Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What I've Read


What I've Read This Month...

Where's the Confetti? (31/31)

  31 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Where is the confetti? I feel like arriving at this point in the challenge there should be confetti flitting down on me. And hooting and hollering with yelps of glee. Anyone else?

For those of you who are with us for the first time this year, do come back on Tuesdays. It is the same lovely bunch of people and yet you have an entire week (nearly. for the first Tuesday) to sift through your brain for that moment you can't wait to put down on virtual paper. Or you could put it on actual paper and post pictures of your notebook. (It's what my friend Erika does. You can check out her blog here.)

Speaking of friends: Erika, that I was just mentioning, we met in this space. We've yet to meet face to face and still, across years of reading about one another's lives, sharing comments (and even being in a Voxer group together inspired here) I do not feel it is a stretch to call her 'friend'. She is not the only one I could say this about. Friendships are born here,  and then you find yourself in the same physical space and the relationship continues.

We need one another. The practice of writing is hard. This community brings encouragement, accountability, and acceptance. Here is where we can share drafts and know we won't be judged for trying things. Thank you to Stacey and all the co-authors of Two Writing Teachers for the countless hours you pour into all of us throughout the year with your planning, sharing, and leadership.

See you on Tuesday, even if there's no confetti.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Out for a Walk (30/31)

  30 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

"Come with me," I said, taking my daughter's hand and leading her down the stairs.

"Put on some shoes."

I opened the door and we headed down the driveway. As we approached the sidewalk I asked, "I'm walking you. Which way do you want to go?"

Barely looking at me, she pointed to the right. I could tell she was concerned about what was happening. She knew she had made a poor choice. 

About half way down the block I said, 
"I'm walking my daughter."

A few steps later I continued, "
The purpose of walking a dog is often so they have the opportunity to get something out of their body." 

A look of understanding crossed her face, yet the furrowed brow showed she wondered where I was going this this.

"I'm walking you to get the grump out," I continued.

She tried to contain it, but was unsuccessful and the giggles spilled out.

Phew! I thought. I wasn't sure this was going to work, but I had to try something. I had finished a meeting and gone downstairs quietly, as she had class. I rounded to the corner and found her not in her call. 

"Are you going to class?" I asked.

She burst into tears and stomped upstairs, flopping herself onto her bed.

"Your daughter is skipping class," I messaged my husband.

Sighing I went back to work. When the clock told me class had ended I decided to take her for a walk.

Monday, March 29, 2021

New Toolbox (29/31)

  29 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Zoom link: click

Open link: click

Join with video: click

I see twenty some squares; one teacher, lots of students - some with cameras, some with pictures, some with images.

I hear a student reading classmates possible solutions as shared in the chat box followed by a discussion about patterns students notice across the responses.

And then I notice that the teacher is in a passenger in a car. Not only is she in a car, the scenery outside the windows is changing.

I think she must have had something come up. 

I no longer hear her nor do I see any movement coming from her square. This is followed a deafening silence. I later realized it might have been one second, two maximum.

Clicking unmute to vamp, my brain is tracking with her and continue the directions she had been in the middle of sharing, hoping I am on track with her plans.

A chat appears from the teacher, further prompting us down the path - and then she's back. 

I marvel at how smoothly it all happens. She continues to teach, from the back seat of vehicle making its to and from who knows where, not missing a beat. The teaching point slide appears on the screen followed by video clips that push our thinking with their examples. Teachers are a wonder - and now they have a whole new toolbox mastered.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Size of the World (28/31)

  28 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

"Have you ever read the picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?" I inquired.

"No, but we watched the movie," she responded.

"I suppose the 'even in Australia' line doesn't land quite the same when you are Australian."

"No. It doesn't."

This got me thinking. 

 "Outer Mongolia" no longer seemed far off when we considered a job offer in Ulaanbaatar. Timbuktu isn't unimaginable when you have friends who live in Mali. 

The world is so small when you are an expat. Not only have I walked a mile with lots of different people, I have heard the stories of even more. 

The world may be small, but when borders shut down, flights are grounded, and airports cease to operate the miles stretch once again.

And then technology shrinks it again. I am so thankful for chats and emails, video calls and messaging. This year would have been much more difficult without it. (Forget about school and work for the moment.)

What about air mail? There were times that even mail became difficult because flights were not operating, therefore cargo was impacted. With the Ever Given blocking the Suez we are reminded that ships still contribute to the movement of goods, though I don't know of any mail that travels via ship any more.

I am comfortable with ambiguity; the world is small and extraordinarily large - all at the same time.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Perfect Quote (27/31)

  27 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Lamenting with a friend who has been in her house, with kids spanning multiple age groups, for more than a year. Her husband's work schedule has had her very isolated and at times it has been extraordinarily hard.

We have found solace in knowing that one another are both choosing the cautious path, even as others have made more social decisions. 

"Will you be going home for a visit this summer?" I asked.

"The expense of it is way too much for all of us, with flights and mandatory quarantine. (If we can even get flights as they are limited.)"

"Any chance of someone coming to visit you all?" I inquire, hopefully.

After explaining the extended circumstances with the summary being that it isn't possible. She tells me, "Anyhow, it is what it is."

I am thinking that it is all pretty crappy and I feel awful for her as she keeps a positive from on the tough situation that doesn't seem to end.  "Even in Australia" is the line that comes to mind. I catch myself as I start to type. The line, though so fitting, doesn't apply here. Why? She's from Australia.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Night Lights (26/31)

  26 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Lights twinkling
Spirals and spots
One cream, climbing trunks
wrapped from base to fronds
The other piercing brilliance
penetrating the darkness
lighting the courts

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Laugh or Cry? (25/31)

  25 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

After reading this post I was reminded of some of my own experiences as a parent who travels on airplanes with a kid who vomits. Many things resonated with me. The having a change of outfit - for everyone. The making sure you have a puke bag ready, at all times, within reach, and with the perforated top already torn off. How much easier it got once she was old enough to communicate that it was coming (though I had gotten really good about noticing the signs). 

I am not going to share with you about the ten hour flight that she puked a couple of times per hour for most of the flight. I am not going to tell you about her strategy to just not eat when we fly, because it is less gross. I am also not going to share with you the thankful prayers and happy dances we do when we manage to take a flight without puke. (Though it is generally every other flight - becoming one in three as she gets older. AND, pandemic, so she hasn't been on a plane in 15 months and counting.)

The previously linked blog ends with, 

She landed successfully without vomiting. Her first words upon landing, accompanied by a triumphant fist pump?

“I made it!”

We had this experience once also. Well, nearly this experience. We landed in Seattle after ten hours on the plane, the second flight of our trek. She was young, strapped in her carseat on the plane. The three of us had flown together, (which didn't happen when our schedule were different). The car seat was moved to the rolling suitcase, attached with the most awesome and simple tool. All spaces; seat pockets, seats, under seats, between the window and the seat, and overhead had been freed of our belongings. Two of us carted our haul off the plane while one toddled between us, smiling to everyone as she went. (She was about to see Grandma, after all!) 

The steps along the jetway were filled with relief for all of us. Our journey of 24 hours was nearly complete. We would be greeted by family, have a meal at Red Robin, and then be unpacking at home. Because we were a family with a young one we were directed to the elevator, rather than the stairs. She pressed the down button and we all waited for the doors to open.

It was that moment that I realized she was about to throw up. The incredulous thoughts I had of "but we are on the ground" were quickly replaced with a mental scan of where I might have tucked a barf bag - only to realize they were all left on the plane. We were on the ground, after all. This should mean no more puking. All of this was in a nanosecond, as well as lifting her over the metal garbage can mounted on the wall as the retching began. 

She had great aim, for the little that trickled out. Immediately feeling better she gleefully entered the elevator, parents looking at one another, shaking our heads as we tried to decide if we should laugh or cry.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Let Me Count The Ways (24/31)

  24 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

I now have one more reason to love my Instant Pot! It has been more than three years and I was shocked to find one more task simplified. I am now wondering what else I am missing. 

In the scope of my life I have not been using ghee very long. And, for as long as I have been using it, I have been making it myself. I put the butter in a cast iron pot, adjust the heat, and watch. There is a little bit of art to the science. 

Once I was nervous and stopped at clarified butter. Once I let it go too long, producing a very brown batch. One time it started to grow mold after a bit, but I think that was a family member not using a clean utensil as they dipped back in for more and contaminating the batch. I threw it out.

We use much less oil now, and buy more butter than ever. 

On top of the craft of heat and time there is also the weight of the pot that has to be lifted to pour the hot contents through the strainer. And then, once the pot has cooled, there is the cleaning part of the process.

And then one day, while pulling up a recipe online, I came across an Instant Pot recipe for ghee. I kept the window open and today, when we were out of ghee - and the Instant Pot wasn't otherwise occupied, I gave it a try.

Oh. my. gosh! Not since making my own Dulce de Leche has I been in such awe at the simplicity of something so grand. (And this is WAY less time consuming.) You put the butter in. Turn it on 'saute' for ten minutes. When the timer goes off you turn off the power and give it another couple of minutes, remove it from the Instant Pot, pour it through the strainer, and put everything into the dishwasher. Ta-da!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

For the Umpteenth Time (23/31)

  23 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

"There's another example," I say to my class - for the umpteenth time.

I don't need to put it in my first day lesson plan as it is inevitable - I will make a mistake. That is the opportunity to point out that I am human and I will make lots of mistakes. I anticipate that modeling the mistake in stride instills confidence in the acceptance of mistake making. Pointing it out over and over, in my own behavior, I hope weaves it into the fabric of our class.

This is not only true in the classroom. I find I make mistakes in every facet of being human. Ask my daughter, my husband, my friends, those I make music with, those I play games with, those who count on me, and those who simply expect me to be kind. It doesn't always work out the way I hope, plan, or think about it inside my own head.

I say the wrong words. I invert numbers. I click the wrong thing. I measure inaccurately. I don't understand what someone means. I don't hear correctly. I miss a step in the directions. I misunderstand a concept. I lose patience. I judge. I don't see the whole system. I... I make another mistake.

There are so many ways to go wrong. Thankfully I get another chance.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Math and Mindset (in regards to 31 days) (22/31)

  22 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

31 days. Not a ton. Not a few. A month.

The excitement of starting something propels you to the starting line - and across, down the path.

When day two arrives, 31 days seems like a trail of switchbacks stretching up and up and up, as far as you can see. Spring Break seems like it will never arrive and the to-do list gets longer and longer. 

Somehow you continue; some days with gusto and some days simply putting one foot in front of the other. The showing up goes OK. The reading and commenting is energizing. The writing, once an idea germinates for the day, takes root and reaches for the sky. There starts to be a path behind you, as well as in front of you.

One week in and you start to feel accomplished. Ten days in and you realize you still have so much more to go.

And then poof, Spring Break is behind you and you can clearly see the final ten days to the summit. The realization washing over you as you realize that 31 is a number that has so many different perspectives, depending on your mindset.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Resilience Building (21/31)

  21 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Resilience is currently being built in my daughter and her classmates. On top of all of the other things you might expect or imagine with over a year of virtual school, they are starting with their fifth new core teacher of the year as we speak.

Their middle school model has one teacher for math & science and one teacher for humanities. They are on their third math and science teacher and today start with their second humanities teacher. The changes have been for a variety of reasons; new teacher not coming, paperwork not getting approved, and high risk pregnancy are all reasons outside the school's control. The bottom line is, they've had a lot of change.

Knowing her teacher was pregnant with multiples I had been been bringing down my daughter's expectations of this beloved teacher being with her through the end of the year. I had hoped it would at least be until sometime in April. When the email came, at the end of Spring Break, we weren't sure how it was going to be received. My daughter took it in stride, especially knowing there was no medical emergency and everyone is OK.

"We have had so many changes - we've got this!" she said of herself and her classmates. Now we will find out if the theory holds true in the face of reality.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Energized and Exhuasted (20/31)

  20 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Spring break this year culminates with the TCRWP's Saturday Reunion. A friend messaged me after the closing session, "I’m energized and exhausted at the same time."

Yes; I am this as well. 

As I write these words I realize it applies to more than simply the end of nearly five hours of continual sessions, though that is a part of it. I will sleep on it all and tomorrow go through my notes, consolidating my thinking. I will then have a chance to process with another coach, followed by a chance for my teachers and myself to gather (virtually) and share what was sparked in us. 

The exhausted part comes from five hours of intake, five hours of thinking, five hours of information to contemplate.

The energized part will be what has me pop out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off, ready to think about the next three months. Excited to see what nuggets may help unstick some classes or units.

I am also exhausted because 'it's been a year' and everything that the past year has and hasn't involved. Worn out from being at home and parenting. Weary from being out of the building, away from teachers and students.

And yet energized because school is out in less than three months (and there is still Eid break as well). Invigorated knowing that we have reached the summit and can look down the mountain and let gravity help us get there. There's still a bunch of learning that will happen this year. 

I'm ready.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Staycation Blues (19/31)

  19 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Staycation Blues

At home vacation
Days without work
Games and binge watching
Family laughter - memory building
Staycation would be OK if only
If only I didn't still have to prepare meals

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Migraine World Summit (18/31)

  18 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

So many things happen each year in March, making a pretty crazy month. They are great things and I am happy that they occur, yet I am often feeling like "when it rains it pours".

One of the things that takes hours of my time in March is the Migraine World Summit. If you, or someone you love, has migraine disease - it is a must. If you don't, the way to reduce stigma is through understanding.

The Migraine World Summit is a series of interviews with world leaders in the field of migraine discussing the latest treatments, research, and best practice. On top of all of that, you can access each interview for free! 

This year's summit began yesterday and goes until the 25th. Each day there are several interviews posted, with access for 24 hours. (Time Zone Bingo is in effect as it is a world wide event, so figuring out what time each day 'begins' will be different, depending on your location in the world.)

Last night I thought deeply about pathways. Migraine is such a puzzle; different for each person and doesn't always look the same day to day. I was reminded of how much chronic migraine sucks. I continued to learn about my disease and reflected on the journey of educating myself and how important it is to be able to know what options are available.

I am thankful to wake up this morning pain free. I try to not let days that start this way go unappreciated. Part of my story is tied up with the Migraine World Summit and a greater understanding of migraine. 

I found my way to the information through a friend's FaceBook post years ago. My hope is that at least one person learns something new about their situation with migraine and is able to improve their life because of it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

I 'Just' Want To Say... (17/31)

 17 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

You know how when you are shopping for a car you start seeing it everywhere? This is true whenever we raise our awareness about something, we start seeing it more - even in places we didn't realize it was residing. For me I am currently on a journey to detach the word "just" from places it holds onto, but doesn't belong, within my own language use.

Have you ever noticed the word "just"?

I just want to say that....
I am just going to...
I just meant...

I think of "just" as having two meanings. One is related to justice and the other is "only" or "simply". The examples I listed previously fall into the latter category. 

The thing is, I have found that I don't mean 'just' when I say it. Somehow 'just' has become this word that is used to try and soften the tone. I hear it now, in both my own and other's language.

Knowing I don't mean it I have taken to allowing those around me to be a part of the journey. When I notice myself using 'just', I interrupt my own sentence and interject, "I am working on not saying 'just'. Let me try that again." I then repeat what I said, omitting the culprit.

Anyone else on the 'just' journey?

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Race, This Year (16/31)

  16 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

One of the things that makes March such a packed month is The Last Great Race. This year's Iditarod has had many things to make it stand out. Last year's race started before Alaska had much idea about COVID-19 and teams arrived at checkpoints along the trail with procedures having changed from what was expected. This year the race was designed with protocols in place, including a race route never considered in the 48 prior races. I appreciate the priority on keeping isolated communities safe, as well as every individual involved. So, in addition to the route going Willow to Willow, and being 200-ish miles shorter, there have been other memorable bits as the race has unfolded.

I am an Aliy Zirkle fan. About a month before the race Aliy announced that she would be retiring after this year's Iditarod. I appreciated knowing that going into the race; a chance to pause over her final time at different points in the process, even though this year was going to have so many firsts by nature of the pandemic as the underlay.

Somewhere around 180 miles in, on the evening of the second day of the race, Aliy had an accident. The next we knew, all the dogs were safe and being pampered in Rohn and Aliy was being medevaced to Anchorage. With the first announcement we knew that she was in stable condition and the dogs were fine and not really any other details. (She has been released from the hospital and is home, though the head injury is still causing some issues. The dogs are all fine and happily back in Two Rivers.)

So many details of the race could be recounted. I will end with the finish line. There are several people who have won the race more than once. Up until this year there was only one person who had won it five times. Dallas Seavey, and ten dogs who love to run, joined Rick Swenson for that distinction. We will have to wait for the 50th running of the race to see if Dallas becomes the first person to win six times.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Keep Clicking (15/31)

  15 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Finally "eligible" shows up on the app. I am thrilled to be able to have my turn for a jab. 

Next click: "Book Appointment"
Eight clicks later: "There are no dates available right now." 

Repeat hundreds of times - hours each day. My status may have changed, though I'm no closer to the jab.

I feel like I am playing a video game. I have to win eventually, right? I have tried most hours of the day (not so much from 3 - 6 a.m.). When will the magic/winning click happen?

Maybe right now...

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Memory Is A Funny Thing (14/31)

  14 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Christine opened her session reminding us of the power of read aloud for growing spelling skills; the foundations of phonological awareness that are fun to explore and the joy of manipulating phonemes that come with silly picture books.

Highlighting a few examples she came to Shark in the Park. I had forgotten about this book, but more importantly I had forgotten the hundred of times we had read Rub a Dub Sub a decade ago to our daughter.

Walking into the other room with my wireless headphone still hearing the conversation I quickly put my hands on Sheep in a Jeep. I suspected 
Rub a Dub Sub to be in my daughter's room so messaged my husband to request it be delivered to me as I returned to my Zoom screen. 

"I can't find it," he replied.

"It's in her room, probably in the closet stash of books," I typed back.

"She swears it's not in her room." Followed by, "She doesn't remember the book."

What?! How can she not remember this book with Jeff Mack's vibrant illustrations and LInda Ashman's suspenseful story and enticing words?

Isn't it interesting that we can experience the same thing and it have such a varying impact? In reality she has read the book more than I have as she had the culminating reads of both of her parents (and anyone else she could get to open it). She may not remember the words. I do know the love of rhyme, the sound of well placed words, and a fascination of sea creatures were planted in her each time that sub sank into the bathtub.

Words - Over Three Saturdays (13/31)

  13 of 31 - SOLSC 2021


Made, Morphed, Meaning
Sounds, Syllables, Syntax
Ideas, Interactive, Increase
Digraphs, Diphthongs, Decoding
Reread, Revise, Rewrite
Saturdays-Priming [the] Spelling-Proces

After three Saturdays with TC my brain is both primed and mushy. Thankful I can now take Spring Break to synthesize my thoughts and be ready to support more learning.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Grit (12/31)

  12 of 31 - SOLSC 2021


Not the kind you want
The kind that seeps through every crevice
The kind that turns the sky orange
The kind that is accompanied by a storm
Pressuring the temples and clogging the sinuses
The reason we ever used masks in the 'before' times

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Not Cancelled Spring Break (11/31)

  11 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

A year ago I was spending hours on the phone to cancel flights. Emails were exchanged with the tour company and the hotel booked for our en route stopover. A trip that had been dreamed of for 12 years came to a halt. I spent time that spring break cancelling all the trips planned for the next year, but I didn't cancel this spring break.

It wasn't that I expected we would be going anywhere, on the contrary. I had never booked this trip. 

As I close down the browser I use for work, it signals the start of spring break. What makes this one so different from the other breaks we have had in the past year is that this week I won't be mourning where we should have been.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Wind (10/31)

  10 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

As the wind whips the the sides of our home and causes the palm trees to dance, violently, I pause. When has wind been one of the most dominant aspects of an experience?

I have had the opportunity to round Cape Horn several times. Sometimes it has been as flat as a lake on a calm day, and then there was this one time. 40+ foot seas, everything is battened down, and I vacillated between wanting to stay where I could see the crash of foam as we slammed through wave after wave and wanting to curl up in my bed until it was over.

That one night in the tent where the wind whipped sand against us with such force that it collapsed the tent. I spent hours and hours sitting up, with the walls of the tent slapping against me, in an attempt to keep the sides high enough that my daughter would continue to sleep - unaware and unafraid.

The turbulence returning to Beirut one night in the middle of a storm and expecting to land in Cyprus yet the jumping plane surprisingly was both allowed and able to put down in Lebanon. We slept in our own beds thinking of all those who had fled Syria who weren't warm and dry.

Johnny sharing his love of kite flying one sunny afternoon in Skagway with his arms wrapped around my waist so I didn't sail off at the end of the string. 

Trying to sleep in Yoder, WY with the bedroom at the windward end of the house; flat as far as you could see so that exhaustion was one thing to break the buffer between my sleep and the wind.

Singing "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" as we walked up the middle of the sepia toned road, back to our dorm, when class was abruptly cancelled to get everyone to safety as the huge pines and threatening fires pushed down on my college campus.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

What's The Difference? (9/31)

  9 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

I've been pondering something and you might be able to help shed some light on my uncertainty. What is the difference between a training, a workshop, a seminar, and a presentation?

I will share my current thinking with you. Please help me develop my understanding on this.

A presentation is mostly one directional; the presenter tells and/or shows something to others. There is no expectation placed on the audience other than respectful listening behavior. The audience may not be interested in learning anything; it could be simple curiosity (or coercion). Presentations tend to last somewhere between a few minutes and an hour.

This is one more step along a continuum from a presentation as a seminar expects some exchange between the person presenting and the audience. (It is not lost on me that you can be a presenter at a seminar - interesting.) These exchanges may simply be verbal feedback or short interactions. Is a seminar longer in duration? Is it a combination of participation and duration that change it from a presentation? Someone who attends a seminar wants to learn something.

Moving further along the continuum, a workshop can be an hour or over several days. I expect there to be interaction in a workshop. Maybe this is the area of difference, a workshop is not just about sharing ideas in discussion - a workshop takes learning deeper. A workshop participant (I am noticing it is no longer an audience member) can expect to have activities they will be a part of, either individually or with others. Someone attending a workshop not only wants to learn something, they also want to work on figuring out how to apply it to their life.

Is this where we step off the continuum? Is a 'training' more about purpose and any of the above forms could serve that purpose?

What are your thoughts? Are there terms I have missed?

Monday, March 8, 2021

"Snow Day" Feelings (8/31)

  8 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

"Wow! The wind is really strong. It was trying to blow in the windows," says my daughter as she rinses out her paint brushes before bed. I am quickly moving towards her room. I know it wasn't the wind, and I wonder if there will be more. 

"Snow Days" are a thing of the past for most, though they were never really a possibility here. Same with "Rain Days". I expect days in our future when rains keep the building closed because of safety concerns for people being on the road and we return to the virtual realm for a day or two of school. (Prior to this my longest virtual teaching stint was a week due to the flooding that happened in Jeddah many years ago.)

Today is a new one. It is "Drone Strike Day" following attempts last night by the Houthi rebels to hit targets near us. Debris from the missile that was shot down have been found, but "Missile Strike Day" sounds too ominous. There were drone strikes yesterday as well, just not in as close proximity to us. 

School is virtual, (today actually marks the one year date of the last day students were in the building,) though some activity on campuses has been happening; administrators and district office staff have been going in, assessments happening. Today, everyone is home. 

As the announcement came through last night I found myself feeling giddy and immediately recognized the feeling from childhood of a snow day being called. This isn't that. My feelings recentered themselves. No, we can't binge watch late into the night or make plans for a movie day, school is still happening. I'm thankful that Spring Break is only days away.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Mixed Tape Education (7/31)

  7 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

I glance, once again, at the bog of mixed tapes I pulled out of a closet a couple of months ago. Now is the time, I decide. Pressing play on the bright yellow Sportsman I am not surprised to discover the batteries are dead. Fresh batteries inserted I hear the whirring as the wheels turn. I plunk in the first tape I grab and go to look for the audio input cable. Sportsman hooked up to the big speaker as my daughter sets up for a painting project, I let her know I am choosing the music.

"Is it your music or mine?" she asked.

"Wait and see," I replied pressing play and adjusting the volume.

The restrained chorus at the start of "Joyful, Joyful" from Sister Act oozes into the room. She isn't sure about my choice, but I know that she will be hooked when the beat picks up. As the second song starts she looks up, puzzled as the songs don't seem to go together.

Time to explain the ancient medium of mixed tapes! I grab the case and start to show it to her, interrupted by her question as she holds her hand out for the case. 

"What does it do?" she asks, taking the hard plastic box.

Oh my! How do I live in a time that the case of a cassette tape is a puzzlement to my tween child? In the days of Spotify and the like I doubt she will ever understand the hours of time that this 90 minutes of wonderment took to create, but that's for another post.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Bookcases (6/31)

  6 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

When I see a full book shelf I am drawn to peruse the titles. If this happens in a Zoom call I will pin that person's window to take a closer look. I see your heads nodding in knowing agreement.

I knew I wasn't the only one.

How to arrange all those books is a matter that could be discussed over the course of a conversation. Since we can't sit down for a cup of tea of a glass of something together I'll just ask.

How do you organize your bookshelves? 

By author?
The order you shoved them into their spot?
By topic?
By the size of the book?

I have done all of these, at some point. 

There is one option I have seen that I can't imagine doing.

Any guesses as to what it might be?

It may look great, if you are wanting an artsy background, but for functionality? I can't get behind the color coding.

Anyone else?

Friday, March 5, 2021

Nine Down, Three? To Go (5/31)

  5 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Early last March it had become apparent to me that things were going to be different for a while. The first day of students being home I tried to peer into the future and realized it stretched much further than I wanted to think about - probably until the following summer. 

In the face of potentially being overwhelmed by the unknown I decided that I needed to think in smaller chunks. I chose 40 day chunks. We were in Lent and 40 had the Biblical backing of Noah and Moses and Jesus. (I was really hoping for the 40 days, not 40 years parallel!)

The first 40 days was about surviving; making it through each day. The first 40 day journey I was mostly numb. April 18th arrived and I was ready for a new lens. How could I make a schedule that would get the things that had to get done accomplished and also carve out a moment or two for something that might sustain me?

And so the journeys went. I wrote down the start day for twelve 40 day chunks and crossed off each one as it passed. I tried to notice themes for each chunk and reflect on the journey. July 7th began the 4th chunk. Having lived through a fourth, a mere fourth, made looking ahead seem so daunting. So I focused on the chunk I was in. Day by day I moved from barely getting by to living my life. Yes, it was a life I would never have imagined, but I was OK. November 4th tipped the scales into the second half. The path forward was now shorter than the path I had come. It is not that I think things will be back to 'normal' at the end, but I do expect that we will have an idea of what to expect life to look like. And then somehow, yesterday, while I wasn't noticing, we started the tenth 40 day journey. When I cross this one off there will only be two left. One step at a time...

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Overheard Just Now (4/31)

  4 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

Overheard just now:

"I think I just spelled because!"

It's the exuberance in her voice that pulls me from my work as I stand at my desk. She is working with a partner on a Zoom call to try and finish a project for school. The joy and surprise in her voice caught my attention. She and the friend then talked a bit about words that trip them up, even as middle schoolers.

Recently some wordsmithing was shared with me regarding spelling. Many parents balk at terms like "inventive spelling" or "made up spelling". They don't like the idea their child is not spelling something the right way. What if we call it "temporary spelling"? We are acknowledging that it is a placeholder on the journey toward conventional spelling.

This daughter of mine has always been very verbal. I am thankful that she has had mentors that have encouraged her to use her spoken vocabulary when she writes, not being concerned about the correctness of her spelling. Her writing has stayed true to her voice while her spelling has stayed atrocious - until this school year. The pieces have finally fallen into place and her spelling has become mostly convention.  

But we all have those words. You know the ones. Those words that despite slowing down as you write them, they seem to always appear with a red squiggle under them. Apparently because is one of those for my daughter. By the time their conversation finished the red squiggle had shown up under another occurrence of because in her writing. "Well, I guess I am still learning 'because'," she tells her partner.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

New Challenge (3/31)

  3 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

I approached today's slice without an idea of what I would write about. Optimistic that I would produce something, I opened the Two Writing Teachers blog and clicked on today's post. There was Stacey's welcoming face, and after a moment her voice accompanied her. And now I have layers of dilemmas. Not only do I have to decide what I will slice about, but I also have to decide if I will post written words, spoken words, or a video.


Written words are what I have prepared myself for. Carefully crafting sentences to convey meaning is the challenge I thought I had signed up for. Daily entering the practice of putting words down is the discipline that I need to build. Intentionally making room in my day to write, even when I don't want to, is one of the reasons I commit to this each March.

And now I can make a video instead?! But then I would have to contemplate what I am wearing, my face and hair, background, lighting, sound, etc. [sigh] 

She gave us a third option; an audio recording. An audio recording instantly reduces the list of possible barriers to one. I can manage to get decent sound (even without lipstick). Impromptu speaking has never been a challenge for me. Perhaps this is why it feels like an 'out' from the challenge I have set accepted for myself.

And then I circle around to my OLW; purpose. If the purpose of a video post is to provide a way for readers to put a face and audible voice with the words on the page, perhaps I will have to accept this new challenge - but not today.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Favorite Book? (2/31)

  2 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

What's your favorite book? For me, that depends.

If I am forced to make a quick, as an adult answer, I tend towards The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It is the only book I have ever read that when I finished the final sentence I immediately flipped back to the beginning and started reading it again. I HAD to. I was compelled to read it again, now that I knew what I had learned. It is a book that follows multiple storylines masterfully woven together. I was curious to re-read the book for all the treasures I had missed as I was trying to figure out what was happening.

Fifth grade is the grade level I have taught the most. When I am asked about my favorite book at that age my answer is Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. My daughter recently picked up my copy from way back then. There were several times a teary eyed girl would show up at my side, needing to crawl into my lap, wondering if the next part was as painful to read because the story was told so well. 

It wasn't very long before she returned the book to me, satisfied. "My mom likes good books," she smiled. Now she is headed there and back again with Bilbo. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Happy for March. Happy to Slice (1/31)

 1 of 31 - SOLSC 2021

I don't know that I have ever been as happy for a March to begin. Why? Today it is because the Slice of Life March Challenge begins once again. Last year I did not get to participate as we were scheduled to be in remote parts of the planet over Spring Break. (No, that didn't happen, but on March 1st I didn't know how things would unfold.) Slicing this month may be the most normal thing I do since March 8th of last year. (That was the last day students were in the building.)

For those of you who are new here, a special welcome. Even though it was many, many years ago, I remember that first March. Once a week had seemed like pressure so what was I doing committing to for a month?! Especially during a month that can be as crazy as March usually is? But I made it; one day at a time, finding a rhythm that works for what life looks like at the time. Additionally there is the rich inspiration that comes from others writing alongside you. You can do it! Some days you will be proud of what you have written and some days you will be glad you got it done - with lots of days in between. It's OK. You showed up and wrote and commented and as the days accumulate you realize you are closer to April than February and then it's the 31st and you've made it! (And this year the 31st is a Wednesday so there will be a break before the following Tuesday Slice.)

The month stretches before us. A chance to observe and note, watch and write, ponder and reflect. The opportunity to put words down, in first draft form, and be OK with putting them out there. The community of writers who gather together to cheer one another on, both in our writing and our lives. I love being a part of this community.