The Post Not Taken

On occasion–rarely, really–my sense of humor gets me into trouble.  

Well, okay, we’ll go with “occasionally.”

Truth be told, sometimes it seems as if I kind of like it that way.  Every once in a while, though, I do what’s probably for the best and just keep things to myself.

Let’s call this post a compromise.  I’m not getting myself into trouble if I’m able to talk, well, write, my way out of it.

Like so many people right now, my daughter is in the position of being a temporary homeschool teacher.  She’s got two daughters, six and five, and they’re both at home, just as she and her husband are.  

Unlike most people, however, she’s got a father herself–me–who is an elementary school teacher.  Who, it so happens, has some time on his hands.

My oldest granddaughter is in kindergarten and the youngest in preschool.  Given the circumstances, I said, “Sure, I’ll do what I can to help them move forward with their learning.”

Over the last few days, we’ve had a few hours together.  It’s a quiet house, the kids are happy to be with me (my wife is still working out of the house), and we’re doing okay with our studies.

My sense of humor not getting me into trouble this time?  Well, here’s the Facebook post I haven’t made:

I spent a quiet afternoon with my granddaughter today, just the two of us.  In between coffee and cocoa breaks, we worked with some of the material that her teacher was able to send home.  Honestly, this kindergarten teacher thing doesn’t really seem all that hard!

I think my kinder friends would get the joke, don’t you?

 

Peep

Today, I had to run two errands.  To be sure, I’m limiting my travel to that which is essential, at least in my mind.  I went to get some cold medicine (bummer time to have a “normal” illness–my mind tends to grab it and run), and I had to get some supplies for our chickens.

We’ve just got a small flock in our back yard.  They don’t take a lot of work, and they’re a lot of fun.  I highly recommend them.

Anyway, Tractor Supply it was.  

I don’t know why, but this time of the year always catches me by surprise when I visit that store.  I walked through the door, returned the greeting given me by the clerk, and headed down the main aisle past the air compressors and garden tools.  

As I walked, I breathed through a variety of smells, some chemical and some organic, and then another sense took over: Hearing. 

What does one hear in a Tractor Supply this time of the year?

That’s right. Chicks!  

Lots and lots of baby chicks, enclosed in huge watering troughs, basking under the glow of the heat lamps suspended twelve inches or so above their feathery heads.

It was a quiet cacophony, but one it was as dozens and dozens of little peeps filled the air.  There was a sense of urgency in each of those precocial little creatures. Most were moving quickly around the enclosure as if they’d some place to go, and others were just sitting.  And peeping.

I stood there for a few minutes, just soaking it in.  Maybe I’ll need to run another errand sometime soon.

 

Virus

I’m not sure why, but I’ve done my best to keep the pandemic out of my writing over the last three weeks.

You can’t tell from reading it, but as I typed the previous sentence, I first wrote “current situation” instead of “pandemic,” as if that would make it easier.  It’s a pandemic, though, and it needs to be called that.

It’s not easy, though, and the uncertainty is making it even harder.

I’m writing this on Monday.  It’s early in the afternoon, and I’m sitting with my dog in my living room.  

Last Thursday, just four days ago, things were nearly normal at school.  

Friday morning, we were getting ready for possible distance learning.  Friday afternoon we were closing school after class this upcoming Wednesday.  

Saturday it was announced that student absences during the first three days of school this week would be excused.  

Sunday afternoon, schools were closed, effective immediately.

This morning, teachers went in to do things like empty refrigerators and turn off computers.  Make sure the trash was out. Make sure there wasn’t any food left in the classrooms that could be a problem with mice over an extended break.

By 10:00, I was gone, on my way home.  For an extended break.

And now, I’m still in my school clothes, sitting with my dog, writing and trying to make sense of it all. 

Tomorrow, I’m going to write about something else.

That said, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

 

Seed Catalogs

It’s not quite time to plant a shovel in the garden yet, but it’s almost past time to participate in that beloved yearly ritual: The Perusing of the Seed Catalog.

My wife and daughter sat over coffee this morning, their heads close together as they leafed through the pages displaying the offerings of a number of different companies.

I’ve done some looking myself, but mostly I’m saving my energy for the labor part of this endeavor (though my wife does more than her fair share of that, too). 

That said, I love the language of the activity. 

From just one, the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 23rd Annual Pure Seed Book, I find Conover’s Colossal Asparagus, Kurzers Calico Traveler Lima Beans, and the Snake of Mugla eggplant.

There’s also the Bald Head mustard and the Wild Rocket arugula, found just a few pages before the Red Ursa kale, the description of which includes absolutely no mention of a bear, red or otherwise.

Leafing on (pun intended), I find the King Tut Purple pea as well as both the Apocalypse Scorpion and Death Spiral hot peppers.  Sizzle.

The tomato listings include plenty of greens: Aunt Ruby’s German Green, the Green doctors, the Green Zebra, and the Green Giant.  There’s also the Lucky Tiger, the Mushroom Basket, and, yes, the Mortgage Lifter. True story.

Oh, and Brad’s Atomic Grape.  

Moving into the flowers, I find the Strawberry Blonde calendula and the Velouette cosmos.  Not to be passed over is the ever-popular Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate, a favorite for obvious reasons.

Wow.  So many seeds and so little time.

Lion’s Ear mint and Lucky Tiger tomatoes and the aforementioned Red Ursa kale, oh my!  (See what I did there?)

With that, I’m going to go sharpen my shovel.

 

Just Look Down

It is an 

In-between time 

Where I live

Winter is probably over, but

Do not plant a garden since

Frost is probably not

Not for another month or so

 

Sometimes the day is cool followed by a day that is warm and

Sometimes the day is warm followed by a day that is cool

Damp

Grey

More often than not

Winds from the northeast having shifted from

Winds from the southwest

 

But there is color

Glorious color

All of it less than twelve inches off the ground

 

The daffodils–always faithful–have been here for weeks

Predictable in timing and location

 

Grape hyacinths 

Their slender stalks supporting clusters of luxurious purple

 

Early dandelions 

Hugging the ground with leaf and flower

 

So many more flowers

Their names unknown by me

So much more beauty

If one takes the time to look

 

Just look

 

Say Again?

Last night was certainly interesting.

It started when I was told to, “Grab a bat.  Put it on and make sure it doesn’t wobble.”  

Um, okay.

Then, “Smack it down. Smack it down hard!  Hit it a couple of times, just to be sure.”  

Wow.

“Push with your left and cradle with your right.”

I think I can do that.

Imagine my raised eyebrows when I was admonished to, “Really get your knuckle in there and lift your bottom up.”  

Cringe!

“Keep your fingers together as you pull.  Be sure to keep your fingers together.”

Simple enough, right?

“Smooth things out with the metal rib of death, but be careful: That thing will cut you up.”

Duly noted.

“Railroad tracks and compress your rim, and a gentle touch to finish things off.”

Smack it hard, compress, then be gentle.  Check.

“Slice it off with a wire and slide it with plenty of water to keep things lubricated.”

Gulp. 

From the outside looking in, a pottery class must be really interesting to watch!

 

We’ve got a Lulu

My wife and I are dog people.

We’ve had a cat in the past, and enjoy our daughters’ cats now, but we’re dog people.  That one cat? My wife was pregnant with our first, and she wanted a baby right now.  So, we got one.  17 years, and she was a good one.

Dogs, though.  We love ‘em.

Last night, I found myself laughing the kind of laugh that’s usually reserved for the classroom.  Sometimes, during those times, a student will ask me what I’m laughing at.  

“My lot in life,” I’ll reply.  “My lot in life.”  

I always say it with a smile.

A number of months ago, maybe eight, the family two doors down went through an extremely difficult time.  Knowing they had a small dog, my wife went over to ask if they needed help with it during what was a painful transition.

My mother, in town for a visit, and I were sitting on our side porch enjoying the day as Lisa walked down the sidewalk.

Five minutes later, much to our absolute amazement, my wife came walking back down the sidewalk, a small dog crate in one hand and an even smaller dog tucked into her other arm.

We, it seemed, had a Lulu.

Lulu.

She answers to that name, so it’s stayed.  I’m all about other folks having a dog named Lulu, but I’ve got to confess I never thought I’d have one of my own.  

We’ve always been medium-sized dog owners, but now we had a little mostly-Maltese mix.  Named Lulu.

The neighbor on one side of us has a former military working dog named Ivan.  The neighbor on the other side has an aging beast that goes by JD, named after the popular sipping beverage distilled in Lynchburg, Tennessee, some 20 miles to the north of us. 

We’ve got a Lulu.

I love our dog, but that laugh?  The one I mentioned earlier? Every once in a while it hits me hard as I’m standing at the back door, yelling loud enough to be heard at the far end of the yard.  Loud enough for Ivan’s owner as well as JD’s to hear me if they were outside.

“Lulu! Lulu!  Come on, girl!”

I’m glad she’s got me.  You know I am.

 

These are Difficult Days

My hands sort of hurt, and that’s making it all harder.

There’s not a pain, per se, but a mild ache and my fingers are a bit swollen.  I (after the fact) read the label on the container, and there’s not supposed to be a problem.  That’s reassuring.

I’ve been using disinfecting wipes.  A lot of disinfecting wipes.

If you’ve read a few of these Slice of Life posts of mine, you might know that I’m a STEM coach working in a few different elementary schools.  

I use iPads with my students, since I teach a lot of computer science.

My students are mostly kindergarten through second grade.

Have you ever seen a kindergartener use an iPad during cold and flu season?  One hand is on the device most of the time, and the other hand is somewhere around his or her nose and mouth.

I’ve been using disinfecting wipes.  A lot of disinfecting wipes.

I’m not going political here, so it’s okay to keep reading.  There are two general sides to the current situation that, just today, was labeled as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.  I’m interested in hearing what both sides have to say, but mainly I’m interested in teaching kids during a difficult time that is falling during a traditional season of sickness.  In an elementary school.

Hence the wipes.  And my sore hands.  

Here’s hoping for the best.

After reading anything I wrote, if I were you I’d go wash my hands.  Just to be safe.

 

Tunes and Technology

It’s hard, sometimes, to keep track of where we are these days with technology, especially the everyday kind.

Take music, for example: We’ve got vinyl experiencing a minor resurgence in popularity, but eight-tracks are nowhere to be seen.  Cassettes are done for outside of the occasional Bruno Mars video, as are MiniDiscs (they died quicker than betamax video). CDs are apparently on their way out–but I can’t bear to throw them away–and streaming services are approaching the point of being ubiquitous.

To complicate the streaming scene, are you listening on a phone? A tablet?  A desktop? Or, and this one is new, a digital assistant like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa?

In my house, we’re doing a little bit of all that.  Well, mostly I am.

My wife, I like to think, enjoys being married to a husband who makes it all work.  Well, technology wise, that is. She’s a successful tax accountant, an incredible wife, mother, and nana, and  is someone who can do–and does–just about anything she sets her mind to.

All that said, she occasionally still asks me what kind of phone she has.  As in, Android or iPhone? She sits on a computer all day at work, yet sometimes technology escapes her.

This morning, I’m standing at the sink listening to some music, not really thinking about much. Suddenly, she bursts into the room, proclaiming, “Hey Google, turn it up!”

The volume doesn’t go up.  I’m listening through Spotify on my phone.

“Hey, Google, turn it up!” she commands, just a little bit louder this time.

Nada.

As she’s getting ready to go louder, I tell her that it’s on my phone, not through the Google assistant.

Without skipping a beat, she looks at me and commands, “Hey, Tim, turn it up!” and walks back to what she was doing.

What do you know?  That worked!

Let your love fly like a bird on a wing

And let your love bind you to all living things

And let your love shine and you’ll know what I mean

That’s the reason

   The Bellamy Brothers, Let Your Love Flow, 1975

 

Be Careful Little Eyes

When I look back over my posts to this blog, I rarely see stories that aren’t positive.  Happy, even. Sometimes reflective, but not in a “downer” way.  

I’m not the first to wish they could all be happy.

So, I’m at one of my schools today, walking down the hallway pushing a cart full of iPads, heading toward my next class, and there’s a little guy walking my direction in the kindergarten hallway.  

I recognize him from a class I’ve taught in the past (I’m a STEM coach), and I get ready to give him some sort of greeting.  There’s no way I know everyone’s name, so my greetings are usually along the classic lines of, “What’s going on, Sport?” Or “Tiger.” Or “Champ.”  In a pinch, “Good morning!” works, too.

As he gets closer, though, I realize he’s crying.

Okay, I’m an upper elementary grades guy, so this isn’t a normal thing for me.  

I’m also well over six feet tall, so the first thing I do is drop to a knee as he stops beside me.

“Hey, what’s wrong, big guy?”

Quiet crying.

“Are you okay?  Did you hurt yourself?”

He’s getting it together and doesn’t appear to be hurt, so I wait.

After a few seconds: “I’m… I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what?  It’s okay here. You’re okay here.”  I’m trying to be reassuring, and he’s getting his 6-year-old composure back.  Slowly.

His words are painful to hear, made all the more so by having them come from a tear-stained face.  “I’m afraid of Pennywise. I keep thinking about Pennywise. I keep hearing the Pennywise music.”

This is tough.  Now I have to be compassionate and reassuring, all at the same time I feel anger welling up inside of me.

“Hey, it’s okay.  Sometimes we see things that are frightening, but that’s a movie.  You know that’s not real, don’t you?” My delivery is slow and deliberate, and I’m doing my best to do that reassuring thing.

“I know.  I know.”

There isn’t anything else to say.  We stand there for a while as the features on his face ease and the crying stops.  I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere, and give him the time he needs. Eventually I leave the cart in the middle of the hallway and walk him back to his class.  A quick whispered conversation with the teacher, and I’m back on my way.

From somewhere in my past, I hear the only words I remember from what I’m pretty sure is a classic kid’s song.  

Be careful little eyes what you see.  Be careful little eyes what you see…

Sigh.