An interruption

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers Thanks for stopping by!

One minute, a room full of adults was at rapt attention.

The next minute, one of the presenters interrupted the other.

“There’s a bear!”

And the room full of adults got up out of their chairs, rushed to the windows for a better look at the baby bear.

I turned back to grab my phone, and soon realized that I was not going to get a good picture of this bear.

It’s times like these that I remember that I’m short.

But, I have 3 children who will need proof of bear! So I looked around and noticed a couple of employees at an open sliding door away from everyone else. I sidled up and asked, “Do you have a good view over here?”

“We do, but we have to close this door,” they said. I wasn’t sure if this baby bear was still young enough to have a mama bear nearby, but I was happy to not take any chances.

I asked if I could please just take one picture, and then stuck my head (and phone) out the door.

Soon the baby walked off, and we all settled in again, apologizing to the presenter.

“Oh, believe me, I love getting interrupted by a bear,” she told us.

And I agree, it was the perfect interruption.

However, tonight when I walked back to my room in the dark, I made sure to walk with a friend. . . because there are some times when a bear interruption is not exactly what I’m hoping for.

He’s just a baby! But, I don’t want to tuck him in for bed.

Nordstrom Rack Angel

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I’m looking at gold earrings at Nordstrom Rack, wondering if my daughter will want a big statement piece to go with the black dress she just tried on. Actually, I’m wondering where my daughter went – distracted by the crop tops and hoodies, no doubt.

“Oh no!” I hear from behind a jewelry rack. “This ring is stuck on my finger.” A woman walks toward an employee, explaining that she tried a ring on, and it fit, but now it won’t come off.

“The tag is trapping it on my finger!”

She keeps trying to get the ring off, and I can’t ignore her. So I warn her not to tug too much, and I tell her that cold water might help.

“Or Windex,” the employee says and they walk away. I hear the woman tell him that I told her not to tug too much.

My daughter shows up and we look at some earrings together – she does not want big statement earrings but picks a perfect pair of sparkly gold dangles. These earrings will go with whichever dress she ends up wearing next Friday.

The woman walks back into the jewelry section and I have to ask her if she got the ring off and if her finger is okay. I can’t help but be curious. She says her finger is fine.

“I had to make sure you didn’t keep tugging,” I find myself saying to this stranger, “On my honeymoon, my husband tugged so much on his wedding ring that his finger swelled up this much!” I hold my fingers around my now empty ring finger, remembering his ring finger impossibly ballooned, remembering him tugging and tugging on it and lathering it in the bathroom of the Calistoga cottage we were staying at.

“I mean, we are divorced now,” I add quietly because it feels odd to be talking about my honeymoon even to this stranger.

She doesn’t hear me. “Oh my God!” she says. “I mean, wow! Did that like raise any red flags for you?”

I laugh and nod my head. “Nope. It probably should have though!”

“You’re still married, right?” She asks.

“Actually we just divorced this year.” I explain.

“Oh, what happened? Were there signs along the way that it was a mistake?”

I look and notice my daughter still standing behind the earring rack and I snigger.

“Alright!” I say and nod and laugh once again. “You just want to jump right into it!”

I give some sort of explanation that includes how it was of course not a mistake, because how can decades be a mistake and I have my three beautiful children. She talks about her boyfriend who she is set to move in with soon, and become a blended family.

” I love him,” she says, “of course I love him. I just also really love my own space, the bed all to myself, quiet mornings with my coffee…”

“Set up some boundaries right from the start,” I advise like some sort of relationship coach, “plan times that you know you will get to yourself so it doesn’t become an issue later.”

It’s her turn to nod. “That’s a good idea!”

At some point, I introduce my daughter, and explain how she is trying to decide if she should buy this fancy dress, or wear the simple one she already has.

“Oh! Buy it. Definitely buy it. You can always return it later,” is the advice we get, and then, “You know, I’m a spiritual person, religious maybe, you could say, and I really think everything happens for a reason. There’s a plan. Just be patient during this time.”

I assure her I know – when one door opens another one opens and all that (although it’s an awfully long hallway…) and we say goodbye.

My daughter and I walk to the checkout smiling and shaking our heads.

“We’ll most likely never see her again, and we don’t even know her name,” we laugh, “She was like the Nordstrom Rack Angel!”

Currently I am

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Currently, I am

Watching Marvel movies with the boys
and Ozark by myself
hoping they aren’t overhearing the dialogue

Listening to music whenever I can
Music to study by while I work and write
my goodbye 2020 playlist in the car
blues or classic rock when I am doing chores
Brené Brown on dog walks
I tell Alexa to play spa or meditation music at bedtime

Reading Good Morning Monster
more slowly than I usually read
worried that I’ve had it too long
Needing to give it back to my friend

Napping when I can
on the couch, or better yet the deck
in the sun
with the dog nearby

Wondering which leads to
Worrying – all part of my
Overthinking

Trying to practice my
Listening



Prius

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

it’s been raining, and it’s about to rain again
but even dogs who don’t like rain, need walks
so Finn and I walk
down, around, through the park, back up and around
he sniffs the rain-green grass, I sniff the air
the smell of the wood burning stove
from the house on the corner
is my favorite

we cross the quiet street
on a diagonal
avoid a Prius silently coming closer
finn loves the sound of a Prius
it’s the sound of someone coming home
he stops at the corner, head turned
wags his tail
sits at perfect attention
won’t budge when I ask him to
I don’t have the heart
to force him, show him I’m boss

the Prius parks
the man stares at us
Finn’s tail keeps wagging expectantly
I want to explain to the man
my dog thinks you’re his dad
he doesn’t understand that our Prius doesn’t come home anymore
that is why we are standing on the corner
staring at you
and the rain-green grass




Gertrude

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Gertrude

I used to bring Gertrude to my sixth-grade classroom to help kick off our “Muppet” project. In between the yearly projects, she lived with my parents.

It’s been 5 years since I’ve taught sixth grade. (That’s crazy!) So the other day my parents asked me if I still wanted Gertrude. I guess they were tired of her freeloading.

Suddenly, I ached for my sixth-graders and our Muppet projects. I thought about it for a minute and realized it might be fun to ask kids in my schools what Gertrude’s story might be.

“I wonder if I can get a teacher or two to let me do this with them,” I thought.

It took me a few days, but I finally remembered that I co-run a Writers’ Club. What luck! Kids! Ready for a writing invitation!

Gertrude traveled with me to school today, and I took her down to meet some classes. The first class was working on PSSA practice, and as much as Gertrude wanted to interrupt that (she’s not a fan of standardized tests) I moved on to a second-grade classroom around the corner. Then onto first grade . . . By the end of the day, Gertrude had met every class.

It’s very hard to get a picture of a marionette while you are holding it. . .

I told the kids that Gertrude didn’t know her story. She needed a story!

“Gertrude was lonely at my parents’ house. She wanted to come to school for Writer’s Club. But, she wanted to meet kids before she went to Writers’ Club, so she wouldn’t be too nervous,” I explained.

“Why is she even here when we aren’t even allowed to go to Writers’ Club?” a kindergartner said. I told her what I told every class K-2: “Maybe when you get to be in third grade, you’ll join Writer’s Club!”

Wow,” I thought as kids crowded around us, trying to be quiet since they understood Gertrude was still pretty shy. “This is a pretty good advertisement for Writers’ Club!

Of course, kids of all ages wanted to know what Gertrude was.

“Is she a dog?”
“Is she a bird?”

“She’s a gertrude.”

You might have to meet Gertrude to understand her magic. The way she walks is peaceful, almost mesmerizing. You can’t help but stare at her. She’s quiet and shy but brings out the best smiles. As I walked down the hall with her, kids of all ages said, “Hi Gertrude!” and asked me more questions about her.

I have a feeling that if I don’t take her with me next time I’m walking down the hall, the kids won’t talk to me anymore…

I didn’t know what would happen at Writers’ Club, but the magic of Gertrude plus the magic of the young writers did not disappoint. I invited the kids to write about Gertrude, for Gertrude, and to make bird puppets that could be in a story with her.

“But what is a gertrude?” one boy asked, “I don’t find her when I google!”

I told him that someone would have to make her a google entry. “What would her wikipedia page say?”

And friends, when the two girls came up to read me their nonfiction article all about Gertrude, it was a dream come true. They had a description of gertrudes, and talked about how loud noises scare them. They described a gertrude habitat and diet, and ended with a story of a gertrude named Gertrude. They printed their story and put it on our Gertrude story wall.

The bird puppet makers wanted to make sure I brought Gertrude next week so they could write their stories down, and as they started to clean up, a writer came up to me and said, “I know what Gertrude’s favorite food is. Avacado.”

So, needless to say, we added a fast fact section just for Gertrude.

(Not so) Sneaky Stick Figures (2)

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

It was the after-school Writers’ Club again today. As kids were filtering in, and my co-teacher was taking attendance, I was chatting with kids.

“I wish Writers’ Club was on Mondays,” one said, “because then we’d have something to really look forward to about Mondays.”

At the table next to him, a girl popped her head up from her snack to add “Writers’ Club is the highlight of my Tuesday.” Her friend sitting across from her took the perfect pause before saying, “Writers’ Club is the only thing I have on Tuesdays, so . . . ”

Earlier, we had decided to invite more kids to make some stick figure cut-out stories like we did last time..

As I made a quick direction chart before the end of the school day, I wondered if making the chart would make it less enticing than the sneaky spur-of-the-moment style from last time.

But, somehow, as kids went off to write, several came up for index cards, sharpies, and scissors. As each writer, or partnership came to the supply cart, I asked them what they were going to write, and cheered inside when they said “I want to try cut-out stories!”

My co-writer from last time was trying to get our pieces back in order, and two girls walked up to join our story. Next to us a few kids were creating their own stick figure stories, and at 2 tables at the end of the cafeteria, I could see more stick figure story work happening.

Our new co-writers fit right in. Soon all four of us were drawing, cutting, writing, and making.

One of the girls didn’t talk much and her friend said, “She doesn’t really talk.”

I said, “But she can draw! Look at that!” and we both looked over at the cat being sketched on an index card.

“And really that’s all that matters,” my co-writer told me.

I have to confess – it was super fun. I asked the kids if they thought that maybe I could have a job where all I did was make cut-out stick figure stories with kids all day.

They thought it was doable, for sure. One girl looked at me very seriously and said, “You are going to need a lot of index cards.”

Soon, we were done. So we got some construction paper, and the kids glued the story down. They aren’t sure if they want to staple it now, or maybe put it up like a comic strip.

“Can you believe this story started with just one little stick figure?” I asked my original co-writer. He just shook his head with wonder. And then, before he left to go home, he stopped me at the supply cart to ask me a question.

“Can I take some index cards home so I can write another story?”

What’s in a name?

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I remember sitting on my fiance’s mom’s bed after her husband’s funeral. I was on a corded landline, talking with my high school drama teacher. It was just weeks before my wedding. She told me she hoped I wouldn’t let the death of my fiance’s dad pressure me into changing my name. I didn’t. I kept my name.

I remember my daughter’s birth. I didn’t want to have a name different from hers. So, I filled out paperwork, updated my license and taught everyone at school to call me by my new title. One of the secretaries never got it right. For years, she would call me over the PA system by my old name. I knew she was talking to me though.

A few weeks ago, after my divorce was officially final, I called the Social Security Office, confused. In order to prove I was a real person, I needed all kinds of paperwork. It seemed silly since somewhere I still have the Social Security card that I got when I was like 12. I wondered why I couldn’t just use that and pretend the last few decades never happened. Instead I had to have my doctor’s office give me paperwork proving who I was. Thankfully the doctor agreed, I am indeed a real person.

Today I opened the mail from Social Security and pulled out my new card.

So now,
I am officially the
old me with my
new (old) name
on my
new
social security card
that looks a lot like my
old old card

#sol22 March 31 I’m Not a Unicorn

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by!

I may not ever be a unicorn, but I am a writer
I’ve been thinking about this
all-day since I put on the shirt my friend gave me
It says “Being a Unicorn was hard, so I decided to become a writer”

I mean, honestly, being a writer is hard too
But I can’t stop now
I won’t stop now

I had a hilarious chat with a teacher today, and as we laughed and walked our separate ways she called after me,
“Don’t write about me!”

I said, “Well, now I kinda have to, right?”
But I will respect her wishes.
I’ve decided that telling this part of the story doesn’t count.

The thing is, I will keep telling my story
And if you are
secretly thinking
Don’t write about me!
I’m here to say
It might be too late
I will never be a unicorn, but
I am
will always be
a
Writer

#sol22 March 30 Listening in to First Graders

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by!

Every so often I’m lucky to be at my table in my shared room when a group of kids comes in for math club.

Today was a lucky day. First graders filtered in, their intervention teacher, Mrs. P was just a few steps behind them. So I got a front-row seat to their entrance shenanigans.

Lisa and Sam* came in first. They acknowledged me with a slight nod of their heads. I said hello and watched them choose a seat at the kidney table.

Sam jumped up and said, “Oh! I forgot to hide!” and he went to the calm corner, behind a curtain. Lisa stayed at the table and kept looking back at me as Sam talked about how he was hidden.

“Are you supposed to hide at the beginning of math club?” I asked them, honestly curious.

Lisa said, “Um. I forget.”

I laughed a little and said, “You forget if you are supposed to hide at the start of math club?”

Lisa smiled and mumbled something, adding “But if Sam wants to, it is his choice.”

Pete and Anya walked in and Lisa let them know that Sam was hiding in case they were interested in doing the same. Pete and Anya went to hide in the calm corner, but Pete came back to the table quickly.

I asked them again what they were supposed to do while they were waiting for Mrs. P. I mean, I wasn’t actually sure. Maybe they always start math club on the rug, or in a choice spot, or by calming down!

Mrs. P walked in and said “Okay, friends. We are going to play a game today.” I saw her eyes scan the room. “Remember, hiding is not appropriate.

At this, Lisa looked back at me, eyebrows up, caught in her little white lie about forgetting if they were supposed to hide. She looked at Mrs. P and said “I chose the table because I didn’t think we were supposed to hide. but I told sam it was up to him what he did.”

Mrs. P agreed that we are all in charge of our own selves, adding that you can give friendly reminders sometimes.

Pete said, “I wanted to hide, but I knew I shouldn’t.”

Anya said, “I know we aren’t supposed to hide, but it looked so fun!”

As you can tell, it’s super hard for me not to listen in to first graders. Mrs. P took a teachable moment to talk about impulse control, and soon enough they were on to the math. If you were there you would have heard many a conjecture about the making of tens, and Sam’s Ted Talk on zero, which started with a proclamation, “Zero means nothing! Nothing!”

Oh, how I love listening in to first graders.

——

*I have changed all student names here, of course. This was actually challenging and made me think of how my amazing para when I taught 2nd grade would read the class books at lunch, and change all the characters’ names to names of kids in our class. How she kept track of that is a mystery to me. I had a hard time just keeping track of these 4 first graders’ code names!

#sol22 March 29 Sneaky Stick Figures

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by!

Another Writers’ Club teacher and I are standing in front of the kids who have chosen to work in our collaborative space. They are all spread out on the large bleacher-like steps, in small groups working, talking, writing.

One kid asks me if it would be okay for him to make brochures and fliers.

“Sure!” I said. “What are you going to make brochures and fliers about?”

“I don’t know, ” he said as he skipped away.

We are watching them, and kind of laughing. They don’t really need us. Sure there are a few who need our support. But for many of them, if they aren’t ready to share and celebrate their work, they don’t really want to be interrupted. They are busy creating worlds, characters, and books. They are writing a series with their friends or planning a new story to co-write. There are a few who end up making paper crafts, like a boy I noticed who was taping post-it notes into cones that he could fit on his fingers. Creative, yes. Writing? I don’t know.

One of the many joys of Writers’ Club is that sometimes you can sit and write with a student or two. Sometimes you can even do some writing near them, and hope they get interested in what you are doing.

So, I sat near the boy making finger cone claws. I had a stack of index cards, a sharpie, and a pair of scissors. I drew a stick figure and cut around it. Then I drew a stick figure dog and cut it out too. The boy took a break from his post-it note claws and scooted a little closer to tell me how cool my stick figures were.

“Isn’t he so cute?” I asked. “I want to make a story with him. What else do you think I need?”

He suggested a friend. Then he suggested the characters could be at a park. A park would need a tree, swings, and a slide, he told me. He thought probably the main character was wondering where he could plant a tree. As he told me elements, I drew them and cut them out. Then we started placing them on the steps.

“What do you think this guy should be saying?” I asked.

“Probably something like ‘Where can I plant this tree?'” my co-writer said. And I tried to put the tree in the stick figure’s hand. He stopped me and suggested that maybe the character should plant a seed, not a fully grown plant. I asked him if he’d ever seen someone plant a tree, as I drew a sapling in a sack for our main character.

He thought the dog should say “arf arf arf’ when he was asked where to plant a tree in the park.

I suggested that the cat have a real answer, and he suggested that the cat say sarcastically, “Maybe like in the ground??” We laughed as we put all the pieces together.

We decided that the friend should be looking for his cat.

I drew the friend, moping about his cat. “Now I’m going to have to figure out how to draw a bench!” I said.

“Oh. I can do that,” the boy said. “I think I can draw a bench.”

He got his own stack of index cards and a sharpie and drew a bench. He cut it out and added it to our story.

“This story is amazing!” he said as I took pictures so we could clean up.

I agreed.

I think sneaky-style I do, we do, you do might be one of my absolute favorite ways to write with kids.