Tuesday, April 30, 2013

and sewed some more...

no, I didn't start this today, from scratch. I had the squares already cut out and sewn, they've just been sitting in a box for ever, waiting to be put together. And I'd forgotten about the box [shocker]. The prints are a variety of fruits and veggies, the pale blue is stylized water. The pattern came from the book  101 Nine Patch Quilts by Marti Michell, pattern #42.

The colors remind me of The Very Hungry Caterpillar - on On Monday, he ate through one... On Tuesday, he ate through two...

If I quit blogging, I could have it put together tonight, and at a sane hour.

Monday, April 29, 2013

and I sewed something else...

This was Friday night, before the pirate swag bag. I was going to make a strip and flip with this, but I realised that I didn't really have enough to make a strip and flip - for my non-quilter friends that's when you cut a bunch of strips, maybe 2 1/2 inches wide, usually the whole width of the yardage you've bought, from selvage to selvage [those are the sides, the sides that don't unravel]  and sew them together lengthwise, then you cut these into strips and you have what sort of look like piano keys, except when you sew these cut strips together, you flip every other row. Strip and flip. Clearly, not all the fabric I was cutting from was 45" wide. Some of it was 22 1/2".

Do you see how I might have a problem? Like a fabric shortage problem? So, I'm going to improvise. Haven't quite figured out how. 

so I went home and sewed something...

I stayed up until two in the morning finishing it [not today, over the weekend], but it actually turned out pretty nice. And ... big. I probably could have cut down the front panel and the image context wouldn't have been lost. But what's done is done. It has two interior pockets; one of them zippered, and an interior divider [does that make it four interior pockets?], and three exterior pockets with two pen holders.

It holds a laptop - that's the laptop in there, incase you are wondering. The bag isn't padded, so without a protective sleeve, I wouldn't just shove a lappy in there. But it'll hold one. I did use a heavy interfacing for the bottom and thin sides of the bag. I think the only thing it needs is a button for the back ruffle pocket. I had wussy, skinny elastic instead of really wide stuff, which is probably why it's slouchy. The pocket on the back could have been placed lower, and one of the straps as a twist in it that I will need to untwist [it was two in the morning. sweing at two in the morning is a bda idea.] 

Did I use a pattern? Not really no... I looked at tutorials on how to make gathered pockets, but those didn't tell me what I wanted to know, so I had to run with it. The back pocket is a giant rectangle; the bottom is gathered to the point that it matched the dimensions of the back exterior, and I cut the bottom corners to match the curve. The top part has a channel to hold the elastic. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

road runners, coyotes and shopping for fabric [it's not all I do]

You know what's hilarious? finding the blog you started as an undergrad. Until you realize you kept it for 6 years and you forget that it's you you're reading about. Oh, the drama...

Everything is over now. There's no more student teaching, Grandpa is dead, and graduation is next Saturday. I came in for landing, but I didn't really land. I bounced, or I landed, but there wasn't enough runway and I fell off the cliff at the end [only in a cartoon with a coyote would anyone do that] because I came in with far too much speed. Or I crashed into something. One of the two. It's funny how saying it doesn't make it any more real. 

I was picking up basic groceries at the store on Thursday, after having already been to the store on Tuesday, when a friend called to see if I wanted to get dinner, and I tried joking about it  - who goes to the store and buys yogurt and cottage cheese, but not milk, and cinnamon toast, but not the regular bread? And completely forgets the eggs? Basics sit right next to the frilly stuff! It's not like I go without a list, I just forgot the list. [I also seem to be at or just coming from the fabric store every time she calls...]

All of this leads me to believe I'm going crazy. Or, at the very least, need to get out more and interact with adult humans. So later on Thursday night, I made plans to go out on Friday with the youngest of the quilting Graces - I'm not entirely sure how old she is, but I'm pretty sure she's younger than my mother [she has kids my age]. She announced it was "take a graduate student to lunch day!" - It's on my calendar, she said, and I thought, oh, hey, I know a graduate student! [I, for my part, laughed.]
There is an amazing fabric shop in Finleyville that we drove down to - Beth was looking for fabric to "whip up a quilt to be on the bed while I make a quilt for the bed", and the background fabric for the quilt that's going to be on the bed - it's called twinkling stars from Kaffe Fassett's new book Shots and Stripes, and it's going to be beautiful; Beth does marvelous hand work [her's will be a dark navy background]. In case you don't know, fabric is typically woven in a width of 45", and then sold at lengths of a yard {36"} [in the States], but if you're making a quilt, you can get wider yardage, 108" wide or 115" sometimes, and the Finleyville shop has the largest selection of 108" backs in the Pgh. Metro area. Okay, they just have the largest selection of everything, hands down. Anyway, why is this wider yardage important? You don't have to go to the trouble of piecing the back. You just ask for three yards and boom. Done, you're on your way to quilt sammich heaven. 

So while Beth was pondering which blue or brown would be best to highlight her scraps, and finding every toile with a bird on it for her whip-up-quilt, I was looking at the large scale red florals for the gypsy throw [at least, I think it's still throw size], and just browsing. In general. Thinking I was done looking for stuff for the school quilt.  But no! Thursday I'd gone to the North Hills to Joann's looking for this magic stuff you soak fabric in and then run [the treated fabric] through your printer. Joann's didn't have it, so I ordered it online, and it should be here on Monday. I found this fun stuff...


Rocks, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, tulips, math facts [including fact families!!] and plums. After talking to the other Graces on Thursday afternoon, I changed up my game plan for the quilt significantly [which is still rather amorphous]. There may now be appliqué involved, but that gave me a better idea of how big it would end up being. Or small. Whichever. Since I'd like the final product to be a surprise, and I think Miss Honey still reads this [?], I'm not posting a drawing of my potential plans. 

Beth reflected that it sounded like I was in mourning, which she quickly retracted [I haven't seen her in four months] - you are, and it's healthy, and it's okay; three things I've been very emotionally invested in have just ended. Go sew something, she said. Go home, wash your fabric and sew something. Do you have something you can start sewing? I give you permission to sew something. It's the weekend. No one is in their office, so calling and obsessing and panicking aren't going to do any good anyway. And the job in Maine isn't going to happen. That packet isn't making the [literal] boat, but yes it was great practice.  Everything is pulled together for the next one.

I feel like I should be emotionally over all of this and moving right along and smiling and fine. I've been wandering around my very tiny apartment alternately cleaning or tearing things apart to organize. You can only clean so much before something is cleaned within an inch of it's life. There is no more grindstone to put the nose to, but I can't get out of that mindset and let myself do something I like doing. I feel like running. It's not a good sign. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

prime[r] time

Let me open this post with the caveat that I discovered that I don't actually own a screwdriver. Of any persuasion. Lies; I do own the kind you fix your sunglasses with. Yup, the record has been set straight. No people sized screwdrivers. Okay, now you can keep reading.

So the fish bowl terrarium is kicking along swimmingly - it may need another gnome or owl from Targe's garden section; we'll have to see what this season's selection has to offer. My friend was in town for the Singing City event this past weekend, and we did what we always do when she's in town - drive out to IKEA [we also found the new-ish Goodwill store while we were there, and the Volkwein's music store]. I'm not sure why we always drive out to IKEA... but we do... and oggle the housewares and such... which is funny because neither of us really has a house or needs housewares. I contemplated the trundle beds and futons. Briefly. [the Rapunzel /Sleeping Beauty/Princess and the Pea bed gets old sometimes - also, there was talk of getting a different bed for my room at the parent's house, and I'm madly curious about the merits of a trundle over a futon, which I'm convinced are stuffed with anger, hatred and the tears of sad puppies.]
We both managed to leave without buying any furniture - and A drives a Prius now, which means she actually has a trunk with a hatch to put things in. Unlike her last car, which was a bit like riding around in a cut off cardboard box. She will confirm this.

I used to have this mossy stuff  growing in the fishbowl that didn't quite take, and there were pots of it at IKEA [sometimes you have to check and make sure it's really alive... as opposed to plastic]  So I brought it home to transplant some into the fishbowl and remembered that I have picture frames that were supposed to be turned into a terrarium from last summer gathering dust at the bottom of my closet. Time to do something about that. Literally; there's time.

Sanding and primer time! I had the foresight to put everything in the box - the mending plates, the screws, the  hinges, the tack cloth, and all the glass and the frames. I even had a can of spray primer kicking around left over from this project . I vaguely followed the directions laid out by Country Living - by vaguely, I mean I have most of the materials listed, but that's about it. Didn't get the frames in the recommended sizes, because I found some at PCR for a dollar, and I wasn't about to argue with that. Probably should have waited to prime the whole thing until after it was put together, but I think it's just going to add to the minimally distressed look. Besides, I can always do it later. Again.

This is the point at which I wanted to begin assembly. And discovered I do not own a screwdriver; no Philips heads or flat. I don't have any orange juice either, so no wise cracks. What do I own? 4 hammers. Yup. 4. facepalm.

Monday, April 22, 2013

but mom, I work in ... Maine?

And we're back to the little llama-drama. The downside to graduating in the spring, as opposed to the winter [December] is that your diploma isn't posted until May, and you can't file your paperwork for your credentials until your diploma is posted... so if someone happened to drop you an email that said "Hey! Our island school is hiring! You should come up!" and the deadline for applications is less than a week from today, and all you've got going for you are your state and federal clearances... you might find yourself wishing you had, in fact, started taking classes that first summer when everything was a little insane but instead you backed out because, well, everything was cattywampus and no one could give you a clear answer about what was going on in favor of starting in the fall when everything was a little more clear cut. Maybe starting anyway would have meant that you'd be sitting here right now with a diploma in hand, a semester of subbing under your belt and your clearances, freshly minted from the department of education, having shown up in the mail a few days hence.

It also would have meant no Cutest School Ever, with the sort of experience that one needed to say, see? you can so do this. I do have some understanding of how the universe works; and much as I hate when people have the gaul to use the "things happen for a reason" line, sometimes, things do. "Things happen for a reason" is one of those do-not-say-under-any-circumstances lines, though. So don't say it. And stop it if you're smiling. I know who you are if you are.

Maine. A school - on an island! - in Maine is hiring. I've never been to Maine. I've never been further east than... is Syracuse further east or Harrisburg / Hershey?

Things I know about Maine [mostly off the top of my head]:

  1. Maine is a two day drive from here. 
  2. There is a stretch of the Appalachian trail in Maine called the 100 mile wilderness. So named because it's 100 miles. Of wilderness. Of the entire Appalachian trail, the 100 mile wilderness is considered the wildest part, and there is a warning sign at the beginning not to attempt passing unless you have 10 days of supplies, and PS, you're on your own in case of emergency because there is nothing out there. Good hiking! [I'm not kidding about the last bit].
  3. Lobsters are from Maine, crab is from Maryland. Do not confuse the two.  
  4. Winter in Maine is a bear; more of a bear than where I grew up. Or a moose. But not a loon. But you can find loon in Maine. And moose. [You can't find loon and moose where I grew up, but you can find black bear. One tried to break into a high school - they have it on the security camera.] 
And that is what I know about Maine. This is paltry. I know they have a rich and storied maritime heritage, and I know that maritime pertains to the sea/large bodies of water [I used to volunteer with a maritime museum when I was in high school] but I don't know any particulars about that maritime heritage. Also, that the musical Carousel was set in Fin de Sicle Maine, and that the 1950 something film was done on location in Booth Bay Harbor, which, as the crow flies, wouldn't be that far from the island where this school is, but by car, it would be way longer, by nature of the Maine coastline.

Also, I found the school blog [the school I'd be teaching at]. And the elementary students learned archery this year, and they had OWLS brought in the classroom. Mmm hmm. Owls. I couldn't swing owls. Well, real ones. Okay, the thought didn't occur to me to track down a rehab program and try to bring in owls for the kids to see and interact with, but it might not have been appropriate for 1st graders. Maybe 3rd grade. 

I realize that by applying I'm not signing my life away; but my inner introvert is screaming. Yes, friends, I'm an introvert. Not an incredible introvert, but enough of one that the thought of moving to Maine is giving me pause, even though living on an island sounds like a fabulous adventure and they have what appears to be a thriving cottage arts industry [I would be quite at home] according to the chamber of commerce of both Mt. Desert Island and website of Cranberry Island [Isleford]. Should none of my handmade mugs survive the move, I would be able to replace them on-site, and support the local economy. Bonus. We all, it seems, love the arts.
Does anyone quilt up there? Quilt shows? Knitting ...? Anyone?

I never really thought about what moving my [entire] fabric stash would mean. What about my piano? There's no way I'm moving a piano to Maine. They have second hand pianos in Maine, yes. Let's put one of those on a ferry... The logistics are making my head hurt. I'm moving into the dangerous territory of supposition. I still have to nail down my papers. Write a cover letter. First things first. 

I always did say I would be willing to move once I got this degree. Watch and see how far away I would go! So far - I was talking applying for the DOD, and teaching abroad in someplace like Guam or South Korea, speaking of adventures. What I wasn't counting on was falling in love with something so close to home. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

the 3 rivers quilt show, 2013.

I've blogged extensively lately about the saga-drama of my life, as drama is about all I've had time for. I've squeaked some other things in there ... here and there... occasionally... okay, rarely...  one of the squeaks was the 3 Rivers Quilt Show of 2013, sponsored by the 3 Rivers Quilt Guild, which was at the end of March, the weekend of the 22nd.

This is what's called a medallion quilt - a motif is featured in the center and surrounded by a design. In this case, the medallion is appliqued daffodils, surrounded by the traditional Storm at Sea patchwork motif, worked in orange, yellow and green. 

This is actually partially responsible for making me want to do a quilt with my students. 

This is an example of a tessellation - usually I hate cat tessellations, but this one was well orchestrated.  

I liked the color play in this one, which did not translate well to a photograph.


I hate to say that I didn't see much at the show that I found inspiring this year, but there you have it. That my work is better, worse or on par with what I saw represented, I cannot say, as there were not that many hand quilters that chose to show their work. There is a piece in my closet that needs to be photographed, and when I have photographs, it will be ready for entry next year. Hopefully, the hexagon quilt will also be ready, as the quilting is almost complete, and next year's theme is hexagons.

Given what I saw last year, I wouldn't have expected to see a quilt with blue jeans represented among the larger quilts; there did seem to be fewer large entries this year, and more smaller pieces. Curious to see what will be entered next year.

I did discover, as I browsed the vendors, that there was in fact a quilt shop near The Cutest School Ever. Why this didn't come up when I did a Google search before my tenure started, I'm not sure.

Friday, April 19, 2013

if you give a graduate student her academic hood, she's going to want to...

There's a series of children's books by Laura Joffe Numeroff that started coming out about the time I was an ickle firstie, and they all start with "If you give..." There's a book about a mouse another about a moose and a pig and a dog and a cat... and I can't find my book right now, but we had been gifted with the first book about a mouse [maybe it was for both of us?] and my brother loved the first book so much that we had to buy  an additional copy of the book to ensure fraternal fairness. And he still put his initials in both copies.  He was four or five, I can forgive him [actually, I see it now and it makes me laugh].

I had been on the fence about going to commencement. I vacillated between wanting to celebrate, waiting to hide, and thinking that the scheduling was pretty inconvenient. I sat through ten commencements in undergrad as part of the choir and 12 person chorale; you get over it after a while.

But unless I'm completely insane, this is the only master's I'm going to pursue [I'll probably add a reading cert, but that's not a new degree]. After the exit interviews, I wasn't even sure if I could get hands on a cap and gown for graduation. Turns out you could still get get your, ahem, "regalia" at the bookstore. [It's smurf blue. I wish I was kidding.]

The first line of exposition on this sheet made me laugh. If you give a graduate student her academic hood, she's going to want to...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

the little school quilt that could.

This is what I was doing while the fabric squares weren't color setting - hunting down fabric for the class quilt. Not the best idea to start out at 4 in the afternoon, but I've lost my sense of time and didn't realize how late it had gotten - I should know better, I used to live out that way. The big box fabric store didn't have anything I was really looking for, but there's also a quilt shop in the North Hills that is very accommodating and has a great selection of fabrics. As requested by Miss Honey and in keeping with the theme of "favorite memory from school", I tried finding fabrics that had something to do with school or things we studied. I'm usually not one for kitsch, but some of the things I found aren't that bad. 

telling time, trees, a map for cardinal directions, butterflies
Seuss, Grammar, plants, math, coffee, cupcakes

[the colors are off but] south western fabric similar to the wool blankets we read about and I had example of that the Dine [Navajo] make. Owls, which were featured on bulletin boards in the room and on the door. And a [February] calendar for learning to read calendars. Also because, even though this calendar was from 2008 and is a leap year, all the days happen in the right places, which means this is what our February looked like. I'll just put something over the 29. 

What do cupcakes and coffee have to do with anything? The cupcakes were a no brainer; I made cupcakes at least twice and then Miss Honey surprised me with them on my last day. I saw the beans on the fabric and couldn't resist. I love coffee. I got to school and found out Miss Honey loves coffee. I loved that there was a coffee maker at school, and I could throw everything in there, walk away and poof, there would be hot coffee, unlike a French press, which requires constant attention. I can't remember what day I started making coffee, but she loved that I got to school before her and there was a hot, fresh pot brewed when she arrived - "You do all this [teach] AND you make coffee?!" I loved that she had creamer in the fridge and was kind enough to share. By the end of my tenure, the First Grade cohort also had Celebrate Friday with Starbucks because I easily passed one on my way to school. Sensing a theme? No coffee, no school; it's a truth universally acknowledged. That a Kurig was purchased as a gift for the teacher's lounge for Christmas I feel rather confirms this. 

all that's left now is to decide with what color I'm going to tie it all together. [and the back, but that can come later.] 


how did I go wrong.

no, more importantly, where did I go wrong.

I finally sat down today and ironed all 24 of the patches for the class quilt that my 1st graders started a few weeks ago. Then put them in the dryer. Followed the directions. Then did a spot test with an atomizer to double check that the colors had actually set and I could sit down and begin the grunt work of putting this together with the fabric that I bought while said patches were tumbling in the dryer. [4 PM - not a good time to head out of town. In any direction, really, but the closest fabric places are northward] I've ironed and tumbled twice now. Out of paranoia that it somehow didn't take. [Maybe because the day we did it wasn't standard procedure and I had a really bad feeling.]

And the colors are bleeding.  Except for one that was accidently left under the iron so long that it began to burn. So obviously that one set properly in the burned place, but the rest of them? There will be 23 bleeders.

Epic, epic fail. The worst part is, I'm not sure what part of the process went wrong from when I did the test swatch  - the colors on which will not budge - to when I went into the room and did it with the kids - I can pinpoint about ten different things that happened that day that might point to why this didn't work. I'm also finished with my placement, so there's no figuring out the kinks and doing it over.

I've found two options that could potentially save this project - both would involve scanning the squares and printing on fabric with an inkjet printer, and I'm insanely skeptical about both. Mostly because I've never tried either. But then I never tried medium and crayola, and it's got a 50/50 success rate, so there you go. The plus about scanning would be that I could potentially digitally clean up any of the test spots where bleeding occurred, and then print. I'm emailing the Thursday Quilting Graces for their expertise. The kids worked too hard and this is too stinkin' cute to lose to hydrogens and oxygen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

exit interviews

I saw my professor from the first semester of my studies as a grad student this morning, and then it dawned on both of us that we were both there for the interviews.

Was I nervous?

Does someone flip or wreck a car on the Parkway west almost every morning? I'd have preferred being with  the class of 24 right at that moment (especially since that moment was about the middle of reading and they're reading The Dot this week) A wrecked car could have accurately described my emotional state at that moment. Especially if there was steam or smoke involved.

You'll be fine. Just be yourself; this is a time to celebrate everything you've done with your kids- I can't wait to see what you did!

Be yourself... in the same way that honestly is not always the best policy. Truly, there are times when being yourself and being honest are the worst ideas ever.

I ended up going last, which gave me time to think about how I would respond to any of the questions they might ask me. Except that I wasn't prepared for the one that they did ask me. More on that later. We had 7 minutes to prepare a presentation. And if I had a hard time judging what 5 minutes was like in the classroom, I had no idea what 7 minutes was supposed to feel like. Clearly, something I should probably nail down. My grammar was appropriate - no usage of the word "like" every 5th word, and no "me and my cooperating teacher" [come back to 1st grade, I've got 24 students who can tell you how it's done]. I talked about the contraction lesson, and how I carried it through the semester until it came up in the manual and I knew the kids enough to really differentiate the instruction. I talked about the growing of the lima beans, and how I brought in tulip bulbs for the students to see and relate to what they were reading in the book. And I did a quick mention of a review game that we played, because the first grade got overly competitive over a review game once, so I needed something else that engaged everyone as a means of review before a break.
Nerves. Were. Killing. Me.

Aside from impressing a biology teacher and a former 1st grade teacher, I can't remember why I didn't snag someone's completed test from the life cycles unit, but I do know the gradebook had me stymied on how to print the grades for the whole class, so I had to offer verbally what the students got.

My other question was "What did you find difficult about student teaching? Were there any difficulties that arose through this process?"

This sounded like one of those "This is what we're really asking" questions from a list I have somewhere. I wish saying something snarky like, "Read my blog" would have sufficed. Except that it would have been completely inappropriate, no matter how stress relieving to say. Life happens to people. I could have had a brain tumor, and I still would have been in that building giving it everything I had, and trying not to make excuses. How would I even formulate that response? In a nutshell:  my body was out to get me, my nickname was about to become "accident prone" and my personal life was falling to pieces? But I was going to be damned before I fell on my face and let my co-op down?

Honesty. Maybe not the best policy.

While I did this, I watched my mother teach and say goodbye to her father, which was a far harder row than I was working. I have nothing to comment on, about difficulties student teaching in the classroom. Because I know when it's my turn to have a full time job, the truth is going to be just as stranger than fiction in my personal life as it was this semester, and I've got to check it at the door. That's not teaching, that's life, no matter where you work.

So I talked about time management. Which is a problem for everyone. I could have talked about behaviour management, which is a problem for everyone. Anything I mentioned I'm certain could have been related to the other members of the cohort in some way; we've all been there.

Difficulties? Absolutely, there were difficulties. There were a myriad of unique circumstances that required special thought and attention. The important thing for me to remember is to handle the situation with grace and tact, and to seek assistance when things get choppy and move beyond my capacity to handle them alone.

So now I am exited. I have my cap and gown and hood. It's all over but the shouting.

Monday, April 15, 2013

saying goodbye to the cutest school ever

Today was my last day of student teaching. I've been on tenterhooks for the last week as the pressure builds over the pending exit interviews [which I'm probably blowing way out of proportion], getting the portfolio done and looking better than presentable and making sure it has everything that it could possibly need. And then some. Like knowing the answer to what my personal philosophy of education is and what the last three books are that I've read.

I thought about it over the weekend, wondering at the tears, and I suppose if I was going to be honest with myself, some of this is misplaced and unexpressed grief finding a convenient outlet. I had a wonderful experience, which made leaving harder. Through the midst of all of this, I have been trying not to grieve, hoping that maybe it would make getting through to the end easier if I wasn't a basket case until after everything was over.

Unlike the stories we read where the characters come to some kind of event terminus, there just doesn't seem to be a foreseeable end; I'm done student teaching, but there's the exit interview. I have an out of town guest this weekend. I have to start the paperwork for the state and subbing [hopefully]  in the immediate future. There can be no summer vacation. Not this year anyway. Maybe I'm putting too much pressure on myself to achieve.

If I cry, I want to be alone or preferably around someone I trust. Crying doesn't happen at convenient times. Lately, it's been blasted inconvenient. I don't know what this "waterproof" mascara is about, but it's a lie. Or my tears are acid.

I do not think this would hurt so much if it were not so close on the heels of death. I just said a permanent goodbye to someone I love. If you're going to argue semantics with me, as a Christian, yes I believe in the resurrection of the dead so according to my tenants of faith, yes I'll see my grandfather again. How exactly that's all going to work itself out, I can't quite wrap my head around, and I'm happy for it to stay a divine mystery. So there. Still, all of this goodbying is too much, too close, too fast.

So I'm a little verklempt when, at the end of the day there's half an hour left after I read the kids a book and I'm kicking myself because I didn't have my act together this weekend for crying and portfolio putting together and I couldn't make two dozen cupcakes to say goodbye [I saw cupcakes earlier in the kitchen and was pissed at myself for not getting my act together], or at the very least, have a sufficient amount of material planned for the rest of the day. But wait, those of you 1st graders that know what's what have done a great job keeping it a secret, says Miss Honey. [what secret?] Those cupcakes from the kitchen were for us. Funfetti with sprinkles. But wait, there's more. Back way before Easter, Miss Honey was [I thought] picking out a bag for herself from a catalogue, and she started asking me which one I would pick if it was me buying the bag [tricksy hobbit]. We're both of the opine that one can never have too many bags. I almost ordered one that day but decided I'd wait until she had hers to see what the fuss was about. Turns out that bag was for me, and she had stocked it full of just about everything I'd want to start my own classroom. And an owl mug for school; what every smart teacher needs. Probably the best thing inside that bag was a book that the kids put together telling me what their favorite thing was that they had learned in school that I had taught them. The owl mugs rates a close second.

As I drove off today, and gave the place one last look, I thought about the first time I'd been inside the school. The first time I saw the school wasn't the day I met Miss Honey [I got lost trying to find the place]. The first time I saw the school was about this time of year in 2004. I was on choir tour as a freshman in college, still a music ed major, and we were heading for our last venue on a Monday night such as tonight; April, high sixties, chance of rain. It was still early in the day, early enough that school hadn't let out yet, and we'd been winding around in a tour bus in a corner of the world completely foreign to me. I happened to be sitting on the driver's side. I happened to look out my window as the bus hit a straight away going up an incline. And I saw this elementary school and I thought, "Oh, my God. That's the cutest school. Ever. I mean ever. I bet everyone just loves working there. I bet I'd love working there. How great would it be if I could do my student teaching there?" Well, hold the phone. Life doesn't work like that. No one from as far north as I went to school gets placed that far south. Just doesn't happen. And no one looks at a building out in the middle of nowhere and says, when I'm all done, I'm going to work there. That really doesn't happen.

It is a strange and wondrous world we live in. Almost ten years later, at a different university in a different degree program, I pulled up into the driveway the day I met Miss Honey and my jaw hit my lap. I'd been placed at The Cutest School. Ever. I found out it was every bit as adorable on the inside as it was on the outside. And it was unbelievable great to do my student teaching there.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

on over packing

"... You don't happen to have any power steering fluid, do you?"

Ha. Do I have power steering fluid. Well, I don't any more, but I did in a crate in the trunk of my car, which is a mobile Auto Supply Store. One of the Mothers from my parish mentioned needing her car jumped after a service in a sermon a few years ago, and none of the partitioners in the parking lot, all of us known for our hospitality and resourcefulness, had jumper cables she lamented. About five heads in the pews around mine turned around and looked at me, and someone mouthed "Where were you?!" Motor oil, power steering fluid, jumper cables, bondo and patches, wiper fluid, antifreeze, and a first aid kit. Almost better than Triple A.  Almost. All this from back in the days when my last car, Roxanne, a candy apple red VW Passat with a black leather interior was breaking down every 5 minutes. [no, she wasn't named for the song.] I learned to travel prepared for [almost] anything. I began to keep a spare change of clothes in my trunk,  and a small cooler stocked with bottles of water and granola bars. Can't even begin to say how much those have come in handy.

So how much junk stuff did I have to sift through to get to so I could find the crate in my trunk? Jeezum crow. There was still a bike rack on the back of my car. I did eventually get to the PSF. Past the bike rack and the lunch box and the step ladder and the yoga mat [that's where that went...].

Thankfully, my desk at school looks nothing like the trunk of my car. Or the back seat, which desperately needs to be cleaned out and vacuumed. The top of my desk has been slowly being emptied all week. I took a few of my books home every day. The last batch came home on Friday [kid's picture books, en masse  are deceptively heavy]. Monday may be my last day, Friday is when I started crying at school. My desk looks empty. It's over. It's really over. I'm glad I have a large bag to carry everything home in bits and pieces, but I can't believe how much stuff I brought with me to school over the last 15 weeks. I got cozy.
I'm upset about going, but more upset than I feel like I should be.

There isn't a plan right now except to stay here and watch the climate. I can't say I had better plans after undergrad, because my original career goal of teaching had been derailed midway my sophomore year and since that's what I should have been doing all along, I wandered a little aimlessly through college. I exited undergrad with a fabulous job that involved working with kids, which was [serendipitously, though I wouldn't have said so at the time] cut short because of the failing economy, which led me back to teaching. Which is what I should have been doing in the first place. The difference between exiting undergrad and now is that I had a job waiting for me in the fall. There's going to be summer jobs and training for subbing and finding a new equilibrium. We're going to celebrate the memory of the lives of a set of grandparents and the 90th birthday of the other grandfather this summer. I don't have a light shining ahead for the next 12 months like I did the last time. It makes for interesting, but with everything that's happened, sometimes interesting is the last thing you want. I'll take not bad. I'm not going to England this summer, it's not the summer of the great road trip or ferrying and biking around the San Juan islands, or sailing the Great Lakes as part of the volunteer Niagara crew. Maybe it's the summer for volunteering at Project Linus, since I'll be driving past an office on my way to and from a job this summer. We'll see.

irony: quitting my MuEd career track as a sophomore coincided time-wise with the sudden death of the grandmother who was married to the grandfather we are burying this summer; we've come full circle, as now I'll finally be a certified teacher. When she died, it was two days before Christmas; they were living in Florida. Grandpa had just buried his son six months earlier. So when he came back to us, we waited until June, on what would have been their 55th anniversary, and interred my grandmother's ashes. And that was it.  That's all anyone felt like doing. We're going to celebrate them both this summer; their lives and their boundless generosity to others. We're working on the how.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

manna from heaven

It's unusual not to have a service, of any kind, when there is a death. But that's what Grandpa wanted. He was part of a VFW post that would do funeral details in all kinds of weather, and didn't want us standing in a blizzard, burying what he referred to as his nonessentials in the frozen ground after we dug through three feet of snow to find his marker. And please, he said. Don't let the guys stand out there. I don't want them out there. Having stood in driving rain, snow and scorching sun, I can't blame him. Except that I think the detail guys would personally resurrect him and beat him up if they were refused. So we're waiting for the summer, when hopefully, the weather is cooperative, and not scorching hot. One can hope.

A very good friend of mine was asking about what arrangements we had set up, and when I explained the situation, he said it was probably hard, having the expected time off but not really having a break, and not having the closure that a memorial service can bring.

He hit that nail on the head.

This mess feels like it's finally starting to level out. I may still be bouncing, but the high isn't as high and hitting the bottom doesn't hurt like it did before.

Pot roast came to my door tonight. With mini red velvet cupcakes and a loaf of bread. Pot roast is, quite possibly, one of my favorite things [and this one is amazing]. I don't like steak. I like pot roast. [Also this awesome Thai coconut soup that I don't know what the name of it is, that is served at Nicky's Thai Kitchen on the North Side.] The bread is itself a small miracle, since I've been to the store twice this week and forgot a loaf of bread both times.  And the cupcakes are perfect. They're just the perfect size. I did not ask for the pot roast. Pot roast came to me. Words cannot express how excited I am over this trifecta of foodstuffs. Who brings you your favorite and what you need without asking or knowing? How does that work out?

Was observed today by the principal. The kids were fabulous, just like I knew they would be; the lesson, I think, went very well. I have seldom worried about them; they never cease to surprise me with what they can do. I can count on one hand the times I was truly concerned that something would be really amis. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared. Today's adrenaline wore off alas, in the middle of the drive home on the parkway. Not good timing. Thank God for pot roast.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

chocolate eggs and gold bracelets

It’s too nice to hole up in the cave. Way too nice. I stopped at the library to pick up some material and thought it would be fun to maybe take the bike off the car. But then I found out that Pink has a few too many problems to be road worthy without the attention of someone who knows something about bikes, so there’s no riding for a while. [Riding with a snapped brake line? Bad idea...]
You win some, you loose some.

Someone called the 'burgh the Paris of Appalachia;  there’s a whole book about it. I never really understood the connection, having lived here and been to Paris; you don't really see it unless you are sitting in Schenley quad, in spring, when the undergrads are out in force worshiping the sun and the food vendors.  We are far cleaner here; we put our litter in bins, I mean. By nightfall, Paris was a wreck; there was garbage and refuse everywhere. It smelled terrible. Maybe they figure they have a sanitation force, I'm not sure. I was not endeared. 

It’s my last week of student teaching. We’ve made a fabulous quilt [sort of]. The squares are done. I have to get fabric and put it together, but I have to have a résumé and a portfolio first. The burning question of stay or go is, well, burning. There are postings back north; I wondered what it would be like to go back and teach in the building that I went to elementary school at, and took it that step further to wonder if I was hired. Wondered what if I was assigned to teach in the rooms where I myself had sat on the other side of the teacher’s desk. I remember that world being so much bigger than it probably is.  We had a teepee in our second grade room. Big enough that five kids fit inside it. Our room is a little small for that. And Miss Honey's room is nothing to sneeze at. 

This morning on my desk there was a box decorated with a cupcake label that had my name on it [spelled correctly - no mean feat!!] with a fistfull of little foil wrapped chocolate eggs and a gold beaded bracelet. I'd been silently lamenting my lack of gold jewelry and picking gold posts when I got my ears pierced, and here's this little gold colored bracelet buried under a cupcake and a pile of chocolate. Just because. One box for me and one for Miss Honey.

What would my favorite memory of 1st grade be, if someone handed me markers and a square? I've been mulling over it all week, and I don't know that I could draw it. How do you draw kids getting something? How do you draw them not quitting when it's hard? How do I draw the time I ended up in the hospital and more recently, the death of my grandfather; having a cooperating teacher who smiled and said "We got this. It's not broken, it's just bent. No worries." [okay, her forehead probably wrinkled in concern; I wasn't there to see it. And that's not a direct quote. But close enough.] None of this has anything to do with drawing.
It's evoking. 1st grade was better than anything I'd imagined. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I'm not sure how they work, but I got my ears pierced a second time today. And by "not sure how they work" I mean the backs on the earrings. The last time I did this I was five-ish? I think I'm wearing earrings my kindergarten picture... I remember thinking 6 weeks seemed like a ridiculous amount of time [I also think this was before I broke my arm and had to wear a cast for 6 weeks at the end of school and the beginning of summer].

A friend of mine went with me, and her only comment afterward was "Oh my God, why are you bleeding purple?! Oh, wait, I forgot they marked where they were going to pierce your ear with a pen first..."

To which I popped out with "Well, if you must know, my blood actually is purple; you found me out, I'm really from another planet..." I knew I had a sense of humor inside me somewhere.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

what we can't do for you [because you're single]

someone recently asked if they could make dinner for me. Actually, a few meals.

I can't say I was ecstatic, because that would imply I was jumping up and down. I was relieved. Cooking during student teaching has been a challenge. Right now, to not have to think about cooking is the single most best thing someone could say to me. This week I've cried over a spilled cup of coffee, a kid putting their hand in mine as we're walking down the hall, and someone asking "So, how was your break?" I keep telling myself not to stress about it; it's the grief process and it's normal. Right now, one of the biggest smacks to my face is singledom. Usually it's flying far enough under the radar that I can successfully ignore my personal feelings about the hundreds of engagement and pregnancy announcements on facebook, the wedding and baby pictures and be genuinely happy for people. Except for right now when I'm feeling super sensitive, and it includes sensitivity to everything. And "can we make a few meals for you" turned into "treat yourself to a favorite restaurant". And the way I read into it.

The question I've come to abhor the most through this entire experience is "Let me know if/what I/we can do something." Real Simple recently published an article about helping out friends with long term illnesses  and they cautioned asking this question as well. I think a lot of the same applies to people who are grieving.  Do, folks. Or don't bother asking. Because right now, it's overwhelming.

When someone drops the "... what I can do." bomb, I feel * awkward, as stated in the mentioned article about asking for what I need, because it could well be an incredible, guilt inducing or rage inciting inconvenience. Asking "If there's anything I can do..." is too open ended; you just asked me to grasp at straws floating around in a cream base soup. Saying, "Can I cook for you?" was great - it was specific, it was tangible.

The blow came when the offer to cook was rescinded. I used to love to cook. More than just cooking I loved to find out what someone's favorite thing was and make it for them. But I don't have it in me to cook; it's too much energy. This whole thing is so overwhelming that simple choices can be difficult to make. Do not ask me on a good day to pick where we're eating; I will give you three choices where I'd maybe like to eat and then make you pick, end of story, no arguing.

As I said before, I'm super sensitive right now, to everything. I got everything bottled up partway through this week so I could keep it together for the class day, and came home where I could fall apart in peace. So when I read "treat yourself" it translated immediately in my head to "well, we remembered you're single, and cooking for one is a huge pain. So rather than inconvenience us by figuring out portions for little old you, just take yourself out. Because that's easier for us. Sound OK? Thanks."

I felt like I had been smacked. You're single, and we just don't know what to do with you. If you were married, well, there would be two of you, and that wouldn't be so hard. We know what to do with married. But it's just you, so go out, and pick your favorite, off you trot.

Now, this may not be the case. It's possible that something legitimate came up, and that I am okay with. The fact remains that the last thing I want to do right now is go out. I could be wrong, but I don't think a spouse and I would want to go out, grieving a loss. I could be wrong; maybe I'd feel braver with somebody else in my boat. Furthermore, if I had just had a baby, no one would say to me, gotta back out, pack it up and head out. It takes one word, one look and I start crying. And I don't have a favorite, on a good day. So right now, on a bad day, you want me to make a decision about food. Find parking in the city. Or drive out to the suburbs. And go out and interact with someone who could look at me funny, and I'd start crying, because I take 20 minutes to figure out what I want to eat because eating is the furthest thing from my mind. And you want me to go alone. I don't like going out to eat alone anyway. That I'm there alone would be enough to incite tears right now. Restaurants don't like it when single people occupy tables that a couple could be sitting at on the weekend. Couples = more revenue. And I happen to be single.

How do you say all or any of that in the nicest way possible without sounding like a total, ungrateful jerk? Thanks for your initial offer, and now your second offer but ... no thanks and here's why? I was relieved about not having to cook when this was initiated. It meant one less thing I would have to think about. Any left overs would mean lunch for school; one further less thing to think about. So, no. Sorry, I can't treat myself. Going out to eat alone, right now, is not a treat. It's a bit frightening and exhausting.

This article from the LA times, while not what I'm kvetching about exactly, does a great job summing up much of what I've been feeling of late, and in a round about way, addresses this whole, sorry, we're not cooking for you, take yourself out. How not to say the wrong thing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

album quilts, kinder style

Inspiration strikes at the strangest and most inconvenient times. Like 7:30 PM, in the middle of a chorus concert.

"... I could could do thus and such with my 1st graders---" And focus on what you're supposed to be doing.  Mind the iPod and the microphone, and all will be well. [The concert was great. The kids did a fabulous job, I was so proud of them.]

The summer dreamers made batik style glue resist tee shirts with white glue and tempera mixed with heat-set fabric medium on white 50/50 cotton/poly tee shirts. We had fabulous success letting the glue dry overnight, then having the kids paint on top of the dried glue, then tossing two classes worth of tee shirts [ 25 or so size child small to large] into a dryer on high heat for 70 minutes for the heat set, then washing on a regular wash cycle with detergent to get the glue out and drying again.

I don't want my current kids to do a glue resist project. We discovered in doing the glue resist that at 7, many of them had difficulty with the concept that they had already put down a design with the white glue, and they needed to just put paint down, or work with the design they had, not paint yet another, different picture. Maybe if we had added food coloring to the glue or something, I don't know, but it would have had to wash out to work on a white tee shirt.

What inspired me to tackle a quilt with my current students was this kindergarten teacher's kinder quilt project. A quilt for every year she's been teaching, or almost every year. I was going to have my students make a paper quilt, for a bulletin board, and then I found this website, and the wheels started turning. When I was born, my mother and aunts orchestrated a quilt for my paternal grandmother with squares done with drawings by each of the grand kids in crayon. Except I didn't draw mine, my mother did [it bears a striking resemblance to my teddy bear...]. Plain old wax crayons. We have plenty of those laying around.

The kinder quilts are done with markers. Magic markers. Kinder quilt doesn't say anything about the types of markers they used, they just took pictures. My thought was to leave this project, when completed, with Miss Honey [who I guess should get to pick out the fabric that goes with it...], but what happens if it needs to be washed, heaven help us all? I thought immediately of the heat set medium, except that I didn't want to break out tempra paints, because it's a tie-in to a social studies lesson on the past, and what makes our history, and we're talking about the memories [history] of 1st grade. and painting could go south fast, no to mention clean up. Draw a picture. On fabric. Easy peasy lemon squeasy. I figured the magic marker might be the way to go, since it might pull the fabric less when the kids were drawing as opposed to crayons, but came back to the wash problem. And the heat-set medium, which can't be added to a marker like it can to tempera paint. I'm not buying a set of heat set markers - they're almost as much for one as a box of 8 washables - also, I have 24 kids. Not realistic. And we're doing it all together.

So, necessity being the mother of invention: can you spray [with a spray bottle] a fabric square with undiluted heat set medium, let it dry a bit so the marker won't totally bleed, draw on it with marker, let dry, iron it for the prescribed amount of time, wash it according to bottle instructions, and have it come out looking fit and fabulous...? why am I sitting up past my bedtime chewing on my fingers for this?! probably because I'm bone tired and have my doubts about it working and really want it to work.

 The results are in:

Yes. Yes you can. Can I get 24 kids to do it. That remains to be seen. 

good grief

the drive back to Town was snowy, all two hours, which is really fun when you have a bicycle strapped to the back of your car that is determined to come off [April fools, right?]. I didn't go right home. I stayed out in the western 'burbs and waited for the snow to stop, tried to write some lesson plans, did a little shopping for waterproof mascara, this magical stuff called eyeshadow with primer, and remember back to first semester freshman year and Psych 101 and the stages of grief included in the acronym DABDA made popular by Kübler-Ross in the late 1960's. The snow did finally stop, and it warmed up and the sun came out, and I thought since I was restless and had spent two hours in a car, plus another two hours writing plans I could probably stand to walk, and would do well to try to find trail system that I knew was nearby. And maybe wrestle the bike off the back of the car and take her for a spin. [Not going to lie - I was wishing that Bruce was around to walk with]

Ennui and restlessness are not to be confused, but I had them very scrambled. I tried explaining to someone once that I wanted to take up running not because I thought I would get any satisfaction out of running or for the physical benefits, but because I felt that, on days like this, by running, my body would be in sync, or at the very least, closer to the pace of my psyche. It was one of those days that I had the wrong sort of cable with me to charge the GPS, and I really couldn't remember who lived on that side of town to call for directions. And my car was full of stuff. Did I really want to leave it unattended? I didn't really know what I wanted so went home and mostly unloaded my car. And wrote some more plans.

The Lyd was overjoyed that I was home. She may not be a dog, but she's a good girl. And she follows me around like a dog...

One of the hardest parts about being with my family was that it wasn't really home. I told people I was going home for break to be with my family, but that, I realize, wasn't true. Yes, it was my room and my bed and my things, but what I found myself wanting was to be with people who weren't there. Or at the very least to know that if I called them and said hey, can you be here, it wouldn't be a two hour drive for them to get there. I wanted to sit in the desert, butterfly or orchid room of Phipps, or in front of the water lily or Nakashima in the art museum, or in the alcoves in the stacks of the main library that overlook the new dinosaur hall. I had a fleeting notion to chop my hair, donate the obligatory 10", and get a pixie cut. Fleeting. 

When I did finally come back to town, my great pearl of wisdom sat down with me. I told her I thought about the chop job. Jeanne all but held my hair in her hands and said, don't do that. Dye it pink. Get a tattoo. Pierce your ears again. But don't shear off your hair. 

A tattoo? Not the response I was expecting. These are the times people tell you not to do something drastic. So the hair is staying; it will need a trim sooner or later. But I need a few more inches on it before I can cut it and after the donation shape up it's still long enough to pull into a ponytail.