Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Photo #90: Backyard Vacation

It was a beautiful day here today with a high temperature of 79. I had dinner with my friend, Jo, at Benchwarmers in Ankeny. Jo and I started working for Blue Cross and Blue Shield (now called Wellmark) on the same day in 1981, and we have been good friends ever since.

Since I was out having a good time, I did not take time to get a new photo. I took this picture on Saturday, when I was at Lowes. These outdoor rooms were so inviting, I just wanted to sit awhile and watch people stroll by. It would be perfect for my backyard on a spring day like today. I can imagine myself lighting a fire in that fireplace as the cool air settles in for the night. It would be like taking a vacation in my own backyard.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Photo #89: Mickey Liberty

This sculpture is in my next door neighbor's front yard, and I knew I would use it at least once, if not more for my daily photo. The Daily Shoot for today is: Today's theme is the color green. Make a photograph dominated by green and post it. Mickey here is dressed in green.

Mickey used to be a very large tree, and was turned into this sculpture by a chainsaw artist a few years ago. I wish I had the foresight to photograph that whole process because it was fascinating. We all watched for days, wondering what the artist would reveal from the wood of that old tree. I have seen people stop their cars dead in the street, hop out, and snap a picture. It just makes me smile!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Photo #88: Gains and Losses

Keeping this photo blog is having an interesting effect on my life. Some days are easy, things happen and it's obvious that is where my photo will come from. Other days I have to go looking for an idea. I find myself observing things more thoughtfully. I'm noticing things, I just walked past before. When an easy shot doesn't come my way, I find myself getting up and going places. Today was one of those days. I hopped in the car and began to drive around looking for some inspiration. I ended up driving out to the old Altoona Cemetery where many family members are buried.

My sister and I have been talking a lot about losses recently. We lost both of our brothers three years ago. My mother's companion, Loren died just three weeks ago, so once again we have seen my mom grieving. I find that each time you suffer a loss, you tend to revisit the previous ones.

Most of our family is buried in the new Altoona Cemetery, but I came to the old cemetery looking for Loyd's grave. Loyd was my mother's brother and he drowned when he was only 9 years old. Just a few feet away lies the grave of Rosella Burget, my grandmother's mother. Rosella died in the influenza epidemic of 1919. My grandma was only six and her sister Margaret was four. After their mother died, they were sent to live with their Grandma Strain, who not only lost her daughter, Rosella, that week, but her son as well. In this era of antibiotics, it is difficult to imagine this kind of epidemic, and widespread loss of life.

My grandmother, Lula, was a wonderful loving person. She valued family. Maybe that is because she lost her own family when she was so young. The tragic loss of her own son had to have been a horrible experience for her, and the rest of the family. She is the one who held us all together. For years I grumbled when she insisted we attend the family reunions. We lost her back in 1996. Ironically my sister and I organized several of these reunions in later years.

The thing I have gained from the loss of my brothers is that I finally learned to appreciate and treasure those people who I do have in my life. I guess my grandma must have learned that too. I am so lucky to have my mom and my sister.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Photo #87: Flooding At Gray's Lake

The local news reports that water levels at Gray's Lake are going down, so I stopped by to take a look. I'm looking forward to getting back to my walks around the lake. Gray's Lake Park is beautiful, and right in the heart of the city. Guess I'll have to wait a little, because there are ducks swimming in the parking lot, and parts of the trail are still under water. So this afternoon I will opt instead for my weekly trip to Barnes and Noble with my sister.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photo #86: Colors of Inspiration

After working in the yard this morning, I decided to take a trip to Lowe's. I'm trying to decide on a paint color for the living room. Actually I picked a light sage green color out last summer that seemed perfect, but then I lost interest in painting. Since then I misplaced the paint chip, and I can't remember what it was called. Choosing a color is something that takes me a long time. Usually I have little cardboard paint chips taped to the wall for months before I ever get around to applying the real thing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Photo #85: Three Flags

It's getting close to midnight, and I'm trying to get my picture posted before midnight. I'm proud that I have stuck with this 85 days in a row. It's been a busy and stressful day. I took this picture yesterday when I was at Gray's Lake checking out the flooding. The wind was blowing hard, and whipping these flags. This is the US flag, the Iowa state flag, and the Des Moines flag.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photo #84: The Airport

I left school at noon today so I could take my mom to the airport. She is flying back to Casa Grande today to spend another month, with the hope that Iowa will be much warmer when she comes back. I know she is also anxious to get back to her little dog, Shelby, who had to stay in Arizona when Mom flew home to arrange for Loren's funeral. When I stopped to pick her up, she handed me a list of contacts with the first line: If the plane crashes. . . I'm glad my mom is organized, but that unnerved me a bit. I assume she is on the ground in Phoenix by now, and I have not heard any reports of plane crashes. So now I can breathe a little easier.

The note ended with .... This is the first time I have had to leave word about where I would be in case something happened to me. My mom has always been an extraordinarily strong person. This is a reminder of what a difficult time she is going through after the death of her companion of thirteen years. I love my mom. I am so lucky to have her.

It was a beautiful afternoon! Bright and sunshiny, cool and crisp, and very windy. It felt great to be away from school on a weekday afternoon. I stopped by Gray's Lake, part of which is still closed, since the large parking lots are currently part of the lake. I managed to get home early enough to actually cook dinner.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Photo #83: The Walking Track

The snow and ice are mostly gone, and we can finally get back out to the walking track. We were able to build this track last year. Our PTA provided half of the money, and the other half came from Hy Vee. We built the track because the Iowa legislature passed a law requiring that students have 25 minutes of physical activity per day. Since my building has PE only once a week, we weren't sure how we would manage to accomplish this. Our kids walk for ten minutes before we go to lunch, and then they have 15 minutes of recess following lunch.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about this, but it has turned out to be a plus. It gives kids a chance to let off some steam before going to lunch. That has lead to less problems in the lunchroom. Not only are we all getting some exercise, it is also an opportunity to relax and socialize. As a teacher, it gives me some time to chat with the kids. I can tell you a lot about hunting and sports that I didn't know before this year. During the winter, we walked in the gym. That was pretty chaotic, so it is really great to get back out in the fresh air.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Photo #82: The Book of Knowledge

We had a fire drill today, and while we were standing on the front sidewalk, I suddenly noticed this book carved into the top of the building. This is an example of really seeing something that I should have seen every day. The really sad part is, that I am not a newcomer to this building. I have taught here for twenty years, but I don't remember ever noticing this book. I pointed it out to the kids, and many of them said they had never noticed it before. In our defense, it may be blocked by branches, when the trees are leafed out.

I love the architectural details of this building. The original part of the school was constructed in 1914. It has been added to over the years, and the building was refurbished 7 years ago. At that time, air conditioning and an elevator were added. I am very appreciative of those new additions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Photo 81: Easter Basket

I was getting desperate for a photo for today. I love baskets, especially Longaberger Baskets. I brought this one back from my mom's house tonight. I love the easter colors. It looks like it's just waiting for the Easter Bunny to deposit some eggs and jelly beans.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Photo #80: Jacci and Mom

I spent time this afternoon hanging out with my mom and my sister at . . . where else, but Barnes and Noble. Jacci and I have been making it a habit to go there on Sunday afternoons, but it was nice to have Mom along too. Mom spends her winters in Arizona. She had not planned to return to Iowa until the end of April. She came home to bury her companion, Loren.

We have had a lot of losses in our family during the past three years. We lost both of my brothers within five months of each other. My brother, Steve, died of cancer two years ago on March 24th, which is also my sister's birthday. My brother, Dan, died unexpectedly the October before.

If you are smart, grief teaches you to treasure the people you love. It certainly has taught me that. I am so glad to have my mom and my sister. I appreciate every minute we have together.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Photo #79: Nadine

This is my very dear friend, Nadine. She is my confidant, my moral support, my sounding board, my very best friend. I am so lucky to have her in my life. I met her in my first year of teaching, 23 years ago. We taught in the same building, and for two years we taught the same grade level and shared space in an open spaces building. It was a great way to collaborate, and much of what I know, I learned from Nadine. Even when we were teaching in different buildings and different grade levels, we often collaborated on ideas. She has been an even greater support in my personal life. She is the most caring and generous person I know.

We went out to brunch today at Mimi's Cafe. It usually takes us about three hours for a meal, because we get to talking so much. It was a great outing before heading back to school on Monday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Photo #78: Turkeys

I saw a whole shelf of turkey decoys yesterday when I was at the Bass Pro Shop. Do think real turkeys are fooled by these guys? I'm not a hunter or a turkey, but they don't look that real to me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photo #77: Bass Pro Shop

After the funeral earlier this week,and everything that went with it, today feels like my first real day of spring vacation. It is a beautiful bright sunshiny day. I decided to drive over to check out the Bass Pro Shop, which opened last August in Altoona. It is about three miles from my house. I've been curious about it since I saw the site under construction. It is an awesome sight when you drive past on Interstate 80. One of my students wrote the following story recommending it:

Bass Pro Shop
By Draven

The Bass Pro Shop has hunting, fishing stuff, clothes, and boats, fourwheels. I like the Bass Pro Shop because it's cool. I like the boats and hunting, fishing, and the fish and the target range. If you hit it right, the moose talks to you and tells you to go to the fishing stuff and hunting stuff and more stuff. I like the kids toy area because they have toy Nascars. They have simulators that make it look like you are driving a race car. I got fudge and a new fishing pole. It is black and blue. I love my pole so much. I almost caught a fish. So go to the Bass Pro Shop. I love the black boat because it's cool and it looks fast and a good boat. So have fun. So go see the Bass Pro Shop now. I want to go on Saturday and Sunday. It has a restaurant on the left side and a bowling alley. I like the Bass Pro Shop a lot. So go to the Bass Pro Shop now, and you will wan to go back again. "So have a great day at the Bass Pro Shop!"

Thank you Draven, You are so right!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Photo #76: Shelby

This is my cousin's daughter, Shelby. She is now in 7th grade. She is a great kid. She is in track, she plays the saxophone, and she is involved in 4H.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photo #75: Three Grandstaffs

The Daily Shoot for today is: Today's theme is "3". Make a photograph that features the number itself or otherwise represents 3 items.

Here are three Grandstaffs; my mom, Maxine, her brother, Gary, and her sister, Barbara, after whom I am named. We were together today for the funeral of my mom's companion/significant other, Loren. He passed away last Sunday at their home in Arizona. Not a happy circumstance, but it's always good to see family.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Photo #74: Prune It!

I spent an hour or two working in the yard this morning, dealing with the tree limbs that came down during an ice storm in January. There were ten limbs filling the yard, some as long as 14 feet. I have wondered how I was going to deal with them once the snow melted. I have had a couple of people come by offering to help me with them, for a price, and each time I said, "No I'll have to do it myself." But I wasn't sure how. Now that the I'm on spring break, and most of the snow is gone, it was time. I headed out, my trusty pruners in hand, and started trimming away the smaller branches, until the cumbersome limb was dissassembled. The job is far from over, but by tackling the job, one step at a time, the rest will be easily managed.

As I worked at this, I was reminded that this is also true of the other problems in my life. My pruners are a metaphor for the power I have to control my own life. Chip away at the parts I can handle, be persistant, and eventually I will dispose of the problem.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Photo #73: The Encroaching River

We had a difficult winter with 94 continuous days with more than five inches of snow cover. The all time record is 99 inches. After record snowfall, we began to worry about potential flooding. The ideal was a slow melt, but as the temperatures climbed into the forties and we began to see the shrinking snow banks, I couldn't help but get excited. Spring was actually coming! Now the rivers are rising and the threat of flooding is real. The sun was shining today, so I took a drive down to Gray's Lake, which is one of my favorite places to walk. The park is closed and the Raccoon River is encroaching on Fleur Drive, which is a major thoroughfare through the south side of Des Moines. The barricades are already there ready to be moved into place, once the river once again takes over the road.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Photo #72: On The Hour

My mother has a lot of clocks in her house, but this is my favorite. At the top of the hour, instead of a cuckoo, this clock barks. Instead of a bird, it's a Bichon that pops out the door. I love it, but it always catches me off guard.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Photo #71: My Droid

The Daily Shoot for today was: Electronic gadgets pervade our world. You've probably got several. Make a photo of your favorite gadget today.

Since my little blue Acer netbook has been in several photos already, I decided it had to be my new Droid. I really like my Droid, but I still don't fully understand it. I have trouble answering it one handed, because of the lock feature, and there are many things I still don't know how to do. I am having fun learning though.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Photo #70: Gifts From Vegas

I am headed to school soon to do my second day and evening of parent-teacher conferences. I took this picture on Monday. The mouse pad and beads came from one of my students, who just returned from a week long trip with his family to Las Vegas. They went so the boys could meet a grandmother that they had never seen. As soon as he gave me the beads, I put them on with my teal colored jacket. And that is what teaching is all about!

Teachers are now faced with constant criticism of what we're doing and what we're not doing. We seem to be the only ones who are responsible and at fault for the problems in education and the world in general. But it is the loving hearts and shining faces of the kids we teach that make it all worth while. This gift is a symbol and reminder of those special connections that I have with my kids. Thanks Andy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Photo #69: Library Geese

These are our new library geese. They now reside in our school library. They are very well dressed geese. Apparently they have clothes for every occasion. Now that they live in the library, hopefully they will also become well read geese. In any case, I'm sure the kids will enjoy having them there. They just moved into the library yesterday, just in time for parent-teacher conferences. Our librarian has set up a great display to show off the 200 new books that just arrived. The kids raised money for the books through a coin drive, and the PTA donated additional money. Our librarian, Mrs. Ellefson, spearheaded this entire effort. We are lucky to have her.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Photo #68: Symmetry

Today's Daily Shoot: Most of us enjoy some symmetry in our lives. Look around for it today and make a symmetrical photo.

This is an old building that was originally a school, and then later the Boys and Girls Club. A few days ago I used a photo of the weathered addition at the back of the building. The brick portion of the building has held up much better. The building is now for sale.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Photo #67: Blue

The Daily Shoot for Today is: Take care of the Monday blues by picking up your camera. Make a photograph dominated by the color blue.

I didn't get home until after seven. Then I spent about twenty minutes trying to get photos of blue. This is the one I settled on.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Photo #66: Grande Mocha Frappucino

I love Sunday afternoons at Barnes and Noble. Meeting my sister there on Sunday afternoons has become a wonderful routine. Today Jacci went to study, and I went with the intent of writing my blog post for my other blog, Prospecting for Treasure. Having a Grande Mocha Frappacino to sip on while I work makes it even better.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Photo #65: My Keyboard

In the past year I have spent more and more time on the computer. I have added technology to many aspects of my teaching and it has been the source of my learning. My computers have become the key to much of my creativity at both school and home, and a big source of my entertainment as well. This is the keyboard on my school laptop.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Photo #64: Chocolate

The Daily Shoot for today is: Food engages all the senses. Make a photograph of food that causes our mouth to water or pucker. Get the viewer engaged.

I made my semi-regular stop at Jimmy John's tonight for dinner, and I tried taking several photos of my meal. I always order the #12, The Beachclub. I wasn't satisfied with any of my shots, so I ate my dinner instead of photographing it. It was quite good, by the way, but none of the pictures I took did it justice. Somehow shredded lettuce and alfalfa sprouts are never going to be able to compete with chocolate for the look of sheer indulgent deliciousness. I decided to use this photo of Mocha Ganache that I took when I paid my visit to Chocolaterie Stam last Friday. So many choices, so little time (or money.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Photo #63: BFF -- Best Friends Forever

When I started putting on my coat to leave for work this morning, I glanced over to see the dogs nestled together on the couch. Here are Zoe and Bailey preparing for a tough day of napping. They are very different in temperament, but they are great companions, and truly best friends forever.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Photo #62: The Old Boys and Girls Club

The Daily Shoot for today -- Weathered objects have a lot of character: cracked, rusted, bleached, etc. Give us your best weathered shot today.

This building is an addition at the back of what used to be an old school building, that has served for the past two decades as the Boys and Girls Club. As you can see, it has seen better days. The club has moved to better quarters, and the building is now for sale. It's kind of sad to see this building sitting empty and abandoned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Photo #61: Applebee's

I just had a really nice dinner at Applebee's with my wonderful sister. It was great food, with exceptional company. I am so lucky to have such a great sister. The only thing I regret is that we wasted so much time quarreling and bickering when we were younger. She is my very best friend!

I have to laugh though, because I just spent a half hour posing an apple and a handful of plastic letters for this photo, just so I could represent my dinner at Applebee's. This project has me doing some very funny things.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Photo #60: Recess Equipment

The Daily Shoot for Today: During the Olympics, we saw many images of sports. Make your own photo of a sports activity, gear, or spirit today.

Our recess is chock full of sports activities and gear. We keep all the equipment on this rack, between recess times. I thought the collection of hula hoops, jump ropes, and balls was very colorful and cheerful.