Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Power of Writing

During my 15 years at my current position, I've had the opportunity to propose a special topics in English class to be listed on the schedule, and each time, though enrollment was on the lean side, the classes were given the go ahead. As such, I had a wonderful semester of reading and talking about literature of Golf. I had another semester of hashing out issues brought about through the readings for a Sports Literature class. While both of those classes were fun and gave me the chance to share my love for sport as well as my love of reading with students, they didn't leave me walking out of class at the end of the day with goosebumps like happened to me today.

This semester, I've had the pleasure of working with just a handful of students who signed up for a class on writing memoir. With only five students in the class, I can spend a lot of time with each, reading as they add to their memoir and giving immediate feedback to help them move further into their work. One particular student in the class I met last semester through another instructor, and after getting to know her a bit, I believed she would benefit from taking the memoir class and told her so. She wondered what she could possibly get from writing her memoir, to which I responded she'd have the opportunity to work through some issues in a safe environment. That's all it took for her to say yes.

The first week of class, I had the students write scenes for five different moments from their lives. From those five scenes, they had to choose one to use as the basis for their memoir. One student chose to go with the roller-coaster ride that has been her relationship with her boyfriend over the last seven years. Another student chose to write about finding then losing who he believes could have been the love of his life. The student I encouraged to sign up for the course decided to tackle the death of her brother, a subject that causes her much distress and difficulty talking about even after nine years of him being gone. I was afraid her decision might cause her to sink into a place of not being able to write, but I decided to let her go with it.

The following class period, this student came in with seven pages of her memoir. After workshopping her piece in class, she took her work and continued writing. Over the past eleven weeks, this student has been adding to and revising her memoir, very willingly taking my advice and that of her peers. Today, her memoir is nearly 20 pages. It offers a poignant glimpse of how the death of her brother at the age of 16 impacted her mother, her father, his friends, but mostly her. The reader learns about the close relationship between the writer and her brother, how he knew no enemies, and how his death meant others might continue living through the donation of his organs. It is in this vein that the piece ends with: "There was a point that night where I so badly wanted to ask if I could hear Dean's heart one more time, but considering I just met him and I barely knew him I felt awkward asking, but it kept going through my mind I just have to listen to his heart I just have to. I never did of course, but to this day I would love to go to his house and listen to the beat of Dean’s heart."

Even now I get goosebumps when reading what this student has written.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Otto's Impact

Before Otto:
  • Got up at 5:15 to begin the day, making sure I was out the door for work by 6:45 to be in my office by 7. Spent anywhere from 45 to 50 minutes preparing whatever needed to be completed for 8 o'clock class.
After Otto:
  • Get up at 5:15 to begin the day, going for a 20 minute walk with Otto and Max before leaving for work at 7:20. Spend 10 to 15 minutes preparing whatever needs to be completed for 8 o'clock class.
Before Otto:
  • Packed lunch to eat in my office between classes.
After Otto:
  • Leave work at midday to let Otto out and have lunch at home, with Otto bouncing around the kitchen.
Before Otto:
  • Had dinner then putzed around the house, cleaning, watching TV, finishing up student papers.
After Otto:
  • Go for a 30 minute walk with Otto and Max after dinner, play in the yard, spend the evening outside.
Before Otto:
  • Cycled to work then home.
After Otto:
  • Cycle to work.
  • Cycle home for lunch.
  • Cycle back to work.
  • Cycle home at end of day.
What a difference one little puppy has made. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fun With Arts and Crafts

It's mid October already, and I'm nowhere near being ready for the arts and crafts show scheduled for mid November. I've just not spent much time in the shop, creating the items I have floating around inside my head. I have all the materials, but so many other things have been going on, not to mention I've simply not felt inclined to open up the shop and work. I do this--this being going through periods of just not having the gumption to create--every now and then, with now being my most recent dry spell. I try not to get too down on myself about not writing, not creating, not cycling. I figure sooner or later the pendulum will swing the other way, and I'll be back to doing each of these things again.


Key ring holder
I did get one item finished today. Well, nearly finished. I just need to complete some small details. I drew out several new items I wanted to create for this year's show, a key ring holder made from tubes, valves, and other miscellaneous bicycle parts being one of them. I have enough valves to make two more holders, and they don't take a lot of time to put together, so I'll go ahead and make a couple more. I think they're pretty cool and would make a nice Christmas gift for someone who loves to ride a bike. I'm hoping those attending the arts and crafts show think the same thing.

Fridge magnets
In addition to the key ring holders, I've been making refrigerator magnets from bicycle chain. I've shaped the chain into letters of the alphabet then attached a small, strong magnet. These have turned out nicely. I put a couple on our fridge just to see how they will hold up. They're the strongest magnets we have in our kitchen, not to mention they have that industrial look I like. Hopefully, others like it, too.

One other new item that I'm having a ton of trouble with is a bracelet made from bicycle tubes. I have several cut to size, with some nice designs to give them an urban-y, edgy look, but I can't get the darn snaps in place. For some reason, I can get the male part of the snap put together, but the female part of the combo doesn't clamp together. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. I've tried everything and so far nothing has solved my problem. I really like these bracelets and want them for the show, so somehow, some way, I'm going to get the snaps figured out.

Once I get these small items out of the way, I'm going to get busy on the bigger ones. I'll have several one-of-a-kinds, so I'm looking forward to seeing how these go over. Last year, I had the stained glass wheels that sold well, but I'm not doing any this year (at least not at this point; however, I could change my mind). I also had the the wind chimes last year, and they sold well, but I might not do any this year, or if I do, I'll only do three or four. Not to have some items that sold really well last year does seem kind of silly. After all, the end goal is to have products people want to buy, right?

One positive about this year's show is I was given the same space during the show that I had last year, so location is definitely working in my favor. Now, can I create the product that will entice people to visit my space and want to buy?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Fur Ball Named Otto

There are moments when I'm caught by surprise with just how easy it is to love.

Granted, some beings make loving them so simple. Like a puppy. Their needs are few, and as long as those needs are met, the response is usually tenfold the effort to fulfill the need. Wagging tail. Prancing about in happiness. A sloppy tongue eager to lick fingers, hands, a cheek. Snuggling against you as if to say, "You are the best human ever." I've often thought over the years that humans need to take a page from the Book of Dogs--always race to the door to greet whoever might be entering, jump around in excitement and maybe even throw in some "It's so good to see you! It's so good to see you!", then just sit and grin at the person in contentment. How much better would our days be if we all did this with the people in our lives?

I spent an hour and a half today snuggled against a fur ball on the couch, both of us dozing in the quiet house. I could feel the little fur ball's heart beating. His head was lying across my arm. Right then, all was perfect in my world.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sweet Contentment

Sometimes, as I'm cycling along, I'll see something and feel a pull, actually it's usually more than a pull, it's almost like an incessant, unfulfilled need, to record the something through the lens of my camera. Today, that something was a tree. Maybe this tree became my fixation because Angel Baby and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy last evening and I fell in love with Groot (the idea of a tree being, not the actor playing the tree being). Or maybe this particular tree spoke to me because it is so different than the other trees around it, and I tend to be drawn to that which is different. I was once asked, way back in high school, after moving to a new home and thus starting as a freshman at a new school, if I had been popular at my old school. I remember shrugging, saying I wasn't unpopular. The girl asking the question kind of cocked her head at me, giving me a bit of a quizzical look, then said, "I can see why you were popular. You're different." For whatever reason, that comment has stayed with me all these years, and I have come to understand I do search out and embrace the "different."

So I circled this tree, searching for angles, lighting, shadows, composition. I couldn't get enough of the wispy, somewhat swirly clouds in the background, thinking they were singing hallelujah just for this tree because they could see the gloriousness of it. I stood near the trunk, underneath the lowest branch, and admired the red leaves mingling with the still green leaves. When I lowered my camera, when I turned to face the trunk, I could feel the vibrations of life. And in those vibrations, I experienced a sweet contentment with where I was right at that moment. There was no other place I needed to be, no other place I wanted to be except right there, beside a beautiful work of nature.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nearly Fall

Fall announced its presence during the very early hours Thursday morning, seeming to me to be trying to overtake Summer. When I set off for my commute to work, the temp was a chilly 53 degrees, a bit of a change from the mid to high 70's and 90% humidity we've been having. I pulled out my light gloves to keep my mitts from getting chilled during the ride, but I didn't do anything for my ears, and by the time I reached work, my poor ears were aching. Summer is definitely limping towards the finish line this second week of September.

While I love summer and the energy that seems to explode with the sun and heat of June, July, and August, fall truly owns my heart. The cool mornings and evenings that call for pulling on a comfy sweatshirt, the crisp air that reaches out and tweaks my nose, the snuggling under the quilt because the windows are open at night, and the sitting around a pit fire with family and friends (and a good pale ale) rank right up there as a few of my favorites things in life. I like the slowing down, the energy of the summer months waning. I feel like just sitting quietly for extended periods of time is perfectly okay to do, so I indulge in doing just that.

One other thing that is now on my list of favorite things in life is the bees. After the class I attended last Sunday, learning how to prepare my colony for winter, I've spent some time examining my hive and taking a few steps to getting it ready for colder weather. The first thing I did was remove the super. There was no honey in it, so I decided to remove it and take the frames out so I could place a top feeder on the hive. Then I put the empty super box on the feeder. I pressed two sugar patties on the screens along with a jar of sugar syrup in the top feeder before replacing the top. When I returned to the hive late Tuesday afternoon and peeked inside, I found the patties almost completely consumed and all of the sugar water gone! I was a little surprised with how hungry the bees seem to be as I sat quietly nearby and watched them return to the hive the other evening, and so many came in with packed pollen sa
cs. Some had light yellow pollen. Some had a dark yellow pollen. I was told it won't hurt to feed them even if they are still bringing in pollen, so I'm going to continue giving them patties and syrup just to help out the cause.

I'm going to be honest--I'm afraid the bees might not make it through the winter. I tried to find the queen but didn't see her. Granted, I only pulled out a few frames from each box. While I've overcome a lot of the fear I've held about getting into the hive, pulling out frames, and generally just being amidst the bees, I still have some fear. At this point, the fear isn't so much for myself. It's for the bees, especially the queen. I'm afraid of accidentally killing her. I know I need to find her, so I'm going to give it a go again next weekend if the weather is good. I just keep thinking she has to be there. Otherwise, the colony would go elsewhere. The girls are working hard to bring in the pollen, so the fact they are working and building up stores makes me hopeful. Still, I'd like to actually see the queen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Smell of Possibility

About three weeks ago, I peeked into the hive to see if anything was happening in the super. I found some bees milling about, but the frames were empty. Being as it was heading towards mid August, I figured getting any honey for us to feast on this season just wasn't going to happen. I was happy to see the frames in the deep covered, with lots of bee activity. This gives me hope that the bees will be comfortable through the winter, but just to be sure, I signed up for another class, one that will go into how to help the bees make it through a tough winter. That class is this upcoming Sunday, and I'm getting excited about attending and learning more.

This evening, I went back to the hive to clean out the tall grass that has grown up around it. Though the grass is pretty and provides nice cover, it does block my viewing enjoyment. There's just something soothing about watching the bees work, and I couldn't watch from the back deck because of the grass. So I began pulling the grass out. Slowly. Carefully. Watching the bees ignore me. Then I got my first whiff. At first I thought it was the oregano plant that has been in that part of the garden for the last three or four years. It nestled against the rosemary bush that had grown tall and wide and filled the air with its wonderful piney scent until this year. Last winter was so cold and snowy for so long that the rosemary didn't have a chance. With great sadness, I had to pull it out, leaving the oregano plant by itself. But what I was smelling definitely wasn't oregano.

This smell was slightly sweet.

Slightly musky.

Slightly spicy.

Slightly . . . hmmmm, what exactly was that smell?

I couldn't put my finger on just one element of the scent that continued to tease me.

Then I lifted the lid off the hive. I had to know if any honey was in the works in the super. Once the outer cover was off, I pried the inner cover off and set it to the side. When I leaned over to look into the hive, a warmth wafted up from the depths, lifting the scent I had noticed earlier to greet me. I'd just gotten my first dose of the beehive smell. I wanted to stand there and simply inhale, and I did for a moment. I then checked the frames. No honey.

The beehive smell was enough. It, much like watching the bees come and go, offered something akin to reassurance. That even though a life, even if only a rosemary bush, might sadly come to an end, I still have vivid memories of its fullness and its mouth-watering scent that make me happy when I think about it. That even though summer is approaching its end, I still have pictures of the landscapes, the wildlife, and the flowers that brought me so much joy as I pedaled alone along country roads. That even though there's no honey in the super, the possibility . . . yeah, the possibility . . . of having a bounty next summer is great.