Monday, October 31, 2016

Sunday Walk in October

Sundays are the best.  We went to the early service at church and came home to left over roast beef.  My husband took a little nap while I fought with my computer.  Around 3 we took our dog Maggie for a little walk.  It turned into a seven mile endeavor.  We live in the country and we took a familiar trek that my husband drives every day.  We cut down a side road in order to avoid one house where there is a dog with a short temper and an owner who doesn't understand that the road is not part of her dog's rightful domain.

 Our plan had been to turn around and go back home the same way that we came. We like to be a little adventurous so we randomly decided to take a local state highway that is fairly busy to shorten our walk back home.  It has a broad shaded shoulder and for a good ways, a guard rail.  We walked on the inside of the guard rail, which provided a bit more protection from the traffic.

 Maggie did great.  She never let the cars spook her but was more interested in the smells from the McDonald's trash that someone had flung to the roadway.  I gave her extra food when we got home to compensate for workout.  The walk really helped to mellow her out for the evening.

I love barns and everything that goes with them.
Some little dogs were tearing up the ground inside of a fence trying to get to us.  They were super cute.  I am sure they would have nipped at our heels if they could have broken out of their doggy prison yard.

The countryside refreshes my spirit when I grow tired of the ugly cluttered ways of man and his never ending signs of commerce.

A herd of goats were a little unsure of us when we went to the edge of the fence to take a gander at them.

A number of young calves were down in a ravine near the highway drinking from a watering hole.  When they heard us they scooted up the worn down path one by one ever so frightful of the funny looking people staring at them.  I am sure they have not had a lot of people contact as yet in their young lives.

The colors of fall are starting to peak.  Even the lowly brier puts on a colorful show.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Old School, New School: Paste, Stamps or Stickers

The world I grew up in was a totally different place.  My second grade teacher thumped us on the head for not knowing answers to questions.  Spanking was common place for misbehavior, although honestly there was not that much misbehavior.  Probably because we knew with certainty that a spanking would be the result.

My teachers had large classrooms and they did not have assistants or a plethora of pull out programs for special needs.  There was no P.E., Music, or Art teachers.  All of that was done in the classroom by our regular teacher. She had us the entire day without any breaks. We sat in rows and raised our hands to speak. We never sat crisscross applesauce on the carpet.

We cleaned our filthy pencil and eraser marked desks ourselves with some kind of industrial comet cleaner only about twice a year using wet brown paper towels to scrub and to absorb the white powder. There was only one janitor in the whole school and he was the super hero. The janitor would magically appear with his bag of kitty litter to clean up vomit.  The floors were all solid wood and had seventy two layers of  shiny amber looking shellac. There was never a piece of trash on the floors inside or the ground outside.  I think we only had one medium size industrial strength metal regulation trash can in each class.  Most of us took all of our old papers home.

All of the walls were painted a light green that was suppose to be easy on our eyes.  We did not have air conditioning.  We opened windows and we had a transom window over the door to produce some ventilation in the classroom.  For heat there were radiators in each classroom that steamed and hissed.  Now we would think the radiator was a safety hazard.  No one to my knowledge was ever stupid enough to touch one.

 We used messy white paste, not glue sticks.  I never had a pair of scissors in school.  I used a pencil and notebook paper.  Most books were black and white although some did have sparsely illustrated color pictures.

 Teachers were personable but they were of another world.  I never hugged a teacher my entire life in school.  We didn't get stamps, stickers or very many treats.  I remember getting little thimble sized portions of raisins on rare occasions when we were on the playground.  We could buy extra milk for the morning or get an ice cream in the afternoon.

Principals were not our pals and a sighting of one in the building was a rare and unusual event.  The only place I ever remember Mr. Rudisill, was sitting hunched over his desk in his office.  I got swatted on the bottom by my first grade teacher for walking too slowly down the hallway and for peering at the principal through his open door.

Recesses were long, often and  in open spaces under shade trees.  Sometimes the teachers turned a fat braided jump rope for us.  Kick ball and dodge ball was common and we played for blood. Most of our play came from our imaginations. Band aids at school were non existent.  Blood was cleaned off with a wet brown paper towel.  The brown paper towel fixed all of our problems from runny noses to broken bones. If we stayed in at recess, we sat in an empty classroom alone working by ourselves on some work that we had not completed correctly or we were being punished for some type of behavior.

There was no second chances of clipping up after disobeying.  We owned our misbehavior and most of it was dealt with at school.  I never ever remember a student talking back to a teacher. Rarely was a parent ever involved or even called.  What happened in the classroom stayed in the classroom.  My parents never knew what happened any day of my public school career. There were no teacher/parent conferences.  If I made a bad grade, it was because I wasn't paying attention or studying. It was never the teacher's fault.  The teacher was held in the highest esteem and was right there hovering near our preacher and our medical doctor. I felt the weight of anything below a B and was embarrassed by my report card.  That embarrassment made me want to do well. Being held back was an anathema and we were always scared that it would happen to us.

We always had homework and my parents never ever checked to make sure that it was completed. That was my responsibility.    No kid  ever brought cupcakes to school and we never sang "Happy Birthday" to anyone.  The only cupcakes came with a room mother who was sponsoring a rare holiday party of some sort. There was no after school programs.  The only time anyone stayed after school was as some sort of punishment.

 There was one lunch choice in the cafeteria.  If a child was still hungry, they could go back for seconds.  The food was hearty and we had favorite meals at school, just like we did at home.  I still have fond memories of the big peanut butter cookies, the homemade vegetable soup and the big fish squares. The cafeteria ladies dressed in white uniforms and hair nets.  No one worked in the cafeteria until they were at least 62.  They were kind but no one would ever think of being cross to one of them as you innately understood that they controlled your food supply at school.

I do think we are raising many students who have huge expectations for the world to be one big happy marshmallow treat.  Some of the control of the older classrooms was not terrible, some was.  We were expected to work when it was time to work, but yet we were given a tremendous amount of play time when it was recess.  The teacher was more autonomous in the classroom.  I had kind teachers and I had teachers that scared me.  I think most teachers today work towards being real and being kind. Home and school in those days was more separated than it is now.  Perhaps we are better at integrating our worlds, but in my mind as a child I liked it being separate.  Home was a sanctuary for me and still is for me today.

I would not say that the past was perfect and the present is flawed.  I would say that it would be wonderful if we could figure out what was working in the past and what is working now.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Autumn County Roads

Country roads egress the Eastern maples and oaks

Taking me along paths of browns, shimmering oranges and loopy yellows

Scrubby underbrush adorned in iridescent vermilion 

Past dying fields blanketed in misty cover

Beacons of light shine in the farmhouse windows and unobtrusive country homes

On the country roads travel overtaking the rusty roofed barns and  cows with bent down heads

Home of my childhood youth  forever lies just over the next rise...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's A Beautiful Buggy World

I saw a collection of beetle pictures on Pinterest and got the idea that the 5th graders could chose a beetle and create their own beetle picture.  I printed tons of beetle pictures and they choose a picture that wanted to draw.  We talked about perspective, as I wanted them to draw their beetle large. They used oil pastels and so we had a short lesson on not over using the pastels and how to blend them into the paper.  For smaller areas I suggested that they use their pencil eraser to blend.  We use what we have in the art room.  One day, I might actually order some tortillions for us to use.  I also asked them to observe the places where they saw highlights and shadows and try to incorporate that into their pictures.  I gave them the option of use black sharpie to create some of the smaller and more detailed parts of their pictures or to highlight their drawing.  After they had finished their beetles, then they chose one water color to paint across the whole picture.  I love how the water color absorbs into the little bits of paper that are not saturated by the oil pastels and how the water color will bead on the oil pastel and dry.  I think it adds interest to the pictures.  To me the beetles are beautiful!!!! I would not want them living in my house but they are so sleek, colorful and interesting.   God is a wonderful designer.  There are more than 350,000 species of beetles and each one seems to be unique.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yellow School Buses and Banishing the Dragons

I have some pretty strong  memories of my school days. Winter  for me was the hard time to go to school.  I truly hated getting out from my warm cocoon to get dressed for school especially on bitterly cold winter days. We heated our house with wood and oil.  There was virtually no insulation, so we slept under about four or five heavy quilts. Many times I dressed while I was still under those weighty covers.

Getting out the door in the mornings was always a mammoth feat. Mama had to comb the tangles out of my hair and she was none too gentle as she yanked at the knots. Breakfast was eaten on the fly and my sisters and I were always rushing around finding shoes, school books, and our homework so that we could meet the bus.

My three sisters and I stood at the end of our driveway by the black walnut tree to wait for the big yellow belching and hissing school bus to whisk us away to school for the day.  In those days, girls wore dresses to school and knee socks.  It was so incredibly cold to that wisp of a girl that I used to be. I am sure my legs were close to turning blue many of those mornings.  We learned to move back from the road when a car passed.  A cold blast of wind followed on the heels of every passing car. We entertained ourselves by blowing out our warm breath into the frigid air making smoky looking puffs. I think my heart always started racing whenever the flashing lights' of the bus became visible as it stopped to pick up kids down the road from us.  Any flashing lights that I see now can still cause that same adrenal rush even if its' the flashing lights at the Speedy Mart gas station.

It took a good hour of bus riding to make it into town to the three schools where the bus dropped off kids.  Our bus had kids from elementary to high school age all shifted in there together.  The driver was a high school student and the bus was always packed beyond capacity.  Ever now and again the high school bus driver would snap after having told us to shut up about thirty times.  He would pull over to the side of the road and yell at us for about five minutes and tell us that we weren't going anywhere until we straightened up.  Most of the time we got pretty quiet because no one wanted to be imprisoned on the bus for longer than necessary.

 Many times unfortunate kids had to stand in the aisles and hang on to the metal bars on the seats to keep from being knocked over as the bus went around curves or turned.  The kids were a melee of folks.  Regular neighborhood kids to some tough backwoods kids rode on our bus.  The bus even in those days could be a pretty nasty environment. I had a tough high school girl hit me dead on the back of my head with a thick text book when I was  middle school age. The high school girl lived in a shack and I am sure that her world at home was not very pleasant.

As a first grader, my older sisters made sure I had somewhere to sit, even if I sat on their laps. I am sure that was terribly uncomfortable as an older elementary student to have to shift my sharp boned behind around as they sat on the slightly padded straight backed bus seats.  After an hour on the bus we were bright eyed and eager for a day's work at school.  I personally think that it was the school district's plan to make us grateful to finally get to school where at least in those days there was a strong dose of order and at everyone had a place to sit.

Almost everyone rode the school bus when I was growing up.  There was no such thing as a car line to pick up your kids.  If your parents took you to school because of some exotic reason, they pulled up in some out of the way spot near the school and you jumped out and went to where you were supposed to go.  You might even cross the street and have to walk down the sidewalk on your own.  If your parents, or neighbor, or Aunt Sally picked you up after school, then you walked out of school and looked around for your ride.  No one was ever kidnapped, although one kid jumped out of the window in second grade and ran away because the teacher beat his hand blue with a ruler.
Notice the knee sock on my left leg creeping down to my shoe.

Our bus was 123.  When I first started school, my sisters told me that I was to get on Bus 1-2-3 in the afternoons after school.  The buses were lined up on the drive.  When the bell rang we all headed for the doors pell mell jostling our way down the big stone steps onto the pavement.  We left school with sweaty heads, tangled hair, one knee sock around our shoes, a stuffed trapper notebook and our jacket bundled under our arms.  We had to find our bus on our own by actually looking at the number beside the door.  No one lined us up and got us in the right bus line.  We didn't have tags attached to our book bags like we were little puppies with identification.  For some reason, they just expected us to be responsible, even in the first grade.

The best feeling in the world after that torturous hour ride home was when the bus got to your driveway at the end of the day.  The bus belched you off.  The door shutting behind you and the bus lurching forward was like an emancipation cry.  We ran through the front door telling Mama that we were home.  The still cool air from the inside offered us safety and sanity after a day at school and fighting the dragons.  Home, we were home again!!!!

I sometimes think that this life, no matter what pleasures that it offers is like waiting for the next bus. We have lots of  metaphorical bus rides in this life, but when we arrive at that long anticipated destination,  we are still left with some dissatisfaction and a longing for something more.  I love life but every day I live with the reality of a broken world.  There is coming a day when the safety and sanity will return and the dragons will be forever banished.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tree of Life Art Project

 In fifth grade, the students did a Klimt, Tree of Life" project.   I introduced Klimt and talked about his art.  They looked at his original "Tree of Life".  I pointed out how his study of Japanese art had influenced this piece and the richness of his colors.  We discussed symbolic art as opposed to realistic art.  I did not delve into the meaning of all of Klimt's symbols, but instead focused on how the tree of life has influenced many cultures.

 We discussed the "tree of life" in the Garden of Eden and how Adam and Eve could have partaken of it instead of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We also talked about the Menorah in the Temple as being a possible symbol of the tree of life as well.  We then discussed how the cross to the Christian is in essence a tree of life.   I  showed them other people's art work that was obviously influenced by Klimt's work to help them have inspiration for their own attempt.

I used guided drawing to let them practice drawing their trees.  After they practiced, then they had the freedom to draw their trees the way they wanted.  They drew with pencil and outlined in Sharpie.  They used liquid water color to paint.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Going to Church

My sisters and I at the church we attended growing up.
Most of our lives are not characterized by the extraordinary things but by the ordinary things.  One ordinary thing of my childhood was going to church.  We went to church Sunday morning and went back for the  Sunday evening services.  Daddy also went to Prayer Meeting on Wednesday nights and sometimes stayed for choir practice after the service.  We went to revivals and special meetings as well.  We spent a lot of time at church!

It wasn't a burden, it was just what we did as a family.  Sunday morning was always somewhat of a zoo as we all tried to get dressed and ready to go on time.  Daddy being Daddy was up early and took his turn in the bathroom first.  Daddy never ever hurried his entire life. He did everything on his own timetable, including bathing and shaving.  Mama always had his clothes ironed and ready.  After dressing for church he sat down at the table and leisurely ate the breakfast that Mama had prepared for him.

The rest of us had to take hurried turns in our one bathroom and scramble to get ready.  Mama was always the last one to get dressed, as she had to take care of everyone and everything else first.  Mama had a strange habit of making breakfast and putting it on our plates.  If we didn't make it to the table when it was hot, then the eggs and bacon cooled and congealed onto the cold plate, a sight that is still etched in my memory.

Daddy would pull the car out and be waiting in the driveway as the rest of us trailed out to the car one by one.  Daddy did not want to be late, but we often were.  He never connected the dots, that he actually was the main participant in making us late by taking an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom.  Mama was out last and always a little frenzied and probably felt she was about half ready.

The church we attended was a couple of towns over and this always kept Mama a bit stirred up because it took us a good 25 minutes to get to church.  There was a little white church less than a mile from our house that was an off shoot of the church we did attend.  Mama grew up walking to a neighborhood church and to her going to a church that close was the sane thing to do, but she was never successful in bringing anyone else over to her side.

Our church had a big steeple and white pillars in the front.  An educational building stood to the left of the facility and was called the new building for about the first thirty years of its' construction.
We always sat on the second pew on the right.  The Pate's sat behind us.   The Pate's lived less than a mile from our house and Mama rode to Circle Meeting with Mrs. Pate.  Mrs. Pate died the day before Mama, a strange but true fact.  Bertha and Floyd sat on the fourth row right behind the Pate's.  Floyd was a tall big man but not heavy set. His chest was caved in from age and he had an extraordinarily large nose.   Bertha was short, sensible and stocky.  She had gray hair that she kept cropped off short.   She was Floyd's second wife.  Floyd had a daughter Brenda who sat with them.  She had teased hair, wore no makeup, and was rather plain in a sweet sensible way.  She was tall and wore modest non descriptive  polyester dresses.  One day she came in with a handsome young pastor from Ohio. They sat in the balcony where all of the courting couples sat.  Shortly after that she  married him and was whisked away to the exotic unknown of Ohio.  It is one of my favorite love stories.

The church had three long aisles of pews.  It had a traditional stage with a large pulpit and three fancy looking padded chairs that looked like they would have been perfect for King Henry the 8th's dining room table.  A piano was on the right and an organ on the left.  Arnold played the electric guitar and an old man in his seventies played drums.  Gladys played the piano for years and then one day she just stopped coming to the church. As a child, this was really unsettling to me.  I always expected Gladys to be sitting there playing the piano.  I loved her big gaudy ear bobs and her big pleated Sunday dresses.  Billie, who was Arnold's wife took over the job as the pianist. Billie was never as interesting to me.  Her face always looked a bit pinched and her eyes were too beady for me. The music was always lively and the mild grocery variety  musicians were skilled enough to get down in a honky-tonk bar.  Elmer, the choir director was a tall broad shouldered man with a crew cut.  I to this day, am not sure if Elmer really had a good singing voice or if no one else really wanted the job. Maybe Elmer wouldn't let anyone else have the job.

The church building was almost as comfortable to us as home. Even as children we freely wandered over the entire building without adult supervision.  We knew pretty much every crook and cranny of the place.  It had a full basement with oddly placed little one toilet bathrooms. The doors weren't full sized and no one to my knowledge ever used them.  There were regular big bathrooms at the foot of the stairs in the basement. Several water fountains stood between the men's and women's bathrooms.  When the church service became too tedious or boring, I would ask to go to the bathroom.  Seldom did I really need to go, but I would tromp down to that huge cavernous basement by myself even during the night services when all of the doors to the outside were unlocked. I would always get water from the fountain which seemed like a huge treat.  I would be creeped out to go down there now by myself as an adult.

The Sunday morning service usually lasted an hour and we were out by twelve.  The night services were different.  The choir sang loud and long.  There was usually a trio or a quartet that sang special music.  As a child I often fell asleep during the evening service against my mama.  She was very round, soft and comfortable,  just like a pillow.

Church was a mixture of comfort and the fear of Hell all thrown together.  I didn't know anything else growing up.  Because of that it took me years to figure out if I believed the Bible to be true because of my upbringing or because it was true.   When I was able to ask the intellectual questions apart from the emotional attachment of my childhood, I found sufficient enough evidence to give me reason for my faith.  Faith, would not be faith if it were totally sight though.  I believe that God has revealed Himself to me through His word and by His Spirit.  There have even been a few of what I consider real encounters with the Holy One that seemed very real and personal.

I hear people say that they are going to let their children decide what they believe. Oh my!  Might as well let them decide what they think about  fire, swimming in turbulent seas, and diving head first on rocks.  My church experience growing up was certainly not perfect, but it gave me enough light to head me in the right direction and to solidly introduce me to the idea that Jesus was a real person and that the Bible was the revealed Word of God.

My parents never hammered down hard upon us that we should do anything about becoming
Christians.  They just consistently took us to church and made that a huge part of our lives.  Because of our church contacts, we had a sizable number of people in our world that were our extended caretakers and support.  They  took care of us in the nursery, taught us in Sunday school, and youth group. Many more were just a solid consistent part of our world.

The body of believers in our local church were always somewhere in the background of our lives holding out their arms in support and when any kind of crisis dared rear its' head. They stood ready to meet the task head on.  Several years ago, our dad passed away.  He was in his mid nineties and had been in assisted living for five years.  The same church family still showed up and ministered to us in tangible ways.  They came to the visitation, the choir sang at his funeral, the women of the church prepared a meal and a young man from the church who knew my dad well preached the message for his funeral.  My sisters and I live in different places and haven't attended church there for decades.  Daddy was the last connection that we had, but they treated us with as much love and kindness as if we were contributing members of their local body.

We live in a silly, silly world where we no longer understand the value of a local church and how much it contributes to our lives and the lives of our children. I can honestly say the experience of going to church as a child and young adult  has probably grounded me and my sisters more than anything else in our lives.


My shadow goes before me
or closely trails behind.

Reminding me that I am but a vapor
A temporary wanderer walking blind

No matter what I possess
My shadow will dispossess

My shadow will n'er dig its' heels into the dirt
But with the blinding sun's rays only flirt

My shadow goes before me
or closely trails behind.