Saturday, June 10, 2017

Summer School

Summer school begins on Monday!  The room has been arranged, the plans are written, and I am excited to begin.  This summer I am working as an AmeriCorps Tutoring Member, which is a new position for me. I already know a lot of the kids I will be working with.  Unlike most summer school situations, I will be meeting with students one at a time.   In my volunteer work, I have really enjoyed working with kids individually or in small groups.  It is a much different situation than being a classroom teacher with 25 or more students, and it gives a teacher the opportunity to connect and get to know students.

I have a lot of people who tell me that when they retire, they won't be going anywhere near school. That's the cool thing about retirement, you get to decide for yourself. I feel very blessed to be at a point in my life where I can choose my own path.  I love being able to connect, teach, and learn with kids, because I am always learning something new.  This is my idea of retirement, at least for now.  I am very grateful for this new opportunity.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Garden

The vegetable garden is about two thirds of the way planted.  The tomatoes and peppers are in, and a few things are beginning to sprout in the raised beds.  This year I am trying "Lasagna Gardening"  I put down ground cloth in the fall, and covered the garden with leaves.  The leaves have broken down over the winter.  I left the ground cloth, and will put down layers of mulch as we go.  I read about this on a gardening blog.  It should help me control the weeds, and there is less damage to the soil.

I started the tomatoes, peppers, and some other herbs and flowers in the house about six weeks ago.  This year I ordered my seeds from Henry Fields.  I was frustrated with how long it took them to ship my seeds, but I have to say, the plants have done well.  

I built my raised beds out of 5 hole brick that I bought at the Habitat for Humanity Restore.  This is my first time working with raised beds.  I'll let you know how it goes.  One has been planted with Yukon potatoes.  The other has green beans, radishes, lettuce, carrots and beets.  They are covered with net for the time being, to keep the bunnies and squirrels out.

Along with the vegetable and herb garden, I have lots of flower beds, which have been overtaken by weeds and grass.  I am working on them a section at a time.  My next door neighbor has raspberry bushes along the fence.  Some had crept into my garden.  I transplanted the volunteers to a corner of the flower bed.  They are looking pretty stressed right now, so I hope they will make it.  My sister also gave me lots of Day Lilies from the house they just moved out of.  It will be interesting to see what I get in the way of blooms.

I have a love/hate relationship with my garden and yard. A lot of times I have to force myself to go outside to work, but I find it deeply satisfying as I begin to make progress.  I feel proud of myself when I can feed myself with vegetables that I have grown. Nothing tastes as great as homegrown veggies!  I am grateful that I have the time and space to do this.

Wow!  There is cause for celebration.  This is my 1,000th post on this blog.  Amazing!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Change and New Possibilities

The new dog steps, and I would like to point out that those are dog toys on my bed.  

My bed is tall, and the dogs need steps to get up there.  The ones I had were only 16 inches tall, so I recently purchased a new, taller set.  The dogs were not too thrilled with this change, and it has taken them about three weeks to get used to them.  I've been frustrated with the new steps too, because they took up more space in my already crowded bedroom.

I was sitting in church yesterday, and I started thinking about a different room arrangement.  Sorry, Pastor Dave.  During the afternoon I rearranged the room, and I am thrilled with the new set up.  There is room for the steps, there is much more room to walk around and get dressed.  For the most part it is the same furniture, except making this change also made it possible to move our childhood dresser into my bedroom, which is something I absolutely cherish.  There's even room for a dog bed!

So why did it take me so long to make this change?  I have lived in this house for 16 years, and I have never rearranged my bedroom.  The way the movers placed the furniture when I moved in in 2001, was the way it stayed.  I complained that the bedrooms were small, and this was just the way it had to be.  I hadn't even considered changing things and exploring other possibilities.

It was a good wake up call to embrace the changes that come my way, and there are several changes in the air right now.  My sister recently moved to a new house near Dexter.  It is a beautiful house on a lake, and I am very happy for her, and yet it is farther away, so I have had tinges of sadness.  On the other hand, it is because they were downsizing, that she shared some wonderful pieces of furniture with me, like that cherished childhood dresser.  I also get to sit on their wonderful deck and gaze at the lake, or walk out on their dock.  Another bonus was that my niece and nephew came home to help with the move, so I got to see them as well.  This a great change for my sister and brother-in-law, and the whole family will benefit from these changes.

My niece and nephew taking a break from moving furniture and unpacking boxes.

I begin my new AmeriCorps tutoring job on Thursday.  I am excited about teaching summer school and working with the kids, most of whom I already know.  It is mostly familiar, because it is at Phillips.  It is a bigger time commitment, so I guess I am not really retired any more.  It will be a change to work all summer, but I am ready for this change.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Job

Phillips has been an important part of my life for the past 27 years.  During my first year there, I taught second grade.  The next year, I moved to first grade, which I had also taught at Edmunds Academy of Fine Arts, and Granger Elementary.  Later I moved to third grade for a year, and then on to fourth grade, which I taught for 17 years.  My connection to Phillips actually goes back before those years.  At the very beginning of my teaching career, I often subbed at Phillips.  That was back in 1987.  Even before that, back when Phillips Traditional School had grades, kindergarten through eighth grade, I looked at enrolling my daughter there. It didn't work out, because at the time, I worked downtown and I couldn't work out transportation.  Later, my son was a student there.

Officially, I retired from Phillips two years ago.  I often joke that apparently I do not understand the concept of retirement, because I am usually at Phillips three or four days a week, either as a substitute teacher or a volunteer.

The past two years have provided me with a wonderful opportunity to try new things, and really reflect on who I am and what makes me happiest.  I am a planner, not a punter.  I love the creative aspects of education.  I like to take an educational objective, and create materials and projects to engage students.  I like to get up in the morning and have a plan for how I will be spending my day and the rest of the week.  I like to feel like I know what I'm doing.  I enjoy seeing how the lessons I am teaching today, fit the overall picture.  I like to have an ongoing relationship with students.

Pretty much all the things I just mentioned have nothing to do with substitute teaching.  I have been very blessed in that I only sub at Phillips, and many teachers have given me license to bring my own ideas into their classrooms.  I have very much appreciated that.  Most of my days have been successful, but I go through a great deal of anxiety prior to each substitute assignment.  What will I be teaching?  Will the kids listen to me?  How will I be doing things?  Will I be able to find what I need?  Will I understand the lesson plans and how to teach the skills?  Ah, yes!  I am a planner and a worrier.

On the other hand, I have really loved my hours spent volunteering.  I tutor kindergartners.  I work individually with them to improve reading and writing skills.  Teachers let me know about the student's needs, and I look for ways to address and support those needs.  I get to be creative.  I get to know the children, because I work with them on a regular basis.  I get to see them grow and learn, and that is wonderful.

Fortunately, I am at a point in my life that I get to make more choices.  If I'm not enjoying substitute teaching, I have the flexibility and opportunity to do something different.  I decided it was time to make a change.

It's official now!  I have a new job for the summer, and hopefully, into the next school year.  I will be an AmeriCorps tutor. . . .  at Phillips.  I am so excited and grateful!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Shades of Purple and Pink

It is that time of year, when my driveway smells wonderful.  That's because it is Lilac Season.  The hedge was barely budded a few days ago, and now the flowers are almost fully bloomed.  I really love lilacs, and I am very grateful to whoever planted these bushes years and years ago.

There seems to be a lot of purple and pink in the neighborhood right now.  I'm not sure what these other flowers are, but we found them along our walk tonight.

They are all so beautiful!

Monday, April 17, 2017


We had a pretty easy winter around here, relatively speaking.  Even so, it is such a treat to see all the beautiful flowers blooming.  These tulips were growing in front of school today.  Beautiful red tulips, the sun was shining, and I even got my mower started for the first time this season.  In fact it started on the first pull.  What a wonderful day!  Mowing wasn't that much fun, but at least the mower started and everything else was good.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Dad

A few days ago I was cleaning out one of the file cabinets in my craft room.  I decided it was safe to get rid of tax returns and teaching contracts from eighteen years ago, along with warranties and instruction books from appliances I no longer own.  I did a lot of sorting, reading, and shredding.  At the bottom of the drawer under all that clutter, I discovered this photo.  It's my dad!

He was so incredibly young!  He joined the army to serve in World War II when he was only 17 years old.  In fact he wasn't legally old enough to join yet, so he lied about his age.  Anyone that knew my dad can tell you that he was an incredibly honest man, so he must have learned his lesson after that.  Dad was in the infantry and fought in the Philippines.  After World War II ended, he also spent time in Korea.

As I looked at this picture, I was kind of amazed by how much you can miss someone who has been gone for such a long time.  We lost him in 1986.  I found myself getting emotional as I shared the photo with my sister.  He was a wonderful loving father, and I am so grateful to have had him for the time that I did.  He is with us still, and I think about him often.  He has been a profound influence upon my life, and he helped me to be who I am today.  I love you, Dad!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Field Trip

My plans for today were changed, so I decided to go tour the Des Moines Art Center. I have been taking art classes there this year, but my classes were on Mondays, and the Art Center is closed on Mondays.  I have been touring the art center every year for seventeen years on field trips.  It was very nice to go without 50 to 60 fourth graders.  I could go where I wanted, when I wanted, and I didn't tell a single person not to touch the art.

As you can see from the photo, the building itself is a work of art.  I was grateful to have my own little field trip.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


What a difference a week makes!  A week ago I was at my sister's house and there were just a few crocus blooming, along with the beginning buds of some daffodils and hyacinth.  Now there are daffodils everywhere.

I just love this time of year!  That is one of the great things about living in a part of the country where winters can be cold and dreary.  Spring is such a time of beauty and hope for the seasons ahead.

I am really grateful to live where I do.  Every now and then, I need to remind myself of that.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kitchen Gadgets

I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets, and this is my newest one. It is an Air Fryer.   I have a couple friends who have talked about their air fryers.  Since I'm making confessions here, I also have to say that I am a QVC shopper.  The Air Fryer was The "Today's Special Value" about a week ago, so I decided to give it a try .  Tonight was the first time I have used it, and I have to say, I was impressed.

It was easy to use, and it only took about 20 minutes to "fry" my Corn Crisped  Boneless Chicken Legs and Thighs.  I usually do this recipe in the oven.  Doing it in the air fryer used only one tablespoon of olive oil, and it came out with a crispier crust than it does in the oven.  Dinner was yummy, and I'm excited to try some other recipes.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I finally got the greenhouse shelves set up and my tomato and pepper seeds started.  I usually do this by mid March, but this time I decided to order my seeds online instead of going to Menards or Lowes.  This was a big mistake!  I placed an order with Henry Fields on February 4th.  In spite of an email and two phone calls, I did not receive my order until last Friday.  I ordered all seeds.  No live plants!  It still took almost two full months to receive my order.  I won't do that again!

Thankfully I finally received them, I set up the shelves, and I started the seeds.  So even though I began this post by whining, I am grateful that things are getting going.  I am getting started with Roma Tomatoes, Centennial Tomatoes, Anaheim Peppers and Sweet Peppers, along with Italian Parsley and some dill.  Some day soon it will dry out and warm up, and I will actually be able to work outside in the garden.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Beginning Drawing

Today was my last drawing class.  Our assignment today was to bring our own still life to draw.  We also got to choose which medium to use.  I stuck with the pencils.  I decided to bring one of my baskets, yarn and a knitting project.  This is still a work in progress, but I am pleased to see how much I have learned since my Art for the Curious class last fall.

I plan to take another art class this summer.  This time I want to learn to work with pastels.  I am a person who loves color!  I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore new paths to creativity.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Michael's street in Madrid.

When I was a junior in high school, my dad spent a year in Viet Nam.  He was a social worker with American Red Cross, and was working as service to military installations.  He was stationed with the marines near the demilitarized zone, and later with the air force.  Besides daily letters, we used to make reel to reel tapes, which we would mail to him.  It took about three weeks for the tapes and letters to get to him.  He would record a message back to us, and it would be another three weeks before we got to hear his voice.  It was a very, very long year!

The park near Lisa's home in Minneapolis.

Technology has come a long way since those days.  My daughter, Lisa, lives in Minneapolis.  She has lived there for a long time.  We connect daily through text messaging and phone calls. Now that she has a smart phone, we are able to be part of each other's lives much more easily than even a few years ago.

Michael's neighborhood, and the hotel where I stayed for my visit.

This morning I spoke with my son, Michael, who lives in Madrid, Spain.  We talk daily, either through texting, voice clips, or phone calls.  When I talk to him, it sounds like he is right here in town.  We use Facebook Messenger, so it is also free.  Because I was fortunate to actually go to Spain at the beginning of this year, I can visualize where he is living, as well as hear his voice.

I am so grateful for the technology that makes this daily communication possible.  I understand why they want to live in these beautiful places, and the technology makes it much easier to have my adult children living so far away.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Spring has finally arrived.  The early spring flowers are beginning to bloom.  I don't have anything blooming at my house, but my sister does.

There is something so wonderful about seeing these bursts of color among the brown leaves and plants.

I do have green grass, and I am so grateful and excited to see that.

Even though I don't have any flowers blooming yet, I do have this beautiful new spinner.  I had to return the one I got a few weeks ago.  It fell apart in the wind.  This new one is from Plow and Hearth.  It is much larger, and stronger.  I have two other Plow and Hearth spinners, and they have stood up well.  I just feel happy when I look at them.

I also have this flowered plant spike.  It's currently in the house, but will soon be going out into the yard.  I have a big love of yard art.

Now it would be nice to see the sun once in a while.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Physical Therapy

At the end of December I traveled to Spain to visit my son, Michael.  The flight from Chicago to Madrid is almost nine hours long.  It involves a lot of juggling of luggage and sitting for long periods of time in confined spaces, and by the time I arrived, my shoulder was sore.  While there, we did lots of walking with camera, camera bag, cross body purse, and a backpack.  By the time I returned to Iowa on January 4th, my shoulder was really painful.  

For this reason I have been going through physical therapy two days a week.  The shoulder is getting better, slowly but surely.  In order to rebuild strength and flexibility, I have a daily regimen of prescribed exercises.  On the days that I have therapy, I usually am pretty sore afterwards.

I am very thankful for my physical therapist.  I am even more grateful for my good health.  I see many people going through PT who are recovering from serious accidents and illness.  I am glad to have the help to heal, but especially thankful that this is a minor injury from which I will recover.  It really reminds me how fortunate I have been.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Growing and Learning

Today was my second to last drawing class.  We worked with Conte Crayons, which are a combination of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with wax.  This was totally new to me.  It was challenging and fun.

I love learning new things, and I am thinking about what class I want to take this summer.  I want to keep growing my skills, and when it comes to art, I can't do this without a good instructor.  I am thinking about learning to draw with pastels.  I like the idea of doing something with lots of color. The class that is being offered will spend time outside the Des Moines Art Center in Greenwood Park.  That idea really appeals to me.

Another thing growing in my house are the little tomatoes in the Aerogarden.  I wonder if I will end up with ripened edible tomatoes?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

RV Envy

This weekend is the RV and Camping Show at the Fairgrounds.  It's a great day to look at RVs and dream of better weather, because it is way too wet and dreary to actually be camping.  My sister, Jacci, and I went to check things out.

We come from a family where camping was a way of life.  Every year our parents would pack us all up in the station wagon, load the top carrier with the tent and sleeping bags, and we would head out for vacation.  I thought everyone did this.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how fortunate we were

It is also a family tradition to get together at least once each year for Family Campout.  We have a big family get together with relatives from Iowa and Kansas, usually somewhere in southern Iowa.  Nine Eagles and Lake of Three Fires are two favorite destinations.  Some of us camp.  Some of us just drive down for the day to eat, and talk, and eat, and sit around the campfire, and eat.

For a long time I have wanted a small RV so I could pack up my dogs and head out to visit family and friends, and explore the out of doors.  So far it hasn't been in the budget, but I think I am getting closer.  That's why it is so much fun to go to an RV show and walk through all these vehicles.

I will not consider the $445,000 bus that costs three times as much as my house.  But some of these others might be in the running.  I like the high end finishings of the Winnebago Navion, but the Four Winds or Winnebago Spirit might be closer to my budget, and I would love to have either of them.

It's fun to look and dream!  Maybe I should buy some lottery tickets?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Hour Lunches

Three hours is the average amount of time that it takes for my friend, Nadine, and I to have lunch or coffee or wherever we get together.  We have spent longer, and occasionally our lunches are shorter.  It doesn't take that long for us to eat, but it does take that long to discuss all the important issues in our lives and analyze and solve the problems of the world.

I met Nadine in my first year of teaching, which was 1987.  We were teaching at Edmunds Academy of Fine Arts.  She was teaching first grade, and I was teaching fourth grade basic skills.  We didn't get to know each other very well that first year. I was in two schools that year, and we were in different grade levels, The next year, however,  I moved to first grade.  Edmunds was an open spaces building in those days, so we team taught.  We have been best friends ever since.

She has been there for me through all these thirty years and I feel truly blessed to know her and to have her in my life.  We have cried together, and we have laughed together.  We mostly laugh together. I can share anything with her, and I am so grateful to have her as my friend.

I have been subbing this week, but mostly working half days, so we were able to meet for coffee this afternoon.  It was short, only 2 1/2 hours. It made for a wonderful afternoon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Des Moines Art Center

I am so grateful that I am able to take art classes at the Des Moines Art Center.  It is a wonderful opportunity to learn in such a great setting.  It's fun to use the equipment, and get to know other people who also have a love for art.  It is also gratifying to see my skills grow.  I could never do this on my own.

This week we worked with charcoal.  I wisely wore black, which is good because it was messy.  In my Art for the Curious class last semester, we used charcoal at an early lesson.  I remember that time, I drew a skull, but after I had the basic sketch I didn't know where to go from there.  Since that time, we have learned a lot about value.  This time I felt that I had tools to continue to improve my drawing.

We have just two classes left, so I will soon be thinking about what I would like to learn next.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


I flipped on the television this morning and was channel surfing when I saw an advertisement for an Emergency Food Supply.  It was running on one of the Christian stations.  It caught my eye, because just the week before I had seen a large display of these same buckets at Sam's Club.  Costco also featured them in an ad.

The Emergency Food Storage bucket as featured in the Costco Wholesale flyer.  3/23/17 - 4/17/17.

The speaker on TV was talking about how important this was to have not just because of weather emergencies, or power outages, but because of the coming Apocalypse.  What?  My first reaction was what is the matter with these people?  Isn't that God's choice, not ours?  Are these people trying to bring an apocalypse about?  I just don't understand!  Furthermore, why are they cultivating fear, and then trying to make money from it?

Then I went to church.  Today's sermon was called Receive Reconciliation, and in his message, Pastor Dave was talking about how divided we have become as Christians.  How we judge one another, and limit ourselves to a group that shares our same views, rather than reach out and share and communicate with those who believe differently.  You know, like I had been doing just an hour earlier.

Once again, I came to church in need, and received an important lesson which will help me through the coming weeks.  Our scripture was from Romans 5.  I especially like verse 2-4,
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us to the grace in which we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to the day on which we will become all that God has intended.  But not only that -- we even rejoice in our afflictions!  We know that affliction produces perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and character, hope.
So I choose hope!  I choose to keep working to make this world a better place, by doing whatever I can to be kind and caring.   I choose not to live in fear.  I choose to try to be a better person who takes the time to listen and understand others.

Later in the day I met my sister to walk at Copper Creek.  It was a breezy but glorious day.  When I told her about the ad for the the Emergency Food Supply, she reminded me that this fear seems to be cyclical.  There was a great deal of talk about the end of times at the millennium just 17 years ago, and again a few years ago when we reached the end of the Aztec calendar.  I had forgotten about all of that.

I am grateful for hope, I am grateful for my church and Pastor Dave, and I am incredibly grateful for my beautiful sister, Jacci.

I really loved the greeting that we began the worship service with:

                                       "He drew a circle that shut me out--
                                         Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
                                         But Love and I had the wit to win:
                                         We drew a circle that took him in!"                                                                                      --Edwin Markham

I choose hope and love, and everything that goes with it!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Raised Bed Gardening: Step 1

I have a back yard garden that is long and narrow.  While I have great success with tomatoes, peppers and squash, I have yet to eat any of the green beans.  The bunnies always beat me to them.  Over the winter I did a lot reading about raised bed gardening.  I decided I am going to give it a try by building two raised beds.  By building the beds, fencing them, and possibly even covering them, I hope to add a little variety to my vegetable garden.

I did a lot of research into raised bed options.  My carpentry skills are limited, but there are a lot of kits out there.  With wood, rotting can be a problem, so I decided to build mine out of brick or stone. I had priced several types of stone and edgers at Menards and Lowe's.  Then a friend suggested that I check out the Habitat for Humanity Restore.   I sure am glad that I did, because I found five hole brick there.  Each brick is about a foot long, and they only cost me fifty cents per brick, a fraction of what it would have been if I bought new.  I should be able to build both beds for less than what one bed would have cost.

Today I laid out the foundation for the two beds.  I have to do some leveling of the ground before I actually build the beds.  I am going to use three layers of bricks to make the walls of the beds.  Next thing I have to figure out is where I can buy some garden quality soil.  Do you have any suggestions?

After working in the yard for a while, I loaded Winnie and Chloe in the car and we went walking at Copper Creek.  They loved it and I have two happy but tired little dogs now.

There are so many things to be grateful for;  my two adorable little dogs, an opportunity to get outside and work in my yard, and a beautiful sunshiny day.