works. One course took us over Hudson Bay. There is no mention of such a huge body of water in the novel. We finally concluded that there simply is no way to figure it, except through approximation.

That led me to creating a short unit on Canada. I ordered a coloring book of Canada with provinces, lakes, towns, and maps of Canada. First, students colored the provinces, learning them as we colored, Next, they cut out the provinces, creating smallish puzzle
pieces which they put together, learning the geographical placement along the way. Then they quickly researched a province for its capital and one tourist site.

I took notes as they presented their brief reports of their provinces. Here are some of their findings:
Hotel Frontenac in Quebec City is the most photographed hotel in the world.
New Brunswick is the Lobster Capital of the world.
Nova Scotia has the most extreme tidal range in the world.
Yukon was the site of gold mining in the late 1800's.
Northwest Territories experiences the aurora borealis.
British Columbia has 25% of all grizzly bears in North America.
Prince Edward Island produces the most blueberries in Canada.
Alberta and British Columbia are sites of the Canadian Rockies.

The next day I gave them a surprise quiz: smallest province, largest, most islands, an island province, the most western, one bordering New York (our character's home and starting place), one bordering other states, and so on. Nearly everyone made an A.

Today I found calendars on sale at our local shopping center. One had gorgeous photos of the aurora borealis, two taken in the Northwest Territories. I bought it to so I could place those photos on our bulletin board. Another calendar depicted "majestic mountains." I'm hoping that the locations are named and Canada's Rockies are among them. Just checked, and they aren't!
aurora borealis over the Northwest Territories

So, we've learned a bit about Canada. I'm glad to report it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

                                           My coffee set from Tunisia

Pottery items are available in the street markets in Tunisia, a water-sourced country in North Africa. It's not heavy pottery, but fragile, not like limoges, but craftier. I worried about packing this, but every item made it back to America safe and sound. My trip was in 2005 when I went with a seminary class in New Testament fathers of the church.

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.