Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Break in the Cold

Though it's only November, the cold temps we've been having make it seem like it's January. I'm not totally opposed to the cold. In fact, I look forward to it every year. I love wrapping up in a comfy sweater and warm scarf. I'm thinking, though, by late January, if the frigid temps continue, I'm going to be more than ready for some spring and summer warmth. These cold temps so early also have me stressing over the bees. I know I can only do so much, which I'm trying to be sure to do, but I still worry.

Two weeks ago I removed the top cover on the beehive to put a fresh jar of sugar syrup in place of the empty jar. After removing the empty jar, I looked down through the frames. Nothing moved. Nothing. I couldn't see one single bee. In disappointment, I returned to the house to don my bee suit so I could go deeper into the hive to see if the bees were truly gone. As I was dressing, Funny Delightful Son asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was afraid all my bees were either dead or gone. He accompanied me to the hive to help me check. As soon as I removed the top cover, I saw the bees. They'd come up from wherever they had been in the hive for the new sugar syrup I'd put in place. A sense of relief washed over me. Funny Delightful Son teased me over my gloom and doom reaction to not seeing a bee the first time I'd opened the hive. "You know, Mom," he said matter-of-factly, "when it's cold, bees form a ball to create heat. They were most likely in a spot where you couldn't see them." Such a smartie pants.

Today the temps have warmed to right around 50 degrees. I knew I had to take advantage of the warmth to place a new jar of syrup in the hive. This time, when I opened the hive, a mass of bees were on the top bars. Some were even coming and going at the front entrance. I saw another drag a dead bee from the hive and take it to the ground a few feet in front. I decided to go ahead and install the mouse guard, just tacking it temporarily in place to see how it works. The space between the bars is barely enough for the bees to get through, so hopefully I'll not have mice getting into the hive and stealing all their food stores.

Though we're early into the winter weather, I'm feeling hopeful about wintering over my bees. At least they're still here at this point. The next four months will really be the test, though.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A First

Flat tire. First time. Happened sometime overnight while parked inside the shop. Already running late for work. No time to change out the tube. No worries. Just look up. Three more bikes hanging from the rafters. Hmmmmm. Which one to ride? The trusty blue cruiser it is.

During all my years of riding, I've never had a flat tire while out riding. Even as I went from Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA, I didn't have to stop by the side of the road to change out a tube. What are the odds? One of the other cyclists had a flat nearly every day, or so it seemed anyways. On one occasion, he had two flats within a couple of hours and didn't have a second spare, so I gave him one of mine. I've often wondered why one person has so many flats while another never has any. I do try to check my tires every day, making sure they're free of debris. I give them a good looking over, examining them closely for cracks, missing chunks of rubber, or anything that I might have picked up during a ride. So far this has served me well. I have changed out tires that have become worn and are just a whisper away from becoming a shredded mess. When I change out the tires, I change out the tubes just to have peace of mind.

Today, on the ride home at lunch to let the puppy out, I found myself having to maneuver around several trucks parked smack dab in the middle of the trail. Workers were busy trimming tree limbs away from the utility lines running alongside the trail. Most of the trees are Orange Osage, and they have some nasty thorns on their branches, so not only did I have to wind my way around orange cones and large "Tree Work Ahead" signs placed--guess where--smack dab in the middle of the trail, but I also had to be sure to avoid the branches and twigs lying across the pavement. I'll be surprised if I didn't pick up a thorn along the way. I might end up with a second flat waiting for me in the morning.

Thankfully my first flat happened right here at home. Part of me isn't surprised. I've been riding on that tire and tube for 5 years now. I'd have to say I certainly got my money's worth out of both.

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.