A Derailment: Again #SOL 11/31 2021

Enroute to teach today, there were nearly 20 vehicles and equipment sprawled out along the highway next to the railroad tracks about 8 miles north of my destination. Workers with orange vests and hard hats working, resembling a colony of ants.

What was going on? I pulled over a to take a closer look.

Last month at this same location, a train had derailed and this was a similar scene. 

There had been still a few train cars from the February accident left behind. I was wondering when they were going to take care of them. But that wasn’t what was happening here.

Once slowing down, I realized that there was a second set of  train cars in the ditch. These were not the same ones! Could it be – that a train can derail for a second time within the span of a month in the exact same location???? 

Good heavens it was. No joke.

How could this happen? How could they not have taken care of this problem to prevent it from happening again? Insanity!

Hopefully, the same engineer was not driving. Or, the people put in charge of fixing the problems that caused the first derailment forgot to take care of some things. But. . .

Chances are . . . conditions were too similar for the derailment NOT to happen again.

I sighed a heavy sigh. Shaken.

I know this story too well. 

That is all.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers who have also committed to this challenge.

A writing practice can be a means of “gaining a perspective on where you are in the movement of your life” and be a medium to “explore the possibilities of your future in the context of your whole life.” ~ Ira Progoff

Delights of the Day~ #SOL 7/31 2021

Upon reading Caitlin’s post yesterday about all the things that make her happy, I was reminded of Ross Gay’s Book of Delights in which he writes an essayette every day for an entire year as he attends to and records delights that captured his attention. It made me wonder how many episodes of delight I could capture in one day. So, I thought I would try. Here goes:

*waking in the morning without an alarm

*knowing I can linger in bed a little longer on a Saturday

*rolling over under my covers to do child’s pose before crawling out of bed

*my bare feet meeting the soft rug beside my bed and sliding into my slippers

*an early morning text message from my husband with a photo of the morning sunrise on the lake he is ice fishing on with his buddies, he knowing I love sunrises

*greeting Ella who waits for me to rise from my bed to be fed, her tail wagging

*the tall glass of lemon water I drink before coffee

*coffee – need I say more? In a handcrafted mug from my daughter

*tending to Ella and filling her bowl with water and her dish with food, she kisses me on the nose in gratitude

*a step outside with my coffee to breathe in the early morning air-it may hit 50 degrees today

*writing – and everything that goes with writing – the warmth, filling my pen with ink, hand-scribing, discoveries

*a conversation with my son as he works on his truck – my awe at how he can fix things

*a walk outside listening to Naomi Shihab Nye with Krista Tippet on a podcast

*the warmth prompting me to take my jacket off and tie is around my waist

*squishy mud on the road of which ooze around my shoe

It’s not even 10:00 am yet and my morning is bursting with delights, many intentional.  I confess that my days are set up for this. Liz Gilbert said somewhere that our mental well-being is a 24 hour job. We work as a side gig. This is true for me. 

The feel good chemicals in my brain, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins need continuous drips throughout my day for optimal well-being. I can’t leave things to chance. 

A funny thing happens when you begin recording delights. Even if you plan for them to occur, you begin to notice delights everywhere. Our delight muscle is strengthened. All of them are screaming for your attention!

And, did you know that if you share your delight with someone, the benefits are two-fold? You experience it again, AND you share that joy with someone else so they feel it, too.  Also, if you’ve written it down, every time you reread it, you experience it again. 

Who doesn’t need more of that in their life right now?

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge. 

The Wild Remedy ~Mending a Weary Soul

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It’s all I have to bring today

This, and my heart beside

This, and my heart, and all the fields

And all the meadows wide

Be sure you count – should I forget

Some one the sum could tell –

This, and my heart, and all the Bees

Which in the clover dwell.

~Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)

This weary soul of mine succumbed to social media early in the morning, as some days, scrolling is all I can muster. My hand, even too exhausted to lift the pen to my notebook page.

On this particular day, a teacher-writer-soul friend, Mary Lee Haun, was also having a weary kind of day.  Her #poemofpresence whispered to the quiet corners of my dissonance:

today I am sad

please don’t try to cheer me up

there’s nothing for it

My fingers typed a few words to let her know that I felt her angst as well. I shared with her a word I’d recently learned, one that named this kind of tired – a word in Tibetan:  ye tang che. The ye part means “totally, completely”, and the rest of it means “exhausted”. Altogether, ye tang che means “totally exhausted”.

Devendra Banhart taught me this word, while listening to him on a recent episode of the On Being podcast. The lovely language and voices of this podcast are healing, so I turn here often in times of need. The word, ye tang che, Devendra credits to have learned from Pema Chadron in his book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.

I had jotted it into my notebook to bring up in moments of despair. Like this.

A lovely dear friend of us both, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, swept in to save us on this dreary day. My heart sang just seeing her name and an image of her responding to our short conversation.

She offered a gift: a recommendation of a book.

The Wild Remedy ~ How Nature Mends Us by Emma Mitchell.

With a slight surge of new energy, a quick exploration brought me to the contents of Emma’s book. Emma suffers of “the grey slug” or depression, as some know it as. She shares her journey through nature as a balm to lift the grey from her days. Winding paths through the woods, drawing and painting the discoveries along her way fill her illustrated diaries. Month by month, she charts her highs and lows and the neuroscience of how our bodies, minds, spirits and hearts receive the natural healing benefits of plants and wildlife when we step into the wild.

Her book arrived on my doorstep yesterday.

All of a sudden, I’m witnessing more bees, and fields and meadows wide.

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~ from my morning walk ~

And . . . my heart is beginning to mend from all of this ye tang che.

 

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. 🙂