A Profound Thought ~ SOL #4 ~ 2020

I drive 37 miles to work each day, which is good because I can listen to podcasts and audio books. And, I need the solitude.

Today, I listened to a podcast where the host interviewed a lady that died for 8 whole minutes and then she came back to life.

“What did you learn?” the host asks her.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“Like, when you came back to life, what have you learned? Are you living differently here on earth?” he elaborates.

And she says, “What if I didn’t come back and I’m still dead. What if this is heaven?”

They said something like that, and I can’t remember the exact words, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the day.

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2020 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂 To read the posts of other Slicers, please go here.

Game #1 ~ SOL #3 ~ 2020

“Are you ready yet, hon?” my husband has asked me for the third time.

I have promised him that tonight I would play our first game of Cribbage. I don’t know how to play Cribbage, so my loving partner of 31 years has so kindly offered to teach me.

“Not yet!” I holler from the living room, “I still have one chapter left to read in my book!” Reading requires brain power. I’m thinking that when I’ve mustered up all of my thinking for the day, we can play games.

He walks over to me and pleads, “Now?” like a little boy wanting to open his Christmas presents.

“Oh. . . kay. . . . “ I sigh.

He brings over the Cribbage board with cards and places them on the large ottoman in front of my chair. He gets comfortable in the adjacent couch.  I take deep breaths and set my books aside.

“Now, here are the procedures,” he begins. “We each cut the deck, low card deals. The dealer passes out six cards each and we need to discard two we don’t want. Those cards go in the kitty. The dealer gets the kitty.”

He continues with more procedures. Then, how you get points, “You want to try and get cards that equal 15 because they are worth 2 points, runs are worth 3, unless it’s a double run – they are worth 8 because 3 and 3 and then you add 2 for the pair.”

And, then he gives directions on how to peg for points. More procedures. And new words: pegging, double runs, fifteen-two, fifteen-four, flush, nobs, a Go, thirty-one for two. . .

“Are you ready?” he finally asks.

I am a little girl sitting in math class asked by the teacher to count backwards by 7’s from the number 3574. Tears stood in my eyes. There was a tightness in my chest. My hands rise to my cheeks because they are burning.

“I don’t know what the —- you are talking about,” I calmly tell him.

He pauses, smiles tenderly and says softly, “We’ll play for a few days with open hands, so I can help you,” recognizing my pain. “Don’t worry, hon, you’ll get it.”

I almost say no, I can’t do this. But, I need him to walk me back from the end of the plank. I signed my name on the back of that board. Relationship building. . . I kept whispering to myself.

I win the first game, with open hands. He praises me for my resilience.

Exhausted, I shuffle off to bed.

In the night, gazing out the window at the moon, residue from our game lace my thoughts . . . dread that I was going to have to do this again tomorrow.

Worse yet . . .

I had visions of the hundreds of students I’ve had in my classrooms over the last 30 years and I ached with remorse for all of times I probably put them through this.

I just lay there, whispering, “I’m sorry.”

And, the last line of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Day” came to me like a prayer. . .

“I have miles to go before I sleep.”

Cribbage: A Relationship Builder? SOL #2~2020

I’ve never liked playing cards. When I was young, my father would urge us kids to play cards, trying to convince us that learning how to play cards was a non-negotiable skill that all human beings should be adept at. I’m not sure if my four siblings recall this same experience, although, I think they probably played cards and liked it. Perhaps I was the black sheep of card playing. I’ll have to ask them.

My husband is a card player. He taught our four children how to play cards when they were very young. I resisted joining in, letting this be his territory. I stuck to Candyland. Now, our children are all adults and when at family gatherings,  the night often ends with a game of Hearts and cocktails. There is laughter, joking, lots of snacks, shouting and cheering in these card matches. I sit on the sidelines, taking notes, or I sneak off to bed.

In our mid-fifties, my husband and I are now empty nesters. The winter evenings are long.

“You should learn how to play Cribbage, hon,” my husband urges me one late winter afternoon, as we were both reading by the fireplace. “I’ll teach you. It would be fun for us to play Cribbage games in the evening.”

“But, I don’t like cards,” I reminded him. “I just don’t.”

“But, Cribbage isn’t a card game, it’s a relationship builder,” he tries to convince me. “Please, it will be fun.”

I felt a wee bit sorry for him for several reasons. First, because he has to adapt to a wife who does not play games. Competitiveness was a gene that I was missing. Second, because he has no one else to play with. Except Ella. But, she only likes dog games.

After much banter, I sighed and said, “Okay.”

He jumped up from his chair in triumph. “We’ll have to go to Fleet and buy a new Cribbage board,” he says, “I know just the one.”

“Don’t we already have a Cribbage board?” I asked.

“Oh, this one is going to be special. We need one to commemorate the beginning of this new journey in our relationship.”

“How much is it going to cost?” I asked.

“It’s 40.00, but I have a 20.00 coupon. C’mon, let’s go.”

Off we drove to Fleet Farm to pick out a Cribbage board. Already, I was regretting my decision. This felt like too much of a commitment. What if I seriously did not like this game? Then there will be a new unused Cribbage board to remind me that I quit. What will it do to the relationship if he feels so strongly about it being a relationship builder?

We brought it home, chose a location in the house for it to hang (alongside the fireplace), wrote the date on the back with a permanent black marker and signed our names. It felt big. . . like we got married again.

“Tomorrow we’ll play game number one,” he announced.

For the love of Pete. What have I done?

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2020 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂 To read the posts of other Slicers, please go here.

 

Taking My Husband’s Advice SOL#1~2020

Curled up in my writing chair, nestled by the fireplace,  words were being penned into my notebook. My husband sat in the adjacent couch absorbed in a Conservation magazine, while our dog, Ella, sprawled out on his lap.

“Hmmm,” he mumbled as his brows furrowed slightly.

Knowing he was trying to entice me into asking him what he was reading, I tried not to look his way. But, I could not help myself. He knows what he is doing.

“What?” I asked, interrupting my writing – nothing interesting had yet appeared on my pages anyway.

He began to read out loud to me from an article about how we should be eating more insects.

“No,” I said.

He went on. “Palm weevils taste like bacon and some ants taste like lemon drops.”

“You are lying,” I glared at him, “making that up just to get me riled.”

“Wanna bet?” he asked.

“No. You are,” I argued, quite sure this can’t be true. He will try to do anything to get my attention when I’m writing. I think he feels neglected during my morning writing each day.

“Put some skin in it – I’ll bet you,” he pressured.

“Well, now it must be true, otherwise why would you want to bet?” I continued.
“You only make bets when you know it is a sure thing.”

“Fine. I won’t show it to you then.” His eyes pretended to go back to his reading.

My writing time was being hijacked.

“I can just look at it after you leave,” I finally said.

“I’m taking it with me,” he smirks.

I say, “Fine,” and go back to my writing, pretending to be unscathed.

He hesitates and then flips the magazine around to show me the article. “See? It says so right there.”

My eyes scanned the page for the words he had recited. It was true. We should be eating more insects. They taste like bacon and lemon drops.

“That’s just gross,” I mumbled, defeated.

“Maybe you should write that in your notebook,” he advised.

So, I did.

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2020 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂 To read the posts of other Slicers, please go here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Starters, Prompts & Quick Writes ~ SOL#19 ~ Day#5

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It seems like Twitter is flooded with lots of educators asking questions lately; teachers needing resources for a unit, books around a certain topic, or a lesson to teach something. I recently came across a tweet requesting prompts for journal entries for a class because the students didn’t have anything to write about.

My inner writing soul whispered, “Teach them to notice the world.”

Mary Oliver said it best, “Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About it.”

What if we just modeled and taught our students what awareness was and what that looks like, sounds like and feels like? Writers have strategies to help them pay attention to the world around them, and I think that we can teach these as strategies or triggers and call them as such, rather than the latter, to get something down on the page. Awareness is a habit of mind that can be cultivated over time – every day – so that after a couple of weeks, we can just say, “Write for 20 minutes,” and students will be able to grab something because, hopefully, they have been paying attention, or else they can choose a strategy to get them started. If our goal is writing independence, wouldn’t we want them finding writing topics on their own instead of us having to provide them?

Lynda Barry’s tool for teaching students (and myself) to be more aware is pretty effective. Seriously, used daily for a week or so activates the senses to no end.  Character sketches can happen constantly because people are everywhere and people are interesting. Really see someone, pay attention to their character and who they are. We write from big wonderings or noticings when we read books, listen to music or podcasts, or pay attention to the happenings going on in our world. Most of the time, if we are truly aware, just paying attention to the voices that are constantly talking in our mind should give us enough content for life.

I’ve also learned how important it is to take a good line from one of those awareness entries, just a line and to write from that, following whatever path unfolds, to find our way to new discoveries (Donald Murray taught me this). This, too, takes practice. And, modeling. Scary modeling it is, because it’s authentic and you don’t know where it will lead. Once I modeled this for my third graders starting with the smell of burnt toast and ended up writing about how it reminded me of my grandmother’s house and pretty soon I was a puddle. Geez. 28 kids sat there mesmerized. They wanted to try it.

Awareness and discovery. I really think that’s the meat of what keeps me writing.

Well, this wasn’t really a Slice of Life, but Twitter started it.

I just followed the thread.

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2019 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂 To read the posts of other Slicers, please go here.

Sometimes Doodling is a Better Way~ SOL#19~Day#3

 

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Sometimes, I can capture a moment with more specificity by drawing doodles than in writing a descriptive micro-memoir. Speech and thought bubbles lend to inferences that can portray my characters more than I could in describing them in words. And, it’s quicker.

It can become a curse, however, as you start to see everything as a graphic novel, visualizing a scene or overheard dialogue as cartoon snippets. You can’t get down things fast enough as once you start, you’ve activated the launching sequence. Then, you begin asking yourself what becomes “story-catching worthy”. I’ve come to believe that everything is “story-catching worthy”, and if we don’t capture it, it’s gone forever, and sometimes we don’t know a story’s worth until years later.

Being an introvert, I can quietly observe my extrovert family members and their witty conversations. They don’t realize I’m taking it all in. Actually, my husband does. He sometimes says, “Did you get that, hon? Can you put that in your notebook?”

His life is much more “story-catching worthy” than mine.

But, perhaps that’s why we were partnered.

lumberjack doodles

Shari 🙂

The Essence of Old Books~SOL#19~Day#2

I have a book obsession. While new books are lovely, old ones speak to my soul in a multitude of ways that I am not sure I can describe.

But, I will try.

Aesthetics are important to me. How objects, spaces, sounds and words feel can prompt my senses to go into warm fuzzy mode, give me goosebumps, expand my heart and seriously increase my oxytocin levels. (Or, the opposite can occur. But, we aren’t going there today.)

I wish I could tell you how an old book feels in my hand. It’s thickly textured pages are housed in a cloth shell worn with time. One can only imagine the hands that have embraced this treasure . Golden lettering announce it’s title. Pages fragile, dozens or more sets of eyes having studied the words that rest upon them, ever so gently turning each page to meet previous ones read. And, old books are heavy. They reign when competing with the paperbacks of today.

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I picked this one up to read this morning. It’s title, The Child, by Amy Eliza Tanner, copy write ~ 1904. Inside the front cover, a human being’s name graces the page, in delicate black ink cursive handwriting of which appears to have come from a fountain pen of sorts.

“Who is this woman?” I wonder. “Hertha?” not “Bertha”, but, “Hertha”.

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Well, my need-to-know-mind won’t let this rest, so I do a quick search to see who this woman is. I’m led to a photo:

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. . . which leads me to Ancestry.com. I can’t go there. Entire weekends have been lost there. I know better.

Back to the book.

I had not heard of Amy Eliza Tanner, the author of the book, in education circles. And, I do read and research educational pedagogies and philosophies (this sounds arrogant, and I apologize if it comes off that way, but it’s more a curse than a blessing). A quick research on Amy Eliza Tanner results in some fascinating fodder to add to my scholarly drawers of who to know from education past. Here she is in the center of this photo:

Look at how empowered she looks. Good heavens, John Dewey is there. Have I been living under a rock in not knowing this woman? Honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I could continue to read about her. She lived a most resilient life among her male counterparts. But, I don’t.

Because, here. Here is the ESSENCE of why I love old books:

The words.

In the introduction by G. Stanley Hall,

“If there is such a thing as a ‘call to teach’ it consists of loving children, and with love go insight, the  power to serve, and the desire to help each child to the maximum development of body and should of which he is capable. When vocational guidance is fully developed those intending to teach will ask themselves the question, which is the supreme test of their fitness,

“Do I really love children?”

Those who do not, have no right to teach.”

He goes on to say this message is Amy Eliza Tanners’ chief purpose in writing this book.

1904. It takes a whole lotta love to to do this job. We forget about that sometimes as we don’t see it enough in the educational literature of today. Yet, we know it. We feel it. It’s why this job hurts so much sometimes.

This, my friends . . .

is why I adore old books, AND. . .

is why I get nothing done.

But, it brings me to my happy place of bliss, wonder, and awe.

Shari 🙂

 

 

 

Why Are We Here? ~ SOL#2019~ Day 1

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Here we are. Again.

But why? Our days are full. Our plates are full. Our minds are full. Adding one more thing feels impossible.

After spending an hour reading the posts of others who have committed 31 days of their writing lives to share with the world, it was evident as to what brings us here.

Some writing friends feel the nudge through the energy of others, feeling a pull to connect with like-minded-teacher-writer-soul-sisters. We work in places where perhaps others do not write or wish to write, nor do they understand why in the world we would WANT to write. We are all writers here. Join in and hold hands. High five!

Some writing friends are carrying pain, dreariness and are walking through sludge at this time of year. Whether they or a loved one is going through difficult times, or maybe  just feeling the pressures and stress of our vocation that March brings, we know someone here will understand and lift us up. There is connection here. If a writer is hurting, we all open up and feel her heart. Grab a tissue because tears will be shed.

Some writing friends have been asleep at the wheel. Attuned to the spin cycle in the mind and neglecting the gifts the world puts before us. A sharpened writing mind takes us out of our craziness and into the present. We crave this awareness of the world – of others – and the wonder of living as a human. This sense of awe is what keeps us alive and brings bliss to our souls.

Some writing friends have not been writing and wish for a cultivated habit of coming to the page each day. They realize they have not been story-catching the moments of their existence. Fear sets in. How will anyone know we were ever here on this planet without the snippets of a life well-lived left behind? A SOL challenge will get that stuff down.

For me, it’s all of this. Connection. Well-being. Community. Awareness. Story-catching.

But, mostly, it’s because of the mystery of not knowing where I’ll end up. Each writing journey starts with a line and ends up somewhere else. It’s like a present I give myself each day. A good writing friend once told me it’s the surprise in the next line that becomes the writer’s addiction.  Or, maybe that was Donald Murray. 🙂

And,the best part? Writing is free.

Words are free! All of them! Even the long ones!

Not the notebooks, though. . . and the pens. . . and the books. . . and the cookies I need to eat to keep me writing. . .

But the words? Yeah. They’re free.

Why would anyone NOT want to write?

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2019 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂