Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Legacy

Good teachers are all around us.  Great teachers, ones who live with you long after you have become an adult, come along rarely.  And this is to honor two of them.  One, a high school teacher, the other an elementary teacher.  But both had such an impact on the lives of their students, an impact that will always be remembered in their communities and beyond.
"To teach is to touch a life"  How very true.  We become teachers not because it is a just a job.  It is a true vocation...a calling.  We feel it in our hearts before we even step into a classroom on our own.
And these two women were so dedicated to their lives of teaching it was not hard to tell what a difference they would make.
Tributes are written now that they are gone.  How she loved her students and went the extra mile to see that they felt important and wanted.  How she put in extra effort to make sure that her pupils were well prepared.  Listening.  Offering advice.  Caring.  That servant's heart that we all seek in our life.  These two women had it all. 
It is hard for me to write these lines.  One of these teachers was my very best friend.  Last week we talked about how she taught her students about shadows on Groundhog Day.  Always creative.  Never willing to let any opportunity pass to teach and love and touch her kids with kindness and hope for the future.
The other teacher was so involved with her students.  Especially those who needed extra help.  She recognized their strengths and helped them find a way to succeed.  When I interviewed her about one of her pupils, her eyes shone with unshed tears as she described this young woman's potential.  A true teacher...always with the future in mind.  What a wonderful asset.
And so we say good-bye.  Tears flow.  We miss them.  But their lives live on in what they helped to mold.  Futures bright with promise.  Bright stars shining above.  Guiding these people to a better way and fuller lives.  A true legacy.  And one of which we can be proud.
Rest in peace dear friends.  Until we meet again. 



Saturday, January 20, 2018

And on.....

Salter Path, North Carolina.  1967.  Late August.  Andy and I had been married about 2 months and stopped by to visit with his folks while they vacationed near the ocean.  How young.  How untried.  How in love we were.  Just the best of the best.  We had no idea what we were going to do.  Headed back to Wisconsin to familiar surroundings, we had dreams, but nothing really in mind.
I think back on those days.  It would have worried me as a parent to have two young people joining their lives together without a clue as to what might be ahead.  We weren't totally in the dark.  The war was raging in Southeast Asia...and Andy's number had come up.  We knew that was in the future.  But we would make that decision when we had to.  And we did.  But that story will wait for another time.
Yes.  We have just celebrated 50 years of togetherness.  Ups and downs.  Joys and sorrows.  Disappointments.  Unbelievable good fortune. 
Just last night as we were dancing to a familiar tune, in step and smiling at each other, he reminded me that we were beginning our 6th decade with each other.  Can that be so?  I guess it is.  
I close my eyes and smile.  What might lie ahead for us?  I have no idea.  
Love will carry us through it.  And on and on......

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snowed In

I heard the forecast.  I counted the loaves of bread in my freezer.  I checked the stock of staples and canned goods in my cupboard.  I bought extra milk.  I was ready for the coming snow and deep freeze.  
Yes, I was ready.  Plenty to do when I would be inside for who knew how many days.  Books to read.  Puzzles to work.  Little jobs that I had put off for several months like cleaning out closets and doing paper work.  Catching up on all those things I never get a chance to do when the weather is good and I can be outside.
And what have I done?  I have read.  I have checked on my friends on Face Book several times a day.  I have cooked.  I have sat in my rocking chair.  I have taken a nap or two.
I have not cleaned.  I have not gone through my closets or sorted through my drawers.  I have not done my paper work.
I stand at the window and look out at the snow and check to see if any animals have ventured close to the house.  Andy goes out and gets wood to keep the fire in the stove perking.  He walks down to the mailbox and trudges up the hill to bring me the few letters and the daily paper that have come.  
We leave the water trickling a little into the kitchen sink at night.  We check to see that everything is working as it should.  The heat pump turns on about 4 AM and that is a good thing.
Inside.  I am snowed in.  I might go out tomorrow.  I am almost out of milk.  But how important is that?  We can do without milk for a few days.  I guess.
A few days stuck inside is not good for my brain.  I tried to do a crossword puzzle that came with the Sunday paper and it was just too hard for me.  That is strange.  I finally gave up and cheated with a look or two at the solution  I found a few pages over.  I'm glad  they put it a little distance from the puzzle itself.  It lessens the temptation to sneak a peek and keeps me honest.
I have read all the magazines I had stored up to read for days such as this.  I don't dare get out the cookie pans and make a sweet treat for us.  More calories are something neither of us needs.
Luckily I have made some low calorie meals and put them in the freezer.  And apples and oranges are there to snack on.
Tomorrow we might try to get out and go to town.  But I doubt it.  The forecast calls for a warm-up pretty soon.  Which is good news.  I love the snow.  For a little while.  I don't mind the cold as long as I have a way to warm up.  
But this being snowed in is not good for me.  Hopefully I can bundle up, pull on my boots and take a walk tomorrow.  Hopefully breathe in some fresh air.  Hopefully.  Because I have been snowed in too long.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

January, February 1978

This picture will be 40 years old in a few days.  Or nearly so.  The winter of 1977-1978 was almost equal to its predecessor '76-'77.  Cold, lots of snow, freezing temperatures, and wind.  We have had bad weeks or months in the years that followed.  But this was one for the record books in my memory.
We had just moved to Gainesville in May of '77.  We were working on the Grandma Harlin house on Harlin Drive and living across the street, on the corner, in what was called the Jim Hale house.  It was small, but fine for us.  It had all the comforts of home...plus a woodstove in the middle of the living room.
I think we spent Christmas in Bethesda, Maryland with Andy's folks that year.  And when we were headed back through Memphis the bad weather met us full blast.  Always a challenge when you are traveling that time of year.  An ice storm came up, or down, from some unknown region...we made it home, but barely.  
School was called off, of course.  And we settled in to wait it out.  Living in town made it easier to get to the grocery store.  When we lived in the Wilderness we were pretty far from the nearest town, but our local store carried milk and bread and we made it fine, when we were able to get out to the main road.  But here in Gainesville it was all downhill...or uphill...depending on which direction you needed to head.  We didn't get the truck out very much.  And we had my mother's Saab parked in the front yard.  For a Swedish car it was useless in ice or snow.
After the first week of snow and blustery weather, we were looking for a  break.  But it didn't come.  No.  Each day brought more snow, more freezing temperatures, no melting on the roads.  
I do remember that at night the kids in town would bring their sleds up to the corner of Harlin and Fair, where our house sat, and make that hill a little more slick than Mother Nature had.  They hauled up tires and set them on fire to keep them warm in between runs down the hill.  And that went on until late in the evening.  In the morning we would go out and pick up the remains of the tires...wire, tire scrap, and try not to track the black remains into the house.
School was cancelled day after day.  I wondered if we would have to extend the school year into June.  That would be bad since none of the schools were air-conditioned and, as you know, the old Elementary was hot as could be when the weather warmed up.  
However the powers that be in Jeff City saw our plight and responded in a logical fashion.  They forgave all the days we were out of session.  They set the end date in May.  And put into law the Snow Day Policy, which said that each district would add so many Snow Days to the school year to be used for bad weather when the buses couldn't run.  And after the Snow Days were used up, there was a forgiveness area that would not cause schools to be in session very much longer than mid May.
I think we finally came back to school in late February.  And how happy all the kids were to see their friends and share the stories about what they did during the Big Snow. 
Oh... you might be wondering about the picture.  Andy was always creative when it came to making snow fun for Nina.  He  took a plastic storage box and made snow blocks.  He built an snow cabin for her to play in in our side yard.  A sheet covered the top. I don't know if she remembers that winter.  She was about grandson Gus's age then.  But her parents do.  And we hope we don't have to endure another one like it anytime soon.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December Peace

Tis the season.  Ready or not.  Here it comes.  I stepped outside this morning to do some chores.  The sun was just starting to come up in the east.  Slanting light sparkled in a million blades of frozen grass...leaves became jewels reflecting tiny rays of golden sunshine.  And no wind.  No wind at all.  
The last few weeks have been full of wind.  Whenever I went out there was a breeze stirring or the wind was blowing hard, in gusts, whipping the clothes on the line, making it hard to see at times.
But this morning was different.  Frigid air.  Bright light.  And absolutely not a weed or leaf moving.
I stood for quite some time, just soaking up the wonder of it all.  The quietness of the early day surrounded me.  I didn't see a bird or animal.  No rustling in the trees or grass.  Just complete and utter silence.  Often times in the last few weeks we have had a flock of turkey hens feeding in the pasture.  Or a doe and this year's fawn will be eating grass out behind the back of the house, never stirring until we surprise them with the closing of the door.
I closed my eyes.  I could hear the echoes of the music I heard yesterday.  My favorite tune for this time of year...The Carol of the Bells.  Ringing, ringing.  First softly..one bell, then another joining in...until the air is full of sound.  And then quietly softening until only one bell is heard.
There is magic in a quiet December sunrise.  All the world is waiting.  Can you hear the message in the silence of the early day?  Can you feel the hope rising in your heart?  Can you imagine a world where only the sound of souls in harmony and peace, full of  grace and mercy will break the great stillness of our age?  
You can.  If you step outside and feel the quiet beauty of a  December early morning.
Merry Christmas to all of you...near and far, and always close to my heart.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Short in the straddle

It's that time of year.  I know I should be writing about Thanksgiving.  And I am.
Azure hills.  Squinting my eyes against the strong November morning sun I turn to the west and see my beloved Caney peaks in one of my favorite hues.  I ask Andy, the painter in my family, what color is that?  He answers, Azure.  Ahhhhh----Azure.  Not quite purple.  Not quite blue.  Something in between.
We are loading wood in the pickup.  Climbing down out of the truck, I carefully make my way to the woodpile.  Branches and limbs from our timber harvest still block the way, but Andy has been busy splitting and sorting until several good sized mounds of firewood are arrayed along the edge of the field.  Loading the truck bed reminds me of many other times I helped get the winter's wood in.  I was younger then and my muscles were stronger, but I can still lug and toss and pile it high, being careful not to break the back glass of the truck.
Loaded up we get ready to drive over to where the wood is stacked.  But there is a problem.  The truck is parked on a "sidelin'" hill...and my door is on the higher side.  As usual, I am too short in the straddle to make it into the passenger side.  Andy circles the truck around until I can get into the high seat comfortably.  
I have admired women who can give themselves a little bounce and hike themselves into a truck with grace and ease.  It seems so effortless.  In fact I saw a lady at Battlefield Mall, dressed in a short and rather tight outfit, give a little leap and settle right into her perch with very little effort.  Of course, she was several years younger than me.  But even when I was her age I had to struggle to get into the pickup.  Because I am a little too short in the straddle.
Making it over to the woodpile we begin the task of stacking.  As anyone knows, there is an art to stacking firewood.  And I am pretty good at it.  My short straddle doesn't interfere with my ability to stack wood.  But my short arms do make it harder to reach over the truck bed and grab the right size  log to stack in the proper place.  With some grunting and a little tip-toe work I can usually keep up with Andy in the stacking game.
You are probably wondering how this is going to lead into Thanksgiving.  And here it is.  Yesterday, loading wood, driving all over my beautiful farm, the sunshine, the wondrous view of  the hills in the distance, brings tears to my eyes.  Even though I may be a little short in the straddle, and perhaps not able to do all I used to do, I am thankful.  
Thankful I have the privilege to live in a quiet and peaceful place.  Thankful for sunshine.  Thankful for trucks that run.  Thankful for a husband who takes good care of me.  And thankful for wood that will keep me warm this winter.  
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.



Monday, November 6, 2017

Geese

One of my favorite sights and sounds of fall is the flocks of geese flying over head...going south for the winter.  This morning on my walk I could hear their call before I saw them.  It always amuses me when I look up and have to circle around before I see that familiar V-formation up above me.
It was fairly cloudy early and they were hid from sight for a few minutes.  The clouds broke away and there they were...a thin, ragged line but headed to their new destination...following the leader.
If you pay close attention you will see that the leader changes almost minute by minute.  I have read articles...and a few inspirational quotes and anecdotes about the flight of geese.  As I watched I became aware of something else.  Not only did the leader change, but sometimes there was a smaller V inside the larger one.  The arms of the formation are not equal.  It is almost like a ballet how they swerve and sway as they fly.  First this way, and then another direction.  All in the plan.
And they may vary in their path south.  Headed for the river, they may suddenly turn west and head for the hills of Arkansas.  Amazing.  That inner compass keeps them on track.  They know where they are going.  They might get side-tracked once in a while.  But not very often.
I love to hear them calling to each other.  "A little to the right there, Bill.  Now a little to the left, Marge. "   All in the plan.
Too bad we don't have an inner compass like that.  Oh..wait...yes, we do!  Too bad we don't follow it as faithfully as the geese as they fly on their long journey south.