All posts by onathought

Trigger at TJ Maxx: A Slice

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

L and I went to TJ Maxx this evening. She needs a few more things for college, and… it doesn’t take much to convince me to run to TJ Maxx.

“I’m going to invite you NOT to look at the clothes this time.” I said to her, remembering her stuffed closet and her current state of packing for college.

She agreed, and we started walking our usual route.

I ignored the fuzzy socks, laughed at the leather pants, and stopped at the mugs.

The mugs. I love mugs. You’d think I’d get tired of them, or that I have been gifted too many as a teacher.
But nope. I hardly ever get them as gifts, aside from the ones I buy myself at TJ Maxx. I am definitely not tired of mugs.

A year ago (or maybe a lifetime. . . ) the kids and I went to TJ Maxx to pick out a mug for someone who I thought was a friend. She was starting a new teaching job, and we got her a cute mug, some pens, a pencil case and some Mickey Mouse hand sanitizer. (2020: The year hand sanitizer became an official school supply.)

I delivered her gift to her house about a month before I found out she was no friend of mine. No. Friend. Of. Mine.

Nowadays, I stand at the mugs and I make what can only be called the cringe-laugh face of the betrayed. All these months later, when I pass the mugs on display, I stop and remember. I remember walking to her gate, congratulating her on her job, trying to be a good person. I remember all the lies that I didn’t know were lies.

Tonight after I made my cringe-laugh face of the betrayed, I looked at the mugs. I got momentarily distracted by one that felt perfect in my hands. It said “Hope.”

I wondered what mug I would get her now. I scanned the display, but unfortunately Rae Dunn doesn’t make enough snarky mugs.

This was the best I could do:

What? It’s Halloween season!

A Slice of Guilt

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

I’ve been feeling guilty lately.

In my sophomore year of college I asked my roommates if I could get a kitten. They said okay, and that weekend I went to philadelphia to pick a kitten from my boyfriend’s brother’s friend’s cat’s litter.

I named her Soma and I loved her so much.

When I got home from Philadelphia, I found out that one of my roommates had driven all the way to Iowa to get a cat.

It was strange – how she brought a farm cat home. I remember feeling startled by the Single White Female feeling, but just figuring it was one of those things.

But then for some reason she wouldn’t take the cat to the vet. And I was so upset. I was righteous. I was scared that Soma would get worms or fleas or some other disease. I did not want that cat near mine before I knew it was safe.

So while Soma took naps in tissue boxes, climbed up sliding glass door screens, sat next to me while I did my homework and ran around the house, the other cat lived in a room. Her cat cried sometimes, and my roommate started to not stay at our house anymore.

It was a strange time. No wonder my memory is so fuzzy.

I don’t know why I didn’t just take care of the vet stuff myself. I’m sure I didn’t have the money, but I’m more sure I was standing up for my righteous beliefs.

One day, my other roommate had enough, I guess. She let the cat out, brushed his fur, cleaned the whole house even! I remember coming home from class, and taking a deep breath, feeling like maybe it would be okay.

The next day the roommate who had moved out came and took the cat to the SPCA.

So now forever, I have imagined that that poor cat’s fate. She was taken from a lovely outside farm life, stuck in a college bedroom for a bit, then most likely, put down at the SPCA… all because I had the principled feeling that things had to be done a certain way. For an animal rights activist, this is a very wrong story.

I told that story to my therapist the other day to make the point that I have been trying to figure out how to know what the right thing is at any given point. How do you know if the thing you are feeling so sure about is the right thing?

I feel so guilty about that cat. What other decisions have I made, have I stuck by like that? What have the ramifications been?

My therapist paused after my story. She may have sighed, I don’t know.

“So let me get this right,” she said “You took care of your cat, which is what you are supposed to do. Your roommate did not take care of her cat, which is not okay.”

I nodded, and she continued. “I think maybe you should explore why you feel responsible for that cat.”

So, I guess I’m not done with therapy!

PS. My memory is hazzy. It may have been 2 cats from Iowa. I don’t know.

A slice of bus buddies

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

Have you seen Kindergarten/5th-grade bus buddies? The 5th graders are all proud and grown-up and heartbreakingly serious about their job. The kindergarteners look up at their buddies… literally.

Yesterday I stood in the kindergarten hallway at dismissal. I watched 5th graders escort their Kindergarten buddies to the bus, or pick up lines.

One duo – somehow with almost matching long blond curls was walking with determination. The fifth-grader had his arms spread out wide and was saying “I bet you’re wondering what is going on here, what is this huge thing I am carrying down the hall!”

The kindergartner said nothing.

The fifth-grader said, “It’s big because it’s made from my imagination!”

The kindergartner looked at his buddy, and then looked at the nurse’s office that they were passing.

He pointed at the nurse’s door and said, “I’ve been in there!”

And with that. . they went on their way!

A Slice of ice

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

My ice-maker — the one in the door of the freezer — It works now.
It makes ice.

We got the fridge a decade ago
Our old house didn’t have the hook-up for the ice
we were so excited when we moved
almost 6 years ago — to finally be able to have water and ice from door dispenser.
But the ice-maker wouldn’t make ice.
You could hear it try
And once, through some deceptive magic, one cube was born.
On that day we were so relieved! It was fixed!
But then water poured out
it wasn’t magic after all.

So we started filling the ice bin with ice from bags
at least we could dispense it
First World Problems
First World Solutions

Lately I’ve heard a whirling in the freezer
Sometimes a drop or a clink
And now the ice-maker works.
It
makes
ice.
The bin is full of ice
(for now, I guess. I won’t count my chickens, or rather my cubes, just yet…)

I don’t know if it was just the ice-maker’s time
Or maybe it just needed the mentor of the bagged ice
But whatever the reason,
If this sort of miracle is possible …
Doesn’t it just give you hope?

A slice of the last day of summer

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

I fell asleep with my glasses on last night
Trying to read, I guess.

I woke before the sun and couldn’t find my glasses.
They were nowhere.
I can’t see without my glasses.
I got on the floor, aimed the light from my phone, tried to catch a glimmer of an edge or a lens-
Tried to ignore the dust under the bed.

Finally I gave up and just stayed there for a bit
On the floor, with my head on my hands.
Awhile later I got up and found them on the other edge of my bed, neatly folded, waiting.

But I had already wondered —

What does it
mean
to start the last real day of summer
blind
with your hands as pillows
on the floor
waiting in the dark?

A slice of School Shopping

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

We went school shopping today.

When I was a student, I loved school shopping. Who am I kidding? I love school shopping and school supplies as a teacher too. Notebooks, pens, pencils, markers – all a blank slate for the year to come. Smooth, new, perfect.

Truth be told, we could probably gather enough supplies from around the house. I have a stash of new notebooks, a few places where there are dozens of pencils waiting to be sharpened. I might even have some folders somewhere. (And maybe I have some sticky notes to spare, but I don’t really want to give any of those to anybody.)

BUT…What’s the start of middle school, the start of high school, the start of college without a new notebook, a new planner, some brand new mechanical pencils, a binder, some new markers….

My boys don’t really love shopping. I found number and letter erasers to add to my make-writing supplies, L thoughtfully selected notebooks, a binder, paper, a planner, pencils, etc. for college. But, the boys? They threw a few things in the cart. I think they got some post-its and some pre-sharpened pencils. Maybe some colored pens and on-sale markers got thrown in there too.

I tried to interest them in a planner.

“There’s no way I’m going to use something like that.” My soon to be 6th-grader said.

I tried to interest them in folders.

“I just want to get out of here.” My soon to be 9th-grader said.

“Do you think you’ll want to keep your different class things in different folders?” I asked. “Or, maybe an accordion folder? See how it’s easy to slip papers in? If you get a regular 3 ring binder, it’s kind of annoying to put papers in all the time –” I said, calling on my years as a 6th grade teacher, my decades of loving school organization.

“Whatever you want. Whatever you think is best.” My 11 year old said, exasperated with my enthusiasm.

Probably when everyone gets to school they will realize the thing they need. When the time comes, we’ll figure it out. L can order what she needs while she’s away at college (SOB!) I’ll share my notebook stash, and I’ll try to find those pencils and folders for the boys. But, I am not planning on sharing my sticky notes. No thank you —

I mean, unless I can go buy myself new sticky note replacements. . .

I want to write you a poem: A slice

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

I want to write you a poem
about how life changes
it’s dark outside before 9
It’s August
the great Sunday of the year for teachers

I want to write you a poem
so you understand what’s coming –
everyone is starting something new here
college, high school, middle school
Do you know about being left?
for minecraft
for something new
for something different
What do you know about being left?

I want to write you a poem
about Sundays
and still being here while life gets ready to change
In the pause of August-Sunday
my dog snores next to me, his head on my knee
we are in our favorite corner of the red couch
in the dark, with the sounds of laundry and bedtime




A Slice of Road Trip Playlist Shuffle Found Poem

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

When I was about ten, my parents took us on a road trip out west. I spent a lot of time leaning against the blankets my mom bought in Mexico, reading Archie comics. I also had them play the same mixtape over and over. I remember the tape – called “Greatest hits Volume IV,” I believe. But I can only remember small snippets of the actual music. I Heard it through the Grapevine was on that mix, and Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel. I know if I could find that tape I’d remember the words to so many of the songs that I can’t even remember titles to right now!

I’ve always been a fan of music in the car. When I got my license and could finally drive independently, I put in my mixtapes, or the ones my friends made, and turned up the volume. I rolled down the window to the red Hyundai my parents let me take to school almost every day, and picked up my friends.

I still remember a summer drive through a warm New Jersey expressway. I was driving from my family beach vacation to pick up my boyfriend about an hour away so he could join the vacation. I don’t remember what music I played, but I remember the feeling of windows down, music on, and open road. Independence!

When my kids were little, I played music on the way to any destination; errands or road trips! Sometimes I played music to keep everyone awake and singing. Sometimes I played music to help lull children to sleep for a nap or even for actual bedtime. One morning I did the preschool drop off, and went to get a coffee while the baby slept soundly in his carseat. It wasn’t until after I drove away with my coffee that I realized that Laurie Berkner was still playing, and I was singing along. Those Laurie Berkner songs are catchy!

My road trip out west this summer has a different soundtrack. Playlists from my phone, or music my 18 year old chooses, or my boys request. (And sometimes a Dear Hank and John podcast, or a little bit of an audiobook.)

It’s a shame I can’t write while I drive, because as the music plays I start creating a found poem from some of the lines that stand out. I don’t remember my poems once I am done driving. But, I keep making them the next day on the road. I don’t think it’s the same when I’m sitting and thinking about it, but I can give it a try. Maybe you’ll recognize the songs.

She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own
you lie-lie-lie-lie-lied
where’s my apology?
So raise your glass if you are wrong


God sometimes you just don’t come through
Do you need a woman to look after you
I keep cruising
you outgrew me
Don’t you remember?


They’re watching my every sound
Have I the courage to change today?
You know I laugh too long
I like too much of you, when i’m gone


I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I’m not your friend or anything, damn
I know what I know, if you know what I mean


Oh no, don’t try to hustle me
We can’t afford to be innocent,

stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do or die situation, we will be invincible


Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, It needs to be about me

Cause I’m my own soulmate

That’s exactly how I feel
Don’t hide no emotions
Wear ’em on my sleeve 

Try it! Press shuffle on your songs, and collect some lines. What is your playlist shuffle poem?

A Slice of On a Thought On a Trip

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

This morning I woke up in a barn in Kansas, to the sound of a very small baby kitten meowing at my door. This is the kitten that greeted us late last night, and followed us to our room. This is the kitten that my children would like to kitten-nap and bring home with us.

Yesterday I woke up in a bungalow in MIssouri, happy to have ignored the roach I saw scurry into the corner before I fell asleep. This was the roach that I thought about briefly every time I woke up in the middle of the night. This was a roach like the one that the one bad Airbnb reviewer had mentioned that I had decided was just one review, and didn’t matter.

On Sunday I woke up in a yurt in Ohio, happy for the daylight so I could walk to the outhouse without worrying about the dark pathway where maybe my daughter saw a skunk scurry away the night before. This “skunk” was probably actually a cat, enjoying the beautiful backyard just like we had.

3 days in to our epic mom and kids road trip and so far, so good.

Knock on wood.

When my kid were babies, toddlers, young elementary students, I could never have imagined a trip where they all carried their stuff and helped clean up when it was time to leave the Airbnb. I couldn’t have imagined that they would just take charge of organizing the van and help to navigate. I definitely couldn’t have imagined one of them taking a turn at the wheel so I can nap during a ten-hour drive.

Don’t get me wrong, friends, the bickering in the car isn’t what I’d call “better than when they were toddlers.” I’d probably call it worse. And since the kids are in charge of the van packing, they definitely put the snacks close-by for easy grabbing. And currently, while I’m writing, some of the children are whining about how I need to get ready so we can go outside and meet all the animals at this farm.

When my kids were babies, toddlers, young elementary students, I couldn’t imagine life with them as these older kids. Now that they are older kids, I can’t really imagine life with them as adults… but I can start to see the fuzzy edges of that. I hope they will continue to want to travel with me – because they are awesome road trip buddies!

On to Colorado today, and the adventures that await us!