::abroad::

IMG_1934I was recently privileged to be in France for a week with 21 teenagers and 2 other adults. It was amazing to be in the company of young people traveling, some of whom had never been abroad or on an airplane before. It had been over twenty years since I had been to France, and that trip did not involve any time in Paris.
SONY DSCI came back considering a few things.
SONY DSCFirst, if you walk 22k steps in a day, it’s fine to eat as many pains au chocolat as you want. Also gelato.
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Second, as we traveled in the south, we were in rural areas where there was certainly poverty. It seems that poverty in France has been on the decline in the last 20 years. But I wondered, as we passed through rural villages and run-down farms, where they were keeping their rusted-out cars, old lawnmowers, piles of tires, trash and plastic garbage in front yards, and why there were no dilapidated homes with tarps on the roofs? SONY DSCI know what rural poverty looks like in Maine. Rural poverty looks very different in France and I would like to understand the cultural reason for that.
SONY DSCThird (ha!), there were so many examples of third places in France, both in the bustling metropolises and the small villages. Third places are defined as those which are not home and not work/school, yet are public and accessible to everyone. These are places of connection.
IMG_1985I have been thinking a lot about the role of third places in sustaining a healthy community, as I have been transforming the high school library where I work into a thriving third place for our students.
SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSquares, cafes, plazas, fountains, parks with blossoming orange trees, promenades, benches, seating designed to feel together or alone, these are all spaces that are designed for people to occupy. Mostly outside. Every day between 5-7pm there were groups and pairs, (sometimes singles), walking, sitting, chatting in these public spaces. No one appeared to be in a rush. Sometimes they were reading!
IMG_2285This is definitely not a concept in midcoast Maine, particularly the outside part. Sure we have fabulous hiking trails, beautiful coastline, some amazing parks and beaches and ponds. But are they designed to promote daily socializing and connection, on your way home from work? It felt extremely Mediterranean. And also very civilized.
IMG_2176Finally, the light was no joke. Oh blah blah, you’ve already heard about Paris the City of Light. But it was completely the truth and not just in Paris. It was amazing to capture a few fleeting moments, with the light painting everything. And shutters just mugging for the camera.
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SONY DSCI have a whole series of French children, with their scarves, charming coats, and Mary Jane shoes.
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I have many photos of beautiful windows, flowers, colors, peeling paint, and rusting latches.
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I have a significant number of photos of other tourists taking pictures, because I was annoyed when they were pushing me while we were inside Versailles, and finally decided to quietly protest by taking their portraits as they took photos and selfies (with selfie-sticks) and looked at their phones and posed for each other. It was a relief to enter the gardens, which were stunning. And no one pushed me.SONY DSCI could only imagine that the Sun King was appalled.
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motion boy redux

IMG_0919Baseball season: last year of Little League with team Lynx! We are so very very fortunate that Sylvan has been blessed with these incredible coaches who know the game, who understand 10-12 year-old boys, and who keep everything in the right perspective.
IMG_0921So much fun yesterday. It was truly a great game of baseball to watch! Excitement! Extra innings! We were down, then S. hit two in! And he ended the game by stealing home. Seriously! Does it get better? IMG_0930And also that it really was a team effort: lots of great plays and hits, so much support on the field and in the dugout. The opposition was tough and our boys worked hard.IMG_0931 IMG_0932 IMG_0933This boy. So at home on any ball field with any ball or sport or group at play. And yet here we are: Sunday night math homework. The focus is often everywhere and anywhere but here, now, on the paper in front of him. Excruciating. Frustrating. Exhausting. Sometimes there is swearing, yelling, loss of patience, tears. One time I gave him a clipboard and told him to not sit down but to pace around while he worked.IMG_0967This morning he sat down and wrote a creative short story for THREE HOURS. And it was good! Really good! That is some focus that a professional writer would envy.IMG_0969When I see the beauty that he is when he is meeting the moment, moving, playing, pursuing his writing, engaging with others, caring for small children, this is where he shines. It’s like the math hurts his soul. Yes, yes, it’s important to do hard things, push ourselves, work through it, etc. But I wish I could make it less painful.IMG_0940This 9 year-old MVP had a magnet in his glove for our balls yesterday. He was a tiny, coiled spring of energy, beaming with joy, and so fun to watch (even when he was getting us out!). One favorite moment of the day was when his catch ended an inning and he ran off the field and took a flying leap into his dad’s/coach’s arms from about 4 feet away. We all kind of fell in love with him.

just wow

SONY DSC SONY DSCThe fantastic work crew from Downeast Homes has been here siding the house for us and it looks amazing. The best day was coming home from work and it was… done! And now I have finally peeled off the LAST OF THE WINDOW STICKERS. And washed the grime off the front door. And yesterday the resident border collie, Mr. Crafty, seeded and hayed the yard with help from the boys and a good friend and owner of Midcoast Site Development! SONY DSCWelcome to the house! The entryway has been finished, with marmoleum on the floor, a natural cork product, also by Mr. Crafty.

SONY DSC The bedroom-level bathroom was Mr. Crafty’s design coup, thinking about a multi-functional space for multiple people all leaving the house at the same time. Right now, no one is using the tub/shower room but me…because there is only a tub there right now! So nobody’s wet towels or dirty clothes are part of my morning bathing experience. Just me, in the quiet darkness. SONY DSCAbove, you might not be able to see it, but I can turn on or off the spigots with my toes from the reclining position. This seems incredible. In our old house, the bathtub was ridiculous, one of those horrible plastic formed things that is about as much a bathtub as a February tomato is like an August one right out of your garden. Just the IDEA of a bathtub, not the real thing. This is the real thing.SONY DSCView from the bathtub out the back window.

{Oh, and you may notice I have given up on trying to make captions below my photos because WordPress makes it supremely annoying to do it how I want to do it.} SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCPictures of the bathroom vanity of our dreams, designed and constructed by Bench Dogs, locally owned by friends of ours. You may recognize those knobs. The beautiful stone counters came from Freshwater Stone (along with the other stone countertops), on their incredible sale day when all stone was discounted, and so all of our countertop stone was $5/sq.ft. And everything was finished by Bryan from Rockport Granite. So elegant and functional, this vanity—I am loving it, the functional simplicity and beauty of this part of the bathroom.

And you’ll notice I didn’t totally blogify these pictures, so you can see our real lives in the background. Like the occasional toothpaste, Goo Gone, or WD40 lurking there… SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCIt’s been September here for us: two teachers, two school-aged boys. Me at a new school and job. And it’s going great at my new job–I’m really liking the work, which is helping teachers integrate tech solutions in a meaningful way into their teaching, trouble-shooting, creative thinking, and working with people. Always always something new each day. Last week I spoke to 3/4 of the student body, gave a parent presentation, and a presentation to 22 teachers. That was a lot of me talking! This week only 1/4 of the student body, one small group student presentation, and another parent presentation. SONY DSC SONY DSCThese last ones are Sunday morning pictures. Pancakes, laundry, lovely light. And that back yard is now covered with grass seed and hay! SONY DSC SONY DSCSundays are Strategy days: meal-planning and shopping for the week, elaborate scheduling of who will take which children to their sports after school (Sylvan/Soccer, Jonas/Rowing), phone calls to various parents about ride-sharing, and also figuring out who will transport the cello to and from school for Sylvan on which days. And today, even with all of this, I got to hike with a friend on a gorgeous autumn day. So blessed.

~ugliest book cover 2014~

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PicCollageWell, it’s weeding season in the library. And already I think I have found our finalists of Ugliest Book Covers 2014! What you see above are some of the strong contenders. (see past winners here and here.)
SONY DSC Cold Whisper by Rick Hautala was an early pick, I mean, really: HOLOGRAM COVER! And at lower right, the cover for Altered States was an easy pick for me because I was pretty much traumatized by seeing the terrible 80s film featuring Christopher Walken at the tender age of about 7.
SONY DSCThese covers are what passed for graphic design, once upon a time. A person designed and pitched these covers to their design team…AND THEY WERE PICKED.

{Imagine for a moment the ones that were *not*.}

On to happier things, did you check out that lovely little face, above, peeking sweetly from my teacup? My matryoshka tea bobber, a belated gift from one dear friend. On her underside, there is a little tea strainer and she floats! Also, she coincidentally matches my favorite tea/coffee mug.

And here’s how it looks when your tea has sufficiently steeped and you have a nice spot to rest your drippy tea leaves:

SONY DSCWe have some big, creative news around here: purchasing a really sweet plot of land and building a new home. I didn’t expect to fall in love with a piece of land, but this one just felt right as soon as we saw it. It feels familiar somehow and features a little stream, a spring, and three old oak trees. 
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And then the design process: we are building a custom modular home to our own specifications. What I’d like: well-insulated and space efficient. It turns out that I’m really spatially challenged when it comes to house-visioning and drawing in 2D. {I can envision 2D to 3D when it comes to knitting patterns and I excel at finding the exact right leftovers container for the amount of food that needs to find a home.} It’s almost like I have an alarming lack of language to describe how I feel about something on the page. I can’t see it easily, I have to work hard to picture myself in the space, doing the things I would do, and painting the space around me. I can’t solve the problems of space and am easily overwhelmed and defeated.

Thankfully, this is one of Mr. Crafty’s strengths (score on the husband front yet again). He seems to delight in it, the process, the modifications, the challenge. He says it’s helpful because I am really good at articulating what we actually use spaces for in our family. I think he’s just saying that to make me feel better for grunting and drooling, getting frustrated, discouraged, and irritable about not being able to do something. Our adventure is just beginning.
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~still life with zombie bud vase and gnome cookie cutter~

People ask me for book recommendations a lot and so I made this graphic  to visually represent some of my favorites; I’ll keep adding to it. In the center of the graphic are the ones that are truly superior, that have left their mark on me as a reader. The ones on the sides are also memorable, worthy of a recommendation, but not on the topmost shelf, so to speak.

And here, to terrify and shock and sear your retinas, dear readers, The Ugliest Book Cover of 2014:

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twinkling into the abyss

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(none of the photos in this post were taken by me. full credit goes to a team of photographers including Jonas, Ella, Ginny, and Chloe, who all used my camera)
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I don’t talk about my work too much here. Mostly because when I am writing it’s on the weekends and I’m surrounded by busy or quiet weekend things, family, friends. My title is librarian/media specialist and but I’m a little more like a Swiss Army knife, mixing books and web resources and tech help and teaching information skills and helping students develop organizational strategies. Mostly I help people do what they need to. Really it’s about relationships, day in and out, with these quirky 8th and 9h graders who are hilarious and ridiculous and smart and silly.

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My school is in a working class district. Approximately half of my students receive free or reduced lunch. Many students work. A lot of students have had really really crappy things happen in their lives, things and situations that are about poverty and the box it puts you in so that you don’t even know you’re in a box at all, let alone know you could get out. So I sometimes get in my car and cry on the way home, and I get mad and snarky, and when I listen to the Pledge each morning, after “…and liberty and justice for all,” I always always add (in my head) IF YOU’RE WHITE AND HAVE MONEY. Mostly we are white in this, the whitest county in the whitest state of America.

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But there’s always the one or two I want to save. Boys mostly. The lost ones who don’t smile because they are too tough already. And I twinkle at these boys with the full force of my desire to make them feel acknowledged. I greet them by name and I ask about their hunting trip or their lobster haul or their four-wheeler. And I don’t have to pretend to care, because I do, and I want to give them my full and complete attention and hear their story. Sometimes the twinkling is exhausting work because I am trying to fill a big hole.

Who hurt you once/ so far beyond repair/ that you would greet each overture/with curling lip? (Louise Penny)

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Today I made a boy laugh who rarely smiles. And I made a boy smile who I have never seen smile before. And these were the very best things I did all day.

some big things happened: 1

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Graduation: The Class of 2013 became the Class of 2017 last night. (Now I have a high school student.) Of course anyone who has ever seen this class perform knows they have always been stand-outs in putting on a good show. I’ve seen several Waldorf graduations now, and I think this was my favorite. Not just because Eichenlaub and Eichenlaub were up there on stage flanking the class, but because of the quality of the event, the depth and humor in every speech, the honesty and poise. And what I saw were sixteen young people whose individual learning needs were uniquely met by Waldorf education: aspects of academics, challenges of class trips, imagination and joy in learning, performing arts, visual arts, the sense of community, the support of their peers—-all important parts of fledging them into the astonishingly talented, balanced people they are today.

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~Mr. Crafty knit each student something, including hats and mitts, and a scarf~

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~wait! check my teeth!~

you may recognize Con Forza

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~surly French models, above~
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And then: the brilliant idea to light wish lanterns at dusk and send them over Penobscot Bay.

(We didn’t send the one below, we decided to keep him.)

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~send-off~

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~thank you, Mr. Eichenlaub. off they go!~

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:spring, festive:

 

SONY DSC~may~

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How could we forget your sudden, bright demands upon us to be social, organized, and in attendance? There was no dress rehearsal, no gradual easing into things. Just suddenly everything all the time:

Baseball games and practices, and in addition to the regular May Mayhem, lots of extra things going on with a Waldorf 8th grader about to graduate, plus his dad, Mr. Crafty, who is about to graduate this 8th grade class. Class presentations, trips, performances, graduation, etc. People here are juggling a lot of details right now.
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I could have cropped this photo to take out the Mumma’s hand about to swoop that baby up. But that’s a part of the story too. Look at those little pincer fingers, ready to pluck up a strawberry… Except for that all-seeing one who was ready to pluck him up!
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SONY DSC~in motion: where else?~
(Morris Dancing)
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SONY DSCWe spent an elegant evening supporting a good cause for our school, the Hats Off Auction! People were encouraged to wear hats, and they did. Beautifully.
Here are some bird-themed hats.
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~beautiful birdie!~
SONY DSC ~vintage rooster feathers~
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~little peeps~

SONY DSCAt the beautiful Rockport Opera House
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Graduation boots. In red, of course.