lesson plans

It’s been 54 years since my first day of school and only 12 months or so since my final first day. This year, there’s an absence. I’m absent. There’s a piece of me missing. A piece, I’m learning, only I can find.

Throughout all those years of study, the milestones I’ve reached and degrees I’ve earned, and the many opportunities for both teaching and being taught – I like to think I’ve always been a learner.  

There’s so much to know, to understand, to experience. Retirement is more than a chance to spend my time in new ways, it’s a chance to occupy my mind, to learn by doing, to think. To extend. Elaborate. Expand. To busy my mind with ideas. Questions. Possibilities and curiosities.

To walk all those talks I gave about being a life-long learner.

I sit, just me and my notebook, and 30 minutes of wondering.

Lesson planning.

What do I want to know and be able to do? What are my essential questions? 

Project-based learning. Experiential learning. Independent study. Education by design. Depth of knowledge. Just Dewey it.

The teaching philosophies I believed in as an educator still apply.  To me.  For me. 

And now, more than ever, I am the student. 

Back to school this fall, after all.

from within … to without

I suppose it’s true to say the older I get, the more generalized anxiety I feel – especially as relates to my health. One scare too many, I guess. Near-misses and almosts, thankfully, but they’re the cause and culprit of anxiety that now goes from zero to 60 faster than my car. Covid hasn’t helped, of course. I’m sometimes only one small headache or throat-tickle away from a full-on, full-alert, oh-my-gosh-I-should-get-tested reaction. 

Safe to say, the cause exaggerates the effect.

Walking gives me a moving moment or two of peace, a respite from the thought spiral, a shift of focus from myself to the great big, wide open out there.

A walk from within anxiety … to without.

For me, it’s all in the noticing. Moving from big feelings to small details. An intentional pause to find nature’s bits and pieces I might ordinarily walk by – looking without seeing. The way morning light caresses a leaf. How fall colors brighten the poison ivy first. Berries. Nuts. Seeds all but ready to release and drift aloft. Itty bitty oak leaves. And the tiniest little wildflowers I never did see – or notice before.

And that thirty-minute walk takes me both outside into the world and out of my own head altogether. Call it self-medication. An intervention.

A cure.

One foot in front of the other. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hope.

dear september

I love your windows wide open and the billow of your breezes in my white curtains. I love the last of summer’s flowers, both the gathering and the plunk of them in a pale blue Ball jar on my kitchen counter. A bit worn out, like summer itself, but still up for one more celebration before the leaves begin to color and claim center stage.

September, you need not try as hard as June, July, and August. You’re simultaneously an end and a beginning. No need to be something you’re not – neither summer, nor fall – but summer and fall. You’re a burst of yellow school buses up the road, irrationally blue skies, and a few final barefoot walks around the yard. You’re one more trip to the beach and a bonfire for Sunday’s cookout. 

What would you be, September, without a new notebook? A couple more morning minutes under the warmth of the covers? A final few nights lolling about on the front porch before dinner? 

Just yesterday I saw two geese honk south – early birds – and the green acorns I kick down the road have begun to brown.  Frantic squirrels dash across the road, mouths full. Monarch butterflies are migrating, and I wish them well as our paths cross for a moment, stuck as I am in traffic and surprised by their sudden appearance.  The geraniums cling desperately to their pink even as the mums bloom on the front stoop. 

Maybe we’re all on pause, dear September, not yet ready for what’s next but lingering awhile longer with what was. The thing is, wishing never once made time stand still, and so we move onward into earlier darkness and later light come morning, not without our hardships but hearts hoping, nonetheless.

So September, I’ll tilt my face to the last of the sun’s warmth and lick ‘round my mouth as the juice of apples and peaches and tomatoes drips down my chin. I’ll front porch our pumpkins and shuck all the corn I can get my hands around. Each day I wonder if today’s the last day I tug on my shorts, all the while looking forward to flannel. One day ice cream and the next, apple cider donuts. You’re neither, nor, and both. My favorite month of all.

Dear September, I love you.

morning glory

I greet the day with a good morning salutation to my life. 

It’s a beautiful day outside my window, but my attention, my gaze is inward. A moving moment with myself, within myself, for myself.

I stretch. Slowly. Almost timidly at first. Loosen and limber my body, open my circulation, lift my face to the heavens.

Let go. 

Feet side-by-side and steady. I focus. Firm my base. Tether the possibilities in my day to the intention of this solid rooting. In this moment, I re-engage with the substance of me, the soul of me. I am tall. Undaunted. Strong.

I ballerina-arch my arms overhead. Both at once and then one at a time, an orchestration in a symphony of movement. Lean to one side, switch arms, and lean again opposite. Tilt my head to and fro. Nod yes.  Swivel no. 

Clasp my hands overhead and gaze upward. Step wide. 

A living, breathing, sign of peace.

Arms down. Palms up. I seek balance. Raise one leg behind me. Lower. Raise the next. Wobble. Steady. Wobble. Breathe in, out. In, out.  Accept the wobble. Accept myself. Understand my limitations and work within them. Sometimes noticing I’m holding my breath. Releasing it, I try again. And again. As many times as necessary.

Faithful.

Kneel. Cat. Cow. Cat. Cow. Arch. Collapse. Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. Deepen. The. Stretch. Just. A. Little. Bit. More.

One part yoga, one part simple stretching, one part whatever feels good. 

My morning glory. 

it’s about time

Now that I have more time, I see so many good choices for how to use it. Should I do this? That? The other? Even – nothing at all – is a choice.  I can fritter time away with the best of them, and after an initial period of dilly-dallying and lollygagging, I’m living more energetically. I’ve never, ever had so many minutes all to myself, and it’s been a bit of an adjustment. A luxury, to be sure.

Questions I’ve been asking myself: How do I want to feel throughout my day? And especially, at the end of it? What choices will happy me? Fill me with pride? Hope? Wonder? Strength? Purpose? Contentment? Creativity?

It’s now my someday when, so I’ve shifted focus from achievement to enjoyment.  I’m delightfully – and perhaps a little selfishly, for now – focused on what I most need or want. And I’m as much guided by what I don’t want as by what I do. I will no longer sacrifice peace of mind for productivity. I’m after whatever choices make me stronger in mind, body, spirit, or relationship. 

Once time-crunched, chores have become relaxing pleasures. There’s so much joy to be found in the simplest of tasks: the sweep my hand makes erasing dust from a tabletop, the tuck of a clean sheet, the chop of a fresh vegetable from our garden. Routines are emerging, but slowly, and with a nod to the weather forecast.

The laundry keeps coming, and the bills, and the dishes. But truly, I tell you, what doesn’t get done today will tomorrow – or it won’t, and surprisingly, that’s okay. I work when I’m scheduled, rest when I’m tired, daydream often, walk most mornings, and sometimes simply sit still and listen to all the sounds of summer.

Unhurried. Unworried. Hope-full.

hello

Hello.

I don’t know why I picked this day, time, and place to write again, but here I am. 

I’m transitioning. Leaving one lifestyle to live in the next as I close my career and cross into the wide-open world of now what? And maybe I should admit right from the get-go that I while have no idea what I’m doing, I’m feeling all kinds of faith that whatever’s next will somehow find me. In the air around me, there’s a sweet-smelling kind of hope like newly-turned soil or just-mown grass. A fresh, first time. A brand-new moment of me.

I’m not sure if I’m in search of a new identity or reacquainting myself with an old one. I’m conjugating … Who was I? Who am I? Who will I be?  I’m not so much making decisions as I am choices, and I don’t think I ever really understood the distinction between the two until now.  

My breathing feels as unrestricted as my day – a deep inhale and a slow, intentional exhale. And I guess that’s exactly where I am right now, the peaceful pause found in the space between breathing in and out, between an end and a beginning.

In the meantime, between all this new-found serenity and possibility, there’s boxes to be emptied, books to shelve, and rooms filled with tasks I’ve wisely left “until I have more time. “  Time I now have. Plus more to read, daydream, walk awhile down the road …

and write.

hope-filled

I will live -more slowly- in this day.
Without hurrying (and less worrying.)
I’ll skip the self-scolding for what didn’t get done
and celebrate what did
with hand-clapping (and maybe a sticker)
at day’s end.

I’ll pause long enough to smooth the good cream (Morning Mint)
over skin too long, too dry
and one more cup of coffee before work
saving solemnity for some other day
some other me.

I’ll live head up
favoring lovely views over
papers and planners and piles of to-dos
secure in the knowledge I’ll see one thing – maybe more –
I thought I didn’t have time to see.

If you need me,
I’ll be here counting chickens before they hatch
throwing caution to the fool April winds
and looking before I leap
no matter the snow on the ground
there’s pansies in the forecast
and eggs to hide and sure enough,
the sun did come up – after all.

So contrary to popular wisdom,
I’ll not be saving anything for a rainy day
spending all my everything’s today
willy-nilly
come what may
come what will
hope-filled.



aw, nuts (and seeds)

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, I’m all fits and starts. Do-overs. Try agains. Admittedly, there’s more I can do and should do in just about every area of my personal health habits.

But in order for a habit to become well, habit, it needs to be something I continually practice. And knowing who I am, with my tendency to start strong and then fizzle out after awhile, these habits need to be almost mindless and easily integrated into my
day to-day living.

So I’m after small, sustainable, healthy habits. Here’s my latest:

Given my penchant for salty and savory, I’ve been best friends with hot, buttered popcorn and potato chips for years. And I’m sure I’ll never give either up altogether, but I’ve found a new, healthier crunch in a concoction of nuts and seeds – a vitamin, mineral, and anti-oxidant packed trail mix of sorts – easy to buy, chop, mix, and eat.

In the seed category, this week’s mixture includes; chia, flax, hemp, sunflower, and pumpkin. Nuts this week include: walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, and cashews. I also tossed in a handful of chopped, dried cranberries and chocolate chunks for a little sweet with the savory. The particulars can vary, so I say: mix up what you’ve got. I tend to buy an ingredient or two with each week’s groceries as some of these staples can be expensive. Each week’s blend fills most of a Mason jar.

As I’ve dabbled in reading about healthy diets, I’ve come across so much information about the health benefits of eating nuts and seeds. I’m no dietician or nutritionist, but at my age, phrases like: “excellent source of fiber, lowers LDL cholesterol, helps build strong bones, boosts vision health, and protects the body from certain cancers” – catch my attention. The list of vitamins and minerals found in these teeny, tiny bits and pieces of crunch go on and on.

One simple step toward better health, a snack at a time, for one hopeful, healthier year.

i’ve been meaning to write

i’ve been meaning to write
to send word
to put pen to paper
fingers to keys
to find release in the process
an understanding
a few of the right words
(or any words at all)
i’ve been meaning to write
for the pure pleasure
of the pen scratch
for the marvel
of how many times i forget
to cross my T s and dot my I s
for the twirl of hair
around my index finger
thinking thinking
for the cross-outs and arrows
and notes in the margins
i’ve been meaning to write
with a come-what-may pace
to “speed ahead of the censor”
to find truth
in whatever flows from my pen
to learn whatever it is
“I did not know I knew”
to show up
here
i’ve been meaning to write
from inside to out
to uncork the bottle
to chart a map
to discover
and when I’m done …
to hope
to put the pen down
and keep walking.

*quotations thanks to Donald M. Murray

making peace

I’m learning peace isn’t something to be found. I know. Because like just like everyone else I meet, I’ve been looking.

Real peace is –I think– peace I must make on my own. I’m learning to make some sort of patchwork peace with the world as it is. Healing a little here, hoping a little there. Making peace with my own side of the street and how I want to live on it. With the past of me and the present of me. With who I hope to be next. I’m making peace with remembrances. And worries. With loss. Grief. And farewells.

This year has offered plenty of time for self-reflection.

Early mornings of late, I sit alone stitching. Quiet. Focused on the knit or the purl or criss-crossing the embroidery thread. Slide the needles. Wrap the yarn. Pull the stitch through. I’m knitting with wooden needles quite likely older than I am. My grandmother’s.

I wonder: Is she here with me? Did she too enjoy the texture of the wool, the taut pull of the yarn, the repetition of pattern? As she worked the needles, did she make peace with herself and within her life as I do, sitting here before sunrise?

And I’ve only just today been able to pick up my mother’s cross-stitch project. I promised I’d finish it for her. A sampler for my brother. I know she worked on it as long as she was able, and it was important to her that he receive it. That it was finished. And all these many months, it’s been tucked away in a basket. In wait. Maybe she knew I’d get to it when and only if I was ready. A trust exchanged between us. A certainty the day would come.

There’s peace-making in the folds of fabric my mother once held. I hold onto it as if holding her hand. The thread, the rise and fall of the needle, the finishing. A release. An exhale. A circle closing.

I wonder: Is she here with me? Are we, mother and daughter, each pulling the same thread? One beginning, the other finishing? It’s been an almost two year goodbye, and maybe it’s time to make peace with that too.

Maybe I’ve spent all these many months in the making of bread and the taking of photographs and now, the knitting of scarves and sewing of samplers … to make my own peace as it seems it can’t be found anywhere else just now. Maybe making peace is being at peace and living in peace.

The weary world needs the hopers, the helpers, the givers and the peace-makers.

Rejoice. And make peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27