Day 1 on the Ground #sol20

Day 1 on the Ground #sol20

September 15, 2020

I didn’t really enter the building until last Thursday. It felt like Pompeii, covered with the dust of a volcano that spilled all over life at school as we knew it. In my home office, I could live in a completely parallel universe.

I spent two days trying to put the literacy center to rights while actually trying to put my own self right in the process. I was determined if I could put all of those books haphazardly left last spring when the world changed in their proper place, if I could release the time capsule in my today bin from March, then and only then could I get my mind going in the solutions for now.

In a little over two days, I got the books in approximately the right space. They are in their correct bins, but perhaps not with their book alike friends quite yet. This might be a metaphor for so much of today’s learning community world. The shelves are dusted. The paper files I couldn’t quite find the capacity to go through are under my desk. My personal PPE stockpiled by Mr. K over the summer is in the hassock next to that desk. My personal books are in the right bins. The Monday flowers are on my desk. It looks right.

But it doesn’t feel quite right.

My battered copy of Leading Well was propped on the white board rail. I’m sure I was reading something in it that day when everything changed. Abandoned? No. Still full of the wisdom that will lead me and hopefully inspire others. Lucy says our main goal is to learn from data of all sorts. I’ve been collecting that data over the months, weeks, and now days we’ve been changing and moving forward. Talking to teachers, hearing their plans, their hopes, their concerns. Touching the books, considering how to share them with students, which ones to use for lessons, which ones to make into video read alouds, which ones to share freely and with whom.

As Lucy says in Leading Well, now is the time for vision casting. Building agency. Creating a mantra. Thinking big picture. Using stories. Working through priorities. Creating a vision for next steps. Plan. Build learning communities. Oh, yes, that book is still going to be the heart of the work.

This morning, thank goodness, I was assigned duty out front. Finally, students face to face! Many times in my long career, I’ve had the pleasure of greeting students first thing in the morning. We were blessed with a bright sunny day and as the cars pulled up, it almost seemed like what I remembered.

Then I opened the first door. The anxiety of parents and kids came rolling out of the car like a fog. Good Morning! I said, I hope brightly. We are so happy you’re here. Let me help you find where to go.

It was hard to recognize some of them when all I could only see their eyes. It made me quickly say, I’m Mrs. Kennedy. I’ve missed you. Most came willingly continuing to trust what we’ve built.

One of the fourth graders told me, I’m nervous.

Yes, I said, it’s been a long time. We are still here, glad to see you.

Will you walk with me? he asked.

Yes I said.

Hummingbird Miracle #sol20

Hummingbird Miracle #sol20

My friend Tammy is off on a cross country camping adventure but before she left she said she was going to try and document random acts of kindness on her journey. True to her nature she found one before she even left town and posted a quick photo and caption on her instagram page. My virtual friend Alaina Sharp started a daily podcast called teacher pep talks. They really are Pep Talks. What am I doing? I’m… worrying… about lots of things, but my CT writing friends are encouraging me to look for silver linings and daily miracles. Here’s a little story about a non-school miracle with perhaps some implications for all of those worries I am carrying around and what I might try next.

I thought hummingbirds were reserved for National Geographic and Ralph Fletcher’s instagram and then… I started seeing them every now and then. Outside my living room window, there’s was one hovering as if to say hello. While I was lingering on my garden bench, one hovered so close I could hear that whir of her wings beating. Stopping by the cup flower in the flower bed or the hydrangeas, I began seeing lots of hummingbirds.

I began mentioning these sightings to my husband, my sons, and then to that friend, Tammy. Tammy, full of great ideas, said, do you have a hummingbird feeder? Sometimes the skeptic I said, do those work? In her magical Maine house, she was drawing hummingbird to a feeder routinely, so I thought, why not? Twenty dollar or so experiment in my quarantine world, I’ll give it a go.

Off I trudge to the hardware store and purchase a hummingbird feeder that looks like a very tacky red plastic flower and some equally red sticky liquid to fill it. I locate this feeder on a forgotten flower hook rummaged from the garage and hang it right outside my bedroom window. Honestly, I wasn’t anticipating any success.

But then, a small miracle. As I walked by that large bedroom window throughout the day or sat at the small table and chairs on the deck nearby, hummingbird began to come. At first, they dropped by quickly, taking a drink and then buzzing off. Slowly over weeks, they came more and more often and stayed longer. They perched on the flower hook. They perused the window box hung on the porch rail. They sampled each of the tiny red plastic flower openings for that apparently nectar for hummingbird.

Those hummingbird became the highlight of this long and sometimes difficult summer. Each time I saw one I was just as delighted as the first time. Our tiny hummingbird miracle?

What could this experiment in hummingbird attraction teach me about my worries and my path forward?

First, I noticed something that I wanted to attract, to know more about. In another instance, it might be an idea, a book, a person, a resource.

Then, I talked about it with more than one person. I grew my idea as we would say to the students. My husband had ideas. My sons had ideas. Tammy had ideas. Google always has ideas. Those people had lots of great ideas!

I considered all the ideas. Would these work for me? What would be the cost of trying? Did I have the right equipment?

I consulted. It wasn’t much of a consult in this case, but in others it might be. I found the aisle at the store. I googled what might work best. I did my research.

Then I tried something. I didn’t have unrealistic expectations for what might happen. I did keep my hopefulness high. I positioned that feeder in a place where I would see the success if it happened. Sometimes I am not so good at that step as a coach.

Then I enjoyed success and shared it. I pointed it out to my family. I talked about it with my friends. I spread that idea around.

It’s funny. I was buying a bird feeder the other day in the hardware store and a worker came up to me. Have you tried one of these things? he said to me motioning to the hummingbird feeder. I have.

My wife and I haven’t had any success.

Keep trying, I said.

Intentions #sol20

Intentions #sol20

August 25, 2020

I know a woman who starts her day by reading a poem. She has a crazy stressful job and I’m wondering if that strategy is sustaining her through these unprecedented times. Interestingly, I’ve never asked her what type of poems she reads or how she chooses her poems. She’s never shared that information either, but occasionally in a tough meeting, or when a bout of inspiration is needed, she’ll say, I was reading this poem the other day…”.

Recently I considered that prompted by a story of a different woman reading a poem with her father over zoom each day. She did share the poetry she was reading with him, Devotions by Mary Oliver. I checked out that book from the library (ebook version) and read a few. Here’s the one I read that stuck.

The Pond, Mary Oliver in the book Devotions

So now, why now? I’m considering my orientation to the work, to the days, to the uncertainty. Perhaps setting an intention for the day with a quote or a daily poem, a meditation or a quiet walk will prepare us for those next steps full of uncertainty.

Here goes.

Pivoting #sol20

Screen Shot 2020-08-18 at 10.49.15 AMPivoting #sol20

August 18, 2020

It’s been five months since the first 360 degree pivot.  The moment we went from hand-on-the-back, let-me-loan-you-this-book, I’ll-teach-that-lesson to learning how to ‘flip’.  I’ve added a lot of new words to my vocabulary:  asynchronous, synchronous, remote, the list goes on and on.  I’ve started to notice this word a lot:  PIVOT.

To pivot is to shift to a new strategy.  I went to several professional development meetings last week where the word pivot figured prominently.  I decided to consider what it means to pivot.  In pivoting,  part of the mechanism stays stationary and the rest moves.  Think of an oscillating sprinkler,  the central part stays in place and the ancillary pieces move to direct the water where it is needed.  In our planning,  we need to find our core, our center mechanism and keep it steady as we move other pieces to accommodate in-person, remote, large-group, small-group, and conferring.  Screen Shot 2020-08-18 at 10.57.10 AM

I’ve been considering how much can we keep the same.  How many parts of what we are, and what we do can remain the same?  What has to change?  In one of the professional development meetings I went to, the instructor wisely said we should keep the two parts in a hybrid as alike as possible.

This is really two ideas.  Keeping the core of what we know to teach, to expose, to nurture intact and also to make the work seems similar in whatever setting the students are in.  Oh, just that???  Piece of cake!  Let’s construct this in the same way we would with the students, one step at a time.

I was considering assessment this morning, how to simplify it, what is essential, what do we really want to know.  This idea applies to the core subjects, to our work, to the students’ work.

I saw many teachers in the spring remote trying many, many mediums and tools, resources and strategies.  The teachers were exhausted and the students were confused.  What do we know about the workshop?  Especially in the beginning, it’s about routines and structure, predicability to allow for the new thinking.  I’m not sure in your situation what will make the routines predictable, what will make the structure simpler, but I do suggest it is the goal.

Let’s not think beyond the first six weeks to borrow from Responsive Classroom.  Let’s carefully consider what to hold onto and what to let go of?  What is essential?  What will we need to know about our students and what will they need to trust about us?

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I wrote this down in the spring to remind myself. Perhaps not to overpromise, but mostly to stick to my core. What do I want to make happen?  Really.  Down deep.  Then think about what I can control and what I can do. Saying no might be important right now.

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So here’s to a plan that can pivot.

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Meditation #sol20

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Meditation #sol20

August 11, 2020

I downloaded a meditation app a week ago.  I’ve started having real difficulty sleeping.  I never opened the app even though I’m alerted daily on my phone and in my email.  My husband says I should call our family doctor and get a pneumonia shot and a DpT shot because he read in the New York Times that people who have had these immunizations are less likely to get Covid-19.  The school board voted last night for us to return to school.  Several board members said it would be safer than our homes.  Only one person other than the UPS driver has been to my home since March 18.  She sat outside with a mask on more than six feet away.

I know people know I’m worried.  I’ve tried not to say too much about it, but I fit the demographic in a lot of scary ways most of which I can’t control namely being over sixty.  The teachers’ union repeated asks who is considering taking a leave of absence, retiring or quitting.  I’ve hardly even ever taken a sick day much less a leave of absence.  Who will help out if I’m gone?

Lucy Calkins’ was quoted as saying last week,

We will muddle through things together.  We’ll imagine next year together. We’ll work to hold onto our values, despite the pressure to do otherwise, together. We’ll come out the other side, ready to reshape the future.

I’ve always considered myself an optimist, a glass-refiller, but I wonder if this has brought me to my knees.  My husband says when you go back you’ll get into your routine and you’ll feel better.  He paused then and looked up at me.  Then he said, maybe you won’t.  Maybe I won’t this time.

I’m committed to the work still,  the students, their teachers, moving literacy forward.  I’m planning,  big plans, ones my colleagues don’t love, filled with hours of small groups for kids at home and recorded lessons.  I’ve read and studied and worked more than most summers.My husband says I should have given myself a rest, but who can rest now.

I think about the affirmations I put above my desk… Be Fearless, Be Okay, Be Intentional, Be Conscious.  Along with those I have others.

We need to find new handholds we can grip…

Who do I know that can help me with this?

If you don’t like something, change it.  IF you can’t change it, change your attitude. Maya Angelou

As educators, we know that we find much of our power in collaborative work. Cornelius Minor

Let’s draw all our power.  All our collective good intentions, smart thinking, sheer will.  I’m going to show up at that school.  I’m going to do my best to hide my grief for all we don’t have now, hide my fear for what might happen, hide my loneliness missing all the interactions that drive me forward.  I’m going to imagine next year together.

#pb10for10 A New(ish) Edition

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 9.17.53 AM#pb10for10  A New(ish) Edition

August 10, 2020

As of right now,  our district will be operating in a hybrid model, some students in school alternating weeks.  Everyone is fairly certain that this won’t last and quickly we will return to a remote model.  The news is full of why elementary students should be in school and our superintendent, a wise woman, points to student needs including meals, social supports, and additional services.  These are very uncertain times.  Where do we turn in uncertainty, to books.  The first weeks of schools have already been full of gathering together amazing books on new experiences, making friends, being your best you.  Carry those books of gold in armfuls around the building, spreading them, sharing them, savoring them with as many students as possible.  That is going to look a lot different this year.  I’ve already purchased many of these books loving nestled in my ‘school bag’ in kindle form, so that I’ll be able to make videos reading them for classes and students at home.  As we look at this year, what will be important from the start hasn’t changed, building community, respecting differences, finding common ground.  Let’s start with a good book.

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Since discovering The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson two years ago, I’ve been on a mission to share it with as many people as possible.  It was a gift to all of our classroom teachers that fall, sparked our fall convocation, and a beautiful mural of hope in our front hall.  There won’t be a convocation this year, but the message of the day you begin will still ring strong with the students, their families, and our learning communities.

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Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 8.12.18 AMOur Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell is a new book for me this year.  Published just this summer, this book is a wonderful entry point to knowing the people in our learning community better.  What is your favorite day of the year?  will be familiar ground for many.  The teacher in this book begins will my favorite lines.

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Celebrating each students favorite day of the year becomes the heart of this inclusionary classroom and it can be the heart of each of ours as well.

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 8.11.19 AM.pngSo much of Islandborn by Junot Diaz will become your teaching favorites.  This book is rich with reading and writing mentor work.  What makes it a great beginning book is that perennial question,  Where are You From?  Our central character sets out to find out about where’s she’s from and learns so much about her community as she learns about the island she’s from.  The book gives a spark for students to explore their families cultural roots.  Islandborn is a beautiful book that will win a place in your classroom and in your heart.

 

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 8.11.01 AMWhere Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez further explores the question many students are asked, where are you from.   Our protagonist is confused by this questions as she is from exactly where she is,  this is the only home she’s known, but she’s from many people and places as we all are.  A wonderful exploration of the diversity of families and how we can look different from each other or exactly alike, but still have our own unique history.

 

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 8.10.38 AMAlma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal has  been on my back to school list for the two years since its publication.  Our names are such an important part of who we are and knowing each others’ names and their significance honors the bearer of those names.  Making name knowing, writing, practicing part of the early learning of a primary school life is heart-filling practice worthy of our time.

 

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 8.09.51 AM.pngI love this beautiful book, Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o for the illustrations, but the message may ring true for many of our students.  Sulwe is concerned by her darkness in contrast to her family, but many other students may see their concerns of ‘looking different’ in her story.  The message of celebrating our differences and honoring ourselves couldn’t be more important.

 

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Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen published this May carries with it the important message that we’re in this together.  This book feels like a jumping off point to what school will be like and how we can be there for each other in this unprecedented, unpredictable year.  What things will seem the same as years gone by and what things will be different and perhaps better?  This book is a good start to so many conversations about what it means to be there for each other in a community of learners.

 

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I adore this new book, You Matter by Christian Robinson nearly as much as I love his instagram page full of positivity and light.  Simple in its presentation, this book carries layers upon layers of meaning that can be mined over and over again.  You’ll use this book as a sweet read aloud and a go-to mentor text over and over again.  The message, you matter is strong along with the message that a lot of other inhabitants of this world matter as well.

 

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 9.23.17 AMPerhaps every year for the rest of my career I’ll include this wonderful book, All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold with its heartfelt inclusionary message.  This book depicts a school were each child is welcomed no matter what.  All of us should find a home in a school of our own creation like the school in this amazing book and create a school for the children we know like this as well.

 

 

 

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The final book in 10 for 10 is always the most difficult.  There are so many more that I have loved and that would fit in this category, but School’s First Day of School by Alex Rex illustrated by Christian Robinson was the first book I thought of when I sat down to write this back-to-school list.  We used this book the year we remodeled our school and added our first grade wing because the school and where the classrooms were was so different that years before.  This year ‘the school’ is not just a building anymore and we will be wised to talk that over honestly and hopefully with our students.

 

The Cliff’s Edge #sol20

The Cliff’s Edge #sol20

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Mary Schmich

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If it were only just one thing…

Our yard drops pretty quickly off a precipice.  That little innocuous pig shaped rock and then straight down to some pretty sizable boulders 20-30 feet away.  The way down that way is impossible.  Well… impossible for me.   There is, however, a winding path to the ravine floor.  The path is longer and takes considerable more time.  The trek requires multiple decision points including which fork to take.  Sometimes there are obstacles in the path forward.  Some are moveable: a dead branch fallen from the canopy, a living branch fallen over the foot path, even a medium size rock.  Others require much more effort to move: a fallen tree will have to be dealt with using a saw,  poison ivy along the way will have to be avoided.  All in all, the path forward to the ravine floor requires thoughtful consideration, careful steps, and perhaps even a modicum of forethought.  As I think about the mantra I’ve created for the last few months,  Be Intentional.  Be Fearless.  Be Conscious,  they seem to be the guide for the path forward.  Cautiously, carefully, move forward in the direction you want to go.  I know the direction and I’m mindful of the obstacles.

I have another stickie above my WFH situation:  It’s about what not to worry about… What actually is it that I shouldn’t worry about?  In my familiar woods path,  I shouldn’t worry about finding my way home.  Home is never really that far away.  Even if I get turned around,  I’ll only be 10-15 minutes out of pocket.  I shouldn’t worry about wild animals.  While there are squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, raccoons, fisher cats, and coyotes, they are much more aware of me that I am of them.  I see them mostly in passing or not at all. For the most part, the trail is semi-obvious, worn by animals or other humans as they pass.

The way ahead for me professionally, academically, this fall seems similarly treacherous.  The direct path to success straight down the cliffside seems too dangerous for me personally.  The work around fraught with so many unknowns.  Do I know what not to worry about?  

When my old lab, Lily, and I take a walk in the woods,  I let her decide, long path or short path, where to stop and literally smell the flowers, where to speed up and where to slow down.  In the end,  I know where we are going to end up.  I have thought through the possibilities and the difficulties.  I’ve considered her capacities and mine,  the weather, our energy levels.  Then we move forward.  Most of the time we are absolutely successful.  We accomplish what we set out for, we get home in one piece, and one or both of us is not overtired.  Every once in awhile, we overestimate our abilities.  We push ourselves and by the time we return home, we are a little worse for wear.  The next time we go out, we keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

So in our changing professional environment, let’s keep the same pace as that walk with Lily.  Be prepared.  Have the materials we think we need and consider some of the scenarios that might happen.  We won’t be too surprised that way.  Know that some walks are going to seem easy.  Some are going to be challenging, but manageable.  Occasionally, we are going to return from one a little worse for wear.  Charged from accomplishing what we found hard and road-wise for the next outing.

img_0602I walk along this writing journey on Tuesday with my Slice of Life companions.  They are always there when I succeed and when I get in the weeds.  Check out their writing journeys at https://twowritingteachers.org/2020/07/28/tuesday-slice-of-life-story-challenge

Paring Down, Repositioning, Reflecting #sol20

0-5Paring Down…

July 28, 2020

I can not recall when I learned to knit.  Fingering knitting with my cousins in the arid Oklahoma shade? Clumsily knitting alongside my mother with her scrap yarn using her click-y aluminum needles?  I just don’t know.  It must have been sometime in early elementary school, knitting blankets for my Barbies or a long scarf for Ken.  In my memory, I’ve always been a knitter.

Like with many things I’ve adopted from my mom, she was a pro at knitting.  I can picture her velvet chair in the living room, tall back, that luscious green tufted velvet, those slim arms and that bag of knitting left next to the chair.  I don’t think her hands were ever still, always knitting, stitching… page-turning.  As with everything, my first “Martha Stewart” excelled.  When I cleared out her house after her passing,  I brought those aluminum knitting needles home with me along with a beautiful cream colored hand-knit afghan she had draped over her couch.  It’s draped over mine now, worse for the years in between that day and now.

With that in my heart, I tackled the bureau in my office.  The first three drawers are knitting materials, smooth bamboo knitting needles, haphazard patterns hastily copied, printed, or ripped from the pages of this or that, stitch markers, measuring tape, and so many skeins of yarn- three drawers full…  Perhaps I should just pitch it.  The thought flitted through my mind.  It would be easier that dragging yourself through the organizing… again…  I am not, by nature, a ‘pitcher’ so I began to organize the drawers.

The top drawer wasn’t too difficult, all the needles were easy to organize.  Straights together, double-points, circulars,  all rounded up together in various containers.  Stitch markers, cable holders, and sewing needles together in a pouch from some long ago visited knitting shop.  Patterns sorted through, saved, discarded, or collected in a folder. The basket for current projects emptied and waiting.

The next two drawers held the yarn.  Remnants mostly of long finished projects along with some just-have-to-buy-this purchases from vacations, quick pull-over-there’s-a-yarn-store, or a find or a gift from yarn-crawls designed to orient myself to familiar landmarks in early New England days.  Baby knits in pink and blue, skeins of bulky yarn and their remains  from dozens of scarves knitted for friends and family tossed in from finished projects.  Soft alpaca, silky exotic yarns in mottled hues, wild sock yarn, and tiny balls of left over domesticated poly yarn nestled together in the wooden drawers.  What to do?

Having been considering this clutter-y stash for some time, I had saved two patterns for ‘stash-busting’ knitting, a common malady for long-time knitters.  I began to organize the bulky yarn.  Two skein bundles in this bag to make scarves for someone who needs a hug this year…enough for three. Oh, that pink one will be sweet! The stray balls from that scarf Christmas several years ago in this bag for a new afghan for Bob.  All of this fingerling weight yarn for an exotic wrap.  Who will that be for?  All the pink strays together.  All the blue strays together.  A pre-made baby gift for some future baby perhaps.  

Did I throw away much?  Not really.  I did make a workable plan for the resources I had wasting space in my drawers.  That first project, the afghan.  I’ll be finishing that today.

 

 

Midsummer #sol20

0-3Midsummer #sol20

July 21, 2020

I read once that it takes a few days of vacation for you to settle in,  your body to relax,  your rhythms to adjust, and deep relaxation to happen, the ability to allow vacation to seep in and truly take root. For me midsummer is the type of relaxation that allows me to get up in the morning with my imaginary list and tackle whatever whimsical project that my heart desires.  The time the project will take is unimportant.  Whether anyone will notice it after I complete it is unimportant.  These are the kinds of soul-stitching, heart-healing, deep-breathing kind of projects that have sustained me through all these seasons of being an educator.

This past week I accomplished many of those projects.  The joy universally seems to be that something during the completion of them utterly surprises me, fills me with wonder, or overtakes me with a sense of … well, I’m not sure what the right word is, so let me tell you the story of the recipe box.

Truth is a recipe box has become superfluous.  I once used it all the time, but now I’ve taken to googling an ingredient or a recipe to match whatever I want to prepare.  I have a recipe box that has been shuffled from location to location coming to rest this summer on my kitchen counter.  When I changed my counter arrangement to accommodate a coffee station, the recipe box, the files of recipes, the cookbooks, and the cookbook writing projects I’ve had all came together in a rainy day project.

I opened the recipe box… Arranged by alphabet,  I began with A unloading the box and examining the recipes.  Did I know when I first placed them here which ones would become so valuable that the recipe would be unnecessary? A had several recipes for homemade applesauce, a necessity in the early parenting phase of seasonal apple picking forays.  I paused a moment to remember beautiful sunny autumn days hoisting young pickers up into trees for perfect specimens.  Where is that apple pie recipe I love so much?  Oh,  it’s in this Silver Palate cookbook. 

B turned up a dozen or so recipes for sweet breads made in the season of baking as gifts.  I have several versions of loaf pans big and small to accompany these recipes.  Remember this lemon poppy seed from that sweet cafe in Lafayette?  Many of these recipes were annotated with their origins or written in the quick script of someone jotting down a memorized recipe to share.  Pumpkin, eggnog-cherry, poppy seed, zucchini, and banana.  Banana bread… how many loaves of banana bread have I made?  Adapting my grandmother’s recipe, a favorite from Cooking Light magazine, here’s where I learned the formula for baking…Sweet breads have a pattern like pound cakes.  When and why did I stop making the others and only focus on banana bread?  Abundance of ingredients I presume.  A left over can of pumpkin becomes pumpkin bread in that crockery loaf pan with the pumpkin detail.  A neighbor’s zucchini crop becomes zucchini bread.  Memories of baking smells and friendships begin to fill my kitchen.

C is for cookies.  I couldn’t possibly contain them in this box.  Several versions of chocolate chip cookies, though none needed for the frequent batches filling that mouse cookie jar from my long ago wedding shower.  I pause to think about my mom’s cookie jar, Red Wing Pottery Bobwhite pattern.  I think about my Christmas cookie lists, my bake club, and so many other batches and batches of cookies.  But C contains cobblers, crisps, and cakes.  Diana’s Apple Crisp… I can picture her kitchen as she served the delight with some coffee and tea warm smells of apple and cinnamon brightening a meeting.  Molasses cookies, my grandmother’s favorites. I can see her hands, soft with age, scooping the teaspoons full onto the pan, the smell of molasses and spice filling the air.  Gooey Butter Cake… I see the bakery in my home town, the square cakes ready to be taken home after Saturday errands. There’s a recipe for that Eclair Cake I love.  This project is filling me with joy!  I mark a few recipes for my bake club.

I continue on through the alphabet, letting go of some recipes, rereading others,  cherishing the handwriting of my mom and grandmother both long gone and friends left behind in life changes.  So many recipes for chicken when that’s what the kids would eat.  New baby casserole favorites to drop off.  Does that tradition even exist anymore?  Recipes hastily scrawled on scraps of paper in chicken scratched short hand of sorts.  This was a lovely walk down a lane of delicious memories.  Food for the soul.

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I write with my community of slicers at Two Writing Teachers each Tuesday.

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Hiding Out #sol20

Hiding Out #sol20

July 14, 2020

It’s true I’m hiding out. I’m not going to try and deny it. Last week someone sent me a text… How’s your summer going? A day later I replied, I’m settling in.  I am settling in to my day being structured around projects I make up, walks with my dog, and reading.  I might check my email 1-2 days a week.  I’m not thinking about going somewhere, being somewhere else and I’m especially not planning for back to school. 

That’s right… I have officially stuck my head (at least partially) in the sand. I did go to a re-opening meeting last week.  I have read a LOT of op-eds, blogs, articles, and news stories about reopening.  We definitely discuss it at our dinner table and on our patio and over coffee in the morning… The answer however, are not forthcoming. 

The thing is, usually I have a fix-it plan for everything.  Regardless of what the people around me have planned or not planned, I have an idea for my own personal work around.  Those work arounds have worked pretty well for me for low these last… years, dare I say decades.  But this time, I can’t work out a work around, fix it plan, at least, not yet.  The reason is,  I don’t know what I’m fixing or working around.  I won’t know until 3 weeks before the students are sitting in front of me (and everyone else) either right there in person or right there in person on my screen.  So for now… I can’t make plans or fixes,  work throughs or work around,  I have to wait.  

In that wait,  I am staying productive (ish).  On the weekends,  I tackle big (and sometimes small) house projects with my husband.  I plan meals.  I binge watch Netflix (Have you seen Down to Earth?).  I read my tremendous stack of books in my TBR pile and mark craft moves I want to show… someone sometime.  I organize my closets and sift through things in my most Marie Kondo sort of way.  But when I go to sleep,  I wake up in the pre-dawn thinking about what’s happens next.  Eventually,  I’m going to run out of projects, run out of books, and run out of daylight. 

One of the questions on our union survey was, I will consider retiring or resigning… Retiring or resigning?  My fingers hovered over that check box for more than a second.  Would I consider retiring or resigning?  Now?  Could this be the end?  I don’t think I want it to be.  It doesn’t feel finished, this career, though I know it’s nearing the end.  I question my worries.  I question my actions.  I question my inactions.  I question… my way forward. 

Last week,  I only talked to two humans in real life, my husband and my son.  I spoke with 7 other people virtually.  I could see them smiling and frowning.  I talked to a few  other people in my family on the phone.  I smiled at some social media posts.  I discuss birdseed and plant life with some squirrels, chipmunks, and deer.  Is this the reason that I’m worried?  My isolation? Or is this just the routine summer behavior exaggerated? 

I’m not sure, but I do know for now I’m going to take the dog for a walk,  bake, garden, plan for dinner, and look out into the green expanse of the woods looking for answers.  I’m counting on them showing up.  

 

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I’m inspired by the writing of my fellow slicers.  Check them out at twowritingteachers.com.