Life in small town America

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Come spring, do not wait

Today’s temp 18º and it feels like 10º due to windchill. I wonder if spring will ever come. There is so much snow, I cannot remember when I last saw grass. With the vineyard gone across from across the street, there is nothing to keep the snow from PILING yards deep in the driveway. When will the snow plow driver realize that he is dumping his pile right in front of our mail box when he flies around the corner. Thanks to our neighbor with an awesome snow blower, the fire hydrant has been discovered.


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Women have the Right to Vote

Today, we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

As a woman and elected public official, I hold this right and my office in high regard.  As United State citizens,  women have this great privilege to vote because other women in the past century took it upon themselves to make sure that the voices of women everywhere had the right to cast a ballot. The 19th Amendment gives women their real voice.

Since all citizens are guaranteed, by the First Amendment, the right to free speech, this amendment gave women the right to speak their minds at the polls.

If you know a female who is not registered to vote, help her get registered.  If you are a woman and you vote, bravo!  Keep voting. If you know an elected female official, thank her for taking the risk to run for office and fight hard for the voices of all women across this country.

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Sherlock Holmes

What’s on my mind?  Well, my 21 1/2 year old cat, Sherlock Holmes, died today.  What a great cat he was, greeting me at the door each day.  Never once did he gossip about me or talk behind my back or ignore me. His purring against my face relieved all of the day’s stresses.  His morning songs were the best as he waited for breakfast.

What a fighter he has been these last months as he could not see due to cataracts and frail legs that wobbled so that he could not get into his litter box.  Because he was no longer grooming himself, I spend each day caressing his beautiful fur with a brush hoping that would give him some sense of dignity. Since he was only able to do his business wherever he stood, he needed someone to care for his coat so he could have a sense of the regal cat he has always been.  He did live a great life so I am okay with it all because he was blind and moved so slow.  He had numerous health issues as the elderly always do, so although I grieve his  loss, I know it is better for him now.  Goodbye, old man, you were dearly loved.

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School days

It is time for school to start.  How do I know this?  No, it is not the crazy moms shopping with their bored adolescents who languish while their dutiful parent buys schools supplies at Walmart or the packed parking lot at Millcreek Mall.  Rather, it is the first aroma of grapes in the vineyards.

Last evening when I was walking the dog past the vineyard at the entrance to the high school, I smelled that delicious smell.  Just a few yards from the entrance to the vineyard I saw the telltale signs of cross country runners.  Every year, they steal a fist of grapes hoping to get that sweet aroma into their mouths.  However, what they discover is that the grapes are not nearly ripe and they toss the offending sour grapes they still have in hand along the road.  When school actually starts and the grapes start to ripen, there is not a clear stepping space on the front portico that serves as the gym entrance to the high school.  I have always wondered why the kids spit out the purple hulls of the Concord grape on the concrete pad that leads into the school, because I love the whole grape.

School days were always hard in the fall because that sweet, intoxicating aroma filled the classrooms in the early fall afternoons, beckoning each one to come out and play amongst the trellises. How could a teacher get a good lesson taught with such an invitation pulling not only the child,but the teacher as well?  This is such a special place because I do not have to go to Nappa Valley to enjoy the grape harvest.  I just open the window or step out the door.

The warm days and crisp, football and soccer evenings make for a great fall harvest and start to every school year as the Grape Pickers don their maroon and gold colors to represent the school. Go Pickers!

It is also a time for celebration with the Community Fair and the Wine Festival, but those will be future blog posts.

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Beach Days

There are very few beach days in northwestern PA, but when they are available they become great times for breakfast at the beach, reclining in the sun, reading books and chatting with friends.

Why do I write about this summer day.  There are several reasons.  Since I have retired from teaching in public education to become a college professor, I have taken time to think about things more closely.  Teachers rarely have enough time to enjoy moments.  We are so busy planning and grading and teaching and advising that we rarely have enough time to stop to smell the roses, so to speak.  Life as a public educator is a never-ending career of thinking to the future things we need to do to make students more successful.  Many times this means spending the whole summer in graduate school, or telling your son you cannot go to a soccer match because you have to write test for tomorrow’s class or telling your daughter you cannot help her do her science project because you have to run a musical rehearsal. You know she will be asleep when you get home.

Thus, my brain thought back to the fact that teaching is a hectic, never-ending, selfless career that requires 60-70 hours of attention each week.  No, you do not get paid by the hour and yes, you must go back to school throughout your career, just like doctors and lawyers, to remain current in your profession and maintain certifications. Unfortunately, folks think you make too much because you only work nine months in a year.  If teachers were paid for the extra 20 – 25 hours per week that they put in to do school work outside of school, the public would not be able to pay for PUBLIC EDUCATION.  As a teacher in a public school, I had to pay for my own professional development and graduate classes.  However, I learned, when I did my principal certification program that the taxpayer pays for administrators to stay current in their field.  Since principals work an average of $40,000 more than a teacher per year, this is hard to process.

Many folks are not aware that teachers spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000 of their own paychecks each year to buy school supplies for their students.  Sad to say it is getting harder for teachers to do in the current economy.  When your child goes to school in the fall, remember that it takes a village to educate children.  There are many ways you can help out at your child’s school.  Drop off a box of colored chalk to your child’s teacher so that the children can practice art during recess.  YOu need to do this because some schools are actually dropping art programs so students can PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE to pass federally mandated exams that tell the public what teachers know about each child already.  Stop by to practice math facts with a small child who doesn’t get math yet.  Make a costume for a musical.  Bring in a basket of apples for the teacher’s room.

There are some special parents who helped me in my career as a journalism adviser and language arts teacher.  For them, I am always grateful.  They are the ones who brought dinner to the whole yearbook staff on a long work night.  These parents are also the ones who came to open house or offered to help chaperon an all night dance to raise money for a drama trip to New York City.  These were my angels.

As I think about those great 34 years, I know I did not get the big bucks that my college friends who are now CEOs or attorneys or doctors make.  That is okay, because I know that by teaching I may not have made a fortune, but, now that I think about it, I DID MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and ‘that has made all the difference .” (with deference to one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost.)

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Cherry Festival Chairs

This is the most amazing town.  Days before the Firemen’s Cherry Festival parade, thousands of plastic and folding chairs line Main and Lake Streets. The first time I saw this, I was astonished that people didn’t steal other folks’ chairs, but they don’t.  It is almost a code of honor.

Actually, the Cherry Festival is that great even that marks the middle of summer and warns all school aged children that there are six weeks left of summer vacation.  It also helps the local economy as people flood into town to ride the carnival rides, eat cotton candy, the BEST OX ROAST sandwiches ever and fresh curly fries that cannot be beat anywhere.

The parade is the best – two hours of nonstop noise fun and summer sun. Rain has never stopped the parade and there have been very few parades that have felt the rain, so the firemen KNOW the right days to hold the festival.

One of the hard things to do during the Cherry Fest is to drive through town because there are people, babies in strollers, kids on bikes and families everywhere.  So park your car and walk because that is the fastest way to get to the carnival.  Yes, very little off street parking and usually youth groups sponsor a parking space for a small fee.

The festival also boasts the best pies made by the great folks at First Presbyterian Church.  Worth every cent!

So, pull up a chair and ENJOY the festival.

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Public manners

Have you ever noticed numerous pieces of chewing gum on sidewalks in the summer.   Five days ago, I was strolling the beautiful downtown streets when I realized that there is a truckload of gum on the sidewalk.  In hot weather, this is usually a gooey mess that walkers must negotiate as they go for a little exercise.

Throwing gum on the sidewalk to dispose of it is a clear indication of lack of parenting in our society.  Why, you ask?  My parents would be totally appalled at the fact someone would  throw away a piece of gum without wrapping it and placing it in a garbage can.  Let’s have some manners and throw our gum in the garbage instead of littering the beautiful streets in our town.  Thanks to local welder, Roy Peters, there are nearly a dozen new and decorative trash cans along Main Street, so there is no excuse for throwing gum on the sidewalk.

Parents, you need to SHOW you children how to wrap a piece of used gum in its wrapper and dispose of it in a waste receptacle. It is a lesson in public manners that will last a lifetime.

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Cherry Festival

One of the things I always love about summer is the Cherry Festival. So many people come to see the parade and go tot he carnival grounds. I am sad that the Heard Building is gone, but Heard Park still boasts the best ox roast and curly fries in the summer. I always use Cherry Festival week to note the half way mark of summer vacation. Summer mornings have to be the best. Drinking coffee, reading the paper, and listening to the cicadas sing. There is nothing better, except the Cherry Fest Brunch at the neighbor’s house. What a great summer tradition for over 25 years. Sorry, AJ and Willy and Donn, no golf tournaments in the vineyard anymore. It is GONE!