Thursday, March 31, 2016

Slice of Life: March 31, 2016, "My 93rd Slice"

Three years.

I've sliced every day for one month for 3 years. I'm pretty proud to type that.

A few reflections:

**Year 1 was exciting, like riding an amusement park ride for the first time, discovering a new "story" around each corner of my life.

**Year 2 was hard. It was just plain hard! I think it was mostly because the year before had been the opposite. I'm still not entirely sure what made it so difficult, but it was.

**Year 3 was just different. Some days it was harder than ever, and some days I felt like a pro.

**All three years alternated between going incredibly slow and April coming out of nowhere.

**As Slice of Life has become more and more part of our school culture, students have become the driving force behind it. In the past, it was about the teachers inspiring the students and keeping them writing. This year, it felt, more than ever, that it was about the kids! They are the ones living this for the first time, and their enthusiasm was inspiring to me even on the days I wanted to quit.

**Slice of Life continues to be a bonding force among the teachers and students are our school. Even on the hard days, there are things to laugh about together. We share ideas, encourage each other, and sometimes whine together! It creates community.

**Pride is inevitable. I thought because this year felt so different for me, that writing my last slice would be without fanfare. I was wrong. When I think about 31 days, 62 days, and then 93 days of writing, I am incredibly proud to be part of this project!

**We will be back. Webb City Middle School will enter our 4th year of Slice of Life next March, and I look forward to being part of it! Until #sol17, friends!!




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Slice of Life: March 30th, "Friendship"

I've been thinking about friendship lately. I met up with one of my best friends last week during Spring Break in her new home in Denver. We haven't seen each other for over 5 years, but it was like the time just evaporated away.

It made me think. I've noticed one common characteristic among my close friends: loyalty.

Loyalty is an invisible thing in a relationship at the beginning. You have no idea who will be loyal to you over time; you may be drawn to being friends with different people for a thousand reasons. However, it is loyalty that makes it all last.

I noticed this saying on Pinterest:

"In friendship, you don't need to find the most interesting one. Just find the most loyal one."

How true! The friendships that have lasted in my life are not the ones in which we have the most in common; in fact, sometimes we have hardly anything in common. They are the people who have proven themselves to be there no matter what is happening in life.

I am so thankful to know friends like this.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Slice of Life: March 29th, "Junior High Choices"

Today the first group of our 6th graders went to the Junior High to arena schedule their classes for next year. It was my turn to go help supervise, so I got to see so many moments and emotions during this special time.

**Elation when they got the classes they wanted

**Nervous looks as they met the principals for the first time

**Disappointment when a class they really wanted closed before they got to sign up

**Anxious smiles as they lined up to walk into the room

**Happiness when they realized it was over and they could relax

** Relived giggles and shared smiles when they found someone that has a class with them next year

It's interesting to watch these emotions flit across the faces of these kids that I care so much about. I want to hug and high five them when it goes their way, and I want to tell them it really isn't the end of the world when it doesn't.

I understand, though, how important it feels to them. It is important. It's one of the biggest things they've done in their short lives.

But...it will be okay if they don't get their first choices. Life will go on and things may even turn out better!

What a hard lesson to learn as a sixth grader, right? Sometimes I'm not even sure I have that down! How many times as an adult do I get frustrated and disappointed when things don't go like I expected or wanted? Too many.

I think I need to take the advice I gave one kiddo today when he realized an elective he really wanted wasn't going to work out. Tears were close and he was struggling to accept that it wasn't going to work.

 "Let it go," I said softly to him. "Just let it go and let's figure out how to fix this."

Just something to think about.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Slice of Life: March 28th, "Yadi, the Catcher: The Doggy Version"

I have a golden retriever named Yadi. He was named after the St. Louis Cardinal, Yadier Molina. Yadi is the catcher for the Cardinals, of course. It turns out my Yadi is a catcher, too!

At least once a day he looks at the top of the refrigerator like this:


Sometimes he just sits in front of it and looks at it longingly. Why? Because of this:


Yadi is such a natural catcher that we can't have the ball out all day. He is obsessed! He will literally wear himself out if we don't limit his time with it. Alas, he knows where it is stored!

His sweet little face is so convincing that it's hard to say no when he sits and gazes lovingly at it. If we forget to put it up, he even sleeps with it: his treasured possession, the yellow ball.


Sometimes it can get annoying to have a dog that is so incredibly fixated on an object, but, mostly, it just makes him more fun. It is one of those little quirks that makes me love him even more! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Slice of Life: March 27th, "Finding My Routine Again"

What is about Spring Break that wipes your brain of all routine and responsibility?

Every year I think it won't happen, and every year it does. I feel like it's the beginning of the school year, and I have to think through every detail about getting ready for the school week like it's my first time. Add to that a general feeling of laziness, and you have a pretty bad combo--forgetfulness AND a lack of motivation. This could get bad.

Tonight I've tried to prepare for my week with the efficiency and speed that I did on a Sunday night just 14 long days ago. And...I couldn't remember anything.

I packed my lunch.

Three times.

I made my morning shake.

But it took 20 minutes, not 5.

I haven't gotten my clothes ready for the week, because...

Well, I haven't even unpacked all the way from Spring Break.

I hope my brain unthaws by morning and some of my muscle memory for how to "do school" comes back...or else this could be a very long week.

My thoughts are with you tomorrow, all returning Spring Breakers!


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Slice of Life: March 26th, "A Slow Day"

a slow day

filled with lots of nice moments

that didn't add up to anything on a checklist

but felt special nevertheless

a slow day

with family

with pets

on Spring Break

a slow day

that went quickly

and felt like sand

falling through my fingers

a slow day

Friday, March 25, 2016

Slice of Life: March 25th, "The Story Behind the Book Buying"

Today as we traveled from Denver back to Missouri, I found myself in one of my favorite locations, a bookstore. Of course you can find books in almost any airport around, but this was a one of the good stores...shelves and shelves, like a mini Barnes and Noble. Naturally, I found two books: a good biography and a mystery, two of my favorite genres.

I took them to the counter with my head hung low, because, once again, I had succumbed to the temptation that plagues me. I am a chronic book buyer.

I know this is not uncommon among teachers, but my history of buying books is a little complicated. You see, it's not just that I only buy books, it's that I refuse to get a library card anymore. At least where I live.

I know, I know...I love libraries, too. I can wander for hours and fill my arms to overflowing. I can spend days there, reading and drinking coffee (from the cafes that the swanky ones have now). But, I cannot get a library card anymore.

My problem is multi-faceted.

Number one, I can rarely finish a good-sized book that has some substance to it within the time I have to borrow it. My library only lets you check them out for one to two weeks, depending on the book.

Number two, because I cannot finish said book I either have to return it, renew it, or pay money.

Number three, other than renew (which my library where I live now does not do well at...there are too few copies of almost any book and there is almost always a waiting list), neither of those options are good with me.

I have paid so much in fines over the years that I've decided that if a book is worth reading, it's worth buying. Sure I have a few duds, but most of time, I'm on the money. I get to read the book as long as I want (and reread!), and I don't have to pay fines to do it! Plus, I can get anything...new releases, old books, PD books, anything!

I've found some cheap ways of doing it, like Amazon and used bookstores, but sometimes, like today, I find myself in a store and I must buy. Even if it's full price...

I could have worse habits, right...?? ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Slice of Life: March 24th, "I Have a Pen Pal!"

I spent about 4 hours today with one of my best friends.

I was passing through Denver on the way home today where she lives with her family, and we decided to meet up together for lunch with her, her husband, and her 3 kiddos. Like all long-distance friendships, there can be nerves when you meet up for the first time when it's been awhile between visits.

All those nerves were totally wasted. We didn't skip a beat. It was like 6 years evaporated, and we were instantly best buddies again. It was so familiar, nice, and comfortable.

We had a hard time saying goodbye because we couldn't stop talking! I reminded her that we could talk on the phone...but it just still didn't feel right.

Tonight we were texting, sharing pics from the day and laughing about our adventures.

I made a suggestion that I wasn't sure about. "Would you like to be pen pals?" I texted.

"I was thinking the same thing!" she shot back. "We are so weird!"

So...I have a pen pal as of today. A friendship that before today was just a happy memory will be something we can savor over the old-fashioned letter. I don't know why I'm so excited. Maybe it's because it is something special and different, something no one else really does anymore. Or maybe it's because I know that a friend who once seemed so far away will be close again.

Either way, I can't wait to write my first letter!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Slice of Life: March 23rd, "The Perfect Run"

The lifts were closing and the family had headed down the mountain. My dad and I decided to take one last run down. The busy mountain house was deserted and the maintenance workers had taken over, trying to get their jobs done quickly on a cold and snowy day in Colorado.

Unlike them, however, my dad and I were out to enjoy the moment to the fullest. It was the last run of the trip and the last run of our vacation. We started down, not really even following any signs or planning our route. We were just soaking up the atmosphere.

Snow. Stillness. Solitude.

Perfection.

We meandered down the trails in no hurry, stopping when we saw something we wanted to look at closer, often finding ourselves the only people within sight.

This is a rare thing on a busy Colorado mountain during Spring Break. And, yet, here we were.

We realized we'd stumbled into a beautiful moment and soaked it up, turn by turn. We savored each picture-perfect moment. We knew our time was limited.

So we stopped. We took pictures. We looked closer. We listened. We did all the things you never get to do in the middle of the day when the runs are packed, filled with ski school classes, families, and crazy teenagers pushing the limits of speed.

When we got down, I looked at my dad and said, "That was the highlight of my trip."

There are a thousand fabulous moments from our trip that stand out as special and memorable, and I know that I will, indeed, remember them. But this was different.

This was perfect in its rarity and in the fact that we recognized the moment and didn't let it slip by unobserved.

Perfection savored. What could be better?







Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Slice of Life: March 22nd, "A Ski Village Kind of Day"

Today was a ski village kind of day. My mom and I took a day off skiing to take care of my nephew Callaway and rest. It was the kind of day that you spend your planning period at school dreaming about. We moseyed through shops, stopped for tea and scones, sat by a fire, and met the crew coming down from the mountain for a quick break.
Give him a few years and he'll be skiing that mountain behind him!

A Starbucks break with my dad
We also had lots of time for people-watching. I love to just sit and watch people as they come and go. Ski villages are the perfect place for that. I like to imagine what people's lives are like.

I watched a family today at Starbucks getting ready to head up to the mountain. I thought they looked quite affluent in their stylish outfits as they moved around gathering their supplies and coffee. I noticed one woman who was talking loudly in the group. She seemed to really have it together. I saw her gesturing to her ski outfit as she spoke with a friend. I figured she was telling the story of finding it in an expensive Beaver Creek village shop, but then she got loud enough for me to hear.

"Can you believe I found this for $30 at Plato's Closet?! It totally looks like it's in fashion!" she laughingly recounted.

I realized that we might have more in common than I initially thought! I'm wearing the same ski jacket I've had for 10+ years; rather than judging me, I have a feeling she would have congratulated me! Perhaps we could even be shopping buddies, finding deals together. Of course, they moved on and I remained by the fire. But that's what people-watching is about, right? Observing, wondering listening, seeing details you would have missed otherwise...

Ski villages have a lot to discover, and I'm glad I had the chance today!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Slice of Life: March 21st, "First Day Poem"

Today I skied for the first time this Spring Break. Actually, I skied for the first time since brain surgery in November...and it was amazing! The bad news is that I am so completely and totally exhausted that I cannot find it in me to tell the story the way it needs to be told. Really, sitting up is pretty hard! So, I am saving the good stuff for tomorrow and dedicating today to a short haiku that reflects my need and appreciation for the rest day tomorrow!

snow on the mountains
skiing down and lift back up
oh, how my feet hurt

Let me get a good night's sleep and I will tell every detail! For now, I'm going to put those hurting feet back up!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Slice of Life: March 20th, "The Day My Family Added a Third Generation of Skiers"

My niece and I in Beaver Creek Village
Today was our first official day in Beaver Creek, Colorado, for our skiing Spring Break. While the adults did the boring stuff, like going to the grocery store, my niece joined the ranks of the skiers of our family. She spent the day in ski school. She was so proud to learn and show us how she was doing at the end of the day!
In line for the magic carpet up to the top of the bunny slope

Working on that "pizza" stopping technique so she can go to the "big mountain"
As I watched her playing in the snow and and loving every minute, it reminded me of when I learned many moons ago. My parents were both in education, so on spring breaks we four would load up the car, head west, and spend the week playing in the mountains. We haven't been able to do it every year, but every trip is special.

I loved skiing from the start, everything about it: the bigger-than-life mountains, the up-close nature, the speed, the feeling of freedom as you move down slopes. It is so satisfying and the perfect way to unwind from real life.

Tomorrow is our first day. I can't wait!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Slice of Life: March 19th, "A Traveling Day"

Today I traveled with my sister and my 3-month old nephew, Callaway, to Colorado to meet the rest of our family for a ski-trip kind of spring break. It was Callaway's first trip on a plane and his reactions were priceless.

First, while we rode the shuttle from the economy parking lot (waaaaayyyy far away) to the terminal, he laughed at me. It was only the second time in his little life that he's laughed and it was just delightful. He grinned and giggled and I am pretty sure I did the exact same back to him! I must have looked so silly!

Next, we entered the airport, checked in, went through security, and found our gate. He didn't cry one time! He slept while we ate a lunch of bagel sandwiches and sour gummies.

His time on the plane was spent making faces at our neighbor to the front, a 2 and a half year old boy, and smiling up at us. We laid him in the seat between us and enjoyed his love of adventure and easy-going attitude. What a trooper!

Here's a picture I snapped of him chilling on the plane:


One of the things I love the most about him is that I can tell already that he is going to love life, fun, and people as he grows up. It was a wonderful trip to Colorado. Let Spring Break begin!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Slice of Life: March 18th, "A Night with My Sister"

My family is heading to Colorado for Spring Break. Most of them are driving that way right now, via car, but my sister and I are flying with my new nephew tomorrow to meet them in Denver. We're spending the night here together before we head out in the morning. Here is a short poem about our sisterly evening:

Silly moments

Sister giggles

Chinese food in p.j.s

Cooing baby

Knowing looks

Shared memories

Smiles

Totally content

Deep discussions

Unexplained laughing

Sweet baby smells

Opinions abounding

Dreams spoken

Happiness

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Slice of Life: March 17th, "Spring Break Packing: Behind the Scenes"

Next week my family is going skiing in Colorado for a week. I am thrilled and so very excited. All that lies between me and snow bliss is...

Packing.

Once again, I find myself in the paralyzing position of having to pack for a trip. Even an overnight trip overwhelms me, but a week, in a place with way different weather than we have right now is beyond overwhelming. I've been thinking about it for a week and nothing--that's right--nothing is done. Okay, I have a list, but that is still nothing in my world.

So...why is this such a problem? I honestly don't know, but I think it has something to do with my effort to be prepared for anything. I can't just throw a few outfits in a suitcase and call it good. I have to analyze each choice, comparing it with all the other options, thinking through the pros and cons of each. Then my one outfit that I have picked out for a 40 degree clear day becomes four outfits: one for if it rains, one for if it snows, one for if it's warmer, and one for if I need to dress up (or down, depending). It's out. of. control.

When I've packed for every possible thing we could experience in all 50 states even though we're just going to ONE, then I get frustrated, realize I've overpacked, analyze it all again, start over and try again.

Add in the need to do laundry, grades to enter, and a head cold...and we have, what is to me, a paralyzing, totally daunting task.

I wish it wasn't so. I hope it isn't like that tonight. I pray things come together quickly...

But based on 34 years of previous data, I'm going to say that probably it's going to be a long night...

...but a fun week! I just have to pack!

-sigh-

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Slice of Life: March 16th, "Dear Daylight Savings TIme..."

Dear Daylight Savings Time,

I thought we were cool.

Sunday wasn't too bad. It just got light a little later and dark a bit later, but other than that, I appreciate that you stayed out of my life for the most part.

Monday I felt good! You were sweet to me and gave me nice (if still dark) walking weather. Great day, friend!

Tuesday was another fab day! I enjoyed the extra light when my night ran longer than usual! No complaints here!

Today...oh today, Daylight Savings Time...

Today you sucker-punched me right in the gut. 

I am exhausted and I can't find anyone to blame but you! I have stuck to my schedule, kept up with work, taught my heart out, and still...still you thought it was okay to bring this crushing tiredness into my life.

I spent the day losing my train of thought, forgetting how to spell things, interrupting myself (I realized today that this is actually possible. Who knew?), and having all kinds of problems that I totally and completely blame on you and my lost hour of sleep.

I'm not going to be over this for awhile. You hurt me. Please, if you have any sense of decency, bring darkness just a little early tonight so that I can fall asleep on time and have a better day tomorrow. Do it for the kids.

Your former supporter,

Katy

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Slice of Life: March 15, 2016, "An Addiction Revised"




I am a former caffeine/coffee addict. I drank coffee on the the way to work, I brewed a pot once I got there in my classroom, and I drank it until lunch. I had a coffee grinder at work and lived for new flavors I could enjoy. I drank it black; no fancy creamers for this girl! At lunch I would force myself to switch to tea or water. I really truly needed that caffeine to function and be awake. Recently, a hospital stay forced me to "go off" of caffeine. It was very hard to say goodbye, honestly, but I decided to make a change as a result.

I asked for a Keurig coffee maker for Christmas. I had never wanted one before, but I had special plans for it now!

Instead of a pot of coffee each day, I make myself a special decaf cup in the evening after dinner. I even found a company on Amazon that makes flavored decaf pods! I love my cup (or two) of delicious, relaxing coffee at night. And I especially love this special mug that was a gift from two dear friends!

It is the perfect way to end my days.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Slice of Life: March 14, 2016, "A Surprise in the Dark"

This morning I was on my daily walk with my dad and Yadi, my Golden Retriever. It was a cold morning, but I found that halfway through my walk, I was getting warm with all my cold weather gear on. I decided to take off my gloves to see if that helped. I hooked them around my wrist by the straps so I didn't have to carry them.

"Perfect!" I thought to myself, proud of my effective solution at 5:15 in the morning two days after Daylight Savings Time. (I mean, hello! It was really 4:15, right!?)

I walked along happily in the dark, my gloves swinging beside me.

All of a sudden my wrist yanked down! Out of the corner of my eye I could see my dad trip. My heart skipped a beat as my mind jumped to a thousand horrible conclusions in a fraction of a second. What was happening? Had an animal jumped out of the woods!?

I looked down, expecting the worst.

And.....Yadi. It was Yadi.

Yadi had crossed in front of my dad on the leash and tripped him, run across to me, and had jumped at my swinging gloves like they were a chew toy. He hung on as I dragged him unknowingly along with me.

I had forgotten that one of Yadi's passions, right next to peanut butter and tennis balls, is gloves. Why? Who knows. But he LOVES them. He likes to steal them and hide them from anyone that is dumb enough to leave them out in the house. He even will root around in a pile of laundry to find the one pair of gloves. His eyes light up when he sees you put them on. It's an obsession.

So it should have been no surprise to me that my mystery glove-attacker this morning turned out to be my own dog.

And, yes, I just carried them the rest of the walk. -sigh-

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Slice of Life: March 13th, "A New Recipe"

Tonight I tried a new recipe. As I chopped, sauteed, diced, and mashed my way to Shepherd's Pie happiness, the rain pounded outside. Every once in awhile, a close storm sent some thunder our way, rumbling through the house. The late light shone in through the windows and the dogs whisked around my feet, hoping for a stray dropped ingredient. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh herbs and peacefulness. For about an hour I was able to lose myself in the directions, following them carefully and hoping for an outcome something like the picture. As I turned on the broiler for one last moment to brown and crisp the top, I could tell we were in for a treat. The recipe turned out to be a keeper, but even more fun today was the process. Sunday afternoons are the best for long, drawn out cooking. Time stands still and life quiets itself. It is the lull before the week and the much needed calm that makes me feel ready to teach again after the weekend. With a wonderful dinner done (and leftovers for tomorrow!), life is good!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Slice of Life: March 12, 2016, "Luxury is a Saturday Nap'

The room is draped in muted colors

Not dark, but not lit by the bright sunlight of midday

My eyes begin to droop

The rain pitter-patters outside

Music that lulls me into pure relaxation

It's Saturday

I have time for this

I close my eyes with a happy sigh

Saturday naps:

You are pure luxury.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Slice of Life: March 11th, "Nachos Again"

Middle School Fundraiser Night

Concession stand duty

I'm the nacho lady, again

Three years running

I should be good at this by now!

Hot cheese dipped out

Poured on the chips

While my kids buzz around me

Parents crowd close to talk

Little brothers and sisters zip through the tables

I wave at friends, until

I hear, "One Nacho, please!"

And I turn again

To the task at hand:

Perfect Nachos

Served by an expert

Me.





Thursday, March 10, 2016

Slice of Life: March 10th, "Seeing How I've Changed"

I used this format last year in a Slice of Life blog here. I wish I knew which slicer I borrowed it from, because I love it! I thought it might be fun to see what has changed since this time last year!

I am a daughter, a Christian, a sister, an aunt, a listener, a friend, and a mommy to the cutest puppy ever.

I keep everything! I have stashes of coffee cups, tea, bubble bath, old-fashioned handkerchiefs, scarves...the list never ends. I have so much trouble saying goodbye to things. You never know when you might need it!

I wish I could find a way to help kids more. Sometimes I wish they could see themselves through my eyes and know how amazing they really are.

I love to be active. After my recent brain surgery and 8 years of being locked in a body that didn't do what I wanted to do at all, all I want to do is DO things! I love to exercise because it is such a wonderful reminder of the 2nd chance I've been given. For spring break, I'm going to ski! Four months ago, I was in a wheelchair! What a gift!!!

I sing along to music on my phone in the mornings. It's a relaxing way to start my day during my commute.

I think life looks really bright! I can't wait to find out what the future has in store!

I really want to go back to Germany with my family. We went this summer after two years of planning and it was the most amazing vacation ever!

I need to go visit some of my long-distance friends. I haven't been able to travel on my own for so long (but now I can!), and I have several necks to hug in lots of states!

I should spend more time doing my devotions and quiet time. 

I can find the positive in any situation. It can be annoying (even to me...lol), but I just can't stand to dwell in the negative if I can help it.

I like to dream of being a school counselor. I'm starting my degree program this summer, and I find myself lost in thought about it sometimes. I love love love my job right now, but I can't wait to be a counselor.

I make the best of every day I've been given...or I try to!  Every day is such a gift, and I want to live it like that. 

I always feel so lucky. God has been so good to me, and I just feel blessed to have been given my life back. I don't want to take a single moment for granted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Slice of Life: March 9th, "For the Love of Flowers"

Today I made a quick trip to the new grocery store by my house. They have a very dangerous display near the entrance: fresh flowers. Every time I go, I have to look, and half the time, I walk away with at least one bouquet. It's a little out of control, I admit, but I just can't say no to a bundle of joyful color for $4.87! 

If I had unlimited money, I would have fresh flowers in every room of my house during all seasons of the year. I would also fill my classroom with them. There is no quicker, easier way to brighten a room and lift a mood than beautiful flowers!

This bouquet is headed to my classroom tomorrow! And, yes, it will look very nice next to the other vase of flowers I brought on Monday. -sigh-

I also saw a display of these gorgeous potted indoor plants and had to have one (only $5!). It's pink and polka-dotted! Perfect for the window in my classroom...

I just love the speckled look the leaves have!
At my old house, I had the perfect sun room for growing an herb garden. Since moving, I haven't had the time to get my little garden going again, but I think this may be the year. I've got the urge to plant some seeds and nurture some young plants to life! There is just something about flowers and gardening that feels so right this time of year!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Slice of Life: March 8th, "Commitment"

"Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you."  

I've thought about commitment today. My kids turned in their journals and blogs for the first time today for me to check through for Slice of Life. Some had written everyday, but some were a few days behind. As I encouraged them to catch up and check back with me on Thursday, I was so happy with the reactions. Instead of sour attitudes or excuses, most of the students looked squarely back at me and said, "It'll be done."

I was so proud of them.

I know how it is during Slice of Life about a week into the challenge. This is my third year and I've seen a lot of kids throw in the towel. The time between the 7th and the 15th are the biggest test to their commitment levels. The beginning is exciting, but by now, it's getting hard. But if they can make it halfway, usually, they have got it in the bag. There's something about having 15 pieces of writing done already that makes it harder to give up on yourself!

I thought about ways to help them make it to the halfway mark today. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but mostly it comes down to commitment.

And I think I saw that in their eyes today.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Slice of Life: March 7th, "Peeling Back the Layers"

Most mornings I get up and go on a walk with my Dad and my dog, Yadi. We start at 5:30. It's the perfect start to my day. After about 20 minutes of walking, when we've woken up, my dad and I talk about life and the things going on. Most of the time, I think about our conversations or about my upcoming day.

This morning was the first one in which it was warm enough to walk without all the normal things I bundle up in on chilly Missouri mornings. I usually have on at least three layers everywhere, including my head!

Today with only a little headband on my ears, about 10 minutes into the walk, I noticed everything seemed loud. My pre-sunrise brain wondered, "Why? Why is everything so noisy today??"

Well, you guessed it. It was the fact that I could actually hear without all the layers covering my ears! I didn't even realize before today that I was missing out on anything!

Here are a few of the sounds I heard for the first time:

the ting-a-ling of someone's wind chime,
the sound of our feet on the pavement,
the jingle of my dog's collar,
the "good morning" song of some friendly little birds,
the wind moving the dry leaves left from autumn,
the cars from the nearby highway...

It made me think, "I wonder what else I miss everyday because I'm not listening? Are my ears "covered" to the sounds of joy or sadness or need in the voices of others, of my students?"

I hope not, but I'm sure I miss a lot. A lot of important things...

I guess I'm still working on peeling back the layers.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Slice of LIfe: March 6th, "Saying Goodbye...to a TV Show"

Tonight is the night I've been dreading and anticipating in equal amounts. Some of you will understand, and the others will ask obliviously, "What?? What is Downton Abbey?"

And I will feel sorry for you, friend.

Downton Abbey is (a few hours from "was", so "is" while I can...) a PBS period drama that captured my attention 5 years ago. I came a little late to the party. Season 2 was about to start, and while fighting the flu, I binge-watched the first season online. The seasons are short: only 8 or 9 episodes a year, spanning 2 months from January to the beginning of March. For those of us that love it, those episodes are looked forward to for 10 months and over too fast.

Today, sympathetic slicers, is the last episode EVER, the last chapter we will be privy to in the lives of the much-loved Crawley family and their household staff. Tonight, it is over.

It is hard to say what I will miss the most...the heartfelt stories, the well-developed characters, the gorgeous settings, the enviable costumes, or the attention to historic detail that is beyond what I've seen in any previous TV show. It is truly a work of art and amazing storytelling.

I feel like my favorite series of books is about to end and I am about to read the last chapter. It's hard to let go of the people I've come to care about, despite the fact that they are the figment of someone's imagination.

Maybe that's what makes it so special, really: despite the fact that these characters are imaginary, they have come alive to so many of us through the years. We've laughed at, cried with, and most of all, related to the stories and people of Downton Abbey.

I'm hoping there are a few slicers out there who are also Downton Abbey addicts and can relate to this post. It's a sad night.

To the rest of you, I can only hope that one Christmas Santa leaves you the complete boxed set in your stocking. Actually, come to think of it, I wouldn't mind that gift either!

Happy last episode, fellow Downton fans!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Slice of Life: March 5th, "Spring, I Heart You!"

Around my friends, especially at school, I'm known as the the fall and winter addict. I adore my warm blanket scarves, boots, chunky sweaters, and fuzzy gloves. The first chill of fall makes me want to sing Christmas songs. I can predict snow days with a simple sniff of the air. While everyone else mourns the loss of sunlight, I see fires in the fireplace, hot tea, and a coziness that can only be found on a cold winter day. Usually, I never want it to end....

This year, though...wow...

Spring, you've stolen my heart.

You bring your warm breezes, cheerful sunlight, and patches of green grass to my door today and I give in. Please, please, please stay!!!

I have no idea what's different, but as I went for a walk this afternoon, taking in the warmth and early beauty of the season, I harbored no bitterness for being cheated out of a cold, snowy winter.

On the contrary, Spring, you are welcome here!

Fill up the streets with color! Paint the backyard in shades of green! Let fresh flowers replace the monotone color of tree branches! Cool breezes, be replaced with the warm touch of sun on our faces.

It may not have been the long, hard winter we were all expecting, but Spring, you are a happy sight nonetheless.

Next year I will be just as excited for fall and winter, I know, but for now...

Spring, I heart you. I really do.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Slice of Life: March 4th, "A Friday Night Underestimated..."

I underestimated this Friday night.

I often lump this night in with the rest of the weekend, the time when I'm working on to-do lists, getting things done that I don't have time for during the work week, and, of course, relaxing. Lesson plans, meal plans, outfit plans...all of these happen on Saturday and Sunday. My slice would fit nicely on my weekend list. It's just that...

Well, not on Friday nights.

Friday nights are different. Friday nights are for movies, watching the DVR, and laying in my pjs with nothing to do. Fridays nights I'm TIRED. Too tired for lists or much else.

I forgot to add that in when I "planned" to do my slice tonight. It seemed to make sense that I'd get to it after school...then after dinner...then...as I'm about to fall asleep sitting up, I remember! My slice!

Oh...my slice....

So, in keeping with my "goal" for this year of writing about something from that day and not letting my memory do too much wandering into the past for more interesting moments to tell you about, here's my reality this Friday evening:

pjs
robe
fuzzy socks
warm puppy
quiet tv
lots of pillows
soft light
droopy eyes

I'm really sorry. I totally underestimated my Friday night. Next week, I promise to find a moment earlier in the day before my brain checks out. Today, though...

Goodnight!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Slice of Life: March 3, 2016 "New Journals, New Energy"

Today I had a special moment with my 4 writing classes. The journals that the school bought them for their Slice of Life adventure arrived. I watched while my kids who love football, softball, cheer, music, video games and just about every other interest you could imagine RAN to the front of the room to quickly grab the color of journal they wanted...

For writing.

Some people may not realize the significance of that, but they're not teachers. Anytime a sixth grader chooses to write, wants to write, challenges themselves to write for any amount of days, much less 31 days, it is a small middle school miracle.

I watched them today, reflecting on the third year of my own Slicing journey. I wondered what motivated them, and I imagine it is similar to what motivates me, however separated we are by decades of years.

They want to be heard.

They want to reflect.

They want to be challenged and succeed.

They want to prove they can write 31 pieces, to others and to themselves.

OR

Maybe they just want pizza, cake, and a t-shirt...

But, you know what? It really doesn't matter. Because even if it is for the pizza, they will still feel all those things at one point in this month.

I and others will listen to them, they will reflect, and they will succeed. And 31 days later...they will feel that feeling that has become addictive for me after 3 years: pride.

Even today, just 3 days into the challenge, I heard them whisper to each other, "What if we don't get to do this next year? Do you think we could start a petition so we can do Slice of Life again? I hope I can do this every year!"

It's enough to give this writing teacher chills.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Slice of Life: March 2nd, "A Quote That Hit Home"


I finished a book last night (What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan, for my teacher friends--a great read!). I've been working on it for awhile. Usually by the time I get to read, my eyes are already closing as I fall into bed, and I'm lucky to make it a few chapters. Nevertheless, this quick-paced, English mystery about a child abduction held my attention until I often feel asleep with the book on my face! Last night as I reached the end of the book, one of the narrators looked back on her journey in the book with these words:

"What I know now is that...I should simply have been grateful for what I had. I should have celebrated my life as it was, imperfections, sadness, and all, and not forensically examined its faults." --What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan

When I read these words last night, I dog-eared the page, certain that I would want to look back at the quote again, possibly to blog. Lots of books have great quotes, but this one struck me. I identify with it in so many ways.

My life has changed so much during the last year, for the better. For those of you that don't know me, two radically successful brain surgeries have allowed me to go from wheelchair to mobile again. My life was effectively given back to me after an 8-year fight with a debilitating, progressive disease. With my recovery just a few months old, I find many reasons to be thankful this March.

And, yet...so many reason not to be thankful, if I allow myself.

I could list a dozen things that haven't gone my way lately, some of them pretty big. It's just that I choose not to.

What this author was expressing was a regret at not just rejoicing in the small things, the imperfections...life as it was, not as she wished it to be. This resonated with me, because of all regrets that I could have at the end of my life, this is the one I fear the most, perhaps: to have not lived life to the fullest as it was given to me, but instead to have spent my days wishing for what I do not and cannot have. 

To me this is one of the saddest things of all. Dreaming of a better life is one thing, but living each day looking at faults instead of blessings is another issue entirely. This book and this quote were excellent reminders of this promise I've made myself.

To live. 

Live with gratitude.

Live without regret.

Live with love and kindness.

But, mostly, to live, while celebrating the beauty of life, not focused on what I would change.

So far, for me, it has proven to be a happy, joyful place to be...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Slice of Life 2016: March 1st, "Nurse Yadi"


Seriously...seriously...the FIRST day of March and I get sick?! This is not the day of "Slice of Life" festivities that I'd imagined and planned! But then this is supposed to be a literal "slice" of our life, right? So, here's the slice from my day...as undesirable as it may have been!

The day actually started pretty normally. I even walked 3 miles this morning with my dog, Yadi. I dressed, drove to school, and was in the throes of my morning prep in my classroom when it hit.

I'll spare you the details, but let's just say I, my co-workers, the janitors, and my future sub, I'm sure, were all very glad I have a trash can right by my desk.

Anyway, my short day ended on the couch, alone with a trash bag-lined bucket, watching the morning news shows with droopy eyes and a fever.

Blech.

What a disappointment.

I'd planned to give my kids who've committed to slicing this year their final pep talk, but what I got was an unexpected nurse on my unwanted sick day.

Nurse Yadi.

Here is Yadi a few weekends ago, chilling out in shallow stream while we hiked around a local National Park:
Yadi is a Golden Retriever who will be 2 years old in April.
Today I got to see the different side of Yadi that shows he may be growing up. He squashed all of the remaining puppy-crazy in his little heart to be beside me ALL day. Here are a few pics I snapped in between the, uh...difficult moments of the day.
Staring up at me..."Are you okay yet, Mom?"
After sleeping until 2:15, I finally got up to let this poor baby out to go to the bathroom. This is him refusing to go out. I think his sweet eyes say, "Not until you feel better. Now go back to bed, Mom. I'm fine."
(But then I was running a fever...but, still, I'm pretty sure that's what he was saying! ;)

Laying on the couch with me, warming up my cold toes
I couldn't have asked for a better nurse today.

I'm sure many of you have a furry friend that has taken care of you when you've felt down or sick, and I'm sure they should get awards, too. But today, Yadi wins. He was the faithful, sweet, and gentle friend you hope for when you get a new puppy.

As sweet as it was with Nurse Yadi today, I hope I get to come to school tomorrow. I'm over this March-sick stuff! I mean, come on!! It's Slice of Life month!