Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A perfect day on the Pacific

Some days the sun, the sea and the waves call you.
You stand across the street
You look at the possibilities

Then, you see
another soul like you
walking back from the dunes
the scruffy terrain
returning from the beach

Across that  sand, that rivulet,
an ocean of waves
just right
just frothing
calling your name

You will have to traverse this path, driftwood and broken shells and hidden dangers.  Your eyes will keep looking out to the waves, the surfers barely visible, the sand warm and inviting.  Paradise is awaiting.  Go on, cross the street, carry your board. Go on, enjoy your last summer day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The life behind the curtains.

Most of the times, we don't know where we are heading.  We might have a map, and a compass, but we don't know much more than what we can read on that map.  The clues around us might send an alert to our brain: notice the shoulders, the visibility, the traffic pattern ahead.  We notice what's around us; but we fail to notice what it is in us and all around us. We fail to notice our own status.

Most of life takes place behind curtains, out of public view, behind lawns and fortifications and significant other tell tale signs, the make of the car, the cut of the cloth. 
We live different lives sometimes, the one that keeps us sane and connected to our family; and the other one, the projected images that we show our neighbors, our friends.  We are really quite adept at maintaining our public self.

Sometimes, our life isn't visible at all until we are dead and our relatives have to sort out our junk. Old people don't even know when life has become a burden and chores are not getting done. They want to maintain the life they had, the life everybody expects them to maintain.

Just recently, an old friend of ours had an accident and his family convinced him to go live with them.  We all thought that it was a bit premature.  Our old friend was not that old; he was sociable and active, attended many events, took his usual walks, was clean and engaging.

Only after he left, and his house was cleaned, and the land cleared of all the debris, the truth was discovered.  He had accumulated stuff for years: bags and bags of soot, bags of fertilizer,boxes of old clothes and old china, garbage not disposed  that had been attacked by rodents. 

If you know old folks, keep an eye on them, notice their routines, offer to help with chores, offer to run errands. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Health Care NOW: We all need it.

This morning, I received this email from The White House. Millions of us received this email and the accompanying video that has President Obama explain the health care reform we need. I got this; and millions of us got this. We need health care reform now.

Dear Friend,
Four minutes — that’s all you need to learn just what you get from health insurance reform. Take the few minutes and watch now: The details the President outlines in this video are those that every American needs to know. No matter your political party or whether or not you have insurance, his plan for health care security and stability matters to all of us. Millions of American citizens cannot get health insurance — and 14,000 are losing their insurance every day. If we do nothing, half of Americans under the age of 65 will lose their health insurance at some point in the next ten years. That’s not right. Plain and simple. For Americans with insurance as well as those without it, inaction is not an option. In America, no one should go broke because they get sick. Bottom line — health insurance reform will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance, coverage for those who don’t, and will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government. As the President says, now is the time to deliver the change we need on health care. Forward this email and make sure your family, friends and social networks take four minutes and watch this video.

Thank you,

David David Axelrod Senior Adviser to the President

This email was sent to Unsubscribe Privacy Policy Please do not reply to this email. Contact the White House The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111

p.s. if some of you know how to imbed the video on your blog, please let me know in the comment section. Thank you.

p.p.s Thanks Lola from aglioolioepeperoncino for sending me the link on you tube, above, and for teaching me how to post it. You are a lifesaver! If you folks don't know Lola, she teaches about Italian culture and Italian food at her favoloso blog:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Favorite season and other thoughts

The approach of Fall is a bittersweet time here on the Southern Oregon Coast. Tourists pack up and leave; restaurants begin to cut their hours; school busses crowd you on the road. License plates from California, Nevada and Washington State start to dwindle. And folks who remain on the road drive more cautiously.

It is still sunny here, and though we've had a few incidents of rain, they have not changed the pattern of our sprinkling system. September weather is just like June's and July's. Yesterday, driving home from Coos in the afternoon, we turned the air conditioning unit in the car to keep us from overheating. Houses do not have air-conditioning.

Even hitchhikers and bike riders are getting scarce. Young people with cardboard signs indicating Eureka, San Francisco or Reno as their final destination, have caught their rides and gone south. Birds are beginning to stop on the lake. They don't wait too long though; they must smell something I do not. They are heading South too. Later, loons and various other fowl will settle down to winter on Lake Garrison, sharing space with travelers from Canada and Alaska.

By December, whales will frolick in the cold waters, feed their young and rest on their way to Baja. Many of our residents tend to do the same thing.

My pears and apples are ripening. Each day I bring in a barrel. Each day, I wash, cut, and slice. Each day, a batch or two get frozen for later use; a batch gets chopped up even further for cakes and muffins; a batch gets dried up in the dehydrator. I know this bounty means the end of summer, but I want more time to soak up the warmth, to experience lungful of marine layer, to play in the dirt, to chew tender beans and crispy cucumbers, to walk to the beach, to watch sunsets on the deck as late as ten p.m., followed by stargazing that goes on all night.

I want more of this season, of lush growth, of careless indulgences.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pictures of summer and other observations

The Honest Scrap Award.

The wonderful Linda from wandertothewayside awarded me this marvelous prize. Honestly, it's a good reminder that simple, authentic stories are appreciated. It is easy to get caught in the hype, the alacrity of post'm -now- whatever attitude so prevalent in ether land. Where can we go to get straight facts any more?

In addition, I want to share with her and other blog-mates who enjoyed the car pictures the poem I wrote that same day. Going down memory lane tends to move some of us.

Show and Shine

That convertible, hard
Top easily exchanged for soft top,
Bare legs on hot
Leather seats,
Sand, sun, wet suits,
Wind stringing hair
Over our faces and out the back window,
Laughter and radio drowning
All care:
Forty years of desire
Piled high in the back seat.

Now, I don’t wear short shorts
Or long hair.
Now, I don’t slide in the back seat
Of a hot car.


What about you? What images of past summers do you care to share?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Show and Shine.

Before I knew how to drive, I had an image of the car I would purchase. It was going to be a sleek black sports car, a fast and cute companion to reflect my personality and my love of adventure. The cute car above would fit the bill.

I never owned a car like this. My husband did, before I knew him, before our lives were ever in one space together. By the time I was able to purchase a car, my meager finances and this VW were in sync. This car lasted me/us many years. This particular car in the Rotary's Annual Show and Shine looks exactly like mine.

I wonder how they managed to keep it so shiny and new.

Before we bought the VW, I might add, as newlyweds we bought this Camaro. The old Oldsmobile died on us on Ventura Blv. in Encino. What we did was push it to the curb, and walk right across the street to a Chevrolet dealer. When they asked us what we had to trade, we pointed to our clunker across the street. The salesman felt sorry for us, he said. He was willing to pay us for the brand new tires on the Olds.
We had one car for many years. ( The Camaro had a glamorous engine death after only 69 thousand miles.) When we finally bit the bullet__it was an ultimatum bullet, our marriage was in peril, __we bought two Mitsubishi cars, tiny things to replace the VW that had not survived its fifth new engine.
I've always admired old cars, old houses, old silver. Unfortunately, admiration is not enough here. Old machines need care and upkeep, more so than new machines. Neither my husband or I are good at up keeping.
We are back to driving just one car, a big SUV. Without this beast we could not live in this far out, isolated place. Without it, we could not make runs to Coos Bay for weekly loads of groceries distributed to needy families.

Like clocks, cars have kept track of the times in our lives, the dreams, the disappointments.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to spot a good teacher

During my forty years in education I have learned a few things about what makes a good teacher. You know a good teacher simply by instinct lots of time; you know a good person the same way too. When you talk to your child, you will know how he/she feels about that teacher and you too can gauge how good that teacher is.

I am referring to qualities that consistently appear to shine in people who excel in the art and science of teaching. None of these qualities appear on resumes, in interviews, on elaborate lesson plans.

The New Yorker had an article a few months ago about the difficulty of evaluating good teaching/ an effort that if successful, might make performance-based salary advancements quite acceptable.
Here is my attempt at a definition in five easy steps. Why five? It forces me to distill and compress the essence of a profession. Let me know if these are of any use. I especially appreciate feedback from those of you in the profession. Tell me which, or any you agree or disagree with. Thanks.
1. Ability to see the entire classroom, and like a masterful conductor, move around and keep every player engaged to the task at hand. Every Player knows he/she is responsible to that master conductor. Ask your child: are you allowed to play in your classroom?
2. Ability to explain the subject/concept/skill in a variety of ways within the space of a couple of lessons or so, and through homework activities. Every Player knows that he/she must master the material and that the teacher is his partner in that mastering. Ask your child: did you understand your homework?
3. Ability to simplify/ration/scaffold and extend understanding past the textbook materials, past the assignments. Ask your child: can you pass the test on this material?
4. Ability to encourage, motivate, cajole, see potential in every player. Ask your child: do you like your teacher?
5. Ability to expand the curriculum through projects, real life problems, fairs, competitions. Ask your child: what's the importance of this assignment you and I need to do?
You may add more if you like. Each of us has had a special teacher. How do you remember that person?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to insure your child thrives and other tales of success...

This is an early picture of my garden at the beginning stage. This garden faced: weeds, exposure to winds,poor soil, lack of warmth.

Some things I could ameliorate; some things I had to accept.

I could build up the soil structure, add tarp to retain warmth, add fertilizing material to
encourage growth, add bio- variety to prevent insects from invading, and construct a wind barrier to minimize damage.

I had to accept that winds by the Ocean are often too harsh and too frequent, and my barrier would have to be of such force and durability to withstand hurricane force gusts even during the sunny months.

I had to accept that my soil is sand. Not just sandy, but all sand. Any plant material I add will take centuries to build up to an optimum level. I have to be patient and resourceful with what I plant, what I harvest to consume, what I compost for future soil build-up.

In educating our children, teachers basically make the same decisions. They begin by assessing the potential and needs of the youngsters. They look at the materials, time and resources available. They structure the classroom to keep time-on-task uninterrupted. They build structures to keep the winds of distraction at bay: rules, procedures, routines. They assign tasks and homework based on the capacity of the class to achieve pre-determined goals.

Much of the work in education is done by parents before the child arrives at school. You prepared the soil way in advance. You instilled love of learning as well as habits of mind. You taught rules and respect and fair play. The teacher is just planting this year's crop of concepts, skills and vocabulary.

If any amelioration needs to occur, you as a parent will be the first to notice and to point out. You will partner with the teacher and get the job done. Those barriers to keep the winds out are not built by one person. They are built by teams of dedicated workers supporting and respecting each other.

Your child will succeed not because the teacher likes him-though this element is most important- not because the homework is easy, or the materials are all available, but because he/she has become passionate about something beyond his/her capacity, something that is hard and important, something that makes him/her feel strong and important.

Both you and the teacher can take pride in his/her growth and achievements.

The harvest/results will not be visible for a long time. You are building a cathedral together.