Monday, March 30, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
with the purple carpet
It's the room that Julie and I share, but the other girls spend a good deal of time in it as well--lying on the beds, sitting in the rocking chair or sprawled across the floor. Often we talk. Sometimes we convene our literature club and read books and eat chocolate together. And sometimes we each just do our own thing...together.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Last year, in anticipation of remembering Jesus' death and celebrating His resurrection, I created this three-dimensional interpretation of the reason Jesus suffered and died on the cross. It was intended to be interactive art, so that viewers contributed and add significance to the piece.
Strips of paper are wound around the paper mache hand that is nailed to the wooden beam. The papers contain handwritten and printed words representing sins--lying, cheating on a test, adultery, rebellion, gluttony--along with names of individual sinners--Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Amy Cook.
It was our sins--the sins of each and every one of us whether we acknowledge and accept his atonement or not--that Jesus bodily bore on the cross. Last year I offered family members and friends the opportunity to write their sins on a piece of paper and paste it on the paper mache arm.
This year the piece is displayed on our piano in our livingroom, along with three small wooden crosses, an empty tomb constructed of black paper and a crown of thorns. If you are in the area are interested in particiating in interactive art and would like to write your sins on a slip of paper to paste on the paper mache arm, please stop by our house.
Even if you can't participate in-person, you can participate in spirit. Take a moment to mentally write your sins on a slip of paper and "paste" them on the paper mache arm. Then thank the Lord Jesus Christ for the incomprehensible price that He paid two thousand years ago to secure your redemption.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Last Monday, Dad, Brian and Logan, with the help of the loader tractor, transplanted eight blueberries plants. The bushes were overgrown at the end of one row, making it difficult to mow between the rows. So the owner told us we could have those bushes.
The plants can only be moved when they are dormant, and since we didn't complete the task last fall, we had to wait until the ground thawed this spring. Unfortunately when the ground thaws it becomes squishy and the boys had a challenge to remove the bushes without getting the tractor stuck.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
At the time it wasn't funny.
But now it is ironically amusing.
It happened in eighth grade math class as we reviewed probability in preparation for the quiz the next day. I have a student that I try to imagine as a missionary to cannibals in Africa. Maybe he can impress them with his belching ability and thus avoid the soup pot. Maybe he can distract a tribe of vicious Papua New Guinea headhunters with the clown-walk that he so carefully practiced in math class or maybe he can teach the children in a Colombian village how to fold paper airplanes. In my less charitable moments I just wish the principal would just hurry up and suspend him again.
As we reviewed the difference between experimental and theoretical probability he was his usual rude, distracting self. This time he had added a new line to his repertoire, and I have to give him credit for creativity and timing.
He'd obviously been to church recently for a Lenten service and retained at least part of the liturgy. I sent him to sit in the hall after his usual barrage of distracting comments. As I escorted him from the room he announced to the rest of the class, "The love of Christ compels me."
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Story and photos from March 18, 2006
The wind whipped a strand of hair across my forehead as I braced my feet against the running board and clenched the fender with my fists. Still my body swayed as the tractor bounced down the rutted lane. After slamming into the metal seat several times, I made a mental note to check my knees for bruises in a couple of days. It was sugaring season when the warm days and cool nights send the sap running up the maple trees. My younger brother, driving our Ford Jubilee tractor, and I, clinging to the fender, were running the tap line. He brought along two empty five gallon pails nestled in the pallet on the back of the tractor and I brought along my camera hanging around my neck.
We climbed the sand rise near the first clump of trees that we call "the back," just as the streaking colors of the sunset touched the cornstalk stubble in our neighbor's field. Undisturbed by the tractor and two humans, twenty or so deer grazed in our alfalfa field a few hundred yards away. My brother steered the tractor to the right and we headed to a clump of trees in our neighbor's field. As we neared the trees I spotted splashes of color against the gray-brown bark of the trees. Red, yellow and white buckets hung from taps, catching the drip, drip, drip of sap. My brother pointed out a huge, fallen tree as we passed, a casualty of a recent ice storm perhaps. Bringing the tractor to a stop, my brother hopped from the tractor and I followed. He grabbed an empty five-gallon bucket and I turned on my camera.
Stomping through the swampy ground, my brother approached each maple tree. He unhooked buckets from the taps and dumped the sap into his five-gallon bucket. Then he repositioned the smaller bucket on the tree and moved to the next tree. As he worked the sun san further in the west, turning the tree trunks into silhouettes against the streaked sky. I pulled up my hood and snapped it under my chin as the wind blew across the open field nearby. My fingers began to grow numb and I shoved first one gloved hand and then the other into the pockets of my down jacket. After half an hour one five gallon bucket was full and all the buckets in the neighbor's clump of trees had been emptied. My brother and I climbed onto the tractor. I tucked my wool skirt around my legs and we set out across the half-frozen, half-mushy field.
I squinted in the dusky light to see the blobs of darkness that represented the deer feasting in the field. We drove through the barn, filled to the roof with hay bales in the summer but now empty except a cushioning of loose hay on the dirt floor. My brother switched on the headlights and I asked him it it was to scare away the opossums--surely the most ugly animal in Michigan with their ferocious snarl and snakelike tail. But we only saw a rabbit as we passed out of the barn.
We bounced to the fencerow that marked the division on the east between another neighbor's land and ours. Against my brother emptied buckets into the large five gallon bucket. I experimented with shutter speeds and slow sync flash in the growing darkness. Then I climbed back on the tractor to wait for my brother. I caught the whiff of gasoline exhaust in the gust of wind, a smell that belongs with manure and diesel fuel. Suddenly my brother's jacket began ringing. He fished inside and answered the radio. Dinner was ready in the house. We had a few more buckets to empty. The last couple of trees were in the fencerow separated from the field by a small, but full, ditch of water. To empty the last buckets my brother backed the tractor up to the ditched and skinned across the tractor and pallet to the dry fencerow. "If you get wet," I told him, "I'm taking a picture." He made it across the makeshift bridge without mishap and we started back across the field toward the house. Every window in our farmhouse shone with light as we bounced down the lane again.
The kitchen steamed with evaporating sap and the smell of cornbread as I opened the door. I held the storm door as my brother hauled the five gallon buckets of sap inside. A vat of sap boiled on the stove and the table was set for dinner.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Miss Cook, I need to talk to you," she said.
"Okay, right now, or just sometime?" I asked, keeping an eye on the boys in the back row and imaging the chaos that could irrupt if I left the classroom at this point in the lesson.
"Just sometime," she said. "It could be at the end of the class."
A few minutes later when I had passed out a problem and given instructions on determining the probability of independent and dependent events, I asked my student to step into the hall for our talk.
"I wanted to say I'm sorry for the way I've been acting in class," she said. "I'm going to try to get my grade up and do better."
And that is one of the reasons I am a teacher.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
A frequent topic of conversation over lunch in the teacher's lounge is, "What I would do if I quit this gig."
The physical education teacher says she would go into construction and build houses. The science teacher would be a geologist and hunt rocks. The math teacher would race snowmobiles. Me, I would write and take pictures.
Friday I had one of those days, just like every teacher does, and I came home and cried. The principal asked for information that was on the sticky notes that I threw out the day before. Two paper airplanes equaled two detentions and two angry students. Then there was the feedback that was easiest to interpret as a personal failure instead of a component to ensure future success. It was one of those days when I thought about what I would do if I quit this gig.
But my fantasy will become my reality. I will quit this gig. In five weeks I will be done and I will take pictures (Canon assures me that my camera will be homeward bound in a week or so) and I will write...at least for the summer.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Disclaimer: This photo is for illustrative purposes only
and does not portray actual ACT testing.
...especially regarding the ACT.
Proctoring a standardized test isn't the most interesting job, but at least its better than taking the test. We just finished three days of testing. We--the Juniors and the teachers--are relieved that the ordeal is over.
It does have its perks, though. The Juniors were able to leave after the testing was complete on Tuesday and Thursday. In turn I received extra prep time since I teach two sections of 11th grade English.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I inherited my Grandma's movie camera spot light. It's a powerful light, with enough watts to blind any subject (as my mother, aunt and uncles can testify). I haven't experimented much with lighting for photographs beyond the built-in camera flash and natural light sources. The movie light provided me the opportunity to "play" with lighting.
While the old movie light might not be the best for portraits (and it makes me a little nervous when I smell it getting warm), it was in my price-range (free). So the other evening when I "needed" to take a photo, I dug the old light out of my closet, flicked the switch and aimed it at the white ceiling. Then I grabbed my camera and focused on my sisters who are immune enough to my craziness not to pay any attention to me.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Naomi is our birthday girl for the month of March. Because of various commitments on Sunday, we didn't have enough time to drive home from church and eat dinner. Our pastor and wife graciously allowed us to join them around the table in the parsonage. It was there that Naomi blew out the candles on her birthday cake.
Monday, March 9, 2009
The kid count is up to five bucks and one doe. Dora gave birth to male twins Saturday afternoon to the percussion of rain on the metal roof of the barn. Both bucks were healthy--weighing eight and nine pounds--and after being rubbed with towels and blown with a hair drier they were ready to nurse. Nina, the last mama to give birth, produced healthy twin males on Sunday morning.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
No camera. No picture.
Last week I took photos on January 1, 2000. At least that's the date my Canon Rebel XSi recorded. Last Saturday I had a conference with a Canon representative who concluded that the internal battery in camera is flukey. So I am in the process of kissing my camera good-bye, packing it in a box and entrusting the US Postal Service to convey it to the camera hospital in Virginia. I already miss it.
I still have my trusty Konica Minolta, which will have to do until the Rebel returns. My motivation in packing up the Rebel and shipping it out is the hopes that it will return before I finish student teaching. Once I have a little free time I plan to go on a photo rampage and I want to have the Rebel to use.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Kidding season has begun. Brian discovered the first kid of the season when he checked on his animals on Wednesday. After giving birth outside the goat mama neglected to clean the buck kid or nurse him.
Brian and Libby immediately tried to warm the little guy and then get him to drink milk. Then they moved the mama and kid into the pens Brian constructed in one of the bays in the barn.
Brian herded the other expectant mamas into the other two maternity pens to avoid any more outdoor births.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
"What are some ways of dealing with stress?" the speaker asked the roomful of student teachers at a seminar earlier this year. The girl sitting next to me suggested eating and shopping.
Those weren't responses to stress that the speaker recommended. She suggested getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and finding a support system. There was no doubt in the speaker's mind that each and every one of us would experience stress no matter where we were placed or who we were working with or what we were teaching.
According to Competency 22 in the Office of Clinical Experiences' Professional Behavior Assessment, associate teachers will demonstrate emotional maturity by handling frustration appropriately.
I am handling frustration appropriately by writing about my frustration. I did not yell at my students. I did not take them by the shoulders and shake them (which I couldn't do anyway since nearly all of them are bigger than me). I did not call them names. I did not even clench my teeth (at least not too much). And I certainly didn't binge on cheesecake or head to the mall (When I'm upset I lose my appetite; I hate shopping).
I am handling frustration appropriately by asking the Lord to give me the grace I need to demonstrate Christ's love even when my students are disrespectful, rude and uncooperative. I am handling frustration appropriately by seeking to see my students as individuals with potential, not merely as self-center adolescents who are "wasting" my time and stealing the attention that I could give to other students. I am handling frustration appropriately by recognizing that the real goal is bigger than students passing a quiz on the counting principle and permutations.
Plough deep in me, great Lord,
that my being may be a tilled field,
the roots of grace spreading far and wide,
until thou art seen in me,
thy beauty golden like summer harvest,
thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.
"The Deeps" Valley of Vision