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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.

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 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 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!

#sol21 March 28 Mindful Meditation Practice

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’m trying to put myself first, or at least as one of many top priorities. You’d think this would be easy work, but alas, it is not. One thing I’m working on is my mindfulness and meditation practice. I am not a natural at this.

Last night while L was out and the boys were busy with a minecraft build, I downloaded a new meditation app to try: A free trial of special mindscapes. You have to listen with earbuds or headphones because it’s 3D sound. I settled into a nook in the couch, put my airpods in and started.

I looked at my clock and realized my newly licensed daughter hadn’t contacted me for over 2 hours. And I had forgotten to give her a curfew even. I don’t know what kind of mom just doesn’t even think to give her 17 year old a time to come home, but I just didn’t. There’s one rule that I did remind her of though – you have to text when you arrive somewhere, and text when you leave somewhere. (Thanks, Mardi for this rule idea.) She hadn’t called or texted since letting me know she had “arrived on the mountain.” It’s a hard rule to remember, I think. But, we can do hard things. Right?

So I paused the meditation after it told me I’d need 20 minutes of distraction free time. I texted L, I called her, I left a message. Mr. Thought did the same. Even though I knew that it was most likely that she had forgotten to text when she left, and her phone was dutifully put away in her bag and she was driving. . . I can jump from mindfulness to full blown worry pretty quickly. (This is why I need the app, friends)

Finally (and by finally I mean less than 10 minutes later) she called to tell me that she was on her way home, and that she hadn’t seen my texts or calls because her phone was dutifully put away in her bag and she was driving.

I started the introduction meditation again, but realized that it would totally freak me out to be jolted out of meditation when she arrived home and the dog started barking. So, I paused it again.

She got home, the boys came upstairs, I sent them all up to get ready for bed.

“I’ll be up soon, after I do this meditation,” I told them. “Please don’t yell for me.” I was feeling pretty desperate for mindfulness.

I settled into another nook of the couch, with my airpods in – noise cancelation on and started the meditation for a third time.

It’s a neat app, but the voice at first sounds a little freaky in a dystopian-robot-mind-control sort of way. So I texted Mr. Thought to warn him not to startle me because it will freak me out. I laughed at myself for not trusting the meditation app, for letting the mindfulness app freak me out, and I started to settle in. I reminded myself I was safe, in my house and had taken care of things that would startle me. I started to relax into the soundscape.

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.

That’s not a hand I told my brain. It is a cat, here to snuggle.

Then I opened my eyes and it was a hand.

I startled, friends. I may have jumped a bit.

It was E. My 11 year old thought I was sleeping and gently put his hand on my shoulder so that he wouldn’t startle me. But I wasn’t sleeping, and I did startle. Of course he felt terrible, and I told him it was okay, while taking some deep breaths to calm myself down.

I laughed to myself about my attempts at mindfulness and invited him to sit next to me. He snuggled in, I finished my meditation session, and he fell asleep.

I guess that’s why they call it a meditation practice. Because, I for one, still need a lot of practice.

#sol21 March 16 From my Chair I see

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

From my chair
I see the same things I see every day.
I work from this chair
I write from this chair
I eat lunch at this chair
I help kids at this chair
Sometimes I just spin on this chair trying to figure out what to do next

From my chair
I can see out the window
It’s dark, but I know
My Christmas lights are off the porch now.
They are shoved in the garage instead.

From my chair
I see
a protractor
a bag of shapes
a birthday card from December
earrings hanging in case I forget to put them on
okay – also this is where I often take them off
a pile of math materials
why are there so many binders and books for one math class?
my trackpad, plus a wireless mouse, and a new wired gaming mouse
because my computer is often used by children for Minecraft
and nobody puts their stuff back

From my chair
I see
a pile of note paper
dice left out from math today
more pens than I want to admit
work waiting for me
and the window –
the night closing in out there
it’s dark but the sky is hazy and brighter than it means to be I think

#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. . .

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. 🙂 

A Slice of what I’ll miss

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers (Even though I’m a day late…)

What I’ll miss wearing a mask to school 

Smiling. It’s my biggest coaching move. 
The smile changes, but it always means something. 

To teachers, I smile to say, 
“Good morning.” 
“I’ll see you soon!” 
“Can I help?”
“I know.” 
“I get it.” 
“You got this.”
“It’s hard, but we can do hard things.”
“I’m here.” 

I smile to say, 
“These kids! They’re amazing!”
I smile to say, 
“These kids! Can you believe it?”

I smile to say, 
“I know you’re not ready now, but maybe one day soon, we can collaborate.”
“I promise I’m nice.” 

I smile to say, 
“Look! Another meeting!” 

I smile to say, 
“Wow. This day!” 

I smile to say, 
“It’s okay.”
“We’re in this together.” 

Smiling. It’s my biggest coaching move. 
The smile changes, but it always means something. 

To students, I smile to say, 
“Good morning.” 
“I saw you trip, but it’s okay.” 
“Are you ready for math?”
“Oops, you dropped your breakfast!”
“That’s a beautiful headband.”

I smile to say, 
“I know you just got in trouble, but your day is going to get better.” 
"Your joke was funny even if nobody heard it."

I smile to say, 
“These teachers! They’re amazing! How lucky are you?”
I smile to say, 
“These teachers! Can you believe us, asking you to do this crazy stuff?”

I smile to say, 
“Give it a try!”
“Put the pencil to the paper, you’re going to write!”
“Keep reading.”
“Do you mind if I interrupt your reading to chat a bit?”
“I promise I’m nice.” 
“You’ve got this.” 
“It’s hard, but we can do hard things.”
"I'm here."

I smile to say, 
“Wow. This day!” 

I smile to say, 
“It’s okay.”
“We’re in this together.” 

I’ll still smile. 
I can’t help it, even under a mask. 
But it won’t matter. 
Nobody will see it.