The end of another school year

Six years ago, when I retired from teaching, I never expected to write such a headline again. Yet, here I am, with my life revolving around the school calendar.

Yesterday I wrapped up year 2 of being a school chaplain and working with first graders. I handed out certificates from the police department and police badge stickers. The kids were thrilled. The teachers were pretty pleased, too. They all asked, “you are coming back next year, aren’t you?” Yes, I will be back. They also gave me lovely gifts, which they shouldn’t do, but I love them for being so kind. The kids wrote lovely notes to me on the cards they included.

The principal and vice principal of the school will not be returning. I don’t know the whole story, but the principal has orders from her doctor. Her health has deteriorated this year and she needs to take time to repair it. Running an urban school is not the way to do it. That’s a job that needs energy and vigor.

This year has been a hard one for the principal. Her mother fell ill in the fall and died at Thanksgiving. The parents of students were murdered. Other caretakers died. Staff spouses died. A few teachers decided they couldn’t keep doing the job so they left. Substitutes came and went. One of the students died during Easter break. Some students moved, others arrived. It was a chaotic place with so  much coming and going. Tempers flared. Unkind words could be heard.

And I was only there 3 hours twice a week. I can imagine what life was like for the staff and students who were there day in and day out. Children need a soft place to fall. The children at this school have hard lives and home isn’t the soft place. That means school must be. The kids need kind, caring, generous adults who speak softly but firmly. Adults who are consistent, who show up every day for the kids. Adults the kids can count on.

I don’t know who next year’s principal will be, but I hope the person can fill the bill. The students will be counting on it.


Berry season

Due to our warm temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley, berry season comes early. Strawberry stands open around Easter. I bought a crate weeks ago and made syrup. Blueberries have been ripening for a few weeks and are all over the farmer’s markets. This week blackberries and Boysenberries are in full force. 

The Ladies Who Lunch have developed a tradition–when Berry Lady Farms sends us an email that the blackberries are ready, we make plans to head to Kingsburg, first for brunch and then out to the farm to stock up. Only one of us couldn’t make it this year:

We loaded SUVs and a pickup with our selections of blueberries, blackberries, and the most amazing Boysenberries grown anywhere. 

Some of the berries get frozen for later use. Lots get eaten immediately. I made blackberry syrup. Others make jam. A few cobblers are rushed into the oven. I worked on these little bites of yumminess:

I need to refine my method for the puff pastry shell, but the experiment tasted pretty good. 

My kitchen got a workout what with juicing berries, boiling syrup, cooking the cream filling, and baking puff pastry. The dishwasher ran three times. 

Next up…peaches. 

You would think I would learn

I think I’ve written before about my poor experiences with Pinterest recipes. But, once, again, I got suckered in.

The idea for a sweet bacon appetizer seemed to be a possibility for a Sunday morning after-church treat. I’m occasionally asked to help with the after-church coffee service and I thought this might be a hit. People like bacon. People like sweet stuff. This could work.

It has a ridiculous name: maple caramel bacon crack. I thought I would just call it sweet bacon snacks. You start with crescent roll dough, bacon, maple syrup, and brown sugar. I cut up the bacon in small pieces, cooked and drained it. Rolled out the dough onto parchment paper, pinching the pieces together. Spread on maple syrup, sprinkled with brown sugar, scattered the bacon pieces over the sweet stuff and then topped with more maple syrup and brown sugar. You bake that in a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes.

My results

The flavor is pretty good, but the base of crescent roll dough is just not all that great. I think puff pastry dough or even pie crust dough might be better. I use puff pastry dough A LOT and have good results with it.

So, would I make this again? No, not as the recipe is written, but perhaps with some tinkering. Do any of you, dear Readers, have success with Pinterest recipes?

And another week has passed

Time is flying and it seems I’m flying along with it. 

As soon as I finished with the deacon’s meeting last Sunday, we took off to see our kids in the Bay Area. It was Leeya’s 7th birthday so we took her and Judah out for dinner while their parents had a date night. 

The next day we took both kids to their respective schools and picked them up afterwards for more birthday fun. This freed their parents to get work done. 

Leeya discovered chocolate mousse and it’s now a favorite. 

Although we had to go home on Tuesday and miss the art festival at Leeya’s school, Jen sent this photo of Leeya with one of four of her pieces that were selected for the festival. 

Her painting is of the autumn tree on the green hill. It shows her use of warm and cool colors in a picture. I was surprised at how professional she dressed for the event. Her sense of fashion is usually more bohemian. I wish I could have been there to have seen all of her work. 

This was the last week to read a book to the first graders. Next week I will hand out certificates and stickers from the Fresno Police Department to each student and say goodbye for this school year. Yes, time is flying. 

A week of busy

It’s been a week since I posted about my comings and goings. Guess I’ve been so busy coming and going, I didn’t have time to stop and think about what I was doing, much less write about it.

One of my main tasks this week was finishing a photo book for my granddaughter’s seventh birthday (which just happens to be Friday the 13th this year). For the past few years I have been using Shutterfly to make the kids’ books. I used Jostens for years when I got started doing these books. I had used Jostens for the 9 years I did the yearbook at that big inner city high school. Then they gave up that private line of business. I switched to Apple but had to give that up when I updated my software and no longer had my photos on my computer. Shutterfly seemed perfect since I could upload the photos directly from my phone to the company’s site. Then I go online, on my laptop, and make the book. It’s not real intuitive, but I fitz and fust, and get the book complete.

Another activity keeping me occupied are four baby kittens that were born in our hall bath this past week. I’m not going into all the detail, just know that I don’t want more feral cats around here so decided to play “midwife” to a neighbor’s cat. Now I’m running a nursery.

The school year is wrapping up, and I have to give a post assessment to the first graders with whom I have been working. That happened this week. There will be awards for each child so I met with the supervisor of the school chaplains and got my stash of certificates. We sat and talked for almost two hours, comparing notes and coming up with ideas for next year and beyond. He is a retired principal and one of the smartest educators I have ever met. I always learn so much when I talk to him. He gives me actual words and actions to use with the children.

After months of working with small elementary students, today I got to return to my roots and give a tour of Kearney Mansion to high school seniors. These were students from a small county town who have been accepted to Fresno State University, but knew little about Fresno, so their teacher decided this would make a good introduction to Fresno’s history and allow the seniors to see a bit of Fresno, off the beaten path.

Although I gave them the historical context of the house and M. Theo Kearney as I usually do on these tours, I focused more on Mr. Kearney’s vision for the San Joaquin Valley. We talked about leaving a legacy, not just a resume, and I challenged them to use the technology of the day to tell their story, just as Mr. Kearney had done in the early 1900s.

The teacher took me aside as we were leaving the house, “I could not have asked you to say it any better! I have been teaching these kids for the past year about leaving a legacy, to live beyond oneself. They had a project to design their dream home and we come here and see that Kearney had designed his, and kept the dream alive right up to his death. This was perfect, thank you.”  I guess I channeled Mr. Kearney pretty well today.

It’s been busy around here, and the next two weeks promise more of the same as the school year comes to a close and we put our summer plans into action.


The poem I wrote for the teachers

This is what I put inside that card I made for the first grade teachers:


Every day

                        You show up

                        You are prepared

                        You love your students



                        You provide comfort

                        You provide nurture

                        You provide opportunity


Some days it all goes right

                        and you have fun


Some days it all goes wrong

                        and you question yourself


But you come back

                        more prepared

                        with more love


            And you do it all again


You are indeed a class act, a true professional

Nobody appreciates teachers like a retired teacher

This past week was national teacher appreciation week. Next week California Teachers Association (the teacher’s union) shows its appreciation on the 11th. 

Teachers should get two weeks of accolades. Teachers work so hard and who really understands that is a retired teacher. The four first grade teachers with whom I work are amazing. I could never do what they do. Teaching at the high school level is hard enough as we juggle many responsibilities, but teaching tiny learners is a whole ‘nother level of hard. 

I really appreciate the first grade teachers’ hard work and love for their children. I also appreciate the fact that they allow me to come in once a week and take over their classroom for a half hour or so. My tiny gifts aren’t much, but I do like to bring them small tokens of my appreciation every now and then. 

Using my Adobe software and a few skills I used to teach, I made cards for the teachers. I added a sticker and ribbon. 

I found gift bags at Barnes & Noble that carried on the Paris theme. 

I put some special candies and a lovely smelling hand cream in the bags. I found napkins with the Eiffel Tower at Whole Foods so they went in, too. Thought that would make their lunch break a bit nicer. Their very short lunch break. 

One of the teachers gave me a thank you note:

How sweet.