All posts by onathought

Happy Birthday, Sara

You had a request for your birthday
Asked me for a gift of writing
No gift, you said
I mean it, you said.

So I keep writing to you
in my head
as I walk to my car
from classroom to classroom
around the block with my dog

Yesterday, I saw an inspirational quote –
it said once you’ve known someone for 10 years
they become family.
I wonder what happens after 35 years.
Has it been 35? Friendship math is hard
especially when you have to decide if you count from the first bus ride

At 20, we were 10 years in – a decade.
Family.
I could have written then—
stories about
bus stops, bus seat, late busses, saltines and hot chocolate
Bat Mitzvahs and scrabble
crushes and sewing class and secrets
boyfriends, drives to school, moving, graduation
the importance of sour cream cheddar chips and peanut chews
Hub Salads with ranch and important conversations at Eat-n-Park

At 30
2 decades in
Aunt Sara and Aunt Ona to our kids
I could have written then —
Stories about
college graduation and more moving,
planning weddings, wedding speeches and periwinkle dresses and also
planning babies, showers and
calls in the middle of the night about emergency C-sections,
bravery, love, the NICU
nursing and pumping and sleeping on Elmo couches and 24-hour nurses and eventually babies meeting each other and cribs and toddlers and more babies and the absolute exhaustion, and oh – husbands too.

We are past 40 now (yikes)
Over 3 decades in
Our families are family
Our kids like cousins
Every so often we pile all 7 kids together on a couch for a picture,
and there was that one time we piled them in your car and took them to Ikea.

I know I promised you a gift of writing
but there’s a problem.
you can’t fit 35 years onto a page
I thought I could write articulately, but I don’t know how to shout it with words how you are a
rock
a soft place
a holder of my memories
a cheerleader
I’d be lucky just to know you
but I get to love you to!
I couldn’t live without sending you memes, and exchanging pictures of our wine pours

One day, decades ago,
we stood at a bus stop in the snow.
we sat in your car driving to school.
we hung out at the mall.
we had saltines and secrets
we said goodbye and you moved to Florida.
you came back and left again
It was decades ago we cried at each other’s weddings
decades!

I don’t know how it’s been decades
since we’re
still
so
young.

Happy Birthday, Sara.

A Gift of Writing for You:

Roses are red
So is your hair
It’s amazing how
you’re always there

Algebra

“I’m never going to need this.” E tells me as I help him with his algebra homework. “I mean, nobody is ever going to come up to me and say like, ‘Can you solve this? -2.5 (0.5K+2.4) = -K-5.45.’ Maybe if I was going to be a mathematician, or an engineer. But, I’m never going to need this.”

I sighed and coughed (again), happy to at least be helping with his algebra next to him on the couch, and not 6 feet away like last week.

Homework Help with covid last week? I might have cried a little bit before figuring out I had a white board and remembering that I’m a teacher, even with a fever.

“Well, I don’t know.” I said. “I used to say the same thing. But I now I do need it.”

“For what?” E asks, eyebrows furrowed.

“To help you! Right now! Here you are! I need what I learned in high school algebra!”

He rolled his eyes, and we got back to work.

Poor E: 12 years old, great math brain, plus amazing ability to overthink. He gets the overthinking part from me – so imagine how helpful I am with his algebra homework when we get to parts where we have to use the distributive property with negative variable. I think 3-3x -3 is just 3x, right? Thank goodness he likes to check his work. (I won’t even try to explain our in depth conversations about why -5.45 + 6 = 0.55 and not 0.45. I think I got myself confused with that one, actually.)

For the last few problems, we figured out a good color coding system on the iPad for like terms.

“It’s like our own Kahn Academy!” E said.

“On a academy … Ona academy . . . OnAcademy! Why haven’t I ever thought of that?” I asked. “OnAcademy.com!”

That earned me another eye roll and a sigh. “.org you mean? But, please don’t make that a thing, mom.”

But, it has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? OnAcademy?

Don’t let my high school algebra teacher (or really any math teacher) see our work here please. Thank you.

A Slice of kitten discipline

Part of Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

You might be worried about baby Clyde, the smallest creature in our house.

But, let me assure you.

He holds his own.

The dog backs away from his hiss.

He chases his older cat brother and sister around the house, and sometimes off of the cat tree.

At dinner time today, Clyde ate all of the big cats’ food. So I gave them some more. He ate that too.

Later, when he went upstairs, I gave the big cats another helping.
He must have heard the food clattering into the dish, because I soon heard his feet pattering down the steps.

This is why, if you had looked in my window tonight, you would have seen me spraying a sweet, tail-less baby kitten with a water spray bottle … so that the other cats could eat.

Yes, I used the same spray bottle I told my 15 year old to stop using not two hours ago, when I felt that he might have been over-disciplining baby Clyde.

I get it now.

You don’t need to worry about baby Clyde.

I promise.

The Tone?

Part of Slice of Life Writing at Two Writing Teachers


I wake up, have coffee, get ready, wake up the boys, take the dog out, pack my bag and then finally focus my brain for school on the drive to our first day In Service.

“I need a song that will set the tone for the year,” I think
or maybe I say
to myself as I press shuffle.
“Whatever song comes on, that’s going to be it! .”

I laugh when This Year starts to play.
The Mountain Goats were recommended by John and Hank Green on Dear Hank and John and they mentioned this very song because of this very chorus.

I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me
I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me

It’s not quite the mood I was looking for to start off the 2022-2023 school year, so I skip to the next song.

Lizzo sings

That’s exactly how I feel
That’s exactly how I feel
That’s
exactly
how
I
feel

I skip again, and again, and again.
All great music, from Allman Brothers’ Soulshine to Baby Tate’s I am. But I start to wonder if maybe this year deserves it’s own morning playlist. Or, should I just keep listening to Hidden Bodies on Audible?

Pool Time

Part of Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

2:30
Clouds
Sun
It’s hot
Clouds
Sun
It’s hot
Let’s go to granny’s pool

3:30
Hot Sun
Cold Ice pops
Boys!
Please stop wrestling in the pool
Feel that sun?
Soak up that Vitamin D!

4:00
Boogie boards, destined for the beach
are tables in the pool for
A cut throat game of
Waterproof cards
Draw 4
The color is Blue
Uno

5:00
Suddenly the clouds disappear
It’s just sun and blue sky
The water is the perfect temperature
It’s time to go
But I’m just going to float for a little longer
Soaking up the warmth
Like Frederick


Hi, Mardi

There is a cardinal in the tree outside my window this morning.

Some people say cardinals are your loved ones who have passed, saying hello.

“That’s not you, Mardi.” I think. “I know you say hello with hummingbirds.”

I sip my coffee, and remember the time, just weeks after Mardi died: An intense porch argument with my then husband was interrupted by several hummingbirds flying onto the porch, some straight for his head. Yea. She definitely says hello with hummingbirds.

Suddenly, there is a hummingbird in the tree outside my window.

She flies to the top of my window and hovers there, staring in.

“There’s a hummingbird at our window!” I tell the kids. They don’t seem to understand why this is so important.

I watch the hummingbird fly down to the bottom of the window, where the cardinal has landed on a bush. They both stare into my family room for a bit, and then the hummingbird flies away.

The cardinal stays though, for just a moment.

So I guess she says hello with hummingbirds and cardinals.

Hi, Mardi.

The Social Order

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

This summer, I’m living in a nature documentary, waiting to hear Morgan Freeman or Sir David Attenborough narrate our life with our new kitten, Clyde.

Please do your best to read this slice of documentary narration in Morgan Freeman’s or Sir David Attenborough’s voice.

Hey! It’s a choose your own narrator slice! How might you narrate a part of your summer?

“Upstairs in his private den, the new baby practices his hunting skills. Watch as he perseveres against all odds.”

“As Clyde rests in his den, the cats and dog go about their daily routines, perhaps sensing a shift in the wind.”

“Soon it is time to introduce the animals to each other. In the wilds of the first floor, the cats and dog work to create their own social order.”

“The young kitten is brave. Maybe braver than he should be.”

“While wary of the newcomer, the fluffiest member of the family instinctively watches out for the baby. He even puts himself between the dog and the kitten when necessary. His sister is not so quick to protect. She wants to live her own life and starts lowly growling if Clyde comes too close.

The older cats will share their food, but, so that nobody is confused, they will still guard their sleeping habitat with all their heart.”

“The cats are working it out, but over here you see this 55 pound dog who is trying hard, but still unsure of what to do. He knows he isn’t supposed to fixate on the new kitten, but he’s curious. He wants to play, but he’s also afraid. Only time will tell. Will they will become friends, or simply creatures that cohabitate?”

“Listen for the sounds of the social order being created: The low growl of warning from a cat high up in their tree; the warning hiss from one cat to the another; the frightened hiss of a young tailless kitten; the whine of confused dog; the wagging of a tail; the crunching of food shared among the felines.”

“These sounds tell the real tale of this non-traditional animal family. We can only be but silent observers of the majestic dance of these household pets.”

Landline

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

I need to tell you about calling the cable company.

Why would I call the cable company? That’s a level of adulting I don’t usually stoop to. But, I live in a neighborhood cut out of a forest. My Wi-Fi and cell service are terrible. It’s somewhat of a joke, a terrible nuisance, and the cause of a bit of anxiety…The dropped calls, the “Can you hear me how’s” are getting old. So I finally agreed to call and set up a landline, for emergencies.

I’ll spare you the details of the automated voice answering, the way I had to press buttons and answer a kind robot’s questions and be on hold for awhile before finally getting to a real person.

I was curious and confused, and I also just needed a landline added. But the pricing system didn’t make any sense, and it seemed like you almost had to get TV channels.

“So Internet plus a landline plus TV is only a little more than what I’m paying now?” I asked

“Sure ma’am. I’ll set you up for the Triple Play Package, Ma’am. I’ll get you all set up, ma’am, and then I can send you an estimate.” There was a lot of waiting and clicking.

I double checked about the landline, feelings stupid as I asked questions like, “So this is for like a real landline that connects to my phone jack, right?” And “This has nothing to do with my Wi-Fi right? Because the whole point is to have a back-up landline.”

She was patient with me. “Oh yes, ma’am. A real landline. Not the Wi-Fi. I understand your situation.”

There was more waiting and clicking.

“And who is this Mr. Thought?” She asked.

“Oh.” I said with a deep breath. “That’s my ex-husband. We were actually on the phone for hours and hours months ago trying to get his name off of the account.”

“Yes, ma’am. I am sorry, ma’am. I can take care of that ma’am.”

There was more clicking, more waiting.

“Sorry ma’am. I can get this contract estimate to you soon. What happened?”

“What?” I asked, confused again. She couldn’t possibly be asking about what happened with my divorce.

“You said your ex-husband,” she explained, “what happened there? With your ex?”

The customer service woman at the cable company is wondering about the downfall of my marriage. Okay…

“Well, it was terrible,” I explained. “And then, like I said, I had to stay on the phone for hours with him trying to get his name off of my account.”

“Oh, ma’am. I’m so sorry that happened.”

She finally sent the estimate – which by the way, with added fees was more than $50 more than it says it will be.

“I’m a single mom now.” I told her. “I really need to keep the cost low here. Can I just get internet and a landline?”

“Oh ma’am. I understand your situation. Yes I do. You don’t worry. I will get your cost down. We will give you just the landline.”

At the end of the call, with the promise of an activated landline over the weekend, she had parting words for me.

“Ma’am, I don’t want you to ever be negative about the world.”

I thanked her, and she continued.

“There are so many people out there. So many people who love you. And thank you for doing your business with us.”

I hung up, smiling, with hope in my heart that the bill she quoted me would indeed be true.

Epilogue

When the weekend came and no landline was activated, I was annoyed.
So, today I called again.
Turns out, it’s a Wi-Fi landline.
Turns out, my modem doesn’t support it.
Turns out, it would be an extra $40 a month.
I’m really trying, MA’AM, not to be negative!
I mean, I did get my internet speed tripled today, for $20 cheaper. . .

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!”