Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday, February 13: Reflections

It's about 6:30 on The Day of The Big Blizzard--school was called off Sunday afternoon, so Andy and I have been happily busy on various things all day. It is/was a whopper of a storm: we had at least a foot around noon, and it snowed hard all afternoon, though it has eased up now. I'm delighted I have a snow blower operator in house.

I mostly want to reflect on the Postcard Potluck that we hosted on Saturday night. I've thought a lot about it, and a lot of people have asked me about it, so I am going to seize the snow day chance to share my thoughts––and a picture of The Event Itself.

In some ways, it was a non-event: the "flurries" forecast turned into steady, fluffy snow on top of Thursday's offerings, rendering the driving buttery at best, so we got a steady stream of phone calls saying people had (wisely) decided to stay home. To our delight, however, five hardy souls made it, bringing an exciting variety of food (all of it delicious) and drink (ditto). We met each other, chatted about life, ate, then settled down to the actual work of the evening: writing postcards to our elected officials. By the time folk headed back to their respective houses around 7:15, the snow had stopped, Ellsworth's Winter Carnival Fireworks had lit up the sky, and we'd written forty-five specific, personalized, heartfelt postcards. *That* felt great. 

A lot of the people who couldn't make it or cancelled due to weather asked us to let them know when we rescheduled, so I've been thinking about what worked and what I'd change up, because I do feel like doing it again in a month or so (Mother Nature, I'm looking at you!). I read the Indivisible Guide in preparation for the evening, and it emphasizes sharing what we're all doing, so here goes: Lessons from a Preliminary Postcard Potluck. 

1. Just do it. We picked a date, Andy printed up little business cards with a summary of what we had planned, and we set about distributing them to various friends and colleagues. I posted on Facebook, eventually tagging people, especially ones I hadn't seen in person--and people thought it was great! My son boasted us up on Facebook (!!!) and several of his friends shared our post. Suddenly I felt like Pete Seeger or something. . . but it was really easy and quite mellow. With an activity as a center, it was actually less stressful than planning a dinner party! 

2. Ask for advice and input from people who've done it. One of my friends had been distributing postcards, addresses, and stamps, so I talked to her about what she recommended that we do. She reminded me about the one issue/card suggestion, and she helped me arrange to get suitable postcards printed at a local shop. She also told me that there are Forever stamps for postcards––a money-saving fact I did not know. I didn't manage to contact two other friends who had done similar events on MDI, but I bet they would've had helpful suggestions, too. 

3. Provide supplies. We set out postcards, address labels, and stamps. At the last minute I corralled a bundle of pens, and we had a good laugh about the quality of my teacher pens, but the moral of the story is that a nice gel pen makes writing a postcard that much easier! 

4. Provide name tags. Though we invited a cross-section of people and only a fraction of them came, we did have name tags and people wore them! It made it easier to know that Dawn was actually Dawn, not Donna, and alleviated the whole "I'm really sorry, but I forgot your name!" awkwardness. If we'd had a bigger group, I was planning to ask people to add a word saying how they knew us as an ice breaker, but with our group of seven, it wasn't necessary. 

5. Provide a list of potential talking points, organized by area of concern. I didn't do this, but I plan to do it in the future! In our small group, we featured scientists, a minister, three teachers, and two nurses, so we had a lot of specialized knowledge. Even so, we needed to talk about what to write about, and why. In a larger group, I think people might've felt shy about saying, "I'm pissed off, but I have no idea what to say or to whom!" A list of specifics––offered as suggestions, of course––would avoid that dry period. 

6. Take pictures! Ask first, especially if anyone might be vulnerable in any way, but if they say yes, take and share pictures! If they'd prefer not to have their faces recorded, an artsy shot of hands holding pens might be just the thing. Let other people know what you're doing––maybe you could even send a copy to your elected officials as your next postcard. 

7. Finally, again: just do it, having asked a variety of people in a variety of ways. The evening was heartening, fun, interesting, positive, communal, warm, and distracting. Moving from worrying to action was a huge relief, and hanging out with people I don't often hang out with (or had never hung out with!) was a great antidote to any winter's cabin fever, let alone 2017's. I felt a great surge of pride, similar to that I'd felt at the Women's March in Augusta, in "us." That sense of accomplishment and unity is there to be tapped when I see the pictures I took, when I see the people who came, when I think of the evening.  It's a far cry, and a nice change, from the lonely devastation of the past few months. 

I will probably come back and edit this a few times as new ideas pop into my head, but these are my insights so far. We are planning to do another evening, probably in March, but I'm also feeling a deep need to gather with people and to sing (church has been a great outlet for that lately). The Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" is my anthem lately, and I'm considering asking some friends of ours to help us organize a "sing out for justice, even if your voice shakes" evening soon. Coming together, especially with people whom I don't see often (or know very well, in fact), especially in the middle of winter in Maine, feels blessed, important, and completely contrary to the Trump agenda. Onwards.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February! 4th: Saturday late afternoon

After the busyness of last weekend, this weekend is the calm. My week was busy, as I have started with a course of chiropracter visits to address some issues in my midback, neck/shoulders, and feet, and I also went to our new dentist for the preliminary exam before my cleaning in a few weeks. A. was conference-bound for Thurs night and Friday, and then at his brother's on Friday night, so I had some solo time--last night featured a lateish arrival home post library and chiro, then a walk w/ Zeus and a run out for pizza. . . Yay!

This afternoon I sewed for the first time in a long time, and it was a pleasure, even though (partly because?) I had to figure out a new sewing machine as my beloved PFaff has headed down to Lyle for a few months. He has "sewn out" the basic one we bought this summer, and I have less time/drive to sew than he does, so we're switching it up for a bit. We have a forgotten one here, and I just managed to get it to make two buttonholes and sew some basic pocket seams on some pj pants I cut out in August. They are long but cotton ones, so if I finish them by, say, May, that will be great! Last night, I finished the Caret and Chevron socks from the pattern I downloaded long ago from Interweave Knits , so I have a chance to decide on another portable project. . .  should be booties, really--I am a few pairs behind!

It was fun to move away from the crazy of the internet and sew for a bit as the sun moved through the snowy winter trees and the sky and clouds shifted. I finished listening to The Turner House, by ??? Flournoy, which was interesting overall, and, in general, it was a nice, mellow, creative weekend. I even resisted the urge to go to Marden's to get more blue batiks for a second table runner! I am hoping to "sew down" my project pile for a bit first.. . .especially since my sewing machine is on lend!

The socks--eyed by the dog. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday, Jan. 28: Ends and Beginnings

A quiet Saturday morning in late January chez Leamon/Stephenson. . . . I realized this morning that N. has been in Nantes for less than a month, though it feels like he's a native! He's happy, busy, learning, and also planning for his six week Moscow City Theater experience in May/June right after. Amazing.

I am ending one semester and beginning another: despite the day off we're allotted (and that's a rare gift in public schools that switch semesters!), it's a stressful time, but also a time of reflection and consideration: what did students learn? What skills can they show? How can I tweak my approach next term? How can I keep contact with students who need it as my responsibilities change?

This year, the personal questions are even deeper and more pressing. How can I protest most effectively? How can I resist the hate-filled, ignorant actions and speech pouring from the White House? How can I insure that, no matter what the outcome, I can feel that I have done my best to stand up for what is right, what is ethical, what is compassionate?

Well, last Saturday I marched in Augusta, which was an amazing, restorative, and empowering experience. Over 5000 other people were there, plus neutral estimates of over 1million marchers in DC alone. Nate marched in Nantes--he's the tall guy w/ a blue hat on the left in the picture. I met up with Mom in the crowd in Augusta. My brother marched with his daughter. My sister went to DC. Julie and her daughter did too.

My mama, Anita, and me, representing! 

Becky squared. . . .
And here's the pic. from Nate's article:
He's the tall guy in the blue hat in the middle left.
So there is much good and much to worry about. I am deeply disappointed in the lack of commentary by my elected officials about the actions taken by our president. Yup, I can't say he's "not my president," because, de facto, he is. So we need to be responsive and outspoken. I've been, but Collins? Not so much.

Deep breath, though, and onwards. Into February. Into the light. Towards a world where people are alert to the importance of actions and words.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday, Jan. 8: Cold!

It's been a quiet, routine weekend, but, once again, it's zoomed by! Yesterday was steely grey, cold, and still, feeling like it was desperate to snow all day. The snow did start around 7 pm, and we got about 4 fluffy inches, then today was clear, cold, and sunny. Tonight is due to be brutally cold.  We filled the bird feeders as a sign of solidarity, I guess. . . . Wow. So lucky to have a warm, roomy, comfortable house and lots of good food.

So: I have
*packed up the three watches and one lap counter that need new batteries;
*written to Senator Collins (ahem);
*gotten Officially Started on my Cafe Bastille cable pullover;
*watched a movie (!!!): "Begin Again," which I enjoyed;
*had two good workouts;
*made two interesting bread experiments;
*gone to church;
*talked to Julie for over an hour on Saturday;
*read various things;
*finished writing and editing a professional article. . . .

Not so bad.

More to do, but that felt good.

A five day week ahead! Both of my sons are in their places: N. in Nantes after a weekend in Tours, and L. back in Portland, ready to start back at his building job (brrrrrrr) after a week of vacation in NYC. Onwards!

Closing with a view of my present from N!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Friday, Jan. 6: Friday, Friday, Friday!

A. and I are settling into our empty nesting phase: N. is in Nantes with his host family and his Euros, getting his life arranged for a stretch; L. has taken a week off and is in NYC visiting friends but still communicado and very happy; school has restarted w/ a busy four-day week featuring a hair cut, an eye dr's app't (my eye is fine, despite the Weiss dot, etc.), and the general malaise and flatness of coming back to school. That will fade as we all reconnect, get motivated, and move on, but I am still ecstatic that it's FRIDAY!

*Great yoga class yesterday, AND I was given a massage certificate by a Secret Santa !!!!

Goals for the weekend:
*potting another amaryllis, this one for school
*knitting on my sweater and watching a movie.
*thank you/holiday notes.
*church--trying to get back into that mode.

Some pics. . . . because. . . .

Sparkly toes from stocking polish! 

Nate's magnum opus, stage one complete!


New Year's Eve: penne a la vodka

A rare sight.. . . 2017 detente? 

So. . . Matt's no Knead Artisanal bread is rising, I have some laundry to do and Christmas boxes to put down stairs, a run and a shower, and then. . .KNITTIN' TO START! Yikers! 

N is settled in Nantes, and now off to Tours for a weekend group bonding activity. Into January!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday, Dec. 17: Snowy Saturday, Boy Home. . . .

Deep, calming breath, with happiness lying under it. Saturday morning, following a short (we had a SNOW DAY ON MONDAY! WHAT BLESSING!) but super-busy week: Tuesday: three stop errands to get all the bits and pieces for various ornament swaps, Secret Angels or Santas, etc; Wednesday: dr's appt/checkup; Thursday: picking up the euros I ordered for Nate on top of the usual homework club/yoga + making bread and salad for Bo's gathering on Friday; Friday: dropping off the car for four new tires and a headlight (yes, I was driving a deathtrap around), getting a ride into school, meeting to discuss next year's plans, Readers & Writers Group meeting 2:30 - 3:30, 4:30 ride to Bo's, lovely time and dinner there, then ride to Harmon's to get my car (I feel so safe on the road now! It's like driving a tank!) at 7:45, and home by 8!!!!!

*But. . . . . I finished my grad class work for this 3rd class on Monday (that was a focused and intense snow day, but so so nice to have!), so I have a relatively empty weekend upcoming, and one that sort of snuck up on me! Nate just got home last night late late in an effort to avoid the snow that we are having even as I type, and he is asleep up stairs with his belongings scattered all around the house, but safe and sound.

I may make sugar buns to welcome him home (for elevenses, as I think he probably got into bed around 3 am or so); I hope to finish my "Regular Guy Beanie 2.0" in lovely blue Malabrigo today and then make Lyle a knitted pincushion, maybe while finishing listening to The Secret Garden. I could/should also go for a run and finish up the Ridgefield Christmas box so I can mail that off Monday. And we are renting a big rug shampooer to do the living carpet because either Zeus or the cats left many suspicious wet spots after our weekend away. So there are items on the to do list.

BUT: I don't have a lot that I have to do that I don't want to do.

What a blessing!

And I am sitting with my strong coffee by the propane fireplace listening to my favorite Kate Rusby sing in her lovely Yorkshire accent on Sweet Bells (go buy it for yourself and brighten your December!) and things are good. Outside, it's been record-settingly cold, the dark is rising on many levels, and social discourse seems awry; nonetheless, it's important to strengthen our hearts and souls to provide the light, hope and strength we need to move forward.

Edited to. . . shift this post from my (mind-bogglingly boring) grad class blog (not even posting a link) to this one. And to add some pics:

View from my comfy chair to the patio!

My current love. . . . on 5th attempt to get it right!

Katniss awaits the magic warmth machine

So symbolic it makes my eyes water. . .

So there are some thoughts and images for a still snowy Saturday that is still filled with free space and potential!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Oct. 23: Well hello!

Busy year, even as it is different from the past. . . . Good year, but also a demanding one, especially in contrast to my darn-near-heavenly summer.

Sooooooo: am taking a Using Technology to Enhance PBE class as class #3 in my Profiency-Based Education graduate certificate. That has meant a lot of on-line time with a central purpose, so I have not shared here a lot.

I hope to get back to this, and also find a midpoint for my time demands. My yoga teacher has talked about the change of seasons and how that switch tends to make us ungrounded, and I guess I'd echo that heartily right now.

Ungrounded. Oh yeah.

But this is good news. We can watch The Durrells on Corfu. . . . on our own time!