Sunday, October 5, 2014

wishful

Wish (verb)  feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen.

Wishing means wanting a thing or experience you cannot possibly have no matter what you do. In short, wishing means wanting the impossible and today I want impossible things.

I wish it was still September with gloriously bright 70 degree days instead of blustery October full of drizzle and grey.

I wish I wanted to eat my vegetables as much as I want to eat candy corn and chocolate.

I wish students would grammar and spell check before turning in their papers.  I wish I could spend my time giving them meaningful feedback instead of simply serving as a proofreader.

On that note, I wish all the kids struggling with sentence structure were in one class instead of scattered throughout the day, and the kids who need pointers on language use had class together (yeah, buddy, "I seen you got that wrong there"), and the kids who need help understanding verbs (the myriad of tenses and choices and their general necessity to every sentence's meaning) had class together.  That would make teaching writing a quadzillion times easier.

I wish my knee would stop hurting and the medicine to make my knee stop hurting would stop hurting my stomach.

I wish I could reason with wingnuts. 

I wish Jax would quit pooping underneath the clotheslines.

I wish Rose would leave the houseplants alone.  (I covered the dirt with aluminum foil, we'll see if that keeps her out.)

I wish I never had to repeat myself when giving instructions.




Spill it, reader.  What do you wish?




Sunday, September 28, 2014

cat gets mouse!

What an exciting week around here!  Rose officially became a mouser on Friday and since tasting fresh meat, she has a new passion.  It's kind of funny, though, as Jax follows her around every time we let her outside.  On one hand, it's nearly impossible for her to catch and eat a mouse when 80 pounds of panting, furry, galumping beast breathes down her neck.  Nothing subtle about good ol' Jax.  On the other hand, he's a bit chubby, so following her around provides him with vital exercise.  The trick seems to be sneaking her out the front door when he's at the back door.

Look at Rose with her first mouse!
 In other news, I enjoyed a second meeting with my rheumatologist since my pint o' blood got analyzed.  Turns out I do NOT have gout!  I DO have some weird genetic positivity for HLA-B27, which sounds robotic but not medieval like the gout diagnosis did. This business manifests itself in random joint swelling, in this case my right knee.  Two thirds of the small percentage of people who suffer from HLA-B27can get permanent relief with treatment.  He recommended a year of drug therapy which won't take effect for a couple of months.  Meanwhile, it's wait and see for me.  I'm sticking to low impact stuff, no running for now, but I can tolerate using the elliptical, bike riding and Just Dance 3.  This continues my kabash on karate for now, too.  Mr. T and I planned to return to the dojo this winter, hopefully my knee will respond and heal and I can return to regularly scheduled programming for another decade or so.

Shaking it down and OWNING the Monday night dance off with Team Testosterone.
 We cleaned out one garden this weekend and the pumpkin patch.  My hands and forearms are full of that goofy rash reaction I get to pumpkin/squash vines.  The mosquitoes are wretched, too, so my back, legs and arms are covered with itchy bites.   Such a gorgeous weekend from start to finish.  We watched the home team win the Homecoming football game Friday night (Go Happyland High!), enjoyed Mr. B's football game, Mr. G's flag football game, yard work and even picked some apples at the orchard down the road. 

Mr. G picked about 20 pounds of Cortland and MacIntosh apples.
I also had a fantastic opportunity to hear from the head of Awana International this weekend and the man who heads up Africa's Awana clubs--yeah, you read that right, AFRICA.  As in the entire continent.  Pretty awesome to learn how God is at work changing so many lives in radical ways.  And the NUMBERS.  It's jaw dropping to learn about the work our sister church in Burkina Faso has done, and how marvelously they've knitted together well digging and children's ministry and literacy and job training for people in the world's 3rd poorest nation.  It was also cool to learn now Awana has changed with the times and become a more effective ministry than ever as it creatively responds to the needs of people.

What else?  Mr. T set a new PR in cross country on Thursday night.  I'm swamped with papers to grade.  My students are nice people (just a few exceptions) and a pleasure to work with--a few crackerjack writers have emerged already, and the AP Language & Composition class has their first taste of real work as I've assigned Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness this week.  That will be our only class novel, it's glorious for use of language, mood and narration.  After writing literary analysis essays about it in another week, they'll approach a synthesis writing assignment using the book, King Leopold's Ghost (nonfiction) and Apocalypse Now. 

Mice, pumpkins, new drug prescription, big stuff in Africa, papers to grade.  Yep, that about sums it up.  Spill it, reader.  What's new in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

that little greenhouse project

I did promise pictures of my side endeavor ages ago, didn't I?  I'm trying to make good on my word in several areas lately, so let's get after it, shall we?

Walking from our driveway to the GINORMOUS MAN CAVE, you see a sidewalk leading to the edge of the building. 


Behold!  That, friends, is the perfectly situated location for my Barbie Dream Greenhouse (TM).  It's in full sun all day long in a grassy area and the metal building provides a break from the wind and reflects the sun's heat, too.  


You may recall that a greenhouse was my perk in the whole GINORMOUS MAN CAVE deal.  I've wanted one for quite some time.  After months of research, I settled on the RIGA IV, a German-designed 9X17 greenhouse constructed less for beauty and more for endurance in harsh weather.  It's also among the more affordable greenhouses. 

I ordered my kit last summer and it arrived only to sit in the shed's garage for the entire winter because last fall turned ugly fast and by the time I had help rounded up to put it together, snow covered the ground.  I had to wait ALL WINTER LONG, people, and look at my dream greenhouse in boxes.


The next issue I faced, once this thing got put together, was the raised beds.  I went round and round on this, because my greenhouse is on a concrete slab.  Wood would rot, you see.  Finally I settled on the affordable choice of stock tanks purchased from Fleet Farm.  I could fit 2 of these babies at a time in the back of the Momvan.  A few trips later, I had 5 tanks (2 feet deep by 2 feet wide and 5 feet long).  I bought some styrofoam insulation to rest them on and filled them with 6 inches of clean crushed gravel topped off with 18 inches of good composted soil from my favorite landscaping guy, Kirk.  These steel tanks are durable, rot-proof and will help retain the sun's heat in the winter.


Seed selection was my next hurdle.  Johnny's Selected Seeds has a nice variety of greenhouse seeds, so I placed an order.  Above you can see how my romaine lettuce has started well.  Also planted:  bibb lettuce, mixed greens, arugula, cucumbers, beets, carrots, onions and cherry tomatoes.

That there is the first cuke shoot.  Pretty cute, isn't it?


The day I planted I started a daily journal documenting what got planted when and how well it grows.  Ideally we'll be munching on freshly grown veggies year-round here.  If things go as well as I hope, we'll be able to sell some, too.  All the seeds are organic, heritage types and I'll have to study how quickly they grow to begin estimating the greenhouse's production capacity.  This is my first season, so I started conservatively.  Already I see I have room to plant more, it's a question of what and how.
 

I most definitely have room to plant starter seeds for summer gardening.  I love the built-in shelves running the length of the one side.  They're the perfect height for working and I haven't yet dragged over the rest of my garden tools and pots and such.  I also need to find a stool for sitting on and a heater for an auxiliary source in case the temps dip really low like they did last winter. 

Also cool: the self-opening vents in the roof.  On a hot day, they open all the way.  I have no idea how they work, but between them and the back window, which can lock in any position, things won't scorch. 
 In other garden news, things are mostly yellow and purple around here.


I've gotten behind in some parts of the yard work.  In another week or two I'll have to clean up this mess.  Meanwhile I just pick things when I feel like eating them.  As usual, there are too many damn tomatoes ripe exactly when school starts.


Now the cricket chirping gets punctuated by geese honking as they fly overhead.  Today was a bright, balmy day.  You have to cherish those in the fall because you never know if it will be the last.  Mr. T and I enjoyed a walk through the woods with Jax.  Already leaves cover parts of our trail and a bad storm the night before left some obstacles of fallen branches and puddles.


Mr. G buzzed by on the little four-wheeler, disrupting our peaceful stroll with his racket. 

That's the sum of things today outside.  I felt grateful for all of it--the flowers, the woods, the quiet and the noise.  Most especially I appreciated the space to escape into after spending most of my week inside Room 212 without a window.   I do miss the outdoors.  And not having to wear shoes all day.

Spill it, reader.  What made you grateful this weekend?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

chillin'

It's gloomy and chilly out today, the final punctuation marking summer's end.  The news says we're supposed to get our first frost tonight.  I guess we need the cold to help us appreciate the heat.

And speaking of cold, Room 212, my current digs every week day from 7:30 - 4:00 has been freezing.  Bone-aching, knee-shaking, muscle-quaking COLD.  When I take attendance, little puffs of steam escape from my lips.  I kid you not.  It's an old building and the temperature fluctuates from one extreme to another and it seems Room 212 is positioned directly beneath the main blower for the entire building.  All the cold air intended for a three story building flows directly down on me and my students, then dissipates through the door to points beyond.

This wouldn't be bad if it were winter, but getting dressed in muggy 80 degree weather (and subsequently sweating as one feeds children, stuffs lunch bags, scoops the litter box etc.) makes it tricky to transition to tundra-like conditions.  I cannot bring myself to pull on a wool turtleneck while I'm sipping lemonade to cool down.

But today?  Oh, mercy!  Today I opened the door to Room 212 and a BURST of heat flowed over me.  So much heat in fact that the mob of freshman boys who congregate in the hall outside my room each morning remarked upon it.  "Wow!  It's HOT in your room!"

Indeed it was.  And do you want to know how much more quickly time passes when one isn't hunched over their knees trying to conserve their body heat?  Five times is my estimate.  The hours go five times faster when my body feels warm.  I daresay I even perspired a little, dressed as I was beneath three layers of clothing since I had no way of knowing the building would switch over from air conditioning to boiler last night.

Sweet, sweet heat.

But that's not all the good news!  The cleaning lady came today and every nook and cranny here at Chez Green Girl is sparklin' clean. 

AND that narrative essay I assigned the students for today?  Only THREE kids (out of 130) didn't turn in rough drafts--and out of those three, two had reasonable excuses.  That's a percentage UNHEARD OF in the modern classroom.  From what I saw during their first peer editing session, most of them rocked it, too.  

Spill it, reader.  What great things are happening in your neck of the woods this week?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

1,500th post and a really big deal

I noticed on my dashboard that this is my 1,500th post, which makes my big news here feel nicely rounded off.  Fifteen hundred posts!  That's a lot of Muttonchop Mondays, meaningless fritter, gratuitous photos of Team Testosterone, tales of yetis in the Back Forty, photos of my garden and other stuff.  Fifteen hundred! 

When I started writing this blog I was a SAHM feeling isolated and lonely with only my (much younger at the time) kiddos to keep me company all day long.  In that time I've made amazing bloggy friends and even visited several, I've gotten a couple of books published, planted a few thousand trees, achieved a second degree black belt (and caught that sword!) and completed some major home improvement projects.  Life has blessed me abundantly.

That said, I've spent a lot of time in the past couple years wondering what is next for me.  I've asked God to send me a clear sign--what's the best use of my skills and talents?  Where do I belong?  Working? Staying home? Writing? Selling organic produce? 

Last spring I got called up to cover a maternity leave for a high school English teacher, which was my former occupation before having three kids.  I had no current resume, my license was expired and I wasn't actively looking for any work, but I took the opportunity because it was a chance to get to know the school Mr. T would attend this fall and it was a good match since I used to teach senior English.  The gig was right up my alley, and I actually enjoyed being back in the classroom.

Summer came and lots of people asked me what I would do this fall.  I'd shrug and say I had no particular plan.  They'd press, "Not going back to teaching? _______ really liked you as their teacher."  I'd reply that I appreciated the complement, but wasn't looking for just any teaching job, so no, I had no resume to send around, wasn't taking any credits (I have a Masters plus some, what is the point?), I was letting God handle the details.  I'll probably write a little, edit some and sell lettuce out of my greenhouse.

Two weeks ago the same principal called me while I was getting a haircut. The woman I'd subbed for had lined up something else, any chance I'd come back and be the senior English teacher?  The course load would be English 12 and Advanced Placement Language & Composition.  I already knew the staff, building, basic expectation of the job.  I knew a fair number of the kids from overseeing a junior study hall last spring, and I'd developed three months of the year's curriculum.  In short, the job is perfect for me and in a lot of ways I'm perfect for the job.

Five days later I passed out one of the crappiest syllabi in the history of education in a classroom that I'd rigged to functioning.  The DPI had my request for an extension of my expired teaching license.  I've patched together a clipboard from a board and a binder clip.  I've re-purposed the classroom podium as a bookshelf out of necessity and preference.  I've dumped two boxes of baking soda on the carpet to absorb the smell of sweaty feet.  I'm teaching familiar concepts (the personal narrative and how to peer edit seemed like a good starting point) to a great group of twelfth graders.  The class of 2015 is huge, so I have an overload (discovered two days before school started when I realized I had SIX rosters in my hand instead of FIVE).  The boys outnumber the girls 3-to-1, but I live with all boys, so I can handle the maxed-out testosterone levels.  I'm learning their names, most of them are called Zach or Jacob, so it's mostly a matter of designating last initials.


My adjustments include removing a few volunteer posts from my calendar and phoning a friend who cleans houses.  Mr. D will have to step up more and Team Testosterone will learn responsibility and independence.  Now when I say I won't look for laundry that didn't make it into the basket, I really mean it. They'll have to go around in dirty clothes or figure it out--and I'll be too busy to notice or care.

Teaching full-time is a BIG change, not at all what I expected to happen.  I learned a long time ago that people make plans and God laughs while overriding their plans.  I never thought I'd return to teaching high school, which shows what I know about anything.  But I know this: He's got my back. He provides. 

So, it's Sunday night and the laundry's done, the pantry's full and I've got a week's worth of decent lesson plans to get me through until next week.  Beyond that I can only guess what will happen next.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

dragonflies

Today's gift:

We got home from school and Mr. B's football game and the sun still shone low on the horizon.  Almost eighty degrees, low humidity, no wind.  I stood for a moment to appreciate the perfection of the weather and the light glowing across the lawn, through the trees, when a steady, spiraling sort of movement caught my eye.

At least 50 dragonflies swooped and swerved, feasting on some new hatching of insect.  Like sun dust, the air was full of tiny specks.  If I focused on one, floating midair for a few seconds, I was rewarded by the sight of a dragonfly snatching it into its mouth. 

The bug buffet hovered softly, like gentle snow, illuminated by the sun's last rays of the day. The dragonflies zipped in every direction, turning on a dime to snap at the bugs.  I lay on my back to enjoy this amazing display and was rewarded by the scene drawing close enough that I could hear the buzz of the dragonfly wings beating and count each segment of their bodies as they passed over me, a mere foot or two from my face.



© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved 

Monday, September 1, 2014

endings

The very last day of summer vacation.
The very last book to give away.
The very last winner.

Congratulations, Jen on the Edge!  You are just warped enough to enjoy The Recently Deflowered Girl by Edward Gorey as much as I did.  I promise it will arrive at your door in less than a fortnight!

In other endings, about three weeks ago Mr. T started with this:






With a LOT of help from his brothers, his parents and his friends,


five impact screwdrivers, a heavy duty cart, two bottles of bug spray, 


He reached the end of his Eagle Scout project.



An 800 foot boardwalk through Happyland Elementary's Nature Center.
Whew!

(I'm bursting with pride.)

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved