Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted

Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted

The following are my submissions for the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted.

Origami is folded paper but sometimes it is folded in such a way that allows movement.  The first set of photos is called the Curlee-Q which is made from one long continuous piece of paper and the second set of photos is called the Twisting Tower. Both pieces of Origami were folded by my son six years ago when he was in fourth grade! Amazing!



The twisted stair case of the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Bermuda exemplifies this word perfectly. This light has protected ships for hundreds of years from the coral lined coast of this sub-tropical island that I have had the privilege of visiting three times in my life!


Another piece of Origami by my youngest son. This is a torus ring that consists of hundreds of folded pieces of paper, joined together to form a twisted ring! It is 3 dimensional and quite a work of art!


Twisted is the motion that the cider press uses to make our own apple cider in the fall. These are photos from 2015, a year in which we had a banner harvest.

More origami. Ninja Stars – over four hundred folded for a young student who battled leukemia to let him know his classmates – those he knew and those he didn’t – were thinking of him. Folding, instruction, and given by my own student who was featured in the above pieces. Kirigami is cut paper. The set of graduated shapes were twisted into place to hold their form by my “origamist” trying something new.



Finally, my last interpretation of the word Twisted is the Banyan Tree in Lahaina, Maui. It’s twisted branches, reach down to the ground forming roots to anchor this ancient living specimen. It is a twisted spectacle!


I hope you enjoyed my version of Twisted!



My Experience: Applying for a Seat on the School Board

My Experience: Applying for a Seat on the School Board

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday and since most participants are educators that participate in this posting forum, I thought I would share about my experience of running for a vacant seat on our school board.

We had a school board election last April. An incumbent who served for 20 years lost by 18 votes. Shortly after that, another school board member who was starting the last year of her second term, resigned. She was changing her life path and going back to school.  This created a vacant, interim seat for ten months – until the elections of next April (2019).

Shortly after hearing about this, I had a discussion with my husband about applying for the vacant seat. I had long thought about running for a seat on the school board, but never did. I was concerned about the politics and the stress it would create for me. My middle son (he is 18 now) had asked me not to run in the past.

But, times change. And, I believe we need change on our school board. This appointment would let me experience the board without a long-term commitment if the stress was too much or I could not take the politics of such a seat. In addition, my son who had asked me not to run in the past, is graduating this weekend, so he would not be around to bear the brunt of my efforts, if there were, in fact, to be any.

Applications were due by May 8th. Mine was turned in about a week prior to that. It was five pages long, single spaced – typed. Thoroughly, I answered each of the six or seven questions posed to us.  If I was to be appointed, I wanted to make sure the board knew who they were getting because I have learned over the course of my life that I cannot be anyone other than who I am and will not pretend to be something or someone else. I heard there were three other applicants for the appointment. Two of the applicants had previously run for an elected seat on the board. One had served a term. The third applicant is the person that lost the elected seat this past April after 20 years of service.

The last step in the process was last night. We had interviews for the seat in an open forum, round robin format.  I drew the first spot to start, so I had to make my introductory statements first. I had typed them up to be sure I would make sense and not stumble too much. I knew I would be slightly nervous.  That part was actually the worst of the evening. I did stumble a little bit towards the end of my introduction, but after that I surprised myself by being able to think on my feet and answer the questions as they were posed.

In short, the interviews lasted about 30 minutes. Votes were taken. The prior board member with experience was the appointed seat winner. She obtained 3 votes to my 2. A board member was missing for this meeting, unfortunately. But, I had thought this would be the outcome, in any case.

All in all, I am really pleased and proud that I took a chance and “put myself out there”. I was proud of how I presented myself, my thoughts on education, and sharing what I’ve done to make our district a better place.  It was a great experience for me, and I believe, for everyone who participated.  Most of all, I am proud of the fact that I feel I grew as a person due to this process. We can agree to disagree in our society. Adult discussions are possible. It was somehow reassuring to be a part of the process.

After the meeting, I shook each of the board member’s hands and congratulated the winner of the seat. Two of my very closest friends were there to support me and that touched my heart in ways I do not think they’ll ever know.

Running for an appointed school board seat – it was a good thing.

Matt and Mom’s Messy Monday Morning

Matt and Mom’s Messy Monday Morning

Some of my closer friends who read my blog regularly have told me they enjoy my more personal and family related posts. Sometimes, I am reticent to share these, but today is an exception!

My 18-year-old will graduate from high school on Saturday. He plays varsity tennis and has for the last four years. This year has been an unexpected year of crazy schedules and rescheduled matches due to the wet weather we’ve had in the upper mid-west.  There was one week, a short while ago, during which he had five tennis matches rescheduled or regularly scheduled within seven days. It was too much. Today, was to be the sub-sectionals. He was up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the courts to catch a district van to the matches at a school 2 hours away. By 7 a.m. he called me. When I picked up the phone, I thought he was calling to tell me the team had arrived at its destination. But, no. He was calling to tell me it had been cancelled and he was back at our high school. He sounded slightly shaky and tired. Final exams for the seniors are today and tomorrow. He had the forethought to speak with his teachers about missing today for the tennis sub-sectionals. He was to take any finals scheduled for today, tomorrow, when he was back in school. I do not think he knew what they were going to have him do. Probably, the expectation would be to have him take the finals. I understand. After all, he was in school. Better planning ahead was needed in this case, so that he would have felt more prepared to take those exams in the case something like this happened. I hope he could relax enough to think. I heard anxiety in his voice.  I know what it sounds like and although he told me it would be okay, I think he was questioning that, himself. The end is near. He is not in any danger of not graduating – far from it – but I know for a fact this spring sports season put a damper on how he envisioned the end of his time in high school.  The cancellation today just tops off what a lackluster season it has been.

A few short hours later I could relate to him even more than I already do when it comes to feeling anxious. I was scheduled to plant in a school garden today with 170 students. Upon waking up, it was overcast. By 8 a.m. I was in the driveway cutting apart six celled plant trays to aid individual layout for the students. By 9 a.m. I had packed the car and left the house under very overcast skies.  Twenty minutes later, when I arrived at school, it was raining! Planting was not going to take place today! It was wet and would continue to be wet in the gardens even if the rain stopped. I went to each teacher’s room to reschedule – a task that sounds easy but given all the other obligations I have this week and the crazy month of May that teacher’s experience, it was a daunting task to think about.

Luckily, I have used SignUp.com in the past and by the time I am writing this, seven of nine classes are rescheduled for times over the next three days. It is still raining. But, it sure was a Messy Monday Morning for Matt and Mom!


Monarch Migration Update & How to Report Sightings as a Citizen Scientist

Monarch Migration Update & How to Report Sightings as a Citizen Scientist

Journey North, an organization that monitors migrations of some of most beloved species of animals, posts updates on the Monarch Butterfly on Thursdays. Their site also has a wealth of other information for those interested in teaching or learning about the patterns found in nature such as seasons or life cycles. It is a user-friendly and informative source for the nature lover or citizen scientist.

Common Milkweed
Milkweed at school May 15, 2018

This week’s migration report on Monarchs informed us that the northward migration is nearing completion with monarchs being reported in places such as South Dakota, Wisconsin, and even Ontario, Canada.  As reported last week, my home milkweed has erupted from its winter sleep and anxiously awaits a visiting butterfly. The milkweed in the school garden which has been visited frequently in the last week, also has rapidly growing stems of Milkweed.

Since the milkweed has germinated, I can report this observation to the Journey North website, as I have done in year’s past. Here is how you do it:

  1. Go to Journey North’s home page at http://www.learner.org/jnorth/
  2. Select Report Sightings
  3. This will take you to a log in page. I can sign in using my email and password. If you have never used the site before you’ll need to create an account.
  4. Once you are signed in you can select an event from a drop down list. Here is a screen shot of what that might look like. It will also give you an idea of what you can monitor, observe, and report as a citizen scientist. You can see that milkweed is checked. You simply choose what you want to report on. Click submit.

Screenshot 2018-05-19 08.31.30

5. This will take you to a page where you report your sighting. This will ask you for information like were you are located by using your postal zip code, what you saw, when you saw it, and include a photograph if you have one. Once all your information is entered, you simply click submit report. The site saves information for you.

6. You did it! You reported your sighting and acted as a citizen scientist! Congratulations!

Now, you can go back at anytime to retrieve that information. You can also go into the data base and look for other recent sightings for a specific species or event. For example, here is a list of all my reported sightings.  This is helpful to be able to go back and look for trends. You can also just look for specific sightings. Mine are all on monarchs and milkweed but I can sort the data base for one or both of those sightings. It is helpful if you are interested in such things like the effects of global warming, or habitat loss, and population numbers of a specific species such as the monarch.

Screenshot 2018-05-19 08.43.15

So, I encourage you to look at the Journey North website. It truly has something for everyone and even if you do not want to report, you can learn about all nature has to offer!

Helping Others Learn to Help

Helping Others Learn to Help

While  I had a rough start to my day yesterday, there was a bright spot other than my chance to develop relationships with a new set of students. I also had a new group of young adult volunteers come to the garden to help in the afternoon. These were all people who work for a company that had formed a partnership with the school to assist them with student learning needs. Until yesterday, most of the work was being done in the classrooms.

But, through the course of several emails with the company’s contact person and a referral from the principal, I was able to set up a chance to have nine young adults come and help me in the gardens at school. In short, I was demonstrating how to help or give back to the community. While I was paid for my time yesterday, I have long given back to the community by being an invested volunteer.  This is what my adult volunteers did yesterday. I felt privileged to be part of this developing relationship.

One thing I have learned over the years is to appreciate the volunteers you have and make sure they are aware of your appreciation!  I thanked them for coming, and thanked them again, and again, several times. I had a list of things I wanted them to do. And, they graciously did all the things on the list. Of course there is some concern when working in a garden that a wrong plant will be pulled out or wrong part cut off but I assured them that there were no worries with me about any of that! I just appreciated their time.

The biggest job I gave them was to pull the dead clematis vines off of a trellis in the gardens. I had previously been promised help with this task, but the help alluded me. So, noticing the new growth starting at the base of the plant, I asked that they get the dead vines off. Here it is before and after:

Part of the volunteer group worked in the garden cleaning up the last of winter debris at the far end and the other part of the group worked with me helping the young students learn to plant. All their presence and participation as volunteers was appreciated.

Before leaving, I met another “contact” person for this group, increasing my new network of contacts to three for the business that was partnering with the school and  students. He mentioned summer opportunities for more work in the garden. Really?!  This was an impossible dream come true! Long have I wanted a volunteer contingent to help at my previous school gardens. I will definitely be sending a sign up list for summer help!

It is this developing relationship and more opportunity to develop student relationships that will most probably keep me at this school for the next year. It is so important to learn to give back. Role modeling how to do that is essential to young people to know that giving of oneself can be an enjoyable experience and essential to one’s community.


Tears in the Garden

Tears in the Garden

I cried today while I was at work. Very unprofessional of me, I know.

Today was planting day at the school where I am the new garden club advisor.  Recently, I’ve spent 10-12 hours prepping the garden beds for planting. Over the weekend, I purchased the plants. I made sign up sheets for the teachers and today about 150 students were scheduled, class by class, to come outside and plant an annual in the school garden. Two nights ago, my husband helped me till it up. Last night I went to put out plant markers for a search and find with some of the more unusual named plants, count shovels to make sure I had enough, and generally check to see if we were ready. By the time I sat down last night it was 9:30. I had 16,000 steps on my FitBit. I had worked. Hard.


By 6 a.m. this morning, my husband was taking the plants over to the school, about 20 minutes away, to drop them off for me. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. and left at 3:15 p.m.. I was in the garden all day and it wasn’t all rosy, believe me.

My problem started before today. The “old” garden manager is still very much involved with the garden beds I was hired to care for last fall. She’s said I am doing a good job but then adds many suggestions about what or how things should be done, as well as telling me that I should ask permission if I need to replace a plant.  Until late last week, I was able to ignore these suggestions.  But, as the planting dates loomed closer, I could feel my annoyance building. I let a couple of  emails from her go unanswered, hoping to give off the impression that I knew what I was doing and did not need guidance. After all, for each of the last 14 month’s of May, I planted with 30 or more school aged children in a school garden close to my house – at the school my boys had attended as elementary students.


Intensity builds

But since the end of last week, I felt my intensity grow. I was super focused on doing a good job and doing it right, but a couple of thoughts kept floating to the surface. The  predominate theme was that this job entails too much gardening and not enough teaching for me. I am a teacher first and gardener second – the garden is the vehicle in which my lessons ride.

So, when I planned today’s planting session, I gave a mini-lesson on annual plant life cycles, seeds, and a how-to demo. This took 10 minutes. Planting took 10 minutes (each child only planted one plant). And, I also constructed a search and find for the students to do after their planting was done to introduce them to the plants in the garden bed. One of my educational goals for this garden is to connect the students to it. They see it, walk by it, or even through it, but do not know about it. It is part of their “place”, their school, where they spend a majority of their waking hours. They should know about it.  This was a simple exercise to learn plant names and where they are in the school gardens.  One of my strengths is being super organized, so fortunately, this plan worked well all day today.

Back Up…

But, shortly after I arrived, the old garden manager came outside. I am not sure what she was doing there. Perhaps volunteering in her grandson’s classroom. I do not know.  I was still prepping for the first class which involved moving plants around, marking spots to dig, placing shovels near the plants, etc.. I was busy. I had gotten the water spigot key from the custodian and needed to fill water buckets. She complimented me on my plant choices. Then, she asked if they were going in the main garden bed, I said that they were. Well, then I was told that “for future reference” that is the “seed” bed because second grade studies seeds.  They always just “seeded” that bed in the past. Well, I said, this year will be different. We’ll have some instant color and each student will get to put a plant in the ground. This conversation and others like it was what I was afraid of because it is pretty much how the emails have gone. A compliment is followed by a zinger. The recognition of this pattern had caused me to stress about planting at school this week.

Truly, I was not looking forward to it for this very reason. I knew I would be told, “it wasn’t they way it had been done in the past.” You know, I was hired to do a job. No one told me it had to be done the way it had been done in the past. My emotions were close to the surface; I could feel it. I had been close to “spilling” over for a few days now. My family knew it. I knew it.


Well, the first class came out. I gave my mini-lesson. The old garden manager stayed and watched. I asked her to help and fill up some water buckets. I gave her the water key I had the forethought to get from the custodian. Our prior conversation had interrupted my prep time so I did not get the buckets filled.  She asked if I had brought a hose over to the spigot. No, just the cans and the key, I replied.

In return, I got, “Well, that doesn’t work well here. You need a hose.”

Loosing it

You know, I lost it. I thought for a minute and then said, well – it will have to do. I am trying to do a good job and I am not you or the person that helped you in the garden.  The garden will not be the same was it was when you managed it because we are different people. I never had a hose before and it always worked. UGH! This was in front of the kids!

We finished planting and she came over to apologize. Then, she went inside for a while but came back as I had a break for an hour. Despite saying I didn’t want to “get it to it” we did. I ended  up crying. This is embarrassing. There was not anyone to hear us but still I didn’t want to cry. Damn! I knew it was going to happen. So, I cried. I cried as I told her this has not been an easy transition. I am a teacher first and a gardener second.  There is too much gardening and not enough teaching with this role. The gardens are huge. They really need a full-time, dedicated GARDENER!  That person is not me. I am a teacher! If there was any ever doubt in my mind before today, there is not now.

As I proceeded with my day, my intensity lessened and I was able to relax and enjoy the students. In part, this is because this person did not return to “help” – even though we parted amlicablly.  I enthusiastically taught each group, enjoyed planting with them, enjoyed getting to know the teachers, and having both teachers and students get to know me.  I was fine with the next group, 37 second graders, their teachers, and me.  We did fine. My lesson plan and organization of the planting  worked.


So, what happened here? Well, first off, my emotions have been close to the surface for a while.   Since last month, I have been fighting for my garden club group again – just at a different school. I’m tired of fighting for my groups. Tired. I am only trying to enrich  students and yet, I have to fight for the opportunity to do this. Paid or volunteer, I have to fight. It isn’t right and it is exhausting!  Secondly, in part, I am grieving for my previous garden club group; this was a group of students I led for 13 years. I miss them. I miss the familiarity of the school, the teachers I know who appreciated me (and the few that didn’t), I miss it all.  Planting with new students, however great they were, made me miss my old students. There is no denying that.  Thirdly, May has been extremely busy.  I have a senior in high school, a looming graduation  (9 days), visiting family – some who have not been here in 5 years, finishing of two graduate school classes, and organizing the planting all the while I was working on cleaning up the garden. Not to mention things to do in my own yard!

I always try to look at things from another perspective. I told the person that brought me to tears earlier that I live down the road from the garden I used to manage and if I saw someone working in it, I would never stop and tell they what they should do or what I used to do. I resigned, much like this person resigned. I have no right to tell the person that takes over what to do.  Yet, I was being told.

What do I do?  Well, I can tell you what I think I should do. I can tell you what my husband wants me to do. But, that can wait. The other thing  I have been thinking about is how I need to get my intensity under control. Not everyone understands intense people. I get that. But, I am one. I do not necessarily like that about myself. It has its advantages, but probably more disadvantages. I will tell you this, I am thinking of ways I can enjoy life more, be LESS intense, and more relaxed.  And, yet, I will also tell you that having students who just met me today and left school waving, calling me by name, and telling me planting was fun was the highlight of my day.

But, I also know that life is much too short to be crying in a school garden at ten o’clock in the morning, with a person I barely know.  It just isn’t something that needs to happen. And, I’m not quite sure a hug from a kindergartener or even a whole line of them makes up for that.