Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Slice of Life, March 31st-- "Final Thoughts on a Month of Slicing"

Is it possible that tomorrow is April? Unbelievable!

As a second-time slicer, this year of slicing has held new surprises for me. I'm sure all of you that have sliced for years can relate, and might even chuckle, at what seem like "new revelations" to me. Here are a few of my final thoughts on my month of blogging:

**It's harder the second time: Okay, maybe it's not harder, but perhaps it seems harder because I thought it would be easier. Thinking you're going to be a "pro" at writing anything is a ridiculous notion to me now. Writing is writing, and it's hard no matter what. What was I thinking? Ha!

**Sometimes it's very easy: As hard as the second time seemed, there were days that surprised me with their ease--those blissful days when the words seem to flow from your fingertips at will, almost without thought. Those are the days I live for. I wonder if those days get more frequent the more you write?

**There's just not enough time for it all: This year we had a great group of people join us for SOL15, and I kept up with all of them for awhile, and then...well, I just couldn't. Reading blogs can take as long as writing them--especially if you want to let people know you've stopped by and leave a comment! I'm going to be reading Slice of Life blogs for the next few months and commenting, I think. Better late than never!

**Life happens, even when you're in the middle of a blogging challenge: I never expected for 5 of my 31 slices to be written at the hospital this year as I battled illness once again. I never expected to write a slice about using a walking cane for the first time. I was sick more than I was well, it seemed. I had an eventful month, mostly in ways I'd rather not relive, but I made it! There is just something about a challenge when you're stubborn, isn't there? For some reason, blogging everyday made me feel that I was conquering and winning, even when I was hooked up to an IV.

**The hard-fought battles are the most rewarding: It wasn't the easiest month for me; there's just no way to sugar-coat it, but it was rewarding. Once again, I saw my kids blossom in ways I just didn't think possible. Their words inspired me. I had a parent tell me how much this challenge made a difference in their child's writing, and, once again, I was reminding of how worth it this exercise is. Maybe, deep down, I thought the success of last year's Slice of Life with my kids was a fluke, and we'd never be able to have that happen again...but we did. It just proves how powerful writing is.

**I may not be proud of the quality of my writing everyday, but I am very proud that I made it: Last year, I felt like my slices were more thought out, crafted more deliberately, and just plain better. This year I'm just proud there is a slice under each day of the month.

**I'll be back: Slicing gets in your blood. At some point the question of whether you'll participate next year disappears, because of course you'll participate next year! You're a slicer! I noticed this attitude in myself this year when I thought about next year. I noticed it as I spoke with other second-timers at my school. We spoke of next year as a certainty, not a possibility. I think I like that change. Year three, here we come!

So, goodbye for now, dear slicing friends. I hope that this year was as rewarding for you as it was for me. Like last year, I hope to see you each Tuesday coming up, but we'll just have to see what life holds. One thing is for certain, though...I'll be back next year come March 1st. And hopefully, I'll bring more people with me!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Slice of Life, March 30th-- "In Honor of the Kids"

Today I prepped for our Slice of Life party. Anyone at our school that has completed the Slice of Life challenge (70+ kids!) will be invited to celebrate their accomplishments tomorrow at 2:00 in the gym.

I ordered their pizza, talked to the cake designer to make sure we got it "just right", and signed certificates. I picked up the cake tonight. It looks great. I can only assume tomorrow's party will be awesome. The kids will be excited to relax and enjoy having "slices" of pizza and cake with their friends who also participated.

To be honest, though, as I took care of my to-do list today, I also thought about how it wasn't enough...

Pizza and cake don't make it worth it. A certificate doesn't make a month of writing equal to accomplishment. Nope...it's much bigger than that.

The feeling they will have tomorrow after they write their last slice...that's what counts.

I hope they feel all the things I felt last year as a newbie, finished for the first time. It's a little different your second time around (I'll reflect on that tomorrow...). But, the feeling they will have at some time tomorrow will be invaluable.

Unforgettable.

Worth every second.

I hope they take time to really think about what they've done. Doing anything for 31 days is a challenge, but writing takes a different kind of perseverance. It's not like running or a sport or even playing an instrument. Most of those things you do in groups, or at least with one other person. But writing?

Writing is a solo act performed before a live audience every time.

Maybe that's what makes Slice of Life so hard. The fact that you have to sit down, stop what you're doing that day, and write (for me, alone) is a discipline that few have the stamina to finish, much less the courage to try. And then you have to share.

Share what I wrote when I felt uninspired, when I felt like my thoughts weren't worth sharing with my dog, much less my friends or Slice of Life readers??

Pressing publish everyday, confident or not, takes true dedication.

And that's what makes me so proud of my kids. If an adult feels pressure like that, can you imagine what a 6th grader feels? And yet, they have outperformed me so many days that it is embarrassing. Their writing shines in unique and beautiful ways. In truly honest ways that only 11 and 12 year olds are capable of...

I am so proud of them. A writing teacher can only inspire, really. Mechanics, conventions, spelling...it can all be taught, but true writing? That comes from within.

And these kids have got it. They are the real stars of the show. They are the true champions tomorrow.

I hope pizza and cake make it fun, but I hope the feeling they have tomorrow stays with them forever.

They can do anything they put their minds to. Absolutely anything.

Watch out, world. My sixth graders are coming!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Slice of Life, March 29th-- "I Am"

**This format was taken from a book I've used with my students for years (I'll update this blog tomorrow with the book title...it's slipped my mind tonight!). We start the year with "I Am" poems and leave them up for Parent-Teacher Conferences. I find that it always gives me amazing insight into the lives of my sixth graders, and they really enjoy it, too! Here is mine:

I am caring and hopeful.
I wonder why people are hateful to one another.
I hear the wonderful ideas and dreams of my students and am excited for the future.
I see the beautiful leaves beginning to bud in the colors of spring.
I want to make a difference.
I am caring and hopeful.

I pretend that I am in a good mood all the time, even when I’m not.
I feel excited to teach everyday.
I touch my niece’s soft, warm hands and smile.
I worry that I am not doing enough to help my kids.
I cry when I drive through the Joplin tornado zone.
I am caring and hopeful.

I understand that life is short and time flies.
I say that all people should be treated with dignity and respect.
I dream that everyone will have what they need.
I try to be kind to everyone.
I hope that I will see my students be successful and happy in their lives.

I am caring and hopeful.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Slice of Life, March 28th - "Smells that Make Me Smile"

Today I decided to think about the smells that I deem heavenly...I bet we have a lot in common on this list!

1. Flowers: This smell can instantly relax me. In the spring and summer, I like to walk along the row of roses we have in our backyard. In the winter, just a whiff of flowers can bring me back to the warm summer months in a millisecond!

2. My dogs: To me, a home is not complete without a few dogs running around. Their smell is just one of those things that makes me smile!

3. Coffee: I'm not talking about the sweet, doctored-up stuff; I'm talking about rich, black coffee that tastes as amazing as it smells. I love to bury my nose in the mug of a strong cup of coffee.

4. My school: Every place you go has a special smell, and my school does, too. It's not really describable, but you could walk me in blindfolded and I'd know where I am. I love where I work! :)

5. Holiday potpourri on the stove: The combination of fruit and spice simmering on the stove filling the house is just full of holiday cheer. Even without decorations, it makes a house feel like a Christmas store!

6. My cedar chest: My dad made me a cedar chest about a year ago to use as a storage place for things that are important to me. Every time I open it, it reminds me of him and all the special objects I have stored in there like my mother's, grandmother's, and great-grandmother's handmade quilts.

7. Indian food: I spent 4 months living in India, and I will never forget the smells and tastes I encountered there. The smell of a restaurant or grocery store can instantly take me back across years and thousands of miles.

8. Freshly cut grass: Amazing....especially if I didn't have to cut it! :)

9. The smell after a spring rain: It's the time of the year where rain comes every other day or so to my corner of the world. The musty smell of the ground after that happens creates a few moments of heaven on earth.

I'm sure you had lots in common with me, and lots more that you could add to the list! I hope it reminded you of some of the smells that make you smile.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Slice of Life, March 27th-- "7 Sounds I Love"

As I got in my car this morning to drive to work, I heard one of my favorite sounds in the world: birds singing. It made me think that I might brainstorm some other sounds I love for today's slice. So here goes...

1. The sound of "writing" from my students: Whether they are typing or writing with pencils, I adore that quiet humming that comes from my kids when they are thinking and putting their thoughts on paper.

2. The sound of coffee brewing in the morning: What could be a better wake-up call?

3. My niece's laugh: Her giggles make me smile every time I hear them. :) When she belly laughs, it's totally contagious!

4. My puppy, Yadi, breathing as he sleeps: He is an active little guy, so the sound of him sleeping is sweet indeed! It's the only time he stays still enough to snuggle!

5. My other dog, Tucker, snorting: We're not sure why, but Tucker makes a snorting sound when he's happy. Sometimes it's when you're scratching him, and sometimes he snorts as you walk by, just to let you know he'd like to be pet. It's so unique and cute!

6. A live orchestra: I used to be in band as a high schooler, so I still appreciate the sound of live, well-played music. I don't get to go very often, but when I do, it's heaven. Just the sounds of the instruments tuning gives me chills.

7. The outdoors sounds while you camp: Nothing is quite so relaxing as the sounds of birds, bugs, and other animals making nighttime noises as you lay in a sleeping bag under the open sky. I haven't camped in a long time, but I can still imagine it if I close my eyes.

I hope you enjoyed my list! I'm sure there are a thousand other sounds I could have listed, but these are just a few of my top ones!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Slice of Life, March 26th-- "Giving a New Format a Try"

I'm trying out a new format I saw someone else use on the Slice of Life challenge! Here goes!

I am a teacher, a dreamer, a puppy-mommy, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.

I keep ridiculous amounts of tea in my possession. Check anywhere. It fills the cabinets at home, runs out out of drawers at school, and is stuffed in the pockets of my purse. And yet, I cannot help but buy more...

I wish I could afford to travel without limit. I wouldn't go all the time; I love home too much, but I would go a lot more than I do now.

I love to ride with the windows down on cool, sunny spring days like we've been having lately. Especially if my dogs are in the back seat!

I sing along to Disney and Broadway hits in the mornings on the way to school. Makes me smile every time!

I think there are a lot of kind people out there. The news shows the worst, but I see too much good around me to believe bad has taken over.

I really wish scientists would find a cure to Dystonia. Sometimes I get so tired of it.


I need more hours in the day. There are a thousand things I want to do everyday, but it seems like each day ends like this one: over too quickly with more I want/need to do!

I should exercise more. Why don't I? See above. :)

I can appreciate the small things in life. It is a pleasure to lose myself in a moment of beauty or emotion.

I like to read, scrapbook, write, and teach. They are never-ending, life-long pursuits and growth areas for me.


I make a difference everyday. I love my job, and I love the meaning it gives my life. My kids are everything to me.

I always try to find hope, even if it's in the daffodils in my front yard reminding me of how spring brings renewal...I actively look for and seek it out. It is essential to keeping me going!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25th, Slice of Life-- "Trying to Slice, Trying to Slice..."

Today was an exhausting day. I am drained and my eyes are heavy. I'm leaned back in bed against pillows, trying to recall a moment from the day to recount for you. Nothing is coming. I'm sure there was an exceptional moment embedded in there somewhere, but the memory of it is long gone.

I've considered any one of the brilliant formats that I've read from my fellow slicers, full of creativity, but tonight, even inserting my own words into a pattern seems too much.

It's storming quietly in the distance here. The severe weather has moved to the east, giving me the all-clear for a safe night's sleep. All the stands between me and closing my eyes is this 25th slice.

Most nights I would fight it. Sit up straighter, get a glass of water, read some slices, and write something I can be proud of. Tonight, though...

Tonight, sleep is just going to win...

Sleep well, fellow slicers. May tomorrow be filled with creativity and inspiration!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Slice of Life, March 24th-- "First Storm of Spring"

Thick, bubbling clouds replaced sun

Wind whipped through the open window

Blowing papers off walls and startling students with its suddenness

A coolness crept in to mix with the warmth

A hushed dimness cooled the light

Causing day to feel slightly muted

Thunder rolled in slowly

Lightning creased the heavy sky

Raindrops fell from dark clouds with intention

Splattering the pavement with large spots

Harder and harder it fell, until finally hail came, too

Pieces of ice littered the driveway, almost like the seasons got confused

Evidence of winter in spring.

Watch

Listen

Appreciate the power and beauty of a thunderstorm

For a moment--

And then, as quickly as a moved in, it is gone

Leaving only raindrops on leaves and a memory

Of the first storm of spring.

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23rd, Slice of Life--"An Unexpected Bump Turned Blessing"

I had to buy a walking cane over Spring Break. I have a neurological disorder that is progressing into my limbs, and I was pretty bummed to have to "give up" and get something to help me walk. I'm a stubborn person by nature, and I was dreading my first day back to school, knowing I would have to explain it to the kids and my coworkers. I was embarrassed, and honestly, just frustrated that I had to deal with it at all.

My day could not have been more opposite of what I expected.

It started with my pod girls (my 3 teacher neighbors) expressing first concern, and then offering to "bedazzle" my cane. All of a sudden, instead of hating it, I was thinking about where I could buy another one in a more fun color! Instantly, my spirits lifted.

Next, the kids could not have been more understanding. They took it in stride and just went with the flow. Not a hint of judgement or ridicule...they showed maturity beyond their 11 and 12 years.

All day coworkers politely and sweetly asked what happened, and I explained. All the reactions I was (stupidly) expecting were not to be found. No one treated me like a victim or made me feel singled out. I could not have been more encouraged by the kindness of my friends.

All I can say is that I am blessed. I could not have asked for more understanding from a group of people. They boosted me up when I needed it and helped me see this little cane in a whole new perspective.

Because of them, I can see that it's going to be okay, and I couldn't be more thankful.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22nd, Slice of Life'--"Help! My Oven Locked Me Out!"

Beep-Beep

Beep-Beep

The timer for my lunch went off around noon today. I went to the oven to open it up and pull out my food, and, surprise! It was stuck.

I pulled again. Harder. STUCK.

I looked at the display where the temperature was holding steady: 350 degrees. Not good.

I noticed something else on the display...the word "locked" was flashing. Locked?! The oven?? Are you KIDDING me?

I looked into the dark oven. Sure enough, there was my food, continuing to cook at 350 while I pulled at my locked oven. Had I hit something wrong? Can an oven even lock itself? What in the world was happening??

Smoke began to come out, slowly at first, and then at a more steady pace. The dogs were swarming the kitchen, barking and whining as the smoke alarms blared. I was in full panic mode at this point. I yelled for help, promising that I hadn't hit any extra buttons! I swore!

We fanatically googled how to open a locked oven and after trying all the not-so-helpful hints, we started trying to cut the power to the appliance. Why is it that when you're trying to cut the power in a hurry that all the fuses are labeled wrong? It took forever (okay, maybe 45 seconds), but finally we got the power cut and started airing out the house.

I was blaming myself for doing something wrong to cause the whole catastrophe, but it turns out it was a malfunction of some kind. I am so thankful that someone else was home at the time, because I'm not sure I was in the state of mind to think through that problem rationally.

Whew!

And, by the way, I'd like to chat with the person who gave my oven the ability to lock itself in the first place!! Augh!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21st, Slice of Life--"The Last Night of Spring Break"

I'm coming in under the wire tonight. You see, where I live, it's the last night of Spring Break.

-sigh-

I know, I know. Technically, Sunday night is really the last night, but for a teacher's purposes, Saturday night is it. Done.

Tomorrow, I have to finish all the last minute "to-do" items from break that have gotten pushed to the bottom of the list for the last week (because they're my least favorite...).

Tomorrow night I have to go to bed with an alarm in mind. I have to get my clothes ready for Monday morning, fix a lunch, drive to work in the dark...

Oh man.

Well, the truth is, you don't miss something that wasn't wonderful, right? And this week's been pretty wonderful. I slept in. I ate out. I shopped. I played with my puppy. I hung out with family. I relaxed and took a break.

It was pretty great, actually. Would I do another week of it? You betcha.

Am I dreading Monday because I hate my job? No way. There's a big difference, you know. I'm not looking forward to all the "stuff" that comes with making it to school on time, dressed, and ready to go...but, I am looking forward to all those smiling, excited faces. I'm excited to see all my teacher friends. Monday's going to be fun!

But, tonight, I'm a little nostalgic. I might stay up a little later just because I can. It's one of those nights I'll probably fall asleep with the book landing on my face because I pushed just a little farther than my brain could stay awake.

But, why not? It is the last night of Spring Break, people!

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20th, Slice of Life-- "No Matter How Long the Winter"

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.
-Proverb

Unlike many places in the U.S. today, in my town, it actually felt like spring today! I woke up to a lovely fog covering the streets, reminding me of the Carl Sandburg poem and the fog that "comes on little cat feet." It made everything look misty and wistful. The rest of the day was a warm-ish, cool, damp day...the perfect weather to make all the little green things poking out of the ground continue to feel comfortable coming out! I love this kind of weather. In one day, winter feels like a memory from long ago.

As I looked for spring quotes to start my slice, I came across the one at the top. I think it's interesting. It has a little less to do with the weather than I intended, but it is what spring is about to me.

As I've mentioned in previous slices, I really do like all the seasons. There isn't any temperature that I hate-- each season seems to have a magic all it's own.

Spring is different from all of them, though. Spring is so sudden in its coming, so redemptive in its appearing that it is almost impossible not to draw life lessons from its beauty. Winter may cause a sleep to fall over the land, a grayness, a chill that seems never to lift, but spring-- in one day, it seems-- can undo all of that!

Overnight the grass begins to turn green, the trees bud, and a daffodil blooms while snow still covers its leaves. Spring is transformative.

This quote is about way more than the weather to me. No matter how hard things may seem at the time, spring is coming. Look past the grayness; spring is near. Don't despair over the deep chill some days bring, because the new life of spring is around the corner.

It doesn't matter how long winter lasts, spring will come to all of us. What a wonderful message the season brings us! Happy first day of spring, friends!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19th, Slice of Life--"A Lot of Nothing Equals Something"

I'll be honest.

Today's slice hasn't come easy. It's Spring Break here, and my days are filled with tasks that are just not equaling up to very meaningful experiences. It's hard to slice a day like that sometimes.

The grocery store. Redecorating a room. Netflix. Puppy-sitting. Reading. Spending a day in pjs.

You get the picture. A whole lot of "nothing"...

Except that it hasn't been like that to me. I may not have much to write on paper, but there's been some serious decompression going on at my house. Maybe my days aren't filled with exciting Spring Break experiences that impress or of days of checking off major "to-do" list items, but my days have been filled with peace.

It's something that is often missing from this busy teacher's life. I don't mean the kind of "peace" that is the opposite of "upset." I mean the kind of peace that is the opposite of loud and busy.

I've had a week of peace. Peace, quiet, deep breaths, and small moments of noticing details.

I've rested more than normal. Read, imagined, played, created, dreamed. I wish I could say that those things had a more permanent place in my life, but grading papers, planning lessons, and connecting with my students just takes precedence normally. It probably does for you, too.

It's been nice, I'll admit. To rest without a reason...to do all these things just because I can. Next week I won't resent going back to school, but I sure will be thankful for my week of "nothing" because, for me, it added up to a whole lot of "something!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18th, Slice of Life-- "How I Got My Breakfast: A Poem"

Breakfast time on Spring Break

"Let's eat somewhere special!"

7 a.m. and rainy

We sleepily leave the house, longing for coffee

Only to be met with a "CLOSED for repairs" sign at Stop 1

We regroup

Sleepy decisions are made

We turn around

Caravan to another breakfast joint

Stop 2

7:25 a.m. and still raining

This time "On Vacation" is hung in place of the blinking Open sign

Grouchy voices brainstorm yet another choice

Running out of options in this small town

Drive one town over to find a Stop 3

7:45 a.m. and drizzle continues

Finally, lights seen from afar!

They look open...are they...might they be...

Open?

YES!

Coffee comes

Pancakes are ordered

Moods lift

Special Spring Break breakfast, finally, is found.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17th, Slice of Life-- "A Little Spring Break Gift for Myself"


You don't have to know me very long to know that I love, love, love hot tea. It's one of my favorite indulgences. I'm not entirely sure when it crossed over from a simple drink to an obsession for me, but when I fell hard for it, I also fell hard for all things tea-related. I have shelves and boxes full of mugs, tea cups, travel containers, and tea paraphernalia. Add to that enough tea to open a store, and you have evidence of a full-blown problem!

Well, today we went shopping through our little downtown. It's not much to speak of, but it does have a few little stores that have unique finds. While sorting through clothes and scarves and wall hangings, my eye was caught my a little cup that seemed to have crawled out from the pages of a fairy tale. Its small, delicate drawings, whimsical features, and imaginary subject matter instantly told me that it must come home with me! While it is not the "prettiest" tea cup I have, it certainly ranks with one of the most unique. Naturally, I've already used it twice this afternoon, and it was delightful! I've included some pictures, so you can enjoy my fun find, too!

Isn't this little cat drawing perfection? I love the details!

The basket is ideal for making loose-leaf tea, one of my favs!


It has a mouse drawing on the saucer and a beautiful little story-book fringe all around the edges.
This is my favorite detail--the little cat on the top that serves as a lid! Adorable!
All in all, this is make the perfect addition to my collection of tea cups! My Spring Break find was spot-on!

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16th, Slice of Life-- "Poor Yadi"

Yadi, my golden puppy, had the surgery that all puppies dread...he was neutered on Friday. He's been stuck in an Elizabethan collar (as if the very name of that isn't awful enough for a little boy!) and hasn't been able to play much at all. I think this picture tells the whole story of what he really thinks of his new situation! Poor Yadi.

He is NOT happy about this whole thing.

Lucky for him, it's almost over. He should be all healed up in the next few days, or at least well enough that we can take the collar off and let him do all the little doggy things he's missed out on lately. Although, truth be told, he hasn't let the collar hold him back much. He bumps around the house, flying at his normal speed, running into the sides of walls and furniture.

I'm glad we could have the surgery during my spring break. I wanted to keep an extra eye on him, and it's given me lots of extra time to give him extra love and snuggles! Hopefully, he won't be "poor Yadi" much longer!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 15th, Slice of Life--"In the Presence of the Past"

During Spring Break I like to make a little bucket list of all the things I need and want to do during the week. Today my bucket list task was a little trip I've wanted to take for weeks, ever since I drove by it a few weeks ago.

Next to the road, a few miles from my house, is a small cemetery that is very old. I've always been interested in the past, particularly history from my area and my family, so I was immediately intrigued. My family came with me on my little expedition.

The entrance was made of rocky pillars, slowly eroding and beginning to fall apart. The graves were sprinkled with flowers left from others who had visited before us. As we began to explore, we realized that there were hardly any recent burials; this cemetery had long since been unused.

The gravestones varied in size from tall, skinny monument-styles, to only small stones marking gravesites. Only about half of the graves had names on them and of the ones that were marked, time and weather had eroded much of what was engraved.

As we walked, we found small areas where families were buried together. Many of the small plots had the parents buried with the children. This was clearly a place where families for many generations came to visit and honor their loved ones.

I experienced several emotions as we walked around today. First, I was fascinated by the history I was observing. Here in southwest Missouri, it's not often that you find anything older than a century. Here were people who were born over 200 years ago; very possibly they were the graves of the pioneers who founded our community. It was amazing to be so near something from our past.

As we continued to walk around, though, my emotion changed from fascination to sadness. Here I was walking among the grave sites of people who mattered, who had families and children and homes. The inscriptions spoke of great love and loss.

These beautiful graves were hidden under brush and leaves and branches. The paths were unkept and untidy. A single flag stood sideways beside a veteran's grave from one of the World Wars. Headstones were broken. Entire stones were hidden by tall grass. It was so disrespectful that I felt sick. We all did.

As we walked, I tried to straighten what I could, pulling branches back from headstones or pulling aside weeds, but it was really impossible to make any real headway. As we left we googled the cemetery, finding out the it has been without an overseer for almost a century, ever since the founding church disbanded. Groups are on public record for volunteering to help clean up since the 1920s. People still help on a semi-regular basis, but the work is just too much.

We drove away sad at the state of the graves. I will probably return one day, but with gardening gloves and some tools. Maybe I won't be able to make a huge difference, but it would feel good to know I was helping even just a little. I'd like to do it for the families of the people buried there, many of whom probably have no idea that their ancestors rest in that tiny, unknown cemetery. It only seems right to protect and honor our common past in that way. As I work, I'll imagine all the love the people who rest there must have experienced while they lived; lives that were probably not much different from ours now, minus the bells and whistles of the 21st century.

Being in the presence of the past reminds me how close we really are to it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 14th, Slice of Life--"Seasons"

Today, like many of you, I enjoyed the warm weather and looked excitedly at the forecast of the upcoming beautiful days. I am looking forward to the warmth, the soft rain, the rolling thunderstorms, and the color all around. After indoor recess and ice, it will be welcomed!

While I love the anticipation of the new season, I also will miss the uniqueness of winter.  But I also am already looking ahead to the summer months, followed by the crispness of fall. The truth is that I adore all the seasons.

I actually feel bad for people that "hate" the winter cold or summer heat. I can't find anything wrong with either one! I'm lucky enough to live in a part of the country that gets "medium" weather all year. We get just cold enough in winter to feel Christmasy and just hot enough in the summer to get out the popsicles and sprinklers. We experience each season to its fullest, but none to the extreme that so many of you do.

While snow days put many in bad moods and hot, humid summer days drive people indoors in frustration, I just enjoy it all while it lasts. I think that is my favorite thing about seasons. If you get tired of one, the next is coming soon, and with it, change and new things to experience!

So, I hope you're enjoying this change of seasons and the coming of spring as much as me. There is such comfort in the predictability of the seasons, isn't there? Spring, summer, fall, and winter: I couldn't pick a favorite if I tried!

Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13th, Slice of Life-- "Through the Eyes of Spring Break"

It felt like a mostly normal day. The kids came for classes, we ate lunch, and everyone left. It was a little dreary out, rainy and chilly, but not too cold. It was a day that I wouldn't have noted for much reason except for what happened at about 3:15...

Suddenly, it was Spring Break.

Two little words that have such meaning to teachers and students! It doesn't even matter that I'm not going anywhere this year on a trip, because the week stretches in front of me like a huge grassy field that is just meant to be played in.

Suddenly, it's not a dreary, rainy Friday. It's a wonderful day with the beautiful, gentle kind of rain that brings the promise of spring and flowers.

The store isn't somewhere I have to go to get things I need for the next week. It's a place to meander and peruse the fun finds that are hidden there.

My bed isn't just a quick place to get the rest I need for tomorrow's work. It's a luxurious space to relax, read, and listen to the rain fall in quiet pitter-patters while sleeping way past my alarm time.

I don't need to take a bath...I get to take a warm, bubbly bath, complete with my favorite book and a candle.

I don't see "have to do" responsibilities --I see "get to do" possibilities. My curiosity awakens, and I am determined to explore a few things in my small town I've never done before. There's a small, old cemetery on a hill by the road a few miles away that I've promised myself I'd explore someday. Maybe I'll stop by the used bookstore I never have time for. Maybe my bedroom needs a makeover while I'm feeling relaxed and creative. Downtown has been begging me for a walk through it. Maybe lunch while I'm there? The ideas are endless...

Who knows how I'll end up spending this week....if I'll get all of my wishes done or none of them at all. What I do know is that I will spend this week doing what I want to do. I'll savor each moment. I'll enjoy each breath. And I'll slow down.

I'll.

Slow.

Down.

And just enjoy everything...through the eyes of Spring Break.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 12th, Slice of Life--"My Vocation Has Become My Avocation"


"My object in living is to unite 

My avocation and my vocation"

-Robert Frost

This is one of my very favorite lines of poetry by one of my favorite poets. I came across this line in college while studying education, and I remember being taken aback by the meaning of these words. I pondered their meaning often.

Merriam-Webster defines the word avocation as "an activity that you do regularly for enjoyment rather than as a job." An avocation is something you love to do; something you'd do for free everyday if you could. 

The word vocation, on the other hand, is defined as "the work that a person does or should be doing." This is what most people would call their job; it's what we do to make the money we need to support ourselves and our families. 

Frost was saying in this line that he wanted to unite his avocation and his vocation; in other words, he wanted his job to be something he loved enough that he'd do it for free willingly. While I was in college, I tried to let this idea guide my choices. While some of my friends went into professions they knew would bring them lots of money, I tried to find something I'd love to do everyday for the rest of my life.

I chose well.

Education has truly united my avocation and my vocation into one. I was reminded of this during my hospital stay this week. While some might have seen a sickness as deserved time off or a vacation from a job they hate, I could not stop thinking of my classroom. I was missing my avocation. I wanted to do what I love to do, to see my kids, to teach.

And tomorrow I get to go back!

Teachers really do have the best jobs. I couldn't be luckier.







Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 11th, Slice of Life--"Home At Last"

Home finally

Full of

Peace

Quiet

Doggy kisses

Sunshine

No more

Needles

Doctors

Bright lights

Midnight Vitals

Loving my

Bed

Freedom

Back porch

Family

Thankful for hospitals that make you better

But so very thankful to be HOME

At last

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10th Slice of Life, Notes From My Hospital Room :)



I've been in the hospital for a few days. I'm fine, but I've made some observations as I've been here. I'd like to share a few of those with you !

* Nurses are the nicest people I know. Whether it's fixing my IV or bringing me more Jell-O, they are always so happy to help. And if they're not happy, they fake it so well I can't tell! Bless their hearts…

* Can we talk about Jell-O for a minute? I have always had a hate – affair with this food, but I have had to reevaluate my palate the last few days. I love it! Maybe not forever, but for now. It's actually to the point where I'm embarrassed to ask for any more of it! (Although my nurses, the nicest people on the earth, tell me everybody loves it in the hospital!)

* Being down for the count really reminds you how wonderful your friends and family  are. I have had so many people help me over the last few days that I don't know how I'll ever repay them. You guys know when you are!

* Another thing being sick reminds me of is how much I love my life! I would much rather be at school teaching my kiddos! I miss my school family very much, and I can't wait to see you all very soon!

Well, I hope this post finds you well. I hope to be back to the land of the living very soon! They might even let me have my computer tomorrow! :-)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Slice of Life, March 9th--"View from the ER Waiting Room"


Craziness
Busyness
Noise of all kinds
Loud

Wheelchairs with elderly patients
Sick children
Worried parents
Fear

People working together to heal
Shared smiles
Kindness from strangers
Sweet

Clusters of families
Speaking in hushed tones
Laughing in despite of circumstances
Humanity

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 8th, Slice of Life-- "Sick Day Sunday"



Sick day Sunday

No fun

Indoors 

Couch

Chicken noodle soup

Popsicles

Can't move

Hot

Cold

School coming

Sleep

Barely slice

Done finally

Sick Day Sunday


Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 7th, Slice of Life-- "Yes, I Am Good!"



I didn't mean to write a part 2 to my slice from yesterday, but a conversation I had with my niece when I got home from school Friday keeps coming to mind as I sit to write today.

She loves to draw. I mentioned that already. She's good at it, too, in my opinion, but of course I think she's a shining star in most things.

After thinking a lot of her drawing ability yesterday as I wrote my slice, I found myself watching her draw once again after school. It's been her hobby of choice the last few days.

As we sat together, we talked.

"Wow," I said, "you're drawing again! You must really love to draw!"

"Yeah," she replied, without looking up. Her busy crayons moved ceaselessly.

"Hmm...so, are you a pretty good drawer?" I asked her, mostly curious to hear her response.

Without skipping a beat, she answered me in a matter-of-fact of voice.

"Yes, I'm very good."

"I agree with you!" I chirped back. "I think you're a great artist!"

She didn't look up. The conversation was over to her, but my mind continued to race.

She hadn't even paused for one second to consider the fact that she might not be a good artist. She liked to do it, people told her she was good at it, and she was successful in her own eyes, therefore she must be good. What else do all those things add up to except being awesome?

Three year old logic is the best, isn't it?

I wondered for a moment what she would say if I asked her that same question in 3 years after being surrounded by peers and teachers. What would be her own assessment of her drawing abilities then?

What about in 10 years, as a middle schooler? Would her judgement be clouded by too many past experiences to be so bold?

How about 15 or 20 years from now? I faced reality for a moment. Unless her chosen career path put her in an area that required superb drawing/creative abilities, she probably would answer like most people I know: "I can't draw. I'm not creative." Or even if she chose to draw for a living, perhaps etiquette would have taught her by then that it was more socially acceptable to deflect, or depreciate her own abilities so others didn't view her as cocky, or worse.

Okay, so maybe drawing is a fleeting fancy for her, anyway. Maybe it's not a relevant question in 20 years, but would she be able to answer me in that same tone about something in her life? Would her confidence in her own ability to do something (I hope many things, but at least something...) be enough to say to her Aunt Kay Kay when asked, "Yes, I'm very good at ________!"

I sure hope so. I intend to make sure it is....if I have anything to do with it!

And, you know, the more I think about it today, I hope the same thing for you, too. And for me, for that matter...for all of us. I believe we all have something we're great at, and I hope with all my heart that comparison to our peers, past experiences, and all the "life piled on life" hasn't squashed that little belief in ourselves that says, "Yes, I rock at _________."

Teaching, writing, math, running, parenting...the list could go on. Maybe even drawing!

Hopefully, you know what it is that you rock at, and I challenge you to say it with the tone of a three year old next time someone asks you about it.

Go ahead. We won't judge you for it. Not when it's so much more fun to celebrate it with you!

Friday, March 6, 2015

March 6th, Slice of Life-- "I Love You, Kay Kay!"


My niece came to visit yesterday. She is a 3 1/2 year old, blonde-haired, bundle of endless energy. Actually, she gets along quite well with my crazy puppy Yadi. They like to run in a circle through the living room and kitchen, taking turns chasing each other. She is hard to pin down, because she is so incredibly active and talkative. Moments where you get her full attention are few and far between.

She was sitting at the breakfast bar last night, coloring pictures for everyone. Her drawings are a little "interesting"-- mostly interpretations of things she sees in her life, like a worm with spikes, a duck that's orange, a dolphin-creature, or any combination of a million ideas. They usually take a little explaining to understand.

Last night she was busy making a picture for everyone, even Yadi (who ate his). I was sitting across the room when suddenly she jumped up and ran over, picture waving in the air as she crossed the space between us.

She stopped abruptly in front of my chair. Before I hardly had time to look up, she thrust a beautiful orange (somewhat confusing) drawing into my face.

"I love you, Kay Kay!" she whisper-yelled in my face, turned around as fast as she'd come, and tornado-ed away, spinning across the living room floor back to her drawing perch.

My heart melted.

I looked back at her, and said, "I love you, too!" but she was gone.

3-year old moments don't last very long in real time, but they are precious indeed.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5th, Slice of Life-- "A Hobby, Rediscovered"


I've always considered myself a scrapbooker. I have an entire, tall cabinet filled with materials I've collected over 15+ years. Paper, stamps, stickers, embellishments of all kinds are crammed inside this space...but I haven't opened it, except on rare occasions, for years.

I didn't give it up consciously. I've developed a condition over the past few years that can make it hard to write, to cut, to do all the things that scrapbooking requires. It just sort of faded out of my life as it became more painful to do. Lately, I've missed it tremendously, and I've also missed the fruits of it. I love looking through old pictures and albums and remembering all the special times. I adore taking pictures, chronicling the present for the future.

A month or so ago, my mom told me about something she saw in a craft store and encouraged me to check it out. It's called "Project Life" and it's a way to "scrapbook" without all the things I can't do anymore!

First, you pick an album. Here's mine:

Don't you just love the bright colors??
Then, you choose a photo sleeve to use to fit your pictures, like this:




Next, you put your pictures in...

Who couldn't save sweet pictures like this? :)
And then you fill the extra spaces with beautiful cards that have decorations, quotes, and small journaling squares...

This is just a sample of a few cards. There are hundreds to choose from!
Last but not least, you journal your memories...



And, viola! You have a page done!



Usually, I do this in many steps; maybe just adding pictures one night, then cards another afternoon, followed by journaling, usually on days off when my hands can rest afterwards.

I can't tell you how good it feels to be creative again! I've missed losing myself in a project, and I've missed the feeling that comes from looking back over the pages I've created.

It may not be exactly the same as it was before, but someday, when I'm feeling better, all my supplies will still be there for me. For now, this is just what I need. It's allowed me to rekindle a passion, rediscover a hobby, and once again lose myself in the beauty of memories and creation.

I'm so thankful for that.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March 4th, Slice of Life-- "A Saturday Kind of Wednesday"



Today was a Saturday kind of Wednesday

In which we were

Surprised with snow

A gift given

A day suddenly empty

To be filled with Saturday activities, like

Hot tea by the fire

Puppy-chasing and extra snuggles

Naps

Writing captions by pictures of summer in scrapbooks

Teasing texting conversations with friends

Laughter

A carefree August day in March

And beautiful flakes watched from foggy windows

Tomorrow will be a regular Thursday

A day I don't dread, but

I will admit

Having Saturday on a Wednesday was quite nice






Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3rd, Slice of Life: "A Writing Community Formed"


My slice today is more a compilation of lots of observations I've made over the last week or so as we've started the SOL journey in my pod (a nickname for a group of 100 sixth graders that share the same 4 teachers at our Middle School). Slice of Life changed how I saw life last year, and I watched it change the lives of many of the students and teachers who chose to write with me. We formed our own little group; we were the "slicers" out of our Pod, the ones that went the extra mile. It was special. It was valuable. It reminded me daily of why I do what I do.

But, this year...this year something new has happened, and I can honestly say I've never experienced it as a teacher or student.

We have over 3/4 of our pod slicing, along with 4 teachers and our interpreter. In addition, our principal, our art teacher, our literacy coach, the Junior High librarian, a high school teacher and her class, as well as 3 other classes in our school and their teachers are blogging everyday. In the midst of our separate lives, schedules, classes, and schools, we've become something more.

We've become a community. A writing community...

We talk about what we're going to blog next.

We encourage each other to keep going.

We laugh and smile over comments and compliments.

We tease each over about funny stories and get teary over the sad ones.

But most importantly, we write.

Together.

One of my fellow teachers next door is participating for the first time in Slice of Life this year. She was in my room just as the kids started writing the other day on their first slices. It was silent in the room except for the sound of concentration and computer keyboard click-clacks. She looked at me, a surprised expression on her face.

"What?" I asked, thinking something was wrong.

"I just didn't know that writing had a sound," she said after a thoughtful pause. "But it does. That's it."

"I know," I whispered back. "It's amazing, isn't it?"

She nodded. We shared the joy that comes from hearing students pour out their hearts and lives into written stories.

And so, through the sounds of keyboards, laughter, encouragement, and writing, we have formed this phenomenal group that I've come to love after just 3 days.

A real writing community. Our writing community.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2nd, Slice of Life: "A Puppy Attitude"

Jab!

Poke!

Slip!

Sllluuurrrppp!!

The time was 5:00 a.m. this morning. My quiet, peaceful dreams were disrupted by the frantic movements of my 11-month old Golden Retriever puppy.

Yadi, sleeping like he's supposed to be sleeping at 5 a.m.
He pounced on the bed, landing right on top of me, not concerned at all about where his 60-something pounds of furriness and gangly legs ended up. He slipped around awhile before finally settling into the perfect position to give my face a huge lick.

"Good morning, MOM!" he seemed to yell at my sleepy face. "It's time for another DAY!" Slurp. Slurp. He stared at me with expectation.

I scratched him and rolled over. He settled beside me, happy to just be near me for a few minutes before I got up for the day.

I knew one thing in that moment. Yadi was going to have a GREAT day. If fact, without fail, Yadi ALWAYS thinks he's going to have a great day.

He wakes up, greets his family with wet kisses and puppy hugs, and just lives in the moment.

Want to play fetch? OKAY!!!

Want to go for a walk? YES YES YES!

Want to snuggle for minute by the fire? WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!

His attitude towards the morning reminds me everyday that it's not really so bad to have to face the alarm clock. It's really my choice how I choose to approach it.

Am I going to greet my day like Yadi with anticipation and enthusiasm OR am I going to reluctantly climb from bed in dread, feeling defeated already?

It's my decision. The more "Yadi-mornings" I can have, the better.

Puppies sure can teach you a lot.

Yadi, enjoying the snow and life!



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Slice of Life, March 1st: "The Joy of Putting It Off"



Okay, I admit it.

I put this first Slice off.

It was the first thing I thought of this morning, and I've thought of it a zillion times through the day.

I thought of it while I looked out the window at the freshly fallen snow. I remembered it as I inhaled my coffee. I let it creep across my consciousness again while I hugged my puppy close and let his puppy scent fill my nose. It came to my mind as I scrapbooked some pictures from the summer, while I looked at notes from a conference I attended Friday and Saturday, and then even again as I woke up from an impromptu, luxurious Sunday snooze.

The interesting thing to me, a chronic procrastinator familiar with the feeling that accompanies putting things off, is that I didn't have that normal feeling of dread in my stomach as I imagined actually doing the task I was putting off. Instead, I found I actually enjoying putting off my Slice.

What?!

Why, I wondered? And then I realized...

I have been savoring each moment in a new way, finding the small joys of life in the sights and sounds around me, dwelling on clever spins I could put on a title about the smell of my coffee. I was hugging my dog just a moment longer to really "take it in."

It's just the first day of Slice of Life 2015 and already I feel my writing senses perking up.

I'm realizing again that slicing helps me experience life MORE. It makes me wonder why I ever quit last year in April.

I say all that to say, 11-month break or not, it is good to back.

So, fellow Slicers, I wish you everything I've experienced today...a month filled with small, beautiful moments and the joy of writing about them. I wish you 31 days of connecting through comments and feeling the love of the global writing community that is Slice of Life. I wish you a March of slowing down and finding the uniqueness that is your life, all around you.

I guess you could say I wish you a month of the joy of "putting it off" because, truly, in those moments of searching for ideas, you end up finding so much more than an idea. You rediscover your life.

Happy Slice of Life month, everyone. Welcome back!