Friday, December 30, 2011

OLW 2011

Last year was my first participating in One Little Word. I chose "discover" and while I haven't done much in a physical way (artwork, scrap booking, etc) with my word, I have definitely been coming back to it all year. Essentially, I wanted 2011 to be a year when I discovered more about myself, more about others and more about the world we live in together. As I look back on the last few months, I see discovery was all around me. I learned more about my sons -- what they need (we did love language surveys!) and what motivates them to grow. I have discovered new approaches in my classroom that have transformed not only my grading practices, but the way I view my students, my work and my craft. I have discovered even more to love about my husband, a man who makes me see things in ways I never would on my own. I have discovered that people all around me need kindness and compassion in the most profound way and I am beginning to discover how I can meet some of those needs. I have recently re-discovered my love of reading. It never left, but I was making no time to nurture it. With each book
I have read, I have discovered new questions to ask myself and new lives to carry in my heart and memory.

With "discover" as my one little word, I think I have approached this year with an increased openness which I hope will continue to grow.

Now, to choose a word for 2012... And maybe you, too?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

National Day on Writing

Tomorrow I will be celebrating the National Day on Writing with my students. In preparation I wrote a response to the "Why I Write" prompt offered by NWP (National Writing Project). This is the latest in a long line of short pieces I have written on this topic. Sometimes, even with things we love, we have to remind ourselves why.

Why I Write Today

I am a writer because whenever something significant happens and whenever it doesn't, I itch to put it into words.

When I walk outside in the morning, I want to describe how the fingertips of air touch my skin. When I drive to work, I want to list all of the adjectives I can that describe the sound of my car -- the whir, the grumble, the sigh, the buzz of tires on asphalt.

When I talk with someone, I imagine the words being typed across a screen or written in a notebook. I imagine what that conversation would look like in the pages of a paperback, black type on rough vanilla pages.

I see my words popping up in speech bubbles, filling all the empty space between me and you.

I write because I am breathing, because I am living, because I am loving you and this is how we kiss.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What My Son Said

Wednesday evenings have become my most peaceful of the week. The rest of the family goes to church while I take Nicholas to football practice. For an hour and a half, I don't have to speak to anyone, keep an eye on anyone, feed anyone or take anyone to the potty. I love my job and love my family, and goodness knows I love talking, but that brief respite each week has been a blessing.

And then, I get some time with Nicholas. My middle son, he tends to be the quietest of the three, the least aggressive, the most compliant. On Wednesdays, we get time together uninterrupted by his more demanding brothers (who I love like crazy, too, of course!).

After a dinner at Subway (a shared footlong and a chocolate chip cookie) --which earned me a "You're the best mom in the world!"--we had this conversation as we drove home:
(Passing the pumpkin patch)
Nicholas: Look at all the lights. They are so pretty.
Me: They are! Maybe someday when you get married, you can have a reception with lots of white lights like those.
Nicholas: Yes, and maybe after I get married my wife and I can go to the pumpkin patch.
Me: Then you will have to get married in October.
Nicholas: On Halloween!
Me: Well, whenever you get married, the girl you choose will be so lucky.
Nicholas: I want to marry a pretty girl.
Me: Pretty is fine, but it us more important that you find a girl who is kind.
Nicholas: Boys like pretty girls, not ugly ones.
Me(starting to get a little testy): But kind is the best thing for a girl to be; pretty isn't that important.
Nicholas: Well, you are pretty and Dad married you, so I think I will find a pretty girl, too.
Me (a little less testy): Aww, you are sweet!
Nicholas: Yep, Mom, boys like pretty girls, not ugly ones and girls don't like nerdy boys. Sometimes they like boys who are popular if they only do a few nerdy things.
Me: Like what?
Nicholas: You know, like play the banjo.

I love Wednesday night.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Summer vacation was nothing like I thought it would be and exactly what I needed it to be. At the start, I told my husband all about these great plans I had made, the daily schedule I had devised, and all I wanted to accomplish. I even had a little acronym I wanted to use as a "title" for our summer adventures. And then, I didn't do any of it. No schedule, no accomplishment, no acronym. I have to say, it was lovely. The boys and I spent hour upon hour at the pool -- beginning most of our days there and not getting properly dressed until lunchtime. We didn't rush anywhere, we didn't pack anything, and the only schedule came from the fact that the pool opened at 8, so we knew we had to wait until then to arrive. I learned amazing things about my sons, about how their minds and hearts work. Without the demands of the school year, we were free to talk, listen, and wonder together. I watched them play together, fight together and grow even closer to each other. Of course, they had their daily hourly skirmishes and there were a number of days when I thought the top of my head might actually combust in an outward display of my frustration, but those times were worth it for the moments of magic. Diving into the deep end, sprinting through the sprinklers, pizza picnics in the park and the last hours of the evening cuddled together reading books that made us cry -- we spent those long unplanned, unnamed days in love.
Now it is time for backpacks and notebooks. Lesson plans and lunchbags. I'm glad. Too much time away makes me antsy; relaxation begins to feel like laziness. I like thinking and planning and doing. But. We are two weeks into our school year, the boys and me both, and while we are adjusting well, I think we are all having a more difficult time time saying goodbye to summer this year. Or maybe, we are having a hard time saying goodbye to each other.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What Days This Summer Taste Like

Do you ever have those moments when you wish you could snap your fingers and instantly record exactly what was happening?  I had two of those this week and I have to write them down before they become part of the blur that characterizes my child-rearing years.

The first moment involved Nicholas, my middle son.  I wrote last summer about his reluctance to swim and the breakthrough he had when he finally learned to dunk his head under the water and swim with a flotation device.  Due to a relatively cool June, our pool time hasn't been very consistent, but the last couple of weeks have given us the chance to get into our morning pool ritual.  After a few days, Nicholas asked me, "Why can't I swim yet?" I reminded him that he had refused for the last two summers to allow me to teach him.  "Are you ready to learn now?" I asked.  He definitely was.  After a few minutes practicing kicks at the side of the pool and reminding him to make his arms like big spaghetti spoons, he was ready to try.  He pushed off from the pool's steps, and with that, he was swimming!  Just a few feet at first, but by the end of the hour, he was really getting the hang of it.  Only three days later, he is jumping into the deep end and swimming to the sides all on his own. He still needs to keep practicing and improving, but he is now a swimmer.  On that first day, he looked at me with his wet, shaggy hair falling across his eyes and a smile that could not get any wider and said, "I am so proud of myself!"  My heart must have tripled in size. After years of watching him wrestle with the desire to dive in and the fear that held him back, I couldn't help but have a few tears fall as he reveled in his success.


The second moment this week happened just a couple of hours ago.  I was reading to the boys from Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo, a book none of us has read before.  We haven't even seen the movie, so each night's reading is a fresh experience for all of us.  After a few chapters, particularly sorrow-filled chapters, I finished up and went to kiss my oldest son good night.  He said, "Mom, I think I might be too sad to fall asleep."  It isn't out of character for Michael to be strongly impacted by the situations in a book or movie; in fact, it happens regularly, but tonight, I asked him, "Do you know why it is good for us to read stories even though they make us sad?"  He shook his head and I continued, "Because when we read what other people go through, even thought it is hard and might make us sad, it makes us better able to love people in real life because we understand them better.  Reading stories that make us feel helps us be better people.  Does that make sense?" He understood and we chatted in whispers a bit more about how books do this.  Michael is a challenging boy, but his heart is about as tender as it could be.  I told him that if we keep reading books together, the things he struggles with will become easier to control.  That boy's sleepy eyes and soft smile made me want to lay down right next to him so we could fall into dreams together.  Alas, laundry beckoned and so I sang him a requested lullaby, turned out the lights and left the room where my three boys lay fast asleep.

Funny how the chapters we read in Because of Winn-Dixie tonight were the ones about the candy made with sweetness and sorrow.  Root beer, strawberry and melancholy all swirled together-- I know exactly what that tastes like.
PS: I didn't mean to ignore Lucas in this post; I'm sure I will share a story about his antics/poignant moments this summer soon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Discover, Drive and Living the Dream

In January I chose "discover" as my OLW (One Little Word) for the year and over the last six months I have constantly had the word on my mind.  I anticipated a year filled with physical discoveries -- new places to visit or new activities to engage in -- but the reality has been discovery of a different sort.  I have found myself discovering an emotional strength I didn't know I had.  I have discovered that some of the qualities I thought were my weaknesses are actually the ones that make me most effective, and in turn, the qualities I thought were my best, might actually be the ones that lead me to my struggles. I think the most important discovery I have made is that I am not the only one. ever.  In any way.  No matter what challenges I face, there are others in the world facing the same ones.  And there are others who have survived these challenges and emerged better because of them.  No matter what success I may have, there are others who have had it, too.  So, I'm not so special.  Or at least, no more or less special than anyone else.  That has been a humbling, comforting discovery for me.

As I have sought to understand myself and my place in the world better, I have been doing some reading. One book I am currently about halfway through is Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  I have always claimed that teaching is my calling and I have often wondered why it brings me such a deep sense of satisfaction.  I know part of this comes from the relationships with students and seeing them grow and learn, but now I believe part of the joy I get from teaching comes from the autonomy and opportunity to pursue mastery that teaching affords.  Pink says, "Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one's sights and pushing toward the horizon." Teaching gives me the chance every day to do that, to push toward the horizon. 


A number of my former students are making this discovery for themselves and beginning to pursue careers which will allow them the autonomy, mastery and purpose that Pink describes as essential for our motivation. I think what they are doing is so wonderful that I had to share.  I have two young ladies I would like to highlight today.



MoDa Specialty Cakes 


The first is Vickie Ramirez who has co-founded MoDa Specialty Cakes with her mother, Lorna.  Vickie recently graduated with her Masters of Business degree from Azusa Pacific University and she and her mother run the bakery out of their home. This  is a very special family and I know the kind of love these women have in their hearts and you can see it in the work that they do. You can check out the MoDa Specialty Cakes Facebook page to see even more pictures of their delicious work.


Marissa K. Fine Art Photography 


 

 Another talented young woman I would like to tell you about is Marissa Andronicos who runs her own photography business, Marissa K. Fine Art Photography.  Marissa is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University, but her business has really grown out of a passion only recently discovered.  The work Marissa does is absolutely stunning.  She has experience with weddings, engagement shoots, senior pictures and family portraits.  I love seeing how she experiments with a variety of locations, props, and poses.  No two shoots look the same because Marissa challenges herself to grow as a photographer with each shoot she completes. One of my favorites was her Huck Finn-inspired shoot.  Marissa is a very smart, gifted young lady.  You can check out her portfolio and follow her blog to see more of her fantastic work.

I hope I can feature more of my former students in the future as they begin discovering what drives them and as the dreams they have for themselves are revealed and then realized.  Thanks to Vickie and Marissa for being willing to share their work!

As the year goes on, I cannot imagine that "discover" will not be a part of my experiences.  I am eager to see how that one little word guides me, impacts me and colors my vision of myself, and the life I live in this wonderful world.

Anybody else seeing their OLW make a difference in their lives?

PS: Is that little jellybean in the pics above not the sweetest??  She is such a doll!


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Success

Summer vacation is terrific -- let's start with that.  No alarm clock in the morning, time with my family, sunshine and poolside and spur-of-the-moment picnics all make summer wonderful.  But, it has some pressure associated with it, too.  Everyone wants summer vacation to be all we have hoped for, to meet all the expectations we place on it as we plow through October and March.  Super busy during the school year, I look to summer as a needed escape, but also a time to catch up on everything I have let slide.  So,I struggle with balancing a healthy dose of relaxation with taking advantage of the extra time summer allows me.  I have so many projects, activities, chores I would like to do, but I also know that I need to enjoy a bit of summer's slower pace and simpler fare.  On days when I spend all my time busy and productive, I feel accomplished, but then I fear the first day of school will arrive and I will not have renewed myself in a way that will allow me to begin teaching from my best place.

To help me with this, I thought a list might work wonders (Doesn't a list almost always make things better?).  If I can look at my growing list of summer successes maybe those feelings of slovenly guilt will subside.  Maybe. Plus, just making the list makes me feel a bit less lazy and a bit more accomplished.  I am curious to see what the list will include once August 9th arrives.  Hopefully, it will make me smile.  And then I will know the summer was perfect.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Last Day of School

On my last day of teaching this school year (remarkably it has been almost two weeks since then!) I received a number of kind, sincere letters from my students.  As I read them, I cried.  And then I wrote:


I'm supposed to be grading papers.  I am supposed to be finalizing grades.  I am supposed to be cleaning my classroom and packing things away for the summer.  Instead, I had to sit down and write.  I had to sit down and share with somebody, anybody, everybody, how incredibly powerful the teaching experience is. 


My classroom is quiet, for what feels like the first time this year, and I have been sitting and reading thank you letters from students.  And when the tears started falling, I knew I had to capture this feeling.


The work I do is the good work. It is work that sometimes feels like not working at all because it is so natural.  It is simply one person guiding another person for a short time as they journey through life.  It is beckoning the child over, holding the hand, sharing anecdotes and wisdom and warnings and praise.And then it is listening.  To what they say, to what they don't. To the music they don't always know their words produce.


And other days it is the work of mules and oxen. It is the harvest.  It is pushing from behind, pulling from the front, leading by example and digging in my heels.  I try on those days not to let the strain show.  I try to still hold the hands, listen and encourage.  Not only for them, but for me.




I would be lying if I said I do it all for them.  I want such wonderful lives for them; I want them to be reflective and kind, thoughtful and giving, bright and resourceful.  But, I also do it for me.  I do it because it brings me unspeakable joy.


 So, today, as I read the most poignant words from the special students I have been blessed to call mine, I feel undeserving.  How could they be so sweet and so appreciative and so affected by someone who is just doing what brings her joy?

I will definitely enjoy my summer, a little more sleep and lots more time with my boys and my husband.  But I also love summer because it gives me more time for thinking and reflecting and filling my head and heart back up so I have even more to give when school begins again in August.   Can't wait!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm Sneaky!

If you'd like to check out my surprise blog post for my husband's birthday, click here and join in the celebration!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

#Poemaday 30: Be Careful

Wow, I am so excited that I have made it to the end of the month! It has been a delightful challenge and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So here is today's offering in response to such a stirring photo.  Thanks to Bud Hunt for all of the inspiration this month.

Be Careful
Be careful, young man, of the footprints you make.
They leave a path for others to follow
and a map of where you have been.

Be careful, young man, of the shadows you cast.
They stretch and shrink with the sun
but they are always shaped by you.

Be careful, young man, of the water's edge you walk.
Some waves can inspire you toward the horizon;
others will tempt you, then tug you under.

Be careful, young man, of words like these.
They are the truth of a life foolishly, wonderfully lived,
and nothing could be better.

#Poemaday 29: Proximity

 Prompt #29's picture was beautiful, and it made me think about community.


Proximity

We can put our hands through our neigbors' windows,
no glass or distance to keep us out.
So, when the words start,
they paper our walls, too.

Sometimes they fly in short hard bursts,
no crescendo only banging like cymbals.
We flinch, then look at each other,
embarrassed that we heard.

Sometimes the words are low and soft.
Those are harder to hear, but we crave them.
We stretch our necks a bit
to catch something of the heavy sweetness.

Always we hear,
but when we speak,
we forget
there are walls to paper in other homes, too.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

#Poemaday 28: Puppet Show

Puppet Show

I push the buttons, make the move,
but you are the puppeteer,
string around my heart.
Invisible lines make me move
in response to your twitch,
make me dance in response to your desire.

Others see only
my confident gestures, my stony face
and mistake these for control.
I let them be fooled; it's part of the show
we never planned
and do not discuss
for fear it will drop the curtain.

leaving us both
without a story to tell.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#Poemaday 26: What Are You Waiting For?

for the phone to ring
for the diagnosis
to be grown-up
to be discovered
with bated breath
with little hope
in anticipation
in fear

we wait
in line
after line
after line

     grocery store
     DMV
     the bank
     drive-thrus
     coffee bars
     amusement park rides


for permission
for direction
for forgiveness
for the light to change

for someone to say, "Its gonna be alright"
and for someone to believe it.

Give Melanie a Voice

As a teacher, one of the most wonderful experiences in seeing your students discover their passions and thrive in them.  My student Melanie is a tremendous person -- she is a thinker, a reader, a writer, and what she loves most, a debater!  We have been maintaining class blogs this year and I was so happy to see Melanie going beyond chapter summaries or vague reflection when she posted this.  If you can help, please do. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#Poemaday 25: More Than Nothing

More Than Nothing 
(response to @budtheteacher's prompt #26 )

Yesterday's future holds
me back, holds me
in a weighty embrace
the spirit is love
but the truth is nothing
more than nothing.
Yesterday's future stares
back at me, holds me
in a fragile game of 
do not blink
because if you do 
the game is over
and the eyes close
under the pressure.
Yesterday's future speaks
such kind and hopeful words
like we can, yet we never do
more than nothing
and the truth is nothing
holds me back
but you and me
and yesterday
and the future.

Monday, April 25, 2011

#Poemaday 25: Dance

I can't believe April is already coming to an end!  What will I do without @budtheteacher's nudge each day? Sigh.

Here is my Poemaday #25:

Dance
Dance toward your fear
make it your partner
and feel it against you.
The scent of your neck
warm honeysuckle serenading
you both into peace.
Dance toward your fear
make beauty where there is
only a thread of light
Spin white circles
til heavy breathing and love's
the only conversation you hear.

#Poemaday 24: Parachutes

A day behind, but catching up!  Here is my response to @budtheteacher's prompt #24:

Parachutes

Dandelions freckle the grass,
hundreds of wishes waiting for flight.
Small hands grab, snap them from their roots,

Blow, sprinkling the fuzz with saliva.
Seed-bearing parachutes float to a place where hope lives.

Yet, I hold the one in my hand as if it is the last.
 I question each dream that rises to my lips.
                 Whatwouldtheythink?DoIdeserveit?Whatharmmightawait?
What    harm    might    await?
And the real question is,

When did I become afraid to wish?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

#Poemaday 23: The Truth

Like #22, my response to prompt #23 is pretty short, but it lives up to the title.

The Truth

When it comes to writing rituals,
for me there are only two:

Revising each line too many times,
erasing all but a few;

Pretending to think of other things,
really just thinking of you.

#Poemaday 22: Newspaper and Stares

On Friday, @budtheteacher asked: Just a place to sit and something to read.  Just that.  That’s enough? My poem as response:

Newspaper and Stares

All I need is something to read
and somewhere to sit.

In other words,

all I need is a way to escape
and somewhere to return.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#Poemaday 21: Spilled Honey

Spilled Honey
 (in response to Prompt 21)

There are days when it is my turn
not to show my face,
when it is my turn
to turn my toes toward each other,
to cover my ears with my arms,
to hide and protect
shame or fear or guilt or blame

or desire.

Head low, only empty chairs at my side
Maybe no one will know.
Maybe no one will care

and wouldn't that be the worst of it?

To carry a secret that gnaws
on your insides, leaving
the outside beautifully flawed 
and the whole world fooled?

Desire spreads like spilled honey --
indulgent liquid, slow sweet trap
drawing flies.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#Poemaday 20: For the Young

@budtheteacher continues to keep me moving forward with his engaging prompts!

For the Young
I used to think indulgence
was for the young.

Food and drink consumed
from both fists,
lanky body
sprawled across hard linoleum,
refrigerated air
massaging shoulders
bared in tank top--
No worries about
electric bills or grocery shopping,

calories or loose skin.

Now I know
(after years of  holding back)
that losing one's self in something
is a feeding of the senses.

Even losing myself to you,
indulging in your presence
begins my resurrection.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#Poemaday 18 and 19, Lesson Learned and Warning to Poets Who Write at Night

I sat at the computer last night to work on my poem, but sleep proved to be a stronger adversary than I had imagined.  Sadly, I had to go to bed before I could write.  So, the goal tonight -- double the poem fun!

#18

Lesson Learned
what do we have against empty?
the glass half so, equals pessimism
undeveloped land, bare walls, prolonged silence
each begs for filling
 --condos, knick-knacks, an awkward joke --
sacrificing quality for company.

perhaps too quickly we let empty go
when instead we should revel in the room,
the unlabeled map, the peace of no words.
instead of filling up, maybe we should be clearing out
that's what you taught me
when you left me

(intentionally blank)

(but ironically not blank at all)

you taught me
empty promises are all I have to hold.


#19
Warning for Poets Who Write at Night
Beware the words coming at you,
flinging themselves like lemmings from a cliff.
They seem too small to say anything worthy;
they dart like shooting stars burnt out before they touch the earth.
Your eyes begin to close,
even so, between eyelids and darkness
words find way to paper.
Netted fish, they squirm and jump,
trying to leap back into the night sky.
Nonsense and philosophy all at once, the words and lines are
mute planets finding their own revolution.

And just as your chin hits chest, your fingers
slide across the keyboard -- sleep seems the victor --
yet, these words proclaim:

Listen!

and then the truth comes out --
what was hidden in the sunlight
glows on midnight's stage.

Put down your weapons, let the prisoner go.
Another poem is free.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#Poemaday 17: Playthings or Poetry

Thanks to @budtheteacher for another prompt that took me in a very different direction than what I had imagined.


Playthings (or Poetry)
You are my companion on wild backyard adventures,
my solace on rainy indoor days
and in those troubled times,
my last goodnight before dreams take me into sleep.
I build with you, color with you,
pretend and pretend and pretend
with you until I am  not sure
where pretend ends and real begins.
I bounce you around
and make you tell stories,
toss you into the air
and leave you sprawled on the floor,
evidence that we are not idle,
evidence that we are working, thinking.

Picking up the loose thread of any of a thousand tales,              
each day we see the world through my wise child eyes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#Poemaday 16: Whatcha readin'?

Whatcha readin' ?


Drive by Daniel Pink
The Lacuna (pulling me into its dangerous deep pools)
by Kingsolver and Because of Winn-Dixie,
a chapter before each day's goodnight.
A few student essays.
Poisonwood Bible chapters -- already annotated, but I need to
see it again with eyes a year older
because the students are pushing through read #1.

And there's more.
Blog after blog after blog.
Comments, replies, requests.
Tweets that line themselves up twenty four hours a day.
Trends and hashtags.
More student essays (they haunt me) and,
I confess, a copy of People at the hair salon.
Bit.ly linked articles
Status updates.
The space between the lines.

On my best days, your face,
the back of the cereal box
and something like this by me, but better.

#Poemaday 15: Rash

A photo of a ladybug from Bud the Teacher today had me thinking:

Rash

My skin is bothering me.

I am open to every touch.
Your fingertips scribble currents
up and down my arm, my spine.
Nothing comes between me and you.

I need an ectoskeleton,
hard crust protecting my insides,
instead of this thin layer
that tries to hide my veins from you now.

No itch, no burn, no caress.
No messages from nerve to brain
of potential pain or pleasure.
I would be safe from your finger's graze.

But then, nothing would come between me and you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

#Poemaday 14: Pinch Hit

@budtheteacher provided a prompt today that pushed me into extended metaphor.  Not sure it worked for me, but I liked the challenge!


Pinch Hit

History hits this second
like ball smacking bat,
or is it the other way around?
Either way, the crack of collision cannot be ignored.

No one is safe.
"Heads up!" we yell,
but most move to a fetal position,
arms protecting a hidden head.

The pitch: My parents were married today,
nearly four decades ago. A curve ball.

The swing: Pretend it was the game plan all along.
It took me thirty years to realize
I was the curve
that had them swinging.

The play: The ball drops into left center;

the runner goes from still to sprint.
A child changes everything,
until it doesn't and life returns to being
what we know.  Inning after inning.
Sunflower seed shells accumulate on the concrete.

Smack! In a second everything is in motion again.

Someone heads for home, someone prepares for the force of the slide.
The sound lets us know,
--the sound of then becoming now, becoming forever--
on the field, in the stands
no one is safe.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#Poemaday 13: Cartography

Big questions from @budtheteacher.  Tonight I need to answer: How would you describe the universe?

Cartography
It is in your eyes.
Close them and tattooed on the inside lid,
constellations will appear --


Shifting pictures of goddesses and cookware,
bears, balanced scales and a winged horse
beckon you to tell their stories.
  
Eyes closed; the universe swirls,
speaks in speeding comets
and hurtling metaphors.


Eyes open, I see the reflection
of a thousand moons, and they are pulling
my heart to shore.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#Poemaday 12: Boundaries

@budtheteacher strikes with another prompt today: Are you going to cross this line?


Boundaries

It all depends.

Will I be in or out?
Spectator or player?
Alone or with a team?

Who put the line there?
Who's watching?
Who's on the other side?

No wheelbarrow, no chickens. 
Only an arbitrary line seeking
to tell me the rules,
in other words,
keep me where I am.

Monday, April 11, 2011

#Poemaday 11: Heavy and Dark

@budtheteacher's interesting picture and prompt -- apropos given today is the first day of testing in my district.

Heavy and Dark

If pencils grew from the earth,
would we realize our roots are words?
Would we know the curve of the vine
and the curl of the S are cousins?

If paper fell from the sky,
would we realize we rain art?
Would we hear the cumulus clouds
and blank canvas calling us?

Point down, my pencil sits in dirt,
drawing the days of my life.
Beneath the surface,
no stray marks.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

#Poemaday 10: Speed Limit

Today I was inspired not only by @budtheteacher's prompt, but by the poem Kelly wrote in response. One of the real delights of participating in #poemaday has been the opportunity and nudge to read and respond to the writing of others.

Speed Limit
Add ninety (on the highway)
to noble He and get U --
in '92 it was all I needed to know
about how the world worked.


I thought chemistry was magic,
had no idea it was numbers --
a problem to solve,
equations to balance.

But, I found out the hard way
that two plus one leads to Lie

and even if the atomic number of I
is 53, we all know it is a lonesome one

and the chart might make us think
we know what's solid
and where we can stand,
but heartache turns the world to liquid.

Your foot on the gas,
my heart in your hand.
In '92 it was all I wanted to know
about how the world worked.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#Poemaday 9: Hang Your Hopes

@budtheteacher's prompt is here -- both the photo and the quote pushed me into new thinking.

Hang Your Hopes

Like sugar spilled on a tablecloth of sky,
the stars remind me of sweet what-might-have-beens.

Like us, spread across what we thought was love,
but turned out to be just what was there,
falling into the arms of others before we knew us was real.

Like me, basking in the softness of your old light,
believing it is a wish that might come true,
but knowing it is only what somewhere was me and you.

Friday, April 8, 2011

#Poemaday 8: Where Have I Been?

Not only did I have the prompt from @budtheteacher, but my department chair asked each of us to write some poetic lines during our meeting this morning.  Inspiration and opportunity make writing easier, for sure.

Where Have I Been?
All the signs make me
blink and stop,
question and--Quick!
Decide what to do:

Stay in my lane
behind the white line;
Back up, you turn to
the wrong way on a one way --
windshields frame oncoming
panicked eyes and frantic arms --
Or, ignore those signs altogether,
            Light my own way.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

#Poemaday 7: To the Sky, We Are the Same

@budtheteacher's picture prompt inspired this poem about perspective.

To the Sky, We Are the Same
We envy the bird
crafted with hollow bones and wings,
a way to fly to

anywhere, freedom
to leave earth and branches
behind and below.

We dream of soaring,
our bodies unburdened and light,
spirit untethered.

But the bird wants, too.
Satisfaction eludes. You see, 
he dreams of the moon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#Poemaday 6: My Pieces

Today, @budtheteacher offered this: We are all making quilts.  What are the pieces of yours?

My Pieces Are Making
morning shower where i plan my day
ask my questions
imagine my someday
when i'm ready
it is socks and pants and t-shirts
in several boy sizes
lunches sacked and named
kisses and locking the door behind me
then, hallways confettied with the young
men and women of tomorrow
but more of today
of right now text messages and
ringtones and the hope
that the world will still be here when it's theirs
and it will have a place for them
words and words and words
from pencil tips, our lips,
laptops, iPhones, headphones
three ring circus of words and the stories they tell
we tell stories
pieces of us, fabric scraps of us
then back through the front door
to dinner prep and kisses from daddy and
just for a minute sitting down
bathtime, prayers and too many whispers
until we are tucked in
safely wrapped in the tales of the day,
wrapped in pieces of us, fabric of us,
stories we tell
stories

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Five Days In -- Poetry Month

I am five days in to writing a poem a day for the entire month of April, and today, five days in, I finally felt like a poet again.  When I sat down to write my poem tonight, it seemed to river out of me, a strong current from heart to hand.  I am writing in response to the poetry prompts offered at Bud the Teacher and each one has been great, but today's took me to another place.  When I saw the photograph of the empty park bench, my mind's eye immediately began to sketch my grandma on to the park bench with me sitting beside her.  I have been thinking about my grandma so much lately.  I haven't figured out why.  But tonight, I made a little bit of headway by working through a moment I had with her when I was about eight years old.

I am not saying it was the best poem in the world, but the act of writing it took me into my artist's mind. I want to return to that place again and again.

#Poemaday 5: Web

 @budtheteacher provided a prompt today that I immediately knew would cause me to write about my grandma.  I just didn't know it would come out like this.  Honestly :)


Web

Let me tell you a secret.

I lied.

That night when you asked me what was wrong.
I was in a strange bed in a strange state.
It was dark downstairs
because you had closed the door at the bottom.

Still awake? you asked.
Nightmares, I lied.

Dad was on the road,
headed back to L.A. for Mom and the rest of our things.
Now I wonder how we could have had enough
in those thin times for more than one trip.

Then TV won't be good for you.
And you closed the door again.

I wasn't having bad dreams,
just wanted to be close to someone who sort of
felt like my mom
and loved me like only grandmas do.

I lied and lost my moment.
Don't think I ever got it back.

If I had a park bench that let me have you back,

I would sit for days and listen,
even if you didn't speak,
I would listen to you.

For days on that park bench,
I would tell the truth.

Let me tell you a secret.
I lied.

Monday, April 4, 2011

#Poemaday 4: (Pre)tending

Check out the picture for the prompt at Bud the Teacher where he asks the question, "Are you the rocks, or the river?"
 
(Pre)tending
 
I am not the person I used to be
river around your rock
pretending to chart my own course
while running in circles.

I am not the person I used to be
satisfied by your thin edge
pretending to be my own width
but defined by your circumference.

I am not the person I used to be
blue reflection of a sky you touch
pretending to be my own hue
yet exposed in my transparency.
 
I am not water; I am not stone.
I am art created by my own eye,
pretending to let go
but still drowning in your shallow earth.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

#Poemaday 3: Above the Rain, I Hear It

Today's Bud the Teacher prompt was a picture only.  I found that more difficult than the others.  Or maybe it was that I was trying to write while my boys wrestled, played video games, argued, laughed and screamed (concurrently).

Above the Rain, I Hear It
I live my life to the song of boys
a song whose lilts and twirls are balanced by the blue notes
a song of short sleeves, baseball caps, faded jeans
a song that stills my heart and moves my feet forward.

No matter the road
the baggage
the weather
I will always be serenaded and sunshined
by the boys’ song.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

#Poemaday 2

With one done, it is easier to continue.  I guess that is true with good things as much as with the bad ones.  Hopefully, this is a good thing.

Bud the Teacher's Prompt for Today


Peek-a-Boo

Baby fingers hide eyes always wide
open with the call,
"peek-a-boo!"
But my mother tongue wants
to keep you
from the truth.

We keep on, you know,
with this baby game,
even when our hands wear the years on their skin.
We cover our eyes convinced 
that when hands move,
the world will be new.
 
We smile in the face
of no surprise at all,
     pretending the hiding is temporary,
only a peek
at the truth.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Again, But With Poetry

Last month I participated in the Slice of Life blogging challenge at Two Writing Teachers and am proud to say I posted a Slice of Life for 30 of the 31 days!  It was the perfect thing to get me writing with more consistency and even a sense of determination.  And it was such a wonderful blessing to be in a writing community, responding to the work of others and hearing feedback on my own pieces. 

As National Poetry Month loomed, though, I was wary of jumping in to another daily challenge.  Poetry takes a certain something from me that I was worried might not be there anymore (if it ever truly was).  But then I decided, that's just fear talking.  Then my husband said, "Hey, just because your Slice challenge ended doesn't mean you should stop writing!" And he was right (I love it when he is!).


On Twitter, I saw that Bud Hunt would be providing a daily prompt inspired by/connected to a photograph.  Other Tweeters began tweeting about #poemaday, and I admit, part of me wanted to write just so I could be a part of the same stream as these, what I call, Rock Star Teachers.

So, whatever my motivation and regardless of my fears, I am committing to a poem a day throughout the month of April.

Today's prompt from Mr. Hunt is: What's waking you up lately?

What Is Waking Me Up Lately?
 
All green lights on my way home,
Suns rising, snows falling,
The nest building in the eaves,
Wedding invitations
      (delicious, embossed cardstock),
Baby showers,
Umbrellas and the rubbing palm on belly
Eulogies, happy endings, 
A son wanting to be near me,
Wordswirl before I open my eyes

The thing with feathers

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coming in Last

Last is a place most people don't want to be.

Few choose to be last in line or be picked last for a team or come in last in a race.  Last means waiting and slow. And in a world as fast-paced as ours, last feels like almost not being there at all. Last feels like losing.

I haven't gone back to check each day, but during the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month, I have been last or close to last almost every day when I posted my slice.  Being on the West Coast contributed to that, but I also usually reserved writing my slice for the very last piece of my day.  I wanted to be sure all that was going to happen for the day had happened.  I wanted to fall asleep with words still rearranging themselves on my mind.  I wanted to eulogize each passing day with my words.

When I went through the Writing Project Summer Institute in 1999, I wrote a poem that began, "My time to write is morning..."  Now, the quiet and calm I like to write by comes with moonlight instead of the sun.

March has given me a new appreciation for last.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pie, Paychecks & Possibilities

My friend and colleague, Darcy, never fails to get me thinking.  When she stops by my classroom at lunch, she always has something to share -- an engaging story from NPR or a personal tale of some oddity or an anecdote about her daughter and on the best days her gift of inspiring ideas is accompanied by a delicious treat -- a baby pie, ribs, her amazing potato salad.

Yesterday, we talked about the balance between urging our children toward success and allowing them freedom to explore, think, and discover on their own.  She had been in a conversation with another friend about the concept of allowance and she questioned the practice of paying a child for doing chores or specific task.  While this teaches children that they will be rewarded for what they do well, the reward is monetary.  Her fear is that we then teach our children to be employees, and even worse, employees who will only do something if there is personal benefit to them.  What do we want to do? she asked.  Do we want to raise our kids to be employees or do we want to raise them to be independent thinkers, fueled by intrinsic motivation, empathy and self-respect?

Darcy doesn't bring me pie to get pie in return (she knows what a challenged cook I am!) She doesn't bring me pies so that I will pay her for them. She brings me pie because she likes me and she talks about interesting things with me so that both of us can grow, consider and think.

So the question has been rattling around: What am I raising my sons to be?

Only their best, I hope.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kung Fu

My oldest son, Michael, attended his first kung fu class last night.  He liked it (he flashed me a thumbs-up sign a few times so I knew).  When we returned home, he was eager to show the rest of the family what he learned.  We encourgaed him and praised him for trying something new and working hard in his first night of class.

I put him to bed and his brothers but twenty minutes later, he came to see me.  "Mom, can you wake me up early in the morning so that I can practice the weeping willow?  When I did it in class it made me feel calm and I think if I start my day with it, I will do a better job of not getting angry during the day."  This stretching and breathing technique had already impacted him. 

When he got up this morning, he had not forgotten his plan.  "Six times should do it, Mom."  And then, as I got dressed for work, I heard him talking to his little brother in the living room.  "Do you want me to teach Duffy (a stuffed bear) kung fu?  "Yes, of course!" Lucas eagerly agreed.  Michael began to show Duffy various kicks and punches.  Duffy (with a bit of help from the boys) responded with kicks and punches of his own.

That's when I knew for sure that he had enjoyed his first lesson -- when you love something, you want to share it, even if it means helping a teddy bear do a hammer punch.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Love 'em and Leave 'em

Spending time with my family spoils me, makes me hesitant to return to work even though my classroom is my haven.

When I get there tomorrow, I will love my blank whiteboards awaiting my print. I will love my papers and books and piles -- all evidence of my learning. Perhaps theirs, too. I will love the talk and laughter, the writing and sharing, the silliness and seriousness we squeeze between bells. I will love being a teacher because it is who I am.

But tonight, I am already missing the boys, big and small, because I love them even more than blank whiteboards and writing; that is, even more than myself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writing In Circles

Does anyone else ever feel like they are writing in circles?  I begin to type and after a few sentences think, "But haven't I said this before?"  I try to push myself into deeper earth, and I think that I am discovering new feelings or perspectives.  But then I stop and read what is on the screen and realize I have ended up in a place I have been too many times before. Very familiar territory.

And then I question -- Maybe this is the place I need to be.  Maybe resolution has eluded me and I am here again to find some kind of satisfaction. Maybe life gets so busy with the details and the daily demands that writing is the only way I remind myself of what I really need or what I really feel or what I cannot continue to ignore.

Sometimes writing can be a journey across a crowded map, a navigation of new lands.  But sometimes, writing is like a bird building a nest.  A return, over and over, flight after flight, day after day, to the same spot. A gathering of twigs, leaves, moss, trash -- layer upon layer -- all tucked and intertwined. Writing is like anticipation on a tree limb, first home to something that will eventually take flight.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Good Laugh



The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.  ~e.e. cummings
 
It has permeated every part of my day.

Nicholas and I laughed playing his Finger Football game; he tried to flick the football through the goalposts (my fingers) and ended up flinging his whole body and still missing the field goal.  
 
We laughed on the playground as he and Lucas took on the tire swing for the first time.  I sent them into circles and loved hearing the laughter flying out of them as they spun.  We laughed over and over again at Lucas each time he came down the slide and his hair stood up on end as if he had been lightning-struck. We laughed again when we got home and looked at the pictures and video from the park and Chad and I laughed when Lucas exclaimed, "That was some good picture lookin'!"

We watched what may be one of the cheesiest sequels ever (Ghostbusters II) and in addition to chuckling at the strange goings-on in the film, couldn't help but laugh when Michael asked in the most serious way, "Dad, is this a good movie?"  Lucas made his brothers and I laugh as he did his own rendition of the Ghostbusters theme with a spiffy little dance to go with it. 

Lucas and I burst out laughing in unison when he went to give Daddy a kiss goodnight and Daddy's mouth was dripping milk and cereal from a too-big bite.

I have to admit the night even came to a close with laughter over a series of those bodily noises (from the kids, not me!) that seem to send every boy into uncontrollable giggling.

As I write, I can hear the laughter from the day spinning in my mind, like my boys upon that tire swing -- a beautiful, layered symphony of joyful sounds.

Yesterday I worried I had not done enough with my time off; today I realized that "productive" can come in many forms and I think I like today's form the best.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Need a Pause Button

My Spring Break is coming to a close and I am not sure how I feel.  One part of me wishes I had done more, accomplished something substantial, completed a project -- anything I could point to and say, "That's what I did with my time." Another part of me longs for even more time to do very little, to sit and watch silly sitcoms with my boys, hear their wild stories, watch them dance their goofy dances.  And there is even another part (albeit, a very small part) that wants to be back at school because it uses parts of my brain that get mushy even after only a few days off.


When Spring Break started I thought that as a teacher I am lucky because I get to feel that excitement of Spring Break nearing, that anticipation of a week of frivolity.  Most people leave the joys of Spring Break behind as they enter the world of adulthood.  But tonight I don't feel so much lucky as I do conflicted.  It is always near the ends of these breaks when I have these fantasies of taking my family off to some remote small town in the middle America, spending our days working a farm, taking long bike rides and preparing impromptu picnics while our nights are filled with reading aloud to one another from great books and maybe singing together while one of us plays an acoustic guitar.

And then I remind myself that true happiness comes from finding satisfaction not only in the pursuit of dreams, but also in the delights of the present moment -- my four year old's head on my knee, an extra hour of sleep in the morning, nowhere to be tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Couch & Carpet Camp-out

Camp-out. For many people that might mean setting a tent up in some remote location or perhaps even their own backyard. For us, it just means the three boys sleep out in the living room instead of their own room. I'm not sure what is so exciting about this change of venue, but the boys definitely love it.

We began the night with a hearty dinner of hot dogs and French fries. After showers, the boys set up their makeshift beds and settled in for viewing of the cinematic classic, Alvin & the Chipmunks, accompanied by the gourmet treat, popcorn and M&M's.

We had plans for Moonpie Ice Cream and maybe another movie, but it doesn't look like they are going to make it to nine o'clock.

I remember that about childhood -- simple delights and big dreams that drift between day and night.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warming Up & People Watching

Yesterday, my husband and I were sitting on a concrete wall watching people walk by in Downtown Disney.  The sky was an almost cliche blue with perfectly puffed clouds and the sunshine was warming the tops of our heads and making my eyes squint slightly even behind my oversized sunglasses. My chin was resting against my husband's shoulder and we sat in lovely silence for what felt like longer than it was.   Physically, I was unbelievably comfortable. 

But as I watched the people stream by -- couples, families, brothers, lovers, grandparents, sisters, friends -- my chest began to ache, a deep, deep ache that felt like it had started at the center of me and now was strong enough for my ribcage to sense.  I have felt this ache before and I usually have to quickly turn my attention to some task to take my mind away from it.  When I see people, especially in large numbers, I become overwhelmed by what I can only call love.

I see those faces, so many faces, and I wonder: Who knows him? Who cares about her? Are they happy? Is she lonely? Does he like himself? Where do they belong?

I imagine myself finding the empty space inside each one of them and being able to hand them a piece that would fill it perfectly.  And then they would smile and move on and I would know they were okay. I want to jump up and stop each of them as they pass, let each one know that I am willing to care and willing to help with whatever battle they may be fighting.

But that isn't how it works. Instead, as the people walk by, I become more and more aware of the inability I have to take away the pains of the world. If I let it, this sense of smallness could keep me frozen. 

Instead, I stood up, took my husband's hand in mine, and focused on making him feel like he belonged, right there with me.  And I reminded myself that I have been given people in my life -- my husband, my sons, my family, friends, colleagues and students -- and what a gift that is, the opportunity to fill even a little bit of the emptiness that any of them may be carrying around with them.  I may not be able to save the world, but I can warm the hearts and spirits of those in my life so that they can do the same for others.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Latte at The Happiest Place on Earth

I love it when something lives up to the hype. Yesterday at Disneyland, I enjoyed my first Market House Cinnamon Tea Latte. They have been a topic of conversation among my husband's Disney buddies for months and all have raved about them. Usually, this would be the perfect set-up for disappointment, but as I walked out of the park, one hand holding my husband's and one hand holding the latte, I realized the entire day was like that latte.
We headed out to the park in heavy rain. It rained the entire way there--fat, troublesome rain--and I worried that our Disney date would be nothing more than a soaked fiasco. But I was wrong. As soon as we arrived, the clouds parted and sunlight bathed the area. Due to the morning rains, the crowds were thin and the park was ours. Expectations were not only met; they were exceeded.

From the sunshine-drenched afternoon to the delicious drinks on Main Street, my day gave me hope (and some much needed relaxation!) not hype.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Grandmas

I lost my grandma before I had my first son. As I have relied on my mom and seen her be a grandma to my kids, it has made me wish I could see my grandma again because I finally understand what she did that was so wonderful. I know my mom is the grandmother she is because of her own mom.

My mom is the grandma who will do whatever she can, not only for her grandkids, but for me. She is the kind of grandma who didn't have me cancel plans to get away for a night with my husband even though the boys have had the flu (third one came down with it this morning!). Instead, she took them, all three crazy boys, and sent me off to Disneyland.

She knows the boys need the time with her. She knows I need time with my husband. And I hope she knows how much we all appreciate her. And I hope she knows that she not only helped me be the mom I am, she is already influencing the grandma I someday hope to be.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sick Kids Say the Darndest Things

Over the last few days, two of my sweet boys (and my husband) have been bitten by a stomach bug of some sort which has induced all kinds of yuckiness.  And while sickness is never fun, as I do in most situations, I try to find the something good to hold onto so I do not get sucked into the pity pit.

Hearing my guys speak their hearts is one of those bright spots that shines through sickness.  My middle son gets very unnerved by being sick.  He shakes and cries and says things like, "Why does God let this happen to us, Mommy?" That might not seem like something that would make me smile, but it does.  For me, it means that my boy is a thinker and a questioner; his spiritual journey has already begun.  It is such an honest and sincere question and when he asks me, I have to  tell him that I do not know.  I have ideas, I have heard theories, but I cannot say that I truly, completely know.  I like those moments of truth that we share, two human beings trying to make some sense out of a senseless world.

And then there is my littlest guy, my four year old.  I call him my sunshine and, ironically, it certainly comes through when he is sick.  Today, he looked at me and said, "Mommy, you are the very best at knowing just what I want."  For someone who has been trying to tend to a homeful of ill loved ones for five days, I am not sure there could be a better compliment.
 
Except for maybe his next one: "Mommy, you are the most beautiful mommy a sunshine ever had!"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Letter to Spring Break

Spring Break, I had such grand visions of you. But our first day together has not met my expectations. Instead of a family high on the freedom you bring, three of the five are fighting a nasty tummy bug. Instead of sleeping in or indulging in sweet cat naps, I have slept on the couch with sick children, awaking with their every whimper, rising each time they did. Instead of a fabulous start on my spring cleaning, I have spent my time laundering soiled sheets and sanitizing hands and bathroom fixtures. Instead of your first day being one of lightness and delight, it has been a lingering gray.

And yet, I see hope for us. You have given me time with those I love most and I think in the early afternoon, I could have sworn I saw a sunlit sky. Perhaps we just need to start again. Tomorrow, perhaps?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Could You Repeat That?

I have been thinking about repetition.  What do I repeat?  What do I like repeating and what do I repeat so much it makes me want to climb the walls?

I don't like repeating fights or failed cooking attempts.  I don't like repeating my name or mistakes.  As a teacher, I know I need to repeat instructions, but on the 42nd round, I start to show signs of impatience.  I don't like repeating after others and I don't like it when my children repeat things I didn't know they had heard.

But there are a few things I do not mind repeating.  Goodbye kisses and pregnancy stories are high on the list.  I need to repeat praise more often at work and home.  I will repeat "when you were a baby" tales as long as my boys ask for them.  I love you.  I could repeat that to the men in my house a hundred times a day and some days I do.

And this -- writing at night, hemming my day in words --is something I could repeat for the rest of my life, an I love you to myself. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Too Many Choices, No Direction

Tonight I have too many ideas from which to choose. 

I could write about my six-year old being sick and how he calls me each time he heads to the toilet.  I guess I make good puking company!  Tending to a child who is ill is actually one of the greatest blessings -- sure, there are the bodily fluids to deal with, but the tenderness can be excruciatingly wonderful.

I could write about class today.  Students were writing their essays about what they will seek and what they would sacrifice.  One young lady came to my desk and asked me, "Can I give my essay alternate endings?" My laughter burst out of me and broke the silence of the writers before I could catch it.  It was like she wanted to create the special edition DVD version of her essay.  Does this idea make anyone else smile?

I could write about how lately, I have been saying hello to this boy who spends his entire lunch period standing against a wall all alone.  Each day, I walk past him on my way from my classroom to my office. I smile at him and he smiles at me, too.   And lately, I have started talking to him.  A simple hello at first, but today, whole sentences!  He never says much back, but he returns my smile each time.  I want to be able to address him by name, but I am not sure how to get it.  Wouldn't it be weird to just walk up to a random student and ask his name?  I feel like it would.

I could write about how my husband thinks my first statement about there being wonderful in the kiddo's sickness is its own wonderful nonsense, or, as he put it, "the craziest thing I've heard."

Too many ideas tonight and already, my time is up.  I know because my eyes are closed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reunited and it feels so...

I have been avoiding this topic because I am never sure who reads this and I don't want to offend anyone, but I don't think I can write about anything else but this today.  I just finished RSVPing for my 20 year high school reunion, and I am kind of not happy about it.


I am afraid I will get to the reunion and not have any recollection of most of the people in the room.

And that makes me wonder, if that is even a possibility, why am I going?

I've thought about that quite a bit and maybe I am making myself write this tonight so I can figure it out.


I think I am going because:


I want to show off pictures of my sons.
I get to wear a nice dress and not worry about Cheeto-dust fingerprints.
It is nice when someone throws a party for someone to attend.
I will not have to take anyone else to the potty.
I want to laugh with friends I almost never see.
Twenty year reunions do not come along every day.
If other people are flying across the country to attend, I can drive the three blocks to the venue.
I want to tell my students what it was like.
Going to reunions is what almost 40-year old people do.
The DJ might play some Madonna.
I want to hear other people's stories.
I want to share one or two of mine.
I was young once.
I am not anymore and I love that sometimes.

This helped.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seek & Sacrifice

Each quarter, I give my students a big question to think about as we read, write, and learn together.  This quarter's question was this:  What will I seek and what will I sacrifice?  On Wednesday, they will be writing in response to this question in class and they will need to include how our readings from the year have contributed to their thinking. For my Slice today, I want to begin my own response to this question.

I seek wholeness.  In my family, in my work, in myself.  I want all of the empty spaces to be filled.  Writing helps me with this.  Like the protagonist in Ellison's Invisible Man, typing his invisibility onto the page, art allows me to leave a piece of myself on the paper.  And when I do this, when I leave my flesh and fluids there in ink on the sheet, it is as if my body redoubles its efforts and not only regenerates the part of myself I let go, but actually takes up even more space within me than it did before.  I seek this growth.  I want to feel my cells multiplying.For this, I must sacrifice my comfort and my privacy.  I must be willing to be transparent -- to be my same self regardless of situation or circumstance. I need not fear light; instead, I should welcome it. I imagine Ellison's protagonist with those 1369 lightbulbs illuminating every square inch of him.  Or Tess standing with strength in her white nightgown baptizing her dying child by candlelight.  I must sacrifice anonymity.  To become whole, I must come out of hiding, let the light reveal my imperfections and leave my mark.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sundays

Sundays always make me wistful and reflective.  They make me question how I love, how I live, how I spend my time.  I haven't written poetry for a Slice yet, so I thought it might be a good night to try.


Sunday

Maybe if I sit still,
very very still,
so still that even my eyes
hesitate to blink --


so quiet and still that i can hear
the hair tucked behind my ear
the freeway hum of thoughts in my head
the  thump, thump of my heart not slowing down.

Maybe if I sit still,
very very still,
the world won't turn
the sun won't rise
the hour won't pass

and i can breathe you in
for one minute more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Joy is a Hockey Game

Joy that comes from another's happiness has got to be the sweetest joy there is. My middle son just got back from a minor league hockey game. He was invited by a friend from church. He had such a great time and to his six-year-old self, this probably ranks up there with Disneyland. We only had a few minutes before he had to get to bed (time change tonight, church tomorrow) but in those few minutes his delight became mine. I realized I was smiling so hard I strained my eyes.

My little guy is already lost in dreams, but I think I'll be smiling for quite a while.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Could Go for a Slice

Ever since we started the Slice Challenge ten days ago, I have had pizza on the brain.  Throughout the day I remind myself, "Remember that for tonight's slice."  My husband asks when evening rolls around, "Have you finished your slice?"  I share with a fellow writer, "I enjoyed your slice!"  And each time, I want to complete those sentences and thoughts with "of pizza" or sometimes "of cake,"  but most of the time, it's pizza.

So tonight's dinner?  Pizza.  It had to be.  And believe me, the boys were more than happy to accommodate my craving.  Of course, the big problem that arises when ordering pizza is choosing toppings that everyone wants.  We typically go with a something from the meat family --bacon, ham, sausage, pepperoni -- sometimes all of the above. Occasionally I can convince my guys to allow some pineapple to be tossed on, but any vegetable has been strictly forbidden.  Until tonight. 

My husband is away this evening, so that was one opinion less I had to consider and meat-lover that he is, I knew my chances of success were improved without his influence.  It was the perfect opportunity for a coup.  Tonight, we would have vegetables on pizza.

When the delivery man arrived, the boys beat me to the front door.  Eager is an understatement.  After my four-year old quizzed the man -- "Hey!  How did you know we wanted pizza??" --we got the pizzas out and I served the slices.  Immediately, "I don't like olives!"  "What's this thing on my pizza?"  "Why are the tomatoes on top of the cheese?"

"Look, guys," I reasoned, "Just try it.  Things taste different on pizza." And then, the last, desperate attempt, "Pizza makes everything better."

And wouldn't you know, they believed me.


Any guesses on what kind of slice might be on the menu tomorrow?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Prize Pony?!

As for me, prizes are nothing. My prize is my work.
Katharine Hepburn


In an effort to keep my students at least a tad focused next week, I launched a contest today: "It's Almost Spring Break Sestina Sweepstakes!"  We had spent the week in the rain and tears of Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina" and I wanted them to start turning their thoughts to sunshine (easy enough in our 80 degree weather today!) and to try writing a sestina on their own.  It is not the type of assignment I would grade, but I still wanted sincere effort, so the contest was born.  They will upload their sestinas to GoogleDocs, send me the link, and I will post them on the class website. Then, they will submit their vote for favorites and the highest vote-getter wins a prize.  It took until my last class  of the day to get the question, "What's the prize?"  Upon receiving the sharp look from my quizzical eye, she followed up with, "I mean, are we talking candy or are we talking pony?" 

"Somewhere in between," I said.

Really, it was a fair question.  Don't we often want to know what our reward will be for a job well done?  We use this information to determine whether or not something is worthy of our time, attention, skills and energy.  But maybe we need to be willing to give our effort even when we don't know what the reward might be, or if there will be one at all.   And maybe the best rewards are the ones we don't even know are coming.  Unsolicited compliments from my husband.  An "out-of-the-blue" thank you note from a student who graduated years ago.  The trust of a colleague who needs to talk.  A sincere hug of appreciation from a friend.  An extra half-hour in the sunshine with my boys. 

These rewards sustain us.  They keep us moving forward, keep us willing to help and hope. 

When I was eight, a pony would have been the best prize in the world.  But as I near 38, nothing can beat the rewards my students, my co-workers, my friends and my family surprise me with each day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just a little bit about love...

Just a small slice today:

Love is hard. It makes you turn yourself inside out trying to make sense where there isn't any. And just when you think you have figured this love thing out, you are reminded that none of us have it figured out. I guess that's why we ache for it. Because it makes us crazy and awful and good. Love is hard, but hopefully it's the one thing we have.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living Vicariously at the Library

Today was library day.  The boys get so excited that their little bodies can hardly handle the enthusiasm.  Once we are out of the car and making our way toward the entrance, they are running and twirling, half-skipping -- anything but walking along beside me.  As we enter, I shush and corral them, telling them that in libraries people are qui...oh heck, why do I bother?  We turn the corner into the children's section and the madhouse would rival any six-year old's birthday party.  Kids are jumping, playing with blocks, hollering, gaming on the computers -- hardly a one is reading a book.The adults are settled into too-small chairs and lost in their own conversations as their little ones treat the library like a playground. 

I know, I know.  I am supposed to be happy because there are so many children enjoying the library, but I always hope I can give my sons a little bit of my own library experience.  I loved everything about the library when I was young.  Books from floor to ceiling, alphabetized and catalogued. Roomy chairs and a quiet that allowed me to leave my body and get lost in my own head.  For me, the library was both grown-up and magical and I loved the paradox. 

That's not quite the experience my boys are having, but they enjoy the library in their own way.  They dive into the stacks, seeking the one Junie B Jones that we  haven't read yet or Book 13 of a beloved series.  They talk in their normal voices and have no trouble navigating the mini-carnival around them.

As with most attempts in parenting of reliving your own childhood through your kids, it doesn't look like this one is going to work.   I won't be able to give my boys the same library experience I had.  But, I can be a part of the library experience they are having.  Noisy mayhem or not,  I still love to take them. And I am pretty certain they love to go.

Monday, March 7, 2011

They're Writing Today

I love the booming silence of students deep in thought.  My classroom is usually a place of witty conversation, lively laughter, and healthy debate; occasionally we even have musical accompaniment.   But today, the room is thickly hushed as the students write.  Their heads bent over their papers, they are like umbrellas above their essays.  One hand expertly holds the sheets still while the other fills the page with words.  Every so often, the writers pause, raise their heads, and look around the room. They squint, yawn, stretch --  then refocus on the page in front of them. Quiet and slow, their pens and pencils leak their thoughts onto the page. Quiet and slow.  I love the noise of their learning.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Boy and his Best Friend

My son Michael has a best friend.  He came over today after church to spend a few hours with us. Sometimes people think I am crazy when I invite another boy into my house (I already have three!) and sometimes I count myself among them.  But more often, I enjoy it when B comes over.  Sure, it is a little bit louder and a little bit wilder.  What really gets me, though, is that when I see Michael with B, I get a glimpse at who he really is. And when Michael is with B, he is happy.

B and Michael at Michael's 2nd birthday
B and Michael at B's 9th birthday
Michael and B have been friends their entire lives.  They have been in the same church nursery, Sunday School classes, and summer camps from the very beginning, before either one could even utter a word.  Now, I hear them out on living room calling each other "dude."  My hope is that someday, B is the friend who drives over to our house and just walks through the front door, no knock or doorbell required. The one we expect could pop in for dinner at any time. The one who has his own toothbrush in the bathroom because he ends up staying the night so often.  I hope that he and Michael stay close and that as they navigate through awkward adolescence and young adulthood, they have each other to lean on and wrestle with all the way through it.  Michael has his two brothers, of course, but there is something special about someone who chooses to care about you, about a friend who loves you like a brother because he wants to, not because he has to.

I don't have a friend I have known in the way Michael and B do, in the way I hope they always will -- a lifetime friend.  And Michael doesn't make friends easily; he can be a challenging personality.  But with B, it is just natural.

So, it is a bit noisier in our little apartment tonight, but it's okay.  I'll take the noise that comes from two boys being the best of friends any day if it means my son has one more person in his life who likes him almost as much as I do. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday, Slow Down!

On my husband's Disney-focused blog, Days in the Park, he sometimes features a "Saturday Slowdown," a post detailing a place in the park that is perfect for a little relaxation or some time out of the California sunshine. For me, Saturday and slow down rarely go together. I often think about my Saturdays weeks ahead and allow myself to imagine accomplishing great feats of organization, cleanliness and domesticity. A typical in-my-head Saturday to-do list might look like this:

Make the boys a bountiful, wholesome breakfast
Do several load of dishes
Vacuum thoroughly, moving furniture when needed
Do five loads of laundry and put away all of the clean laundry from last week
Organize all photographs from 2004 - present
Scrub toilets until they look new
Dust
Alphabetize our 500-DVD collection
Establish a disciplinary system that guarantees peace and brotherly love
Give myself a perfect pedicure

Of course, I never, ever have a Saturday that even comes close.  Most of the time, half of the day has zipped by before I even commit a list to paper, let alone cross anything off of it. Breakfast this morning was frozen waffles and pre-cooked sausage. I think my youngest son was still in his undies at 2:00 in the afternoon today.  I didn't dust.  I didn't organize.  I certainly didn't get a pedicure.  And now, it is nearing 10:00 pm and I can't believe another Saturday has slipped away.  What is there to show for it?

I guess I did a few things today. I did take Michael to his GATE test this morning and treated him to a McDonald's shamrock shake when he was done. I did present the technology inservice for teachers beginning the Writing Project Summer Institute at UCR. I did play a round of iPhone Scrabble with Nicholas and laughed when he played the word "fub" which sounded so silly to all of us.  I did get to have my four year old, Lucas, crawl in my lap and call me his "bewuvved". I do get an hour of quiet time with my husband, time for both of us to talk and share and let go of all the cares and worries of the week. 

And I do get to sit here now, writing.  It may not be sparkling toilets, but it certainly makes me feel ready for the week ahead and even the speedy Saturdays to come.  And who knows?  Maybe a pedicure is in the stars for sometime soon!