I miss you

Part of Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

I miss you.

I missed you in New York
City

the way you
drove
us and found parking

the way you
led us
through the neighborhoods

the way we always went to the
same
restaurants

the way you always
paid
on your credit card for points

the way you told us
later
how much we owed you

the way we’d
walk
forever

the way you sat in front
when we took a taxi
and talked to the driver

the way you popped
into a bar
for a beer

I want a beer
you’d say

I could live here
you’d say

how did you always
find the best
hidden bars?

later we would pour a glass of wine
sit in the hotel
or on the rooftop deck

we’d talk about our New York
memories
and eat the snacks Kris packed

Our last time in New York
City
you knew

you knew it was your
last
time

I told myself there would be
more
time

I missed you in New York
this
time

Building Stories

Part of Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

We were building a story. I say we, but the second graders were doing the heavy lifting. I will never tire of building stories with kids. Did you know they have the best ideas?

Our character was an ice cream cone, and he was having trouble. He kept melting in the summer! What he wanted most in the world was to be an Olympic swimmer, and he knew he had to find a vacation place somewhere on an iceberg so he could practice swimming without melting.

So good, right?

Things weren’t going very well for sprinkles — that was his name — sprinkles. First he forgot his plane ticket and luggage, then his flight was delayed. On the plane he ran into his arch -nemesis, Hot Chocolate and while he was running away, part of his cone broke off.

I’m telling you these details, not so you can steal this idea from the 2nd-graders and make millions of dollars in the picture book industry, but so you can understand why I was so excited about the kids’ ideas.

For each element of the story, kids turned and talked, and then we took a few ideas, and I picked one to go in the story. Or sometimes the ideas were all so good so we combined them all together. (Now the part where Sprinkles needs a vacation to an iceberg to practice swimming might make a little more sense to you.)

Each time I took ideas from the class, I would exclaim how it was, “so good!”

And it wasn’t a lie, or even a stretch. These ideas were so very good.

Maybe I should take the idea and make millions of dollars in the picture book industry. (No joke, I would love to publish an anthology of all the books classes have written. They are so good. So. Good.)

One second-grader was thrilled that his idea was picked for the class story. He was so excited, he interrupted my next sentence to point at himself, and raise his eyebrows very high.

“That great idea was from the birthday boy. Me.” He said.

“Well, that’s great!” I said, “Thank you.”

I started to go to the next part of our story.

“Well, aren’t you going to wish me a happy birthday?” He asked me, incredulous that I missed that part of the exchange. Of course I did, right away!

Finally we continued building our Sprinkles story, and I sent the kids off to make their own ending. But I was left thinking about that boy and his unabashed plea for celebration.

What would happen if we took a little of that energy and took it out for ourselves whenever we need to be celebrated?

Seems like a pretty good way to build your own story.

I’ve got nothing

Part of Slice of Life Tuesdays on Two Writing Teachers. Join us!

I’ve got nothing
to say

My holiday
is over
Pushing snooze
Just makes me a loser
It doesn’t make the
clock stop

My daughter
is insisting on leaving
So cruel-
She’s going back to stupid school
Whatever, I’m proud but
allowed to miss her already
Damnit

The shade in my family room hates me
I guarantee – it sticks
every
time I try to close it
I hate it too
So there

I couldn’t figure out who would be knocking
so late and so weirdly at my door
But it was my ice maker
finally making ice cubes after all these years!
or actually just one tiny sliver of ice
then no more
shocking.

The dog barked loudly
for so long
Now I don’t know if a car parked
someone walked by
a deer ran through my yard
or a serial killer snuck up
He’s probably still waiting for me
Crouched nearby

Happy
New
Year

A Slice of Inspiration

Part of Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Join us!

A second grader took a break from working on his Top Ten Memories in writing the other day. He walked over to me to tell me about the time his dog ate chocolate with raisins. His eyes like saucers as he was telling me this important story. I shook my head with concern – scrunching my face with worry.

“She’s still alive though,” he reassured me.

“Phew!”

I asked him how his writing was going – seeing he only had a handful of memories written so far.

He smiled wide.

“I have a few written down. Now, all I gotta do, is —finish!” He said, walking back to his notebook that was waiting for him on the rug.

I’ve decided that is my new writing slogan: Now, all I gotta do, is —finish!

The slice I hadn’t started? Now, all I gotta do is finish.
The sample writing I have almost ready to send out? Now, all I gotta do is finish.
My book, started in small pieces? Now, all I gotta do is finish.

Actually, this slogan can work for all of life, I think.

The present wrapping that I haven’t started? Now, all I gotta do is finish.
My laundry sitting in the washer for the past couple hours? Now, all I gotta do is finish.
In the beginning stages of healing from betrayal? Now, all I gotta do is finish.

Thanks for the inspiration, kid.

Now, all I gotta do is finish.

Christmas Trees and Heartbreak

Part of Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Join us!

A Christmas tree is not just
a Christmas tree
It’s
all
the Christmas trees

It’s my childhood trees —
A blur of colored lights
favorite ornaments that spark imagination

It’s that one time my parents got
a short tree
a short tree!
and put it on a table
I
was
heartbroken

A Christmas tree is my grandma’s trees
always in the same corner of her big house
wrapped with big lights
as we all gathered
well before we all
scattered

It’s my dance class trees-
full of magical ornaments
We’d take turns
dance up to the tree,
choose an ornament to dance as
the ballerina was easy,
but have you ever danced
like a candy cane would dance?
those ornaments, that tree, that studio, that teacher —
those memories live in a tainted haze now
this tends to happen
when 35 years later your dance teacher’s daughter has an affair with your husband
Still.
I do love the memory of that last dance
class before Christmas

It’s been awhile since I’ve
danced
as an ornament – but
I’ve unpacked them a lot
in a flood of memories
Mostly good —

Last year I packed away the 2 snow people in a hot cocoa packet from the year I was married
But I still thought about it when we decorated this year

Lights
make the tree
anyway
Like clothes make the man
Lights and memories

A Christmas tree is
little kids
clip, clip, clipping the tree wrapping off
branches falling
the brittle Christmas tree
poking us as we spun lights off
and needles covered our 100 year-old wood floors
bare branches by the curb
shoving a tree out the window
Well past January
My youngest sobbing, screaming,
“I want Christmas! It’s not over!”
Heartbroken

My tree is artificial now
pre-lit
pieces snapped together by teenagers
The bottom lights broken
by the new kitten
But it shines
like
all the trees

I sit by the tree
in the soft glow of
all the Christmas trees,
lights, ornaments, memories
and the thoughts of heartbreak too

Dr. Pepper & Life Lessons

Part of Slice of Life on Two Writing Teachers

After a doctor’s appointment, you stop for a little treat. A drink, lunch to bring back to school, something.

I don’t know if you have this tradition, or where this tradition started. I do know that when I was little, I’d always get grape gum after the doctor — the kind that has some sort of grape flavored juice that gushes out when you chew the gum.

So today after his appointment, I took my youngest to grab a snack. Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar was the choice drink. Now this makes so much more sense, I think. Doctor appointment equals Dr. Pepper!

Apparently, according to my almost 13-year-old, Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar is the best Dr. Pepper there is. I’m not sure John Green agrees, but I’ll let the opinion stand.

As we walked out of the store, I realized that we could have easily picked up a drink for my older son as well. I had told him we couldn’t when I dropped him off at school this morning, but why?

“I feel bad!” I said to E. “It would have been easy to grab an extra bottle of Dr. Pepper for your brother.”

E and I quickly discussed — the line was long now, and we really needed to get back to school.

“It’s okay,” we both said to each other as we crossed the parking lot. We reminded ourselves that it’s the person who has to go to the doctor’s appointment who gets the special treat. It was fine.

E said, “It’s just our empathy talking. It’s actually okay to not get him one.”

“Plus,” I added, “It’s not our job to make other people happy.”

E looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said, “Well, you might have taken it a little too far there.”

I had to try to explain. “It’s true. It’s not our job to take care of other people. (Aside from how I take care of you and your brother and your sister. That actually is my job.)”

I think I got a sigh from him as we got into the car.

It’s hard to explain this concept to your child, who it actually is your job to take care of!

But, maybe teaching it to my kids will help me get it straight in my own empathetic soul.

It’s not my job to make you happy.
It’s not my job to take care of you.
My needs are just as important as yours.

Say it with me, friends.

It’s not my job to make you happy.
It’s not my job to take care of you.
My needs are just as important as yours.

Snow Poem

Part of Slice of Life on Two Writing Teachers

Snow falls
outside of classroom windows
Kids yell,
“Snow!”
Teachers say, “Yep. It’s snowing.”
“Does snow have anything to do with math?”

My classroom didn’t have windows
Can you believe it?
Somehow we always knew when there was snow
Somehow kids still yelled, “Snow!”
Did they sense it through the tiny window in our door?
Did they hear the snow silence outside?

Now it must be that soft blanketing (definitely not just the forecasted dusting)
Or the sound of boots squeaking down the hall
That transports me to
All my classroom winters
The snows of classrooms’ past. . .
The good old days

For a minute I wonder
If I wander the halls
Could I find a class to interrupt?
We could write snow poems on paper snowflakes
as the snow falls
outside of classroom windows

You know when? A slice of feeling old. Or young. Or something.

Part of Slice of Life on Two Writing Teachers

You know when you go vote but since you lost your mail-in-ballot you need a provisional one?

No? Well, you definitely have your life more together than me.

The polling place was pretty slow when I went, which sucks — but also, it made it less embarrassing that I had to keep walking back and forth in front of all the poll-workers as they got me situated with the provisional ballot.

You know how you feel old when the poll worker says, “It’s been steady, but we need some young people to come in here.”

I said, “Wait. Don’t I count?” And I laughed at my own expense as she told me “If you’re under 35 you do!”

They really make you work for those provisional ballots. I feel like I wrote my address down like 16 times.

Fine, it was two. Two times.

As I finished voting the poll worker said, “Oh! Ona! I know your mom. I worked with her on campus years ago.”

Cool connection.

“Your mom is a very eclectic person,” she added. “And her sister! The artist. I bet you’re just like them.”

I mean she isn’t wrong.

You know how you feel young when poll worker says, “Actually, I babysat you once!”

I can’t remember the last time anyone babysat me. . . So I guess that actually also makes me feel old. But also young?

Voting is cool, and everyone should do it. But my favorite part of it all was when the poll worker looked at me and added, “you were a really cool kid to babysit.”

So there. You are hearing it here first. If nothing else, I was a really cool kid to babysit.

A surprising night

Part of Slice of Life on Two Writing Teachers

The boys are home early from their dad’s. Thats not the surprise. Neither is their wrestling that starts almost immediately.

It’s a little surprising that they stop when I ask them to, but they also start right up again in the kitchen this time.

I am a little startled to hear the shattering of a wine glass in the sink. But I do live with two teenage boys, and I do enjoy a glass of wine some nights.

Some nights.

We stare at each other for a bit. The silence a few beats longer than usual as I collect my thoughts, take deep breaths and implore them with my eyes to stop the fooling around. No, I’m not exactly sure what parenting technique this is. But it’s been a long week and it’s only Tuesday so it’s all I got, I guess.

“Your shenanigans has got to stop!” I say sternly as I pick up the shards of glass. I mean, what would you say? Plus, I love that word. Shenanigans. I keep going as I start to clean up the shards of glass. “Please unload the dishwasher.”

For some reason this daily request is always a surprise to them. A shock actually. They look at me with utter disappointment.

“I liked it better when you weren’t talking,” A teenager says.

Someone picks up a Halloween cup from the counter refill their water, and is about to take a drink when I realize I hear something in their glass.

“I thought that was ice,” he says. “I almost gulped down that broken glass.”

Suddenly I notice that our new faucet is leaking from right above the nozzle

So weird.

We try to tighten it, but we loosen it instead so the hose gets sucked all the way into the faucet and disappears.

Surprise!

E feels bad and wants to fix it. I want to call the plumber. Well, really I want to call my dad, but he’s out of town and very busy. I think briefly about how I’m supposed to YouTube things like this. That’s what strong single moms do these days, you know.

But in a rare moment of clarity, I realize that I don’t have the brain space to start plumbing projects.

I call the plumber and as it rings and rings, H comes in the kitchen, opens the cabinet under the sink.

“Please don’t mess with it,” I say, imagining two teenagers unscrewing pipes and water shooting out everywhere.

Of course, the plumber doesn’t pick up so I leave a voicemail, struggling to figure out how to explain the situation. What are the real words for this nozzle and this hose, and the long part of the fixture?

“So my faucet was leaking and I tried to tighten it but the hose just…” I get out. Then the hose is pushed up into the faucet, and it just hangs there.

“Actually, my son just got it while I was explaining this. So, um. . . If it doesn’t work, I’ll call you back! Goodbye!”

H looks at me and sighs. “That’s why you don’t call someone before you ask me to fix it, mom.”

And, he’s not wrong. Lessons learned, right?

Ask for the help around you, trust your kids, and always — I mean always make sure you have more than one wine glass.

I’m sorry

You were in my 6th grade class over a decade ago. You were cool. You laughed and joked, fooled around with your friends, did your work (Mostly. With reminders…) We got along.

One day, you made a mistake. I wondered if I could ignore it until read aloud was over, but soon the whole class saw it. That’s when it really became a thing. A thing I had to deal with. I didn’t want to deal with it though, especially after I saw your face when you noticed me notice the hidden project you had in your hoodie.

I had to make a quick decision. There’s a teacher brain thing that happens. It’s a mode where you are still teaching or reading, or talking, but your brain is making a decision. Your brain is engaging in a very short, seconds-long debate. Mine probably went something like this:

He shouldn’t have done that. It could hurt someone. He’s not going to hurt someone. He’s just joking around. It’s a stupid joke, I need to take that away from him. Can we talk about this later at recess maybe? All the other kids see it now, I have to acknowledge it. The handbook is very clear on this. My gut says this isn’t really textbook handbook stuff. I’m supposed to do what the rules say to do. I don’t want to make this a bigger deal than it is. Is this really zero tolerance stuff? What about that kid I read about in the news who was suspended for accidentally bringing a nail file to school? I have to follow the rules. But he doesn’t need a 10 day suspension for this, that’s overkill. Rules like that really do show kids that adults don’t have it together. But ugh. I have to do what I’m supposed to do. I really hope the principal can handle this in a nurturing way.

I took you into the hall. I took a deep breath. You already could barely look at me.

“I’m going to have to give this to the principal.” I said. I think I said it kindly. I hope I said something to show you I understood.

You looked so uncomfortable.

I probably made a face with my lips curled in and my nose scrunched up. It’s supposed to mean, “I know this sucks. But it’s going to be okay.”

It was a long walk down to the office and you trailed behind me the whole way, sobbing.

When we got there, I tried to explain the situation to the substitute vice principal:

I’m here because he needs to turn this in, and it isn’t okay that he made it. But he didn’t make it to hurt anyone. It’s not a weapon. I hope we can be reasonable with consequences.

She nodded. Told me she would take care of it, and to send you in.

The next day you started your 10 day suspension.

I didn’t take any data, and it was a long time ago. But, when you came back you were never really the same kid. There was less laughter, less chatting, less fooling around, but that wasn’t a good thing. There was also less engagement and fewer friends. We didn’t NOT get along after that, you and I. It’s just that the relationship was damaged.

Maybe you didn’t want to have anything to do with me because I didn’t fight hard enough for the grey in the situation, I didn’t advocate for you enough. Maybe you were just embarrassed about the vulnerability I saw in all of your sobbing.

Maybe it was all of the above and more.

I’m sorry.

I should have done better.

I’m really sorry.