Back to School

It is that time. . . .  Back to school for teachers and for students. Officially, I start Monday. Unofficially, I’ve been working on school stuff all summer long. I’ve spent a few days working with my yearbook staff making plans for this year’s book. I’ve been reading, and reading, and reading, and researching. Now, I have to put it all together. I have immersed myself in teaching literature, not reading, not literacy, but LITERATURE. I completed the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition Institute this summer.

I’m not ready.

I’m getting the butterflies in the stomach.

I’m asking myself, “What the heck do you think you’re doing going back to secondary education at your age? You should be retiring!”

Well, the answer to the question is that I really, really enjoy my job. I love the little school where I teach. I am comfortable there even though I get nervous at the beginning of the school year. It’s the introvert in me. But come August 15, the first day with students, I will be ready, and I will put on my “learned extrovert” shirt, and get out there and put myself out there.

So, what did I read this summer? Well there was the required summer reading:

Jane Yolen’s Mapping the Bones, the story of twins Chaim and Gittle who try to escape a ghetto in Poland with the Polish resistance but end up captured. They attract the attention of one of Mengele’s doctors when Gittle contracts typhoid

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, the story of a little girl who is placed in foster care and who steals books as seen through the eyes of Death.

Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, the story of her family’s participation in the resistance movement to save Jewish lives and her imprisonment in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

There is a theme there, can’t you tell? The upper school is going to Washington in September, and one of the places they will tour is the Holocaust Museum. I want my students to be fully away of what they will experience when they enter that place. I know, there are other places of equal importance throughout that city, but for me, this place is especially hallowed ground.

I’ve also re-read Wuthering Heights and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I had forgotten how creepy Dorian Gray could be! I had also forgotten about some of the darker themes in that book.

And I’ve done a ton of professional reading, 180 Days, A Novel Approach, Whole Novels for the Whole Class, Write Beside Them, among others.

For fun, I’ve read several Regency romances—formula stories, really, but light, easy to read and finish in a day or two. I’ve also been reading Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series. Kate is the Chief of Police in Painter’s Mill, Ohio, which has a fairly large Amish population. It’s one thing to be the first female Chief of Police in this small rural town, but she is formerly Amish herself. It is her knowledge of the Amish ways that helps her solve the crimes that come her way. These books are seriously researched. They will keep you turning the page until the very end.

Tomorrow afternoon, I meet students and some parents to give out textbooks. School is starting.


It’s Friday!

I think I will wrap up this week with a “Currently” entry. I use the Happy Planner for my day-to-day planning and scheduling. I have other planners and journals as well—one for school to keep track of lessons, meetings, classes, and the like; another for a more detailed bullet journal; and a third to keep track of my steps toward business. I like the Happy Planner that I’m using because it has a “Currently” list at the beginning of each month.

So, CURRENTLY, I am. . .

Reading: I just finished Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering. It is the fifth in the Drew Farthering detective series. I enjoyed it, and it kept me guessing until I could stand it no longer, and I peeked at the end. Even though I discovered the solution to the mystery, there was one twist I didn’t expect.

I’m also reading several books on business planning: The Right Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee; The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonoma Bean, in particular. I’m also reading parts of The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon by Julia Cameron and others, as well as two books by Eric Maisel: Life Purpose Boot Camp and Become a Creativity Coach Now! These books are informing my decisions regarding my becoming my own boss.

And of course, there are a few Regency romances in the mix—too many to name.

Planning: Sometimes I think the question is what am I NOT planning? Of course there is the business planning (more later). But the big thing I am planning for May is a dinner to honor Sherry and my son Aaron with close friends and family who were unable to attend their wedding. I may be an introvert at heart, but I do enjoy being with family (for small doses!).

Watching: I am not a Netflix or Hulu binge watcher (unless my older son is home), but I have several shows that I do watch routinely when I can: Elementary, a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes character; NCIS, NCIS LA, and NCIS New Orleans; Bull, and  Dancing with the Stars. I have just started watching Grey’s Anatomy this season, and it is becoming a regular. Criminal Minds is also on my list. I will be glad when the mystery of who is framing Spenser Reed is completely solved. (Wednesday night’s episode went a LONG way in answering the question!) I’m not sure I like the dark turn that Spenser Reed’s character is taking. I liked the boyish, naïve Reed!

Drinking: Blenheim’s Hot Ginger Ale. It is made right here in South Carolina, and it is the best. After drinking this ginger ale, all other ginger ales taste like a “drink of water,” as my father would say about things that were wet but relatively tasteless. During the last couple of weeks, I’ve had bronchitis and sinusitis, and Blenheim’s was one of the few things I could taste.

Loving: I have a rather eclectic taste in music, but lately, I am really loving the music of the duo Marion Hill. They are featured on some commercial singing their song “Down.” I like the jazz feel to their music. I made a Marion Hill channel on Pandora.

There isn’t a category for this, but I am enjoying playing the piano again, but I am having to do some serious practice! I have been asked to play for a wedding in December. I figure if I start learning the music now, by December, I will be comfortable with it. I am so proud of my Betsy Ross spinet made in the 1930s by the Lester Piano Company, now out of business. When I received it as a gift from some dear friends who attend my church, I had it tuned. The tuner was amazed that it was in such good condition! There are a few worn pads, which cause some “clicking.” But you know, it gives the piano some character. (You can see the keyboard in the banner image above!)

I would love to know what is currently in your lives!


Words and Wednesdays

I’ve had an “itch” to write recently—well, more than recently. I’ve been writing since I was in high school. I remember giving my high school English teacher a short story I had written. She liked it. My college English profs told me that I thought—and wrote—well. One even asked me in front of the class how I had learned to write. I was between my junior and senior year in high school taking a second-year college level British lit course from Beowulf to the beginning of the nineteenth century, using the ubiquitous Norton Anthology of British Literature, Volume 1, with the famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth I on the cover.

I don’t know when I fell in love with words, with reading. Mama says it was from birth. She read to me and to my sister all the time, often falling asleep herself before I did. She grew desperate and tried everything to read me to sleep: the “begats” from the Bible, dictionary definitions, and even encyclopedias. I would wake her to “finish the story.” The love of words has never worn off.

I am in a writer’s group on Facebook, and one of our regular rhythms is Wednesday Words That Work. I think about the words that work. I am not a good memorizer, but I remember things that I have read and heard that resonate with me:  Tennyson’s short poem “The Eagle,” “He clasps the crag with crooked hands. . . . “; the scene at the end of Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes” when the lovers slip through the quiet halls of the castle as if in a dream; the “unquiet slumbers” of Cathy and Heathcliff at the end of Wuthering Heights; even the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice and the reminder that every young lady needs a husband (not much has changed in the last two hundred years!) I could probably go on for a long time remembering the words that worked for me.

The words that work for me are those that I visualize. As a teacher, I have taken all kinds of learning styles inventories, and the results are remarkably similar: I am a visual learner. It is not surprising, then, that I am also drawn to photography and other visual arts. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but a phrase or two of well-chosen words can inspire a thousand pictures as well. While I devour Regency romances by the dozens (finishing one this afternoon, probably), I will forget about these novels quite quickly. The novels and books I remember are the ones that use words to create vivid pictures and scenes as I read.

As I write, I think about the poetry, too, that has been inspired by art. (There is a fancy name for that kind of literature): Browning’s “My Last Duchess” ( which may or may not have been inspired by real people or real paintings—with Browning, who knows?); “Musee des Beaux Arts,” and quite a few others.

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Pictures, words, images.  Stay tuned for more about an online course I am writing.

In the meantime, please enjoy this new-to-me blog, Words and Images by Cynthia which combines words and images. I have gotten lost in Cynthia’s writing and photography. I found her through another interesting and inspiring website, The Creativity Portal.

Photo Projects

Weekend Roundup

We are here at the first full weekend of the new year—already. Have you get your photography goals yet? I’m still working through mine. I know that top on my list is NOT to enroll in more online classes than I can handle at one time! I’m a glutton for great photography classes, though, and there are so many. For the first quarter at least, I am going to concentrate on the exercises in Kim Manley Ort’s book Adventures in Seeing and the lessons from Emma Davies’ A Year with My Camera. I’ve ordered the book, and I’m waiting for it to come at the end of the week. In addition, I’m reading Julieanne Kost’s book, Passenger Seat, in which she describes how to go about starting and completing a personal photography project. She uses the example of making photographs while riding in the passenger seat when traveling. The idea began when she went to see the autumn leaves in New England.

untitled-20So, t

his week, I’ve given some thought to personal photography projects, and I think I’m going to take on one: photographing the area around the ponds in the backyard for a year. Now, what I can’t decide is whether to use one photograph a month or one per week when I produce the final product, whatever it may be. At this point, I’m not in a hurry to make the final decisions about the end product. I plan to focus on the process first.


I’m also working toward the 365-project. I am not following prompts necessarily because sometimes the prompts aren’t speaking to me. As I read in the introduction to Kim’s Adventures in Seeing, though, sometimes the prompts that don’t speak at first have more to teach. I keep them to think about and ponder. Perhaps something will come to mind later—when that “teachable moment” arrives.

What more formal projects are you considering this year?


Pictures and Words

When I was new to scrapbooking, I followed Ali Edwards’s blog. Her philosophy of scrapbooking is “pictures and words.” Together both tell the story of our lives. I no longer scrapbook in a formal kind of way although I may start again. What I have found, though, is the importance of letting photographs and images convey stories. And I’m rediscovering my love of poetry.

Last week, I was walking around the ponds with the camera. It’s winter here in South Carolina (even though the temperatures are not very winterish). But I was out in the coolness, bundled in my son’s Marine Corps sweatshirt, looking at whatever caught my eye. And this cedar caught my eye.untitled-16

And as I looked at the cedar, and then later at the image, Robert Frost came to mind:

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

Remember that poem Johnny quoted in The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton? I read that book way back when I was in seventh or eighth grade. The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” has stayed with me for more than forty years (yes, I’ve been out of high school for almost 41 years!).  The gold tips of the cedar reminded me that this gold will subside into green as the cedar needles continue to grow. Perhaps if I were to go back to that same tree on the other side of the pond, take a picture of the same branch, those gold tips would be green now. Time passes; youth become adulthood. . . .

The gold of autumn, too, has subsided. I’m waiting for my grandmother’s camellia to bloom in the next month or so. I’m still waiting for the sasanqua camellia to bloom as well. I think I saw some golden buds on the bushes last week. . . . .

This week, look for the gold. And look for the beauty.


Long Weeks, Shorter Days

It’s Saturday, and I am noticing a change in the air. The days are getting shorter, but the weeks seem longer. Perhaps it’s because I’m back at work for the September mod at Remington College.

It is September. In just two or three days, the autumnal equinox will occur. Now, I confess I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew about equinoxes and solstices except the summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. I’m not sure what the equinox means anymore (except they fall between the solstices. I guess someone had to have a name for those “in-between” times).

Here’s what I’ve been doing since my last post.

1. Teaching. I’m still teaching composition courses for Remington College. I do so much enjoy teaching the adult learners. This mod, I have a whole slew of students! Twenty-two, in fact. Now, coming from a public school background, twenty-two may not sound that bad; I had up to thirty-six students in some of my high school classes. But for this small career college, a class of twenty-two is large. In fact, we had to change classrooms because I ran out of chairs and computers.

2. Photography classes. I am retaking Galia Alena’s Camera Craft series, which began in June. I will finish up the final lessons next week. This course series is “technical,” but not so technical that it ignores the more artistic side of photography. In the first four weeks, the emphasis was on the basics—composition, exposure, post-processing, and similar topics. The last four weeks focus on light, and not just the theory and technical aspects. I think I could take this course every year and still learn something new. I enjoy the more artistic aspects of the course, focusing on the aesthetics rather than the correctness.

3. Reading. Okay, I admit that I get in a rut when it comes to reading. I love Regency romances, those novels set at the beginning of the nineteenth century involving the aristocrats and nobility of England. These novels are pure fluff, brain candy, entertainment. I love a story with a happily-ever-after ending. But I have read a couple of things with more substance, although the entertainment value is still there: a couple of Steve Berry novels, including The Lincoln Myth, and the last Dan Brown novel, Inferno.

4. Learning some new Photoshop and Lightroom techniques, such as converting color images to black and white and using luminosity masks. I know converting to black and white is not really new. I’ve tended to use actions developed by others for Photoshop or presets for Lightroom or the black-and-white adjustment layer in Photoshop. But at the encouragement of Galia (see #2 above), I am trying other ways. And luminosity masks are rocking my world right now!


I took this image of the sun shining through the corn leaf at the beginning of the month. I used a luminosity mask in the blue channel, and lo! and behold! I found some detail in the sky! Oh, my goodness! The sky was pretty blown out when I started the editing process. And then I used the saturation slider to remove the color in Lightroom, the black and white sliders to set the points for pure black and pure white, and the highlights and shadows sliders to adjust for details. I really like the results. Just for fun, here is the original.

egret (2 of 5)

See what I mean? You can’t see the clouds in the sky.

The second image I played with is of some pink crape myrtle blooms. I used the same basic process of conversion to black and white in Lightroom that I described above, but then I took the image into Photoshop for additional manipulation. I used the “Render” filter to add a lens flare. Adding the lens flare added small bits of color back into the image.

crape myrtle for web egret (1 of 5)

I love both the black and white and the color image. It’s hard to choose a favorite.

And the last thing I’ve done in the last few weeks is get my computer tweaked again. Our friendly, neighborhood computer technician Cale H put in a new solid state hard drive and increased the RAM in my five-year-old Toshiba laptop, and she’s running like a young deer now. I’m  happy! I’m glad I didn’t have to replace my computer.

Days are getting shorter, but in reality, the weeks are not getting longer. My goal is to keep learning something new each day. Maybe that’s why the weeks are longer. I’m filling up each day with so much goodness.


Currently. . . .

What have you been doing recently?

I have been keeping a variety of journals recently. I began last November with the No More Excuses art journal. To do this, you do a few things, some daily, and some weekly: draw the weather, color a block with a color of the day, and write a word of the day. I do the weather and the color, usually based on my mood or whatever color strikes my fancy. I’ve added my own element to the day’s work. For the month of April, I am drawing and coloring a flower a day.

Then the Documented Life Unplanner 2016 project came along, and I am adding elements of that to the art journal. At the same time, I discovered Teresa Robinson’s Right Brain Planner and glue booking. Then just a month ago, I found Fauxbonichi journaling, which is similar to art journaling and DLP and RBP, but focuses more on the words rather than the art, although art and creativity are a part of the fauxbonichi journlaing. By the way, there is a Facebook group for Fauxbonichi journalers that is just full of inspiration. In the latter journal, I have been keeping a list of “current” things, everything from my “to do’s” and “necessaries” to the things I eat during the day, and things I’ve accomplished for the day. This week, I am doing a “Currently” list.

This is what I have so far:


I’m reading,

  • Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman, daughter of Tony Hillerman, who wrote a series of novels about Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, Navajo policemen in New Mexico.
  • This book is evocative of the American Southwest. Hillerman, like her father, is knowledgeable of the Southwest and the Navajo people.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Love, Pray, about living a creative life without fear
  • Creative Visualization for Photographers by Rick Sammon, about learning to see creatively

I’m learning

  • how to draw and sketch flowers, how to shade and color
  • how to create watercolor effects in Photoshop CS6 without using actions

I’m loving

  • the green-blues, such as teal and turquoise
  • { flora palette } image via: @thediaryofdi
  • What is on your “currently” list?