Category Archives: Slice of Life

#sol21 March 3: An announcement

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.

L wanted to get out of the house.

“Shopping with you is my favorite!” is what she said to entice me to go to TJ Maxx.

Later it was “I love you mama. Do you think you can help me buy just a few of these things?” to entice me to buy her a few things.

I don’t love shopping during a pandemic, but we have masks, and don’t stay long.

I don’t love going out at night ever because, well… night time? That’s supposed to be pajama time. But, I do like spending time with my almost-leaving-me-for-college daughter. Also I noticed a sign that it was the right thing for me to do.

Like literally. A sign. Get it?

TJ Maxx is a fun place to be. And I do enjoy looking at the notebooks, and wandering around telling myself that I can enjoy looking at the inspirational signs, but I don’t have any space for them. Even if they seem perfect.

I kinda wanted to stand there and make TJ Maxx decorative sign poetry … like book spine poetry… Could be fun, no?

As I wandered around the store, a young man’s voice came over the loud speaker. He was thanking us for shopping and telling us about some deals. He sounded so happy about these announcements, and it brought be back to my store announcement days: The summer after my freshman year of college when I worked in the lingerie department of Boscov’s.

Man did I love when I was supposed to make those storewide announcements. It was the best part of my job.

I wish I were one of those people with really specific memories to share – because as I walked around TJ Maxx, I thought about how I’d love to tell you how I made those announcements decades ago. But, I don’t even remember if I picked up a phone to do it, or if there was some weird microphone. Did I have a quota of announcements I was allowed to make? Was there a time where someone told me not to make so many or such long announcements? Did I look at that week’s flyer to help me say what I needed to say? Did I make the announcements only about lingerie? These questions will never be answered.

I can however tell you that I loved making those announcements. It was almost a dream come true, almost as good as it would have felt to have gotten to work a grocery store cash register, or be allowed to click the library cards into the library card punch when I worked at a library. Those are a couple of my biggest never-realized dreams: the cash register and the library punch card. But making an announcement at Boscov’s? That’s on the dream list. Almost.

I wanted to find the TJ Maxx announcer and tell him he should write down this experience for later. But, then a candle caught my eye, and also the soft soft shirts, and more notebooks. . .

#sol21 March 2: Teach Like Your Shawl’s on Fire!

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.

Teach Like Your Shawl’s on Fire

I wanted to tell you that I’ve been trying to time my math class and teach like my pants are on fire – or at least like my shawl is.

But when I went to find the picture I knew I had, of me in my new shawl from my mama, I realized how helpful that shawl really is – because I no longer have to keep warm with actual blankets.

This is probably why my mom made me my shawl.

Because it’s hard to teach with urgency, if you are wrapped in a blanket and holding a cup of tea. (Don’t worry – I put my coffee away to teach.)

I wanted to tell you about this urgency because today I was rocking it! I mean, I don’t want to brag or anything, but my times were really within 5 minutes of what my plan said. I even started explaining the breakout room directions 3 whole minutes before the 1:45 goal!

Listen. If you’ve ever taught with me or next to me or down the hall from me, you know this is a big deal.

By 2:35 (ish) I was almost ready to send the kids off to their WIN time! I had my slide projected with the assignment! I was so excited to give them the rest of the time to work: They could sign off of google meet, or stay on to work with me.

I was so proud.

I said, “Who here can help anyone who doesn’t remember how to upload to google classroom?”

I looked around at their faces in the google meet boxes. Usually hands would be up. There are a lot of helpers.

“Oh,” I said. “I think you are all frozen…?”

And then my google meet went away.

And then my internet went away.

And then one by one the rest of my family came up, down, and around to tell me that their internet was down.

H said, “We were in the middle of a very important conversation! The teacher was very passionate! His screen froze like this!” And he posed, mouth open, eyes wide, hands up in the air.

I said, “But – were you in the middle of teaching a fourth-grade math class?”

And then I tried to text a parent so they could tell the kids that my internet was off. But the text wouldn’t even go through as a text.

So I told myself that these are fourth-graders. They can handle it. And I just waited for the internet to reboot. Which it did around 3:00. I checked in the google meet, wondering if any fourth-graders would still be there. (They weren’t)

I still had my shawl on, but I should have taken the opportunity to sit with my new back massager… I can’t teach like it’s on fire, but it is heated!

I mean, a teacher should take a 15 minute break when it’s handed to her like that, right? (Next time. I’ll do that next time.)

#sol21 March 1: Old Witch Hands

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.

Old Witch Hands

I can't stop thinking about the way that old witch hands look in fairy tales
fingers wrinkled (not just skin)

my acupuncturist says that the cysts I have on my pinky fingers are on my heart meridian
because my heart is broken (not just bent)
warted - I guess

so I tell her that I can't stop thinking about old witch hands in fairy tales now
"You mean they are just broken-hearted?" 
I sob at this thought 
I empathize even more than normal with the witches - 

(because that's what I need now - more empathy
for witches) sarcasm intended

"There are lots of reasons not just heartbreak, Ona," my acupuncturist tells me

I tell her that it's not fair
2020-2021 is hard enough without my fingers 
erupting with heartbreak

she tells me to 
"Would you rather have a heart attack or a cyst on your finger, Ona?" she asks me. 

she's right, but I can't stop thinking about the witches in fairy tales.

A Slice of Leadership

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I teach math now.
I mean, it’s only day 2, but I’m totally calling myself a fourth-grade math teacher now.
And I’m totally in love with my students.
And I’m totally calling them my students – even though I only get them for 90 ish minutes a day.

These kids are all remote – and what it seems like they want most in the world in math class (aside from “no distractions” and “lots of fun and games!”) is a lot of time to talk in breakout rooms.

I happen to believe that talking in math is one of the best ways to learn math. . . and also that teaching kids how to have math conversations can be hard. Even if you aren’t remote.

So, I told the students that we would be working in groups, and that we would often need a group leader for those groups.

“Tell me” I said “if you are interested in being a leader soon, or if you’d rather wait a bit.”

I’m not saying that everyone’s answer surprised me. That wouldn’t be fair. I’m just getting to really know these kids. But, if I hadn’t asked I think I would have asked kids to be leaders who I now know aren’t interested in that yet. I’m glad I asked, because now I not only know who wants to be a leader soon, but I also got to know more about their personality because of their answers…

I mean, come on. You have to love the kids who know they’d rather wait. They said things like:

I would rather wait a little bit.
I don’t want to be a leader. For now…
Maybe I would want to wait because I’m very bad at using computers and also, I normally like following not leading
I would rather wait a bit.
Wait a bit.
Not now maybe at the end of math class so i can get to know the class better and feel more comfortable with being the leader

And you have to love the kids who know they want to be a leader now: They said enthusiastic and also well-mannered things like:
I would REALLY love to be a leader! I feel that I am most prepared when it comes to breakout rooms.
I would like to be a leader soon 🙂
I WANNA BE A LEADER RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m very interested in being a group leader!
Rather be one sooner than later

And you have to love the kids who are willing to do it, but don’t want to be pushy about it:

I am interested in being a leader. When ever works fine, if other people want to go first that is perfectly fine. Whenever will work fine.
I’m ok with it but i don’t want to do it all the time.

So. I’m a math teacher now. Fourth Grade.

It’s day two, and I love these kids.

A slice of an award, please.

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

There should probably be an award, right?
I chose to write tonight –

Instead of watching Handmaid’s Tale
and even though I don’t have much to say
Or rather – I have too much to say, but not here.

I chose to write tonight –

Instead of playing fetch with my cat, Talula
and even though my cat, Talula hunts my cursor
Or rather – anything that moves on the screen, like the letters filling this page.

I chose to write tonight –

Instead of doing the work piled up
and even though the work is actually piled up on my desk
Or rather – the to do lists and notebooks and post its are piled up.

I chose to write tonight.

So, can I have just a slice of an award, please?

A Slice of When I grow up

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I wanted to be an actress. 

Well, when I was young, I wanted to be a teacher.

But then I started drama class in 5th grade – and by the time I was in high school, I’m pretty sure I answered that question with “actress.” Although, once you get to high school, people mostly stop asking you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They start asking you, “What do you want to go to college for?” 

And I was in love with the theatre. I even spelled it theatre.

Always have, always will. 

I was a very serious theatre student. I even tried to join the choir — though I’ve never been able to carry a tune. (Yet?) 

“I need to learn to sing.” I told the choir director. And she looked at me like I had two heads, and made me sing The Star Spangled Banner while she accompanied me on the piano. 

I really can’t do that – sing to someone playing all those notes and chords. Not being able to sing was why I wanted to learn to sing. Duh.

It was embarrassing, and I remember thinking, Seriously, which of the thousand notes that she’s playing does she want me to sing? I told her I can’t sing! 

But, I was a serious theatre student, so I tried my best. For maybe one semester. And then I decided I could just be a lover of straight plays. Who needs musicals? People don’t just start singing their life, so I don’t need to sing on stage! 

(Once I did have to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a play. I remember my director trying so hard to help me. I think I caught her rolling her eyes and sighing once. But I totally get it. I mean, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? I didn’t have the confidence to just sing Twinkle Twinkle?)

I only had one dream bigger than my dream of becoming a professional actress. I needed to go to Penn State. It wasn’t because my parents went to Penn State (They did). It wasn’t because I loved football (definitely not a football fan). It wasn’t for the parties (I’m not a big partier). But, I did grow up in State College until right before 5th grade, and I imagined that going to Penn State would be like going back home finally. I applied to the college of Education as my backup plan, and then got ready to audition for the Theatre program. Remember, I was a serious Theatre student! I sent in my video monologue, and drove to State College for my live audition.

Spoiler alert: I did NOT get into the Penn State Theatre program. Oh, I cried so much! I called them to see why, and that’s another slice entirely. But at the end of the conversation they said “Well, you were already accepted to the College of Education, so at least you have a place at Penn State!” 

Yay. So that’s what I got for having a backup plan, I guess! 

I don’t remember exactly why I wanted to be an actress. I remember enjoying it for sure. But I don’t remember why I loved it. It’s been a long time.

I do remember why I love teaching. I remember it every time I have kids in front of me, every time I plan a lesson, every time I collaborate with teachers, every time I lead Professional Development, every time I read aloud.

It’s almost like I was meant to be a teacher. It’s almost like the universe knew! That’s pretty cool.

The ironic thing is that when I’m with kids – just me and them… what I often do is… sing! I sing pop songs, I make up lyrics. I go all out. One year I had my 6th grade class pretty convinced that I was actually a famous singer, whose agent would be soooo mad if she heard I had sung in public without selling tickets. 

A while ago someone told me the world was lucky I became a teacher and didn’t become the next Julia Roberts. I think it was a backhanded compliment, but since she’s neither the next Julia Roberts nor a teacher, it just makes me smile. Especially because now whenever I want to, I like to say “Big mistake! Big! HUGE!”

There are, surprisingly, many times in life for that scene — even if I just play it in my head. 

A slice of the dark

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teacher

Tonight, I walked in the snow in the dark.
This might seem like nothing to you, but I’m a little scared of the dark.

It’s like when I drove to Vermont about 20 years ago, all by myself and arrived at my friends house in the dark. She wasn’t home – I knew she would still be at work -just down the road. It was thundering, and pitch black, aside from the intermittent lightning. My friend lived across the street from a lake. So on one side of the street there was the blankness of a lake in the dark, and on the other side of the street, her old giant Vermont farmhouse.

This might seem like nothing to you, but I’m a little scared of the dark.

Her house was dark too. Nobody was home. There were a few of those candle shaped lights in a few of the windows.

I can’t remember if I remembered at that moment all the ghost stories I had been told about this house. This haunted house. I was parked at my friend’s old, haunted house in Vermont across from a pitch black lake.

But I do remember that I had to pee. I had been driving for hours, and I really had to pee.

So, quite unlike myself, I walked from my car to the door in the dark, with thunder in the distance, and lightning lightening the pitch black lake for just a few seconds at a time. I let myself in the dark, haunted farmhouse. I felt my way up the dark steps, hoping I’d stumble across a bathroom. I found the bathroom, peed in the dark. I do not know why I didn’t turn a light on. I felt my way back down the steps, where I found a note from my friend giving me directions to where she was. I got back in my car, looked up at the candle lit windows, and drove down the road to find my friend.

This might seem like nothing to you, but I’m a little scared of the dark.

Tonight I walked because I wanted to get out of the house for a bit, and wanted to get just a few more steps in. I walked by myself in the dark, even though I didn’t have to pee. Even though we had just watched a pretty scary episode of Stranger Things just a half hour before, even though I am a little scared of the dark.

So basically, I’m invincible now.

A Slice of Rapunzel and her Witch

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teacher

Nothing is happening here.
It’s like Rapunzel’s tower – only if Rapunzel had 3 kids up there with her.

We are missing travel especially
We all want out of this house, out of this town –
Our last travel was in March.
We drove to Georgia, with a few extra Clorox wipes for the cabin.
and drove back with official word that school was remote,
and unofficial word that if we saw toilet paper at a store on the drive back to Pennsylvania,
we should buy it.

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.
10 months.
No wonder I’m thinking about Rapunzel in her tower.

“Nothing is happening here.”
She might have said
Or maybe her witch said it.
Does Rapunzel’s witch have a name?
At this point the actual fairy tales, fractured fairy tales
villain-side fairy tales
and Into the Woods
All run together. 

Rapunzel’s witch was not really stuck in the tower, right?
She came and went.
No. No. I’m not actually jealous of the witch!
I’ve always felt bad for her –
An aging woman, desperate for love and youth

But, I mean, she came and went as she pleased, right?
She used her power to trap Rapunzel
She was a predator.
An aging, desperate predator.
I wonder if she would have stayed -quarantined in the tower with Rapunzel
If there were covid 19 at the bottom

But Rapunzel?
She was stuck.

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.
10 months.
No wonder I’m thinking about Rapunzel in her tower.

A Slice of a New Kid (in Middle School)

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teacher

New Kid (in Middle School) 

Were you ever 
the new kid?
In middle school -
In the maze of a huge 
Middle school?

Did you ever 
Look at the sea
Of faces floating
Down the hallways of
Middle school?

Was there
A Heather*
You wanted as a friend?
Popular, pretty, nice -- in
Middle school?

I was.
I did. 
There was.

One night
The phone rang
it was her!
“Come tomorrow after school … stay for dinner!” 
I was new and I was invited! 

The next day
I was pumped
In middle school
Tried to make eye contact with Heather
All day

I needed to know --
Her bus number...
What we would do...
Where we should meet
After school

The last bell rang
Without eye contact yet
We hadn’t spoken yet
The invitation was fake
Not from Heather, or maybe it was.

Did you ever 
Get fake invited
In middle school?
In the maze of a huge 
Middle school?

Was there 
a time
When you knew 
some people are cruel? 
In middle school?

I did. 
There was. 

5th Grade
In the sea of faces
Popular, pretty, nice faces --
The lessons of
Middle School 

*Name changed even though I really didn't want to. 🙂 

What will you do with it?

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teacher

For some reason I’m thinking about wine tonight…

A few weeks ago I was at Wegmans at the end of the day and I threw some of their $6 wine into my cart before getting into line. I only do this when the “alcohol permitted” lines aren’t long, but the week is.

A woman approached me and scootched her mask down below her chin. She had an accent, heavy and thick. She spoke in a loud, friendly, slightly halting voice.

“Did you take — this?” She said as she held up a bottle of wine. Her friend stood a few feet behind her.

I must admit, I was taken aback. I wondered if she was asking me if I took it out of her cart. I have this mild, irrational fear that I will accidentally take someone else’s cart, or put my stuff into someone else’s cart. And even though I’ve never worried that I’ll take something out of someone’s cart, it seemed plausible because of her tone.

“Did you take this? This? From there?” She pointed at the wine display. Her friend walked over to the display.

“Oh. Yes. I did.” I was still confused, but didn’t feel like I was in trouble anymore.

“What will you do with it?” She asked me, leaning in. Her friend looked at me, intrigued.

“What will I do with it?”

“Yes, what will you do with it?”

This is when I wondered if I might be on some sort of “teacher caught buying wine on a week night” candid camera show.

I thought for a moment, about my week, my day, my remote coaching job, my remote learning kids, the world, the coming election. I thought about the $6 wine in my cart. I looked at the woman and her friend and raised my eyebrows, still trying to figure out what this was all about.

“I’m going to drink it!” I said with a big, not too-sarcastic smile. I think I might have taken an imaginary swig from the bottle.

“You will drink it?!” She said, as she turned the bottle around to show me the list of foods on the back. “But. All of this. Here.”

Finally, I understood. She just didn’t know if the wine was a drink or an ingredient!

“Ahhhh!” I said, with that feeling of relief you get when you finally understand. “I think those are the pairings… the things you might eat with the wine!”

I would like to note that I did not add that I actually prefer my wine with a bowl of chips or popcorn.

Now every time I get a bottle of wine, her voice comes back to me.

“What will you do with it?”