Thursday, October 15, 2015

October Baseball! Fingers Crossed--Let's Go METS!

Let's Go Mets!

Okay, I'm a sucker for a good baseball game. I admit it. If I weren't, there'd be no way I could've lasted this long. I watch my team, your team, and anybody else's team to see a good put-out, a great pitch, or a grand slam. I have been watching baseball since I was literally able to climb up on my dad's knee.

My dad...was a Red Sox fan. Having sailed here from Ireland, who else would he choose? Boston, to his thinking, was an all Irish town. I can only imagine what he'd have thought of the green caps those Sox fans wear on their heads now!

For the better part of 25 years, I've hung my gallery of caps and then my Mets banner too, on the wall in my classroom, just behind the American flag. And I'd tell parents right at Open House that of course I was working on a subtle form of brain washing. Why not? Without a series win since 1986, we could use all the fans we could get. So everyday, my kids would pledge allegiance to the flag of the US and to the banner of the NY Mets.

I bribed them with threats to cheer for my team, and there'd be no homework over and over again. And I did pay-off, but seriously? There were some very lean years!

And then came along all the trickster parents, like the one who fed his son a half-gallon of ice-cream spoon by spoon while practicing his April Fool's exclamation, "Mrs. Lynch--guess what?! I'm a Mets fan now!" Yup, I fell for it. And that kid to this day remains a Yankee fan.

Even my own kids have been duped by my husband and swallowed the Yankee pill.

But today, my niece Caroline who is infamous over at Tech Insider tweeted me about a fellow teacher/Mets fan, Mr. Lazarus Apparently, Mr. L's third graders, Queens natives, are writing letters to convince the Mets to win! Well, that Mr. Lazarus is no dummy! First of all, he's playing to the right market. Up here in Newtown, we're on the Yankee/Red Sox line.

Second of all, for those of you who care, he's firing them up to write to one of his third grade standards, so this is no idle child's play here! So maybe, just maybe, Mr. Lazarus, I've been the jinx all along! Here's hoping the torch can be passed, and now it's up to you!

C'MON, gotta get fired up when you read a letter like that!

And tonight, even though I always keep a bit of cool caution in my hopes pool--I'm feeling pretty optimistic right now. I've come a long way since I got struck by that Grande Orange bug! And honestly, the convincing came from my best friend's dad--Mr. George Ripley! It didn't take much, just a little evening baseball after he got home, a bit of explaining about the game...and then, in '69 the Mets themselves sealed the deal!

Let's hope we're back there once again!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Little Place in the Woods

I never imagined life could be so good...a little cottage, a pine forest, my laptop and a golden puppy resting under my feet. After so many seasons of early wake-ups, cramming close to the screen with that hot cup of coffee to jump-start my day, I am, at long last, somewhat retired from the day to day schedule at school.

My mornings consist not of an alarm, but the persistent poking of a black puppy nose attached to a mass of golden fur. I no longer have to choose an outfit, shorts and a tank top will do. But the coffee?
Oh...that will never change!

Today, I spent three hours revising seven pages in my book. I angsted over a new chapter I know I have to stitch in somehow between two others I've recently revised too. When I reached the point of frustration, I went out and raked and weeded and clipped. And then I went back to the cottage and got it right this time, I think.

To round out my day, I took my pup out for a long walk in the woods, and then walked along a well-traveled path and had a few long conversations with all the regular dog walkers I knew. But then, as the trail weaved its way around the bend...I passed my old school. Do I miss it? You bet. I miss the people, the kids, and of course all the opportunities to challenge myself and the kids, creating each and every day from scratch. opportunities to be a part but not immersed in the field of education abound. I'll be back. But now, in my own way, on my own time, because after all these years of waking up, it's my time to have a little choice! What an incredible reward!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Riding on a Cloud

Riding on a Cloud--

I walk and watch a golden tail,
poised upward,
catching the wind.

He walks,
and I am  tethered
to the other end of the leash.

It is me
who follows
and not leads.

And for once
in my life,
I'm grateful for that.

Now, after years and years
of lines
and order
and organizational structure.

After being the follower
and the leader,
marked by a rigorous
daily schedule, a regimen
and routine--

I can relax.

I am not the schedule
nor am I the schedule

Sure, I hold
a calendar
with dates
and work
still to be done.

But I am, now
the cloud rider
I ebb and flow
in the wind.

I lean in and lend a hand,
pull back
and escape...

to my cottage,
my writing,
my dream, left for years...

Now is my time, my world,
my chance
to sail on a cloud,
to be light
and uplifted
by the wind!

Back to School...well, almost!

 Orientation...One Last Time!
(Note: This blog, written last May, was saved to draft until recently, when I came across it and decided to put it out there for view.)

People wondered
I came...

A last chance
to psyche
up a new crowd--

Anxiously curious,
in, clustered in twos
and threes,

eyeing us--
while we were
eyeing them.

Incoming spectators--
to hear
the just right words,
to set their
minds at ease.

Setting the stage
for next year's brave
it's here that it all begins
to unfold.

But, this year--
my last year,
I will not watch
that story.

It will unfold,
as it always does
and soon a new crop
will fill the halls
come fall.

Anxious parents
will melt away,
and business
will go on,
as usual.

But when that long
yellow ribbon
of roaring buses
stretches as far as the eye
can see--

And I will
travel toward
a new horizon,
longing...all the while
to be that kid,
who became
the teacher
who streamed down
that hall, and
waited with delight
for a whole new
chapter to begin.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When the Teacher Leaves the Classroom

A Teaching Life--well lived, filled with activity and stimulation and chatter, and behaviors...oh, the behaviors! Kids need lots and lots of stimulation, physical movement, interactive time, and time to digest and question what they've learned. I love my profession; I always have. It has never, ever been a job to me.

Teaching and learning are the things I know best, and so I've been gifted with the career of my dreams. I've lavished through 32 seasons of teaching, living my life with the opening and closing of the classroom door. I've sat on the beach and dreamed up units of study in reading and writing in the summertime...envisioned lessons and the activities that kids would love, so that school would not be a burden for them to endure.

And then, in late August and early September, I'd race to the teachers' store, and buy up name tags and bulletin board paper (the school's colors were always too bland) and borders and desktags and books and notebooks (I was finicky about that too.). I bought button collections and dreidels and straws and cotton balls and even a miniature zoo! But most of all...I bought books! Lots and Lots of books--and truth be known (don't tell my husband), I'm still buying them to put the just right book in the hands of my kids.

And throughout the years, I've worked hard to keep the engines moving. Writing has always been my passion. And because of that, I've prided myself in making sure they filled up at least one notebook, and most of the time two...with poetry and stories and expert information that they'd gleaned because they had a passion they chose to write about. I have loved the kids who were reportedly 'blocked'...they're the ones who'd convinced themselves and their parents they couldn't write.
I'd leave them alone, ignore their protests, and let them do the best they could. And as soon as they started to pop...much like the blooms on a tree--I'd move in quickly to lather on the praise, and then shrink back into the shadows again.

At the beginning of this year, I had no plans of retiring. And if you'd asked me, I'd probably give you a look. You see, I always wanted to go out on my own terms, never appearing old or impassioned, I simply wanted to sneak out the side door on the last day with the kids. I knew that day would come. We all know. My decision to leave...comes with kids at the heart of it. I will never be that teacher that everyone groans about. I will never shortchange a class because my energy or enthusiasm can not match theirs. A teacher needs to his/her heart, when that gifted period of teaching begins to show a bit of wear and tear.

So...before I become-

I have decided to take this time in my life to drop my keys on the table, turn my kids over to next year's super star...and take the opportunity to leave. I haven't really thought about this day...about what it will be like not to be surrounded constantly by a circle of kids. But honestly, I've been opening that classroom door since I was five years old, and now, it's time to enjoy a little sun on my face, the flexibility to enjoy family, friends, and to finally devote some time to my own writing...and the plethora of other things that I most enjoy in life!

From mouths of babes...

Ode to Sunshine
by Alex W., one of the many talented students I've been so blessed to know!

An ode to the sunshine
brightening my day
banishing the darkness,
to a place far, far away.
Ode to the sunshine 
yellow among blue,
warming the treetops,
evaporating the dwindling dew.
Ode to sunshine
making colors brighter, 
tanning my arms,
making t-shirts whiter.
Ode to sunshine
brightening my day,
banishing the darkness,
tucking the shadows away.

The shadows--the years, well they have caught up with me, but...I am not feeling my age at all. I have my health and a lifetime of memories. I am so ever grateful for all that I've been given in my Newtown teaching career...most of all for the friendships I've forged. Truth is, when you teach with champions, it's hard not to want to rise to the level of that cream! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mud Shake: More Lessons from a Golden Mud-making Machine

So today, as I battle this bleak and dreary, ugly pre-Easter day, I have to remember--a small dose of gratitude, and not this awful crankiness, is what I really need.

Looking in the rearview mirror is usually the best strategy I've got. After all, any of us who live
in a country like ours, ought to get down and kiss the ground beneath our feet. (I'm hearing my dad's voice in my head as I write this!) 

Luxury life is filled with them! And really, whose isn't? What I do with them, and how I live with acceptance of them is really the name of the game.

But in past years, I have had a cup that has overflowed! I've had jelly beans and Easter egg hunts, little cuddly babies of my own. And as my kids grew into little kids, I chased them around in the backyard, and took them on hikes in their boots, in those cold first days of Spring.

I want all my kids to be home. I want that huge Easter celebration, much like the ones I've had in the past. I want that excitement of the nest filling up again.

But, what I think I need is downtime, a book, a dog, time with my long-time boyfriend,
and a chance to sit at the dinner table and chat with at least one of my kids.

And that, I will have.

It's been a long hard winter, and now, the first real signs of Spring that I've found,
is the giant mud puddle my dog loves to lay in and the tiny tick I found on his forehead
today. But, as I look closer, dig deeper...and spend a little time outdoors--

I hear a very loud vociferous chorus, the birds, playing off the stand of trees--my own pine forest in my backyard. A gaggle of geese honk above me, searching and finding the pond just below my yard. And that smell...the earthiness of mud and worms. Well, as dumb as that sounds, it's then I finally, I succumb.

Like that big old muddy golden of mine...I will shake off what isn't to be for right now, and be grateful for all I've been given today. And then--I will enjoy our much smaller group tomorrow--that little Easter party of nine!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sliding onto a Mat: March 31, 2015 Slice of Life Challenge 31/31 (I'm there!) #solc15

After a long day, long month, long home on a Tuesday night to catch the SLOW, energetic flow class was just what the doctor ordered today. I honestly wish I'd discovered yoga years ago. But a good friend of mine always tells me we're never late--as long as we eventually arrive where we belong.

I belong in yoga; a non-sport, non-judgmental energetic adventure that brings me to a place of candles and warmth and wanderings I'd never even imagined before. 

A long line of energy flows from the top of my scalp  to the very tip of my toes. I reach high into the heavens and arc back just a bit. Then the length of me reaches and stretches, upward dog and downward dog, pigeon pose, and poses that sometimes leave me dangling in mid-air perpendicular to the wood floor. 

One moment, I am a goddess, the next I am a warrior ready to face the world.

In the end, my worn-out body stretches long over my blue mat, I curve my spine upward then bring it back down, hoist myself up and plow my toes toward the sky...then all at once toss them again toward the back of the room. And last, I return, one vertebrae at a time to the floor for a long, meditative shavasana...
reclining pose. 

Yoga. Is. Life...
a hard-working teacher's best friend.
Happiness lives inside the practice, and my family, my friends,
my students and the rest of the world deserve a happier me.


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I've participated in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: What a great way to keep story threading through my brain each day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Today, I got to thinking about Spring Break. It's a four-day week filled with lots to do, but heck...a girl can dream, right? And then as soon as the thought entered my brain, I started to think about an old friend I haven't visited in a long time...Welcome Back Sun, by Michael Emberley. This beautifully illustrated story highlights a small Norwegian village, waiting for murketiden, or murky time, the time of darkness to end. The young girl in the story wants badly to follow the path of another young girl of legend who trekked through the mountains to lead the sun back to the valley.

When I open this book, I am that girl. Waiting, not as much for light, but for the arrival of that feeling of warmth on my cheeks and my shoulders...the tossing of a coat for a sweater, and best of all to put on a pair of shorts and sandals again.

This year, that sun's warmth has a taken a long, long time to show its face. Winter has pelted us over and over again. This morning we woke up to another pelting. But in the background, I could hear the distant sound of the birds, and the geese landing on the pond below my house. I know it's coming.

But...winter, with it's grainy snow,  still clings to this landscape.

And so, I've made a radical decision. I'm tossing in the towel. I'm tired of this long, long wait. I am, just like this little girl, heading over the mountains and flying and then driving to Sedona--hot, hot Sedona. I know, it may not be that hot there in April. But hopefully, I'll be able to find a warm seat somewhere, curl up with a great book, and soak up a bundle of sun!

And when I come back, I'll be sure to bring back a mega-dose of sun's warmth for all my friends who've lived through this torrid winter with me too!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Many Faces of Early Spring! March 29, 2015: Slice of Life Challenge #solc15

Nature, Mother Nature...oh what a terribly wonderful thing. What I love most about early Spring is the unrelenting dog-fight it seems to wage with Winter to just let it pass, and give us all some relief!
Today, I spent a couple hours with my buddy. I was bundled and wrapped with  a hat and a hood and a scarf and mittens! I was taking no chances after the crazy snowy day we had yesterday. I figured we'd have a quick jaunt up the hill and then a long walk back on the paved path.

Reilly had other ideas:

Ah, c'mon...we haven't been back in the woods in months.

So I followed. NO WATER, I yelled...

                            But, I'm pretty sure he was laughing at me!

                           And then, of course, next up, was the mud--I yelled, NO MUD!

                 But, he squished his toes in the ooze and smiled right back at me.


And then, finally he landed in a huge, grainy mound, and waited. 

                                                              Got snowballs? 

                                                           And of course, I did.

    For this big pup,  this in-between time...Winter's chilly entry into Spring? 

     Could last forever--but not for me! Bring on the warmth. I'm ready for REAL Spring!

***A little shout-out to our TEAM 26, riding in this chilly spring weather two Washington, cycling to make a statement, to work for take us out of this in-between world of horror, and help bring an end to school violence forever in the United States! (Go Monte!)


Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Books by the Millions! March 28, 2015 Slice of Life Challenge-#solc2015

Almost all my life, I've believed you can never have too many shoes, boots or books. In fact, if you looked at my closet, you could easily say I feel that way about sweaters and blouses and skirts. But now, my thinking is definitely undergoing a change.

Today was another in a series of Saturdays, emptying Grandma's house and filling up my car. Last night I went to the library and closed the place, lugging in bag after bag of books. And today...after spending the morning there, my car was filled up all over again! It took me about forty minutes to lug those books and place them in neat rows on the overflowing library sale cart.

Grandma loved her stuff. She loved little chotchkies from Christmas Tree Shoppes, and she loved linen and lace, but the thing she loved most in the world, apart from her grandkids and a good recipe, was definitely a good book and an hour or two to read. 

So today, I honored Grandma. I returned all her books to the place she probably loved best too--the library. And as I lugged those boxes and bags up the stairs and through the sliding doors, I just couldn't help but think there's got to be a chair in heaven and a special place filled with books--a gigantic reading room where Grandma can take all the time she needs to settle into a great book!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Little Things-March 27, 2015: Slice of Life Challenge #sol15

Some days, especially Fridays in a week filled with conferences, report cards, meetings, Donuts with Dad and Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBACs), it's all I can do to grab my bag at the end of the day, close my door and find my way to the parking lot. Today was no exception.

On days like these, it really is the little things that we do for each other that give me that burst of energy, that human connection I crave.

I have a teaching buddy who, despite all that's thrown at him, never seems to be able to do anything but smile. And we have a tradition...we grab a cup of coffee, rarely have the time to drink it together, but at least stand there for the few minutes it takes for our Keurig to brew, to spoon in the sugar and pour a bit of cream in and stir. There's no time to hang around the coffee urn! But those simple five minutes help me put a smile on my face, and go back into my room and plan, or clean, or answer emails, or spend time reading my students' work.

Little things, to a teacher, mean a lot.

A few years ago, we had the best faculty meeting...ever. Don't get me wrong,  if I'm immersed in great professional development, you'll never hear me groan. But faculty meetings?
No sale. I keep an open mind while we move through all the news we need to know. But at this particularly cool faculty meeting--the best ever, I learned a new skill for life.

It was a very little thing.

On the table was a tiny brown, felt bag with a drawstring. Never being one to wait, I gave the little string a tug, and voila! Inside...a thin felt point pen, a pencil and a rolled paper made of cardstock for
shading. Zentangle! I'd never heard of it, or seen it anywhere in my world on the internet. Zentangle is the art of drawing small--immersing myself in the moment, the particular stroke I'm attempting to create.

Now? Two years later, I'm still using zentangling, escaping into a self-created small world as a means to relax. On Friday nights now, I grab my felt tipped pen, my zentangle journal, sink into my cushy gold couch. And when I put my pen to the page, I enter a completely new world. There are commitments, no plans...just me, the page, and whatever happens to pop into my head on its way to the pen!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Teaching Teddy Bears-March 26 Slice of Life Challenge: 26/31 #SOLC15

Teaching Teddy Bears

First, I asked for an easel,

and then I set it up,

right next to the tv set--

with the bunny-eared 


Santa brought 

me other things--

a small ironing board,

and an iron.

A small doll with clothes.

Things that cost--

but were not dear to me.

I ran upstairs,

and snagged my teddy bears,

my bunny,

my kittens,

an old doll or two.

I propped them up

on the couch.

I grabbed the chalk,

white and pink

and green and orange,

with that horrible chalky 


I didn't care.

I was the teacher

and I had an audience,

God knows what I taught

my imagined pupils.

The cat, by then,

was long gone.

But I blathered on


that was what I imagined

from my own life in school--

that teachers should do!

And now,

each day,

as I swing wide my own

very real

classroom door--

they are my teachers!

We laugh,

we learn--we forge ahead,

a lifetime

of learning--

every day a new journey,

inspired by my



Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Little Engine that Can-March 25: Slice of Life Challenge 25/31 #solc15

It's been a long, long haul.

Over a very rugged terrain.

And for the very first time, publicly, I'm admitting to myself that even though I am and have been writing, finished up my YA novel...sent it out a bit, started scripting a MG novel, but I have really been running out of steam. Artistically stalled.

The events of 12/14, that horrible December day, despite my intent of moving forward, kept pulling me back and leaving me stuck. My work in the classroom has been focused on remaining upbeat and loving and supporting all the kids. I do love my kids! And that has taken priority over everything.

And then, this challenge rolled along. 

I decided to take the leap. I'd been spreading my writing all over the place, a little blog here, journal entry there...the red leather one with the heart, the gold leaf paisley one with the magnetic front next. Spreading it all out. The heartbreak, the feelings the thoughts about those feelings. 

But this month, I'm re-learning a little something about this little engine called writing. It is the Little Engine that Can. I can write daily, and in one place again. I can reveal and then revel in the feelings I see on the page. I will not ever be afraid to put it out there again. 

The groundswell...the heart, that once was broken, is a mighty heart. I live in a strong community. And we save each other through our words. Writing is a healing thing. Writing is what I know best.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Roses for the Teacher--March 24: Slice of Life Challenge 24/31-- #SOLC2015

Roses for the Teacher: Parent conferences today...

Nervousness and tension, 
like a fever,
grab hold
and crowd my sensibilities.
I find myself scrambling
at the last minute
for more...

Scraps and remnants,
grades and journals, reading logs
and a published piece or two.

What parents really want--
is not all;
no papers, no data, 
no curriculum-based 

A little slice,
a peek 
into a window:
their child's school life,
and mine--
a chance to walk away
that I totally get
their child,
that I have hopes 
and imaginings


that I care
about their child
almost as much
as they do!

(Today, when I swung open the classroom door to invite my last parent in--she held the most beautiful array of red roses out to me. "From your husband," she said. And then she smiled, "He must love you an awful lot!")

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Reality Slips Away...and Imagination Takes Over--March 23: Slice of Life Challenge-#solc2015

 Today, I hit the jackpot. I reached in and pulled an old favorite off the shelf, and it felt so right. Teaching, like writing, is like that for me. Sometimes, I can put my hand on the just right book, and it becomes a bonanza. 

The Velveteen Rabbit was all that and more today. The text is amazing, and I chose it, rather than the other preselected text I'd planned, because I knew it held a little magic door that pulled its reader from disbelieving to the magical state of suspended disbelief. 

My teaching point was wide and sweeping at first--"Readers! Pay Attention. Fantasy is a genre of mysteriously tangled plots, twisted characters and magical settings that test our sense of reality!"
We talked again about character driven versus plot driven storylines, and we dabbled into sharing about books we've read, and that knowing point at which the author has us in the palm of his or her hand. 

Margery Williams is a master, elegant, simple with a Silk Horse instantly becomes our sage.

Well, we didn't need to look far. Today, we read the page toward the end, where Bunny is left in the bracken, and the other two sharp-eyed rabbits come and test him...telling him there's no way he can be real! But Bunny knows better and he tells them so. After all the Boy has told him he is real. The boy has snuggled him, and loved him. But now, he feels that tingle, the little tickly feeling that makes him want to leap up and dance. 

He doesn't of course, not then anyway. That, is the tease. And that is the point when the author dangles the carrot, and we want so badly for him to leap in the air. The magical pen stroke of a masterful author! 

"Readers--today, I want you to find the place when you can feel that tickly feeling. The point in the book where the author creates that opening in the platform, and you find yourself completely sucked in!"

Author meets reader, and it is really is love at first (un)sight!
The ground falls away, senses take over and the heart leaps up for the dance!

Learning often has that tickly feeling, and today, it swept us all up and took us away!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Grandma's House--March 22: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 20/31

Today was a day at Grandma's House, one of the last in a series of cleaning, emptying, rearranging and reimaginings.

Each time we come, we know we're moving along the timeline toward the end zone for this wonderful home on the hill. March has always been a particularly busy month here. The month of March is populated with birthdays, and April is now too.

Every time I set foot on that front porch, even now with all the snow and ice, I see hanging ferns, white wicker, a family filling it with laughter and silliness, hors d'oeuvres and drinks. I see little kids rolling down the sloping hillside just to the right of the house. Teenagers plot and plan on the tall steps, watching the little ones for us. I remember the stories, the political debates, but mostly, I remember Grandma, and Grandpa too, listening to us all and taking it all in.

Today, we spent a lot of time in the attic and the basement, combing through the remnants of what's left to give away or toss. And today, I spent a lot of time, in my mind re-envisioning what it will be like for another family...maybe one with lots of kids, to live and laugh inside its walls.

After everybody else left, I sat in front for a few minutes and really choked back the tears. I've spent what feels like a lifetime coming to this house...first at the age of nineteen, the girlfriend, then later, the married woman hauling the grandkids...and even later, coming back just for the sake of enjoying conversation and a sandwich on a Sunday when nobody else was around.

Now, we're in the final phase. And I would like to think that all this work, all the lugging and un-combing and emptying is in some way a tribute to Grandma and Grandpa, taking care of a lifetime of things...that don't represent them, but give us a chance to consider every little thing and think about each other and what means most to all. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Racing with an Angel--March 21: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 14/31

Today was a day of celebration. A day of coming together and rallying around a family, a community, and most importantly, a little boy.

I never knew this little boy, but I knew his favorite color was, and probably still is, red. I've been told by my friend Eunice, who knows everyone in our town, that this little boy loved bagels. And I know he loved baseball too. I've seen gorgeous pictures of him...ones that make me wish pictures had that 3D capacity, so I could reach in and pinch those cheeks of his.

I've known his sister, his mom, and his dad. A family I've grown to love very much. So, I guess that gives me a glimmer of his essence, but not really that dive in deep close look.

I am a teacher, a lover of kids and families and life. And today, James gave us a chance to celebrate him and that very special life that comes to us in early spring. There we were, walking together, at first in a soft, silent falling snow, but then the end of the race, in that very first inkling, that warm gust, of spring! A miracle!

Happy Birthday in heaven, James! We knew you were there in our midst! I hope to always be able to walk, to hug, to think of what could have been...but to be reminded about the ever soft fragility of life!

The present is our present to one another, the beautiful red balloon we have to remember to hang onto each and every day.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Before that...March 20, Slice of Life Challenge: SOLC 2015 20/31

Today, I went to Two Writing Teachers for a little morning inspiration. Ideas come from everywhere in my universe, but for now I decided to dig into that well. I'm posting from a post shared by another writer, who borrowed the idea from someone else. It's called Spin!

Ideas are the little generators, that lift us up, and make time, thought and ideas travel all over the world!

So, here's my Slice from yesterday, an evening when my husband went off to a concert and spent the night out, and I had the house to myself. (Well almost!)

Yesterday, I went to bed with a story, Grave Mercy, on my kindle in my hand.
Before that...I let my giant yellow puppy out to take his last tour of the yard.
Before that...I messaged back and forth with an old writing friend, Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
Before that...I ordered her book, and Jo Knowles' book online.
Before that...I downloaded Kate Messner's new book, 59 Reasons to Write,  and took a deep look inside.
Before that...I cruised around on the Pinterest in search of inspiration to teach the persuasive piece.

Before that...I braved the cold and bundled up and took the golden one for a walk.
Before that...I picked up a you-pick-two, a salad and turkey chili to eat.
Before that...I stayed late at school, reading emails, filling out forms and trying to decompress.
Before that...I met with a teaching friend, and we talked about life, and then what we're teaching next.
Before that...I logged myself and my twenty-two into our Smarter Balanced Tests.
Before that...I savored a luxurious hour of mixing and mingling with kids around books.
Before that...I snuggled up with Masterpiece, our interactive read-aloud by the masterful Elise Broach.
Before that...I checked into the teachers' lunch room and joked around with my friends in the crowd.
Before that...I ate a small bar, and drank a cup of tea, checking my emails at my computer for lunch.
Before kids and I generated fun, fantasy poems.
Before that...I immersed myself in reader's workshop conferences, upping our input in posting our thinking about books.

Before that...I visited Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Harry Potter's Hogwarts, and a dragon-slayer's den!
Before that...I joked around with my kids about what we had for dinner in homeroom.
Before that...I put my key, dangling off a soft pink ribbon into the lock, and the lights popped on in my room.

Before that...I kissed my husband, scratched my puppy's belly, and drove down the driveway to school.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I am...the Teacher--March 19: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 19/31

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.
        (Today's Slice inspired by Betsy at Two Writing TEACHERS. Check it out there!)

I am...

the teacher,

the one who takes

the time

to organize,

and plan, to hold a hand

and help.

I am...

the teacher,

the one who steps

on the stage--

and then sends them


to practice and learn

with a watchful eye,

and a gentle, but firm,



I add a little


to clarify there.

I keep everyone on

a straight and


and sometimes curvy path.

I am not...

a tester,

a data collector,

an uncreative


My calling

for that, thankfully

has never



can not be



can not be


Numbers do not

make the essence

of the man,

the woman,

the child.

I am...

the proud facilitator

of children.

The one who tries

to get inside their hearts--

and heads,

and make learning

inspire the hearts and minds

of kids.

I am

the teacher!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Puppy Waits-March 18: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 18/31


At the end of the day,

a very long day,

I edge my car 

down the drive.

And up on a snowbank

a golden puppy


for me.

I haul out the work bag,

the grocery bags,

and at last, the mail.

And a golden puppy


for me.

And when the garbage can

gets dragged

down to the street,

That sweet golden 


still waits.

So when tired feet 

crest the hill,

it's no surprise

to see his sparkling eyes,

that gaping smile,

his wagging tail,

my golden puppy

who waits.

For a chance to


to snuggle and prance

then wander off...and play in the snow,

his snow


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Celebrations--March 17: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 17/31

Happy Birthday to the Sweetest Guy I Know...

Tonight, a small


came and went.

A small celebration--

with no fanfare,

no fireworks,

just a guy, my guy

 and me.

A million years ago,

when I was really conversations,

in restaurants,

we somehow

managed to find something

or two things

to say.

But now, we've lived a lifetime

of conversations,

and then some.

We've lived a lifetime of childish

college ways--

with a lifetime

of equally childish,

but enormously funny


We've had babies,

and those babies

became toddlers,

then teens.

And now they've

left the nest,

but we still celebrate


We've celebrated

promotions, and houses,

and summer vacations.

We've crossed the country,

and traced our roots,

traveled to the Super Bowl

and the Shore.

And every year,

we savor this lifetime.

We love and laugh--

and remember--

and then, with even

more conversation,

we eat a great meal,

and celebrate

and love

some more!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reporting in on Report Cards--March 16: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 16/31

Report card season. Again.

In my early years of teaching, I loved to play dress-up in a way. I was trying out all the big girl jobs that teachers have to do, report cards, bulletin boards, correcting papers, you know the drill. But when report cards came along, I'd agonize for hours, trying to create a snapshot of each student that would help parents know how well I understood their child. (I loved putting up bulletin boards too.)

But now, I just want it all to go away. No more tests, no more report cards, I want to teach the curriculum and meet the standards and report about it in my own invented way. 

The truth is, kids, most kids anyway, love report cards. They like that long term mega-snap shot, super summative system we call grades. I wonder sometimes, though, what it's like to be a kid seeing your report card on a blue screen. We now live in a paperless world. Do you still get that quarter for an A? 

My brother sent me a couple of old report cards recently. Across the front of the envelope of my fourth grade report card was my dad's perfectly formed Catholic school script, "I'm so proud of you, Gaelie!" And my heart just swelled. I remembered that report card, and I remembered the Kennedy half dollar I'd gotten that year. 

So today? At seven in the evening, I was lost and searching for the right word, and I didn't see my custodian walk in. Until...he started laughing. It was a deep belly laugh, and I almost jumped out of my chair. 

I looked down at my hands, scratching aimlessly at the keys, and back up at the blue screen. And I had to check myself, because I think a few words might have slipped out of my mouth. 
"Argumentative, resistant...frequently defensive--at times, right?"

I looked at him then, and we both started to laugh. "The truth hurts," he said. 

And then I looked back at the screen. times. Yes, that one. The truth is, for this one, "resistant at times" is huge progress. A little injection of student choice has helped him along the way. 

Capturing a student in grades, though, now seems so old-fashioned to me. And reducing them to a series of numbers just seems inane too. I sometimes wonder how and why it all switched gears like this. There was a great time when we were talking about compiling portfolios...formative learning, and showcasing performance in that way. I know I can still do this, of course. I'm always so proud of my students' work. 

But things have changed, and I'm hoping they'll change again soon. Will that pendulum ever swing back the other way?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Warmth Underneath: March 15: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 15/31

Despite the cold and the greyness and that gritty lingering snow, I feel somewhat uplifted today,
just being able to hang outside at all. I don't see any flowers in the meadows yet, nor are the robins flocking to my back lawn. (I don't see the lawn yet, either.)

But there's a warmth underneath that chill out there.

I'm not clenching as I open the back door. Little rivers pool up along the driveway and cascade down the hill.

Evidence of this winter's damage is everywhere. Sunken portions of blacktop, gaping cracks along the driveway, and today, I looked up and saw the brown metal strip, the flashing, along the chimney is gone and parts of the gutter look loose. Inside walls, once puffed out and bulging with water, have split and in some cases have retracted back in leaving sagging wrinkles of deep beige paint, which was, the repair from three years ago.

But there is a warmth underneath the chill out there.

Snow mountains ebb, and in another week or so, spring's warmth will rise up from the chill.
The crocuses never had their chance, but the daffodils and tulips and magnolias will dot the landscape and give us the absolute thrill of our lives, because we sure have earned it this year!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Expanded Horizons-March 14: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 14/31

We're almost there! We've spent a little more than eight weeks, digging deep into the Westward Expansion Movement, working hard to come to understand the people that braved the elements to give up life in the east and take the enormous risk of spreading across the land. The parallels between these trailblazers and the huge loss experienced by the native tribes has not been lost of my kids. We've had many chances to stop and process, and then go home and ruminate some more.

But what happened yesterday was not necessarily so much content, but the process of high interest and high motivational practices in my students that really left me in awe of them. Our outcome for this process of weeks of working in research teams, in books that are properly leveled, and in using trusted websites to view videos and research through reading on the now boiling down to an informational book.

The unit stretched through snow days and is now, at its culmination, bumping up against the next wave of testing too.

It was the kids, though, who pushed forward, because they had a tremendous sense of internal motivation, grit and satisfaction in the writing, revising again, and again even toward the end. And then when they reached the point of constructing their books, they really hit a point of glee.

So yesterday, in a day filled with all sorts of surprises and a ton of face to face work with kids--they decided they were going to have a working snack...and then a working lunch too. In other words, they wanted to stay with me! I said to them, though..."You've been in for indoor recess all winter long!" They said, "It doesn't matter, we're having so much FUN!"

Fun! Boy, how could I refuse that? I told them, I'm not going to be able to pay a lot of attention to you, though. "You mean you're going to shun us?" the said.

Yeah, right. Shun them? I don't think so! Before I knew it, we were elbow to elbow with our lunches, with scissors and construction paper, hole punchers, markers, and string. It was a project day in the classroom, and we were having a blast getting the writing just right, and getting that very satisfying process done.

And as I look back on the unit, the learning, and the level of motivation in my kids, it's so great to see how the American story, the evolution of a culture captivated their interests and expanded their learning horizons in huge leaps and bounds!

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Writing without Sight--March 13: Slice of Life Challenge #SOLC 2015: 13/31

Writing without Sight

I woke up this morning, long before my alarm clock, thinking...thinking, thinking, thinking. I couldn't get back to sleep. My teacher's mind, last night, was a very, very busy place. How often we speak of and know and experience the benefits of reflection, but sometimes it can all go too far. That is where the true benefit of writing comes in for me.

I can actually think too much, reflect too much, and drive myself crazy with things that are out of my control.

So today, I got up, way too early, I know--and sought out the perfect release for me. For a long time, I'd dipped in and then out of Julia Cameron's daily morning pages book, The Artist's Way.

Morning writing, emptying myself of external distractions by putting it all down on the page, has freed me to be more open to my own creative path. Three pages each day, every day. For a while, I filled binders with thoughts and ramblings, clearing the way for characters in my fiction writing to become vivid and then fill up a different page.

But lately, I have not been writing...not fictionally, anyway. This month, blogging daily, has got me back in story mode. But there's a lot I'd never say publicly, and I do need to clear my brain every day. The dishes get run through the dishwasher, and my cluttered brain needs a good washing too.

So this morning, sitting upright, I've processed my worries and put them away.

The creative inside me is ready to being to play--an idea I saw on Tara's page at Two Writing Teachers has popped into my head from yesterday. It was a wonderful piece yesterday about how often in writing we overdo it on the visuals and short change the other senses in our work.

So...Writing without Sight--(well, almost)

I sit in darkness, with nothing but the palest light of the moon. The heating unit rattles and kicks up a blast of warmth that toasts by just-out-of-bed cold feet. Padding paws followed me up a creaky wooden ramp, first into the linoleum-floored kitchen, then a the darkened sunroom. A soft velvet couch cushion awaits, and my large puppy, a shadow coated in black, plops down and begins to lick, lick, lick laying atop his cushioned bed. It's way too early for food...and somehow he knows not to beg.

Morning wind kicks up outside, windows rattle, and the rich smell of strong coffee, once again, fills my nostrils and calls my name. But it's the soft sound of a snoring dog, his wet nose stretched over my bare feet, that holds me there, captivated by this soft golden mass of fur. Time stands thoughts, no worries, I'm caught in this moment willing to stay here for as long as he needs.

But then, my alarm sounds...he pops up and stretches, and that wet nose is poking my knee. Now is the time, he knows, for his favorite sound; the cascading crunchies rattling the sides of his porcelain bowl. Time for the morning feast!

I love these early writing mornings. Time and thought stand still. Because I am, unlike that snow globe, filled with thoughts and worries and sensations when laying down, often more settled, released when awake.

Slice of Life Challenge: 
For the month of March, I'm participating in a daily writing challenge, blogging, and posting, and reading other teachers' blogs. This challenge was started by two writing teachers, and can be found at their blog each day: Feel free to join me! It's a great way to keep story threading throughout your brain each day.

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