good day to you, February

Good day to you, February!

I welcome you to the comfort of my kitchen. I’m warming the oven – and myself – after a long, dark, cold January. I’m baking today. Seven cabinet doors flung wide from the gathering of ingredients and tools and bowls. Evidence I was here. Cookie dough spins in the mixer and the sun just arrived … at 6:58 … same time as last year on this day. (I checked.)

I smile to think of who I am this February compared to last. At 6:58 or any other time. And then I think, how nice it is to smile about such as that, about me as I am. Yes, February, I’ve added the right ingredients: plenty of rest, drinking my water, moving my body, reading lovely books, loving my people as best I can, and of course, hope.

Hope was a little harder to find last February. Maybe sometimes hope is tucked away in the back of the cabinet, behind the molasses, just waiting for me to pull it out, dust it off, and share it with others. Hope, like the cookies I’m baking today, is meant to be shared. And February, you with your earlier sunrises and later sunsets – give hope. Just when we need it most, I think.

So today I’ll be sharing cookies, February. And if you’d be so kind, please share some hope. In your month of love, remind me to love my neighbors, to offer warmth, to welcome … and accept … everyone. 

Open my heart wide, February. 

French Love Cakes

1 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped, roasted pecans

Sifted powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup)

In large mixing bowl beat together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until fluffy. Stir in flour and pecans until combined. Shape into 1 1/4 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 325 ° oven 20 to 23 minutes until golden. Remove from sheet to cooling rack over parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 30.

-adapted from Country Home Magazine, February 1999

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.

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.