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I love to garden. It is in my blood, for my family, descended from Native Americans, German and Scot-Irish farmers, have been planting and growing food for centuries. Historically, it was the Native American women who planted for their families, so each new growing season, my hands long to dig in the warm, moist soil and plant seeds. After I plant, I wake up each morning and start the day by checking in on the new growth.

The only problem is that I live in a subdivision with only three-quarters of an acre of land. Most of it is under heavy tree shade with just small strips in the sun. I have already planted blueberries in place of shrubs and will have a little harvest in their second year of about a gallon. I also have a spot on the side of my house about 15 feet by 6 feet where I plant green beans, tomatoes, and whatever volunteers itself from the compost (usually butternut or spaghetti squash). I can’t really call it a garden for most of the year it is in part shade. The advantage of this spot is that the tomatoes are sheltered here from too much sun in late summer. The tomatoes frequently produce through December.

This year, I bought two large containers, organic humus, cow manure, and soil. Since I have an established compost pile, I also have dirt from that source. I have only grown onions, jalapeños, and lettuce in containers before this year. Because we eat these foods are raw, I put a circle of tall fencing around them to keep the neighborhood cats out. I really wanted to experiment with cucumbers and okra. I put four cucumbers and four okra plants in these large containers. The okra didn’t work out, and now there is only one plant left. It isn’t very tall, but is is producing. I also planted three other okra near the base of the cucumber plants. Only one is thriving. I placed circles if metal screening around the plants to keep the cats from digging around them.

So far, as you can see, the cucumbers are flourishing. I have eaten one okra, cooked in a homemade bean soup, but I expect to get a few more. It won’t be enough to share, though. I have five blueberry plants growing along the chain-link fence. The soil is acidic from the trees around here. In the fall, I mulch them deeply in leaf litter. They are my pride and joy. I plan to put more of them out this fall. My attempts at gardening right now appear to be ragtag and amateurish, but it is satisfying my urge to grow my own food.

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Dying–nothing new about it, really. It is just exhausting. We are all doing it– even if it is way beneath our conscious thoughts. It is just when someone we know and love dies that it suddenly rushes forth to our walking around thoughts. We then must turn to face it and ruminate on the details. For a while, it hammers inside finding its way in our speech, our words, and our attention. Just as quickly, it retreats beneath the depth just to lay low, ready for the next death.

The work in dying is not in the dying itself–that seems easy enough–it is the processing of it. The concept of death doesn’t slide as smoothly through a human experience as a soul slides–seemingly effortlessly–out of its warm human shell.

I really understand how death has been personified as a darkly cloaked, silent whisper in the night. For many of us, death comes as an uninvited and very unexpected house guest. But my soul would rather clothe death in greatness and light and more like a strong and powerful angel who taps us oh so lightly when it us our time to go home. A strong-armed, but gently winged prince coming as an escort to a better place makes more sense to me.

I wrote this because in the past year, I have lost six family members. They were great aunts, grandmothers, great uncles, an uncle and mothers-in-law. I hadn’t finished mourning the first when the next one went home.

I realize that death is inevitable for us all, but even knowing that, most of us need to have time to mentally try death on and time to DO something about it.

For example, I was called by my mother last July to come to my grandmother’s hospital bed to say goodbye. Instead, My sister and I decided to give care to her until she passed–about two weeks–all night and day–eventually bringing her home for hospice care. I was beside her when she went home. Her life or soul just effortlessly slipped out of her body. I witnessed it. She had said her goodbyes. She was surrounded by love. That loss, although I still grieve her and think of her often, was not painful.

For my mother-in-law, my husband and I were awakened early one morning to the news that she had suddenly died. I had neither time nor an ability to act. All the mental energy I spent worrying about the logistics of caring for our parents’ in their golden years in two different states, left me exhausted and in the end, didn’t help her at all. We had plans to be with her for Mother’s Day. She died the day before. We hadn’t said goodbyes, comforted her with assurances to care for her husband, or been there with her when she passed. That is painful.

It occurred to me that WE are the personification of death. When Grandma passed, although I couldn’t physically bear her body up to the clouds in a strong set of loving angel arms, I prayed that for her. She knew I was neither leaving her side nor would I ever forget her. We spoke of that for a week. For my mother-in-law, who seemed to steadily, but slowly get on in life, we didn’t share such kind words about passing. While we both told her that we would be there when they needed us, we weren’t.

The end result of these painful lessons is that Instead of making plans for a future that may never come, I will care for them now. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do hold this moment now. Don’t waste energy on worry. Don’t waste your money on flowers after your loved one died. Do it all now.

So, I am going to Lowes to buy blueberry bushes–one for each of my losses–for my father-in-law. I will plant them in his side yard with love and gentle care and will water them with my tears. He will see them bloom and the grow berries next spring. He will love them as he eats them in the summer. He will have fond memories.

This poem, by Robert Frost says it all.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
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Odorific!

One of the foibles of a teenager is their almost total preoccupation with acceptance in their peer group.  It is no more expressed than in a teenager’s use of perfume or cologne.  As an adult who is supposed to help 13 to 14 year olds become ready for the world outside of school, I frequently remind them not to publically groom themselves.  When I do, I get a variety of eyerolls and huffs, as each and everyone of them slides their brush, comb, make-up, deodorant, perfumed hand lotion and/or perfume into the a bookbag or pocket.

I was once obsessed with smell.  In fact, after spending hours helping my family pick oranges in Florida on a hot Saturday to earn money for a church field trip, I went home at lunch and applied spray deodorant to sweaty underarms. My father was livid when he smelled my questionable concoction of eau de sweat and Right Guard after sliding into a compact car with me.  He made it quite clear to me that day that deodorant and perfume were to be applied to a clean body for I smelled like a —— —– (translation:  saloon girl from France).  I learn easily.

Today at school we had an incident.  This time, the wicked perfumers made a teacher very sick.  I explained to the students sternly (who were told last week that strong scents cause asthma attacks) that scent can make people ill–allergies, asthma, and migraines are common reactions to perfume for many people. I also explained that many businesses, such as my doctor’s office, won’t see people if they are scented.  Then I boldly made a strong recommendation that perfume should not be worn in public places or where people gather inside.  I reasoned that none of us have a choice about attending school, so it is unfair that those who avoid wearing perfume themselves, must be subjected to it in the air in a crowded classroom.  Do you realize that some people cannot even go to malls because of perfume in the air? I asked.

At that moment, one of my students hissed, “So I have to go to school and stink because my perfume might make someone sick?” Answering a question with another question, I queried, “Don’t  you take a daily bath?”  He was incensed!  At that moment, I realized that perfume is more than a body scent to students–it is armor protecting them from being singled out.  Perfume for young people is a necessary social ingredient for success.

Of course, there is a difference between applying perfume or cologne in public and applying it at home.  I wanted and needed them to understand that public restrooms, classrooms, public buildings, doctor’s offices, churches, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places where people gather is no place for strong scents.  Too many people have asthma and allergies now, and those numbers are increasing as is their sensitivity.  I am one of those people.  When perfume is in the air near me, I begin to itch and my eyes burn.  What do you think?  Do you instruct your children accordingly?  Have you or someone you know had adverse reactions to scent?  Take this short survey to tell me what you think, please.

 

 

 

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yvonneeileen:

Well said, my fellow teacher. I have just said the same thing to a student and the parent. School will be the EASIEST part of a kid’s life, but he or she won’t know this for a few years.

Originally posted on affectiveliving:

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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yvonneeileen:

This blog actually hits near a topic that I plan to blog about in the very near future. How many parents squash their kids’ dreams by refusing to hear them? We teach our children to want less, but we should be teaching them to want more.

Originally posted on Michael Cogdill:

After I spoke at an event this morning, the mom of an Auburn journalism student approached, naturally incandescent with pride in her daughter. Proud, but a tad troubled, I could tell.

Someone, or a group of them, at Auburn has been filling her daughter’s head with gloom speak about her chosen profession. You’ll make nothing. Brace for poverty. Steel yourself for a life lush with canned beans and government cheese. (Not a thing wrong with either, by the way).

There is, however, something wrong with educators trying to cap the expectations of a student. Education is about broadening, not narrowing, expectations. No, that’s no sturdy realism they deliver. Nor is it refining pragmatism, teaching a kid she’ll be poor. It is, I believe, a rant of quiet resentment. A seething desire not to see the student out-soar the instructor.

In my college experience, at Georgia and North Carolina, rare…

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Whenever I have free time, I often think of drawing. It is one of the hobbies that I have that completely relaxes me. While I enjoy photography, painting, sewing, and gardening, none of those hobbies have the same effect on my mind. It is also one of the few activities that I will lose sleep doing. My medium is graphite. While I have also drawn using watercolor pencils, charcoal, and pen, I have the most control over graphite. I can push it on the paper and don’t feel rushed and impatient getting it to where I need it on the paper. My latest drawing is of Steve, my one true love. I chose a work photo and traced the proportions (the outline of his head, hat, uniform, ears, and eyes) because I struggle with getting those things down on paper. I used to think it was cheating, but many artists use trace paper to capture proportion. I also draw from either a photo or the person (if he or she is willing to sit still long enough.) Since this drawing has been going on for months, no one normally will sit that long, but I have drawn faces from just a model.

Pictured below is my progress to date. It has taken hours for me to get this far. I still have his uniform, the flag, and the hat to finish. When I am done, I will publish the results and the photo for comparison.

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The tracing of the photograph that helps me with proportion.photo (2)

Skies at Home

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While my husband fished the Eastatoe River, I watched the clouds.At fall sunset in Liberty, SC

I am a creature of the air.  Even in my dreams, I fly.  When I am outside, while the trees and ground hold my interest, the sky claims my heart.  This photo was taken while my husband fished for trout in Eastatoe River, South Carolina.  With hands clasped behind my head, I lay on a rock while clouds drifted across the March skies of deep blue. I was entranced and could have lain there for a very long time.

While the next photo isn’t of good quality (taken with my iPhone in low light), it was the deep violets and pinks painting the sky above the setting sun.  I wanted to save those colors–what a palette!  This picture was snapped at my home in South Carolina.

This next photo was taken (again on my iPhone) on a Friday night in Liberty, South Carolina.  Bradley had a game that night, and Steve and I though it was a good omen–see the “V” the sun made in the sky?  V is for victory!

The last Friday night football game at Liberty High School--Vor victory–they won.

This photo below was taken with my iPhone, and has incredible depth.  I took this near Clemson, South Carolina at Twelve Mile Park.  It was perfectly timed for the light and that was exactly what the simple camera needed to capture all the details.  I could get lost in this sky.  I love water and how light reflects off of it.  Mostly, I like the way the water interprets the sky.

The last photo was taken in Florida in early spring at Big Shoals State Park in north Florida.  I love the way the Suwannee River completely reflects the sky–even the vivid blues of that afternoon.

Sunset at Twelve Mile Park near Clemson University, SC

The sky reflected in the Suwannee River in Branford, Florida–my parents' home.

The sky reflected in the Suwannee River in Branford, Florida–my parents’ home.

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