Bermuda Perfumeries….then and now.

Bermuda Perfumeries….then and now.

The island of Bermuda is one of my favorite places in the world! It has pastel painted houses with white roofs, scented air from the local sub-tropical, brightly colored flora, and a welcoming native people who have retained their civility over years of an increasingly large tourist population.

When we first visited, thirty years ago, our budget was tight so we opted for tours that were both enjoyable and affordable. My memory fails where we saw the line of Royal Lyme aftershave products for men, but we bought some for my husband, and I believe father and father in law, as a memento from our trip. This was back in 1987. I have memories of touring a “factory” type production with the scents – all Royall products – on display. I cannot find anything that resembles or jogs my memory as to where this was on the island. Royall Lyme and other Royall products ceased productions in Bermuda and are now made in New York, exactly when this took place, I do not know. Some of the company’s history – which claims a “prestigious line of gentleman’s toiletries” can be found on the Royall Lyme company’s website.

On our third trip, this summer, my husband and I hopped off the bus in St. George and immediately saw a sign for the Bermuda Perfumery.  He said, “Do you want to go and check it out?” Of course, my reply was, “Yes, let’s do it!”

St. George Local Reststop 2017

So, down the cobbled street we wandered, which was barely wide enough for one car, let alone two vehicles and a couple of pedestrians. Quaintness whispers from the accompanying alleys.  Straight away, we entered a neatly turned out white and black shuttered building – The Bermuda Perfumery.  I am sad to tell you that most of my photos are corrupted from this last trip, so I cannot show you the lovely building. You can see it on the perfumery’s Facebook page, however, in their photo section.

Upon entering, it appears to be an old house, converted into a showroom for the perfumes made now by – Lili Bermuda.  At first, we did not find what we were looking for – Royall Lyme aftershave. After inquiring, we were informed by the very pleasant sales person that Royall Lyme was made by an entirely different company! Our mistake.

However, here we were, in the Bermuda Perfumery. I made quick work of my shopping, spending some of my closely protected vacation funds on a soap set for my sister-in-law, a sampler of scents, and what I thought was a specially wrapped bar of soap – which turned out to be a bottle of Passion Flower Perfume! It just smelled too good to leave without marking the occasion with some purchases. The young sales person left us to our wanderings in the front two rooms of the house – giving us time to sample and decide. I was somewhat worried about taking liquid pack on the plane, so that prompted my decision to purchase a “Lili Bermuda Perfume Library” – which gives you samples of eleven of the different scents.  Some are unisex, such as Fresh Water, which was my favorite while in the store. It is a crisp, citrusy, clean scent – the type I have always been drawn to wearing.

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After getting home, I gave my sister-in-law the soaps, and started using my fragrance library – with my preference – Freshwater, first.  A couple of weeks after settling in to our routines at home, I opened the box I thought was a special bar of soap in order to pamper myself.  To my surprise, it was a bottle of perfume – Passion Flower!  It had gotten through customs without any problems (in my carry-on). Lucky me!

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Recently, having scents available to wear from The Bermuda Perfumery has kept the island in my mind….as well as in my heart, where it has already been for the last thirty years!

 

 

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Popularity Contest?? Not here.

Popularity Contest?? Not here.

Blogging, like a lot of things in life, is like a popularity contest. I have never been a “popular” person or run with the “in-crowd”, so why should I expect differently from my blog?  I am beginning to accept this. I write because it satisfies me, I have been told I am good at it, and it lets me vent – on occasion. Essentially, I enjoy the process, and usually, the product of my writing.

One thing is true, however.  I stay true to myself, my thoughts, my experience, and my convictions (er – beliefs, that is).  My writing is not calculated to produce an effect.  I do not try to get attention. I do not disrespect others. I do not poke fun at someone else’s expense. I might alienate some. I might make some angry.  I might marginalize myself……but, I try hard not to do the same to others. I try to reflect, understand, inform, communicate, and relate. In essence, I want to make you think.

The problem, here, of course, is that sometimes it makes for dry reading. Unless you are already invested in a topic I choose to write about, there is a great potential that what I write is not relatable to you, specifically.  I think that is a risk all writers take.  Some, many – actually, feel unable to take the risk, and therefore, try to attenuate the risk by altering or twisting their story/words/style/caption/tone, etc  ….  making sure you feel compelled to jump on board.  Can you feel the peer pressure? Yup, it is there with blogging, too. You like a certain blog because your friend or co-worker likes it. You want to fit in. You want to be able to talk with a friendly banter or laugh about what they recently read on someone’s blog.  You, along with several hundred other people, know this person. So, you follow along with all the other “groupies”.

Here are a few reasons my blog might still be minimally followed at six months of age:

On using family and friends: That’s just not happening for me. First off, let’s look at the social media aspect of blogging. Social media is okay. But, I am really not into hanging my whole life out there for the public’s general perusal.  I have always had a very small group of close friends and that suits me just fine. I do not have hundreds of Facebook followers or hundreds of friends. I have a small group of loyal friends and I am loyal to them in return.  My family is small. When you have no true cousins that is a small family! You figure out what it means!  Plus, I do not ask that my family be involved in each and every aspect of my freaking life. They like that I am writing, read occasionally, and share even less often. That is all okay with me. I am not going to beg them – or you.

On being a role model: Lately, there is a lot of disrespect being bantered around the internet. I suppose that is because it exists to a large extent in daily life.  I fail to see this as amusing or something to be propagated.  As adults, in my opinion, we are always on display with our words and our actions. Children pay attention, whether you think they do or not. If you are exhibiting disrespect, through words or actions, then you are role modeling that for children. If you are being a respectful and responsible person, that is noted too. Adults are role models 24/7 – all the time, every hour of every day. Watch what you do, for there are eyes on you. I try to follow this guide for the primary reason that eventually children learn what hypocrites are.  I do not want to be one.

On Being Authentic: I am a mother, sister, daughter, wife, nurse, teacher, friend, jewelry artist (didn’t know that one, huh?), author, leader, gardener, lover of music, photographer, citizen scientist, community participant, environmental group member, baker, cook, and many other more mundane titles. I am mid-life (hopefully), having three nearly grown boys. I have things I can share from my experience. Some of those things, I have chosen not to share – yet. I am still deciding whether I want to or not. But, I write authentically, from my own life experience.  It is all I know.

On not trying to sell you things:  I like information. There is no doubt about it!   Better for me than any funny story, is a boat load of information. I love sifting through it. I love finding the little known fact or tidbit. I love a detailed map. I love facts. And, I love sharing all those things with my readers. So, a large part of why I write my blog is to inform. Bloggers that write to entertain, or play on your feelings more than your mind, will probably experience a larger following.

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Do I want to gain more readers? Of course! Will I compromise my integrity to get them? No. I will continue to plod along, writing daily, challenging myself and hopefully, engaging most of those who come across my page.  But, as the saying goes “you do you”.    I will stick with being me.

Surprisingly, several hours after I wrote the bulk of this post, I got a notification from WordPress that I recently passed 1,000 likes for my blog! All in all, not bad for the first six months of blogging! I will take it! I think I do have a little popularity among my loyal readers! Thank you!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

Since I am usually so gung ho to capture a photo of something that dilates my eye, it is not unusual for me to be seen shooting through windows – in the car, on a plane, or in my living room that has a large “picture” window that used to look over a beautiful coulee. So, the challenge for me, in this challenge, will be to find the few photos (or take some new ones) I wish to share. Be back in a little bit…….

Windows – WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

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Minnesota Summer out a Car Window, 2017 © Carol Labuzzetta
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Fall in the Midwest, Captured out my Bedroom Window, 2015 © Carol Labuzzetta
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February Sky out the Patio Window, 2015 © Carol Labuzzetta
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Window of a Lighthouse, Bermuda © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
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Angel in the Morning (out my livingroomm window), © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
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Rainbow in the evening (out my kitchen window), © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
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Cows on the Move, as taken over our Dashboard Window in the Car Passenger Seat, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
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Snowstorm in Ames, Iowa from a Car Window, 2013. © Carol Labuzzetta
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Above the Clouds, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016
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Canopy of Trees on Kauai from the Car, 2013. © Carol Labuzzetta

 The Storm Moves in, Kitchen Window Scene, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017

As you can see, I had fun with the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge of Windows.

My collection of photos out a variety of windows at home and away is varied, based on landscape and nature, and speaks to me of my own experience, even if it does not speak to others. It captures that moment in time when I could not wait to snap a shot of something – a place, a time, an event, a thing – that is memorable to me.  I hope you enjoy the shots. One thing is for sure – my collection will continue to grow!

Student Writers Make Me Think

Student Writers Make Me Think

Over the summer I heard a few times from one of my former students from the Third Grade Writer’s Circle group I have led as a volunteer for the last six years. She was a particularly precocious writer and has continued to send me bits and pieces of her writing since she was in my group two years ago.

This is one example of the many things I love about having a student writing group. Sometimes you are able to really connect with students on a level that transcends teacher-student. It is kind of like a mutual admiration society. Her continued interest in the craft of writing validates my efforts as a group leader, writing role model, and approachable educator.  We respect each other. I have admiration for her self-directedness and continued love of learning, as well as her persistence in an area of education – language arts – that can be difficult at times. This relationship exists to some extent with most of the students I have contact with and I know I am lucky to experience it. I feel it is a treasure I have been given; it is a treasure that needs protecting.

Although I want my writer’s club students to learn conventions as well as satisfy their need for creativity, and offer a fair amount of constructive criticism in order to encourage their learning, I am careful as to how I go about it.  I am fortunate that I am able to assess and evaluate without placing a grade on the students’ work.  The group of students I have are either already good at writing, really like writing, or both.  It is truly a joy to work with them. The only time we have some trouble is when assigned work does not get finished prior to our group meeting. In that case, I am left fighting the popular perennial excuse of “I didn’t have enough time”, even though they had a week to do an assignment that should have taken less than 20 minutes. Soon enough, the students learn that this, or any version that amounts to the work not being done, does not work on me.

But, I digress. I recently received another piece of writing from this student and due to some personal circumstances have yet to respond to her. I plan to do that today. I miss having my student writers. Yet, I told the teachers for whom I hold this group that we could not start meetings until January this year. I am trying to distance myself from the school building in which I was a very active (probably, overcommitted, is more accurate) volunteer for the last 17 years.  It is somewhat difficult as I live very close to the school;  I feel that if my car were to have an auto-pilot, it would automatically go into the school’s parking lot!

But, in the course of the last few years, I have felt increasingly undervalued. (If this is too ambiguous for you, I encourage you to look back through my previous blog posts on volunteerism.) So, I made a decision to stop donating so much of my time to a building and staff that just did not seem to care if I was there or not.  Other than having to fight for a “space” in which to have our Writer’s Circle meetings (which developed in the last three years and I have never understood), these feelings do not really apply to this group, but are more generally associated with being in the building itself.

In truth, it has been easier than I thought it would be to not go over to school to weed, send out communications for garden club, prepare a garden club lesson, put up a bulletin board, or even have writer’s circle.  But, it is only late September. School has not even been in session for an entire month, yet!

I am somewhat fearful of what will happen when (and, if ) I return to hold Writer’s Circle in starting in January. The plain fact is that I love students and I love teaching.  I want to be there for them.  I felt their appreciation. I felt connected to them. But, the other part of the truth is that I was ready for a change and I find myself wishing there was a way to have my student group outside of the school building, because it is a building I really do not feel like entering again.

But, you know something? The students had absolutely nothing to do with my negative feelings. Seriously!  So, when I hear from a former student who is freely sharing a writing sample with me for feedback, it makes me miss what I had.  I will have to find a way to get back to them and doing what we both think I was good at.  After all, I just bought a new book on writing! The ideas contained within will need to be tried and shared!

In the meantime, I will send my young precocious writer a note of thanks and some comments today. I know she will appreciate it! And, I appreciate her.

 

 

This post is dedicated to J.B. who continues to make me feel wanted. Thank you!

Still Broken: Talented & Gifted Education

Still Broken: Talented & Gifted Education

A number of recent things have got me thinking about Talented and Gifted (TAG) Education services in our school district again.

These thoughts started when we learned at the recent senior meeting that one of the high school counselors was now being called a career counselor and would be the contact person for TAG students, Advanced Placement (AP) classes, Acceleration, Youth Options, and Course Options. Students can visit him to get help with registration for the above opportunities. It sounds like he is popular since his other counseling responsibilities were alleviated by the hiring of an additional student services school counselor. I came home excited for our talented and gifted student population, taking this as a “win” for the students a group of us had advocated for some years ago.

But, my excitement did not last too long, perhaps a few days to a week.  Within a very brief time, I found myself instead thinking about who was being serviced by this counselor and exactly what services were being offered.

A number of years ago, our high school (HS) went to a self-selection process for AP classes, instead of referral or need for registration approval by an assigned faculty member.  Our family found this former system faulty,  and within the leadership of the TAG Parent Group, a group I co-founded with other parents, we pushed for self-selection and deleting the need for the so-called “approval”.  This action was far removed from helping my oldest son, who ended up leaving our resident district shortly after being denied the ability to take three AP classes as a junior (he had taken AP Calculus as a freshman and AP US History as a sophomore). He was ranked number one at the time with a 4.33 G.P.A..  There was no need to deny him the opportunity of three AP classes except to weld administrative power over our student.  Subsequently, the district lost its claim to our National Merit Scholarship winner, who ended up being valedictorian at his adopted, virtual high school, as well as a Phi Beta Kappa inductee as a sophomore at his University, and a national Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention winner for student research who has already presented at an international level science conference and published a paper.  They were short-sighted, then. And, I am afraid that their sight has not improved.

I have had two more students qualify for TAG services at both the elementary and middle school levels as they progressed in school. Yet, neither have received anything in terms of service from our HS.  My second oldest son, now a senior, received a letter as a sophomore from the counselor at the HS who was going to service TAG students as part of a newly expanded position, two years ago.  This is the same counselor who was now  servicing only TAG students and enrichment opportunities. Unfortunately, it then happened that our student went on to have some difficulties caused in part by an overloaded schedule (which, admittedly, we allowed) and more so, because of insensitive teaching practices such as being called stupid in front of his peers.  Unfortunately, the TAG counselor did nothing to help rectify the insensitive and unhelpful instructional situation our son found himself in.  We learned, through self-examination and reflection, but with no help from the school’s administration or guidance office,  that our senior learns “differently” than most.  That, and only that, is what he is guilty of.  Stupidity does not come into play.  At all.

And then, there is my youngest boy, who is a sophomore at the HS this year.  He has consistently tested in the 97-99th percentile in mathematics on standardized tests since being a young elementary student. He accelerated in math to the extent that he is now taking AP Calculus as a sophomore. He used to be a gifted writer, having published several times, and in at least one adjudicated compilation.  In addition, his artful origami creations, a former passion, were included in a national travelling library exhibit several years ago through Origami USA.  Yet, he has never heard from the so-called TAG counselor at the HS.  He did not even get the “letter” than my second son received.  It makes me wonder if he was even referred by the middle school personell for continued TAG service – something he had benefited from since second grade, which in, and of itself, is another story. My experience has shown me that gifted education is embroiled in the politics of education, with support of the these students and their needs being highly questioned by many – but, sadly, mostly by educators, themselves.

In the spring of his eighth grade year, my current sophomore student was provided an opportunity to “double up on English” credits during ninth grade which was mis-labeled and mis-billed as acceleration but was not.  After some consideration, we refused this course of action which really attracted many by casting a wide net, and by reports was not well tolerated by some of the students.  One of the reasons for our refusal was that he was already accelerated in mathematics and was only one of five students who took pre-calculus as a freshman.  Enough was enough. However, it does seem that we should have at least heard from this counselor at some point last year. We did not. It has made me wonder if the refusal of the “accelerated” English took him off the TAG list that was sent to the high school prior to his entering last year.  It would account for the TAG counselor not knowing of him.

Middle school TAG services were not favored by my boys, with one of them even opting out of them during his 8th grade year.  Content did not focus on their high interest areas and both were self-directed enough in their learning to continue to explore new subjects or deepen areas of learning on their own.  We did not make a big deal about it and let them drop the time spent with the TAG teacher.  Unfortunately, she was a friend at the time and this made for an uncomfortable situation.  But, we allowed it.   And, to give some credence to her effort, they were not the most willing students, shunning attempts she made at engaging them in the topics of her choice, like the law and philosophy.  Still, dropping the TAG course content did not change what they are capable of achieving – only, it seems, who might possibly know of their specific, and perhaps, niche capabilities.

So, can you understand my wondering about who is being serviced by the TAG counselor at our HS?  Of course, I could name a few students. I have a long history of advocacy in this area with local students. I have probably helped other students more than my own and that is something I somewhat regret.  Unfortunately, in addition, I do not see much improvement to our system of providing TAG services (beyond self-selection for AP, and other advanced curricular offerings) than we experienced when our oldest son was still a student at our resident district high school – that was seven years ago.  The players have changed but the scenarios have pretty much remained the same.  It is too bad we have not come farther in helping our most academically talented students to succeed. I wonder if they still feel as alone as my oldest son felt at times.  I hope, at least that aspect has improved.

What I have come to realize is that despite whether this counselor knows of my youngest son or not, he will be challenged and he will succeed.  He took an online math class over the summer through a highly regarded national university that specializes in offerings for talented youth.  We registered him for the course and set up his study schedule.  He finished on time and did well.  He is a talented artist.  He took care of setting up his own independent study in art this fall.  I am sure the experience will be enjoyable for both him and his teacher.  We really do not need the TAG counselor.  But, I still wonder …… if my son is not on the counselor’s list – a student who qualifies for service, without a doubt, by many definitions – who is on the list?  Or are they just not reaching out to students at all now?  I am not sure I want to know.  And, if he is not on the list – why not?  It is frustrating to realize that a system I knew was broken seven years ago, remains so.  It is also liberating to realize that I do not have choose to try to fix it again.

 

Caving: Follow the Rules! A Reactionary Post.

Caving: Follow the Rules! A Reactionary Post.

Have you ever been spelunking? How about cave exploring? They are one in the same!

Major newspapers have recently written and posted articles about an ordeal a young college student in Indiana had while spelunking. Reading these articles prompted me to post on this subject, having been spelunking several times in my life.

My first time caving was when I was about 30 weeks pregnant after our move to Wisconsin eighteen years ago.  Being a self-proclaimed science nerd, I was more than willing to go in an effort to explore our new mid-western surroundings and check out the stalagmites and stalactites. After all, we already had a precocious five-year old who was ready for some Earth Science.  It would be a great experience for him, too.  So, off we went one hot summer day to Niagara Cave in Harmony, Minnesota. It was very cool and although the experience ended for me more quickly than our group (I got a little claustrophobic and diaphoretic, having to ascend before the tour was over), I went back two more times over the years – always with kids in tow.

Other than memories of dank darkness, narrow passageways, dripping water, and cool temperatures (which are a relief from summer heat whether you are pregnant or not), I remember being told the rules.  First and foremost, the one repeated several times was to stay with your group!

This brings us back to the publicized articles found in the digital editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal about the recent incident with the Indiana College Student who was left alone in the cave when his group exploration was over.  Yes, he was left. The buddy system did not work. Obviously, numbers (bodies or students – whatever you want to call them) were left unaccounted. It sounds like the pressure of our overscheduled days reigned over getting the group out and on their way to their next obligation or activity. There were a lot of safety checks not performed. He is lucky. I am glad he was found and is alright. But, you know what really gets me is that the articles totally gloss over the fact that HE LEFT THE GROUP!  It is mentioned once in the New York Times article but then, that is it!  Where is his responsibility in the incident?

You do not leave a group in a cave! He was not an experienced spelunker. The light shines on yet another great example of our youth being so focused on their own needs and wants that safety for themselves and others becomes an afterthought.  This focus could have had dire consequences. Yeah, you are not enjoying that part of the cave, your back hurts, etc., etc.. Stay with the group!  It will be over soon.

I am sorry but I think the newspapers do some disservice to us all in telling this story in the way the details were shared.  HE LEFT THE GROUP.  I think it demanded repeating, at least once, if not more.

Obviously, the student leaving the group with which he was exploring to find the other group was a huge mistake. It was his mistake. His mistake was compounded by the mistakes of others in the group for failing to account for him upon exiting the cave.  Luckily, for all, the situation was not fatal.  I am really not sure which – the group or the student – bears the greatest weight of the responsibility for his being left behind. Again, you do not leave your group! Ever.

The moral of the story? Spelunking is fun. Kids love it. You can experience awe and wonder about our earth and how it forms in any number of caves across the country. It is generally a safe activity.  It is the type of activity I would, and have, highly encouraged for enriching our youth. But, there are rules. The rules are there for safety – yours and others.  Follow the rules and. most likely, you will not have to find yourself in a situation that could threaten your life, or leave you considering crickets for your next meal.

Simple.