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Archive for August, 2011

I LOVE Staff Meetings!

Last week was my first week in a new school district. As is standard in every district I’ve worked for, the first week consisted of time to work in our classrooms, new teacher orientation, the obligatory first-day teacher pep rally, and MEETINGS!

Most teachers look forward to the barrage of meetings about as much as they anticipate being on hold with Dell tech support, but I actually kinda’ like the meetings (even the one about new curriculum standards in a subject I don’t teach) because meetings = knitting time. As I looked around the 2/3 capacity high school auditorium on the first official teacher day, I didn’t see anyone else with needles out, but talked with several teachers who stopped me and told me they wished they’d brought theirs. I have found this to be a great way of sniffing out the knitters in my own school, as well as at the district level. The uninitiated seem to think this rude, as if I’m tuning out what’s going on around me (I once heard of a principal being reprimanded by a superintendent for knitting during a school committee meeting), but the knitters in our midst understand that this actually helps. If I didn’t have my knitting I would undoubtedly give in to my mind’s tendency to wander. As long as the pattern is a fairly simple one, knitting helps me to focus, making it a much better practice, in my opinion, than the more common trend of playing smart phone Scrabble.

And what was I working on? Well, the Cassidy sweater has gotten too big to be portable (I work on it at home) so I was working diligently on sock #2 of Snape’s Stockings. Last Sunday morning before church I had completed only the ribbing on this bad boy, and now I’m past the heel and well into the gusset. And with the storms today brought on by Irene, I just may be able to finish and wear ’em to school in the morning for the first student day. Dunno, we’ll see. There’s other important indoor work I need to do, but I have hope.

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On the aforementioned brief trip to the Berkshires recently, my friend and I stopped somewhere around halfway because we needed something…coffee. In our quest for caffeinated goodness we stumbled across a shop called The Freight House. Right on Rt. 2 in Erving, MA (a town I’d  never heard of) The Freight House owners describe themselves on their facebook page as follows:

“The Frieght House Antiques Features antiques, Statuary, replicas along with lunch counter, featuring homemade pies and baked goods, local Shelburn Falls coffee, Barts Ice Cream with gluttun free, vegan, and vegatarian options!!!” (misspelling of “gluten” theirs, not mine)

The sign said coffee, so we stopped, but found ourselves distracted (as often happens with those of us who embrace our ADD) by the poured concrete statues outside. Buddhas, nature designs, decorative stepping-stones, and pedestals for your garden globe (come on, who doesn’t want one of those?) were all for sale behind the beautiful wrought iron gates outside the Freight House. After picking a little Buddha statue to take home with me, I was warned by the artist himself, Jeff, that I’d better go inside and get my coffee soon as they were about to close.

Jeff is, to say the very least, an incredibly interesting person. Decked out in old-school navy blue mechanic’s coveralls and matching hat, one can barely see his face for the long, white scraggly-looking hair and beard. As we ordered our iced coffee, Jeff very freely shared stories and opinions pulled from his years on this earth. He was not annoying in his pontifications, rather I found myself captivated, enjoying every word. When we noticed, with great delight, that the ice cubes in our iced coffee were made of actual coffee, thus eliminating the normal inevitability of watered-down coffee, Jeff remarked, “I got a secret for ya. If ya go to Wal Mart, you can get an ice cube tray for 49 cents and make ’em yerself.” We liked this place so much that we stopped by again on our way back, this time adding a fabulous slice of Apple Crumb Pie (so good it has to be capitalized) and a stroll through the rather large antique shop.

As we progressed through the weekend I quickly decided that my little Buddha statue would be my photographic traveling companion. Every time I saw a nice, peaceful, beautiful place for ol’ Buddha to relax I’d take a picture of him in it. I didn’t get one of the really ornate Buddhas with the fancy head gear and jewelry who sits up nice and tall. No, I got the chubby, mirthful, relaxed-looking “take it easy, man” Buddha…one that Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski would relate to. I liked him instantly. The pictures that follow are some of my little Buddha’s favorite spots.

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On a recent brief trip to the Berkshires, a friend and I stopped by Metaphor Yarns in Shelburne, MA and I have to say that Coveted Yarn now has competition for the position of my favorite yarn store. Started by the infectiously friendly Meta Nisbet as something nice to do during her retirement, Metaphor is a great example of what a well-organized, diverse yarn store can be. Four good-sized rooms feature the usual suspects, Cascade and Noro, bualso a wide variety of gorgeous yarns that are produced or hand-dyed locally. The color variation in the hand-dyed yarns is astounding, and each room of the shop just draws you in, always wanting more. For those into quilting, A Notion to Quilt occupies the other side of the building and these two businesses seem to have a very nice partnership.

Olive cranking out a sock.

When we were there, a lady by the name of Olive had stopped by to show her recently-acquired early-1900s-era sock knitting machine, which she said can crank out a pair of socks in about 2 hours. Though I’ve often thought of machine-knitting as cheating, I must confess to being fascinated by this contraption, and have come to understand that at least in this case a certain amount of skill is definitely needed. Olive showed me the system of weights that needs to be hung from the sock (and the bent forks that are used to hang the weights) to get the proper tension and demonstrated how to make a short-row heel on the machine.

Metaphor Yarns’ website is still under construction, but keep an eye out…Meta tells me she’s in the process of getting set up for online ordering. And if you happen to be driving up route 2 in Western Mass, it’s well worth making a stop.

A partial sock and an assortment of tools, including dinner forks.

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Dear Summer,

I can’t believe we’re almost done with each other. Can it really be only one more week until the Teacher Workdays begin? I don’t even know where to start telling you how much I’ve needed you this year, and how much fun I had on our journeys together. It’s been quite a ride!

The original plan was to begin graduate school, but life happened, as it often does, and sent us on a detour or two, and I’m so thankful for that. If I had to sum up my time with you in one word it would be “renaissance.” This word, often used to describe the creative movements of the 14th through 17th centuries, means rebirth, reawakening, a renewal of life. I can’t think of a better word to describe our time together this year, o beautiful summer!

A lot of time has been spent traveling…we’ve seen Maine, South Carolina, The Berkshires, New York City, and local beaches here in the Boston area. We’ve enjoyed concerts and fireworks, we’ve revitalized relationships with family and old friends, and nurtured some newer friendships. We’ve begun the challenge of training for a half marathon, and yes, continued to knit, though not as much as I’d like. We’ve seen one job become a resume entry, felt the fear and excitement of exploring new opportunities, and experienced the thrill of finding a fabulous new place for me to start over and reconnect with who I am as an educator. Throughout it all, there’s been a lot of soul-searching, rethinking, and rediscovery.

As I end my time with you, dear sweet summer, I just want to say thank you. I think I have a better handle on who I am and the direction that I want my life to take after this wonderful season. I’m ready to face the challenges of a new school year with gusto. I’ve made the transition from survival mode to living out loud and am not the same person I was. I end this summer at peace. Thank you for everything.

With deepest affection,

Aaron

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