From Meh to Marvelous in 24 hours

From Meh to Marvelous in 24 hours

What’s the secret to a good mood for me lately? I determined that it is something as simple as getting out of the house! Yesterday, feeling lazy, I missed my Monday morning appointment with a treadmill at the YMCA.  The day went downhill from there.  Lethargy set in and it was all I could do to keep moving. Tiny naps invited me to participate all day long. And I took them up on the chance to snooze in a chair more than once.  In short, not much was accomplished – aside from an hour of graduate work I did at the public library in the afternoon.

Today needed to be different!  While I lay awake last night, due to my tiny naps having a cumulative effect and creating some insomnia, I knew I had to structure my day today. Around 3:30 a.m. I got up to write down what I came up with for my day today. It looked like this:

  • get up early (6:30 a.m.)
  • get to the YMCA by 8 a.m.
  • go to the post office with a jewelry order and Lands’ End return
  • get a car wash
  • get the grocery shopping done before noon
  • be at the library when it opens at 1 p.m. to capitalize on the progress I made yesterday
  • walk with a friend in late afternoon
  • go to school to weed the garden after dinner
  • shower & get ready for bed

Well, by the time I finished the grocery shopping, my mood was already elevated. This is significant because I dislike grocery shopping just as much as anyone else. But, today I made sure I had a list and worked to scratch things off as I made my way around a quiet store. I am goal oriented and unfortunately, this applies to shopping as well! Hmmmm, maybe Tuesday mornings are a good time to shop! I also felt good because I helped an elderly lady with one of the plastic bags you put vegetables in. She couldn’t get it open, so I made some small talk with her as I assisted with the bag. She was grateful and the simple action of helping someone put a smile on my face! It also helped that my husband gave out some chores to our boys, as well. I even called my parents to check in and say hello!

It seems all it takes these days to life my mood is to simply get out of the house. The days are short and I get busy doing things that beckon my attention. But, I realize the laundry, the dishes, the crumbs on the pantry floor – well, they’ll all be there waiting for me when I return from bolstering my attitude by a short time out of the house. Yes, I went from meh to marvelous in less than 24 hours! And, it feels great!

This is my submission to the Slice of Life Tuesday blog forum hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

“Feels So Good”

“Feels So Good”

Believe it or not, I forgot it was Tuesday until just now.  And, while I should be working on two summer school presentations I have to do tomorrow or plugging away on my two new summer grad courses that started yesterday, I am writing my blog post now. I try not to miss Slice of Life Tuesday’s during the year. I missed last week due to being at our cabin which is a place of being unplugged and of re-communing with nature in all its glory! So, once I realized it was Tuesday, I new I had to stop and write my post. Yes, this is procrastination at its finest!

It’s been a busy Tuesday which contributes to why I forgot what day it was. My youngest was up before 5 a.m. to go to the high school with a friend for a morning work out session scheduled at six o’clock. But, by 6:10 he was back on his bed, reportedly because the HS doors were locked….no workout today, boys!  (I’m sure they’ll squeeze in a trip to the YMCA later for a pick up game of b-ball.)  I had an appointment myself at 7:30, so I was awake and getting  my act together. By 8:20 a.m., I was at our local Target, picking up some much needed toiletries, as well as odds and ends for my soon to be college freshman. I hustled home and unloaded, heading off to my hair stylist’s salon for a much needed cut and color.

Already, one of the topics I had pondered writing about was that of validation. We all, as humans, need validation don’t we? Our existence, our intelligence, our good works, our community contributions, and more all need some kind and some various amount of validation. But, this seems to be quite a heavy post for a Tuesday morning and maybe one that I am not quite ready to write about myself. Let’s suffice it to say that I am on the look out for some external sources of validation and leave the rest to your imagination for now. Do not worry! I am not up to anything that requires the use of the marauders map or anything else of a covert nature! Just some plain old validation – that’s all.

After my beautification at the salon (I just love having my hair done by a professional), I headed home for some lunch. As I pulled in the driveway, a song came on the radio that has been a favorite for most of my adult life. This song makes me smile, hum, and listen as few others do. It is Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione (1977). Until writing this, I always thought it was released in 1978, but I was wrong. It was late in 1977 when this instrumentally great composition hit the airwaves. Can you place your self in time when you think of this song? I can. Mangione was from Rochester, New York, the city closest to where I grew up. My parents have pro-ported that they went to high school with Chuck and his brother Gap, but I cannot confirm this  memory. The late 70’s were the start of high school for me. I was a band geek. And, although I did not play a piece of brass like Mangione, I certainly did and  can appreciate his talent with this composition. Feels So Good makes me feel just that…..so good. I had to sit in the garage with the car running (door open, of course) just to hear this favorite play out in its completion.  It was so worth it.

Listen for yourself to this wonderful work. (I make no claim to the rights of the YouTube broadcast or song itself). Just reposted for your appreciation. Enjoy!

YouTube Link to the Composition, Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione (1977).

With a Little Help From My Friends…

With a Little Help From My Friends…

You know this old Beatles tune, right? “I get by with a little help from my friends….” In 1967, it was part of the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Over the last week, and particularly yesterday, the song came to mind as I readied for my middle son’s high school graduation party.  The phone calls and texts started about two weeks ago asking friends to borrow essential items like tables, chairs, crock pots, and even table weights – good thing too because it just happened to be windy yesterday during the hours our party was held.

As I have aged I have realized just how important friends are and how important it is to work at maintaining those friendships that are important to you. In addition to being able to borrow things, friends – true friends – are there to lend a listening ear. To me, being able to borrow things is great, but having someone you trust to talk to and listen is more important.  For example, my friend Cathy stopped to drop off the table weights the day before the party. My husband and I were in full gear with party prep.  But, just having her stop by gave my a chance to take a break and have a great conversation.  We connect on a lot of different levels and it is nice to be able to be oneself without feeling like one is being judged.

May has been a stressful month with end of year activities to attend, squeezing in extra sporting events due to their previous cancellation from a spring full of rain, new, obligations at a school garden, and interviewing for an interim school board seat. While I gladly took on this stress, in the middle of it all, I realized I did not need it. I am trying to be a “doer” and not just a “talker” but the “doing” wears me out.  And then, even when I am a doer, there seems to be question as to “how” and “why” I am doing the things I do.

For example, running for the vacant interim board seat was stressful.  But, due to other stressors, I did not focus on it.  Still, I cannot help but be irritated when someone insinuates they could have done it better!  My question becomes, “Well, why didn’t you, then?”  Even my own mother asked, “why are you doing this?” instead of offering support for doing it.  I appreciated the friends who told me I was brave to “put myself out there” and I was proud to have presented myself well. While I do not know if I will run for an actual elected school board seat next spring, I did appreciate the support I got from my friends when I applied for this interim seat.

Yes, friends are very important, especially when you need a little help, a listening ear, or that invisible support when you need it the most and can feel it being there.  I got by more easily this weekend with a little help from my friends. And, I’ll be there for them to get by with a little help from me when they need it, too.  I know I could not have been ready for this party without them. And, more importantly, I know that I need them all in my life as part of my support system.  As a friend, I hope I am there for them in the same ways.  It certainly gives me something to which I can aspire.

This post is part of the Slice of Life Tuesday Blog Forum, hosted by TwoWritingTeachers.org. Thanks for forming this wonderfully supportive writing community!

Slice of Life: Monday Weirdness

Slice of Life: Monday Weirdness

Yesterday started out fine. My son who is in graduate school had come home for the weekend but instead of the usual Friday through Sunday, he arrived Saturday and left in the morning yesterday. I took him to a local breakfast spot before he headed out. His brothers had left for school, anxious to get the next two weeks over and be finished for the year. My husband had left for work.

After breakfast, I went to continue my spring clean up in the gardens at the school where I am the co-curricular advisor for a student garden club. The gardens are large and it has been a daunting task, unfortunately filled with a little drama in the last month. Still, I am planting annuals later this week with the student body and eventually, over 450 plants need to be put in the ground. I worked for an hour and a half, until the sky had darkened so much it looked like it would rain.

It was mid-afternoon that things got interesting. Another tennis match got cancelled due to the rain. My senior, the one who plays tennis, headed to Taco Bell to get an after school snack with his friend. I got a call from him saying he had a flat tire; they were in the parking lot of a local grocery store trying to fix it.  Knowing nothing about patching tires, which is what they were trying to do, I told him I would call Dad who was at work. What followed was a flurry of texts. My husband’s place of employment changed in January and I had never had to call him at work since then. As it turned out, yesterday was not a good day to try that out.

During the midst of all this, I threw in a load of wash. I turned the washer on and it immediately started churning. This was not what I expected. Off and on, on and off, I pressed the buttons on the machine to no avail. It just made the churning noise, never filled with water, and never “weighed” the contents, as it usually does before starting to run. It seemed to be broken!

Needless to say, my blog didn’t get written, loads of wash never got cleaned, and the van ended up with a temporary fix. Dinner was quick, homemade pizzas, after which time I ran to our school board meeting.  I quickly noticed the convenience of texting because my youngest son, while at his AP test review session at the high school, was able to contact me for a ride home before I even left the board meeting which was in a building only a few hundred feet away from his classroom.

During the remainder of the evening, the television set never got turned on.  We had people studying, working on papers, and the fixing (unsuccessfully) of a washing machine.  It was a lot for a Monday.  I hope today does not contain any unexpected surprises.

This blog piece was my contribution to the TwoWritingTeachers sponsored, Slice of Life Tuesday blog forum, on WordPress. It is a chance, once a week, to share a slice of our lives with other authors/educators/ and interested readers. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this supportive community!

 

 

 

 

 

No longer the turning point

No longer the turning point

It’s here. The end of sophomore year in high school for my youngest son. I know, it is usually not a milestone that is marked. For our family, it has become one.

Yesterday, we attended parent – teacher conferences at our high school. Never again will we have a sophomore aged high school student. A couple of his teachers were not there. One was his art teacher. We saved talking to her for last because she likes to show off the student work and chat about their progress, so you might end up wandering the halls of the building to view their creations. But, she was off setting up at a student art show at local vineyard, where his paintings will be displayed with his peers. His social studies teacher was also absent. But, he’s doing fine in both of those courses, so all is well. We spent the most time with his AP calculus teacher – hearing how he is preparing them for the AP exam later this month and visiting, as this teacher has had all three of our boys.

The conferences were good, as they always are, and we go mainly to keep the lines of communication open with the teachers, since we do not really have concerns.  But, the end of this sophomore for our youngest child is significant. The goal I had for him this year was to finish it still being happy with going to school and enjoying what it has to offer.

This might seem like an odd goal but there is some history behind it that will explain more. In the late winter of our eldest son’s sophomore year, he was so disenchanted with being under-challenged, he ended up going through the open-enrollment process that  allows students to attend school in a district in which they do not live. He enrolled, with our permission, in a virtual high school within another public school district three hours away. Sophomore year, seven years ago, was his last year as an official student at our resident high school, the same school his brothers now attend. It was a good choice for him. He ended up not only being more challenged but also being the Valedictorian of his class at the school he attended virtually for his junior and senior year.

Two years ago, our middle son experienced his sophomore year. This is when somewhat of a pattern emerged. By the end of his sophomore year, he was experiencing difficulty with a teacher who had been unprofessional and callous by telling him he was “stupid” in front of his peers. I am really not sure how anyone who is taking pre-calculus sophomore year in high school can be categorized as stupid, but that is what was said. Two years later, I can honestly say that event was a turning point for him in his educational process. Staying in that class, knowing what the teacher thought of him, prevented from getting any kind of help with the material (why would you go to someone for help who spoke in such a way to embarrass you), led him to questioning his self-confidence and his abilities. His motivation has suffered. It was an awful experience, one I do not think he has fully recovered from yet. It happened during second semester, sophomore year.

Thus, I began to see late winter and early spring (February – March) of the sophomore year in high school for our boys as a turning point. So, when this year began for our youngest,  I had a sense of trepidation. I hoped that he could get through the year without any major event that would alter his course or change his feelings about school. Like our other two, he has a fairly heavy load with an AP class, playing two varsity level sports, and furthering his artistic abilities.

And, here we are. The last PT conferences of the year and he still likes (I could even say loves) going to school. He loves being challenged both academically and with his sports participation and art projects. He’s had a great year. No, he doesn’t have straight A’s. I learned that doesn’t really matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you have them, but does not really mean all that much if you don’t. Our grading processes need an overhaul – but that is a subject for another post. Happiness is what matters. A sense of belonging and being understood matters. Being challenged matters. Knowing you are respected by your peers AND by your teachers matters.  I think we are over the hump. Our third, and last sophomore will make it through the year still with a love for school. And, I think that is priceless!

Found At Last, A Monarch’s Tag!

Found At Last, A Monarch’s Tag!

For the last three years, I have tagged Monarch Butterflies. Having raised these fascinating, and now troubled, iconic creatures for the last 15 years, I took on the task of tagging their hind wings in the late summer/fall of 2015.  I was hooked! It was easy and fun! I was acting as a contributing citizen scientist, providing data to Monarch Watch on the migration of these miraculous insects.

So, I did it again in the fall of 2016 and again, this past fall, 2017. I tagged 16, 17, and 25 monarchs each respective year for a total of 58 monarchs. It is not a lot, but it is significant for me. I receive a great deal of joy from helping sustain the monarch population. It has also been the subject on which I have focused many of my environmentally based garden club lessons with students over the last 14 years. For me, the act of tagging brings their life cycle full circle. It is a sign of hope I am placing on them as I attach the tag to their hind wing. I carefully raise each monarch caterpillar or egg I find in the habitat meant for them in my yard. I feed them daily and clean their “cages.” When one ecloses or emerges from the chrysalis, as the term implies, it is a beautiful transformative moment. A moment signaling hope for their future.

Immediately upon emergence from the chrysalis, the monarch’s wings are crumpled and wet. They cannot fly at this time and, as I understand it, if they fall before their wings dry out and straighten, they will most likely not survive! Luckily, I have never had this happen. After a short time – an hour or two – the wings have stiffened and the butterfly is starting to move them to open and close.  The monarch can be tagged at this time. Holding the butterfly securely with the wings closed, the tiny tag is attached to one of the hind wings. The tag has letters and numbers – a code, if you will – in sequence for the number of tags you purchased. The tags are very sticky and need to be placed on the wing in the correct position, the first time, for they cannot be repositioned without stripping the scales from the wing.

 

Tags can only be ordered in late summer for it is only this generation of monarchs that make the great migration to Central Mexico for the winter.  The tags must only be used the year they are purchased, and remaining tags (unused) should be returned to monarch watch with the data record sheet of those monarchs you tagged that season.  Sex is noted, as is whether the monarch was caught and tagged was wild or reared. Tagging location is also indicated on the sheet. It is a relatively simple, yet effective means for tracking the butterflies.

Yesterday, I got some very exciting news! After three years of tagging, and looking for recovered tags on the reported data sheets, I was finally was able to identify two codes from tags that were placed on Monarchs by me last fall! TWO!  Both tags were found in Mexico! Monarchs I had raised in my home gardens in West Central Wisconsin had made the complete migration all the way to Mexico! How cool is that?!

 

Monarch Watch receives the report of found tags. The person finding the tagged monarch reports their location and the code on the hindwing tag.  This is then shared via their website through social media outlets, so people – interested citizen scientists, like myself – can look to see if any of the monarchs they tagged made it to Mexico!  Thus, scientists can tell if they are seeing a large number of monarchs successfully make the migration from one area of the country versus another.

second tag of the 2017 season

Last year I tagged 25 monarchs. Sixteen were females and 9 were males. All were hand-reared.  Two were recovered in Mexico. One, a female was released here on 9/8/17 and found in Sierra Chincua Mexico on 2/10/18. Another, a male – actually, tagged by my husband on 9/20/17, was found on 3/3/18 in Cerro Pelon, Mexico.  This was such exciting news! You can be sure I will be tagging more monarchs this coming fall. Thank you Monarch Watch for encouraging citizen scientists to contribute to your understanding of these iconic creatures. Hopefully, it will help us all save them.

 

 

 

Speed Talking & Passion Do Not Mix Well

Speed Talking & Passion Do Not Mix Well

Last night I spoke to a small group of our local Lionesses who had invited me to their meeting to talk about Monarch Butterflies. Already with a lot on my plate, I reluctantly agreed to accept their invitation, even though I received it but two short weeks ago.

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their habitat is a passion of mine. I have been involved in the work of saving this iconic species for about 16 years now, well before it was popular. I was comfortable knowing I could engage the Lioness group in the topic.

The problem, however, was that they only wanted me to speak for 20 minutes!  Twenty minutes! Yikes! It is not a lot of time to cover a subject that has many facets. I recently spoke at a conference for other Master Gardeners on Monarchs, Milkweed, and the Monarch Highway and even that presentation was 45 minutes long!

Therefore, yesterday, I went about trimming my presentation down to twenty minutes. The night before, while I had insomnia, I decided that I’d break the entire presentation down into five-minute sections. Five minutes for an introduction, five minutes for background information on what is currently going on with the monarch species, five minutes for what they can do to help the monarchs, and five minutes on other resources, closing, and questions.

 

 

I didn’t have as much difficulty paring down the presentation as I thought, at least on paper. I cut out most of the life cycle information with the exception of the migration, and reliance on milkweed plants as the sole sustenance for their survival. I went as confidently into the presentation as I could with essential information.

Graciously, the Lionesses invited me to dine with them prior to my presentation which would be followed by their meeting. I accepted that invitation as well. I waited for them to indicate it was time for me to present to them.  I am not sure we were “on schedule” or not when I started but I did ask for assistance in letting me know when I was about half way through my talk. I then expected some looking at watches for this reason. Eventually, that happened but even with speed talking and paring my presentation down, one member indicated that I was at the 15 minute mark! Already! Not to worry, I stated, I was almost done.  I wrapped up with where they could get further information and by answering questions.  Unfortunately, I know I went over their 20 minute time frame. They still had a meeting to conduct. I left knowing that I had made an effort but also knowing that in the future, I need at least 30 minutes (and ideally 45 minutes) to make an adequate presentation on the topic of Monarch Conservation.  I think what it comes down to is that you cannot put constraints on passion!

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday, where writer’s can post their blog piece as a link in a forum for other writer’s. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers Blog for hosting this weekly forum.