Two course meal

And finally, after a day of just slogging through it, and not with anything like grace or elegance, home. The leftover quiche you’ve been looking forward to. The peace and quiet. The beverage that accompanies the meal.

And as you casually remove it from the oven, the half-quiche flips off the tray and into the gap between the bottom of the oven and the bottom of the oven door.



And you sigh and shake your head, and acknowledge your own brilliance for planing a two course meal.

It’s all you can do.


Holiday Gifts for Teachers

Nobody ever asks teachers what we REALLY want come holiday time.  I don’t mean time off, peace on earth, ending poverty kinds of things – of course we want all that.  But as recipients of a multitude of holiday gifts, we sometimes find ourselves saying…really?  It almost feels wrong to write this post.  But i know that parents who give holiday gifts to teachers want those gifts to be meaningful.  With that in mind, here are some ideas for parents of school-aged kids.

1. Give to a charity in the teacher’s name.  This is kind of awesome.  It makes us feel good, and it does good in the world.  We like that.

2.  Likewise, give the gift of time to a local organization in need – a food pantry or kitchen, a nursing home, a homeless shelter or dog pound – again, in the teacher’s name.  Also awesome…also doing good in the world.

I get that many of you prefer to give us *something* – and we love gifts!  We definitely do!  Here are some thoughts.

3.  If you do family portrait holiday cards, please include us in the sending.  We treasure these.  And if you send us one every year, for as long as you remember, so much the better!!!

4.  Something homemade.  I have a wooden, hand-painted work-of-art Christmas plate made by one of my student’s moms from my second year of teaching.  I bring it out every year, remember the family fondly, use it…and love it.

5.  Something unique, perhaps seasonal.  I have a cute little chalkboard with a snowman on it that says, ” ___ days until Christmas!”  I added “vacation” at the end, and every year i take it out after Thanksgiving and count that sucker down!  Likewise, one year a student whose grandfather made fresh Christmas wreaths gifted each of his teachers with a gorgeous 48″ wreath.  I was so proud to hang that outside my door!

6.  A special, unique ornament.  I have many that add to my joy ever year.

7.  Amazon Gift Cards are an AWESOME choice if you are at a loss and just need to do a gift card.  Easy to get on-line, don’t need wrapping, any denomination…and hugely appreciated!  I frequently purchase goods on Amazon, and often for my classroom, so that gift card is also likely to end up being a gift for your child, too.  Alternately, if you know we love a certain restaurant, or go to the movies often, or enjoy live theatre, a gift card or certificate for an evening our would be wonderful!

8.  Something for our classroom.  Believe it or not, a bunch of fun pencils, a funky pen, or a cute or funny sign for our classroom wall is a great choice.

9.  A hand-written note from your child, telling us what they are enjoying about our class so far this year.  This is a treasure beyond words.

Of course we appreciate any thoughtful gesture you might make, and we love your child no matter what.  But the reality is we don’t really need 10 pounds of sweets.  We don’t need another mug or tea cup.  We might not share your taste in jewelry or scent.  And another gift card from Starbucks or Dunkin or some other food place, for many of us, is a waste of your money. It is in that spirit that I offer this list.  Happy Holiday of Your Choice!

Teachers – what are your favorite gifts to receive?

Almond Joy


They named it perfectly.  It has an almond in it, and it brings me joy.  The only way it could be better would be if it were made of dark chocolate, like Mounds, rather than milk chocolate.  Give me the chocolate with a little bit to accompany that sweet melty coconut and the crunchy almond.

I’d take one mini milk choclatey one right now, though.  Comfort food only comforts if you have some in hand.

Where Are the Pockets?

I wear pants.  You are not likely to see me in a dress or a skirt.  Ever.  Long flowy gypsy skirts in the summer, maybe…but that’s about it.  Otherwise, it’s pants.  Furthermore, i’m all about the comfort, so almost always those pants are of the denim variety.  But it’s good to have a couple pairs of nice pants, just in case, and it is particularly important to have some black pants.  So today i went shopping.

Now…i’m not a fan of shopping in the first place.  I have a few stores i like, so i go there, and sometimes i find stuff and sometimes i don’t.  But it’s never a skin-tingling ooh-aah-i-can’t-wait kind of thing.  Today, however, was particularly annoying.

First of all, and i said this out loud and with no small hint of disgust in the store, Why do they make skinny jeans for fat people?  “Because we look fabulous in them!” responded the sales girl.  “No,” i replied, without mitigating my tone, “we don’t.  We look fat.”

And then i came to the real point, the thing that has had me on edge when i’ve shopped for pants for the past…probably year, at least.

“And where the hell are all the pockets?!  WHO HAS ALL THE DAMNED POCKETS???”

You cannot find a simple pair of black pants with regular old side seam pockets for love or money.  They have these little cutesy pockets that aren’t good for anything, they have back pockets, ditto the cutesy ones…but you can’t find a plain old side seam pocket to save your life.  You can’t.  They don’t exist. Somewhere in a warehouse some place, way in the back, hidden away behind the extra-large skinny jeans that no self-respecting woman will buy, are a billion side seam pockets.  I will personally pay anyone who can put them into a pair of plain old black pants a couple, three, maybe even five dollars.  And if you can set them all free, why, women everywhere will thank you.  I promise we will.



Practice Thanksgiving

It’s today!  It’s finally here!  PRACTICE THANKSGIVING!!!  This is a day that is treasured by the few of us who observe it, for reasons that will become clear.

Traditionally, my core family has always done Thanksgiving Day with my Aunt Bunny and Uncle Bud, regardless of where they or we lived.  We have never had the Thanksgiving meal in my family home.  Ever.  And that’s fine, because, among other reasons, we have always gotten to be the ones singing, “Over the river and through the woods, to Aunt Bunny’s house we go…!”  And sung it we have.  The only drawback to this arrangement is that the second most precious part of the day, after family, has always and forever been missing.  That part, my friends, is leftovers.

That’s right.  When you do Thanksgiving at someone else’s home, you have no turkey in the fridge to pick on, no left-over gravy with which to replace mayonnaise on the sandwiches you are unable to make…and as wonderful as the holiday may be, as much as you have loved seeing your relatives – and it is, and I do! – you are left with a hole in your heart.  Clearly, something must be done.

That something, of course, is Practice Thanksgiving.  We hit upon this over a decade ago as a way to ensure a leftover binge, and it has been a fixture ever since.  A few weeks before the actual day, Mom makes a turkey – or, sometimes, a turkey breast – with all the trimmings.  We give thanks for each other and the food and the chance to practice, and we feast.  What are we practicing?  Why, eating the Thanksgiving meal, of course!  One must be sure one is able to do so before Real Thanksgiving!  What if the day arrived and we were inexplicably unable to force the feast down?!  Quel horreur!  But in our immediate family, this unspeakable disaster will never happen, because we Practice Thanksgiving.

There will only be three of us this evening, but we will practice gustatory skills with the greatest gusto imaginable.  I can’t wait.

The Scenic Route

One of the joys of living in western CT is that there are so many scenic routes to be taken.  Just from school to home, little more than 12 miles if I don’t detour, there are at least a dozen routes and variations I can take, each one providing a different sort of diversion.  I usually detour, though, because…well, because I can.

There is much to be said for driving around, listening to sports radio, and letting the day fade away.  It’s pretty mindless…or it can be used for some solid thinking.  But mostly, it’s about seeing the beauty in the region I call home.

Sometimes it’s about looking at beautiful homes and properties, of which there is no shortage in Litchfield County.  Sometimes it’s about enjoying the seasonal changes that happen both incrementally and daily.  Sometimes it’s about favorite dirt roads, of which there are many; sometimes it’s about the occasional wildlife.  Usually, it’s about all of these things.

This is my topic today because of the pretty little red fox I saw on the way home this afternoon.  Dusk was falling, but the woods at the edge of the road were still visible.  I saw the fox padding down the road ahead of me.  As I drew closer, he stepped off the road and just a few yards into the underbrush.  The leaves have all fallen from the brush, so he was visible against the leaves – but only if you knew where to look.  His coat was exactly the same reddish-brown shade as the leaves on the ground in the darkening afternoon.  I slowed to get the best look I could, and he just stood there and watched my car drift by, seeming to know that I posed no threat to him.  We watched each other for the few seconds it took for me to pass, and then it was over.

I do love where I live.  Mother Nature seems to bring her best to Litchfield County, and I try to take full advantage of it.  Today, I feel that I succeeded.

Healing and Gratitude

Three-and-a-half weeks into shingles, and i’m starting to get a little pissed off that i’m not better.  Oh, i’m better than i was two weeks ago, or last week, and i understand that this is a three-to-six-week process, but i am just tired of being sick and tired.  I am back at work after three weeks away, but could just as easily still be staying home.  My work colleagues and my kids have been amazing, but i am still so tired, and it makes me short-tempered, which feeling i don’t like at all…and so i am just a little pissed off.

But i am also grateful.  Grateful that i have a job that has sick time and awesome colleagues.  Grateful that this is something that WILL pass in time…something that isn’t worse.  Grateful for all the calls and texts and messages of support, offers of everything from grocery shopping to doing my laundry, and all sorts of little kindnesses.  Grateful to be able to get coverage for homeroom for the rest of the week so i can get a little extra sleep, and grateful to have a nice warm bed to write this from. I am going to try to sleep now, for it is the most healing thing there is.

As soon as i check to see if those new Teacher Camp offerings are up yet, that is…

Teacher Camp – or, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ summer programs for teachers

Being a teacher is, more times than not, a soul-satisfying job.  It’s a good thing, too, because the pay, the respect, and the way we are sometimes treated by our bosses at all levels are certainly not always on the plus side.  But there is one little perk that we do get.  It is an opportunity to spend a week or more – up to six – learning deeply about a topic relative to the humanities that interests us.  Teacher Camp.  The opportunity comes via the National Endowment for the Humanities, in the form of workshops and seminars and symposia for K-12 teachers, and also for college and university educators.

The workshops are held all over the world, and they explore all sorts of topics: Arts, letters, social studies, anthropological endeavors…it’s all there.  And one of the cool things is that teachers from disciplines outside the Humanities can still find plenty to connect to their courses in these offerings.  I spent a week in western New York a couple of summers ago studying the Erie Canal, and while the majority of teachers were from the Social Studies branch, we were joined by colleagues who taught Art, Music, Economics, Business, Women’s Studies – – all of which have a direct connection to the Erie Canal.

I was the lone voice in my district for a while, sharing the new offerings with all the other teachers in the district each fall, but never hearing of anyone who applied for a workshop.  But a few years ago, several of my Social Studies colleagues in my building also applied, and all of us were accepted – three of us for one-week “Landmarks of US History” workshops in various locations around the country, and one for a longer, three-week study of Thomas Jefferson in Boston.  Finally!  I was so excited for my colleagues to experience what I had enjoyed, and was pleased when they returned speaking very positively of their experiences.

Every fall, I wait with great excitement for the next summer’s offerings – in fact, that’s what prompted this post today.  They should be out any day now.  Some years, nothing interests me.  Other years, I have to choose from four or five that look awesome.  And there is no guarantee that just because I’ve picked one, I’ll get to go.  This has become a very competitive process, and sometimes you are wait-listed – – which means you might not know you’ve been picked until fairly close to the workshop date, or you may not get to go at all.  Some are always popular – the ones in California tend to attract a lot of applications! – while some, I suspect, struggle to get enough applicants to make it a go.  But they all have merit – indeed, being chosen to host a workshop is even more competitive than getting to go to one!

The grants given to the host institution cover just about everything – facilities, some materials, guest speakers and scholars, buses to transport the scholars, admission to museums and other sites connected to the topic.  They do not cover transportation, housing, or most feeding of scholars.  But there is a stipend awarded to scholars to help cover that; the amount varies depending on the length of the workshop.

So I’m sitting here waiting for this year’s list to show up.  Will I apply?  I don’t know.  Sometimes it feels like summer is way too short – another complaint that teachers have – and giving up an entire week can feel like a real sacrifice.  But chances are I will at least consider one or two.  And if you’re a teacher, perhaps you will, too.  We get so few perks in this job of ours; a chance to study with some like-minded and fun people might be just the thing to kick your summer into high gear!

Here is the link to last year’s programs.  When the new ones come up, they will appear here.  Let me know if you apply, teachers!

Not Enough Walls

Walls.  They divide space.  They keep things out.  Or in.  They surround windows and doors.  And they host art.

There is where mine fail me.  I have some really nice pieces, many of them watercolors picked up in favorite galleries or while visiting new places, many others that can only be considered memories, and i just don’t have room enough for all of them.  This doesn’t stop me from continuing to accumulate…but it does preclude my ability to enjoy all of the things that i love all the time.

I need bigger walls.

Day 2

And here it is already, on Day 2, although I’m not completely surprised.  I have no idea what to write about.

You’d think someone who is a teacher, and a natural know-it-all on top of that, would never be at a loss for something to say.  And yet…here I am, looking around my living room, wondering what to talk about.  Some things need to wait until their time – Practice Thanksgiving, coming next weekend; real Thankgiving, several weeks from now.  Some things just don’t seem interesting – geez, my plants need watering; I love my guitars; how come I didn’t get the Keep Your Home Tidy gene?  And some things just seem like whining – winter is coming, I’m cold; shingles suck in a continuous and on-going fashion.

So where do ideas come from?  I have a writer friend who has so many ideas he can’t write them all down.  I think I kind of envy that.  I have ideas – I get ideas – but I have them or get them at inconvenient times, when it’s impossible to write them down.  While driving.  In the shower.  And they’re gone, most of them, before I can do anything about them.  I have musical ideas, too.  I think I mourn their passing the most, because some of them are pretty good.

I suppose part of the purpose with this Blog A Day exercise is to get better at ideas, and more comfortable with the ones I have.  We’ll see if it works.

PS: Shingles seriously sucks, in a continuous and on-going fashion.  And yes, the first time I said shingles SUCK, and this time shingles SUCKS.  I do not know which is correct.  I just recognize the truth of the statement.