Thursday, January 28, 2010

The House of Sky

Just started a novel by Ivan Doig, Montanan, called This House of Sky. The writing makes the memories of my time there more vivid and real, instead of like a dream from which I have awakened abruptly in the cold of morning, and much as I try cannot go back to sleep to continue the bliss of the dreamstate.

End of Chapter One: "I have become six years old, my mother's llife drained out at 31 years. And in the first gray daylight, dully heading our horses around from that cabin of the past, my father and I rein away toward all that would come next."

I am making plans now to pack my horses and trailer to head out to New Mexico or northern Michigan even, and ride. Soon as the weather breaks and one can see past wind whipped snow tornadoes and sub zero temperatures that make my hands burn in the barn as I break the ice off the backs of my horses. They burn from frostbite, a day skipping school by jumping a city bus I saw pull up in a snowstorm out the classroom window. I just grabbed my stuff and ran out the door without so much as a word. I'd never done that before. And certainly did not think about how I was going to get home after I got downtown to the counter of the five and dime, eating a piece of cherry pie in the warm and feeling smart. Had to walk home in shoes not made for blizzards and far distances and no gloves. Now I cannot go into the cold without feeling like I've stuck my hands and feet into the blue blaze of a fire. It's a pain you cannot overrule with the mind. The kind that doubles you over with your hands clasped between your knees and face contorted into a "careful or you'll face will freeze" grimace.

I miss the not so distant days of summer riding out over the plains complaining "it's too hot!"

You always want what you don't got.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Little dog,
I have always mistyped "dog" and typed "god" first and then have to reverse it. ONLY word I have ever done that with.
 Just did it again. Not sure what's with that but it's consistent enough to notice.

Little dog,
I miss you when I'm eating a toasty cheese and egg sandwich on dry oat bread.
I don't like the crust and you love it so I bend over to hand it to you and you're
Not there.

I forget sometimes.

Little dog,
I miss seein your face in the bay window
When I'd drive up in the truck,
I could see your whole body wagging
You dog talking, not barking
     cause you knew
Nobody likes yappy
Little dogs.

Little dog,
I got your ashes
And opened the cheap metal lid
like a small old time potato chip can.
 There's just small pieces of you,
bone and ash,
in a platic baggy
with a twist tie.

I shouldn't have opened that box.

You're not in there. Not even your spirit.
But I will return you to the garden
And you can play with Duchess and Venice,
my other two dogs.
They're BIG dogs.

You're just a Little Dog,
Resembling a stuffed toy at times.
But tough.

Rippin coons down off trees or cornering them under the deck
making  me crawl under there as backup
and then getting even more brave..
And you always won, you tough little shit.
But you worried me with your Big Dog attitude.

You're a bit like me I guess.

Yeah, I surely do miss you,
Little Dog.

I put plants on the windowsill along with your tin.

Forever, Little Dog is a very long time.

From the person who loved you most.

Parents Teaching Children

Our local paper, The Kalamazoo Gazette, started a new column that will run every Tuesday. It's geared for parents to learn how to teach their children. So, of course, I hammered this out, first draft, and emailed it to the editor of the column.

Parents: Children's First and Forever Teacher

As a teacher and teacher-educator for 30 plus years from elementary to university and from South Jr. High and Vine Alternative To Western Michigan University here in Kalamazoo to an International Boarding school in London, I've learned a bit about kids and learning.

Those who teach do know, a little, and moreso, love to learn. Therein lies the key.

What do your children love doing? What are they best at doing? What excites them? Progressing from those interests and passions, you can teach them any subject matter. Knowledge is interrelated not compartmentalized.

Say, for example, they like playing soccer. Naturally you can provide them with magazines and books about soccer and soccer players or find articles online about teams, history, individual players, interactive computer games, and more. Talk with them about what they read and what interests them. Make a specified time for the WHOLE family to read TOGETHER once or twice a week at a minimum, for a half an hour without interruption.Turn off the computer, cell phone and T.V. Kids mirror what they see. Do you, as a parent, read? Do you read with and TO your children? Do you discuss what's going to happen next or what they like or dislike about a certain book or article or magazine or newspaper? Doing so helps them learn to predict outcomes, a key characteristic of "good readers".

Each of you can share a paragraph from what you read as an example of what you like or do not like about what you read and why. This can lead to all kinds of other discussions about varying subject matters. The world is an interesting place and anything that has ever been thought has been written about, in more ways than one. Talk about point of view. Children's books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, told by A. Wolf, is a great way to introduce POV and how perspective affects actions and thoughts.

Play games. Have your children find misspelled words in environmental print. Lunch or dinner special boards or store marquees are an easy place to begin. Quik Mart? Quiche? Children first learn through what they see out in the world. A two year old can pick out a MacDonald's sign from all the rest IMMEDIATELY and without hesitation.

While you're driving, ask the kids to look for misspelled words instead of hitting each other in the back seat. Misspellings are everywhere. I once saw a sign at an elementary school here in town (I won't mention which one) which stated: "Enrolling new kindergardners now!" I stopped and left the principal a note. Who would want to send their child to a school who misspells the word kindergarten? I attended that school and was frankly appalled. And the principal is your PAL and would want to know.

This in turn brings up another fun way to learn to remember how words are spelled. Mnemonic aids. This is simply a fancy way of saying finding ways to help you remember something by using something else to trigger one's memory. ARITHMETIC. Acronymn for A Rat In The House Might Eat The Ice Cream. Or stationEry which is a letter that goes in an Envelope, spelled with an e, not an a, as in stationAry meaning "fixed" or "not moving". Or a most commonly misspelled word, de-FINITE-ly. Finite is the root word and the word is NOT spelled de-finate-ly, which is how the majority want to spell it.

Discuss what a root word is and then tackle prefixes and suffixes. It all makes sense after awhile, even when spelling English, which by the way is NOT a phonetic language, but one which is a combination of many languages. Otherwise, phonics would be spelled "fonix". Talk with your children about how weird words are and how they are NOT spelled the way they sound. Make it a game.

Have them pick words from a dictionary, if Mom or Dad are good spellers, and see if they can stump you. Have a family spelling bee. Just have fun with it. Remember when you had fun learning? It's still possible. Make it a contest. Whoever comes up with the most examples of misspelled words kept on a list with place, location and corrected spelling over a week's time, wins. Everybody likes a prize, including Mom and Dad.

Observe HOW your children learn best. Do they learn best by watching or doing? Do they like to touch things? Are they constantly active? If so, their learning style is tactile/kinesthetic True of many of us. Do they like you to SHOW them first? Visual learner. Also true of many of us. Do they like listening and learn best that way? Auditory. Weakest category of learning styles with the least percentage, yet we sit our children down and say "Listen to me!" and we sit them at desks all day while we "talk and teach". Not a great plan. Play the telephone game and see how acute the auditory skills of adults are, much less children.

Knowing how your child learns best is a good place to begin. Just knowing your child and spending time with them is the real foundation of teaching them you care about them and that you value and enjoy learning with and also through them. And don't think they can't teach YOU something. I sometimes learn more from 3 year olds than I do many adults. "Out of the mouths of babes...", as has been said.

Play. Grow.Teach. Explore. Learn. But most of all, have fun with your children. They will be adolescents and adults all too soon, but they will never forget the times you spent together as parent and child.

Virginia S. Little, Ph.D. Learning and Change in Human Systems


I've been reading a great book called Half Broke Horses. I cannot wait to start a new journey. As is said, "When a window closes, a door opens." I reckon sometimes you gotta give it a kick to get it open but I can do that. I will ride across Michigan up north again this year. I long for those days when there were few cars and lots of well worn horse trails from town to town, a day's ride between each. I look for the sun each day and when it appears, I get in my truck and head for the stable and jump on my horse and head for the woods. I missed the trees out west and the water. I'll never forget being stuck in a bog on my horse. Scariest thing ever. Horse just sunk into muck and mire that looked like firm ground. She began to struggle and almost went over on her side which would have perhaps been the end of things. I hung on, bareback. I talked quietly to her. "Easy girl, easy." My heart was coming out of my chest. I know she feels this so I take a purposeful deep breath. She powered up and out. I could see the whites of her eyes but my urging and insistence that I not panic so she would not brought us both out. Her name is Grace and there's a reason for that I believe. We were Graced that day. There's something to be said for surviving the unexpected pitfalls and bogs in this world that try to suck you under. Makes the world's colors so much brighter and the feeling of being alive so acute.

So on I go. I hope to ride the Kit Carson National Forest this season too. There are still places where horses and riders are the only ones out there, besides the song of the coyote and the sight of elk grazing in the wide open expanses.

And oh, how I long for the easy stride of my horse and the gallop on the wind of the plains.

Spring will come.

I'm ready for NEXT!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Funerals and Weddings

Well, seems funerals and weddings are the time for gathering with friends and family members. Cry, eat, drink, laugh some, share a lot of stories. The greyness continues. Have only seen the sun twice all winter. Once was yesterday and as soon as it came out, I went to the stable and rode my horse, Grace, for the first time since November. Deer running in herds. Never seen quite so many.

Lost my little dog of 12 and a half years last week. Very hard still. Keep looking round for her and no one to bring leftovers home to so I am eating more, or less. Run our last moments through my mind a lot inadvertently and then my eyes well with tears until I tell myself to stop. Sometimes I can. Sometimes not. Live alone. Quiet sort of echo here and lack of a cute little face and voice talking to me when I come home. Keep telling myself I'm not going to rescue another dog. Hard not to go right now and get one.

Been to four funerals in the last month.Three very close friends and one family friend. Don't think I want one now. Toss my ashes off the mountain. Say goodbye. Done.

Better yet, be with me now, in heart if not proximity.

Life is a blessing. I am glad I am not Haitian. What an unfathomable horror. As many lost as live in my whole city. the children, oh God, the children....who live...much less who died.

Happy, happy post. Oh yeah.

Certainly single again too. But that's ok. Less drama. Less hurt. Less to worry about. No more lies. Good. Next?

Moving forward now. Spring will come.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Oh me oh my oh..

Aye, yes, been a long time since I blogged. Cold winter here in Michigan. Very little sun and lots of grey. Lots of elders passing. There's a time for everything. Winter is good for reflection, watching films, reading books, lighting fires, cleaning closets, visiting with old friends, drinking too much on occasion, but not often. Who needs hangovers afterall? The film The Hangover makes me feel like an amateur. Cooked boiled dinner last night: corned beef, cabbage, pearl onions, little red potatoes. Shared plates with 3 other people already today. Can't cook for one. Been workin on editing a dissertation and so glad I'm out of academia. Good read, mainly because it's a work of love and music and by a virtual friend, so a work of heart. Passes time and one learns something when broadening one's views through another's work and words.

So there you go.

The sun made an appearance today so though it's only 22 degrees F. outside, I feel like getting out a bikini.
Would ride my horses if I weren't afraid of them slippin on the ice. Miss my horses, a LOT, A LOT.
Maybe tomorrow.
Naptime now. mmmmmmm....