a little charlottesville joy

slice of life updated

“Oh honey…” my friend said when looking at the bracket I’d filled out for March Madness, “you have Virginia going all the way? That’s going to hurt you.”

“Well… maybe, probably… I don’t know… I can always hope,” I responded, knowing that my choice was based at least partly on local resident and mom-of-two-UVA-students loyalty. I’m no college basketball expert. Just a fan who has loved every moment of this season with this team in this town.

And if you’d been a Charlottesville resident since August 11-12 of 2017 you might have done the same thing. A winning basketball season doesn’t take away all the hurt that remains, and it doesn’t deflect from the work that lies ahead, but it sure does help the energy around here to have a little good news for a while. And it is nice to hear the word “Charlottesville” on the national news for a different reason.

Today, and into the weekend, we celebrate and soak in the joy and pride that unites students and alumnae and faculty and staff and locals in this place that is still working to put the pieces back together. A little levity feels just right.

I didn’t win my bracket game. It seems I wasn’t the only one who had UVA winning it all. But it didn’t hurt me at all.

an unexpected mama moment

slice of life updated

“I really don’t feel well. My ears are plugged up, my throat is killing and my head is pounding,” Claire said when she FaceTimed me just after 7 pm Sunday evening.

“Well, I think you need the kind of Sudafed that is behind the counter at the pharmacy. I will go pick some up. And maybe you should come home to sleep tonight,” I replied.

“Yeah, it’s pretty loud here in my building,” Claire admitted. “I’ll grab some clothes and see you at home.”

While I was sad Claire didn’t feel well, I was happy at the thought of company at home. I hurried to CVS and headed home, arriving just before she pulled up the driveway.

I put the kettle on and suggested tea with honey and lemon. “A hot bath might feel really good to your right now.” Claire nodded and headed to the tub. I found her a clean towel and some Advil.

“Are you hungry?”

“No,” se replied.

All she wanted was tea and the tub and her warm bed with clean sheets.  All I wanted was for her to feel better, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I loved having her home. I loved being able to take care of her. Most of the time my empty nester life feels manageable and full. But I cherish the moments when I can slip back into mama mode.

it was just enough of an adventure

slice of life updated

“Let’s plan some sort of adventure today,” I suggested when he called.

“Well, I was thinking we could clean up those Adirondack chairs of yours. ”

Whaattt? This is not an adventure. Is he serious?

I was imagining a hike or perhaps a drive to my favorite plant nursery or a visit to a winery. The sun was out, the birds were singing. It was a wide-open Saturday.

On the other hand, they are in need of a good scrubbing, I thought.

“And if I bring over the truck we can get your chair and old rug to Goodwill.”

Oh my. This is most definitely not an adventure. But, it would be great to be able to enter my house through the storage room without having to step over that rug. And there is no way I can get those things out of my house by myself, I thought further.

Dating at my age is so different.

Before long we were shoving the rug into the back of the truck and shimmying the old chair in there too. After dropping them off we squeezed in a quick walk on a trail south of town we’d never been on before. We stopped to pick up sandwiches on our way back and sat in the chairs in need of spring cleaning, enjoying lunch in the sun and soft breeze. It felt a little adventurey.

Then back to work.

I texted his grown children a photo of him hunched over a chair, scrub brush in hand. “I suggested an adventure. This was his idea.” They and I had a funny exchange about their trips to Lowe’s and family chore times on Father’s Day. His choice on his day.

It was easy enough. Scrub, rinse, repeat until all four chairs were back on the patio.

I’m not sure I ever would have gotten around to this on my own.

“Thank you. They look amazing,” I told him. And they did. And I would not have done it on my own.

When the chairs had dried and we’d put away the bucket and brushes, he poured us each a glass of wine and we sat in the clean chairs that felt better than new. There was still a soft breeze and the sun was still out. It was just enough adventure.


school sounds #sol19

slice of life updated

Sometimes when I sit at my desk catching up on emails or reading articles or thinking through a lesson, I stop and listen to my school’s sounds.

A basketball bouncing on the concrete court outside my classroom window. Kindergartners calling to one another as they play a make believe game. The gong of the big iron bell at the edge the playground signaling a group to gather and head somewhere new. A group of readers talking about a book in the classroom around the corner. Teachers walking down the hall chatting quietly with each other. The buzzer at the main entrance. Footsteps on the stairwell. The sound of a stapler attaching something to a bulletin board. Laughter in the front hall. People sounds and sounds made by people.

Late in the day, or early in the morning, most of those sounds are missing. It’s overhead lights humming, the occasional click as a door opens or thud as another shuts, the tic-toc of the second hand on the analog clock that hangs above my classroom entrance, and the steady drone of traffic from the busy road that runs parallel to the school. Machine sounds, not people sounds.

It’s the people sounds I love best.


the soup was super, my memory not so much… #sol19


“I made this soup last night for dinner called Superfoods soup,” my physical therapist told me yesterday as I was shaking and struggling through another round of strengthening exercises for my leg. We’d been talking recipes for a few minutes and the distraction was helping me to keep going.

“What’s in it?” I asked. “”Did your kids eat it?” I added.

“They loved it,” she answered. She has two boys, ages 8 and 11.

She rattled off the list of ingredients and procedures as I finished my third set of an exercise that is too complicated for me to try to explain.

Carrots, onion, celery, curry powder, diced tomatoes, water, sweet potato, chickpeas, coconut milk, kale. It sounded delicious. My fifty-three year old brain tried hard to commit it all to memory. My not so strong fifty-three year old leg had other ideas.

By the time I had finished lifting and shifting and turning and bending my leg for an hour, I’d forgotten most of what needed to be in and happen to make Superfoods soup. I limped to the car and thought, “Maybe I can Google it.”

Google. It’s the best. Late today I tracked down the recipe, printed it out, and headed to the store to gather the ingredients.

Superfoods soup. It’s what’s for dinner. (Maybe it will improve my memory.)



joy… it’s the little things and small moments #sol19

slice of life updated

Coffee in hand, I began my morning walk around the school.

First stop, kindergarten. Children scurry from cubbies to play spaces, greeting classmates, getting right to work building, playing and drawing. A few call out “Good morning” to me. Teachers say hello and goodbye to parents, easing students into rooms and the day ahead.

Down the hall to first grade. It’s quieter there. Small groups cluster in corners of rooms. Teachers chat with students while gathering materials for morning meeting and reading groups. A reserved boy raises his eyes for just a moment from his book and half smiles at me. I smile back and mouth the word “Hi.”

Second graders are away today, off to Jamestown to explore a place they’ve spent weeks wondering about, so I pass their classrooms and round the corner, say hello to two art teachers and head into the empty stairwell. Up one flight, I pass the science room and wave to the teacher who is gathering what she needs for her first group of the day.

As I arrive in the fourth grade area, I see some students writing, others reading, one or two in quiet conversation with a teacher. A few greet or wave to me, but most are focused on morning routines. A teacher stops me in the hall to share a brief update. I thank her for keeping me in the loop and continue to third grade where one group has already gathered on the rug to start their day together. In the other two classrooms teachers are working with individual students. Most heads are bent over books and drawings. I smile and wave, say a few more “Good mornings” and head to the other set of stairs that marks the end of my daily loop.

As I head back to my room and to do lists, my one little word for 2019- joy- comes to mind. This. These children and colleagues. This simple morning routine brings me joy.

some days #sol19

slice of life updated

Some days start earlier and go later than others.

Some days are so full your brain feels three steps behind your body from start to finish.

Some days you feel like you need to be two or three places at once.

Some days you know the to do list is going to get longer not shorter.

Some days the meeting goes in a completely unanticipated direction.

Some days you forget to breathe deeply and evenly.

Some days you try to listen so carefully your ears get tired.

Some days there are lots of interruptions.

Some days your email inbox is overflowing.

And some days end with an hour long walk outside in the sunshine catching up with a friend.

Those are good days.

guilty pleasure #sol19

slice of life updated

How exactly is “binge watching” defined? Does it imply daily viewing? Plowing through multiple episodes in a series in one sitting? Or is it simply about sticking with a series?

I’m a newbie when it comes to this whole phenomenon. I watched the first two seasons of House of Cards over a year, but quit when the news revealed that Kevin Spacey was eerily like the character he played in that series. Mostly I’m a local news and  college sports t.v. watcher. Mostly I don’t watch t.v. Part of me doesn’t want to be a binge watcher. But about eighteen months ago my daughter encouraged me to give Gilmore Girls a try. The combination of clever, fast-paced dialog and a storyline that centered on a mother and daughter and included a cast of delightfully quirky characters hooked me immediately.

So here I am, halfway through season five (there are seven in all), committed to seeing it through to the end. It makes me laugh. Sometimes it makes me tear up. Occasionally I’ll watch two episodes in a row but usually it’s more like two episodes in a week. Almost always I’m under my covers and feeling too tired to concentrate on my book but not quite ready to turn out the light. Is it binge watching? I’m not sure. Do I feel a little bit guilty? Yup. But I can think of worse things I could be doing with my time.

kindergarten kid watching

slice of life updated

Their teacher invited small groups of children to walk over to the bin containing t-shirts and put one one before the painting project began. I sat next to the bin, ready just in case someone needed help. W reached in and pulled on the first one he touched, tossed it aside and proceeded to take off his sweatshirt. Z looked around the room to see which ones her classmates were wearing, muttered something about her favorite one already gone, sighed, and pulled out a yellow one. She announced loudly that it was her new favorite. A wasn’t sure she wanted to take off her coat, but realized quickly that pulling a t-shirt over her coat wouldn’t be easy. She headed to her cubby to hang up the coat and then came back to the bin to consider her choices. G came over quietly, said nothing, took the t-shirt on the top and headed right back for his seat. A was still debating. Three or four others came and went. A was still debating. I asked her to make a choice and head to her seat so she could be ready for directions. She reached her arm in and chose one from the bottom of the bin, then asked for help putting it on.

Mostly I just sat watching and listening. So much to learn from just watching and listening. I don’t know these children well. But in just a few minutes today I know them better.

sunday treat

slice of life updated

She texted, “I’m coming home to pick up a couple of things.”

“Ok, sounds good,” I replied.

YESSSS… I thought. Maybe she will stay and chat for a bit.

We’d just returned from a late afternoon walk, decided to build a fire in the fire pit, sit in the Adirondack chairs, and enjoy a glass of wine.

Maybe she’ll want to sit by the fire too. Maybe she’ll have time for a glass of wine.

My empty nester mom self was full of cautious optimism.

She and her sister go to  college right here in town. I try so hard to pretend my girls are  five hundred miles away.. .to give them space and have no expectation of seeing them often. Mostly I’m good at it.

As I watched her car crest the hill on the dirt road and turn up the driveway, I tried my best to play it cool. I wanted to dash toward the driveway and envelop her in a big old mama hug. But I sat in the chair by the fire, smiling, watching as she pulled her car to a stop, stepped onto the driveway and walked in my direction grinning.

She sat. She chatted. She giggled. She sipped her wine and checked her phone. She was happy to be home, even if only for an hour or so. I was happy too.