My Happy Season

As a young girl, I memorized the words to this poem and use to recite it when neighbors requested a “trick” on Halloween. (Back in the “old days” that was a thing.) The first stanza has stayed with me for many years.

Autumn is my happy season. I can never get enough of the colors of the changing leaves. They lift my heart and soul. It is like they are reimagining what they can be. Yes, they can be brittle and cracked, but they blanket the earth like Grandma’s beautiful patchwork quilt. Autumn has a beauty all its own.

Autumn has taken on new meaning lately. Being in my sixth decade of life, I tend to believe I am in the autumn of my life – at least I hope it is still autumn! I am beginning to reimagine what life can/will be when I retire from teaching in a few years – thinking about what I’d like to do. What will Act II of my life consist of?

Like the changing leaves, my hair color is changing. The gray that use to just be near my ears is weaving its way through my sandy brown hair, and I am OK with it. No hair dye for me. I’ve earned each and every one of those grays. Like the changing leaves, aging can be beautiful especially since it is a gift not afforded to everyone.

Nature teaches us that autumn is a season for letting go, so that’s what I am trying to work on this year – letting go.

  • of expectations
  • of being critical of myself
  • of “things” I have collected over the years
  • of worrying about things that are out of my control
  • of doing things I don’t want to do just because someone thinks “I should”
  • of situations that don’t add joy to my life

What is your happy season? Nature has so many lessons to teach us if only we would be attentive students.

Learning How to “Be”

I have been MIA from my blog for three months. While I have been writing both on paper and in my head, no words have reached the typed page. The culprit of this break is a total knee replacement. You see the month before surgery I was trying to wrap up the school year and have things in place for my last week of school absence. This included completing grades, packing up my classroom, and taking care of the long “to do” list of tasks that needed tending before I took my leave.

The knee replacement surgery or TKR of my right knee went off without a hitch. I had done all of my pre-hab exercises and worked on getting my body and mind ready for the surgery. My sister, who had bilateral TKR in October, was my guide and cheerleader. She prepped me with all the information I would need to know to make this a successful operation. Her phenomenal recovery made me think anything was possible.

I had prepared myself for the pain post-op, and the energy and determination that would be needed for PT. Neither of which were as bad as I expected. My progress was right on schedule, and I had a great three-week post-op visit with the orthopedic PA. Life was good. Yet something felt unsettling.

Dedicating myself to doing my daily exercises and icing my knee took discipline, but I made a schedule and stuck to it in order to reach my end goal. It was the other part of recovery that took me by surprise. I had no idea it would be so hard to allow myself to “do nothing” and heal. My time between exercise sessions consisted of sleeping and reading with a healthy meal thrown in between. Never would I have thought that healing would make me feel guilty. Although everyone around me kept reminding me that I just had major surgery, I kept feeling like I should be “doing” more.

Little by little I learned how to give myself permission to “just be.” I learned many lessons during the last six weeks post-TKR.

  • how to slow down and listen to what my body and soul need
  • who are the people in my life who truly care about me
  • how to enjoy the things that have taken a backseat in my life like reading, writing, and connecting with my spiritual life
  • the importance of taking care of myself and focusing on what I need to thrive
  • the gift of silence

August is here, and normally I would be stressing about the beginning of the new school year about now. However, this summer and recovery journey has me rethinking my old ways. I am definitely excited for and wary of the approaching school year, but I am not letting it consume me (at least not yet). There are days to be lived and moments to be loved over these next weeks that I don’t want to miss out on.

TKR has given me relief from some pain, a lesson in perseverance, and a new vision of my world. Since I haven’t quite mastered all of these things, I have scheduled my next TKR for November. I wonder what new lessons I will learn. Whatever they may be, I know I will give myself time, patience, and everything I’ve got to the process.

Appreciating Teachers

Today I take time to remember the teachers who influenced me during my days as a student in elementary school and high school.

  • Sr. Therese Kathleen SSJ – this kind first-grade teacher was gentle even when my behavior was not.
  • Sr. Roseathea SSJ – this elementary music teacher first ignited my love of music.
  • Sr. Alice John SSJ – this 7th-grade teacher thought outside of the box and formed a jug band in class, teaching me that school could be fun in unexpected ways.
  • Sr. Clare Andrew OSF – this HS English teacher helped me find the writer within.
  • Sr. Clair Immaculate OSF – this Senior English teacher first published my writing.
  • Mr. Eligio Rossi – my first and best string bass teacher pushed me to be better at each and every lesson
  • Dr. Michael Giamo – the conductor of the Philadelphia All-City Orchestra gave me an opportunity to perform with the best on stage at the Academy of Music and fueled my passion for strings.

This June will be 50 years since I graduated from Resurrection of Our Lord grade school in Northeast Philadelphia (YIKES!). Then I spent four years at St. Hubert Catholic High School in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. These years certainly had their ups and downs, successes and failures, friends and foes, but in all those instances there were teachers who helped me navigate my childhood and adolescence and shepherd me towards young adulthood. I am sure if I spent enough time on it, many more would come to mind, but right now these are the ones my 60+ brain can easily remember. I appreciate them all.

I am also thinking about the teachers who have been my colleagues over the years. I don’t want to start listing them because I will undoubtedly miss a few. This is my 36th year teaching, and I never stop learning from the teachers with whom I work. Some started out as colleagues and ended up as life-long friends. Know that I appreciate each of you.

Last by not least are the younger teachers who are struggling in the trenches right now. I see you. I understand. Hang in there if you can. You matter! Someday after your career is long over, one of your students will be writing a list of the teachers who impacted their life, and you will probably be on that list. You make a difference! I appreciate that your chose this profession.

A Twisted Story

On this day in 2003, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, (former Mayor of Philadelphia) declared April 26th to be “National Pretzel Day” to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state’s history and economy.

Pennsylvania has a rich history of pretzel making beginning in 1710 when Germans brought them to the area. Julius Sturgis made the first “intentionally” hard pretzel and would later own the first commercial bakery in Lititz, PA in the heart of Lancaster County. 80% of the pretzels sold nationwide are still made in Pennsylvania. Being Philadelphia born and raised, soft pretzels are one of my favorite snacks especially when they are paired with a “wooder” (water) ice!

Reportedly, Italian monks created these delectable treats as  pretiola or “little rewards” to give to children when they learned their prayers, thus the shape of the pretzel looks like crossed arms in prayer. But if you live anywhere in the Philadelphia vicinty, the pretzel of choice is a tight figure 8 shape – no large loops!

Philadelphia (Philly) Soft Pretzel
Traditional Soft Pretzel

If you would like to learn more about “National Preztel Day” check out the video below. But I want to leave you with a couple of fun facts about pretzels. In 1861, pretzel making was the second highest paying job next to tobacco. The average American eats about two pounds of pretzels a year; Philadelphians eat twelve times as many as anybody else in America – some say they average twenty pounds a year! I know I do my share to pad those statistics.

Surprise Packages

The Amazon Prime van usually stops in my cul-de-sac as least once a day. Since Christmas the number of packages arriving at my house has gone down to a trickle, so I don’t pay much attention to what direction the delivery person goes after exiting the vehicle. One day last week, my husband carried in a package on his way in from work. I looked at Alexa for a notification and started trying to remember if I had ordered anything because I really am on a spending moratorium; plus my husband does not shop online. Much to my surprise it was a gift from my sister. She sent me a copy of a book she told me about a while back. She was going to lend me hers when she was finished but decided I needed my own copy. She gifted me Storycatchers by Christina Baldwin. As I started reading the Preface, I knew this was a special book – one I would be savoring again and again.

These are some of the nuggets I have pulled from what I have read so far.

  • Story is the narrative thread of our experience – not what literally happens, but what we make out of what happens, what we tell each other and what we remember.”
  • “Yet the question remains, what stories will we save? And the question arises, what stories might save us?”-
  • “The self-story is the narrative voice in the stream of consciousness that runs babbling along the edge of our awareness. Minute by minute this narrative defines who we are and what we are capable, or not capable, of doing.” 

Each chapter includes memoir examples, writing quotes, and prompts. I could be lost in this book for a long time!

So as if one surprise wasn’t enough, yesterday another package arrived via Amazon. This time it was a lovely little book called A Book of Delights by Ross Gay. It was a wonderful gift from my daughter who heard about it on a podcast and thought I would like it. I do! The book is a collection of the daily delights that Ross Gay found and wrote about everyday for a year. I have decided that this will be my “upstairs” book and live on my night table, so I can be delighted in the morning as well as before I go to bed. It’s not a book I want to read straight through in one or two sittings. I want to enjoy and think about my own daily delights.

I am so thankful to have both a sister and a daughter who know me so well and are so generous. Those two acts of kindness made my Easter break even more special. I hope to pay my good fortune forward in the future.

Comfort Food

Making a sandwich of bread and cheese does not take much forethought, but deciding to grill the sandwich until the cheese melts within is the stuff of dreams.

Unknown

As many of you may already know, I am married to a chef. Thank goodness, because my culinary skills are minimal. I like to think that is because I never needed to develop those skills given my fortunate circumstances. However, I am the master of french toast and grilled cheese sandwiches!

Today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day as opposed to National Grilled Cheese Day which is celebrated on September 3rd. So in honor of this most delicious holiday, I decided to do a little grilled cheese research.

The grilled cheese sandwich is one of America’s top comfort foods. Its humble beginnings reach back to the Great Depression when it would be eaten open-faced. Eventually, people began putting a top slice of bread because it was cheap and filling and helped sustain workers.

Two men had a huge impact on the grilled cheese sandwich – Otto Frederick Rohwedder and James L. Kraft. Any guesses why? Well, Rohwedder, of Davenport, Iowa, invented the sliced bread machine in 1927, and by 1933 sliced bread became more popular than unsliced. Kraft obtained a patent in 1916 to make processed cheese which became known as “American Cheese.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Although the term, “grilled cheese sandwich” did not start appearing on menus until the 1960s before that it was known as “toasted cheese.”

Are you a purist or do you have a favorite twist on the grilled cheese sandwich? My favorite is swiss cheese and bacon on rye, but I haven’t met a grilled cheese sandwich I didn’t like yet! Add a bowl of creamy tomato soup, and I am in heaven! Feel free to leave your recipe ideas in the comments!

Bon Appetit!

Lost Latte

I am working on my poetry muscles this month by joining #verselove at ethicalela.com. Today’s model was a Cherita, a poem that tells a story or tale. The form consists of three stanzas- one line in the first, two in the second, and three in the third. I had been thinking about a topic all morning when after lunch it just hit me – figuratively and literally!

Latte – A Little or A Lot?

I was bemoaning the fact that I had nothing to write about.

Fortunately or unfortunately a little story found me. I was looking forward to a chai latte after lunch on this bleak and rainy day.

I loaded up my Keurig and anticipated the warm beverage. So much so that I fumbled the cup and spilled most of it on the counter and onto the floor. Should I be satisfied with the three mouthfuls I saved or brew another cup?

A Pain in the Rain

Rainy days make me feel old because I let them shift my focus from what I can do to what I can’t do. My joints throb; my muscles ache – the rain just announcing its arrival. My knees sing “click, crackle, crunch.” A finger bends and has trouble bending back – it gently cries, “Oil can.” Walking around is made more difficult by this weather event causing me to be even more reliant on my “gait aid device” aka cane. I can let water flow from my eyes in despair, or I can look forward to the rainbow.

Today’s poem is a 4×4 Poem inspired by Denise Krebs and the directions and format can be found at ethicalela.com #verselove

It Won’t Get Me!

Arthritis stinks
Predicts the rain
It slows me down
But I don’t stop

Rest when needed
Arthritis stinks
Medicine helps
Exercise too

Can sit all day
Or push myself
Arthritis stinks
Get up and walk

Aging is hard
But life is good
Movement is sweet
Arthritis stinks.

I’ll do my best to keep looking for the rainbows, but there are two more days of rain trying to shake my resolve. Break out the relaxing teabags!

HOPE

Across the sky,
it writes its name
in the darkness.
HOPE

In the stars
I see sparks
of my dreams.
HOPE

In the stars
I see smiles
Of my lost loved ones
HOPE

In the stars
I see bright eyes
Of future generations
HOPE

In the stars
I see flashes
Of peace
HOPE

Celebrating Poetry

Fresh off the March Slice of Life Story Challenge, I am jumping into VerseLove, a 30 day poetry writing experience to celebrate National Poetry Month. I cannot convincingly say I will be successful in writing a poem a day, but I will give it a try.

April is also Jazz Appreciation Month which I think is very fitting. To me, poetry gives writers more creative leeway in format and word choices just the way Jazz allows musicians to improvise and branch out of more formal structures.

Today’s poem.

Poems bring me joy
Opening my heart and soul
Evoking memories – happy and sad
Taking me deeper – inside to
Reflect, retrace, renew
Yielding to the call for quiet