Saturday, 28 November 2009

Raking the leaves

(A note for those reading this as a Facebook note; if you click on the View Original Post link you'll get the pictures that go with this post. Actually my blog posts are usually way longer than what Facebook shows on the note so if you don't click the lick you'll be missing most of it anyway). So, with that out of the way......

Thanksgiving day in Garner North Carolina didn't start out beautiful but the sun came out just before midday and stayed that way the rest of the day. It was also lovely and warm in the sun.
The house is normally dull and dark even when i open all the curtains and blinds and doors. I just didn't want to stay in a dark house when it was so lovely outside. My hosts were dozing in a darkened room in front of the Telly so I went out for a walk.
I enjoyed walking down their quiet street looking at all the houses and gardens (sorry, 'front yard's as they call them here).

When I got back I decided to do something useful that enabled me to spend the afternoon outside. I decided to rake the leaves.

As you see there are loads of them. Two weeks ago George hired a guy with a strong blower who cleared the front yard of leaves but there were still loads on the trees and so they came down and covered the place again.

The trees are mainly American oak trees in this yard. The leaves are a little larger than the British oak and some (as you see here) are enormous. But these are the exception.

So here I am with my rake ready to start work. Their neighbour, Pat, came round to give some cranberry bread that she'd made and offered her electric leaf blower. I accepted and she took the picture on my phone (can't use it to phone here but it makes a good camera).

I couldn't get the hang of the blower and came to the conclusion it was best for a fine sprinkling of leaves and not for a the many layers we have in this yard. So back to the rake and cart. (pic of pile and cart)

A few hours later I'd raked half the yard and driveway and decided to stop.

The leaves are piled at the road ready for the municipal vacuum to suck them up. I hope it comes before the wind does.

If it's a nice day tomorrow I might do the rest of the yard. I'm a fare weather gardener and only really enjoy 'yard work' as they call it here, on lovely days.

My hosts had bought ready prepared items for the Thanksgiving dinner form the local store. Each item had a massive list of ingredients - something I'm careful to avoid, so I'll just have a little bit.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Reflections on a Summer Morn

One morning in August I had an experience that I wanted to blog, but as I was very busy that day and had no time to get on the internet I jotted it down on a piece of paper to post later.

Now is the 'later'. I've just come across the paper:

At 7:15 this morning I saw an amazing sight.
The sun shone through the leaves of a tree and projected a moving picture onto the wall through the open window.

There was no wind. The leaves were the shadow and the sun was the light but there was movement showing within the light. Something was emanating from the leaves. It went in all directions; up down and swirling around.

It took me a while to work out what it was until I came to the conclusion that I was witnessing the evaporating vapour of the dew on the leaves as the sun warmed each drop.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Jeff's Room/My Room

The room I'm staying in is less like a cave now that I've managed to get to the windows and opened the curtains.
I've also sorted all the towels, and face cloths, putting most of them in black bags in the basement so I have room to store other stuff, like my clothes.
This household has about 150 facecloths, 100 small towels and more than 50 large towels.

My hosts had a visit from their son's family this weekend. I asked him to open the windows as I couldn't budge them and like to have fresh air. His children, now young adults, spent many a summer at their Grandmom and Granddaddy's house. They joked, when they saw the room I'm in, that they didn't know it had a carpet, (or the table in the dining room was made of wood).

The son told me that I could throw out of give away anything in th room that belonged to him apart from his yearbook, which he's not been able to find for years. Shame he couldn't have done all that chucking out years ago, then he probably would have found his book. - and his grandchildren would have had a more comfortable stay each summer.

It's lovely to see such a loving and close family. They drove 5 hours each way to visit for a short weekend, and cleaned the leaves off the roof while they were there too.

Martha Beck

I downloaded a happiness lesson from Martha Beck's site. I was shocked to hear her children are grown now! Why is it that when I read a book I expect time to stand still for those written about? Adam, her son with Down's Syndrome, doesn't talk but communicates to her, she says, via dreams.

She is a little off the wall. She said that a few years ago she had accomplished all her dreams and so she thought it was probably time for her to leave this life. She thought that the reason she couldn't see what she should do in the future is because she would be dead. So she doubled her health insurance and got her affairs in order. Then she went out to Africa. And found another dream to work on.

She said "I'm too old to keep pretending I'm not crazy". When Adam was small he kept showing her dreams of Africa. She painted a picture featuring the dreams she had with a portrait of Adam in it. She said to him. "Do you remember sending me these dreams?" and he blushed to the roots of his hair, he had a big smile and he said "yeah".

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Joy Diet

I picked up a book at the library that I thought might help me write my website. It's called "The Joy Diet" by Martha Beck.

The author's name seemed a little familiar and then I realised she wrote a wonderful book called "Expecting Adam" about her pregnancy of her 2nd child who had Downs Syndrome.

She is now a life coach, so having a feeling of already knowing her I decided to read the book.

She has a chatty style and gives a 10 step program to becoming more joyful.

I haven't read the whole book yet, but have bobbed around the chapters and note that creating connections with people demand a willingness to risk being hurt, and willingness to be truthful with yourself. I'm wondering about my not being a 'people person' and thinking that I need to do her 10 steps.

The first step she recommends is to do nothing. For at least 15 minutes each day. For only then, can we hear that still small voice within.

Sounds like good advice to me so I'm off to do nothing.

Being Interested in Others

I read 3 chapters of Mansfield Park, but Marjorie said she had difficulty understanding who was who. I can identify with that. If I hadn't seen the film I would also have trouble. So I went to buy a DVD of it for her.

The store Best Buy had none in stock but very cleverly encouraged me to order it online at the store from them to be sent to me by post. This way they don't mss out on a sale.

After I had read the 3 chapters Marjorie expressed a wish for me to tell her about myself. She said she didn't really know me.

This got me thinking. Why hadn't I told her much about my life? I've heard myself tell people my life story more than once, yet I don't talk about myself when I'm with her.

The answer could be that she has not asked me questions about myself, has not seemed particularly interested in me. She has asked a few times how the girls are, but has not asked anything specific about them.

I have a friend, Maggie who I used to visit maybe once a year and each time we met I was always amazed that she remembered the details about my family and asked pertinent questions about them. She was genuinely interested and this made me realise that I was not so generous in spirit.

I will talk away about my favourite subject (myself) to anyone who is interested, but not if the recipient isn't.

So what do I do? She wants me to talk about myself she says. Today during our conversations I injected some anecdotes about my own life that were relevant to the conversation but she didn't seem to be interested in what I said.

I know that we are surrounded by people who mirror us and I've seen in myself a self centredness that I'm not proud of. I think it's time I changed.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Interpreting What People Mean

G&M have been telling me I'm doing too much and I've eventually realised what they mean by this.

They mean "Your doing too much other stuff and need to spend more time with Marjorie". Ah, but I prefer cleaning. Hm, I guess this is what I need to learn in this situation. Marjorie is a lovely lady but I'm not particularly a people person when it comes to interaction.

I watched the film Nanny McPhee on TV with her. I'd not seen it before and enjoyed it. Well, I enjoyed the parts that were the actual film. About a third of the time was taken up with adverts. (I'm not a fan of British TV but I think I prefer it to the US version.) It seems that British TV has twice as long gaps between adverts and half the time devoted to them within each slot. It's not easy to follow the plot with so many and such long interruptions. Fortunately Marjorie muted the set during each break so we could converse.

I'm going to read her Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I think we will both enjoy that.


Entering many British libraries, the visitor is confronted by the following notices;
"No Smoking"
"No dogs"
"No phones"
"Turn off phone"
"Please do not eat or drink in the library"
".............. libraries (or council) accept no responsibility for loss or damage of personal property"
"No public toilets"

This does not seem very welcoming in my opinion. However lovely the people who work there are, I still don't feel welcome in a British library.
If you want to use the computers, you have to sign a long list of don'ts also.

Down the road at Asda supermarket car park I notice a refreshing change of attitude;
"Although we take every care to protect your car and belongings we regret that we cannot take responsibility for them."

Although, when distilled, both disclaimer notices give the same information they give two different messages.

Asda is part of the Walmart group of America. I don't particularly like shopping at Asda partly because of the music they play but I've been impressed with their customer service.

The libraries that I've visited in the USA (3 of them regularly) have a very different atmosphere than the British libraries I've been to (too many to count).
Two of the libraries on the USA, and several in the UK, have been new buildings.

I'm sure you can guess that I prefer the US ones.

I was very surprised, though that the well endowed library in Garner NC, doesn't have the book "What Katy Did" by Susan Coolidge on it's catalogue. Funny that England has this American classic children's book readily available in libraries and book shops. Yes, it is old fashioned but it has a wonderful message that (seemingly justified) self absorbment and self pity leads to unhappiness whereas selflessness leads to happiness.

I haven't noticed that British libraries offer the facility of WiFi with plugs to power laptops. The 3 US libraries I've visited have this very useful facility.

It is also normal for children to be tutored in the US libraries, within the children's section. This offers a neutral and safe place for both parties, with the advantage of resources to hand.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Crochet Time

I started crocheting a blanket about 3 or 4 years ago when. Helen had a particularly cold bedroom and she spent time in it whilst studying. I was staying with her and Claire for Christmas, on a visit from Kuwait. I then took it with me to my my mother's so I could feel productive whilst we chatted.

Helen never got it because it's still not finished. It seems I don't do enough chatting. I knew i'd be wanting to do something whilst I chatted with Marjorie so I brought it with me. I also brought two other projects along because Marjorie is housebound - mostly bed bound, and I knew she would enjoy chatting with me.

Crochet is something that requires very little attention and thought, so it's a perfect activity to chat by. I know that extroverted people would feel a long chat was time well spent. But as an introverted person I feel I've wasted time if I've spent time only chatting. I know that chatting can be a useful activity and so as a compromise, I like to do some sort of fabric craft at the same time.

Interestingly, the converse is also true. I rarely crochet as an isolated activity. I feel the need to also have some input using my hearing, and maybe sight, and will listen to a lecture, (or dictation) or even tutor a child who just needs some prompting whilst doing their homework set by their school.

I must say I rarely follow a complicated pattern because then I would have to concentrate solely on the piece of craft.

Being Offline

Being offline at home has it's advantages. I don't get distracted from stuff I need to do by Facebook or an email newsletter etc.

To save time at the library when I go, I'm writing several emails offline onto a notepad on my MacBook, keeping them in a file of my desktop, and will paste them into emails.

I'm also writing these blog posts as I go along.

The plan is also to write some web pages but I haven't done that yet.

G&M, being retired, don't stick to a timetable and get up late and M keeps telling me to have a rest. But actually I don't think I'm doing much for them.

G was amazed at the grocery bill yesterday, but they're enjoying the meals I'm cooking.
So far they've enjoyed real beef burgers, chicken pesto casserole and chicken korma. They've not had organic meat before and G was amazed at my asking about the origin of the meat I'm buying and reading the labels of everything I buy. He's enjoying learning about the difference between 'natural' and 'organic' produce. Natural produce doesn't guarantee the absence of GM (genetically modified) foods.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Back in North Carolina

Monday 9th November 2009

Arrived at George and Marjorie’s house in North Carolina USA, 19 hours after leaving Liz’s house in Reading, England. The plane was delayed taking off from Heathrow and there was a little boy on board who was ill with a high temperature the whole journey. This meant, of course that we were delayed in disembarking at Toronto due to him having to be checked for swine flu. Fortunately his test was negative. However it did mean I missed my connecting flight and had to wait 4 hours for the next one.

It was very fortunate that there was another one that day, and the people at Toronto airport were such lovely and helpful people.

I knew the bedroom I would be sleeping in would be crowded with things, but it was actually much more so than it was 7 years ago. The only access to the bed was one corner at the end of the bed (and I mean just the corner – none of the side or end was free). I cleared the bed of clothes and bedding and pillows and lay the bedding I was using on top of a bedspread. There was no way I could tuck anything and I had to stand on top of the bed to sort it out.

It was fortunate that I had a comfortable bed in a warm house owned by friendly people.

I went to sleep at about 1:00 a.m. NC time and woke up at 4:30 a.m. needing the loo. Couldn’t get back to sleep so got up at 6 a.m. and did my devotions and preparations for writing paid lesson plans for a teacher.

Tuesday 10th November

George took me to the Whole Food Market in the morning to buy me some food. The diet they have is typically American and processed, so there was no food in the house that I could eat because I eat organic low carb vegetables with organic meat and a fat source such as nut butter or nuts.

The enormous American Refrigerator was jam packed with not one inch available for my purchases. However, when I cleared it out there was plenty of room, because much of the contents were out of date.

It's fortunate the bins are emptied soon and i enjoy cleaning.

Wednesday 11th November

I thought English people were obsessed by the weather as it creeps into most conversations we have. But I don’t think we have a whole television channel dedicated to the subject! It’s been raining all day today and it seems to be such a big deal. It seems normal to me. It often rains all day in England. The word ‘storm’ doesn’t feature much in English weather. When it rains it’s just rain but it’s a storm here. In England a storm has to have high winds with precipitation for it to be called such. It does seem, though, that we’re getting some high winds tomorrow being on the edge of s hurricane.

So today I created a little space in the room I’m sleeping in and cleared and cleaned a bit more of the kitchen. I’ll be glad when I can get to the windows in my room and able to open the curtains. It is very likely they’ll need cleaning also.

There is no Internet access in this house so I’m writing this offline and hope to get to the library soon.

It's fortunate I have a laptop to work offline.

Thursday 12th November

There's so much fuss here about the weather. Rain and high winds. Just like a normal British day! A bit of flooding, but Britain gets that a lot too. I walked to the library and it was no big deal.

It's fortunate it's not as cold as Britain, but nearly so. It will, however be a warm weekend - early 70's F! Yay! Like a British summer.

I'm so glad to be back in Garner library. It's such a lovely large, purpose built building with a toilet. (That's unheard of in England, even the newly built ones.) And there's WiFi, oh, and loads of books too.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

What Am I Doing Now?

Well, here I am at my mother's, having given away my cat and sold or given away the vast majority of my possessions. Again.

What's the title of this blog? The Wandering Teacher - the story of a woman who rarely stays in one place long enough to grow her hair!

So here I am, on the move again. Yes, I really did (do) like White Gables, the biggest house I've ever lived in. It's also the most expensive and even with a house full of lovely lodgers I couldn't pay all the bills because I had no other income.

So, what happened to the teaching?
Hmm. I've been avoiding writing a blog post, first because I didn't have the courage and didn't know how to write it all, and then it became a long and complicated story and of course the story got longer and more complicated as time went on.

My friends over at Facebook are wondering what exactly is happening, so here I am biting the bullet. It can wait no longer. It must be told. And interestingly I also now have the time to write. I'm sorry it's a little long so I suggest you get a cup of your favourite beverage and maybe a snack and make sure you go to the loo before you start.

School - my vision
You could say it started at Easter, but it really started before then. In fact readers of this blog will know that I've been disillusioned about teaching for a while now. Especially the school system in England. The government decrees what children should be taught and when they should be taught it. This does not fit well with me because they don't know the children being taught.

Actually I go further than this sentiment. School, full stop does not fit well with me. Compulsory education does not fit well either. My vision for education includes school buildings being turned into resource centres of learning and teachers being facilitators of learning for anyone who wants to partake in education. Children are naturally curious. If given the oportunity they soak up knowledge and learn skills of their own bat. School and compulsory education, in fact, turns children off learning and exploring their mind and the world around them.

Each child is different and so while one child may be fascinated by numbers and maths at an early age, another may not be bothered with it at all until maybe aged ten or so. Some may just wish to learn the basics enough to get by in life and others may want to go on to obtain a PhD.

Anyway back to my story. I was teaching 2 days a week at different schools wherever the agency wanted me, but for 3 days each week in a lovely small Catholic school. I got on very well with the children. I taught each class whilst their teachers took time to prepare lessons etc. It worked out that I wasn't on a contract for this school but was paid through the agency.

A Home Educator Role at Last
The mother of a child I tutored, told me she had recommended me to a friend of hers who's daughter wasn't in school and needed teaching. 'Hey', I thought, 'wonderful, a chance to do some home education.' When the mother phoned me to make an appointment to discuss her child, it was the last weekend before the Easter holidays. We couldn't actually meet until the following week, so I had a decision to make. I didn't want to leave the school in the lurch with no warning and I wanted to say goodbye to each class during the week so I decided to hand in my resignation on the Monday before the holiday.

The Last Week
So that week, as I taught the various classes, I told them it would be my last lesson with them. I gave the older children my email address because I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to write for a 'real' purpose to tell me how they were doing. (Ever the educator.) I told them to get permission from their parents before they wrote, and if anyone did actually write I was going to ask them to get their parents to email me their permission before I entered into correspondence with the child. Throughout my teaching career I have had several correspondences with former pupils, but those have been using envelopes and stamps. I'm still in occasional touch with one pupil I taught 25 years ago.

The Last Day
On my last day, I was called into the headteacher's office at the start of the lunch break. There was another lady in their too, the new head of the agency i worked for. They were very concerned that I'd given out my email address to the children. They told me it was a very serious matter and that I should have known this because it was in the contract (which, remember, I hadn't seen). I should also know this because reports of child abuse is in the paper every week. (I wonder what paper she reads?)

Anyway I was escorted from the building there and then as if I was a danger to the children. Apparently I had crossed a line. I was supposed to keep a distance from the children. I knew I was different from other teachers. Each group of children I teach is different and if the children in the class responded, then we had a wonderful informal relationship. I preferred to treat children as individuals as far as possible in a situation like school. If someone wants a drink or go to the toilet, why not? Yes, they might be just wanting to take a little walk, but then, isn't that natural behaviour when what is happening in the classroom isn't what really interests them? The year 6 children (10 - 11 year olds) in this school was such a class. I taught them for one day each week. I was honest with them. I told them, for instance that I was sorry that I had to teach them Spanish because I didn't know the language at all. Most of the class liked Wednesdays best because of the relaxed and informal attitude in the classroom that day, even though I had to stick with the timetable.

So I was not allowed to teach my year 4 science class that afternoon, or even say goodbye to them, the children were all told not to email me, and a letter was sent to all the parents. I was sacked from the school and sacked from the agency.

As an aside, I know someone in a different school, a teacher's assistant, who was encouraged by the teacher (a member of the senior management team) to post her email on the door when she left to go to the USA, so the children could keep in touch if they so wished.

The Accusation
A week or so later I got a letter from the official place where complaints are sent to regarding children. The head of the agency had accused me of massaging children! What!? How did she come to that conclusion? She came to that conclusion through overhearing a comment I made to the headteacher, and put her own interpretation on it. Well, of course the allegation was found to be unfounded after investigation, but it is being kept on file at this complaints place in case someone else decides to complain about me.

Home Education - the Reality
Anyway, back at the ranch, sorry, White Gables. The meeting with the parents of this 13 year old girl who wasn't going to school, took place and it turned out they only wanted me to teach her for one day a week! I was to set her work so she could do it at home on her own the rest of the week.

Well, that wasn't going to pay the bills and I couldn't go back to teaching. I thought it was amazing how God works. If I hadn't been sacked I probably would still be teaching and feeling bad about being part of a system that I believe is detrimental to the children.

Amazingly before Easter I had been trying unsuccessfully to fill the rooms with paying tenants, but as soon as I quit the job the rooms got filled.

Being at Home
I must say I really enjoyed my days not having to go out to work. Being able to put the washing on the line and being there to bring it in, should a rain shower come by. Being able to spend as much time as I wanted on my devotions in the mornings without having to rush to work. Being able to sit outside in the garden to eat lunch in the warm sunshine. I even started a new fabric picture.

The First Big Project
I went on a course on how to create an EFT business and spent the time researching how to create abundance and creating a day long workshop on the subject - Attracting Abundance. It was very interesting and informative, and I booked a venue, created a web page and paying facility, made a power point and advertised it well on the web, local paper, posters around town and in workplaces and .... no-one came. Not one person booked! I kept thinking someone would and left it too late to cancel the room and refreshments. So I ended up with a massive bill and nothing to pay for it, and still no income. So I rethought, made changes, scheduled another event, advertised again, this time much more cheaply, plastered the town with more posters and leaflets and ... no-one came again. And I was still left with a big bill because I was sure I had made the necessary changes. And still no income. I obviously wasn't attracting much abundance so I needed to change the subject.

So I downgraded venue, changed subject to overcoming stress - Becoming Peaceful. Created another power point then changed the web page, plastered the town with leaflets and posters again, got free advertising in the paper and .... one person booked the day before the venue, but this time I managed to cancel in time to not create any more debt. But still no income.

Giving Up
I must say I was doing a bit of tutoring but it was not enough to pay the bills. Being a tenacious optimist doesn't pay the bills either and there came a time when there was just not enough money to pay the rent. The girl I tutored one day a week went to India in July and then my other pupils went on their holidays so even that income dried up for the summer. So I decided that being self employed wasn't paying so I decided to look for a job and applied for social security, whilst I was looking, and I applied for it to be backdated. I didn't want to 'go on the social' because I'm not a socialist but I was convicted that as I live in a socialist country and have paid into the system all these years, I was just asking for some of it back.

Well, apparently I wasn't eligible for two reasons. 1) the tenants, 2) I had not paid enough national insurance contributions during the period I was living in Kuwait and, when I came back and worked as a nanny - housekeeper it seems my employer didn't may any for me either.

So, as I couldn't pay the rent my landlord wisely decided to evict me. I gave the tenants notice and started selling the furniture and other possessions using the Gumtree site (we don't have a Craigslist in my town).

North Carolina Again
I decided that the best thing to do would be to find employment that included a roof over my head. I enjoyed being a nanny-housekeeper before, and I've also looked after a lovely lady with Alzheimer's for one or two nights a week when I was living in Bozeman, USA. (I know that some readers will know the lady, who has recently passed on.) I also looked after an old couple, George and Marjorie in North Carolina, when I lived there. I cleaned their house some weekends and popped in once or twice a week to do their laundry after school. I phoned them to ask for a reference.

They said they needed looking after and would I go there to look after them? Marjorie said she had saved money for her birthday party but didn't use it all so could she send me the airfare? I told them I would only be able to stay for 3 months on a visitor's visa, but they consider me like a daughter and talk about me frequently to their offspring still. So I have the ticket and am flying on the 9th November and returning (with a good reference hopefully) at the beginning of February.

Two friends in Reading, where White Gables is, are storing a few boxes of books, a few kitchen things, sewing machine, material, yarn, iron, ironing board, a chair that's just right for my little legs and my bike.