Thursday, March 5, 2015

Faith and Friendship--March 5: Slice of Life Challenge

Last night, amid a perilous forecast of incoming rain and sleet and ice and snow and freezing temperatures, my husband and I hopped in the car and took a leap of faith for a friend.

The weather held.

Our friend Bobby, a lifelong college buddy (with humor to match), was playing at the Fairfield County Theater Company about a thirty-five minute drive from my house.

For most people, sailing out in crazy weather is not a stretch, but for us now, it is.

My husband travels in a sleek orange wheelchair with a Grateful Dead sticker plastered on the back. Ice, of any kind, scares me. When I got home from school, our walkway was covered in a thick, glistening layer of ice.

But Bob has been working hard. We've been to many a dive bar with an array of characters...lounge lizards you'd never see on Cheers. Bob always carried that crowd, lifted them up, made them laugh, welcomed them into his small circle for the night. Belonging is a powerful thing.

And all the while, he practiced his craft...voice lessons, rehearsals, promoting and booking his shows.

And all the while, we showed up and so did many of our other friends, driving down from the Cape or Boston, because that is what friends do.

And last night, Bobby went big time...playing in a small, posh club in lower Fairfield County. The place was packed! And the crowd was ready...and Bob and his band rocked it out. Two hours of no-break, non-stop bluesy, sultry songs like Spooky, Hey Bartender, and a million other memorable tunes.

I was worried about the ice along I-95 and what it would be like driving home.

But the weather held. And so did my faith in Bob.

I'm proud of my friend and his new second life. The creative inside was just waiting all these years to bust out.

And because we knew that, we had to be there. Friends always suit up and show up for friends!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An Itchy Situation--March 4: Slice of Life Challenge

When a Classroom Becomes a Hospital Ward...

Today, in my last period class, I was conferencing quietly with a student when I saw a rash of excitement traveling around the back end of my classroom. In the center of the whole thing was a diminutive character, no bigger than the actual size of a live fairy. (Not a believer? Wait.) I walked over to her. She, of course, saw me coming and quickly slid a mysterious something over to the other, not much taller elf-like partner-in-crime next to her.

I could see right away a shiny white paste plastered all over the crook of her arm, and a devilish twinkle in her eye (nothing new with this one). And then I saw the look of guilt on the other fairy-like friend's face. It was then that an outbreak of scratching began. Right in front of my face--both of them with both hands tearing at their neck and arms and chin. What on earth, I asked.

"We're itchy," they said. At about the same time, a white tube slid out and fell on the floor in front of me.

So...while I was immersed in the business of talking reading and writing, and making great strides with a group on one side of the room, this small group of nursing wannabes were triaging each other, applying this white sticky paste. They had the itchies and scratchies...the result, no doubt of the prolonged dry heat both at school and at home.

Nurse Twinkle and her accomplice were not deterred. They were actually quite proud of what they had done. As I looked around, I could see a few others averting their eyes and yanking up all of their sleeves! In a few short moments, when my back was turned and I was engaged in the job I've been hired to do, they, my corps of nurses, were spreading good cheer--a coat of Benadryl Cream all around the room!

I called the girls to a quiet corner and had a very quiet discussion about the fact that they were actually using a medicine that might not be good for everyone. In fact, I told them, I wasn't entirely sure, but it might be possible that Benadryl Cream could actually cause harm if someone had an allergic reaction to it. "It's medicine!" I said in a stern whispered voice.

It was at this point that Nurse Twinkle turned on the waterworks. She was magnificent! I said to her, I'm not mad at you, I'm concerned about your choice.

"But, am I going to die?!" she asked. I assured her that this was probably not the case. However she could go to the nurse and check it out. That is not the route she took in the end. Instead, she marched over to the sink then and proceeded to scrub it all off. And just as I slid into a seat next to another student and began to discuss their work, I noticed a stream of others doing the same.

At the end of the period this very same diminutive person came over to me after everyone had left.
"This is a little off topic," she said, "but do you believe in the tooth fairy?"

"Absolutely," I said. (I get this question a lot in fifth grade.)

"Oh good!" she said. "Because my mother slipped the other day, and she told me it might not actually be true."

"I'm a fiction writer," I said, "I get to believe whatever I want."

"Well that's a good thing," she said. "Because after I found that out, I cried so hard, I almost couldn't make it to school." And again, the waterworks started to appear.

"You're not going to tell the nurse on me, are you?" she asked.

"I will if you ever try to do her job again!" I said.

"It's a deal!" she said. And with that, she turned and I watched her as she sailed right out of the room.

Do I believe in fairies? Well, how could I not?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Finding the Sweet Spot--March 3: Slice of Life Challenge

Life's Slices: Finding the Sweet Spot

Yesterday, I grabbed a wave! After all my moaning about winter, I decided to have a Spring Fling!
So, I met a friend at Peachwave, our little slice of sweetness not far from the Flagpole (Newtown's trademark) in the center of town.

We talked about life and friends and traveling, but eventually, as all teachers do, we turned our thoughts back to teaching. Sometimes I wonder what other people think about when their brains are allowed to chill. For those who don't know this, teachers, for 180 days, are tethered to classroom/kid thoughts! I'd had the luxury of a half day outside and inside my own classroom, talking literacy and writing and kids' response.

Our trainer, Gary, is a taskmaster. He pushed us through, and pulled us out and forced us to re-examine the work we are doing and the work we've done in the past. He's Columbia...TCRWP, and we're lucky to have him. Because even though it requires an enormous amount of time to plan an afternoon out, it gives us so much to bring back in return.

Yesterday, I pulled a quiet student, one who, I know, gets anxious in the spotlight, but who knows she can trust me to never push her too far outside her comfort zone. I put her through the paces with a running record, then got inside her head a little bit to see what she's thinking while she reads. It was a simple running record...something I did all the time when I taught second grade. But now, I was facing a fifth grader, and I could see, that while she was reading the text easily, she wasn't thinking the big thoughts I wanted her to think.

So yesterday, in my sweet spot of one on one teaching, I was thinking...what if this is not the just right book for her? Is that in itself a crime? How much is she really struggling? I mean, she could answer the literal types of questions. But I know I want much more from her than that.

Later on, I tossed on my snowshoes and hiked an arduous two miles around a cornfield in deep, deep snow. My poor golden was doing the dolphin, up and down, riding what looked like a wave through miles of snow. This is too hard for him, I began to think. The guilt started to settle in. And in reality, it was just on the edge of being beyond my own ability too. The snow was super deep and the wind was picking up and pelting me in the face. And then my thoughts returned to my student. Is that book really too hard for her?

So today's teaching to return to the theory and test it out, to see how her partner is doing in this book as well. They went off to the library and selected these books, and as is the case in most school libraries, there are no green or yellow labels, and that is why I was testing her out in the first place. You do have to love the books you're reading, but sometimes, we have to teach to the depth of that love. It's my job to be sure that each individual student can find their sweet spot, and today I'm gifted with another opportunity to help her find that level of sweetness in this book!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Somewhere Beyond...March 2: Slice of Life Challenge

Somewhere Beyond...

Somewhere beyond


a single bunny


long legs,


and nibbles

on clover

and clusters

of wild purple


And somewhere else--

the tip

of a single pink

crocus pops


pushes its way


through frigid


A peeper,

long buried,


in a melted



And velvety soft



A flock of birds

take flight,

making an eager


Soon pale aqua,

and soft speckled

beige eggshells

appear in

nests cradled

in tall trees.

And trees, newly bursting in

brilliant green--


like soft flags

in a gentle breeze.



a long forgotten


is ready...
and a new page,

filled with color

and warmth

and birth

and celebration

is about to


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thinking Green! March 1st: Slice of Life Challenge #SOL15

Thinking Green, but Settling for a Thick, Unending Carpet of White

I've decided to take the leap and join the rest of the Slicers out there, and join their mission to sprinkle story slices around the blogosphere! I am no stranger to blogging, like many of the rest of the Slicers, I am followed around by a tribe of ten year olds for 180 days each year. I love my job, my kids, my hometown, and most of all I love my family...even though we are spread out across the United States.

Today, I'm thinking green, regardless of what I'm seeing outside my window! My nephew visited with his beautiful wife and three gorgeous kids, and while I watched them out in my own backyard, halfway up to their waists swimming in the layers of cold white powder, something inside me was in flashback mode. I caught myself picturing them out there on another day, surrounded by greenery, rolling down the hillside and climbing my dogwood tree. 

Springtime in Newtown!

I blinked and a beautiful cathedral, the back trail at Fairfield Hills came to mind, I could feel the warmth of the sun, see the dappled pavement, and just about reach up and touch the tip of those green leaves at the top of those newly minted trees! My dog was off leash, chasing the sights and smells of spring.

And then...I blinked again, and reality--the grim sight of those white flakes falling endlessly from the sky. And just when I started to flip the switch to absolute dread, I heard it--the sound of laughter, and glee, and pure silliness out there in my yard.

It was then I realized they weren't seeing the snow in the same way I was. There was no dread. They were happy and amazed and filled with absolute joy. 

Hope springs Grandma used to say. And hope comes in many forms. The fiddleheads will appear, and the peepers will raise their voices in a mere few weeks. For now, I'm doing all I can to just hang on and remember, underneath all this white, a whole new world of green is getting ready to unfold! But today, it's not the green or the white, but the sound of that raucous, giggly laughter that lifts me up and gives me back that silly feeling of pure glee!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Light Snowfall; A Dazzling Gift of Life


So, today, I wake up to a light snowfall, no threat of inches or feet to shovel, just a light cascade of glistening, white particles, drifting this way, and that, finding their way to the already trampled snow-covered ground. 

I open the back door and join my golden beast out on the back deck. And he waits there, in the yard, back straight and attentive, sitting on a large mound of snow, and staring back at me. I'm king of the hill, he's saying, Come play!

In my head are thoughts of what I'm going to wear, how much time I have to pack my lunch...will I have time to correct all the writing on my desk? Will I have time to call back that parent from yesterday, or enter the rest of those grades, so the parents don't worry about whether that piece was handed in or not. Can I enter the data for my principal and get that done today? What about that student that was absent yesterday? Can I get his assessment done today? Oh, and the other thing, the teaching--well, have I reread my plan, and looked at my script--so my performance will motivate my kids?! (The most important thing of all!)

And then I look down at my cell phone. A text from my sister-in-law, wishing me a happy birthday at 5:30 AM, and a voice mail too! I listen to the voice mail, savoring every word...two. hour. delay. I know so well the complications this makes for others, I've lived the parenting life! But today? It's my day!

I bundle up, throw on my boots and mittens...and follow that snow-ball chasing dog out in the snow to PLAY! Life is a brilliant gift--not meant to be a prison of to-do's, just a small adventure of what's in front of me, in this moment, today! Waking up to the best gift of unfolding, and being awake to receive!

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Separate, but Equal

Separate, but Equal

Sometimes I lull myself into believing that I am invincible. I'm of a certain age (don't ask...okay, it's 40 something--NOT) hearty and healthy, and boy can I rock a mean pigeon, side plank or a down dog split. But. Even though I immerse myself in my community, work hard to stay ahead of the curve in my job, and chase after my youth each and every day, who am I kidding, really? Healthy living is a choice, but it's not an answer to all the scaries out there.

One of those scaries, I have to admit, is Alzheimer's disease. Who's not? There was a segment on the news the other day about new studies that can identify early symptoms. Oh my God, I just wanted to cover my ears and my eyes and walk away. But, I didn't. Instead I was drawn like a moth to hear the whole thing. 

The smell test. Did you know they now test people to see how measurably far a jar of peanut butter has to be before its smell can be detected by the patient? (They even hauled out a ruler!) As I sat there and watched, the undeniable scent of my big old golden retriever was wafting itself into my olfactory glands! Thank God! So. We'll check that off dog beats peanut butter any day.

Then there was the celebrity face test, but I'm saying this upfront now, don't ever count on that for me. I have no clue, and never had, I am a paparazzi's nightmare. That kind of staring at other people's lives is just too embarrassing for me. 

But on a somewhat other note, I showed up very apprehensive with a head full of knowledge for my Meniscus surgery the other day. I'd been all over Web MD, asked questions of the PA in my doctor's office, and even canvased people in Starbuck's or anyone I met along the way. 

Me? I have a husband in a wheelchair, a giant dog, and a house I'm taking care of these days. I dug and planted for a week, and I had all kinds of company. I was ahead of the curve, and even though Tom (in the wheelchair) and me on foot would after the procedure look like a train wreck leaving that place, I was not aware that there could be worse.

In walks Willy. Willy was about 80ish, very short and a bit plump and bald with his belt pulled all the way up to his chest. He had on his gray velcro sneakers and two men following him. He, like me, went up to the window. And like me he was asked to show his license and insurance card. That's where the comparison ends.

Willy fumbled through his wallet for what seemed like an awfully long time. The one man, about perhaps five years younger and cranky, his brother, I think said "He doesn't know what the hell he's looking for." The other, younger, well dressed, casual business style jumped right in (a nephew, I think). So here's Willy, who was called Will by the woman (wife to cranky) who came in from the parking lot to save him--he's guided to a seat and told he's number 7 (I'm number 6). Willy and his entourage now stretch to 4.

He pulls out a scratchy paper towel from a men's room somewhere and attempts to wipe his nose. The woman, who was kinder thank God, tells him, "Will, you need a soft tissue to take care of that." Willy/Will/Number 7 sits there and looks at her. He knows he's supposed to respond. But...hmmm. Nothing.

When they call number 6, I hop up, and leave Tom to watch this unfold. I think about Willy, and I forget to worry about me. That is a very good thing.

Next thing I know, I'm waking up in the recovery room, and guess who's next to me? It's Willy of course; and now the doctor comes in and the nurses are making a big fuss over him. They ask him his name and he answers right away. And if he's had what I had, I know the black curtain inside my mind has not totally cleared. But, he pipes right up,"Bill," he says! And I can just hear the delight in his voice.

Bill. If everyone just asked me my name. 

So here we were, Bill and I, numbers 7 and 6 with a hanging sheet dangling between our personal lives. I loved that man for the window he opened, and today, almost a week later, while I'm hobbling around, I'm wondering if #7 is doing any better than me! We may be worlds apart, but we all perk up with a little attention to our humanness and that one single word that we all love to hear, our name. 

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