The ‘I’s’ Have It
May 10, 2011, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Dreams
| Tags: Beowulf
, Classroom Thoughts
, small towns
I know that I will not die if I never teach again. (I mean really teach, not just pretend in someone else’s classroom.)
I believe that both I and the kids are missing out on so much if I don’t ever teach in a classroom again.
I fought to get my kid speech in elementary school so he could be understood and then they let me down because now you cannot read a word he writes.
I am angered by people who work in education but don’t seem to like kids.
I love that we are going to have ‘pretty chickens’ this year instead of standard, hard-working production chickens.
I need a paycheck. That comes every week. Or at least every other week.
I take pleasure in dreaming, loving, and caring for my husband. Husbandry. As like the verb.
I hear that there is an opening in Allegheny-Limestone. It would be a drive, but it would be a job.
I drink coffee from a travel cup every morning. ‘Cuz that’s what I do, travel.
I hate the floor in my kitchen.
I use non-dairy creamer in my coffee. Shh! Don’t tell my very Dairy Husband.
I want my addition done. I need the light!
I decided that I need drastic change.
I like gardening. Things that never make sense seem to make sense when I have my hands in the earth.
I am considered to be the person who can make meatballs in any number for a grieving family. It’s a good thing.
I feel nervous about another year with no teaching position. I may have to leave that behind.
I left my flat tummy somewhere in Warren Hospital, but I brought home three something’s so much better.
I do think kids need to be accountable. Responsible. They goof off and they need to answer for that lost time.
I hope that I have left a fingerprint on the world I can be proud of.
I dream about being healthy, being thinner, and doing what I love and making a difference. I should be DOING all those things and dreaming about the beach.
I am certain that this life is harder than it looks, so judge sparingly.
I drive a car that satisfies my gas consumption.
I listen to music that is poetry and makes me think.
I love to cook for people I love. It’s a win-win situation.
I think the internet and computers and cell phones are making us stupid.
I wish one of those people with good genes and high metabolism so they can stay thin no matter what happens to their abdomen.
I compensate for being fat and out-of-shape by being smart. Not everyone can pull that off.
I regret having gotten on Facebook. It has made me a distant wife, a disconnected mother and a terrible cook.
I care about students and how we don’t believe in them anymore.
I should walk.
I am not contributing to my IRA this year. And it makes me sad.
I wonder how people who have no kids can judge parenting. I couldn’t. I am sure they can’t.
I changed how I see the story of Noah. That was the day God got out of the punishment business. So Katrina isn’t about God punishing the revelers. Trust me on this.
I cry when I see how much my parents have done for me. And how sometimes, the fact that my Dad worries about my battery in my car and my Mom buys me socks is more ‘I love you’ than I can handle.
I laugh at my oldest son’s sense of humor. Like looking in a mirror.
I am proud to be a teacher. (Or wanting to be a teacher) Even though the rest of the world hears “terrorist’ when I say ‘teacher’.
I lose interest when people start to gossip. Make me squirm.
I leave the party while I am still having fun, but I end up talking for hours in the driveway.
Totally Stolen from: http://100farmers.blogspot.com/2006/07/is-have-it.html
The Five Things You Should Give to Your Kids
Over the years people have graciously said to me, “You had adorable kids, what is your secret?” and now, they say to me “You have such good boys, such wonderful boys…how did you do it?” My answer has always been “I beat them into submission.” and now I say, ‘Well, it isn’t over yet!”
Parenting is a job, and you have to take that job seriously. How your children turn out, as with casseroles and apple pie, is most definitely a reflection on you. Like it or not, what you put in to a child, is what will come out.
1. Tell your sons to “Knock it off!” and your girls “You are beautiful.”
I never let my kids be goofy. They lobbies for attention, they said some funny stuff, and while I wasn’t looking, I am certain, they acted goofy. However, as long as they were within arms length, I told them to knock it off. I wanted them to know that life is NOT a stage and we are NOT actors performing for other people. We are living life, and much of that is serious business. There is work to be done, there is laughter to be had, but there is a time and a place for both. I caused my children to often give people a funny look when one of their friends pulled the ‘goofy’ trick- I will not stand for my children to ‘perform’ to get approval.
We are in a battle to save our girls. The media, the school, the church, her friends, the mean girls in lunch, the entertainment business, and even the safe haven that used to be sports has gone the way of “prettier” is better. You are the first adults your child will meet and they will look for approval. Give them that. Tell your daughter she is beautiful- even in her ugly duckling stage- she is beautiful, inside and out. Tell her when she’s little- while your opinion still matters and keep telling her. When you can, surround her with people who also tell her this, and make her watch as your tell people who put her down to go %$#@ themselves.
2. Read to your babies.
I have been teaching for a while, and many of the students I run into I have known their whole lives. In my little micro-petri dish experiment I see that babies that were read to, held, snuggled, and read to, develop wonderful reading habits, and they LOVE to read. Babies who were not read to bump into reading in kindergarten or Pre-K- and while they are the kids who bring books to me to read to them during play time- they are also the students that struggle with reading. If their first encounter with words is at a desk, with a paper covered in lines and circles that mean nothing to them, they look around and other kid are already coloring in the letters that the teacher told them- they are fearful. They are shamed. They are worried and anxious. They feel alone. Are they EVER going to have a relationship with reading? Not likley. If when they read, they have a warm, fuzzy feeling, a comfort feeling, a feeling of belonging, to this world and the one they are about to read about…..if they connect to the words, and they are excited about the adventure they are about to embark on, they have begun a relationship with words and reading and comprehension that will pay huge dividends in their life. The Navajo Indians have a list of things for new mothers to know, that has been passed down for a thousand years. One of those things is to tell your baby the stories of our tribe, from the first moment they breathe air. While only a spoken language- they knew the power of language and they wanted their babies to be literate, in the only way they knew, stories. We too, have that edict- read to your babies- you may feel silly, but it’s a price that will be worth gold to your child.
3. Love your spouse.
Love is a difficult word to define- and many believe it cannot be explained, only shown. You child’s first example of love is you and your wife/husband. You must, you must, you must demonstrate the kind of love that you want for your child. You child, hopefully, will be married LONGER than they will be in your care. (Unless they fall into the divorced, second marriage category- but they still could someday find a love that will last 20-30 years) You hope that you will set an example of the kind of wife you want for your son. The kind of man you want your daughter to find and fall in love with. The kind of ‘normal’ you have in your home will be the kind of comfortable ‘normal’ your child will seek out. BE THE LOVE YOU WANT FOR YOUR CHILD. I am not saying you have to fake it- they can smell a fake- you have to BE it. If you don’t have that kind of love, show your child how to walk away from the kind of crap the world hands out and find love. You good example will not go unnoticed. You selfish, self-serving, mean-spirited, vengeful, and sarcastic example will also be noted.
4. Teach your children their multiplication tables
There is NOTHING that will help your child more in the coming years than to know their times tables. Make flash cards, have them in car, or in your purse, of by the stove….make a concentration game where you match problems with answers, have quiz drills, have races with 100 problem sheets of times tables……do what you can. The teachers in elementary school will be thrilled and your child will be a star. Who doesn’t want their child to be a star? When they are in calculus and they don’t have to use a calculator- they will do well on times tests. When they have to wait on tables to make money in the summer and they have to add us 13 ice teas at 2.75 each- and they can do it in their head at the bar- they will be amazing- and who doesn’t want their kid to be amazing. Hard work- but it will pay off.
5. Healthy dose of Vitamin N
It is your job to teach your children to live through frustration. The world is a frustrating place and we are turning out children whose parents have been running along ahead of them removing obstacles, and now, they are having a temper tantrum at the bank because they can’t cash a third-party check. Give your children some frustration to chew on- and help them see how to get over it. SAY NO. Say no at home when it doesn’t even matter. Say no when, really, it would bother you one bit. When you say no, follow through. FOLLOW THROUGH EVERYTIME. Everytime. If you throw out a threat- FOLLOW THROUGH. Did I say everytime? Here’s why. If your child doesn’t listen to you at home, in the yard, when no ones even looking…..he will not listen to you when you say “NO! DON”T CROSS THE STREET!”- and there will be screaming and crying and gnashing of teeth. All because no never really meant no, and no sometimes even meant yes, if you said please often enough. When your child defys you- make certain their is a NEGATIVE response attached to it. If that means spanking, so be it. If that means sitting them in the sad chair for 3 minutes, so be it. If that means the toy goes in the ‘June’ box not to be seen for months- so be it. Attach a negative (not hugs or kisses or smiles or kind words) to the behavior and the behavior goes away. You will have to revisit this, more often for some children, but a health dose of NO prepares a child for a world that will tell him no, will frustrate them, but your child will know and appreciate when there is danger, that the rules (and laws) apply to him and he must follow them, and that sometimes the world will tell you no, and you have to work harder and be creative to fine the ‘YES’!
Take the time to be a parent. It’s a job that doesn’t last forever, and if you do it right, the second half is LOTS of fun to watch, as your children, equipped with the right tools from their parents tackle this crazy world of ours. My kids now, as I sometimes try to help them, will say something like this: “Mom, I got this.” and I know, that my work is done here.
If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job. — Donald D. Quinn
The ‘New’ List
June 3, 2011, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Dreams
,Postcards from the edge
| Tags: education
, THE LIST
, troubled kids
Things in the Kitchen: we will be eating beef. ALOT of beef. I will run kids to soccer, attempt to get the garden planted and cook some meals for the coming week- and much of it will be beef.
Things in my closet: I don’t have anything to say about that.
Things in Front of this Computer: Write. I’d like to say that is what is happening – but the weather WILL tear me away. There are gardens that call to me. Maybe this post should look like this:
Things in Front of this Computer THE GARDEN: I need to get mulch- BUT we cannot talk about mulch until the vegetables are planted. Green Beans went in yesterday- herbs, corn, cukes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers. Soon! Soon! Then it’s just watch and weed. Something needs to be done about the raspberries. They are drowning in weeds- I am at a loss as how to save them.
Things On My Book Shelf: Anne Lamott is still trying to talk me out of being financially secure and finding an agent and talk me into writing. Writing more. Writing better. Writing the truth. The Brave is beckoning to me from my book bag- Saul Bellow still beckons to me from my night stand- the hope chest- filled with all the books I hope to read, but because I am such a hopelessly slow reader- I may never get to them all.
Things I have Put to Bed: That when my Dad comes to disc my garden- it means that I am going to lose some of the flowers planted around it. That while I love that my new deck overlooks the garden- it also overlooks the garbage dump next to it. Good with the bad. That my extended family is NOT a freak show- but it is not going to be a warm cuddly place- too many strong personalities and bullies. and gossips. and judgment. and fear. Why are they so insecure? What are they so afraid of? Is this the family my Grandmother dreamed of?
Things I am going to tackle: Graduation for so many kids! Kids I once babysat, watched have temper tantrums, meltdowns right there in Kmart, who won football games, and bike races, and ate whole jelly donuts, and cut their own hair, and made art projects out of car parts, fell into campfires, glued their fingers together, and called themselves ‘married’ in pre-school.
Things I WISH I could tackle: My checkbook- but it’s not raining. Painting the kitchen- but it’s not raining. Sweeping the addition- but it’s not raining. Hardwood floors- but it’s not raining. Cleaning the garage for the Pasture Walk on Thursday- but it’s not raining!
Things that have me in a Dither This Week: “Alternate location” on a child’s IEP should NOT mean the hallway. But sometimes it does. A girl has to go to the bathroom every so often. “Special Ed” should not mean “Special Circumstances”. It should mean extra help, more time, a different spot, unique strategies- even listening to the test instead of reading it. The world doesn’t have ‘special circumstances’- you read while you are sitting the Loan officer’s office at the bank, you write that report on how that guy slipped and fell in the restaurant NOW, you give your eye-witness account to the police officer while you are standing on the side of the road, you interpret the terms of your health insurance at your dining room table- alone. We should be preparing kids for THAT- not averting them from doing any of that and selling them out.
Things That Make My Skirt Fly Up: Burchetta with little chopped up tomatoes, asparagus, lime juice, onion and crumbly Bleu cheese melted on top. Homemade laundry soap- really cheap- really good- and I can stop signing my life over to Tide. Recipes here: http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes . I love sitting with my husband and talking, dreaming, wishing, hoping, discussing sometimes- I’d like that to happen every night, either under the trees or on our porch- it’s what I love most about my life right now- is that moments like that come as easy as water through a hidden brook in the forest.
It’s All About Not Making an Ass Out of Yourself
I am not here to make a princess out of you. I am not here to prove to anyone you are a genius. I am not here to MAKE you read faster, or memorize the Magna Carta or be able to whip out the alphabet soup more commonly known as algebra. I am not here to try and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but I am here to tell you that there are some practical uses for a sow’s ear and I intend to find your highest and best use. AND I intend to give you the tools to get there.
I am saddened by a student who will say “I will never use this…..” How do you know this? How can you possible say, without a smirk on your face, that you KNOW you will never use whatever it is that I am trying to get you to learn? If you had told me twenty years ago that …..
…….I would marry and farmer and have to write grant after grant for fencing money or manure management money- I would have called you crazy.
…..that my son would be diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and that only my very own research skills (not the doctor, not the occupational therapist, not the genetic screeners) will being me the peace I need to know that despite this strange condition, he is going to be ok.
……that I would go back for my Master’s Degree after I am forty and don’t have a clue about writing a Wiki or a Blog or a Website- but thank god someone along the line taught me how to write clearly.
…..I would be called, on numerous occasions in my life as a Farm Wife to fix stuff, sand stuff, use a crowbar, feed calves, have enough science background to figure out the difference between a live virus and a killed virus vaccination.
……that I would have to navigate such legal wrangling as bankruptcy, land ownership, land sales, auctions, advocacy hearings, petitions and trustees, custody, chapter 13, collateral, declaratory judgment, and that arguing with the Sherriff is only a good thing if you are right. And can prove it.
…..I didn’t know that the people I love in this world would get sick, of cancer, of addiction, heartsick, lovesick, and broken, and that the only way I could help them would be to know stuff, to listen, to speak in truth and love, and to be present.
It’s really about being the best person you can be, and if you aren’t the best person you can be, that you have the tools and apparatus to make yourself the best person you can be. I don’t want any of my students sitting in the middle of the puddle that is their life and saying, “Gosh I wish I had a better English teacher, one who taught me how to………….” You can’t call it from here. Trust me.
May 5, 2011, 9:30 am
Filed under: Dreams
,Musings from the Farm
| Tags: abundance
, farm life
Someone has encouraged me to write more. So, in a effort to write more, I am instilling a Thursday List- maybe this will help me write more and my followers will have a better idea of what life on the ranch can be like- day-to-day.
Things in the Kitchen: I need to make more cookies. I tend to cook on the weekends, five meals, a pie, a cake, banana bread and always a double batch of cookies. Somehow, and I think this has to do with teenage boys, we need more cookies.
Things in my closet: Last weekend was the big switchover from winter clothes to spring clothes for my boys. We hauled boxes and boxes up from the basement to look over what we have, what doesn’t fit, what might fit the next smaller boy, what is too heavy, what has long sleeves and what is now too dirty and stained to be seen in public. This weekend I need to do that for my closet. ugh.
Things in Front of this Computer: Write. Write. Write. Write more. Write better. Write truth. I also need an agenda for the Ministry Council meeting. It’s a biggie. We have a new pastor- gah.
Things On My Book Shelf: Anne Lamott is currently trying to talk me out of being financially secure and finding an agent and talk me into writing. Writing more. Writing better. Writing the truth. (I see a pattern forming……) The Brave is the book club pick. Saul Bellows beckons to me from my bedside. Doncha love when someone beckons to you?
Things I have Put to Bed: Peas are in. Clothes are sorted. I wrote some today. Boys have black pants, white shirts to wear to the Band concert tonight. (which I can’t wait for) I thanked someone for being brave. I let the sun shine in, even if it put a glare on the computer screen. I encouraged a kid to be the best he can be. I cheered someone in being honest with themselves. I spoke truth today- as much as I could.
Things I am going to tackle: we are going to get beets, lettuce, carrots and spinach in the ground. If it kills me. I am going to get water to the chicken coop. We have a gravity feed system in the pens that we use in nice weather- I am SO over carrying water to the system that we use in the winter. SO over it. I am going to make yogurt. Spring, summer, fall there are great fruits that can go in yogurt- it’s time.
Things I WISH I could tackle: Landing a teaching job in a public school. My savings account. Walking- just 20-30 minutes- everyday. Writing a book. Cheese- I would like to make some farmhouse cheddar. But the checklist there is long- need to make the press, need some starter, need some cheese wax, need a big spoon. There I go- procrastinating again. Cow tags- this is such a messy job, because we engrave them, that I like to do it all at once, make a big mess and then hose down my kitchen- but the husband doesn’t write down the names, he just complains about it “Dolly’s lost her tag, you know, you really need to get some tags done, I think there are five out there without tags.” “Give me a list, and I’ll make tags.” – the list never appears. Apparently I need a chaulkboard in the kitchen- everytime he says “so-and-so lost their tag) I’ll just write it down. When a list forms, I’ll make out tags. Smokey’s tag has been sitting on the kitchen table next to napkins and the sugar bowl for a year. I think the excuses for both ‘Cheese’ and ‘cow tags’ could be applied to the others as well- sick.
Ok. My list of Things I WISH I could Tackle is way longer than the Things I Am Going to Tackle. This speaks volumes. Back to the drawing board.
The Heifers Never Lie
“The heifers never lie.” I don’t know if I heard this phrase, or if I made it up. When I first started farming with my husband I was a rookie- it every sense of the word. I didn’t ‘just know’ how to feed a calf, spot a sick cow, test for dry hay or vaccinate a wiggling group of baby pigs- but I learned, and learned quick. There isn’t time (or money) for a learning curve in agriculture- and I didn’t get the privilege of having one. If calves died, I was to blame. If bales were heavy, it was my fault, and my fault alone. Farming is like wrestling- there is no team, and there are no excuses.
What I learned- and learned quick, was that the health of a farm could be measured in many ways- but the one true way to gain the vital signs of a farming operation was in how the heifers looked. A cow calves once a year, and about 50% of the time she has a heifer, which in 24 months can come in and milk for the dairy. A cow, in her lifetime, will not only replace herself, but GAIN the farm six, maybe eight new workers in this process. A farm can grow exponentially from within- or can sell a group of heifers every year, for a tidy little profit. If a farm is not growing, not selling, or has heifers coming in that do not hit their peak until their second or third lactation- they are doing something wrong. Go back and look at your calf program, look at how you are growing your young stock. The heifers never lie.
I think this economic principle can be applied to people as well. (I am a generalizer- I admit. But I have learned that you can find out everything you need to know about people from the social, physical, and economic principles on the farm. It’s where we began, and it is where we find our end. )
The local elementary school here just instituted detention. They also on occasion (twice a week) have to bring in an individual to monitor in-school suspension-for elementary students. The city closest to me just announced, with some enthusiasm, that their graduation rate was UP TO a whopping 55%. High schools around the country report an up-tick of violence, among younger and younger populations of students and most alarming, among young women. Manufacturing employers are not worried about pension benefits for their new crop of workers; many never make it past the first year. If you browse Youtube at all- you have seen the worst of our under supervised youth.
The first question you ask the farmer is, “who is raising the young stock?” This question is answered with silence and crickets chirping in the background in our culture today. Many kids come home to an empty house, everyday. Their parents are working more hours, more days than the generations before them, and the kids are in more sports and activities than ever before. They are plugged into their IPods, their IPhones, and they are posting on Facebook- but they are not talking to anyone. If you hear of a child bullying another child- this is not new- they learned that ‘power to the king’ stuff somewhere and I can bet it was at home. Our children are watching us, and in ten years of working with youth, I have never seen a trend in young people that I didn’t first see in adults. We are no longer raising our heifers= we are birthing them, hovering over them until they are 8, and then turning them out to pasture. See ya when you need me to fill out the FAFSA!
This is not a plan. This is not ‘raising’ children. This is not your Momma’s nuclear family. Farmers spend a lot of money on good nutrition for their animals. They also visit with them, looks them over, daily. They make sure they are filling out properly, that they all eat, that one isn’t bullying others, which are growing uniformly, that their coat is shiny, that they aren’t standing knee-deep in manure. They do their research about parasites, vaccinations, and diet. They listen carefully, are the cows coughing, breathing normally, snorting, or bellowing for more food. It has been my experience, that if you have to buy replacement heifers, or you find that your own heifers aren’t performing up to par, it is because you haven’t invested enough in your young stock program.
If we need to know how our society is doing, let me tell you, look around. The heifers never lie.
It’s not about you!
I am going to say right up front- I do not mean to diminish, offend or disrespect the victims or the families of the people who were irrevocable lost in the shooting in Tucson. I am here to say, however, that they have been disrespected in a way that is also irrevocable and appalling.
A deranged man walked into a supermarket parking lot and shot bullets into a group of people, killing many, wounded several. This act was in direct response to the voices in his head- not because a bunch of pompous, self-absorbed politicians in Washington have been using somewhat colorful language to debate the issues at hand.
A woman, albeit a US Senator, was shot in this senseless act, as was a federal judge, a social worker and a young girl of just ten years old. Their bodies had not even been removed from the grim scene when the pundits from Washington began their narcissistic banter about who is to blame. Immediately, they turned what had been a moment dripping in sorrow, pain, and confusion into a dramatic story about THEM. It was they who had allowed people to speak rudely to each other, to call names, to post pictures of targets on their website, and THEY had caused this senseless act to occur. Like a little child who wants their own way, and in the act of throwing a temper tantrum the roof caves in on the department store- they believe they caused the catastrophe. As grown-ups, we realize this is not true- but the little spoiled brat is certain- the roof caved in because of something that they did.
Really? A man with certifiable mental illness kills people and you want to make it about YOU? Really? If the stock market rebounds, they say it was because of some inane legislation that they enacted. If consumer spending rises, it was because of some stimulus bill that they signed. If the jobs come to their state, it is because one some hand that they shook or some relationship they nurtured. If the polar ice caps are getting smaller, they are certain that it was at the hand of the American Government. Are you really that powerful? Really? In your dreams. GET OVER IT!
Most of us out here exist in SPITE of you! You are like the weather, we can’t do anything about it, we’ve tried to manage it, to no avail, and so we just put up with it and make the most of it if we can. You did not cause this tragedy any more than you made it snow in Georgia or create jobs at GOOGLE- the American people do that. Stop taking credit for things you haven’t done- stay out of my tragedies and my triumphs. You are not part of the solution or the problem. Stop thinking you are the artist in this tapestry we call America. Stop thinking you are the cook in our melting pot. You are no more helpful or harmful to average Americans than popcorn at the movies or light bulbs that burn out. You may be an annoyance, you may be a nice addition once in a while- but you are not the architect, the maestro, or the leadership that makes this nation great, or the match that starts the fire. GET OVER YOURSELF!
Art. Who has the time?
I really enjoy taking my kids to museums. After your kids are all grown- it really isn’t as much fun. I almost think it would be weird to be all grown up and milling about in a museum. It really is about showing something to your kids- having them discover, question, evaluate…you know, see neat stuff.
This past spring we were in Cleveland, which, by the way, is not a nice city and I would tell you why, but that would take another whole blogspost- and we were in the Museum of Natural History. We walked among dinosaurs, looked at ancient creatures, were wowed by creatures great and small, knock-you-socks-off plants, and examined many ancient cultures. Something really struck me- the native people and cultures from Puritans, or Celtic clans or even Benjamin Franklin had art. Not just sort of art, or sloppy art, or lame art, but some really GOOD art!
What struck me was, where did they get the time? These people made all their own clothes, they hunted their food, they gathered berries, they walked to get the simplest of basic human needs, like water and shelter, they had to build EVERYTHING from scratch- and yet, they still had time to draw beautiful designs on the sides of bowls, or bead their moccasins, or decorate their weapons with paint and feathers. They had no health care, no medicines to speak of, and they had to care for their elderly and their children, often in the same house. They had to hunt, gather or grow what ever they ate, everyday. Careful planning had to go into storing and cooking what food they had, so that nothing was wasted.
There were no dishwashers, washers and dryers, automated payment plans, or cars to get us from one place to another in less than fifteen minutes. No running water, no electricity, no clothing stores or fast food- and yet, they had the time (and the will) to decorate, paint, and tell stories through art.
They used art to worship- when we can barely get anyone to get out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church. They used art to preserve memories when we can’t even find the camera to take pictures at our son’s birthday. They used art to mark their property, as we in this culture have Lost and Found boxes overflowing with stuff left behind in our disposable world. Why is it, that as we have opened our schedule with less and less things to DO we aren’t engaged in art? Have we put our creative juices to sleep?
The sun comes up now just as I am fixing lunches in the kitchen. This is perfection. Me, in front of my kitchen window, folding over sandwich bags, filling jugs of Kool-aid, peeling kiwi for Joe’s lunch, rustling around in the treat drawer for a candy bar for Jeff’s lunch……and the sun is welcoming me to the day.
Yesterday I put all the onions harvested from our garden in net bags and hung them from the rafters of our cellar. The sharp smell of onions, the earthy thick aroma of potatoes moved about in their winter bunks, tossing the rotten ones, drying the wet ones, re-sorting and re-categorizing. Small ones for Parsley Potatoes, large ones for Baked potatoes, huge potatoes set aside for slicing into Scalloped potatoes and round ones set aside for Crash Potatoes, a family favorite. Another winter’s worth of food stored up so we may be ready for times of no money, too much snow, or just times of comfort and joy, when a dinner from the pantry will be warm and soothing.
I put a huge chuck roast in the crock pot for supper tonight. Carrots and potatoes and onions swim around in beef bullion, simmering to fall-off-the-bone perfection. With no need to rush around to get dinner, I will walk around in the hen houses, listen to the chickens cluck, watch the peacocks interact in their new pens, and search for stray eggs in the hay bales stacked high in the mow. Perfection.
At four o’clock, my husband will throw himself into the lazy Adirondack Chairs in the front lawn. He will have had a busy day, even though rained, fetching the cows from the far pasture, milking, scurrying around to get his bookwork done and writing checks. He had to go to the Amish today, poultry business, lumber business, and negotiating the finishing of our addition. There is great relief in paying the bills you can, praying about the ones you can’t, crossing things off your list, settling up where you ought. I will join him in the chairs, we will discuss our day and dream a little, wish a little, complain a little, and then dream a little more. Perfection.
Tomorrow I will work for the church. Since the regular church secretary has fallen and broken her arm, I must go in for her Thursdays and Fridays. I need not be there until 9am, which gives me a leisurely morning of fixing breakfasts, waving to children as they get on the bus, and reading the paper. Contentment.
This assurance of working is perfection. In the world of a substitute teacher, where you never know where or when or how you will be working, and every day feels like a very long, unprepared job interview, it is heaven to know where I am going and what will be expected of me. Often, I agree to come in for one teacher, and when I arrive at school they have put me in for another. Sometimes I will have to race to cover two teacher’s schedules, as if one wasn’t enough, and I will have inevitably worn the wrong shoes. Many times, I come into a classroom where I am responsible for taking attendance and no class list will be provided. No lessons are provided, no directions are written. I will be scolded and judged because students went to the bathroom, fed the fish, write on the board, moved their desks, or logged into the computer. The next day I will be scolded and judged because students weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom during class, didn’t feed the fish or weren’t able to log into the computer, even though no clear directions were provided. Often great directions are given, simple lessons are provided, and perhaps even a class list, but yet, as if in an act of sabotage, the power point will not work, the class lists are in code, and period 5 is listed as period 6B, and there is a shortened schedule today because of an assembly no one bothered to tell you about, and the books that the students are supposed to use for the lesson were supposed to be here today, and they are not. Not since attempting to play Whack-a-Mole at Midway have I felt so repeatedly inadequate in my life. Insufficient.
This will not happen at the church, clear directions will be given, requests will follow with a ‘Please’ and “Thank You, ever so much” and the scope of my work will not be hidden from me or made a mystery. My office will be quiet, my disruptions will be welcome breaks, and I will be able to make myself tea or go to the restroom any time I please. The expectations of creating a bulletin, a prayer list, an advertisement for the church retreat, the beginnings of a newsletter and answering the phone are not only within reach, but I can make them sing with passion and enthusiasm. The assurance of knowing that I will be able to meet those expectations without fail is perfection. Satisfaction.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to teach. In my own classroom. I LOVE students, in a school where I have the ability and knowledge to effectively lead and model, and be informative and efficient. I adore being in school settings, where I am responsible for the instruction, the guidance, the leadership and the discipline, not a victim of it.
Recognizing, enjoying, reveling in the idea that perfection doesn’t always come in the package you wish for, is good for the soul. One should live in the moment- the moment given to you by grace. That is perfection.