Cheap Field Trip # 4: The Tugaloo River History Tour

Cheap Field Trip # 4: The Tugaloo River History Tour

For the past ten years, on the last Saturday in May, Kelly  Vickers, a Stephens County historian, has been leading groups on canoes and in kayaks down the Tugaloo River Corridor for fun and learning.  If you haven’t participated in one of these now famous tours, you’ve been missing out.  The Tugaloo Corridor is that stunning stretch of wilderness and river that forms the border between Stephens County, Georgia and Oconee County, South Carolina.  The Corridor, which begins at the base of Yonah Dam, is the historical meeting ground of Cherokee Indians to the north and Creek Indians to the south.  There is a place just below the dam where the river is completely natural: flat, rocky and rapid.  It is just beyond this spot where the tour begins its meanderings and Mr. Vickers begins his oral narrations of the natives, the hunters, the farmers, and the tradesmen who made their mark on these regions many years ago.  He tells secrets about  the ancient geological formations that mark this area as uniquely beautiful.  Best of all, he tells tales about the waters, the bridges, the homes, and the local pioneers that you will never forget.  All of this, for free, while you get a tan and an upper body workout on the Tugaloo River.

Last year, we embarked upon this 5 hour tour on Memorial Saturday.  We had four in our party, but there were 140 river enthusiasts in our midst on 120 vessels.   It took about 30 minutes of gathering equipment and coolers, then brief instructions were given before the launch.  Mr. Vickers, easily identified with flag and pointed hat, led the charge at 8:45 am.

At first the waters moved swiftly and the paddling was easy.  Then, after about a mile in, the river deepened, the currents slowed and the arms came out to work.  It was a glorious day of bright sunshine.  About every mile, Mr. Vickers would paddle to the shore line and give a story.  We heard stories of natives warriors, run-away war-time officers, bridge burnings, Native rock carvings, and more.

We made it to the Prather’s Bridge area around 11 am to cool in the shade.

And the stories continued all the way down to the Long Nose Creek Falls on the South Carolina side.  Long Nose Creek Falls is only accessible by boat and is quite remote and pristine, a must see if you love the wild and scenic offerings of our upstate area.

After leaving the falls, we made our way across the top most portion of Lake Hartwell, where Toccoa Creek  merges with the river and the Tugaloo Mound is  located.  Here we learned about the great native chiefs that led their people in this valley land, the hidden dripping rock and the old Tugaloo Town before pulling our canoes out at a property on the Georgia side.

Thanks to strong sunscreen and lots of water, we made it down the river happy, hydrated and historically enriched.  It was just a great time.  We had two big kids with us, a 20 year old and a 14 year old and they loved it.  The best part, really, is the history.  Kelly Vickers is such a great storyteller.  He is the Registrar at Toccoa Falls College and a board member of the Stephens County Foundation.  He began these trips 11 years ago with a group of college students who were learning history at TFC.  The initial tour was a big hit and, as Mr. Vickers says, “The rest is history.”

If you want to join us in 2018  for this free and wonderful adventure, you are in luck!  The next Tugaloo River History Tour is May 26 and will depart from Walker Creek Boat ramp at 8:30 am.   A shuttle will be provided to transport you back to Walker Creek after the tour.

For more information on the River History Tour, go to the website:  http://www.tugaloocorridor.org/

Hope to see you there.

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My Kids Aren’t Perfect and I’m Okay With That

My Kids Aren’t Perfect and I’m Okay With That

Recently, I had a mom email to say, “My son will not be re-enrolling in your course next year. Thank you very much.”  Now, this was a terse and shocking email to receive from a parent that I had just spoken with a couple of days before.  This mom couldn’t say enough nice things about the writing her child was doing in my class.   After investigating, I discovered that during a peer review session the son had received both positive and negative comments about his fiction writing.

“My child was just so discouraged by the comments he received,” she explained. “I hope you will understand that he cannot continue in your class.”

I did not understand and this was not consistent with what I saw in the classroom that day.  I poured carefully through all the comment papers, looking specifically at the ones directed to this student.  I was expecting to find hate speech toward this child’s work.  Instead, the comments he received looked something like, “you might try adding a comma in the 3rd line” or “this is really good, but could be better with more descriptive adjectives.”

So, here we go…a discrepancy between what actually happened and what the parent perceived as a threat to her child’s ability.  This was a parent that wanted to protect her child from the pain of  negative criticism.  To me, this situation is demonstrative of a larger problem I see happening in our culture: People have it all figured out.  They’ve got paper writing, parenting, relationships, God, their life…. all figured out.  They don’t need any help.  “I’m good,” they will say.  Or, “My child is a fine writer or test taker or history student.”  Suggesting otherwise is an insult to the parent and the family.   “What do you mean my child made a 67 on her paper?  She followed every check point on the rubric.”  My response:  “If you would have looked at your child’s paper, you would have seen 5 misspelled words, 3 grammatical errors, 4 punctuation errors, two formatting errors and one content error.  This child has room for growth!”

What happened to the idea of everyone having “room for improvement”?  Or, what about the idea that mistakes are “opportunities to learn”?  As I was telling my youngest this week, “Did you think  you could just roll out of the crib and write an algebraic expression without any consultation?”  As humanity, most of us were not born with talent chips in our heads.  We must struggle and practice and perfect, even if imperfectly.   How can we grow if we are not willing to admit that we need help?   How can we become more like Christ if we have no hardships to test our character?

The first step, it would seem, is to admit that we don’t have it all figured out.

I struggle with how to gently combat these attitudes around me.  I’ve been reading about growth mindset and how it affects our approach to learning and receiving criticism from others.  The idea of a growth mindset was developed by Carol Dweck, a psychologist and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck has been researching the concepts of  fixed vs. growth mindset.  In a fixed mindset, people believe their talents or intelligence is a fixed trait and that talent alone creates success, without effort.   In contrast, “in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point.” (edglossary.org)  The outcome of a growth mindset is a love of learning and a resilience, to accept and use constructive criticism.

As a parent, I must resist the urge to butt in, “My kid needs to make an A on this assignment.”  Rather, I need to promote the notion that “You need to know this material,” and “it will help you to learn this concept.”  Making an A on an assignment is vastly different today than knowing the material.  Really knowing something, internalizing a concept means that you’ve spent time with it; you’ve chewed on it, like the end of a pencil and made it yours.  That kind of knowledge comes with risk taking and set backs.

As a teacher, I must find a way to show students that criticism is just the beginning.  Criticism and feedback force us to grapple with our choices.  Knowing that our work will be challenged, forces us to examine our choices along the way.

When I was in college, I gathered up enough courage to show a piece of writing to one of my professors.  “What do you think about this poem,” I asked?

“It isn’t very good,” he said.

A lump formed in my throat. This was not easy news to hear and at that point, I had to make a decision:  Am I going to throw my hands up in the air and say, “That’s it!  I’m a writing idiot. I quit.” Or am I going to use this as a motivation to work harder?  Thankfully, I chose the latter.  I’m telling my kids the same thing:   Be thankful when you get negative feedback.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Take the opportunity and grow with it.

Romans 5: 3 – 4

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

 

 

 

 

 

Slice of Life: Day 31

Slice of Life: Day 31

Reflections on Slice of Life:  The Last Day

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog these last 31 days!  They don’t call it the Slice of Life Challenge for nothing!  These 31 days have been challenging, but they’ve also been really fun and enlightening.

Here are some thoughts on the last 31 days:

  1. I loved it.  Really!  And, maybe I’m a better observer and writer for the effort.
  2. I noticed this week that I’m better at responding to student papers since I started the challenge.
  3. Since my days were already jam packed, the margin to write came from my sleeping hours.  As much as I didn’t want to, I ended up posting most nights between 10:30 and 11:55 pm, after my youngest went to bed.  Next year, I’m hoping to shift that to mornings.
  4. Everyone in our house went to bed late because mom was up late slicing and not paying attention! After today, its back to a reasonable bedtime for everyone in the family!
  5. There are some very talented writers and teachers in this community and I am grateful to have been able to join this group. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the encouragement.
  6. The good, the bad and the ugly: That’s what my readers saw in my writing this month!
  7. Having a writer’s notebook was super helpful to corral ideas and snippets of writing for Slicing.
  8. It wasn’t hard to come up with a topic each day.   I have a lifetime of topics and observations inside me. The harder task was carving out time to write and post.
  9. I’ve learned that I can be more attentive to my blog, a goal of mine for years.  If I can churn out a post every day for an entire month,  then I should be able to post once a week the rest of the year.
  10. I’m glad everyone around me knew I was slicing.  They kept me going by asking questions like, “Mom, what are you going to slice about today?”  or  “Are you just now slicing? my husband would ask.
  11. My laptop got a real work out and so did my neck and shoulders!  Next year, I’m adding in a little extra yoga to offset the bad slicing posture.

Thank you to the people at twowritingteachers.org for sponsoring this Challenge.  It has been a very positive experience.  Hopefully, I’ll be seeing you all on Tuesdays and again next March.  ‘Til next time!

 

 

Slice of Life: Day 29

Slice of Life: Day 29

Braking for Cows!

 

On a recent, late winter day we went on a pastoral adventure to find raw milk.  A luxury to us city folk, raw milk is just the anecdote to what ails you right before Lent.  And, with Lent just two days away, we decided an adventure was in order.  Plus, we’d get to see cows!

Down windy roads, soft hills in the distance, trees still bare, we made our way to the dairy.  Grey skies dominated the top half of the horizon, blanketing over any possibility of a sun sighting.  The smell of feed bins and earth permeated the air coming through the sun roof.  Then, somebody saw the sign, “Purple Haze Dairy.. there it is Mom!”

We pulled through the gate and there they were.  Cows!  I eased on the brakes and stopped just a few yards into the farm.

Why do I love cows so much?  Is it because they are gentle in spite of their size?  Is it their often wet noses?  Is it because they are an American icon?  Perhaps all of these reasons and they’re just darn cute.

These happy bovine were happy to see us and came over for a lump of grass and a forehead rub. We petted and visited and laughed as long as the cows were interested.  After about 10 minutes they grew bored with our offerings of day old hay.

Dusk was settling quickly over that country scene so we made our way  to the honor system cooler for a jug of the raw deliciousness.  $6 and worth every dime.

As we walked toward our vehicle, a giant cow pattie reminded us city folk that we are tourists out here.  Farming is hard work!  Then, jug in hand, we climbed into the truck, kicked the mud off our shoes and rode back from whence we came.

Slice of Life: Day 28

Slice of Life: Day 28

Poetry and Water World

After battling almost an hour of traffic, we made it to Metro Academic Studies down in Atlanta.  There is a weird thing where the closer you get to spring break, the worse the traffic gets down in the city.  Folks are either passing through or coming to town in the spring.  That definitely means longer commutes and earlier wake ups.

Thankfully, after coming off the hectic highway, I had my creative writing class to look forward to.  Each writing student had three poetry pieces due today.  On deadline days, we host a read-a-round where every piece goes into a pile at the front of the room.  Each student picks up a piece of writing (not their own), reads it and gives feedback.  I designed a form that requires the peer reader to offer one positive and one constructive comment per piece.  Once the peer reader finishes reading the piece and commenting, he or she then picks up another piece and comments until everyone has read every piece of writing.  This works well because we only have 10 students in the class!  Everybody enjoys the feedback on their papers and they like seeing what their classmates have been up to during workshop time.  It is my favorite activity as well.  I recognize little bits of my students’ lives showing up in their writing: a trip to Florida, a sibling who has left for college, a new family member.  A real time saver for me,  I am usually able to read every student piece during the read-a-round activity.

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It is no secret that kids are fairly wound up the last day of school before a break.  Well, sometime after noon, a giant water main broke next to the school and we could all see the geyser spewing right out the class window!  Funny, I never see anyone look out those windows, except today!  Then, the power went out and the water pressure quit in the building, so many of my students just hung at the windows, admiring and chatting about the watery spectacle.  It was a sight for winter weary eyes.  And, being so close to school getting out and break, it was all fine with me.

Slice of Life: Day 26

Slice of Life: Day 26

An Apology

 

Forgive me…

I left the dishes in the sink,

the laundry on the floor,

and a pile of bills at the door.

 

There’s an iron ready to press your shirt,

Nerf bullets strewn about the stoop,

the chickens have escaped the coop.

 

But, the sound of an approaching rain

brought slumber to my brain.

My head against the pillow,

the patterned drops at my window —

I’ve been dreaming of fields and windy willow.

 

That nap was the one

accomplishment of my day;

do pardon the domestic fray.

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Slice of Life: Day 25

A Double Feast Day!

the blessing of the dates

A feast day is a day on the church calendar that celebrates a major event in the life of Christ or celebrates a major saint in the church.  Today was a double feast day!  It was the feast of Annunciation, the day that the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son.  And, it was also the feast of St. Mary of Egypt, a 5th century saint that repented from a life of great sin.  Both of these feasts came together today for a meaningful festival to brighten our Lenten fasting and to remind us that Pascha is just two weeks away.

Annunciation is that special day on March 25, exactly 9 months before Jesus’s birth, that the archangel Gabriel told Mary she would bear a child.  Some churches call this the Feast of the Incarnation.  On this day the fast is mitigated and everyone celebrates with fish and wine.

Lentils and dried dates were also eaten today to commemorate the food that was brought to St. Mary of Egypt by Saint Zosimas.  Zosimas was a priest – monk who lived in a monastery near the Jordan River.  It was the custom of his monastery to spend the entire 40 days of Great Lent in the desert fasting.  While Zosimas was in the desert, he found St. Mary, who told him her life story and asked that he return the following year on Holy Thursday.   When he returned, he brought with him the lentils and dates.

 

Many Orthodox churches read the miraculous story of Saint Mary of Egypt on this day during their services. After the dried fruits are blessed, the congregation eats them in remembrance and celebration.   The celebration of these traditions remind us that many Christians have come before us.  We have many role models in the church to encourage us in our journey.  I always love seeing our young people participating in the services.  They are participating in a tradition that has been celebrated every single year, in multiple countries for more than 1400 years.