Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poetry Lesson

Poetry is not a form of writing that comes natural to me let alone be feel adequate in teaching my students any techniques.  My colleague offered to come in and teach a lesson on writing poems.  It was a success.  Betsy modeled how to zoom and focus our invisible binoculars to see the details.  She read a poem and then shared the process of a poem that she wrote herself.  We went outdoors and first wrote down any general details of whatever catches their eye and then digging deeper, zooming in to notice the more specific details. 
We took our notes back to the classroom and she showed us how to put our ideas together to form lines in a poem.  I was amazed at the ideas the kids came up with.  They were a bit hesitant at first but once they began to put details together poems began to emerge. 
Betsy showed the class her journal and the entire process of observing, taking notes, reworking the poem and then the final product. 
At first the kids were hesitant to share as poetry writing is new and they were insecure but when we began to praise them many more wanted to share.
After Betsy left we had a heartfelt discussion about why it's difficult for some to share.  I was amazed at their honesty.  Here are their responses:

Worried others would make fun of their writing
A few students confessed that someone had told them that their writing wasn't good
Not sure of their own writing ability- think they aren't good writers
Afraid to share their writing that is personal revealing what others don't know about them
Feel like they are on a stage performing when they share and get nervous

We came up with some strategies that would help everyone feel safe to share and how we can be inspired by sharing our work. 
They revealed a lot about how they feel as a writer.  I wished I would have had this discussion earlier because I could have tried to create a safer environment for sharing.  I realize now that I need to have regular small writing celebrations. 

So, I challenged myself to make an attempt at creating a poem.  So here is my attempt.  Please be warned that it is my first attempt.  :) 

pink scaly skin 
wiry thin hair
cloven toes

curly tail
that wiggles
back and forth
and springs back
like a slinky

notched ears
beady black eyes

round pink nose
wrinkled up
back and forth
digging in dirt
like a shovel
flinging dirt in the air



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Grandma's Purse

I've inherited my mother's and my grandmother's passion for saving items. When I read Robin's post titled Questions  today I began to look around at all the eclectic collection of items in my house.  Most of them have some story behind them whether it be how I acquired it or who it belonged to. 
When my grandma passed away and my mom began the daunting task of sorting through about 70 years of accumulation.  And believe me my grandparents having lived through the depression saved everything! 
All of the grand kids including great grand kids were invited to come to the house to choose some items to keep.  The rules were that we drew names and we each went in to choose one item that had particular special meaning.  Once we each had one item we then could pick whatever else we wanted. 
When that day came I had no idea what I was going to choose.  I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up and they had so many neat treasures.  But what I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of grief while I watched my cousins carry one and then another of my grandparents treasured out of their house.  It just didn't seem right. It just hit me like a ton of bricks that my grandparents were gone. How could I possibly find just the right items to save to keep their memories alive?
Glancing around I spotted on their buffet in the kitchen Grandma's purse.  It had thin worn leather handles attached to the wicker purse.  I turned the buckle on the front and opened up the purse.  Inside was an eclectic collection of items that she carried with her when she left the house.  There were fingernail clippers and well worn emery board just in case you might have a nail issue.  If you had a clothing malfunction she had a mini sewing kit which included tiny scissors, buttons, safety pin, thread and needle.  Evidence that my grandparents were generous was a red poppy that you receive when you give a donation on Veteran's Day.  There was a card from a funeral that they attended of an elderly lady from the neighborhood.  Grandma was always making lists and on the back of an envelope was a to do list with polishing the car at the top something that she always made sure happened on a regular basis.  She also carried band aids for any small wounds that happened on the go.  There was a set of spare keys and a homemade IN CASE OF EMERGENCY card with important phone numbers handwritten on it.  There were a few other items in Grandma's purse.
Grandma's wicker purse sits on my dresser in my bedroom with all of the items remaining in the purse bot now years later I understand why I brought home that purse that day. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Farm Reality

Stepping in the barn on Friday after school I was met with Miss Audrie (My step grand daughter) chasing the bottle baby, Lily as the lamb squeezed by me with its lead rope trailing behind.
"Look Kris I'm training my lamb, Lily"  Audrie said to me with a grin on her face.
"Yes, I see that you are doing a fine job!"  I chuckled.
Ashley looked up from her job of sorting lambs and cleaning pens preparing for our 4-H club lamb sale that we were going to have later that evening.
"Audrie really wants to keep the bottle baby but I told her that we have to put her in the sale."  Ashley explained to me. 
Just at that moment the lamb came running back in with Audrie in tow.  Then the conniving began. 
"You know I really would like to keep Lily!  Do we have to sell her?"  Audrie began. 
"Well, it's like this when you raise farm animals you can't keep them all.  You can only keep the best ewes that will make good mamas.  If someone wants to buy Lily we have to sell her."  I tried explaining the farming realities to a five year old knowing that Audrie wasn't really understanding or wasn't ready to face those realities.
"But... I think Lily is the best and I could take care of her when I come to the farm.  Please..."  Audrie begged.   
My heart was beginning to melt.  
"Well, maybe we could keep her"  I said.
With that Audrie ran out of the barn, paused to look up at her dad and Ashley.  "Kris has a good idea!  She thinks that we should keep Lily" Audrie said excitedly.
Her dad, Jake just grunted, not really thinking that it was a good idea.
Later that evening when the parents and kids began to arrive looking over lambs trying to decide which ones they liked.  They were climbing in the pens grabbing lambs up, trying to set them up.  Checking the size of their loins, stepping back and writing numbers down. 
During that whole time Audrie was in Lily's pen standing over her, protecting her, or maybe hiding her.  Above the chatter I could hear her exclaim, "If anyone tries to buy my lamb, I will talk you out of it!" 
Let's just say at the end of the sale there was a few lambs left, Lily was among them and there was one happy girl.
Well, I guess there is time to teach Audrie the realities of farming ... later. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Unusual Spring Break

While people were heading south for warmer weather and hanging out at beaches I went north for snow.  I know you are probably thinking she is out of her mind!  That may be the case but regardless of that it was an amazing weekend.
When we left the farm Friday there was mud everywhere. The sheep were wallowing in mud, Hoss's belly was dripping mud and you couldn't walk anywhere without getting mud on you.  But as we headed north the closer we got to the Mackinaw Bridge the mud was replaced with snow.  Not only that but it was beginning to snow so hard we couldn't hardly see, cars were in the ditch and the road was covered in white.  I was getting more excited the farther we went north. 
After crossing the bridge and heading west across the upper peninsula we were meeting fewer and fewer cars.  The snow was getting deeper and deeper. 
We stopped at the party store, The Bear's Den, just before arriving at our destination.  Brad said, "This is crazy!  I am sick of the winter and the cold!  And here we are!"
I couldn't help myself but I was excited to hit the trails on my snowmobile the next day. 
The next day we bundled up in our snow gear.  I packed my bag on the back of the snowmobile with our drinks, snacks, handwarmers and extra mittens.  As I strapped on my helmet and jumped on my trusty Ski Doo snowmobile I couldn't help but get a little adrenaline rush.  I knew the banks along the road were steeper than I was used to jumping and I was hoping that I would be able to make it without dumping it. 
As I approached the bank down the road it was probably five feet tall.  "Yikes!" I said to myself in my helmet.  Brad skidded his snowmobile sideways, squeezed the throttle and jumped the bank landing perfectly on the other side.  He turned and looked at me.  I shook my head but I knew he wouldn't come to my rescue so I took a deep breath and I did the same as Brad.  I landed safely on the other side and away we took off across the snow covered potato field. 

Outside the window of Pine Stump Junction
There wasn't a sign of any other snowmobile tracks as we buzzed across the field with the morning sun glittering off the fresh fallen snow.  I took a deep breath and thought this is awesome!  A perfect spring, April day! 
For most of the day we were about the only ones out riding, once in a while we would pass a group of other spring break riders. 

Crisp Point Lighthouse
We stopped at Pine Stump Junction to grab some lunch before hitting the trails again.  There were a few others in the bar enjoying one of the last riding days of the season.  When one of the riders asked the bartender if they would be open next weekend responded with "Nope! We will be closed until May unless we get anther snow blast."  It just seemed so strange when the U.P. is busy with avid snowmobilers and then becomes the quiet no mans land by April. 
After lunch we took the trail towards Lake Superior heading for Crisp Point Lighthouse.  We wound our way around the trails with the sun shinning bright in the sky.  While navigating the Moguls and the curves I began to sweat in all my snowmobile gear.  I unzipped my coat letting some of the cool breeze in. 

Finally we reached end of the trail which opened up on the beach of Lake Superior.  We rode along the beach and then climbed the dunes.  We rode our snowmobiles on top of the snow covered board walks that in the summer you walk on but in the winter you wouldn't even know they are there.  Lake Superior was completely ice covered which has not happened in over 30 years. 
I smiled a bit when I began to recall a year and three months ago in this very spot.  It is hard to believe but last Christmas we rode up to this exact spot with a large group and my son-in-law, Jake proposed to my daughter right on the beach!  They walked along the beach and as we all watched he got down on one knee to propose.  Now just a little over a year later they are happily married.

Brad playing!
As we began our trek back towards home I began to think about Trent.  Snowmobiling always makes me a bit nostalgia because I have so many memories of our family going together.  While I was riding along I began to realize that I hadn't really felt Trent's presence lately.  So, I did a shout out in my helmet, "Hey, Trent where have you been buddy?  I need a sign."
Shortly after that thought we stopped at an intersection that would normally be busy but was just Brad and I.  Brad hopped off his machine and headed for my trunk bag on the back of my snowmobile.  "Hey!  You are such a turkey! You didn't zip up your bag again!"  He scolded me.  I looked behind me and sure enough the zipper was undone. My bag was empty not a thing left in it.  "I am sure that I zipped it up!"  I replied defensively. 
On a closer look we realized that the zipper had given out and on the bumpy trail outside of the lighthouse it had probably come loose opening it up to let out all the contents.  I could visualize the trail that was left behind like Hansel and Gretel... water bottle..... Snickers...... mitten..... Life Water..... trail mix.... mitten....Ski Doo hat....  There was no way I was going to go back on the rough trail to pick up all of those things.  I said a silent goodbye to my hat and mittens which I really liked.  Then I grabbed a handful of snow because I was thirsty and thought "Trent you are a stinker!  This was your sign wasn't it?"  True Trent fashion.
Then off we went heading towards home. We went through the barren and charred area that was once a forest but was ravaged by fire just two years previously.  The trees that were left were blackened.  Working our way back then through what we call the Plains, then through the woods and finally back across the potato field.  The sun was beginning to slide down the horizon and it was shinning in my helmet.  I pulled out my camera to get a few shots of Brad zipping across the snow covered field. 
The next day as we were heading home in the truck it was another beautiful sunny day.  I looked up in the sky and there circling above the trees was a bald eagle.  It was soaring just above us seeming to just float in the sun. Eagles are another sign from Trent (that is another story). 
So, while everyone else is going south and sunbathing on the beach I was going north and snowmobiling on the beach!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

95 Years

Today we celebrated my Grandmother’s 95th birthday. She just recently broke her hip after having 95 healthy years.  Up until the day she broke her hip she was driving everywhere she needed to go, gardening, cleaning her house, going to church … well pretty much whatever she wanted!  My parents made the hard decision to have her placed in an assisted living house where she is well taken care of but she is depressed.  While I was visiting her a few days ago she told me that she always thought it would be neat to live to a ripe old age but she said now there is no use for her.  In her words, “All I want to do is go home!”  It’s hard to see my grandma giving up on life when she has always been the one who looks on the bright side of things.  I know it must be difficult when you have been so active.  Then the rug is yanked out from under you and you are relying on everyone to take care of you. 

So, when she says that she doesn’t want any more birthdays all I can say is “I do!” but that is only a selfish reason especially since she is the last grandparent that I have alive.  I’ve realized too late that I wasn’t listening enough to my grandparents because I really don’t know enough about their life stories and their life experiences. 

After visiting with Grandma before her party she was wishfully thinking about spring planting her flowers.  She was born with a green thumb and could probably turn a weed into something beautiful.  So, I bought her some Gardenia tubers, her favorite flowers, along with the supplies to do some gardening at her new assisted living home.  But it didn’t seem personal enough so I wrote her a tribute.  Here is what I wrote:

Many of you are probably thinking what was life like 95 years ago for women when Grandma /Viola were born?

If you lived 95 years ago you would probably driving a Model T Ford at a treacherous speed of 30 miles per hour so I figured that is where Grandma picked up her need for speed when traveling to town to get groceries, get her hair done or deposit their daily gas station earnings in the bank.

If you lived 95 years ago new inventions like the vacuum cleaners, wringer washing machines and electricity were developed to make the woman’s domestic duties much easier to do so they had more time to entertain their friends.   During that time it was the woman’s desire to be the perfect housewife while their wonderful husband was off bringing home the bacon.  They would tie on their apron and quickly wash windows, scrub the floors , polish the silverware, hang out their delicates on the clothes line in the back yard and don’t forget to prepare a three course meal .  Just before their husbands were to arrive home they made sure to change into a nice dress, have the hot meal on the table and be waiting at the door with a smile on their face greeting their perfect husband because their job for the rest of the evening was to make sure he was a happy camper. 

Grandma has always had that ability to be the perfect housewife. She always has a house that is perfectly spotless and it didn’t matter if you stopped by for an unexpected visit.  I swear you can eat off her floors and well the windows you couldn’t even tell that there was even a window there because they are so spotless.  As for her laundry well if there was a stain she has some secret household recipe that would erase it like it wasn’t even there to begin with. 

Although you might be thinking that life as a housewife was all hard work well they found time to have fun.  With the invention of the phone you could keep up with the local gossip especially because they had party lines where you could listen in on your neighbor’s conversations which I am sure they never did.  Local gossip for example was did you know Betty got a new refrigerator which costed 285$ and how in the world could she afford that, or did you see Sharon’s new outfit that I swear was showing way too much leg out in public!  Yes they were beginning to wear dresses that showed their knees! Shocking!  They were also beginning to wear lipstick and cut their hair.   Those days were definitely risky! It was important though to keep up with your friends so you had to make sure that you were always dressed to the nines.  Grandma is still trying to keep up!  She won’t be caught without her hair done up, nails perfectly painted and her lipstick on.  As for her outfits you won’t catch her off guard because she always has on well pressed pants with a matching top!

With all the new household appliances being invented women had time to join clubs or organizations Such as bowling leagues, meeting with the church ladies, or having your neighbor ladies over for a tea.

If you were single 95 years ago you might be going to amusement parks or dance clubs.  This was also the era where alcohol was prohibited so if you liked to live life on the edge you may have attended speakeasies or carried a garter flask.  Now, this could put Grandma in a whole new light. Maybe she will share a few stories?   Women were even allowed to play some sports that were considered lady-like such as tennis, golf and yes even swimming. 

So as I began to reflect on what life for women was like 95 years ago I realized that is what has shaped Grandma into the person she is and that I admire.  When people talk about their grandma’s I love to brag about mine because she is not like most grandmas.  Grandma is the spunkiest person I know with the best outlook on life even at 95 years of life.  When you talk with Grandma she always makes you feel like what you are sharing is the most important information and she always has something cheery to say that leaves you chuckling out loud.  She is very competitive and loves to beat the pants off you when you are playing Euchre but she always is innocent about it like it was an accident.  Grandma we all know that you are a secret card shark.  Grandma also takes pride in herself and living her life to the fullest potential.  She is always looking for ways to help everyone around her. At one point she was delivering meals on wheels to people younger than her!   So, grandma keep living life to its fullest!  I’m still watching and learning from a pro.  Believe me I’ve still got a plenty to learn just ask my husband who thinks I could learn few things about being a perfect housewife and that whole thing about doting on your husband? Hmmm … well, I’ll probably never master that skill like you.