What’s New

slice of life updated

In my many years of teaching- twenty four in all now- I had never taught second graders. Kindergarten, first, third, fourth, preschool, and even college students, yes. But never second grade. Until this year. This year I’m teaching reading to a group of second graders. And I’s so very grateful to be in the midst of an experience that is completely new. New books, new methods, new milestones, new challenges. It’s so very good for this old teacher.

I decided that as long as I was embracing new, this might be the year to jump into Pernille Ripp’s Global Read Aloud, and I’m so very glad we did.

My group of second graders and I gather each day on the rug for another chapter of A Boy Called Bat. They can hardly wait to find out what happens next. I can hardly wait to share with them. We’ve connected with a class in Ohio and will have a Google Hangout today with a class in Alberta. We’ve posted on Padlets and read what other GRA classes are thinking. One of my students has two autistic brothers and this book has given her a chance to serve as an expert and share openly and honestly. The book has also created opportunities for us to talk about word choice, kindness, empathy, patience and compassion.

What’s new for me this year? Lots. Practically everything. SO good for this old teacher.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the writing community you nurture year in and year out.

Eavesdropping, Learning, and Leaning In

 

I wrote most of this piece after my September IVIG treatment and returned to it as I prepare for another this month. 

 

slice of life updated

Each time the circumstances are a little different. The time in the waiting room can be long or short. The number of patients and companions filling chairs there varies too. My weight on the scale fluctuates. Sigh. There is always a different nurse. And the space she leads me to changes also. I’ve been in private rooms, large shared spaces, and semi-private corners where a thin curtain separates me from just one other patient. Wherever I land, that is the place I spend the better part of a day each time I go, and so, despite the Benadryl induced fog, I have plenty of time to contemplate my surroundings.

Last time was no exception.

Not long after my nurse settled me into the reclining chair with a corner view of the railroad track that winds its way just yards from the hospital buildings, another patient entered the room and settled into the chair on the far side of that thin curtain that separated us. The curtain of patterned fabric in muted hues that blocks our views of one another, but offers nothing that remotely resembles privacy. Even as my friend Robyn and I speak in hushed voices, I am aware that the woman on the other side can hear every. single. word.

Over the course of the next two hours I listen too… and learn details of her story, even though we never meet.  I do not know her name, but when she gives her birthdate to the nurse, I calculate that she is five years younger than me. From my listening I learn that mother is with her and her father or his girlfriend will come next time. Today she is not getting chemo; today it’s something to build her up for her next chemo treatment. Next week she has appointments nearly every day. Fighting her disease is her full time work. She and her mother discuss her treatment schedule and I understand as I listen, uninvited but also unavoidably, that she had chemo before surgery, in order to shrink her tumor. She is currently enrolled in a drug trial. She is navigating all sorts of side effects including clots in her legs and sores in her mouth. And yet she sounds upbeat, this woman who I cannot see on the other side of the curtain. She is kind. When her IV machine begins to beep, she worries that it might wake me. It does, but that is okay. I think to myself how gracious she is to spend even a moment worrying about me. This woman. On the other side of the curtain. She is fighting for her life. Me… I’m only fighting for my leg.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the weekly space/nudge you give teachers of writers to walk the walk.  

 

Chocolate Is Not A Nightshade

slice of life updated

There comes a point in a medical journey, small or big, serious or just lengthy, when one looks at a doctor, or a friend, or maybe even the old cat one lives with -hypothetically/speaking for “a friend” when one asks the question, “So, what CAN  I control? What can I do to turn this around, make a difference, or just not feel as if I’m a bystander in my own life?!”

What I can do, or so I told the cat, is learn and gather information. Google. Friends. The library. Social media.

And so  I began to read and reach out and reconsider and retool. And that is how I arrived at the conclusion that it might be time to explore dietary changes. Those of you who know me know I’m particular about food. I prefer fresh, locally sourced ingredients. I am not the least bit tempted by fast food. I’ve never had a Blizzard or a Twinkie or a Corndog. I’m practically unAmerican.

Yet, it appears there is more for me to learn. Enter nightshades. Ever heard of them? I had- but hadn’t paid much attention. Turns out only four vegetables are part of this group. Peppers (but not black pepper), potatoes (but not sweet potatoes), tomatoes (all kinds, sigh…) and eggplant. I wish it had been okra instead of tomatoes.

Nightshades may be a problem for anyone with autoimmune conditions. And so, I’m giving them up. I’ll miss tomatoes the most, and I still wish okra was a nightshade.

Fortunately, chocolate is not a nightshade.

I Think I Can

slice of life updated

All summer long I put it off. All summer long I wasn’t sure I could. All summer long I didn’t really want to know if I couldn’t. But this afternoon I decided it was time to try. The water looked calm enough. The breeze was soft. There weren’t too many people or boats in the bay out front, just a couple of kayakers. There weren’t too many beachgoers on the sand to witness my possible failure. It felt like a now or never moment. So I put on my suit, picked up the board and paddle and made my way down to the beach. As I  waded out a few feet and lowered the SUP to the surface, I wondered if my leg would be strong enough to steady me on the wobbly surface. I thought about all the things I took for granted this time last year, things my leg cannot do right now. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if paddle boarding was still in the can-do column. I climbed on, got on both knees, and considered which leg to put forward first- the good one or the one that hasn’t been working so well. I thought about how now so often I have to plan for the possibility that the leg not might not work quite right. I thought about how it could be a lot worse. And then I stood it. It wasn’t hard. I steadied myself and that wasn’t hard either. I began to paddle out into the bay. And I grinned as I went. Paddle boarding is definitely in the can-do column.

what remains

the roundish roots now tender, ready to peel and eat

have left behind ruby water

that begs to be considered

before being discarded without thought

and so i stare at it, knowing a splash on my shirt will be a forever stain

and yet wondering what else i could do with

this hot bold liquid that remains

behind- below the basket that held the contents that bled into water and colored it so

too beautiful to pour down the drain

and yet i do

 

Garden Memories and Wishes

My life as a gardener has ebbed and flowed. There were seasons when nearly all of the vegetables eaten and flowers filling vases came from no more than 50 yards from the back door. I’d spend early mornings and late afternoons weeding, watering, and proudly harvesting. Carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beets, lettuce, radishes, beans, and snow peas. And of course tomatoes and zucchini. So much squash. My collection of recipes featuring summer squash grew too. Moments in the garden created sweet memories.

One year I tried my hand at growing cantaloupe. Never again. One day I spent hours ripping out dozens of rose bushes because I  could not take one more minute of beetles and fungus and fight. I’ve had my share of gardening failures. I’m still searching for a low maintenance rose that can tolerate the heat and humidity in my area.

I’ve grown peonies and tulips and limelight hydrangea, phlox, dahlias, daisies, and Black-eyed Susans in my father’s memory. Along the way, I’ve learned tricks for keeping the deer at bay and thwarting even the most determined rabbit’s efforts. One October I planted dozens of apricot beauty daffodil bulbs and another I peeked over a bank at the edge of the yard, only to discover a tangle of pumpkin vines growing on and around the brush. After tossing the weeds that were the reason for my visit to that spot, I climbed down the short hill and picked three tiny pumpkins. My daughters, still small then, squealed with delight when presented with surprise pumpkins from their very own yard.

Growing plants and tending gardens hasn’t been part of my life for a few years now. I pull the most unsightly weeds at the edge of my patio, fill a few pots with annuals each spring, and call it a day. My houseplants have met with a variety of fates. Orchids, which I’d never kept alive for long after their blooms fade, are thriving. I’m not really an orchid person but suddenly I am the proud owner of five or six, maybe more. They  sit on a ledge at a southeastern window in my home, so far surviving on my inconsistent care techniques. My theory is misery loves company and they’ve bonded over my lack of orchid understanding and are determined to convert me. Secretly I’m a little proud though. Really though, I’m more of a bunches-of-tulips-or-peonies-cascading-over-the- edge-of-a-vase person. But I try not to mention that in earshot of the orchids.

This summer, visits to beautiful gardens have me wishing for one of my own again, wondering if perhaps I should clear a spot, pick up a trowel, and add a little beauty  around the land that slopes away from the house and patio. Maybe a few bulbs, a peony or two. Nothing much. It’s not my land. I’ll save my lists of must-haves, sketches of small flower beds, and big ideas for later. But the idea of planting and tending something, just enough to create some new garden memories, is growing.

l

mornings in summer

slice of life updated

the first decision- to linger in bed with my book or pull back the covers that hold off this morning’s chill

the thought of a steaming cup of coffee, around which i can wrap my hands and heat my fingers convinces me to sit up and stretch

the trick then is to move with soft feet so others do not wake

though the creak in the third stair and dog waiting at the landing make that goal challenging- every day

coffee in hand i head to the porch in front where the sun rising beyond the still glassy bay heats the air

and the stars from the light that dance on the water’s surface delight me now just as they did when I was small

the beach is empty and boats are mostly still and the day’s breeze has yet to wake up

neighbors next door sit in rockers on their porch, holding mugs also and talking in hushed voices

the cat wanders in and out from the porch door that has swollen just enough to prevent it from closing fully

my eye wanders to the screen that needs replacing and a tuft of fur- dog or cat – drifting across the painted porch floor

book or paper in hand, i choose my seat depending on the sun, looking for just a little more warmth

small, unimportant decisions and slow movement

mornings in summer

The End of the Roses

slice of life updatedIt’s Tuesday. Thank you Two Writing Teachers.

 

There is a loop I walk on summer days at the beach. It’s a route  I’ve taken several days a week for the last thirty four summers.

My walk takes me through neighborhoods, along a stretch of marsh that is dotted with osprey nests and cattails, and past small coves and tangles of raspberry brambles growing wild.

And each summer, when I take this walk for the first time in the season, I marvel at what remains the same and what has changed.

My walk takes me past a beautiful clapboard home, painted white, that faces the Sound. I’ve never known who lives there, but I imagine they are city dwellers who escape to the Connecticut coast for the summer. The gardens around this house are simple- hydrangeas mostly and a lawn that stretches from the road around the house to the rocky edge of the water.

There is a simple white rail fence on the road side of the property where for many years lush pink climbing rose bushes lined and leaned against that fence. And every time I walk past, I imagine the owner watering, pruning, feeding and training these gorgeous bushes. I imagine her cutting a few to take indoors. Year in and year out, I see the roses and take in the faint scent in the air as I walked by the rose fences.  A few summers ago I noticed some were gone. They were not replaced. This year only one remains. It’s spindly with almost no blooms. Not long for this world I imagine.

The pea gravel driveway in front of the white clapboard house is crowded now with dumpsters and construction equipment and pick up trucks. New owners I imagine. I imagine whoever tended the roses is gone now. I imagine the last rose bush will be gone soon too. I imagine the new owners aren’t rose people.

A Circle of Learning

slice of life updatedIt’s Tuesday and I’m writing. Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the writing nudge.

 

I miss the noise, the mess, the piles of laundry, the skinned knees, bruised feelings and grumpy faces. The chocolate faces that scrunched up as I wiped them clean with wet washcloths.

The smiles that revealed missing teeth. The sleepy eyes. Even the stinky diapers. Well, maybe not those.

The first steps and first dates and last days at home as we filled the car with what you needed for dorm living.

The nest is empty. It’s real now. Your visits home are brief- just long enough for the house to come to life and dishes to pile in the sink. You leave before I get too used to the fullness and rapid-fire updates and happy banter. For the best. Somewhere in my aching heart I know it is. For. The. Best.

I’m leaning in… to knowing that we’re now in the season of short visits. You’ve spread your wings. I’m finding my steady.

There you are cooking for yourself, paying your own bills, folding your clothes, changing your sheets. You are, right?

For so long you were the one learning how. How to walk and talk. How to play and read. How to get along. How to dream. How to shovel snow and load the dishwasher and roast marshmallows. How to plow through hurt.

Now it’s my learning turn.

The Thing About Spring

slice of life updated

The thing about Spring is

-birds sing even before first light

as if to say “Wake up, don’t miss a minute..” and the cardinal lands on the front stoop railing next to the pot filled with geraniums just as red and for a moment is still, reminding us to pay attention.

-trees unfurl leaves, filling hills and horizon with green, bright and lush…

-peonies burst and their scent rides the breeze, filling the space around an overflowing vase on my counter with a perfume better than anything that comes in a bottle…

-mowers rumble over lawns and along strips of grass next to roads and the just-cut-grass smell tickles noses…

-sometimes the sky grows dark with heavy clouds and wind blows and rain cascades from above and when the storm subsides everything looks new again and you’ll see a rainbow if you remember to look…

The thing about spring is the newness, like starting a book nobody has read yet.