365 Days of Earrings

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Pair of Boo!s for Halloween

Today I wore my googly-eyed glow-in-the-dark BOO! earrings, a gift from a 3rd grader who is now a sophomore in high school. Timothy was so excited to give me these, and happy to see them again every year thereafter.

I spent Halloween afternoon baking pumpkin pies with two groups of 3rd graders. I based the activity on a wonderful picture book, Halloween Pie, written by Michael O. Tunnell and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. A witch casts a spell on the spooks who ate her pie, turning them into ingredients. They mixed themselves into the pie. Vampire scooped the pumpkin, zombie poured the cream, the ghouls cracked the eggs, banshee sifted the sugar, ghost sprinkled the salt, the skeletons ground the cinnamon and cloves, mouse rolled out the dough, and wind whipped the cream. Lots of fun, lots of clean-up, and oh-so-much preparation!

Willem (age 3) and Kathe (age 5) in Savannah
But nowadays when I come home at the end of Halloween, I'm done. Not like Halloweens past, with the flurry of costumes and jack o'lanterns and trick-or-treating. Many years I was so frantic that I never even took a photograph of my little lions and cats.

Who is that little lion?
Some years, recycling was
 the best that I could do!

Kathe's Beanie Baby Otter

3rd Grader Phoebe:
"I think I want to be a frog for Halloween..."

Pumpkin carving with Dad

Our mountain hide-away home is a great place to retreat on Halloween night. The wind may blow, the clouds may scud across the moon, but nary a trick-or-treater comes tapping on our door.

But I need my rest. Tomorrow I'll be surrounded by sleepy 8 and 9 year olds who've consumed way too much sugar.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Like diamonds glistening amidst the snow

I wondered if I'd have a chance to wear this pair of earrings this year. I don't wear a lot of glam. But I'd been eyeing them, thinking they look like snowmen, and wondering if we'd have a snowfall during 2011. 

Today the sun glistened on the snow, so I headed out into the bright sunlight, my gleaming snowmen, each studded with 5 tiny pieces of cut glass and one large one. A student gave me this pair a few years ago. "She doesn't have any like this," I can imagine the child exclaiming to his mother.

I hung them from the pear tree, now cracked and broken from the weight of yesterday's snowfall, its leaves still green and its tiny pears still dangling from each surviving branch. With sun and temperatures in the 40's, the snow has melted off the tree. A blanket of white still coats the ground. If children lived here, snowmen would abound--and snowforts, snowballs, snow angels...

Off in the distance, the colors of autumn have reclaimed the horizon--leaves of orange, yellow, brown. In a few days, the snow will all be gone, and more leaves will have swirled to the ground.

Tomorrow, I'll drive back down our mountain road on my way to school, returning to the lowlands where little snow fell. People will laugh when I tell them of my 9 inch snowfall, of how I was housebound, of shoveling the drive to get my car up hill.

Today, October 30th, the snow glistened in the sunlight. I wore diamond studded earrings. Which statement sounds more likely to be true?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Our Very Own Snowfall

Yesterday's forecast of 3 to 5 inches of snow seemed highly unlikely here in Virginia. We sometimes get a flurry of snow in late October, but never an accumulation. So today's 9 inches of heavy, wet snow came as a total surprise, both to me and to the trees that were still laden with leaves. The leaves accumulated masses of snow so dense that branches cracked and broke off under their weight. Our poor pear tree is broken and laid low.

This afternoon I made this pair of earrings using beads that I bought last spring at the bead shop in Leesburg, VA. They have a reflective crystal-like structure. Kinda-sorta like snow.

I took them outside to photograph them in the snow, which proved a bit difficult--
The snow,the brances--even the leaves--kept stealing the scene.

Finally the camera was able to focus when the crystals reflected the blue of the beads.
We've been hearing that this snowfall was less than anticipated. Once again, we seem to enjoy our own weather pattern here on our little mountain. A slightly higher elevation leads to a slightly lower temperature, producing snow while it's raining at the foot of our road. Tomorrow, I'll hike out and see what I can see.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Halloween down, One more to go

We celebrated Halloween at school today. I wore my best spooky earrings: dangly, glow-in-th-dark, bloodshot eyeballs. I bought these long ago--maybe 15 years ago--for 99 cents at a drug store's post-holiday sale, and I've worn them once a year ever since. The children held their math work up to my extra eyes so that I could check it before drawing ghosts, bats, and pumpkins to show approval.

This morning we watched the movie The Pumpkin Circle along with the rest of the lower school, a shared tradition we all love.

During writing workshop, each of us wrote the first sentence of a scary story. Then we passed our papers around the class adding one sentence apiece, creating scary-funny-twisting stories that made us laugh when we shared them aloud. We enjoyed a special holiday lunch before the children donned their costumes, introduced themselves in character to their friends and families, and then headed for the all-school costume parade and party.

So. That holiday's taken care of for another year!

No, wait, it's only October 28th! Monday will be the real Halloween! And Tuesday will be that most dreaded of school days, the day after Halloween! A whole week of lunches consisting largely of candy lies ahead...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Batty, on my 300th Day

As I sat at lunch today with a group of my 3rd grade girls, the discussion turned to the bats dangling from my ears.

"Today is a big day for me," I remarked. "It's the 300th day of 2011, so I've worn 300 different pairs of earrings."

"Wait! You own 300 earrings?" asked a 5th grader sitting nearby.

"Well, actually," I smiled, I own at least 730 earrings."

"That would be enough for two years!" she stammered.

"730 earrings, 365 pairs. Did you know I'm wearing a different pair each day? I started on January 1st. Now I only have 65 days to go!"

"That's a lot of earrings!"

It really is. I usually have many pairs stored in drawers. But since I'm doing my best to keep track of those I've worn, they're lined up in order on the many racks atop my dresser.

Today's bats are favorites of mine: three bats on each, bobbing constantly as my head moves. The girls passed them around at lunch today, marveling at how light they are.  I always wear them as Halloween approaches. I hung them on an orange rubber glove in front of a lamp for this photograph.

Even there, they're in flight!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sodalite bears, connecting me to the world

I wore my totem bears with this lovely blue sweater today: cool colors, soothing blues. I had another six parent-teacher conferences this afternoon; cool colors for calm conferences. Seemed to work. Lots of happy parents of happy children.

I'm pretty sure that the blue mineral carved to make my bear earrings is sodalite, beautiful but far more affordable than lapis lazuli. I bought them at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum many years ago. I love to explore the exhibits, but I enjoy the Smithsonian gift shops almost as much--minerals, fossils, books, games, toys... items from around the globe that provide a glimpse of cultures, landscapes, flora, and fauna that I will never see in person. When I return home from the Smithsonian with a rock, a postcard, a doll, I often feel as inspired as if I'd traveled to a distant land. Brazil? Bolivia? Greenland? Romania? Portugal? Rhodesia? Burma? Russia? India? Namibia? Canada? All sources of sodalite.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Day Full of Leaves and Haida Totems

Tuesday is my longest day. I get to school at 7:30 AM to organize materials for my school day. Then I teach math, writing, lead a mentoring activity (27 third graders, 13 seventh and eighth graders, 5 teachers), eat lunch with a group of girls, teach 3 groups of social studies, 2 groups of computer, dismissal, then math tutoring from 4 to 5.

This morning I was copying cards to use in a math game when I commented to a colleague, "Tom (our former principal) once compared teaching in the early grades with organizing a birthday party every  day. Today feels like one of those days!"

I wore a pair of oak leaf earrings for our mentoring project. The students spread out across the campus to draw their adopted trees in their art journals and to write acrostic poems using the names of their trees.

I bought these earrings at the Sawmill Center for the Arts in Cook Forest, PA. They were made by a Fimo clay artist whose company, Wood Thrush, seems to have disappeared. I've worn at least 8 pairs of her earrings this year. I wore them along with my Haida t-shirt, purchased at the National Museum of the American Indian about 6 years ago.
This afternoon in social studies, I shared Paul Owen Lewis' striking picture book, Frog Girl. As I read the story which I projected through a document camera onto our Smartboard, the children drew illustrations on a series of panels I had copied onto sheets of cardstock. When we finished the story, they folded the panels into a paper box which tells the story, inside and out. Like party favors, make it/take it!
I could write just as much about math and writing and computer (we're learning to type and making Halloween cards!), even recess and lunch and dismissal. It was a long day. Productive, fun, and long. Like a birthday party!

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Inspirational Shepherdess

Today I took my 3rd grade class on our annual pilgrimage to Franny's sheep farm. We've been talking about the many ways that native peoples lived off the land, including the sheepherding Navajo of the American Southwest. We visit a sheep farm to watch and sketch the sheep. But the real reason that I return to visit Franny each year is so that children can experience how a woman's dream can become a reality through study, hard work, and enthusiasm.

When she was a child, Franny wanted to live on a farm. When her children were young, she got a dairy cow and fed her family homemade dairy products. She raised chickens before they became a fad. Then she moved on to raising sheep, leading to her current flock of 65 merino sheep and the Mama Llama who keeps them safe from predators. She sheers her white, taupe, and deep brown sheep, spins their wool, and knits it into hats and mittens and capes. I hope that exposing children to Franny's love of the farming life she has created will inspire them to follow their passions.

For our field trip, I wore this pair of sheep earrings that I happened upon as I wandered through Blacksburg, VA on Saturday. I dabble from time to time in knitting, crocheting, felting, weaving and even carding and spinning. While I'll never own sheep, I love to work with wool.

All morning, children noticed the sheep dangling from my ears. Field trip!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Heinz for a Pittsburgh Boy

Today my husband John celebrates 58 years of living. As I thought about earrings to wear to commemorate this day, I thought of his passions: singing, composing, and performing music; playing handball; our kids and the rest of our family; his church, with its many traditions and remarkable members; watching "his teams" play sports--so many sports, so many teams!; his homes, including his childhood home, Pittsburgh, PA.

As I sorted through my earrings, and then my beads, I came upon a couple of pins that we got at a Pittsburgh Pirates game many years ago: a Heinz pickle and a Heinz ketchup bottle. Perfect! I added a pair of earwires and called them earrings. The bottle dangles upside down, as catsup should be stored. John has always loved attending concerts at Heinz Hall. His beloved Steelers play their games on Heinz Field.

This afternoon the Steelers gave him a great birthday present: a win against the Arizona Cardinals (Arizona? St. Louis must miss them! When did the Cardinals fly southwest?). Although John's other team, the Redskins, turned in a disappointing loss, a Steelers win trumps all other sporting events, at least this Sunday, October 23rd, 2011, when he has no team in the World Series, and neither DC United nor the US men's team is playing soccer. Oh, and the NBA is on strike.

I gave John an ENO hammock for his birthday. He tested it between two trees behind our daughter Kathe's house this morning. But already in my mind's eye it hangs in the yard of our Pinery cabin, where John dangles in it on a warm summer afternoon, listening to the play-by-play of a Pittsburgh Pirates game, perhaps against his other team, the Washington Nationals.

Many happy returns of the day!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Memories of summer, signs of fall

My husband John and I spent last night in the cosy cabin near Blacksburg, VA where our daughter Kathe lives with her husband Jim. We drove down so that John could celebrate his birthday by attending a Virginia Tech game with Kathe. I came along for the visit, but not the game. No point wasting money on a ticket for someone who will wince at every tackle, grimace at shouts and cheers, and end up calculating random statistics our of sheer boredom.

So I didn't don Hokie maroon and orange--although I saw plenty of it--but rather my standard shades of blue and purple, along with this pair of earrings that I made after Kathe joined us last summer at the beach. We gathered lots of shell fragments during our wanders along the shore. The purples were my favorites. I tried to photograph them dangling from the mobile that Kathe's cousin Marianne sent as a wedding gift from Alaska, but the light and angles made it tricky. Ties to family, ties to seasons past, ties to places we hold dear. I see them all when I visit this daughter of mine.

Just behind their cabin I found more reminders of summer, a pair of our kayaks nestled among the fall leaves.

While Kathe and John enjoyed the football game, I wandered through some shops in downtown Blacksburg, a town peopled by generations all wearing maroon and orange--babies in onesies and fleece, college students in camo and caps, couples in matching nylon jackets, sweatshirted senior citizens carrying flags.

I headed back to the cabin, and took the dogs for a walk through the fallen leaves, enjoying the crisp autumn air. Off in the distance I could hear a loud-speaker blaring. I wandered back to sit and read in the adirondack chair that Jim built, enjoying the colors and sounds of fall.

Raising the Hand of Fatima, with hope

I bought these Hand of Fatima charms at a bead shop in Leesburg, VA last spring. They sat alone in a little dish in the midst of dishes full of crosses and hearts and ponies. I took them home to make into earrings, intending them for a day when I felt hopeful that peace and protection of the helpless might vanquish evil.

Tiling at a training center in Tripoli, Libya

Muammar Gaddafi's demise offers hope of peace in Libya, and the uprising in Libya offers hope of a new path toward freedom in many countries where suffering abounds.

I've read about the Hand of Fatima in Islamic cultures, the Hand of Miriam in Hebrew lore, and even the Hand of Mary in Catholicism. The open hand has been symbolic of protection in many cultures and religions, including in the worship of Ishtar, Isis and Osiris, and Buddha.

So many faiths share common symbols and desires for safety and benevolence. The human hand, raised to call for peace and justice, is a beautiful emblem.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reclaiming Green on Gaddafi's Last Day

I spent today sitting in a child-sized chair, orchestrating 15 half-hour long parent-teacher conferences. The goal? To communicate to parents that we know their child's strengths and challenges, their passions and antipathies. To share how we challenge their child, without setting the bar too high. And, most importantly, to let parents know that this child is appreciated and loved.

For parent-teacher conferences, I wore malachite earrings (our school colors are green and white) and a recycled-computer-part pendant. I bought this pendant at the Delaplane Strawberry Festival last summer from Motherbored, on the web at etsycom/shop/ShellyMacdesigns. 
I love the writing on this chip:
BUSY LIGHT, with items (nails?) seeming to fall from above, and a cluster of stuff clogging the space below.

My busy light was on all day. But then it's been flashing ever since school started. And that's how it should be: I'm a teacher.

But enough about my pendant--this is an earring blog! I bought these malachite earrings years ago when I was teaching science, to wear during my 7th grade geology unit (rocks can be beautiful!) and to show green-and-white school spirit.  

At the end of my 8 AM to 5:15 PM day of sitting in a small chair, I tidied up and then headed home. When I tuned into NPR, I began to hear hints that something dramatic had happened in Libya today. Exiles talking about returning home. Discussions of post-Gaddafi Libya. Thanks to the pledge breaks, it was 15 minutes before I discovered that Gaddafi was gone.

I first posted about the Libyan struggle on February 26th; I first posted this Libyan Independence Flag on March 21st. I think it's fitting that I wore my pure green earrings on the last day that fear of Muammar Gaddafi can touch the hearts of Libyans. The pure green flag that symbolized Gaddafi will no longer fly in Libya. Today, green can once again stand for progress, for growth, for environmental awareness. Like Libya, green has been set free.

And I can gain a bit of perspective, once again, on my own life. I just spent 9 hours sitting in a chair. Not 9 months in a war-torn country. Not 42 years in the regime of a deluded dictator.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Flipper, Protector of the Earth

I was 7 when the movie Flipper hit theaters. I was 8 when Flipper appeared weekly on TV. I fell in love with dolphins, the smartest, happiest, most talented animals in the world. I wanted nothing more than to swim with a dolphin.

During the summer that I turned 10, my family traveled to Florida. I was the family photographer, with my Instamatic camera. I asked someone to take pictures of me, posing with any dolphin I could find.
On the back of this photograph, my mother wrote,


Me, standing next to a dolphin statue! I can still feel the excitement of standing beside a plaster dolphin. And making a plastic dolphin at a vending machine that molded the dolphin of your choice while you waited.

 We visited the Florida Keys right around my birthday. My fondest wish came true: at Santini's Porpoise Training School I got to hold onto the fin of a dolphin while he swam through the water. It was short, too short, but it was a dream come true, my best-ever birthday present. "Amy riding Flipper," reads my mom's note on the back of the photo.

Dolphins still hold a special place in my heart. I love this pair of dolphin earrings that I bought long ago, in Savannah, I think. To me, the dolphins seem to be protecting the waters of the Earth.

Today, I heard the horror story of a man who kept wild animals in inhumane conditions on his property in Ohio. Before committing suicide, he snipped the wires of the animal's cages. Forty-eight lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, and other animals were shot and killed by law enforcement officials.

The same emotions that inspired my love of dolphins leads people to adopt exotic pets. We humans have trouble recognizing that truly loving animals means ensuring their freedom to roam their native habitats. I hope this tragedy can lead to better understanding.