Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Memories

Talking with a friend last weekend about putting in a garden brought back small but wonderful memories of spring. Every year my mom grows a large garden, even now. Just today, in fact, she was telling me about needing to call the neighbor who tills it for her because "if it rains this weekend, it would be so nice to start planting next week."

I often helped mom plant in the garden. Planting peas was my favorite job. Pea seeds look like small, hard, peas that soaked too long in the bathtub. They were a purplish-green color, if memory serves me correctly. When I was very young, mom didn't want me to plant the peas too close together, so she would find a thin twig and break off a section about an inch long. "Put the peas this far apart," she instructed. Being the rule-follower that I am, I took her exactly at her word. I would lay a pea seed down, place the tiny stick so it was just brushing up against the seed, and carefully place another pea seed on the very tip of the stick. Then I'd carefully pick up the stick, move it just to the other side of the seed I had just laid down, and repeat. Several years passed before I trusted myself enough to just hold the stick out every-so-often to make sure I was eye-balling the distance correctly. Mom practically planted the rest of the garden in the time it took me to plant three or four rows of peas.

When harvested, the peas rarely made it into a cooking pot. Instead, mom would put out a simple bowl on the table full of peas in the pod, with an smaller empty bowl beside it. We'd all just grab a handful of pods, shell the peas right into our mouths, and discard the pods in the empty bowl. That's the way to eat natural and organic, let me tell you.

Planting tomato plants was another favorite job. Mom usually got about 20-25 plants (yes, that's a lot of tomatos, folks). She'd plant them early enough that they often need protection from a few cold spring nights and the strong spring winds. Being the frugal woman my mom it, she made little tomato shelters from gallon milk jugs. When the bottoms were cut out, she'd slip the jug over the planted tomato, pushing dirt up around the sides to anchor it. The plants happily grew in their little white houses until leaves started to peek out the top.

Mom didn't get new jugs each spring, oh no. She saved them from year to year on a several long pieces of looped baling wire, almost like a gigantic necklace with milk jugs for beads. (The uses for baling wire on a farm are endless...just as good as duct tape, I tell ya). It was usually my job to go to the duck barn (which never housed any ducks that I can remember) to retrieve the dusty ring of jugs and clunk across the farm to the garden. I certainly wasn't sneaking up on anyone with all the racket I made.

So there you have it...a bit of spring reminiscing for the day. Makes me want to dig my hands in damp, newly turned soil as I type. Ah, spring...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Evolution of the English Language

If he were sitting in the back of my classroom today, Shakespeare would have laughed. We just started reading Romeo and Juliet today. I must admit, I'm liking it much better the second time around. Two phrases brought about a bout of the giggles today during class. Both invovled the public fight scene at the very beginning of the play. Two of the Capulet's servants (from Juliet's family) are talking "smack" (as I told my students today) about the Montagues. Then two Montagues arrive [cue tense music]. Sampson yells to Gregory "My naked weapon is out!" [pause for a slight snicker that swells into a giggle that surges into all-out laughter]

"Ok, everyone," as I'm trying to keep semi-straight face myself, "let's get the giggles out and move on. He simply means that his sword is drawn and he's ready to fight." Said laughing scene made ever more entertaining by the fact that one of the quieter, smarter kids in the class had to say it. Ah, the irony...

Second, a few lines later, Lord Capulet tried to enter the fray. "Give me my long sword, ho!" he orders his wife.

"He is not calling his wife a hoe," I attempt to be heard above the laughter. "It was just an expression of the day, like saying 'now! quick!' Shakespeare had no idea that word would sink to this level." But I'm smiling as I say it.

Working with teens keeps me on my toes and keeps me from becoming too "old and serious." It's a good thing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Creative Dates

Yesterday afternoon Scott took me on a creative a cemetary at 50th and Leavenworth. No, we're not suddenly into vampires or anything crazy like that (though I do have the slight urge to see the movie "Twighlight" after reading several book reports about it this weekend). He's taking a drawing class at Metro this semester (he'll have his associates degree in Graphic Design at the end of May...woohoo!), and this week's assignment was to make pencil/charcoal rubbings of interesting designs/letters/etc from gravestones. (I think I remember doing something similar when I was young, for either 4-H geneology projects or 4th grade Nebraska History). It was a beautiful afternoon and I knew the perfect cemetary, so off we went.

Can I just say that we had a wonderful time? Walking around on a sunny, semi-warm spring afternoon, enjoying the surrounding silence with the faint hum of cars passing on the street, watching his design take shape. Our own little mini-adventure.

Another one of my favorite "creative dates" was the summer after we got married. I had the day off from classes at Creighton and Scott has the day off from fixing airplanes. The driver's door handle on his car was broken (very inconvenient!), so being the frugal fix-it-guy he is, he suggested we visit the junk yard to find a replacement.

Ladies, if you haven't been on a junk yard date, you're missing out. I'm fairly certain I was the only female on the lot. We each paid $1 to enter. The man at the counter gave very accurate directions to the section in the mass of cars (all neatly lined in rows) where the Honda Civics would be. As we walked through the cars, looking for the coveted door handle part, I had several thoughts. One was that I should not have worn flip-flops. It had been raining the day before and it's not like junk yards make a point of having pavement everywhere. The second thought was that I was having a great time, scouring the cars with my guy.

You may say that I was seeing the world through "newlywed" glasses, but we joke about going back (the driver's side back door handle is now broke), and I would. Big adventures are fun, yes, but it's the little ones that make life what is it: very good.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dream Big

Scott and I were both blown away by this video (link below) that he randomly found on Yahoo. A 47 year-old woman who's never been kissed, lives alone with her cat, and would best be described as "average" wowed Simon Cowl and the crowd with a song from Les Mis. Listen and revel in the fact that her dreams may be coming true as you read. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The 4-H Pledge

By request of one of my "city girl" friends, here goes:
"I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world."
(don't forget the corresponding hand actions)

Anyone else a 4-H kid? I was a member of the Clover Kids and then, later, The Pierce Pixies and Pirates. (We had to add the "pirates" part when the little brother of one of the girls in our then all-girls club wanted to join. I don't recall him lasting very long).

Without 4-H, I probably wouldn't have learned to sew (and I'm not talking about just pillows and tote bags here, folks. I made clothes that I actually wore), make pies, decorate cakes (never learned how to do roses, unfortunately), crochet (I should relearn that), or explore my family tree. I also credit 4-H with making me the person that doesn't hesitate to speak infront of crowds (thank you, demonstration and speech contests), which has served me very well in almost every job I've ever had. Yes, 4-H made for some good times.


I just finished reading the book Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir. I highly recommend. Not only does Halima offer an insider's view on the situation in Darfur (as one would expect), but she also tells the charming tale of growing up in a small African village. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Challenging on every page. I found myself asking the typical questions of "What should our response be?" and "Why don't we do more?" as well as "Why can't we live in community like that?" (in response to her vivid descriptions of life in the village as a child). The Omaha Public Library has several copies! If you read it, call me so we can have coffee and discuss :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Teacher flub-o-the-day:

My third block class is a boisterous bunch. They are all nice kids (praise God!), but there are a few kids who could be a little nicer by being a little quieter. "Bob" is one of them. I have to tell him several times a day to be quiet or talk more quietly or something of the sort.

Today I let the students get into pairs to answer questions about a short story we had just read. I can tell that spring break is soon because the kids (and the teachers!) are getting a bit crazier by the day, so the room wasn't exactly the model of quiet work environment. At one point, Bob announces loudly, "This room is too loud! I can't concentrate."

"Well now you know how the rest of us feel," responds Sally from across the room. (BTW, Sally and Bob are friends, so I knew she didn't mean it maliciously)

"I completely agree with you, Sally!" I chimed in.

"Ooooo...she got you," several students snicker.

Bob looks shocked. "What?!?!"

"Yup, I love it when students reinforce what I'm thinking," I said.

Several more "Ooo's" and laughs.

"You think I'm ugly?" Bob asks.


"Well Betty just said I had an ugly face and you agreed!"

I broke into laughter, probably turned several shades of red, and had to gather myself before explaining: "That's not what I responded to. Didn't you hear what Sally said?"

Bob, and several other students, thought I was reponding to Betty's ugly comment (Side note: Betty and Bob are also good friends, so she wasn't being mean, really, either...just don't want you to think I advocate bullying in my classroom), when I, and a few other students, knew I was responding to Sally's distration comment.

Of course, as most stories are, writing this story out doesn't do it justice. Let's just say I felt pretty foolish and everyone in Room 122 had a good laugh today. Always good to end the class laughing, right?