Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Salsa Garden


How ironic! 
The salsa garden ripened into perfect tomatoes and peppers AFTER I started school. So even though I didn't plan on doing preserves last weekend, we made another batch of salsa because I simply can't waste these beautiful tomatoes. I take no credit for how they turned out but they really are perfect tomatoes!

And the tomatoes kept ripening. So this weekend, today in fact, was supposed to be fruit relish; my recipe makes 6 jars and it's my favourite relish. But the school prep -- activities for the next three days leading up to the first day of fall -- took over my weekend. I managed to get everything done -- except for the fruit relish. I'm hoping the tomatoes last until next Saturday. 

How ironic!
I grow the best salsa garden I could hope for -- and I'm not around to make the most of it. I am, however, enjoying all the cherry tomatoes. They, too, came on strong just in time for school and my lunch every day. It's lovely to sit in a quiet classroom and eat cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices from my own garden. 

The "should" of teaching, especially for subs and new teachers, is to eat in the staff room, but I'm too old and too wise to listen to the "shoulds" any longer. I am so involved and put so much into my teaching, into my interactions with the students, that come lunch time, I don't want to talk to anyone. I need the quiet of an empty classroom to recharge and reset and renew. I'm lucky that the school I'm teaching at right now is so small, there isn't that pressure to sit in the staff room, nor is there any benefit -- we see each other in hall and in each other's classrooms all day. 

I'd rather have the quiet, and the chance to work -- some think you need a break but as a new teacher, I need to know what I'm doing next and feel like I have it under control. After a weekend of working at home on the activities for this week, I'm heading into Monday not feeling like I have everything under control -- but I get to work early, and I have a morning prep while my students are at music so we'll be fine. 

It's all good -- and we get to do art all week and I'm excited about that. I hope to post a photo of our creation next weekend. 

So in advance of this Wednesday: Happy First Day of Fall! 


Tuesday, September 07, 2021

The First Day of School!


You are never too old for a "first day of school" photo! 

And you can never have too many flowers in the classroom. 

I had two more bags to take with me plus a box of supplies. Fully stocked and ready to roll!

I think this proves, beyond a doubt, it's never too late to be what you might have been. I wanted to be a teacher, I let someone get in the way of that, but here I am three decades later, ready and willing and perfectly capable... 

to teach the kids their first lesson: You don't have to follow the rules.

Because here I am, wearing white after Labour Day! 



Monday, September 06, 2021

Sunflowers 2021

The view from the bus

 
I'm glad the sunflowers are still upright and blooming for the children to see as they drive by on the bus on the way to school tomorrow.

The first day of school! The first time this day has meant anything to me since the beginning of my final year of high school. (I suppose we had a "first day of school" in university but it wasn't really the same thing; we went "back to class" and were mostly hungover, rather than excited!)

When Dwayne went to pick up the sunflower seeds he'd ordered, he discovered they'd been sold So he had to re-order and this is what we ended up with: ordinary, regular, garden-variety sunflowers. Not the tall, multi-blossom ones we've been planting for the past few years. 

They kind of suit the summer we've had, though. Not as much sun, but everything blossomed because we had enough moisture and enough heat. Not as many blooms but every flower came out. Almost every one of the sunflowers is upright because we didn't get hit with any hurricanes or tropical storms. 

The weather for the first day of school is going to start out cloudy so we'll be a little burst of sunshine for the kids as they head up the road. 
 
Oh, and I'm taking a big bouquet of sunflowers for my classroom. My classroom! I've waited 28 years to say that... 


In memory of Dwayne's father who died in 2020



Sunday, August 22, 2021

Back To School



Hitting the books. 
Something I should have done fourteen years ago when I first arrived in Nova Scotia but it turns out, I'm a very slow learner.

At the start of this year, I closed the door for good on Field Notes, the book, and its publisher, which hadn't expressed interest in any of the manuscripts I'd sent to them. 
But finally closing that door seems to be the secret to opening new doors -- I sold a book of my writings about faith and spirituality (coming out in November as "Alphabet of Faith"), and I sold a children's book (to be published in 2022). 

Not only that, I was hired for a short-term teaching job. Term appointments are significantly different from substitute teaching, and it's been a wake-up call for me. 
I want to be a teacher. 
I want to take back what was stolen from me in 1993 by that supervising teacher who told me I shouldn't be a teacher. His statement (and honestly, what kind of teacher says that??) and my personality -- not brave, not assertive, and an internalizer (as in I never told anyone) -- combined to create a lifelong struggle to figure out who I am and what my life's purpose is. 
Now I know: 
I am a writer AND a teacher. 
I am a teacher AND a writer. 

Writing books about faith and spirituality, writing children's books, becoming an elementary school teacher -- who knew 2021 would clear the path for me?
No wonder I keep singing, "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone!"

On Monday, I participate in the new teacher orientation workshop then on Tuesday, I meet up with the teacher's whose maternity leave I'm wrapping up. So my teaching life gets started this week. This is huge, my friends. This is huge. 
To combat those habits of fearfulness and self-doubt (which lead to self-sabotage), I keep telling myself that people are always losing their way, losing their jobs, hitting rock bottom, starting over, reinventing themselves. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS. 

I have so much in common with the Primary (Kindergarten) students I'll be greeting in a couple of weeks on the first day of school: I'm equal parts excited and anxious about being in the classroom. But in my case, I'm in charge so there's a lot more at stake in my performance!
But this time around, I have an actual support system (and I now know to ask for help and clarification) and a renewed focus to be the teacher I've always wanted to be. 
That I think I'm meant to be. 

And I can't wait to get started. 


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Rest Easy, Big Guy

Andre Poulet, July 2020

 

Andre Poulet, our beloved rooster, died Monday morning. 

We noticed last week he wasn't crowing outside like he used to. AP always crowed profusely inside the coop as dawn broke, I usually heard him from our bedroom, but over the weekend, he'd crow once from his roost then not again. 

My husband noticed the rooster was thinner and I realized he was struggling to swallow. 

On Monday, Mother and I went to Halifax and when we were home again at the end of the day, sitting on the front deck catching up, Dwayne said Andre Poulet had spent the afternoon lying on the deck underneath the branch of the rose bush that stretches out and provides shade. 

I'm sorry I missed that. By the time we were home, he was underneath Mother's bird feeder, trying to eat and making a strange squeaking nose as he cleared his throat. As it turned out, Dwayne got to spend Andre's final day with him.  

Tuesday morning, I had to lift AP off his roost and carry him outside. I noticed he had that smell that chickens get when they are dying. I didn't realize he was hours away, rather than a day or two, though. When I got back from running errands, I'd planned to let him out to be in the yard for his final hours/days, but he was gone when I got back. 

The hens were alone with the body long enough to know their rooster was dead. 

I buried him in the field but near the outside pen; I thought he should be close by. After I dug the grave, I cut giant sunflower leaves to place in the bottom since I never put my chickens directly on the ground. Then I cut wildflowers, mostly goldenrod at this time of year, to cover him, and made a bouquet of brown-eyed Susans and clover and Queen Anne's Lace. 



As I was placing the flowers on his body in the grave, since I also never let the dirt fall directly on the creatures I bury, I heard a rustle inside the fence. One hen had shown up for the funeral, and it was Phyllis, who'd hatched out our one chick last summer. Watching Andre and Phyllis and Cheeps wander around the yard together was one of the pleasures of July 2020. 


I admit I cried as I said a few words for Andre Poulet. He was a good rooster, not mean, never attacking. He had a personality, as most chickens do, and I think he knew his name. I could get him to crow at me if I called out for him. He was always flying out of the pen to come check out the decks and under the bird feeders, and I'll miss walking across the yard with him. He was a bit of a dog that way. 

He was a very good rooster. Not sure how we will replace him. Some spurs are hard to fill...

This morning, after I'd let the hens out and filled their water dish out back, I walked around to the front of the coop to get their morning treat -- the grain scratch I toss on the ground -- and Dwayne was on the back deck. 

"Wild geese," he said, pointing to the sky behind me. 

I turned and looked up to see a small flock of six geese. Just as they flew over the pen and the spot where I buried Andre Poulet, five of the geese cut away to their left, flying over the coop itself, and one single goose kept flying ahead.

The missing man formation. The aerial salute done by jets during a fly-by to honour a fallen soldier. 

I kid you not. The gap between the five geese and the lone goose was very, very large. 

I might have been crying when I went inside to say good morning to Phyllis. 



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Sunflower of Unexpectation


This is absolutely the right metaphor for 2021: the surprise sunflower growing in the weed pile. 

Whatever I yank out of the gardens and whatever I clean out of the chicken coop gets dumped into a small section of the field close to the house but out of sight. The later into summer we get, the less I can see it because the field grows up around it. 

Unfortunately -- and I anticipated this -- the noxious weeds from the vegetable gardens don't ever die so they thrive in the weed pile. I'm not sure how I feel about these awful, useless weeds (seriously, they are not lovely and helpful like dandelions or clover) taking over the field but the only alternative is burning, which is equally as noxious. 

It doesn't help that the chicken poop helps everything grow. Including something I do want. 

Back in July, I noticed a familiar looking plant emerging -- there's no mistaking those large leaves. 

Somehow, either through my cleaning up the gardens or perhaps a bird carrying the seed, this sunflower germinated and took root and grew -- blossomed -- in the most unlikely place, in a place no one attends to, in a place where the stuff we don't want to deal with ends up. 

A random, unexpected sunflower grows in the weed pile out back.

Beauty grows where you least expect it. 

Something good appears in the midst of the bad stuff. 

Beauty and goodness are always around us, but we must keep our eyes open to notice it in the places where we aren't expecting them -- yet really, those are the places where beauty and goodness are most likely to flourish because we need to see them. 

We need that moment of joy. A moment to pause in the pushing of wheelbarrow to smile, breathe in deeply, and realize it's not all bad all the time. Joy persists. The bees keep buzzing. And there will be seeds planted here for next year. 


Tuesday, August 03, 2021

GOING FOR A RIDE ON THE GREAT TRAIL


This is the face of someone who is taking a day off to go for a ride. 

It's been ten years since Dwayne and I did a ride together, and I can't for the life of me figure why we stopped doing them. With a new-to-him off-road vehicle, of course I needed to get my ride in. 

I'd forgotten how relaxing a ride through the woods is. I'd forgotten that I knew how to relax! I'm always so busy thinking of the next Facebook post or online church group poem I need to write, or of the edits for the book that are coming to me next week, or of school starting in a month that I figured my mind would be churning up thoughts like a side-by-side churns up dust. I packed a notebook but never opened it. Never even thought about it. 

This is why: I love trees. I find trees fascinating. I love looking at tree and at the ground underneath them. There is so much to see in the woods, in the wildflowers growing alongside the trail, and in the ponds -- pond lilies and lily pads -- that I just rode along looking and not thinking. It was very relaxing.

It was like a meditation. The purists would be appalled because the side-by-side is noisy and moves along but the fact I was able to shut off my brain and calm down and sit still simply by focusing on the nature around me says it all: it was a meditation. 

Turns out, that's exactly what I needed. A chance to rest my brain. A chance to turn off the faucet on the thoughts. The notebook stayed closed, the pen was not used. I didn't do any thinking. All I did was sit back and enjoy the ride.

And it was the perfect day for that. 

Oh, the places you can go!