Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Ley Lines

Here I am, in Cortez, Colorado. It’s one of those few places where I feel that hum. You know what I mean? The places where there’s that hum of life and zen, good juju, or whatever it is that resonates with you, as an individual, to feel at peace with the world. It’s not an especially fancy place or an art mecca like Taos or Aspen, even though Telluride is roughly an hour away. It’s often called the gateway to the southwest. It’s where you’d stay if you wanted to see Mesa Verde or on your way to the Grand Canyon.

I came here when I was twenty something by myself to see Mesa Verde. I had amazing memories of a family trip and my dad being his best historically obsessed self. Back then, the Park Rangers let you climb all through the ruins. It was as if I was thrust back in time. When I went as a young adult, the ruins were carefully guarded as I’m sure they had discovered not everyone respected such an impressive piece of history as my dad did and taught us to do. I felt absolutely safe even though I was a young woman traveling alone. It’s important to know I never felt safe, ever, but I did here.

My besty from college, Mel, moved here June 2016 and I’ve been visiting as often as I can. It’s an eight hour road trip so it needs to be planned but I’m always happy when I make the time.

Trips took on a new importance when Mel was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She was hoping surgery could wait until the school term ended when I could come help. Things moved faster than expected and she had a bilateral mastectomy in April. I wanted to be there but was glad her father and his girlfriend could stay with her. What amazed me was the public outpouring of support and love. I didn’t need to worry about people caring for her at all. Her coworkers organized meal preparation and delivery for herself, her dad, and his girlfriend for several weeks so no one needed to buy or cook any meals. She has visitors almost every day and a few friends who rotate taking her to her chemo appointments. Even during this trip, I’ve talked with three different people who stopped by in the two days I’ve been here.

Wow

This is normal here. Like I said, there’s all the good juju here. There’s just something about this place, as if it’s where all the good spirit magic come together in giant ley lines.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Makes a Good Teacher Great?

It feels like the first week of summer break. Wait! The last day of school was May 24th. That was almost a month ago. Hey, it’s better than past years. I remember a time when the entire month of June was spent in a zombie-like haze, sleeping and binge watching all the shows I missed during the academic year.

Anyway, I had a couple days then took my daughter to her NASA Internship at Ames Research Facility. Yep, I’m still incredibly proud of her achievement and the opportunities she made for herself. Then I had a few days to complete a knitting goal of mine. Then I was off to a professional conference, InnEdCo. I left there with several new ideas and hopes for the fall. Any time I attend a training, professional development, or conference, if I glean just one new skill or idea, I call that a win. The people I meet there are amazing; the vendors, presenters, and fellow attendees. Once again, I learned a few new things, made great contacts and hope to maintain some of the new friendships I made.


Now I’m home again. I don’t have any concrete plans until early August when I return to school. What do you, teachers, do with your summers? There are many who make wonderful travel and vacation plans and recharge. They put education out of their minds for the actual six weeks-ish we have off. Some like to, or need to, teach summer school. I definitely recharge during this time but recharging has a different definition to me. I try to bring new methods, ideas (those great ideas I got from the conference or pd), to my teaching and improve the classroom experience for my students. 


I’ve been teaching in my school for two years now and noticed a bit of routine and complacency towards the end of this year. It’s time to try to amp my teaching up and take it to the next level. Over the last two years, my focus was on engagement and conveying the course information in new ways. I found supporting media and collaborated with my Social Studies colleague to redesign curriculum and co-teach. That was great. I tried some things that I’ll abandon but there was also much I’ll keep and build on. But, now I want to turn the focus to the students, not simply “engage” them but to hand them the keys to the bus, so to speak. To be a guiding teacher instead of the one-way delivery then check for understanding type of teacher.


A guiding teacher prepares carefully, presents a seed of content, then prompts the students to discover and dig deeper in class while guiding the process. I’ll need to really think about my existing plans and modify them to suit that kind of interaction. My students are required to take a final but I’ll find some project based or interaction based means of learning content as opposed to the alternative media I’ve been using.

Hmmm….this will be quite a bit of work but I’ll enjoy it. 

Summer’s also the time to learn new craft/art techniques. Two years ago it was Kumihimo. Want a bracelet? I have soooooooooo many. And, beads, lots of beads. Last year I rediscovered the pleasure of stranded knitting. I’m still on my mitten kick. I don’t think that will die down soon. I’m jonsin to cast on the Gates of Moria mittens once my current projects are finished. Mittens are my reward for knitting something not stranded. 


Spinning….. (chirp chirp chirp) My wheel is neglected and the fiber in The Fortress of Solitude is yet unspun. Tour de Fleece starts up soon and I’m planning on participating and hoping to get my spinning mojo back in gear (get it? Tour de Fleece/Tour de France...GEAR? Bicycle gear?).
The new technique I hope to try is a specific style of dyeing on silk. I’ve a fair amount of experience with acid dyes and a bit of experience with natural dyeing, but this would be a whole new way. I might or might not get to it, and that’s okay. It’ll still be there when it’s a good time to try it. 

The last thing I like to use my summer break for is to reevaluate my health or something personal. This is the first summer my close friends have fallen ill to some pretty horrific diseases. My heart aches for them and the complete helplessness I feel in trying to support them. There’s really nothing I can do except love them and pray for recuperation. Personally, I have pretty strong genes and there are things I can control for the genetic weak points. My dad battled obesity, heart disease, and strokes. He smoked, like so many of his generation, and continued to smoke after two multiple bypass surgeries. He also gained a lot of weight after he became inactive and settled into a desk job. I don’t and never will smoke, or vape, or intentionally inhale anything which might even remotely be harmful..nuh uh, never. I’ve noticed I can easily maintain a comfortable weight when I’m active daily but struggle to be active when overweight. Over the last year, I kept a journal and carefully observed my food behaviors. Just as an alcoholic avoids alcoholic beverages, I need to avoid refined sugar and breads. They set off very self destructive behavior in me, so I’m cutting them out. This will certainly improve my health (number 1 goal), prompt weight loss, which will make activity easier.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The End of an Era

It's always bothered me when people feel you are what you do. I do many things. You can see that right up in my little blurb - "Mom, wife, teacher, evil stepmother, friend, fiber craftsman...craftswoman...no, whatever...maker of handcrafted items, and throughout it all, a diehard sci-fi/fantasy/literature nerd and lover of coffee." I've had a number of professions, really good ones. I've had jobs and I've had professions. I've done some fairly interesting things like being a cook in a county jail, or a medical editor, or a corporate trainer, or a teacher in public education. The best thing I've ever done is to be a mom. When I start something new, I give it my all. I don't become that but I give it my best effort, whatever that might be at that time. When it becomes more heartache than joy, I move on to something new.

When I became a mother, it was a lifelong commitment for me. I wanted to be an involved parent and I wanted to love my children completely, unconditionally, and for their entire lives as long as I lived and beyond. This wasn't just some job or profession it was a life change. Now, I have a different life change. I dropped my youngest off halfway across the country yesterday to begin her summer internship with NASA. She'll come back for one semester before completing her bachelor's degrees, but then she's off on her new life. My oldest moved out right after she graduated. She wanted something new, something different, than what she had during her first 17 years of life. I supported her in that, and I'm so proud that she is continuing to be independent and a competent adult.
My youngest daughter and I have always been close and shared many interests. It's as if we were tethered. I'm very proud of her, too. It's going to be a big change for me not to have her here with me everyday. It's a new kind of being a mom.




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When a door opens

I made a conscious decision almost three years ago to be less afraid. It's true, I've missed out on so many, oh so many, wonderful experiences because I was afraid or doubted myself, the experience or whatever. Funny how it took half a life time to figure out that I really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Not funny, really, but very sad. I don't want to be sad.
The first absolutely wonderful thing to happen after this decision was that I got my current job. I got a call and said yes. It was that easy. Before, during the scaredy cat Marta time, I would have said no because I wasn't completely in control, didn't know much about it, it wasn't something I specifically planned for, or any number of other equally lame excuses. As it was, it was the day after I said to myself, "Whatever comes next, I'm saying 'yes' to it because all this disappointment sucks." This school is my dream school with my kind of students and co-workers. No, in fact, I couldn't even dream this up - it's better.
So now something else has happened. A publisher, designer friend asked if I'd be interested in knitting something for someone. Um....sure...? I knit some pieces for her and loved the experience. It was one of those times when I felt a part of something very cool. Here's that project and the BEST publisher in the biz.
Cooperative Press
 Aurora Borealis
Now I've knitted something for someone pretty big in the designing world. I've admired her work when I've seen it but had no idea how prolific she was or that she has worked with Vogue and Martha Stewart, among others. 
Enter

with a side of 



Yea, well, I did my best. Of course, there was a fair amount of grafting and I can always see it. IT BUGGED ME. I pulled and smoothed it but didn't wash and block, as the designer asked me to leave blocking to her. It was better but I STILL SAW IT. sigh. It's packaged and sent off and that's that. This designer, by the way, is lovely. I'm sure I was awkward but she was very nice throughout the entire process. I'm hoping this is another fabulous door opened and will lead to more projects.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Whatever happened to....

Peace, love, and understanding?


Friendship should allow for varying opinions, right? Society here in the U.S. is supposed to allow for all kinds of variety whether it's religious, political, or personal. That's what we're supposed to be all about. When I see the "my way or the highway" or us and them kind of outbursts it just breaks my heart. It's bad enough when it's groups I don't know or connect with but I'm suddenly struck with my own naivete when a friend does this. It's worse when that friend decides they can't be friends with you because your opinion doesn't completely fall in line with theirs. Sad, just so freakin' sad.

Anyway....
We finished watching Othello yesterday in class. Of course, we watched the Kenneth Branagh adaptation. He is Mr. Shakespeare and has the best delivery.


I watched my students, which included the one who writes the entertaining reviews, for their reactions. It was surprising to note who connected to the tragedy and who didn't. This is my all boy class. Almost all were affected by the final outcome and one was moved to tears. We talked about how we have all experienced what can happen when people don't communicate effectively and directly, and listen to gossip. I suppose the discussion reminded me of my friend who made assumptions and abandoned me without allowing direct, clear, and tolerant communication.

I love teaching film study probably because I love watching films. It's fun to toss in some production technique between but the challenge and true enjoyment is creating a series of films with specific connections. My first theme was gothic films and I think I might revisit it for next fall's class since all the students who had it have either graduated or moved on. My line up then was Nosferatu, Rebecca, The Others, Jane Eyre, The Innocents, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Wererabbit, and the short film, Sandman. Since then, Crimson Peak has been released. I think it has all the classic markers of a gothic story plus Tom Hiddleston's butt. All my students are 17 or older but, as I teach in a public school, I'll need to skip that couple of steamy minutes which will detract from the creepy gothic-ness of the Guillermo del Toro film not one bit! I'd truly love to do a series on just his films but most are R rated and very intense. Maybe some day I'll manage to host a seminar featuring snippets and facts, or conduct post secondary class but until then, the complexities of Guillermo del Toro are just for me.