Do you want to see where I used to live? Slice of Life Challenge Day 21

There are snow NO days and then there are snow GO days. On the former, you hunker down in cozy pajamas with hot tea or cocoa, glad to be safe and warm inside while the wind howls. On the latter kind of day, there’s no school, but the roads are mostly clear. This is a free chance for adventure, the things you hardly get to do.

On this particular snow Go day, Qaiden and I had gone to visit my Mom. Before we left she suggested going out for lunch. Snow GO days are also YES days. So we piled into the car and off we went. These were my old stomping grounds, where I’d spent most of my childhood.

As we passed some familiar landmarks I said, “Q do you want to see where I used to live?”

I was about to show him the old farmhouse where I’d lived for a year with my grandparents, two aunts, an uncle and cousins, plus my family. There had been three small bedrooms and one bathroom. Somehow it worked. And because of how long ago it was, it had all faded into a pleasant blur. What remained were foggy memories of a giant garden, endless woods behind the house, a stream alongside it, a lazy porch–a little Shangri-la just yards from the main road.

The house had been in my grandfathers family for generations. Family legend says that once during a tornado the kitchen window had been left open. The funnel cloud reached a finger inside, lifted the vase off the counter and left it sitting, pretty as you please, in the field across the street. The story of the place filled as much of my memory as the actual house.

I knew that after we moved it had been turned into a pool supply store, but the  kind of store that still looked like it had been a house.

 

As we pulled around the final curve past the Tennis Club that had intruded during the final months I lived there, I got ready to point out my childhood home.

“It’s right…” but no more words came.

In the place of home stood Chips-home of Connecticut’s best pancakes. It was part of a slick new plaza. And behind it, on a tall bluff I’d never noticed when I was seven, were endless rows of condos.

It used to be right here ?!?

Chips is in my old living room.

They say you can never go back again…maybe what they mean is, the place you go back to isn’t the one you left. Trust me. There was no food allowed in the living room!

Directing Traffic–Slice of Life Challenge Day

As the crowd spills out of Riverside Church after the morning keynote, I stride forward along the sidewalk, eating up the open spaces. I navigate between groups of teachers straggling toward the first session. Quickly I reach the corner and step over the mounded snowbank into the street. Bodies press closer together here and my advantage is lost. I shorten my steps to match the throng around me and edge across as the signal begins to flash orange.

The sidewalk along the next block is covered by scaffolding, making it feel enclosed. The crowd inches forward impatiently as those closer to the corner wait for the light to change. An eddy of people have spilled off the sidewalk, swirling up the street outside the cars parked parallel to the grey stone of the building. And up ahead in the street, just before the corner I see a head a little apart from the others. Standing still amidst the flood of motion. Calling out to the horde.

Lucy, stands in the street, marhshalling teachers, most of us not from the city. Cautioning against stepping in front of taxis. Cajoling to wait for the light.

Somehow this strikes me as metaphorical, though the exact significance remains elusive.

Like all teachers, she wears many hats.

Not only do we teach reading and writing and content. We coax those who are timid to try, those who need friends toward one another. We tie little sneakers and zip up coats. We bring granola bars and fruit for the hungry ones. We offer a safe space to those who need one. We show up early or stay late because something else needs doing. When we see our students, not matter where we are–at lunch, on the playground, in a store on the weekend–we look out for them. When we take them on field trips into the world we repeatedly count noses. Like a mother goose and her goslings.

And so in addition to shaping how we teach reading and writing, in addition to hosting thousands in an endeavor that must take countless hours of planning across many months, Lucy stood in the road and directed the flow of teacher traffic because though we were thousands, we could still be hurt by cars.

Spinning Poems-Slice Of Life Bonus from TC Saturday Reunion

Inspired during a session with Colleen Cruz about poetry and the reciprocity between writing with craft and reading stronger.

 

An avalanche of humanity bursting forth from the doors of the church

Spilling into the sidewalk and crashing over the curbs and banks into traffic

Spraying out at the edges across the block on one side into the median at the other edge

Thinning as the packed crowd presses along the blocks and avenues

Settling here, there, further on as they lose momentum

 

Coleen, I apologize for tuning out the first two minutes of the session as you sparked this poem in my mind. Had to jot it down before it escaped.

The Kindness of Neighbors–Slice of Life Challenge Day 19

Kindness is…

A neighbor

Pushing your snowblower across the snowy street to the neighbors toiling with shovels against the hard-packed plow-snow

Teaching a thirteen year old how to use your snowblower–what trust that conveys

A neighbor

Wading knee deep across front lawns to share a power shovel with neighbors struggling to lift the heavy drifts

Offering to leave it until the storm ends–even though your walk will be covered again

A neighbor

Driving by an elderly man shoveling ice-crusted snow with all his might the day after a storm

But calling in help from a thirteen year old with a shovel

A neighbor

Accepting the call with grace and willingness

The recap to his mother-matter of fact- no thanks are needed

Get by with a little help OR Zen Library–Slice of LIfe Challenge 18

It all started with a rolled up rug and a crowded corner…

My favorite soft braided rug has been rolled up for months. Once chosen for the nursery floor because of its soft blues and greens and soft-to-the-feet touch. Later gracing the floor of the master suite. Lately tossed forlorn across boxes without a place of its own. I wished it could once again grace a floor and caress my toes, but all the rooms were full.

I sat working in the center of it all. Writing from the hub of our house. Outside the kitchen door. In the crook of the stairs as every possible person passed on every possible errand. My desk was pushed in the corner, squeezed between the doorway and the stairs. Held hostage by the ironing board two days every week.

My thoughts were crowded–as crowded as that corner. Until one crept away. Up the stairs. Through a secret door to the only unclaimed space. A Little Princess’s attic. A Secret Garden indoors. Unheated, but alluringly empty. It just needed a few touches.Zen 3

I hauled the rug past the people, up the stairs, through the secret door, and laid it down across the bare attic floor. Where there had been only plywood and splinters, now there was an invitingly soft beginning. A little faded. A little worn. But shining with possibility.

My writer’s escape needed a place to write. Out came the drawers from the desk. Down went an old towel so I could slide it across the floor. Curious eyes peeked from behind screens across the room. Fascination won out as a boy tugged mightily from the seat of his pants on the step above the prostrate desk while I heaved from below. Stair by gritting stair we raised it to the upper floor.

We wrestled with the desk and with the best place to position it. Beside the window, but the ceiling held sway at the side? Beneath the sloping skyline of the room? Close to the open door or farther back? And now a chair.

Q offered up his own upholstered chair. His prized accoutrement. No protests-he would share. But now you must position it just there. Such firm ideas for so soft a placement. Beside the desk, just so. So you could turn and gaze beyond the panes of glass or rest a cup upon the lid.Zen 5

 

A few more touches. His brother’s unused gliding chair. A chest of blankets by the favored side. Both chairs can profit by their view, one of another, and both of an aged oak. My champion, I thought. He’d hauled and hied, spotted and spied those things and where to go.

Zen 7

But now he claimed dominion. His secret place. By virtue of his contributions. It was only fair, he thought. I must protest. My own thought had crept up those stairs to this only unclaimed space. It had been unwanted and unloved. Until…

We’ve negotiated a peace. My space–I’ll share (sometimes) for books or chess. But he claims naming rights.

The Zen Library.

 

*I won’t be writing from my garret today…I’m off to the TC Saturday Reunion. Today’s writing will be microblogging, AKA Twitter posts, from NYC! I’d love to meet some slicers if they’re there. I’m @ureadiread

 

St. Patrick’s Day Festivities–Slice of Life 17 Extra

 

St Pats Together

Photobombed by Dad!

Lone Tuba

Doing just fine

Today my oldest–who’s not that old–marched with his high school band in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade.

 

I worried about drunken crowds staggering into him on the end of the last row of the band.

I worried my husband wouldn’t find him through the crowds along 30+ blocks of the parade route after the band stepped off half an hour early.

I worried he’d be too cold, and his dress shoes would give him blisters.

I worried my mom wouldn’t find him after trekking to the city.

I worried the tuba, sorry–Souzaphone, was bigger than him and he’d get too tired before the end.

 

Corner of 59th

Spotted by grandparents at 59th…about half way through

I’m a mom. It’s part of my job to worry.

But it sure feels great to see that he’s doing just fine!

Macedonia Bound–Slice of Life Challenge Day 17

I’ll be completely honest. I’m struggling with this.

What do you do when two of your most closely held beliefs come into direct conflict with one another?

We were sitting around the table in the book room, a little wilted from the week. It’s that time of year when our Interventionist and I host each grade level team for a meeting to discuss specific students so we can plan for the upcoming intervention session. For the teachers it’s an hour or two dedicated to the students nearest and dearest to their hearts. It’s a chance to celebrate successes from the past few months and look ahead to new goals, a time to advocate for more, less, or different support to help children over the final hurdles between here and June.

We actually love these conversations. The best moments are when a tentative suggestion meant for one child is scooped up by a team and suddenly we can see the many possibilities it could afford others as well. The sparking and piggy-backing of ideas make these truly collaborative sessions. Eyes alight, shoulders square, breaths soften as we remember we’re in it together and that together we have tremendous capacity.

But by the end of a second full day locked away in the same room, those of us who have been part of every team feel worn. There are sometimes more needs than we can imagine meeting in the ways we’d like. Though, somehow, my partner-in-all-things-good always finds ways to reach those children…sometimes in creative beyond the box ways…always through her own deep commitment.

So in our final team meeting this afternoon, I was already feeling frayed around the edges when a teacher shared her worries about one little girl. These worries go beyond academics. I knew small pieces of the story since this sweet child has been in our school since kindergarten, but today I heard the whole story* for the first time and it crushed me.

I’m even struggling how much to share. I believe wholeheartedly in acceptance and pluralism. I may not agree with your view, but I defend your right to hold it. I admire strong convictions. I’m not particularly religious, but I don’t believe in vilifying any religion. Likely there are more ways to live and observe a single religion than we could imagine. And many have overlapping beliefs and practices that are mostly about being good to one another. I also believe fiercely in every child’s right to an education and self-determination. Girls deserve every opportunity available to any human person. Malala is a hero for speaking out on behalf of girls around the world.

Today those two fundamental beliefs collided. I’m talking a giant asteroids hitting the Earth collision.

Every fiber of my being tells me that this girl child deserves those chances. All my instincts are screaming out in helpless disbelief that this scenario could play out in my community–not halfway around the world, but in the halls I walk every day. “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world!”

What can I possibly do? How can I do nothing? What could be done that wouldn’t dishonor her culture and her family? If I dishonor the place (literally and figuratively) she comes from, am I dishonoring her, even as I yearn to free her from it?

Her father has taught her that this is her role and her destiny. I have a hard time accepting that because of what my father taught me. He taught me that I can do anything. That  I have as much right and ability as anyone, and enough determination to overcome the odds. He taught me not only that I can shape the world, but that I should. He gave me a voice from the time I was small enough to dance on the tops of his feet. He still amplifies my voice today. In his mind being a girl, a woman, is no impediment.

Is it any different if we both believe the version of the world that our fathers spun for us from infancy? But–oh–how different those worlds are.

 

*I suppose we can never know the full story unless we live it.

Eureka!–Slice of Life Challenge Day 16

slice-of-life-badgeAha!

I closed my eyes against the dark in the room. Rolling to my side, I pulled the covers up under my chin. Stillness.

I breathed evenly, deeply.

My feet flexed and stretched. Shifted places. Something was wiggling around the edges of my brain.

I resettled myself in a more comfortable position, stretching against the cool sheets.

I breathed deeply.

Puzzle pieces began shifting in my mind. Slowly at first. Tentatively. Set three pieces, take one out. Replace one of the pieces. Spin it sideways. The dimmer switch spun and the lights came on in my head. Fully on. I found the corner piece to the puzzle and the edges were coming into focus.

I peeked at the clock.

Nearly midnight. Everyone else is sleeping. I can’t move things now.

Fidget. Try to hold still so I don’t wake anyone. That just makes me more fidgety.

Think about something else.

Lightning flash (in my head again).

No amount of stretching or breathing was going to solve this. The only way to turn the mental lights out again was to spill these fledgling plans onto a page.

I softly spilled myself over the edge of the bed into the dark and tiptoed from the room. As I passed I collected what I’d need to spew my ideas, then blur the edges from whence they came with someone else’s words.

It seems to be the soft, fuzzy moments around the edges of my consciousness when ideas fold into and around one another and spring to life. This time the puzzle pieces were pieces of furniture finding new, better homes in my new house. I’ve been living with it for months, and struggling around it the past several days. I think I was able to discover the corner piece through persistence, and a wider lens. Thanks to the fellow slicer whose waterfall expedition put that refrain into my mind this morning.

My hutch was too wide along one wall in the other room, and too tall for the adjacent one. It must not fit in that space. Unless…That hutch is actually two pieces a top and bottom. I’d been thinking about moving my son’s desk (with a hutch top that has been off-the-wagon for years now). Eureka! If the hutch can go there…

Quickly the other pieces tumbled into their new places. And after drafting a plan of attack, which needs to move where first before the others can trickle into their new locations, which pieces I can move alone and which will require an extra set of hands, I am ready to transform three (and a half) different spaces in my house before school  tomorrow–and bake brownies to boot.

So cheers to that fuzzy half-aware place before sleep. Thanks to the ideas sparked by fellow slicers every day as I read your posts. Thanks–in advance–to my boys who I’ll wake up a little earlier than they were anticipating tomorrow (well, a bit later today) to help move the tall things. It will smell like warm brownies when you wake up. And hooray for great books to soothe me back toward sleep.

It’s a good thing there’s a delay tomorrow. Goodnight.

 

Today, A Pantser–Slice of Life Challenge Day 15

pantser-image (1) Not always, but today I am.

Beware the Ides of March!

Ode to a Hot Bath

Sore is a 4-letter word

Kindness of Neighbors

The Story Written in the Surface of the Snow

The Promise of Bacon

Dreaming a New Writing Refuge

So far in this challenge one idea has always snapped into place at the front of my brain insisting that I write about it. One time it kicked me in the seat of my skirt and insisted that I write it at that very moment. Today, maybe because my routine is non-existent on snow day x2, maybe because my muscles are sore from yesterday’s shoveling (but in a whiny way that even I don’t want to hear in print), maybe the harsh light of midday that is unkind to photos is also unsuited for seeing hidden slices etched in the surface of the snow…who knows why?

Perhaps this indecision is what I should beware today.

Today I will revel in all of your slices. Maybe tonight (if I get bacon and a hot bath and summon the resolve to shovel my absent neighbor’s driveway–not necessarily in that order) I’ll feel less pantsy and more like writing.

For now, I’m going to go dream up a new writing refuge that would shield me from random distractions and nurture…something.

 

 

Tuning in and Zoning out–Slice of Life Challenge Day 14

I went to bed and couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was the time change.

Whatever it was I decided to stretch out in front of the wood stove.

Crackle crackle

crinkley crinkley crinkley

clink           

crinkley crinkley crinkley

clink          

pop

clink           

clink

sizzling sizzling

clink

clink

clink

whistle

clink

clink

chiiirrrp

I never noticed all the different sounds the fire makes. The initial crackling sounded so close I sat up to peer over the end of the couch to be sure the fire hadn’t escaped. But the sounds of a fire aren’t steady. They alternate, as passing a fancy as the dancing flames. The only steady sound is a metalic clink as the metal of the stove responds to the heat. Like a heartbeat it pings evenly across the minutes. Interrupted sometimes by the other sounds more like a crackling campfire or roaring bonfire. I like both the steadiness and the unpredictability of this fireside concert.

Perhaps I’ll sleep after all.