Food Needs to Look Pretty, Too!

Standard

I am a creature of habit.  I like to make the same two or three things for breakfast everyday.  It changes over time, but for a while, it stays the same. Of late, my go-to breakfast is one egg, sunny side up, and about 1 ½ cups of fresh spinach sauteed in 2 t. olive oil.  (I could say, “Fried,” but that sounds so unhealthy so I’ll stick with sauteed.) It is rather pretty with white and golden yellow and bright green. I don’t ever remember caring much one way or the other whether my food looked pretty until recently.  Now, I do. Now, it has become an unspoken goal that I strive to attain at each meal.

Let me explain.  I wanted to break out of my routine the other morning, so I decided to have oatmeal with chopped apple and walnuts, rounded off with a dash of cinnamon instead of my standard egg-spinach combination.  Really, I was craving some carbs. When I got my bowl out of the microwave, I could barely eat it. It was so bland looking. The cinnamon aroma was enticing, but visually it was a dud. It got eaten. I’m way too frugal to throw perfectly good food away, but it wasn’t very satisfying.  It reminded me of what you might see in a care facility. Not appetizing at all.  

In contrast to that meal, I attended a food tasting for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. One of the appetizers was a skewer with this pattern: one mozzarella chunk, one leaf fresh basil, one cherry tomato, one fresh basil leaf, and one last mozzarella chunk.  A balsamic glaze, rich and mahogany, was drizzled artistically over it all. Beautiful! After being asked which were some of my top choices of the tasting, my first response was this skewer.  I actually said, “The skewer was easy to eat, delicious, and so gorgeous with the white, the red, and the green.  Think how that would look on the buffet!”  Compared to the tannish cheese-filled rice ball or the whitish noodles with tan bolognese sauce we also tasted, it wasn’t even a choice for me.  Give me those lovely, inviting colors, paired with delicious taste any time.

So this morning, to my usual work week breakfast combo, I added 3 cherry tomatoes. Now I had golden yellow globes in pure white frames accompanied by bright green spinach, and cheery, cherry red tomatoes.  Wow, that was pretty. It tasted great and was so satisfying.  Yes, food needs to look pretty, too!

P.S. Here’s a photo of a similar breakfast from another day. I didn’t think about snapping a picture this morning. Besides, it was so gorgeous, I couldn’t take the time. I had to eat it. 

Food Needs to Look Pretty Too!#

 

 

I Wonder What She Would Say?

Standard

Walking  this morning over a course I have taken many times before, I noticed amid ranch and two-story houses, a cream-city brick house that was startlingly out of place.  Sitting high on a hill, overlooking a now, house-dense neighborhood, was a quiet house of yesteryear. She seemed to be in solitary, sleepy repose as the world moved quickly on.  She seemed content to be the matron of the neighborhood, content to let the younger generation, the grander and more fashionable homes, share her once barren hills.

But, what if this house could tell me her story, what would she say?  What would she have seen over the years? Did she feel sadness or joy as men broke ground for newer construction?  Did she smile when those new homes were filled with young families whose children’s laughter filled the air? Did she whisper with the wind at their funny antics?  Did she invite those playmates in during a stormy day? Did she protectively watch as they played on the tire swing that hung from the maple tree out front? Did she listen to them read their stories on the wicker chair on the front  porch? Did she wonder where the years flew as the saplings grew tall and strong and broad? Did she cry as the grown-up boys marched proudly off to war? Did her windows wear a blue- or gold-starred service flag? Did the Stars and Stripes decorate her front porch rail in anticipation of their homecoming?  Did she mourn the flag-blanketed coffin?

Is she now content, old and fading?  Content with her crackling paint and crumbling mortar? Content with her memories?  Content with the trees surrounding her? What if this house could tell me her story?  I wonder what she would say?

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

Ten Fun Facts

Standard

I’m getting good at using other people’s ideas for inspiration.  I got the idea for writing “Ten Fun Facts” facts about myself from https://confessionsofarealteacher.com/2018/03/09/10-fun-facts/  Thanks, confessions of a real teacher blogger.  If you think it looks like a winner, give it a try!

  1. I have lived in 13 different states and 3 foreign countries, including France, Germany, and Greece.  I loved it all! Thanks, Dad, for serving our country for 33+ years and for giving me the opportunity to “see the world!”
  2. My favorite kind of dog is a Golden Retriever.  I am not really a dog person, but I am a Golden lover.  I got nipped as a little girl when I tried to pet a dog, and I think that really scared me.  My husband LOVES dogs-all kinds of dog–so…we got our Golden Retriever, Gracie, mostly for him…and the kids.  Surprisingly, or not surprisingly if you know this breed, she also won my heart right away. I loved her. She was a part of our family for 15 years and, sadly, died last March.  I don’t think any dog could ever replace her for me.
  3. I have been a lifelong watcher of my weight.  That watching has included all kinds of fad diets (egg shell, orange/grapefruit, etc….I know-crazy!) and other healthier ones (Whole30, Weight Watchers, and TOPS). I want to be healthy and to fit in my clothes, but my ultimate goal is to eat like a thin person.  I, however, am still watching… I haven’t arrived, YET!
  4. My favorite sport is biking or, to be exact, cycling.  (I didn’t know biking meant Harleys and motorcycles and such at first.)  My husband bought me my first “real” bike when we were expecting our first child on my birthday. (That was one month before she was born.  I think it must have been pretty funny for the salesperson.) We rode with the kids on the back of bikes, in buggers, and alongside us. Now, we ride as a couple on the beautiful bike trails in our state.  I love going fast, by the way.
  5. Order, minimalism, and cleanliness are my jam, but I have trouble working that out day to day.  My house never seems to be totally clutter free. My desk has a never ending pile of paperwork and a book or two on display.  I never seem to squeeze enough hours in the day to get it all done. But, in my heart, I am orderly, neat, and clutter free.
  6. I resigned from my first teaching job and chose to stay home with our children when they were young.  I loved, more than anything I have ever done, being that stay-at-home Mom. It was draining and exhausting and full of work, but it was rewarding and joyful and happy.  I am so thankful I made that choice.
  7. I am in a job that I really enjoy.  One time I heard a speaker who, when asked how she got where she was, answered that when a door opened, she walked through it.  I have tried to take that advice to-heart over the years. So, as my little ones shut the door behind them on the way to college, I walked through my open doors.  The door to being a teacher again. The door to getting my Master’s. The door to Reading Recovery training. The door to Literacy Coaching and training. The next door?  I’m not sure, but I want to be ready to walk on through when it opens.
  8. I love to travel.  I would rather go somewhere than to get something.  I am about spending time with people and experiencing things.  With such a big family, I haven’t always been able to travel as much as I would like, but if I can travel, I do.  The beach is my favorite destination, by the way.
  9. I love change.  I know that sounds weird.  Most people despise change.  They like the comfort of what they know and how it feels. I like mixing it up.  My daughter says I have TCK (third culture kid) mentality. She hypothesizes that I am the way I am because of my experiences moving every two to three years when I was growing up. About every five years, I want things to change.  This has meant new wall colors, new type of teaching job, new furniture, etc. I’m wondering what will be next. This is my 5th year as a Literacy Coach.
  10. I love to learn.  Learning to me is fun.  Attend a conference? Sign up.  Hear a speaker? That’s a yes. Read a book?  Mmm.huh! Learn? Yes, yes, and yes.

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

 

Inroads in Coaching

Standard

Coaching can be a lonely road to walk. It wasn’t anything like I first imagined in my naivety when I accepted the newly created role of Literacy Coach in our district.  The path looked bright before me, sunshiny and light, a brilliant walkway in a world where teachers were excited to collaborate and learn and welcomed me in.

The path has not been, in the least bit what I imagined.  It is not wide or easy with friends along the way. The tail has been steep and rocky and dark.  Suspicions and resentment and fear clouded the thinking of those with whom I had hoped would walk and talk with me about best practices and  improved instruction and higher student achievement. Although the door to my office has been perpetually open, rarely did one enter who was questioning or seeking or wondering.   I tried different approaches; I changed up professional development; I persevered in my coaching role. Still, it seemed, very few shifts had occurred. At least as many as I wanted.  I just am too stubborn, however, and I refused to give up.

Trudging along, trial and error became my friends.  Trial and error. Trial and error. Trial and error. It is beginning to pay off.  The way, lately, has become brighter. The look of coaching became less of an in-and-out, 3 meeting approach to a more I’m-here-to-stay-for-awhile approach.  The result…relationships! These resulting relationships have been the “abra-kadabra” to the door of powerful coaching. These resulting relationships have given opportunities for some magical moments in coaching.

Let me highlight just one of those moments.  After reading this, you may say, “Aw, this is nothing!  What is the big deal about that?” Well, to me, even this little inroad is a big deal.  Let me explain.

Yesterday, I opened an email from a teacher who asked me to meet with her and her colleague to discuss 2 students who are not growing in reading.  Replying right away, I suggested 3 possible meeting times. The teachers chose the earliest opportunity which was this morning before school began.  I met with them to discuss theses 2 students for whom they are doing everything they know how to do (even some ideas we brainstormed earlier in the year), but who haven’t grown one reading level all year!!!  That is a concerning. They are concerned. I am concerned. The teachers had running records in hand, ready to show me. We analyzed them together. We brainstormed. We created a plan of action. While nothing about the children really changed with this one meeting, the path is open before us.  We were a team. We are thinking together about students. We are making inroads into coaching. I was celebrating in my heart! I still am.

Today, the sun is shining brightly on the way before me.  There is hope for me, for them, and for our children.

A Recipe for Spring

Standard

I used “Recipe for Writing a Spring Poem,” by Georgia Heard from Falling Down the Page as a mentor poem.

 

One teaspoon gentle breezes,

One tablespoon golden sunshine,

A pinch of Old North Wind.

 

One teaspoon chirping robins,

One tablespoon crocus blooming,

One dash of snowy flurries.

 

One teaspoon cloudless skies,

One tablespoon longer days,

One splash of April showers.

 

One cup childhood laughter,

One pint smiling faces,

One gallon of May flowers.

 

Oh, yes, a recipe for Spring!

 

©B. Donaldson, 2018. All rights reserved

I’m a Millennial Now?

Standard

In January, I attended an online meeting with an educational group.  It is a big organization with 3 or 4 “President’s Meetings” each year.  My job is to “attend” and take notes.  Easy, right?  This would have been my second ever meetings with them.  The Fall meeting went well, no glitches, so I wasn’t expecting anything less.  However, at this January meeting, after successfully logging in to the ZOOM meeting, I could not hear for about ½ the meeting. You heard me, half the meeting! After many questions typed through the ZOOM site, I finally suggested that they check their mute button.  It was on! Frustration!

Tonight, I was supposed to be attending another ZOOM meeting online with the same educational group.  “Oh, this will be awesome,” I foolishly thought, thinking all the muting issues were cleared up. “I won’t have to spend two hours driving. I’ll relax at home, and, ha, ha, if the meeting is slow, I’ll freeze my video, listen, and work on something else.”  (I have a second screen so I can work on one screen and look at a second screen on my laptop.)  Well, my best laid plans did not go as I expected…

I should have known something was up when TODAY I had to email the organizer to ask about the ZOOM address.  It had not been sent yet. Why wasn’t I suspicious that this wasn’t well organized?  The e-invitation did arrive about 5:30. Not much time to spare, but, oh well, it’s here.  So, at about 6:00 PM, I clicked on the link.  It opened, but spent considerable time spinning its wheel…launching…launching…launching, or, rather NOT launching. Ugh!  Nothing.

More emails to the organizer.  I tried the phone-in number for the audio meeting.  “Your ZOOM meeting has not started yet,” the recorded message informed me. Yes, it has!  It’s past 6:00.   “Please try again later.,” the calm robotic voice continued.  Not again!  More emails…no responses.  I give up!               

My son walked into the kitchen without a care in the world.  “I can’t believe it. Everytime I have to work with any educational organization and technology, it is a disaster,” I stormed. “They’re always so far behind the times.  I hate it!”

“You’re sounding more like a millennial everyday,” he answered with a grin.   

The First Bike Ride of the Season

Standard

Yesterday, the day, fresh and warm and gorgeous, beckoned me,  “Come play!”

I answered.  My bike, with flattened tires and dusty body, sat stoically behind winter storage-the wicker chairs and pillows, the planter, the shovel, and an assortment of other items.  Ugh!

Determinedly, wiggling this item, moving that item, scooching the other thing, I managed to roll out my royal blue Peugeot.  It’s like an old friend; we know one other well The seat is comfy; the handlebars are adjusted just right; and the frame is perfect for 5’3” me.  I wonder where that pump could be? Usually, my husband and I ride over the rolling hills along the bike trail to a lakeside deli that overlooks a marina together, but today, my husband is working.  I think I can do this by myself this time.  After wasting a good bit of time looking for the elusive pump, I decided to call my husband’s work.

“Do you know where the pump is?” I asked.

“Are you going on a bike ride?” he answered, somewhat disappointedly.  I knew he wished he was free to ride along.

“I know I’m out of shape so I thought I would just go on a little ride. Maybe 20 minutes or so.  Do you think it will be OK? Both the tires are flat, though,” I added. The last time I rode by myself, I got a flat tire and had to be rescued by the sag wagon.  The bike dealer had repaired the rim, noticing that there had been little metal shards that sliced the tire.

“I think if you go 20 minutes without any problems, you should be ok.  The pump is over to the left of the garbage cans. Have fun!” he added wistfully.

The yellow pump was shortly attached to my tires.  Pushing down easily and quickly at first, it became harder and harder until, at last,  I was using my entire body weight to force the air in. Reaching out with my right hand, I squeezed each tire hard.  Neither was mushy or soft. I’m good to go!  Quickly, I detached the pump and put it away.

Just to be sure I didn’t overdo my very first ride after a long winter’s biking hiatus, I set the stopwatch on my iPhone for 24 minutes.  Twenty-four minutes out, turn around, and come back home.. The return trip for me is traditionally a bit longer.  Max time about 45 or 50 minutes.  Just get my legs warmed up for the season.  

Click! My chin strap latched as I put on my helmet.  On slipped my gloves, first the left and then the right..  Right foot on right petal. I’m off.  Looking both ways, I navigate out the driveway onto the suburban road in front of our house.

The saying, “It’s like riding a bike,”  is so true. My bike and I start to fly along in perfect harmony, just as if my bike hadn’t been waiting patiently all winter long for me to come play.  The unseasonably warm day, 55 degrees to be exact, brought more than just me out. I think every two-legged creature alive was out walking, and many with their four-pawed friends. Couples with pouchies.  Moms with strollers. Parents with children. Joggers. Bikers. Scooterers.  Is that a word?  Oh, I don’t care.  The air was fresh and clean and it breathed new life into my winter-weary soul.  As I slowed to cross one road after another, I noticed I didn’t even have to stop.  No one was driving their cars! All werel out, like me, soaking up this seasonal medicine.

My alarm, annoyingly, started to ring, reminding me that I must turn around.  Seeing a little turn-around spot along the bike trail, about halfway down the hill  I”d been zooming down, I slowed my bike and sharply turned the handles. Time to head for home. 

The return trip was full of delights. Two cardinals-one a brownish female with just a hint of red and the other a male wearing his scarlet robes twittered a merry hello as I glided by.  Then, a pond slipped by, complete with a goose and her goslings swimming in an orderly line…like children following a teacher. Rabbits hopped from bush to bush; squirrels scampered here and there.  All were out-human and creature alike.

I slowed as I spotted a familiar gray house with its red door and inviting forsythia wreath..  Carefully, I steered into the driveway and came to a gently stop. Reaching behind me, I unzipped the pouch in my neon yellow windbreaker where my iPhone was ticking off the minutes.  I checked it. Twenty-eight minutes return trip. That figures!   A little pride puffs up inside me, I know pride goes before a fall, but I am happy with my accomplishment- this little goal for the day.  I can’t wait for the second ride of the season!

 

“God is in His Heaven…”

Standard

Bang! The car door slammed behind me. Turning, my feet stepped from the back parking lot into  the alleyway beside church; I headed toward the front door. The sun shone brightly on my face, warming it.  A smile, the kind with little upturned ends, spread across my face. It feels so good. The breeze, an early-spring kind of warm, played with my wavy, brown hair and tickled my skin.  It feels so good.  

Chirp! Chirp!  Could that be a robin?  Where is it? I asked myself, looking up, down, left, and right.  Where is it?  My little feathered friend was shy and chose to remain out of sight.  

I need to hurry.  I”ll be late. I willed my feet to hurry along.  Then, music and joy and God’s people praising Him.  How great to be alive!  

I ran up the concrete stairs, reached out my hand, grasped the door knob, pulled it open, and entered.  “God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world,”  I quoted to myself.