SPRING is here at last

Finally!  We had a record-breaking high today of 93 degrees, and the leaves are definitely STARTING to unfold.  Still a ton of bare branches, but plenty of pollen and more and more bright spots of green and patches of flowers.  Spring is here at last.  Felt like an interminably long winter this year.

My son and I planted seeds in old cardboard egg cartons we’d been saving for a couple of months.  Hubbie and Boo and I made two beautiful raised bed planters to replace part of our ugly lawn.  We’ve now got those done, chicken wire stapled below to keep out critters, good organic soil inside each 3 x 3 x 1 foot wooden box, and a plan to sow some seeds directly outside and others to be transplanted in another month when they’re ready.  Carrots, tomatoes, green beans, zuchini, yellow crookneck squash, pumpkins, rhubarb, and we’re thinking of trying to grow potatoes, too.  I have some cucumber seeds, but that may be beyond me.  I’m not sure about buying and instaling a frame for them to climb on at a 30 degree angle.  Bad enough to have to stake tomatoes and tie beans!  Whew — so much to learn!

Honestly, I’m no gardener.  I’m expecting this not to work out very well.  I guess that’s why we belong to a local CSA farm.  So we won’t starve….  But I thought we could learn a bit of gardening, too.  So today, when my son and I were working on the garden out front, three neighbor kids we hardly know came over and asked if they could help.  Of course, we said yes, and thus ensued about an hour of teaching the kids how to ge the bed ready and plant carrot seeds.  About a week or so and we should start seeing sprouts.  I told them to check back then.  And then 70 days to maturity.  I said they could have some of the carrots.  Cute kids.  Made me feel really neighborly, teaching the  children about where food comes from!

I’ll try to take some pictures and post next time.  For  now, just wanted to let y’all know that we’ve got winter on the run at last in New England.  Even though there’s a danger of hard frost for another six weeks, heck, when we start getting LEAVES, winter’s through!  I’ll just hold back those tomatoes for a bit….

Isn’t March SPRING…?

Yeh, well, so I think Spring is coming….  March is supposed to be Spring, right?  Only not so much today.  This weekend was in the low 60s and today five inches of snow.  Hmmm.  Well, at least my son enjoyed it…

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He created a bow out of some branch that came down int he last storm plus some string he found.  Thena  neighbor kid gave him one of his arrows (my son had created one of those, too, but it was pretty wobbly).  Teh thing is that with snow on the ground, archery is a lot more fun.  (1) You can see the arrow better against the white snow, and (2) It sticks into the snow much more firmly thatn th ground, so one can easily see how much one “rocks.”

So, I’ve been hunkering down lately and doing a lot of grading.  I just checked tonight and saw that I have already surpassed the total number of posts to my on-line students from all of last semester by about 30% and it is only midterm.  I decided they needed more attention this term, and it is paying off.  But 362 posts in six weeks is a bit much!  LOL

Other than teaching and snow, I have nothing at all to report.  I am an empty-headed writer who has no time to write right now.  Oh, wait, I almost forgot.  I’m a liar fo sure!!   An essay collection that I’ve been editing and trying to find a publisher for, let’s seee, it has been a few years…well, anyway, I secured a contract at last.  Yay!  So I guuess I have been writing.  Just not Grandma’s book.  Sigh.  But I’m happy to get our collection published at least.

And now on to that stack of Freshmen essays….

Tuesday, 11:22 p.m., week two

So far I am not yet really behind in my teaching/grading for the spring term.  That is an improvement over last semester when I was behind before I began and never caught up until Christmas Eve.  Ah, but this term is different.  I have found the answer this week number two.

In my husband’s words, texted to me the other day after I had been up til 2 a.m. but had a splendid day teaching (go figure), “You found the answer.  Never sleep!”

So here I sit in with my laptop, having just updated my on-line poetry course materials, sent that class an email, checked the Discussion Board (how could there already be almost three hundred posts?)  And I am trying to decide whether to tackle updating my lesson plan on Dryden’s literary criticism or go to bed.

And then… a noise, a clanking.  Hmm.  Pause.

Again a little quieter.  Oh, my son has knocked something over in his room as he sleeps, something harmless.  Typing begins again.  Hmmm.  Should I tackle Dryden or can I wing it at ten a.m. after … how much sleep will I get if I go to bed now?  Maybe I should get up at 4:30 again tomorrow.  Worked today…

Then … a different sound.

My son is singing in his sleep.

I’ll let him serenade me and turn off the light.

Goodnight.

dragonhunter in my head

Recently, we moved my son’s cello out of his room and into the living room (since we had put a humidifier in his bedroom).  Crazy winter weather, dry air, lots of cold viruses — you get the picture.  So now I get to hear my son practice up close and personal!

At least it isn’t the violin.  Eeek.  No offense, but the sound of a kid practicing violin can send me to the liquor cabinet.

Anyway, so he’s been practicing a lot for their concert, one of only two concerts for the entire year.  He belongs to a city-wide children’s orchestra called the String Project.  It’s run by the University where I work.  Great program that enables inner-city kids (who would otherwise never have the opportunity) to play a stringed instrument.  The program offers instruments to rent and tuition for the program at rock-bottom prices.

One of the songs that he’s been playing, though, has taken over my brain.  It is called “Dragonhunter” and I find the music compelling and suspenseful, especially now that our son is mastering the piano/forte contrast stuff.  I wish I could give you a sense through words of the song, but its hopeless.  😦

But I do have a picture to show you of the ensemble on stage at last Sunday’s concert.  The house was almost packed (empty seats up front are for the kids), and the children did a wonderful job.

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I have to admit that right before they played “Dragonhunter,” I turned to my husband and said, “Don’t expect too much….”  I wasn’t being mean or anything.  Honest.  But every single rehearsal when I went to pick up Bubby, I listened to them rehearse that song, and it was not exactly a stellar performance, if you know what I mean.  The conductor once told them that the part when they pluck instead of bow sounded like raindrops.  And that wasn’t a compliment.

But they totally rocked the dragonhunter.  Who knew that they could do that?  What changed from the last rehearsal to the concert when playing the song?  I have no idea, but I clapped enthusiastically at the end and shouted “Bravo!”

The Obamas’ National Day of Service

Recently, the Obamas called on Americans to participate in service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day.  So my son and I signed up to help at a local goods bank in our city.  A goods bank is like a food bank only with furniture, clothing, etc. for needy families.

About eight years ago, Donna Hunnewell, came up with the idea after sitting through a years worth of meetings of our local Hunger and Homelessness Commission and hearing case workers talk about how much time it took them to track down things like cribs and couches for their clients.  Donna decided that while she could never work directly with the clients herself (she told us, “I’d sit there crying all day if I did that”), she did know that she could gather used furniture and clothes for the caseworkers so they could concentrate on doing their real job, helping these families with job training, housing, health care, and education issues.

Here is Donna, speaking at our volunteer event yesterday:

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At first Donna began informally, using her porch and garage as a holding space for goods, which she delivered in her van.  Then she moved operations to a mini-storage unit, then several units and finally a warehouse.  This past year her Lowell Wish Project surpassed the one million dollars in goods mark and has now served over 27,000 clients, including 600 families that received an entire house full of furniture, right down to the shower curtains and pots and pans.  Remarkably, she and her volunteers can now pull together a whole house full of furniture, etc.,  in just 20 minutes!

So, my son and I arrived and were amazed to join over a hundred volunteers as we sorted donations — everything has a clearly marked place, so it’s very easy to find.  I had to crack up because we were assigned to mitten and hat duty, supremely ironic because my son and I had a rather unpleasant discussion the other day about keeping track of mittens….  SO here we were, sorting donated mittens, destined for families who could not afford to buy such things.  What luck!

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After we sorted and refilled the various bins from an extra bin in the back of the warehouse, we wandered around looking for the places where some odd items that we found really belonged (these items had somehow made their way into the girls’ hats bin by mistake).  As we walked, we saw everyone busy sorting and organizing.

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And we saw so much stuff that had been donated, almost all of which was clean and usable, if sometimes a bit, well, ur, ugly, to be honest.  As we walked by one woman with two teenagers, I heard the mom explaining, “Yeh, it’s not that attractive, I know, but if you had a bedroom window that looked right out to the street, you’d be glad to have this to cover it!”  I saw the teens nod.

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At the end of the day, Donna told us that our band of Obama-incited volunteers had in one morning accomplished what it normally takes volunteers about three months to do.  “You helped make wishes come true.  Thanks!”  She also said that her Project is responsible for reducing the local landfill input by 1%, not bad for a little organization started out of someone’s garage!  Every little bit helps.

We will be going back for sure.  This was an easy service activity for me and my son to do together, and they offer a lot of flexibility for volunteers to come lots of different times of the week, inlcuding evenings and weekends.  “Guilt-free charity” Donna calls it — come again if you want, or not.  They also sponsor 18 service projects throughout the year, including a back-to-school backpack drive.  I’m sure we will find many ways to get involved.

So, on this inauguration day, hats off to the man who inspired over a hundred people ot spend their Saturday morning in a warehouse sorting donations to help out local families in need.  It’s going to be an interesting four years.

On bravery

BRAVE (adjective):  “having or showing courage, especially when facing difficulty, danger, or pain”

Bubby is a brave boy. I need to remember that and not worry so much.

I admit that the fact that he still cries easily at eleven years old and is very sensitive emotionally sometimes makes me worry that he is wimpy.  I shudder to think of where I got this highly gendered notion of appropriate behavior.  I guess for all my feminism, I am, after all, still a product of my time and place.  I try hard not to let that influence too much how I respond to my son.

But the thing is…he is really so incredibly brave. He feels a lot.  He gets anxious and worries too much, and he can really exercise that imagination of his to come up with all sorts of potential disasters.  But time and again he’s shown himself to be stunningly brave.

For example, last night. He lost his first molar.  Big deal, right?  Well, when was the last time YOU lost a tooth?  It hurts, and when you’re eleven and a sensitive kinda kid, it’s a little scary, too.

“I think something’s WRONG, Mom.  This isn’t normal.”  He went on to describe the perfectly normal sensations of losing a stubbord molar that is half out and half in, digging into the tender flesh of the gum line.

He had tried several approaches to getting it out, but nothing had worked.  Finally, I said to pull it down as far as you can and then twist it.  He repeated the instructions aloud, and then he just reached in his mouth and did it.  I watched him closely as he began to twist the tooth and his face became distorted with pain. He kept twisting and then SNAP it was out.

Nobody likes to see her kid writhing in anguish.  But I tell ya, it was an amazing thing to me to observe him push right through it, tears in his eyes, pale skin but not letting go.  Where did he get that strength?  How can he be so brave when he is so fearful?

I admire his pluck.

Ice Storm

We awoke this morning to the news that today my son’s school was canceled due to an historic ice storm in New England…and then I called my university and found it was also closed for the day, thus leaving the semester forever unfinished.  No leave taking means no closure.  The last day of class is a very bad day to have a weather cancellation.

Ah, well, the students, no doubt, are rejoicing that they have extra time to complete their final portfolio essays, and I suppose it will not kill me to be unable to grade papers this weekend!

So my son and I were home today.  Hubster had to go to work, governor declared state of emergency or not, his office was open!  Anyway, son and mom have been housecleaning and ventured out to go to the grocery store, as we are a bit low on food.  So we went to our favorite local store where they sell a lot of organic foods.

When we arrived, we found that their power was out, and they were cleaning the fish and meat sections and tossing out a bunch of perishable food.  There were only a few lights on in the large store — eerie and more than a little weird to be let inside.  But they were selling food to those who made it to their store.  We got what we needed, including the last carton of buttermilk in all of Massachusetts, no doubt.  Thank goodness — since my quick bread recipe that I wanted to try out this afternoon calls for 3/4 cups of buttermilk.  Eeghads, what would I do without that ingredient?!

As we walked to the checkout counter through the frozen food aisle, I stopped to take this photo with my phone camera.  They had saran wrapped the doors all shut so nobody can buy the food from the freezers.  Think of the enormity of the waste and financial loss.  Yikes.

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In the parking lot, I started chatting with an elderly gentleman who works at the store as a bagger.  He was on his way home.  He first asked me if my power was out at home (so nice!)  Then he went on to explain that by law the store has to throw out perishable food if the refrigeration or freezer is shut off for three hours or more.  The store will lose tens of thousands of dollars, and it will take quite a while to restock. In fact, the Governor says none of the power in the whole state  is likely to be back on until at the earliest MONDAY.

What a terrible waste, I thought.  I mean, of course, there is the safety issue and all.  But if only someone from the store had decided at 2 hours and 45 minutes into the power outage that they should donate all the perishables to the local food pantry (which still DOES have power and does not have enough food)….  Alas, instead everything is being dumped into the county incinerator.

It was quite an eye-opener for my son.  He usually relishes storms, especially when they mean no school, but I think he is beginning to understand how interconnected everything is.  His school friend’s power is out and their sump pump is not working, so their basement is flooding.  Lows in the teens tonight will mean a chilly evening for that family.  I’ve called to offer them a place to stay with us, but I can’t reach them. Friends from church just sent out a plea on the church listserv asking to borrow anyone’s generator to run their sump pump because their basement, too, is under water.

As the sun begins to hang lower and lower in the sky, I can feel the temperature dropping.  We enjoyed about an hour of sunshine this afternoon, during which time the tres and bushes tried to shed as much of their ice encasements as possible.  The outdoors were blindingly bright, shimmering with falling ice, glittering in the sun. Now everything has turned gloomy again. High winds and low temps are expected tonight.  I can only hope enough ice melted earlier to keep us from joining the one million households in the northeast currently without power.