Day 2 – SOL#21: Frozen Apple

Spring is coming just a little bit each day. It is early March in Minnesota so we will still get snow on and off for a few more weeks. A Sunday early morning heavy wet snow had us out shoveling and then the sun showed up to provide running water down the street by mid afternoon and clear sidewalks and driveways. Of course, we woke up on Monday to find everything covered in snow once again. It is a Minnesota spring!

I am in the middle of teaching myself to draw and do botanical watercolors. Finding new and fresh plants to draw and paint in this on going winter is continuing to be a bit tricky. So much of the dried flower heads and grasses have now been either eaten by rabbits, squirrels or birds or the winter winds have done their job of blowing them into small pieces.

My daily walks have become a deep search for anything worth drawing – a bit of bark with moss or lichens on it, some old flower stalks that are in a protected spot, or an interesting branch. Every once in awhile I come across a prize hiding in plain site.

The Sunday late afternoon walk took me past a small apple tree in someones front yard. It is a tree I watched all last year. First there were the spring blooms that gave me hope when we were deep in the early stages of the pandemic and the sense of trust was lost to us all.

Come mid summer there were tiny green apples along the branches letting me know that life continues and we need to hold on. Things will be better. This noticing was just after I had gotten out of the hospital for a lung issue and was moving slow and grateful to just be breathing without pain. I recall standing looking at those small apples that held so much promise.

Then it was fall and the tree was full of bright red apples glowing in the heat of fall sunshine. No one was picking them as the house was up for sale. I so wanted to gather them up and return home to make applesauce for winter but I left them for the new owners.

Winter came and my walks did not take me that far due to icy sidewalks and below zero temperatures. As we left January behind and found ourselves at the end of February I was back on the 3 mile walk and returned to the apple tree to find just a few apples still hanging on.

The branches are pushing forth spring buds but here and there are frozen wrinkly apples just waiting for spring when the leaves and flower buds will push them off the branch for that last tumble to the ground. The cycle will begin again with new buds, flowers and the starts of tiny green apples.

This year I will remember to take photos. This year I will watch closely. This year I plan to draw the tree in all its stages of life. This tree makes me excited for spring, and new beginning.

We certainly need them.

Frozen apple looking like a left over flower

(this is my drawing project for tomorrow – wish me luck)

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Day 1 – Slice of Life Challenge: How Need Helps Us Learn

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It is garden time. The snow is melting (even though it snowed this morning and left heavy white stuff for me to shovel). It is melting. We will see grass and dark black soil again soon. It is time to get organized. I say this each year and I begin but some how life takes over and I feel lost in the many to do’s. The garden gets planted sort of (mainly the veggies – food is important) but the big changes do not happen. The turning of this land to native plants seems beyond my reach. I just can’t seem to sort it all out. In the past I had no real project in mind. I just wanted to make a change. This year the plants need thinning and dividing. I have a project before me that I need to do. So today I started in little steps. Step one was to find all the garden books, list them and identify the ones that might help me the most in making a shift in the culture of my garden. Also I need to know how to divide up these plants and which plants are native anyway.

Off to my I-pad. I go there because that is where most of my book are now. Sadly but wisely, I decided years ago to limit the number of print books that come into my house. Every room has at least one book shelf full – well except the bathroom. We have plenty of print books, not to worry print is not dead in this household.

The garden books, however, are almost all e-books. So I am scrolling through them getting dizzy as I go. There has to be a better way to do this. There are hundreds of books in my e-reader. I should be able to make a folder for just the garden books. I head off to google and yes indeed I can make a collection of e- books. This means all my garden books can be pulled up at once. I am guessing many of you knew how to do this already but I had no real reason to create a collection until now.

I have a new skill now that will help me with my garden project but also with many other projects. This learning was quick and helpful.

When we need to do something and we don’t know how – we go off to learn. It is our nature as humans to want to learn. We want to figure things out. Very seldom do you come across someone who needs something and they just sit there and say they can’t because they don’t know how. Oh, yeah – I know there are always a few but if you look deeply that is almost always due to some big time emotional issues that are holding that person back. We really want to do. We want to learn.

There are many examples like learning to cook, or bake. I wanted to “put up” the peaches so I found the information to learn how to can them for the winter. If you stop to think about it I am sure you can find many examples of when you needed something you found a way to learn how to do it. Sure some things are harder than others but if we are willing and take the time we can learn most things.

Part of this thinking came from watching “Little Man” learning everyday. It is the nature of infants and toddlers to watch, listen and learn. They try things over and over again until they figure it out. It is part of our DNA to survive. Little Man is all eyes and ears every day, all day. Even when I think he is not listening or is just off being wild and crazy he is aware. He then does what he sees. When I return to the task he will repeat the actions – not perfectly since fine motor is still lacking but he makes approximations. He works at the skill until he has it mastered.

I have been watching him play at the sink. A daily or twice daily activity where he pours and pours water. He fills a cup and drinks. Then fills the cup and drinks again. He is learning to pour without spilling and drink from a cup that does not have a top on it. He is working to understand what a full cup of water is.

We find this in his language patterns – listen and repeat. He finds a way to say thing over and over working things out because he needs to be able to make himself understood. I know you have seen this in your own children and in your students. There is that desire to master skills and information. It happens so easily at 20 months of age.

He loves watering plants so he is working on control of the watering can. He can name the plants we water often. He knows the Peace plant, the Hibiscus, the Christmas Cactus and the African Violets. He names green and yellow beans, spinach and peas that are growing under the grow lights. I would love to say he is amazing (and he is) but all kids are. They are programed to learn.

So the question is are we using this natural sense of learning, this motivator as we teach our children? Think about the leaps they made in learning to use the computer when we started Distance Learning. For that matter think about the leaps you made when this whole pandemic started. The need was there and we leaped into big time learning mode.

Now as we settle back into the in person learning what is the take away? Students may feel behind to some of us in some area but they have mastered so many other things. They mastered them fairly quickly because they needed those skills. Can we use that sense of need when teaching students to add or divide, to read or understand what they are reading? What projects can we set up that make them need the math skills or the reading skills that you want them to master?

This is not a new concept. It was part of my core teaching years and years ago when I was free to teach in an Open Program, not an open spaces but Open concept. It was a project based learning classroom. Students were creating, building, doing and in that creation they needed certain skills. They were highly motivated to learn those skills because they wanted to complete their project.

I remember teaching photography to fourth and fifth graders. We had a professional photography talk to them about design and looking at images. He talked about thinking of your picture in thirds. We did old time developing with pinhole cameras that they made. They had to measure correctly, know their fractions and follow directions carefully. We went on walks to take pictures and their goal was to take pictures that showed the history of our neighborhood. Social Studies, reading and math were everywhere and everyone was working hard to complete and understand all parts of the project. Plus they were so excited they worked with everyone to help understand and support everyones learning.

All this rambling on is really about education now as we step beyond the pandemic. Education and school has changed. It had too. In some ways for the better. No, I don’t want students at home learning. They need teachers and peers. We learn best in groups, I think. I do want us to look at how we teach and how students learn in new and some very old ways. What did we learn over this last year about learning and teaching? What can be taken forward with us as we plan for the end of this year and especially into next year. It is chance to begin fresh and with new eyes.

As an infant, a toddler, school age kid, an adult and as an aging grandparent we are all learning. We learn best when we are excited and engaged in the topic we are learning about. We learn quickly and we hold onto our learning when it has meaning for us. It helps us create, do and understand something that is important to us.

I know what I will be doing with Little Man over the next few years that I play with him. He wants real task with real things. The toys are there but they hold his interest for only a few minutes but put him at the sink where he needs to master a new skill and we are there for hours. Well, ok not hours but a good half hour or more. We are very wet mind you but the focus is intense.

I know how I will set up my learning for the remake of my garden – moving it from a group of plants to a garden with mainly native plants that will support the wild life around me. I have been reading about this for years but turning it into real learning for a real project makes a big difference. Right down to silly little skills like creating folders for my e-books. Funny how this works – real projects make a difference even when you are old.

So can we create the intense interest and learning now as we return to the classroom? Can we use this natural sense of interest in creating and building to help our students move forward in this new age of learning? What skills did they learn over this last year that you can now use to help them in your in person classroom? What independence did they acquire? What group skills did they learn as you moved them into break out groups on the computer? What worked well and what didn’t because they needed to learn some new steps to help them move forward? How do we teach our students to be life long learners – even when pandemics come into play?

What do you think? Am I crazy?

What have you learned this year because you had to or needed to?

Think about – I would love to know how you are now thinking about your classroom, teaching and your students learning or your own learning.

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Moving and a Sigh of Relief! We are outside!

Here in Minnesota it has been cold, I mean really cold, for about three weeks. This below zero temperature has forced an inside life for way longer than I want or think I can handle. (Just a note of sadness for Texas – they were not as cold as we but also not prepared as we in the northland. Who expects single digit temperatures in Texas? So sorry you guys. Thinking of you and hoping things are improving.)

Anyway, I am an outside type of person. I am not a big backpacker or adventurer. I just need to be out and about a little every day. A walk around the hood, time in the yard, even shoveling for 20 minutes will help me clear my head and feel better. I need to move and feel the fresh air.

So three weeks with no walks, moving only between the car in the garage and the grocery store was a tough one. The pandemic had not kept me inside as much as this cold. I have a funky right lung that is healing but does not like temperatures in the single digits or below, yet, so it has been a long haul.

Reading Backyard Bugs

Yes, we had plenty to do inside – there are books and stories for Little Man (LM) and I. There is drawing for me and coloring for LM. We have had play dough, cars, blocks and an indoor climber to keep him moving which worked great for a 20 month old but what about me?

I did my yoga every morning and found reasons to take garbage and recycling out for a tiny walk to the garbage cans but always came back in sorry for taking myself out into the deep cold.

Then Monday of this week came and we woke to temperatures in the teens moving quickly to the 30’s and reached 41 but mid afternoon. You can bet we were outside! LM in his snowsuit and I in boots, hat and mittens were walking and heading to the park! There were big sighs of relief as we played on the park equipment. LM smile was as wide as mine.

The birds were out singing and the squirrels were chasing each other all over the neighborhood. There was the sound of water instead of crunching snow. There was a blue sky with a gentle breeze against our skin. The fact that we even had skin visible told us the change had come.

It is Tuesday now with a cloudy gray sky but still the temperatures are holding at about 37 degrees mid day. We visited the park, we walked carefully up and down the block. We have entered the season of ice. The snow melting slowly sending water slipping over the sidewalks leaving thin layers of unseen ice. We pushed snow around and checked the trees and bushes for tiny buds. Soon – they will come soon we can feel it in our bones!

I know that it is still Minnesota and we have a few more weeks that could turn cold and snowy but these few days of spring like weather was all Little Man and I needed to feel free and happy again.

It is the little things in life – sunshine, mild weather and a grandson who likes to be outside as much as his grandmother!

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Agency – learning, growing and moving forward

Agency – No, not the agency you call to find a cleaning person, or the insurance agency. I am thinking more about that personal agency that we have or use to help us learn, that leads us to take action towards goals or to develop new skills.

Here are two definitions I found on Google :

Personal agency can be defined as the ability to initiate and direct actions toward the achievement of defined goals (Zimmerman and Cleary, 2006).

Personal agency refers to one’s capability to originate and direct actions for given purposes. It is influenced by the belief in one’s effectiveness in performing specific tasks, which is termed self- efficacy, as well as by one’s actual skill.

This ability or this agency that people have to push themselves forward into new jobs, new ways of leading their lives is fascinating to me. You see this clearly in some people. The drive to keep moving no matter way. The desire to learn, create and move themselves into new spaces is powerful to watch.

In my reading of new memoirs recently I have seen this internal direction over and over again. People who are experiencing hardships – either emotional, or physical issues and yet they find they have a drive to push through. They don’t just curl up and watch the world walk by. They dig in their heels or maybe better to say they put on their dancing shoes or work boots to go at it in anyway they can.

I am currently reading Suleika Jaouad’s new book Between Two Kingdoms. She is a young woman who fought leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. I have not finished reading it but what a powerful story of illness and recovery. (you may have seen her column in the NYT – Life Interrupted.) She is a amazing example of personal agency. This line of one having the ability to initiate and direct actions toward the achievement of a goal is exactly what you see in this young lady. Her goal was survival but in that she created a whole new life for herself. She created much more!

There is Jedidiah Jenkins who wrote To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret who also took a different kind of journey but again made a decision to step out of the day to day life and do something very different. A person who set goals for himself that most did not think was doable or wise and yet it was a journey he wanted, needed and accomplished.

Yes, these two went through struggles, fears and hard times. One made a choice and the other had the journey was thrown upon her with no choice but both found their way through to growth, deep learning and new ways of being.

So what is it that makes a person take these steps? How is this agency developed in an individual? Or is this something that we just have within us. Is it taught and nurtured along during childhood? Words like persistence and resilience pop into my mind and a person with a strong sense of self also fits when thinking about people who have self-efficacy. They speak up for themselves and keep going. They are definitely not quitters.

I believe we all hold some of this self efficacy within us. If we look at our past we can find times where we have pushed through hard times or ill health. I expect we can all think of times that we wondered if we would make it or how we were going to get out of a very low place in our lives. We have all experiences deep “Winters” as Katherine May says in Wintering. (Another memoir that fits into this line of thinking – Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times)

As we look at our own lives or the lives of our children, and grandchildren, during this pandemic and hard political time, what do we need to do to help ourselves and our children learn to believe in ourselves/themselves? What steps do we take to build strength of self and encourage them to push through to new beginning and to development of new skills and understanding?

We need to be helping all of us to be flexible in our thinking and in the way we see the world. We need to be stepping out of our old ways of working and try something new. It would be so easy right now to curl up for a long “wintering” nap and just not try. It is not what we need.

I don’t have big answers here. I struggle with this finding initiate or agency to move into new spaces and new thinking. I struggle with not trusting myself, my skills or my ability to learn. Yet I have not curled up for a long sleep. I keep moving.

I watch daily as my Grandson pushes himself to learn new skills. He is daily learning new words, working puzzles over and over again to understand how they work. He does not fear doing things wrong. He is all about trying everything. At 20 month of age all of it is learning, everything is new and lots of it is frustrating but on he goes one step at a time. I am careful to help him embrace this leaning and to celebrate it all the time.

Take time as we move our way out of this long pause of a pandemic to reflect on how you have wintered this time? How have you helped yourself, your children, students or grandchildren to move forward with positive thinking and a willingness to embrace the new ways of being.

Are you nurturing yourself or those around you to have personal agency? Are you finding ways to embrace yourself, your skills and step into a new way of being? Think about it!

Now is the time!

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Falling behind but two quick thoughts on writing

It is now approaching 8:00 pm – not really late but late for me today. I have just now settled down to writing. Earlier this week I had many idea about what to write and I even recall writing a whole post in my head one night when I could not sleep.

I did not jot down those ideas. I did not get up and write out that “well” thought out post from the middle of the night. So here I sit tired, coming off of a 24 hour roller coaster of emotions (a story for another time – not ready to write about that now) and a day with “Little Man” (my grandson who comes 5 days a week.)

I have no idea where I am going with this except to say I have fallen behind and began writing with nothing to say and no energy to move forward.

But…words developed into words

Thought one about writing:

What this late night writing and feeling brain dead reminds me of is the March Challenge and that push to write daily. It brings up the old feeling the first few times I wrote for the challenge. That little voice that said “Just quit you have nothing today or any day!”

The beginning fear of what will people say about my writing.

The voice that wanted to remind me that indeed I was not a writer. “What were you thinking to sign up for this challenge – let along start a blog.” Who was I kidding????

It is now eleven years later and I am still writing almost every Tuesday and every March! I still wonder what people think of my writing but it no longer matters to me. I still find nights when I don’t know what to say and then I sit down to write and something happens – words develop words and I write.

I write because:

  • I like it
  • Because it makes me think more carefully and makes my brain work
  • It connects me with people (a lot of blogging friendships have developed over these years)
  • It is a mini journal of my life and thinking over time
  • It makes me a better writer – oh my early blog posts are pretty bad but it was fine. No one said – stop writing, no one said you are a bad writer – they just gave me likes and thoughts, ideas and encouragement.
  • I/We learn through doing – it made me a better writing teacher for my students (I am retired now but it still makes me a better writer to keep writing.)
  • It is fun – but I will not lie – it is work at time. (Especially when I am tired)
  • I write because I need to. It feeds a need I have to express my thoughts in words outside of my head. It is a need to work through a thought process and find meaning.

So if you are wondering about the challenge just do it! Writing builds writing and changes who you are! You can do it!

Thought two on writing:

Make a list of ideas for your March writing – start the list now!

This list is a collection of ideas, a bit of a poem, a quote that made you think – this list is your go to kick starter for writing. I use to do this all the time and then stopped after a while and tonight I am sorry because I could have used my list.

I do however, always make a list of ideas before the March challenge. It is what I go to when I am stuck or it is late and I need help just to get started. At times I have even started blog posts – just a few words or a title or a quote and saved it. Then on those days when words are hard to find I open up a post and begin. I am not looking at a blank page – I have words to get me going. It makes a difference!

I will be the first to admit that I make my list and often never use it but it is there. It just is an extra bit of insurance that helps me relax as the daily writing of March begins. I know I have some place to start if I need it.

I looked in my drafts file just now and found at least four or five posts started from a years ago that I never finished and most likely never will. I found one completed post that I never posted because I felt it had strong statements that needed more research to back them up and I never did the research – an interesting read. I am glad it is still there. Sometimes those lists are just fine as a list never acted upon. Sometimes those lists are a life saver in more ways than one.

So with those two thoughts I bid you a good night and sleep tight! I am hoping for a good nights sleep myself!

P.S. Completely off the subject but for those of you who read last weeks post about drawing and a need to people to help me keep drawing – yes I did draw this week and even posted a few little drawing to Instagram. I set a small goal of drawing evergreen twigs and learning the names of those bushes or trees. Below are a couple images I have been working on. They are not the best but a beginning. I was using pencil and colored pencils for these. My goal is to develop my ability to be a botanical artist. At least for my self and my drawing journal. So working to make these be more realistic is the goal. I need to also work on a better way to take pictures to share.

Blue Spruce
Arborvitae
White spruce
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Procrastination – writing and art

It is now February or it will be when this post goes live. I have been riding through the January blues. I have blue fingers and toes due to cold and snowy weather. Blue emotions due to grey days, the heavy world of a pandemic and politics. These are the dull blues – the blues that are more grey – steely blue, deep cold blue hidden under snow mounds, the muddy blues that leave you stuck in your chair.

I often fall into these blues in late January – I am an outside girl but the hard cold makes it difficult to do much out there right now. When there are days on end when temperatures do not rise over 10 degrees and the wind dropping it even lower it is hard on everyone. As I get older the added ice on the sidewalks and paths also make me hesitant to venture far from my home. (Although I will say a good jogging stroller and Little Man have kept me upright on many an icy path this winter. (A bit like the walker my Mother use to use. Ok, now I am feeling way too old. Forget that statement!)

So how does this all fit into the word Procrastination?

When the weather turns blue I try to keep busy inside but … I have my writing and now my drawing and painting (truth be told I am only drawing right now – painting will come later I am sure of it.) But here is where procrastination takes over!

I have gathered my writing pens, set up my journal and cleaned up my desk. I have nice containers for my drawing pencils and paint brushes. There are new kneaded erasers ready for use. My new Perpetual Drawing Journal is dated as well as my drawing practice notebook is there and ready. My garden notebook is out and paper for planning the spring garden beds are there as well.

Then I have watched and listened to tons of podcasts – writing podcast, books reviews, artists and writers talking about their process or showing their studios. I have read a series of memoirs from creative people and gathered garden books from the library. I have surrounded myself with books, supplies and peoples thoughts but I have not done the work.

Funny how one can feel frustrated with not improving but then realize I am not doing the work – I am just decorating the space and filling my head with others ideas.

I decided to write about it here to name my procrastination. I decided to make a commitment to myself to not buy any more art supplies or journals until the ones I have are used up and journals full. I have decided to make a commitment to myself to leave the books, podcast and blogs alone no matter how much fun they are. They are part of consuming not creating.

I have decided to tell a small community of blogging friends (that’s where you guys come in) about my decision with the hopes that making a public statement will add a bit of weight to my thinking. I will have (if only in my own mind) a group of people who might hold me accountable. Might ask me once in a while “so what is happening in the drawing journal? Did you draw this week?”

Do I really expect you people to check back in with me? No, not really – but sometime it is helpful to just say it out loud for someone to hear. An example of this is a young man who decided to bike from Oregon to Patagonia. I know crazy, but he did. He told all his friends and kept talking about it so he then felt he really needed to do it. And he did. (If you want to know more of that story you can read – To Shake A Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins. This is one of my side track memoir readings but a was great story.)

I had another friend who decided to paint a small picture daily for one year and post them on Facebook. It was amazing to watch the development of her painting through out the year. She made a public commitment to help her follow through with a desire to develop her skills and to just enjoy the act of painting. A public commitment can be a good thing, I think.

Now as February begins I will begin to work on my drawing and garden plans. Writing will happen because I plan to post each week here and there is always the March writing challenge that will keep me honest during that month. As I work my way through this decision I hope to be brave enough to share some of my drawings as I go. I have posted a few in the past but it is not something I feel very comfortable with. So this is a big step for me.

My personal expectations of myself and my skills tend to be way out of proportion. I want to be really good right away. It is hard to be a beginner. I have written about that many times since retiring and here I am again processing this work as a beginner.

Have you felt that moment when things have changed and you are on the edge of beginning again? You are starting something new in your life and you are not sure where it will lead or even if it is the right direction but off you go working your way day by day into a new way of being.

Some of us we jump at that chance and go dancing into the new world around us. Others hang back not sure of their footing and preferring to spend another day or two under the covers thinking things through. Then there are people like me who start by gathering the supplies, the information and look like they are moving ahead when really they are stuck needing one more nudge to move on.

So here is my nudge to myself to get busy – put away the extra reading, put my butt down in the chair, pick up the pencil and go to work.

White Pine and Strawflowers – summer sun and winter green – My drawing begins with a study of evergreens in pencil. I had to throw in flowers just because it is Feb 2 and we are hoping for spring – not sure what the groundhog has decided!
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It’s Tuesday! Seeking hope, happiness and balance

We are just about 24 hours away from the changing of Presidents in the USA. It is exciting and scary (for the first time ever in my life time I am afraid of what could happen on this day). I am happy for this change and the hope that comes with it. There is so much to say and so much that has already been said that I wish to step forward into a new but continuing thought. I have been thinking, and watching this thing we call relationships through all this turmoil and strife.

I think politics and the pandemic pushed me further into this thinking. We have watched over the last few years how relationships can move us forward for good or for evil. We have seen more clearly relationships where people manipulated others to gain goods, services or just to enrich themselves or to harm others.

In the same time period if you were watching we also so the “Helpers” as Mister Rogers has said. The Vets that helped to clean up Washington this last week. The thousands of people here in Minneapolis this past summer who stepped up to clean up after the riots. The weeks of gathering food, clothing, diapers and other needs for those who lost homes, grocery stores and drug store that were near by.

The amount of fund raising that happened over and over again all year -money for food, masks, PPP for front line workers. So much support was given and has continued to be given. There are so many little gifts given over the holiday season to neighbors, the poor, to small business owners – the list goes on and on.

During all this giving and helping there were new and powerful relationships forming. The meeting of people who have lived very different lives and had come together to help. In many ways people have found a new balance to relationships with those they do not know.

We may have also been watching evil actions from so many people who had/have so much already. They seem to have forgotten the everyday folks. This group of people who take and take. They are always seeking more without looking around them to see how that might be effecting others.

Here is where relationships come into the picture. Since healthy relationships are about a balance between people. Health relationships are about doing for each other, giving without expecting a return, being there when someone needs you. Relationships are about giving and hearing and just being there.

They are also about communication. The open and honest discussion that happens between thinking people. So many of the conversations we have heard over the last few years were not based in truth and open information. True relationships need the whole truth – words and ideas shared to help each person and to move everyone forward together.

I have just spent the last few days “up north” as we say here in Minnesota. Enjoying Lake Superior, a long beach front to walk on and reflecting on what makes a good relationship. Why do things work well for some and not for others? What is it we do that makes a bond between people?

We were invited to join some friends whose B and B is closed for the month January. (the pandemic is taking a hit for sure). There in a closed resort we gathered – four of us who have stayed away from people other than close family for the last 10 months. It is not a likely group of people. We developed this friendship over many years.

This relationship started with a simple weekend stay in the B and B. Friendly conversations and return visits over the years. It was owner and guest. We each had our places.

But… Each time we returned we all chatted, shared small moments of our lives and the things we enjoy. If there was a plant we could share we did since gardens were a hot topic with us. Music was a hot topic that led us all down memory lane and opened up lines of communication.

Over time this turned into longer conversations, going out for dinner – we paid, they paid and we just enjoyed time to talk. On-line conversations began and shared games like Words with Friends happened. There was a balance of time, giving and helping – if only the help was a listening ear. On both sides of this growing relationship we felt heard, we helped and respected each others space as well.

So in the course of many years we learned about out differences and our likes. We learned to enjoy the places, things and ideas we shared. We learned to understand our differences and to find that they are not are that different from us.

So I wonder on this eve of a major change – can we as a nation take the time to listen, to hear and have open truthful conversations again? Can we make (not find) the time to really heal this country? Can these little relationships we all have been nurturing over the years help us to step out into the larger world and find ways to nurture new relationship that can bring healing?

Sunrise over Lake Superior –
7:00 am

Relationships and change all take time! They take hard work and continued conversations. Change and trust does not happen over night.

I don’t know if this can happen on a National level but I sure hope so!

Here is to new beginnings, new friends and finding a balance that leads to health and happiness for all in this great nation!

Start with the neighbors, think local and watch Nationally as we step into this new space. Remember it will not be easy but it can happen.

The sun always rises even on really dark days!

And we have sun!!

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Little “Liberry” at Home, Pretzels and Learning New Words

Our days are busy with a 19 month old running about the house. As grandparents we switch off play times through out the day so we can each get a few things done and also keep our energy level at least close to his.

Little Man’s growing vocabulary also keeps us thinking – “what is he say now?” “Did you catch that one?” He is full of words and most of them we now have sorted out. There are few that are a puzzle but I am sure they will come clear with time.

The last few weeks he has been working on saying the L sound. He growls when he sees a lion but won’t try the word. The lights are call ighty and he loves turning them on and off and on and off. (and is very disappointed if the fa (fan) does not come on with the light.

Today late in the day he and I were in the living room. I asked him to get a book for us to read. He toddled off to the end table bookshelf where all his board books are stored. I could hear him saying “liberry, liberry”. His tongue twisting in all directions as he work on saying library over and over again.

Once there his first move is always to want to shake the floor lamp. He turned to look at me and after I gave him a long hard look he wiggled it just a little and then sat down to peer into the shelf of book. He was on the back side of the shelf so he needed to reach through and pull books out to see what he was looking for. There he sat picking out books. Looking at each one. Talking to himself about what he saw.

There was Bear’s Christmas Baking – “Ba, Ba cookun” he says. Then there was Llama Llama Nighty Night – there he was working out the L sound again trying so hard to say Llama. After checking out several others he pops up yelling “Bugs” and over he comes with Backyard Bugs and crawls up next to me in the chair.

We are only about half way through the book when we turn the page to ants. We usually sing a bit of the Ant’s go Marching on this page but he points, says “Capie” and heads off to the kitchen saying “pae”.

It is a good thing I spend lots of time with him. He know what he wanted and so did I. Capie is his current name for Grandpa and Grandma. Pae is his word for pretzel. In our book the ants are marching off with the picnic food and the pretzels are being taken away. Little Man knows Grandma loves pretzels and has a bag in the big bowl on the kitchen counter. So he was heading to get pretzels to eat some just like the ants.

Pretzels in hand he returned for a few more good books. There is nothing like reading a few good books from the little home “liberry” and eating pretzels in the late afternoon with a little one.

BackYard Bugs – he is talking to hopper (otherwise known as grasshopper)

JUST BECAUSE – reading happens in lots of places and Little Man is so cute!

In his fort or in the corner by the deck doors are just a few of his favorite spots!

In these crazy days finding a little one to read with and a few pretzels seems to help!

Happy Reading whatever age you are!

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water, water, watercolors and pencils and pens

The new year has begun. My desk is scattered with colored pencils, drawing pencils, micro-pens and journals. There are two vases of dried seed pods – one beginning to cast milkweed seeds all over my office. Across from the desk are my porch plants that live in my office all winter and my watercolors and mixing palettes. Water for plants, and water for painting. My world as a watercolor artist! Well, maybe – it is the wish for the future. Not an artist that sells work just a person who draws and paints for the pleasure of it.

I have followed a group botanical artists all fall – there are many You Tube videos, the instagram posts and the facebook posts. There are the classes I have signed up for – some free, other for a fee. I could not be more ready for this adventure. Now it is time for the work.

It is easy to collect the information, and the materials but we often over look the time it takes to build a new skill. I have written about this over and over again. I guess I am thinking that if I just keep writing about it and reading about it then it will happen. Suddenly my drawing and painting skills will be great.

No not really – we forget so easily what it takes to be a beginner. We forget what our students are going through – the struggle to acquire new skills and understanding.

I turned back to Julia Cameron (Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance – part of The Artist Way series) to help me get working. She reminded me about the energy it takes to learn new skills. It is also what I know we do as teachers to help our students learn but how do I do that for myself, especially during a pandemic?

Here is what is needed to keep going!

  1. Joy – We need to find joy in the process and not in the product.
  2. Encouragement – When learning it is important to have people who are supporting you -people you talk to about your process and work. Not always or only a teacher but others who are working through a similar process or skill.
  3. Focus – We need to set a positive focus and remind ourselves of this focus often. Finding a way to see our own improvement. An example would be to make a list of 5 things that you are doing well in this new process or changes you see that are showing change. Do this often!
  4. Grounding – What are the things that help me feel connected and happy? What are the activities that help me relax and enjoy the world around me? It is important to keep involved in those events when learning new and difficult tasks. Keep a balance between new (hard) tasks with those you do well and feel at ease with.
  5. Possibilities – This goes back to number 3 to focus but also to set real positive goals or tasks for yourself. Sit down and write about the steps -“I will try…” it is so easy to get overwhelmed when looking at the work of professionals. They all started with tiny steps so it is important to step back and find the little steps to feel successful. Then work your way step by step to success.
  6. Discipline – I prefer the word developing since discipline can lead me to thinking of harsh working conditions. When working on new and hard skills it is helpful to say I am going to work on this task for 20 minutes or even 10 minutes. Just to get yourself started. Then you can move on to something that is easy or you understand well. But really do your hard task daily for 20 minutes. It is coming to the work each day and everyday that will help you to see growth and change.

So these are a few of the learning steps that can keep us moving along. They are the steps we need to be using with our students on line this year as well. These are part of what helps our students and our selves be good learners.

I am planning to post these in my office by my workspace – a reminder in this new year of how to move forward and be positive.

I can easily find ways to do five of the six steps but am a bit stuck on number 2. It is interesting that finding encouragement is the hard one for me. I can find many teachers – videos to watch, and books to follow but finding real live people to talk with about my work/process is harder.

I don’t know many folks, as friends, who are doing botanical work. I don’t have on line live classes I can pay for to get live encouragement. I have a few artist friends but not sure how to ask them for help. This is not the kind of thing where I just want them to say hey you are doing a great job. It is the help that is a conversation over tea/wine. The help that is looking at the drawing/painting notebook and commenting on changes they might see or questions they might have. This is where I am stuck!

My guess is this is also where our students doing distance learning might find themselves alone missing the group to learn with in a classroom. The joy of having other students around you doing the same thing. A group of students you can talk to about the work, a group to look at their work and they look at yours. It does make me wonder how/ if teachers who are doing distance learning have found ways to help student work in small groups, helped students to find ways to share their work and talk about what helps them learn.

It is what I will be thinking about this first week of January as I begin again on the task of learning how to draw and paint plants that look true to life. Wish me luck!

And good luck to all teachers as they continue distance learning during these strange times.

Working on drawing African Violets
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One Little Word – Almost here

It is the last Tuesday of 2020. A year we all know needs to end. There is great anticipation for the new year. What will it bring? What new adventures will we be taken on.

I am sitting in my office with tea and eating Little Man’s animal crackers – wondering! Searching for a word that can take me into 2021. One little word that I can use to steer my thinking and my doing as we step into this new year.

will we be creating a new normal? or have we done that already? in the beginning/middle of creating

will we be regathering with family and friends?

how soon can this all happen? in the spring? in the summer? next fall?

there is the politics of our nation – will we find a way to calm the wild dynamics and move forward?

All of this is swirling in the back corners of my brain while also thinking of the movement in my own little personal world. This week without Little Man here (he is home on Christmas break) I have pulled out my art. I have colored pencils out, watercolors out, I am working on a paper cut idea from a dear friend and there are books everywhere. There is my personal journal for writing and my computer with 10 tabs open seeking out new information (as if there is not enough going on in my brain today). And what was my one little word for last year? I am spinning for sure!

So I went on a dive into my past writing. (An interesting thing to do if you have not done so lately.) I can tell I am still in my jumping from idea to idea stage but coming closer to the topic at hand.

While searching my blog posts it appears I never really settled on One Little Word for 2020. Hmmm?? was that a foretelling of the wildness of the year?

I did have a list of words and one phrase that I listed and they all fit perfectly. Did I use them well? I know I tried and failed some of the time but I also know I repeated these words to myself and in my personal journal writing. I know they helped at times.

I also know that these words will work for 2021. I now believe this past year and this new year, for me, need a bank of words. Words that can be use often, words to post in my office and to write at the top of my journal page for January 1, 2021.

My old words from years gone by were – evolve, developing, breathe, balance, and listen. They all can apply now as well. I could write one good sentence for each of these that could lead me into the new year but I will let them be in the background.

Here is my list for 2020 and now for 2021!

Breathe

Release

Non Attachment

Foreward

Trust

And one phrase that holds it all together

“Let you faith be greater than your fear!”

(thank you Sue for this phrase that keeps me going)

It is my faith in people, in goodness and the natural world that we can and will right ourselves into a new way of being and living together in peace, harmony and acceptance of all people.

I have faith we will release the old and more forward to create a new way of being. A stronger and healthier way to be.

Happy New Year to all!

P.S. If you are looking for a fun project for your self and young kids – author Debra Fraiser is looking for people to test out her new class on using paper cuts. It is part of a bigger series called Paper Camp. The first class (in beta testing) is Stripes – learning to use the art she used while writing Miss Alaineus. It is great fun.

Check it out at: https://debraspaper-camp.teachable.com/

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