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Archive for June, 2011

© Jenny Frech 2010

My husband and I both had a great evening with our friends last night.

We each invited a small circle of our guy and girl friends over for dinner.  He and his friends played board games, and my friends went to see a movie.

It sounds pretty ordinary.  It was.

The biggest difference between our two circles is that my husband’s friends have been buddies since high school and junior high.  They’ve been friends for 25 years.

My high school chums are from my workplace, so we’ve only known one another for about three years.

Jeremy knows his friend’s families, their moms and dads, brothers and sisters.  He’s been around for most of their major life changes: graduation parties, weddings, and births.  They share inside jokes.  There is a level of comfort, that even when time passes, they still really know one another.

For many of my friends, I barely know their significant others, and probably have never met their parents.  I still edit myself before sending emails or facebook statuses, thinking, “Will this offend my friend?”  In the three years that I’ve known my school friends, we’ve only just scratched the surface of life events.

We’re still in the peeling back the onion stage.

My friends are always surprising me.  Last night upon finding out  that one of my friends has been gardening, I immediately set to work digging flower starts for her–in the dark.  I assumed she wouldn’t want any because she’s not so outdoorsy.   But she was giddy over free flowers, and I was in my element trying to remember where the fun flowers were planted.  Another layer of this friend was was exposed.

You can’t have fantastically interesting layers, unless you’re deep.

Making friends for me is a difficult process.

I have three strikes against me in the making friends department.  One, I’m an introvert, and am perfectly happy to stay at home.  Two, I am shy and awkward in new social settings.  Three, I’ve moved around a lot in my childhood and adulthood.  The longest I’ve lived in any one town since I was a little kid, is six years.  Deep friendships are next to impossible to cultivate when you move around a lot.

Calling acquaintances up for coffee feels weird to me, so I don’t do it.  When I talk to people, I want to have meaningful conversations.  It’s difficult to do that with an acquaintance.  But on the flip side, I can’t have meaningful conversations, until I’ve gotten past the stranger stage.  And that takes a lot of energy for introvert.

To find people that are simpatico takes time.

I’m picky.  I want friends that are genuine, deep, and passionate.

So, I’ve griped and complained about making friends a bit, but for the most part, I have been very fortunate.  I have met some truly amazing people on my life journey so far.  I have friends that have a bit of my heart in Michigan, California, Illinois, Indiana, the East Coast, and Tennessee.  People that have truly brought their whole selves to a friendship, and are still out there living passionate lives.  I know they still care about me, and I still care about them too.  They’re just not in my area code anymore.

Fingers crossed, this is my last city change in my adult life.

Maybe now I can put down some roots.  Maybe the friends that I’m forming now will still be my friends 25 years from now when I’m 60.  We will be older, yes, but our lives will be better because of our friends, and we’ll have our own set of inside jokes, because we are simpatico. 😉

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
– Anais Nin

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One of my favorite flowers to share, Love-in-a-Mist

Looking for inspiration

I’m reading a book called, “The Happiness Project”.  In one of the chapters, the author, Gretchen Rubin, suggests that we should look to the things that we do in our spare time as inspiration.

One of my favorite things to do is, garden.  But even more fun than that is sharing flowers from my garden.

In past neighborhoods, I’ve arranged flower exchanges to swap flowers with friends and neighbors.  They are super easy to plan, and I usually end up with some pretty great new finds.  This year, I tried to plan one, and only one of my friends showed up.

Hey, that’s okay.  More great plants for me!

My friend Julie brought over bronze fennel, a rose, oregano, and walking onions.

I then took Julie around my house and we dug up anything that I had enough to share, and that struck her fancy.

When you love to garden, most everything strikes your fancy.

A couple of days ago, my friend Rachel came over, and again we strolled around the flowers, digging up flowers to spice up her beds.

Since I can’t possibly share all of my flowers with my readers, I thought I might share the what, why, and where to plant of some of my favorites.

First up…

Love-in-a-Mist

a.k.a. Nigella damascena, Devil-in-the-bush

Love-in-a-Mist flowers, these are a cross between Persian Jewels and Miss Jekyl

I got my first start of this plant about eight years ago from a neighbor with a wild backyard full of cottage garden flowers.  She was moving, and wanted to make sure that starts of her plants got to those of us in the neighborhood that would treasure them.

I planted the start in a partially shaded area underneath a rose bush by a shed.

The plants grew well, and each year reseeded themselves.  The variety that I got was all periwinkle blue.

I love the blue and magenta. Most of the flowers this year were white though.

Last summer, I purchased a couple of starts from Prairie Trail farm in Goshen.  I believe I got a Miss Jekyl and a Persian Jewels.  The starts were tiny at the beginning of the summer, but by mid-summer, the starts were about a foot in diameter (the whole plant, not the stem!).  They flowered beautifully, and reseeded themselves in my flowerbed.  I did save seeds too, to share and plant in other places.

I love self-sowing annuals.  It’s what cottage gardens rely on.

My former neighbor, and flower mentor Jeanette, taught me to delight in the gift of flowers coming up in unexpected places.  Because of her, I dead-head (cut off the old flowers) much less than I used to, so the seeds can feed the birds and the flowers can decide where they would like to grow next year.

This year, the love-in-a-mist was a little too close to the front of the border.  They are a bit taller than the perennials, that the year before were in front of the nigella.

The flowers are completely unique.  They have a ferny green backdrop behind delicate petals, and green curls coming from the center of the flower.  When the flower is spent, an alien looking pod forms.  The pods are full of loose little black seeds.  I recommend just leaving the pods on the plant.  In the winter, it will create a lot of interest when the other flowers have gone away.

But, the pods can be just as fun brought inside and dried.

What if you don’t have friends that have a start of Love-in-a-Mist for you?

A pack of seeds will do. (The sample seed shop has them, and I love their seeds.  Or, if you have some seeds that you would like to trade, I could save some for you this year.)

Just scatter the seeds in spring or summer where you would like them to grow, an violá, you have some plants.  They will grow in the sun and partial shade.

Now get cracking, and go outside and plant something!

Love-in-a-Mist in all its podded glory

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World's Best Teacher

Today is my mom’s last day of school.

She has been a teacher since I was in high school.  I don’t know how many years for sure, but I’m going to guess 22.

My mom went to college to be a Home Economics teacher.  Her dream job was to be an extension agent.  After graduating, she stayed home with my brother and I until Matt went to kindergarten.  When she was ready to go back to work, there were no teaching or extension jobs.

Her first teaching job didn’t come until I was in high school.

She worked at the alternative high school, with kids that for what ever reason, couldn’t learn or be at the regular high school.  The kids could be demanding, but I think she loved that job.  She taught them food service.  The kids prepared the meals for the little school, and did small catering gigs for the school district.  The school had very small class sizes and was hands on, so she felt like she was making a difference.

Later, she moved to a different school district, and another alternative school.  This one had more traditional classrooms than the last, but the classes were still small, and she was able to individualize the learning for each of her students.

Was it 10 or 15 years ago that she moved to the regular high school?

I don’t recall.  There, her class sizes were bigger, she had many of the same troubled kids, but bigger class sizes, and less time to give the kids the attention she wanted.  She taught classes she enjoyed though, like child development and  personal living.  Both classes that SHOULD be required for every U.S. citizen.

In the last few years, the State of Michigan has made all kinds of educational cuts and changes, pretty much eliminating all of the “extra” classes from a student’s schedule.  Demands of extra paperwork and standardized test prep started to suck the fun out teaching for her.

But the kids know what her heart is like.

The neediest of students- the homeless, the parentless, the mentally ill – found a compassionate ear and mentor in my mom.

The last few years have been difficult for her because she knows what the kids need academically, and her hands are tied.

My dad has always been really proud of my mom and me for being teachers.  He continued his mantra of “you are a great teacher, just hang in there it will get better,” for years.  He still says that we are great teachers, but he doesn’t anymore say, “it will get better soon.”

Today my mom retires.

I’m really, really proud of her.  I became a teacher because I saw the relationships she had with her students, and the fun she had designing curriculum for her kids.  I know she touched thousands of lives, and probably saved many of those lives through her kind words and belief that her kids could succeed.

Congratulations on your retirement mom!

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A few weeks ago, I was standing in the hallway at school.  My collar was twisted and rumpled underneath my cardigan, which gave me the appearance of a hunched back.  My teacher friend couldn’t let me stand around looking all Igor-like, so she adjusted my collar for me.  Apparently, I was completely oblivious, because I had left the house that way, and had gotten to third period without noticing.

As she fixed my collar, she said, “That’s what I love about you Jenny, you’re so quirky.”

Hmmm?

How should I feel about being quirky?  Offended? Complemented?

I took it as a compliment.

I don’t really want to be normal.  I never have.  Except, that I always feel abnormal and out of place.

How can I be different and fit in all at the same time?  Is it possible?

I’m hopeful that it is possible.  Over the years I’ve acquired some quirky and eccentric friends.  They are always my favorite friends.  They are the ones that are fully themselves: fully aware of their strengths, not always aware of their limitations, and ready to charge full steam ahead into areas of new challenges and adventures.

I feel at home with fellow quirkites.

I asked my teacher friend why she thinks I’m quirky.

“Well, you are goofy, random, disheveled, and this time of year you always have dirt under your fingernails.”

People notice stuff like that?

Yikes!

So, this is what spurred this memory for me today.  One of the search engine topics that got a reader to my site was, “show me a picture of a plain manicure.”

Well dear searcher, here you go:

Here are my quirky, gardener hands, and my very plain manicure. I do wash my hands. I even use a fingernail brush, but this is about as good as it gets.

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My favorite hen, Goldie, is a Buff Orpington. The white hen is mentioned below. This is a view from inside our chicken ark. We move it daily so the chickens always have fresh grass. © Jenny Frech 2011

My friend, Kathy, gave us the three silky hens because she was downsizing her flock.  The hens were getting a bit long in the tooth, if chickens did indeed have teeth.

When we picked up the chickens, we put them in a crate in the back of the van.  On the trip home, the kids listened to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies”, while the hens clucked away.  They only clucked during this particular song.  I’m not sure if they were trying to sing along, or if they were screaming from fright.

Because of their musical tendencies, we named the hens: Flutter, Poochie, and The GoGo.  Flutter and Poochie were two small black silkies.  The GoGo is gray.  Silkies are funny looking  because they only have downy feathers, hence the name silky.  They also have puffs on the top of their heads, that make them look like they are wearing royal wedding hats.

Poochie didn’t make it to her first winter with us, and Flutter too looks like she’s on her last chickeny legs.  The GoGo is still going strong.  She is quite the character.

Since we got her, she has tried to peck our arms off nearly every day while we gather eggs.  We tried keeping her back with long sticks, by wearing padded sweatshirts, and by trying to grab the eggs really fast.  She was a broody hen and golly dern it, she was not going to move.

We don’t have a rooster, so her attempts to incubate the eggs were futile.

Finally, I landed fertilized eggs for her to sit on.

I bought a dozen and put all but three on the nest.  Within the hour, one of the hens had cracked them all open.  The GoGo had to be moved into isolation if she was going to bring a baby to term.

We put her in a big plastic tub with food, water, straw, and the remaining three eggs.  The GoGo sat, barely moving for food or water for three weeks.  She looked thinner, but happy.  She still tried to take our arms off, but there was something a bit more tender in the way she tore at our flesh.

Three weeks later, one of the eggs hatched.  The other two sloshed around when shaken.  Gross.

The chick is a Rhode Island Red which will eventually be about three times her size.  The kids named the chick, Peachy.  The GoGo stayed in isolation with Peachy for another week.

Last weekend, The GoGo and her chick went into our movable chicken ark with the other hens.  The white Aracauna hen tried to grab her (definitely not in a motherly way), but The GoGo chased her away.  Peachy follows her around all day, ducking underneath her mama when trouble approaches.

It’s bizarre to look outside and see The GoGo out on the green grass.  We are so used to seeing her inside the dark shed huddled in the nesting corner.

She’s a lot happier now, and one heck of a mama.

Way to Go, GoGo!

The GoGo and her chick, Peachy: after all that talk about being proud of The GoGo being outside in the green grass, even strawberries wouldn't coax her out to get herself photographed. © Jenny Frech 2011

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Photo and bag from Meatbagz on etsy

Recently, I discovered an etsy shop because of something nice they did for me.

The name of the shop, Meatbagz.

Ha! That name makes me laugh.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the Meatbagz crew saying that they used one of my photos in their Thursday Shout Out on their blog. It was pretty neat. It’s not the first time my photos have made someone else’s gallery or blog, but it still shocks me each time.

I was going to post this back when when I found out, but I wanted to include a link to their etsy shop, which was on vacation mode.

Check out http://www.etsy.com/shop/meatbagz

Or their blog http://meatbagz.wordpress.com/

And in case you missed it, here is the link to my photo on the blog. My heifer photo is the first one.

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For the last two weeks, my students have been working on independent study projects. They chose topics from the units that were most interesting to them. Then they did more in depth research, and wrote a paper based on this information.

The final part of their independent study required that they somehow present what they learned to the class in a tangible and meaningful way. Some students wrote poetry, some created collages, paintings, or sculptures, one made a website, another a video. It was great fun to see how their minds work, and to see how creative they could be in expressing themselves.

I was blown away by the following project. One of my students, asked if he could make artwork using Photoshop. I expected something amateurish, but the following are the pieces he created. I knew I had to share them, and asked for his permission to post them here. This kid has a future in graphic design I think!

© Sheldon Hines 2011

© Sheldon Hines 2011

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