Wrens. A Haiku

During the winter and spring, we typically have a pair of wrens who spend the night tucked into the corner of the roof on our front porch. Sometimes there is only one, and sometimes there are three. We enjoy their presence, seeing them only when the garage light is turned on.

Wrens Haiku

Soldier, You Make Me Proud

While it seems like forever ago, I was once in the military.  I joined the United States Marine Corps during my senior year in high school, and served for nearly five years before leaving and joining the United States Army (long story).  

As coincidence would have it, today marks 16 years since I retired.  (Yes, I took much satisfaction retiring on April Fool’s Day.)  My professional life has revolved around elementary education ever since, and as each year goes by I find myself remembering less and less about my military life.  Being a teacher does that to a person.

On occasion, though, I find myself on Redstone Arsenal, the local Army base here in Huntsville, Alabama.  I mostly go “on post” to use the medical facility, but on occasion I go to use the post exchange (department store) or commissary (grocery store).

Today I went to go pick up a prescription at the medical center.  I’m glad I did, because I needed the laugh.

Because of the current COVID-19 outbreak, the pharmacy is closed for walk-in service.  The medical center has, instead, devised a drive-up service that protects both the staff and the customers.

Pulling into the drive leading to Fox Army Medical Center, I immediately saw the first of many signs that directed me along my route.  Mind you, there’s really only one route to take, but the Army is nothing if not thorough.  

Arriving at the initial check in point, I was met by a uniformed Master Sergeant who smartly checked my identification, verified my prescription was indeed ready for pick up, and directed me to turn into the pick up line and see the soldier sitting ahead who would direct me to the appropriate pick-up station.

I turned off the main road (following yet another sign, just in case I didn’t understand the spoken directions), and started to laugh out loud, one of those deep belly laughs I normally save for kindergarteners.

I saw the soldier.

I have to say, I firmly believe that the United States Military has some of the finest people you can find anywhere (I recognize my bias).  We all join for a variety of reasons, but service to country is what we are all about. Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen continue to have my utmost respect.  Period.

Now, most people know that whether you’re talking about the officer corps or the enlisted ranks, everyone starts at the bottom.  My branches have 2nd lieutenants in the officer corps, and privates in the enlisted ranks. The Army promotes its enlisted soldiers to private first class after a year or so, but the junior ranks are, well, privates.  

I laughed because I knew I was looking at a private ahead of me as I rounded that corner.

Today is a beautiful day.  There’s a light breeze, the temperature is in the mid-60s, and the sun is shining brightly.

This private, the one who inspired my laugh, had been stationed at that point to direct cars as they pulled up, and she was doing a fantastic job.  Customer traffic was light, and in between cars, though, she was doing her absolute best to relax. Her hat was kicked back just slightly to allow her sunglasses-shielded face to have maximum exposure, her legs were stretched out ahead of her, and her hands were folded and resting on her stomach.  Her eyelids were undoubtedly open, but, like her limbs, they probably weren’t doing more than was required of them at the time.  

And she made my retired senior-enlisted self laugh.  

As my vehicle got closer and she heard my approach, she sat up, but until that point her world was very small.  There was a virus wreaking havoc upon the country she swore an oath to serve, and I don’t doubt she would give her all if it was asked of her, but for now, she was relaxed as only a junior enlisted soldier can relax.

Private First Class, you make me proud.

 

Found Poem

Thank you to the team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this month’s Slice of Life Story Challenge!  It’s been incredible to be a part of this community over the past four weeks. 

 Like many other slicers, I’ve spent some time this morning just looking back over the past month.  March did not end as it began; the month had highs and lows.  Looking back, I’ve taken the lead of Diane Anderson from newtreemom and arranged my titles of the last 30 days into a found poem.

To the other slicers whose work I’ve enjoyed over the last month, and to my readers and commenters,  I say thank you.  

 

March, Two Thousand Twenty

 

The Post not Taken

Metaphors

Just Look Down

I am Not a Cat

 

My Favorite Words

Too Good to Pass Up

PB and J Memories

Books

Seed Catalogs

I Like to Ride My Bicycle

An Unexpected Pleasure

We’ve Got a Lulu

Nana is Home

Hug Avalanche

 

Tests and Tech

Vintage Tech

Voting

Tunes and Technology

Devices

Be Careful Little Eyes

 

Thinking About Thinking

Learning Something New

I Might Need This Someday

Today is the Day

Virus

Say Again?

These are Difficult Days

I Wonder What Will Happen Next

When the Story Comes to Me

 

 

I Like to Ride My Bicycle

Let me get settled into my rocking chair before I begin.  Ahhh.  I’m ready.

“Ehh, let me see, where was I?  Oh, right: back when I was a kid…I mean, back when I was a kid, I just got on my bike and rode.” 

Things aren’t so easy now.  At least, not for our grandkids.

We’re blessed to have them living just a few miles down the road, but their house doesn’t have any place for our kindergarten-age granddaughters to learn how to ride.

My wife and I have a wonderful neighborhood, but–for some reason–when “they” made our streets, they gave them a tremendous crown.  True story: When my wife and I walk, we sometimes walk down the middle of the (not very busy) street so our downhill knees don’t hurt.  There’s quite a crown, and it’s not very conducive to learning how to ride a bike.

That’s a problem, because my wife and I both love to ride and dream of the day when we can all head out and just ride for miles.  Someday!

So, we pack ‘em up: The girls, the bikes, the helmets, a snack, some water, whatever the “toy of the day” is for each of the girls to carry in their baskets, and we head out for level ground.

Fortunately, we have a school just down the road that has a beautiful track.  This morning was a beautiful day for riding, and we gave it a shot. Mind you, no hair was figuratively tousled by the wind (the downside of helmets) since the girls crawled along at a snail’s pace, but we’re getting there.  Nana and I walked, the girls sort of rode, and progress was made.

It won’t be long, and we’ll be pedaling for hours.  I can’t wait! 

 

Today is the Day

Today’s the day.  

I can see it all over my dog’s face: Today is the day. 

Earlier this morning, maybe 30 minutes ago, Lulu followed me out as I walked toward the back of the yard to attend to our small flock of chickens.  She’s a tangled mess of a little black maltese mix, weighing in at about 10 pounds soaking wet, and she walked that carefree walk that dogs walk, her ears flopping gently with each step and her muscles relaxed.  

Then, she sensed the squirrel.  

Her tormentor.  The bane of her existence.  The squirrel.

She bolted ahead of me, her high pitched bark echoing off the neighboring houses.  Early on Sunday morning. Great.

This squirrel cracks me up.  She lives in the roof of one of our outbuildings, and is a constant presence in the yard.  She torments the dog intentionally, I know she does. She’ll actually walk back down the tree toward Lulu, chirping and chittering, knowing she’s safely out of reach.

As always, the squirrel left the ground and found refuge on her branch in the pecan tree.  Lulu circled the tree a few times, then took her position at its base.  The squirrel, as always, took hers on a branch some 15 feet above.

They’re both still there.  

I, on the other hand, am enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch, knowing that my ever-vigilant protector is on the job.

Today’s the day.  She will get the squirrel.  Today’s the day.

 

Vintage Tech

Have you ever known someone–heck, are you someone–who walks into a room and immediately wonders why he or she went there?  I’m not that way often, but if I had a nickel for every cup of coffee I’ve left sitting on the kitchen counter when I go to school, I could just buy a cup for both of us.  I’m forgetful. Sometimes.

Getting back to walking out the door, when I leave in the morning to go to school (and I will again, someday), I have a little chant that I say to myself: “Watch, wallet, keys, badge, phone, memory stick, whistle, love of a good woman…yep, I’ve got it all.”  As I say it, I’m patting various pockets, checking things off as I feel them.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t even carry all of those anymore.  I don’t need a whistle since, as a STEM coach, I don’t have a class to bring in from the playground.  Nor do I need my memory stick (USB drive), because, well, the cloud. My files are floating around somewhere, but not in my pocket.

Why, since I’m not at school today, did this come to my mind earlier this morning?  

Well, I’ve actually started doing some of the cleaning that I told myself I was going to do over this unplanned break, and I came across a piece of what is now vintage technology.  You know, over 10 years old. 

It’s an old “E-Book.”  Back when I was working on my master’s degree, I needed a laptop but couldn’t afford one.  E-books, computers that kept files in the cloud, were just coming out and were affordable. I didn’t like it because it didn’t have a hard drive for file storage, but it served its purpose well.

Fast forward ten years, and now all of my files are in the cloud (with the exception of the thousands of pictures living on my desktop still).  This old thing might be worth having!

The battery is charging, and I think I remember the password.  

Do I need it?  Of course not, but I’d better not get rid of it because I might some day!

Just kidding.  It’s a factory reset away from being recycled.

 

I Am Not a Cat

“I am a cat.”

“I am not a rat.”

“The little fat cat sat on the fat rat.”

The fact that we can use language, especially written language, is a miracle.  Period.

The poet Howard Nemerov, in his “September, the First Day of School,” described written language–“the alphabet, the integers”– as 

Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff

So arbitrary, so peremptory,

That worlds invisible and visible

Bow down before it…  

I’ve always loved that description, just as I love the poem.

This morning I watched as my oldest granddaughter, the subject of many of my writings, labored through some of the phrases I’d printed on a paper for her to read. She’s juuusst about got her letters and sounds down (that pesky b-d reversal, and for some reason h and k are giving her fits this week), and we’re working on sight words and consonant-vowel-consonant words.

But she’s doing it.  She’s reading. She, like countless others before her, is learning to make meaning out of those squiggles covering a piece of paper.

She’s doing it.

 

Metaphors

Honestly, I prefer metaphors when they don’t apply to me.  Really.  

I’m a person with more than a few hobbies.  I’m interested in just about everything, and over the years have dabbled (or more than dabbled) in everything from my fairly constant woodworking to my current pottery attempts. 

I’ve tried painting with a number of media, I’ve done a number of things with textiles, and I’ve even earned a bit of spending money making macrame plant hangers in the 70s.  

Those are back now, maybe I should look into them again.

Hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking are all things I enjoy doing, and I love teaching about the outdoors, so I’ve accumulated a library and collection of paraphernalia for that effort. 

Teaching is a hobby unto itself, in addition to being a full time job.

All these things, and more, have left me with a lot of stuff.  

Gardening and yard work.  I’m not going to say I love it, but I do enjoy it.  Today has been a beautiful day here in north Alabama, and I’ve been outside for most of it, doing yard work.  

Mostly, pruning: removing excess growth for the good of the larger plant or space.

That’s gotten me thinking.

Ouch.  This is going to hurt.

 

Thinking About Thinking

This morning, I’ve been thinking.  

That, in turn, has taken me to thinking about thinking.  Thinking about thinking doesn’t have anything to do with what I was thinking about, but it did make me chuckle.  

Are you following this?

In a group of teachers, when one says, “thinking about thinking,” most folks automatically bring the word “metacognition” to the forefront of their, well, thinking.  We’re teachers. It’s what we do.

Me, though, in addition to thinking about metacognition, I think about the Disney cartoon/movie Beauty and the Beast.  Have you seen it?  Lately? You’ve possibly got time on your hands–check it out again, it’s a good one.

Anyway, there’s this scene where the shallow, overbearing, narcissistic antagonist Gaston is in a singing conversation with his sidekick LeFou:

(Gaston sung)

LeFou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking

[LeFou]

A dangerous pastime—

[Gaston]

I know…

Really, it’s a classic line, and it’s worth checking out.

Like I said, though, it doesn’t have anything to do with what I was thinking about.  

I’ve been thinking about what I–and most of my readers–are doing right now.

We’re taking our words, our ideas, our celebrations, and our fears, and we’re sharing them with the world.  (Here, of course, we call them slices.)

That’s pretty cool, and that’s really, really new. The last 15 years of my life have been shared, but the first 40 or so weren’t.  

I’ve been thinking about how, through blogs, yes, but more commonly through social media, so much positivity is being spread around the world.

Unfortunately, negativity is too, but that’s the side of the coin I don’t want to dwell on right now.

To the writers participating here in this writing project, I say, “Thank you!”  

 

Note: to my readers who aren’t aware, I’m participating in a 31-day writing challenge hosted by twowritingteachers.org.  It’s awesome. Check it out.

 

Nana is Home

As is the case with most of America’s children, my granddaughters are home from school for the time being.

I’ve written before about the pleasure of being a temporary kindergarten teacher for a class of two.  I see them most days (the situation still lets us feel comfortable with that–we’re taking a lot of precautions), but my wife is normally at work.  She’s a tax preparer, and, well, ‘tis the season.

Update: It was.  Now she’s at home as well.

I call her Lisa, but my granddaughters call her “Nana.”  It’s a common occurrence for the girls to get to our house, and before they even get to me they’re asking, “Grandpa, where’s Nana?”  

I’ve gotten used to it, and it’s okay.

Today, as I’m sitting here writing this, my wife is in the kitchen with the girls.  They’re practicing handwriting with a tablet app, and I love the sound. They’re giving her play-by-play of what they’re doing, their voices in a sing-song more often than not.  The app’s music is playing softly, the girls’ banter is constant, and Nana’s unceasing interaction fills my heart with happiness.  

The world is upside down right now, but for these minutes I’m able to set that aside.  

I’m grateful, more than I can express.