Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 31 of 31- Truth and Theory

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

Truth: I have put off writing today. 

Theory: I don't really want to write my last post. 

In a month where I feel pulled in about ten times more directions than I have limbs, the SOLSC has provided a refuge for me. Sitting down to slice, to comment, to connect has been sacred time for me since around March 10 when life starting to change at a breakneck speed. I have worked to keep the focus of my slices NOT about COVID-19, but it has crept in. How could it now? 

One of my daughter moved home on March 11. She left an internship and a great set-up outside of Boston. While I am happy that she opted to take this semester off from college--she would have been a senior, and this is a terrible senior spring-- but living home and working remotely is a challenge, even to my most disciplined daughter. 

Another daughter, my oldest, was laid off, and to say I'm worried is an understatement. I was supposed to get on a flight next week to visit her, as she is 2,000 miles away. I sent her a package yesterday. 

Bear with me. I have four daughters. 

My third had to cut her semester abroad short. It was the part of college she was the most excited about. When she knew she had to come home, she texted, asking if she could get a puppy. Not a chance. That was just less than three weeks ago. We now have a puppy. 

And my youngest is a senior in high school. She knows where she's going to college. That's a good thing. And maybe pass/fail is a good thing for her, too, knowing how hard AP Calculus is. But I don't think the reality of now graduation, no senior prom, no captaining the tennis team has settled in on her. I'm not looking forward to when it does. 

There's my mom who is by herself. She will probably be reading this, and she knows I'm worried and guilty that I haven't been calling enough, being there enough, doing anything enough. 

And then there's work. That's all I have to say about that. 

It's a time when I want so much to do enough and there's no way to do that.

And slicing has just let me connect. Just let me carve a pace that's been like a bubble in an unpredictable and unsettled time. Thank you to all of you who have read my posts, commented on my posts, shared your own stories with the community. I'll slip into the weekly routine, and it will be enough, but the everyday connection has been more important during 2020 than in any other year. 

Truth: I don't want to sign off on this post. 

Theory: I don't have one. I don't need one. I've explained, and I know you understand. 

Be safe, be well, stay connected. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 30 of 31- A lesson from my dog

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

Bringing a new puppy home is exciting, and also nerve-wracking, especially as one considers the other canine friends in the house. 

When we pulled into our street with our new puppy ready to get out of her crate and the car, we made a plan about how we'd introduce her to Okie, our three year-old lab. We were sure he'd like her, but we weren't so sure of his initial reaction. 

"I'll go in first," I said. "He can sniff me."

It reminded me of bringing a new baby home to older siblings. I always wanted my older girls to know I still loved them.

Okie sniffed me. A lot. And then Julia followed, and he sniffed her a lot, too. Cecily got the same reaction. Maybe by the time Clare walked in with the puppy, he was sick of sniffing, although that's never happened before. He wasn't nearly as interested as we thought he'd be. 

After some supervised facetime (in real life, that is...), we brought the two dogs out on to the driveway. It was still warm enough to sit outside, and four of us sat down in a circle as the puppy (whose name is now Winnie) got bolder and bolder with her new housemate, Okie. 

We describe Okie as the dog who'd be the captain of the hockey team if he were a person. He's always up for anything, sometimes a little rough, usually somewhat over-enthusiastic. He loves other dogs, but his first reaction is hackles up. He's not one to relinquish alpha status. Therefore we were all surprised at his apparent indifference to Winnie's overtures. He was much more needy of our attention, which we gave him. 

I was proud of Okie. He was dealing really well with a surprise, and just as I started to relax, he gave us all a surprise of his own. Okie walked over to Julia and lifted his leg on her, just like she was a fire hydrant. 

Julia can move fast, and she did. Her sweatshirt was off in a split second. And we all had a good laugh. And now it's been a few days and the two dogs are hilarious together...

But here's the thing-- Okie has NEVER peed on a person in his life. He is not a marker. He's neutered, and takes care of his business outside and he has since he was about Winnie's size. 

Sometimes even when dogs look okay, when they are trying to present as if they're dealing and holding their own, they might be more stressed on the inside than we realize. They don't always act like themselves in those situations. They might even say or do things they'd never, ever normally do.

We can learn a lot from dogs. Just saying. 

Hang in there, everyone. We'll get through this. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 29 of 31- Ways to make writing harder

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

This morning's post will be be short because it's a little harder to write this morning. There's a distraction, although I don't yet have a name for her. Final name nominations are due in our house at noon, and you are all welcome to contribute. 

She bounces around, sort of uninterested in the toys that arrived in the Amazon box (that we opened with gloves) and much more interested in the hair scrunchie she found on the floor or the computer wires that she's discovered behind me or the pile of books with apparently tasty pages. 

Every now and then, she comes over and jumps on me, sometimes on the keyboard. The last time she did this, my writing disappeared, and I don't know which key she hit. At least I have Control Z, so I was able to get it all right back. 

Writing is hard enough without a puppy in your lap (or chewing on your slippers). 

May you all be happy, healthy, and safe today, this final Sunday of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 28 of 31-The declaration and benefits of a silent walk

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

After a long day, I agreed to go for a walk with two of my daughters. We drove to the walking trail, parked, and talked about how lucky we are that walking trails are still an option for us. Julia had been in meetings with her college soccer team, and many of them are not allowed in public places including fields, parks, trails, etc. 

Julia took off running, as planned, and Cecily and I headed along the trail. Our plan was to walk for twenty minutes and then turn around. Within about ten minutes, maybe five, maybe less but I think I made it at least five, we were angry with each other. I suggest. She ignores. I repeat. She ignores. I repeat (some might call it nagging). She reacts. You can probably get the picture. 

"I really need a peaceful walk," I said, as our conversation deteriorated into hostile recollections. "No more talking."

She said one more thing, and I bit my lip, allowing her the last word. Silence would be okay. 

And that's what we did. She hung back a few strides behind, and I didn't turn around. I just kept walking. For a while I stayed angry. I tried that breathing thing we do in yoga. Maybe it really did help because I got calmer. And then I noticed the good things along the walk. In Connecticut, the governor opened the fishing season early to avoid opening day crowds. We passed the pond and the brook alongside it where people were fishing, ten feet apart. Some were fly-fishing. As I walked by, a man pulled in a fish from the covered bridge he was standing on. In the early evening light, the fish flopped but shimmered, before the fisherman closed his hand around the fish to unhook him and release him. We circled the pond where I used to go to swim as a child, and I thought about how big it was when I was seven. Swimming across it was a huge goal. Catching frogs on the far side, away from our parents on the sandy beach, was a privilege since we were miles away in our small-child-perspectives. I wondered about the small-child-perspectives, as I've been doing a lot these days. What will children remember about this time when they are twenty? Thirty? Sixty? Eighty?

By the time Julia showed back up, I wasn't angry at all. She walked the last five minutes to the car, bringing conversation back to the outing. Maybe we'll do it again tomorrow. Maybe we won't argue at all. Maybe we'll just call silence right out of the gate and enjoy the reflections of a quiet walk. 

Slice of Life 2020: 27 of 31- A little like bacon

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

A whole lot has changed in a short time. When I texted Clare on a Wednesday that I thought she should consider coming home from her semester abroad in Central America, she was furious. By Friday, her college was closing. On Saturday, she was on a plane home. When we booked her flight, she sent me a text. 

Can I get a puppy?

I showed it to my colleague, Dena. We laughed. We laughed harder at Clare's next message:

Can I get a fish?

That girl. She could at least keep her sense of humor, and I was guessing those messages were through tears. 

Clare's been strategic since she's been home. She first shared pictures, lots of pictures, of cute puppies. She'd help pay for it. She'd train it. She'd deal with the first week of all-nighters. She got me on board. 

She made elaborate spreadsheets and talked to breeders from all over the place. She checked references and spoke to vets. She asked about distancing and how breeders were dealing with it. 

We've been having nice family dinners and when my husband was on a second beer and we'd had a lot of laughter, we brought it up with him. We got him on board. 

So yesterday, instead of spending the day on a screen, I spent the day in the car, and we went and picked up Ziggy. We planned on a boy, but she was the only puppy left without a deposit-- we're good. We took the girl. 

It's easy to fall in love with a puppy. Even our 3 year-old lab seems good with it for now. And if Ziggy cried last night, I didn't hear it since she was in Clare's room. 

I might think this was a really bad idea in a week or so, I texted to my friend, Amy. 

No, Amy said. Puppies are like bacon. They make everything better. 

Welcome to the family, Ziggy. 

PS Dena loved this story the most! 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 26 of 31- A morning routine

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

This morning I woke up early as I always do. Instead of reaching for my book as I've been doing for the last couple of weeks, I got out of bed, headed to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and took a shower. I got dressed-- leggings and a favorite sweatshirt-- an outfit I might wear to school on a casual day. It would be borderline. 

At the bottom of the stairs, my dog jumped up to greet me. He does that. He's always happy to see the first person downstairs in the morning. The wood floor was cold, even through the socks on my feet (I decided to forego slippers and instead plan for those comfortable Steve Madden sneakers the girls gave me for my birthday) and I turned up the heat. I turned on the coffee, set up my favorite mug with a little bit of milk, took Okie outside, fed him. 

And now I sit writing my slice and making my rounds with comments, my coffee beside me, my dog watching and hoping I'll finish soon and take him for a walk. The neighbor who also walks circles the end of the cul de sac, her sneakers flashing. I don't know her name yet, but in different circumstances, I know I would.

A normal morning, a routine. 

Sort of. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 25 of 31- What was in my inbox

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

"I think you should just start a classroom," I said in a virtual meeting with a few teachers who were wondering about SeeSaw and how it works. 

"How?" they all wanted to know. 

We went to the website and walked each other through signing up.

"We're just going to sign our students up now?"

"They won't know what to do...."

"And WE don't know what to do..."

Drafting, I suggested that we all be each other's students. That way, everyone would get to see both what a student sees and a teacher sees. 

"We'll be each other's no-judgement zone," I said. Although, I have to say, if there's ever been a safe time to make mistakes, it's now. 

As we ended the Google Meet-up (I'm still not sure what the right expression is for that), we made a plan to meet again on Monday. 

"One of you needs to set that meeting up," I said. "That way you learn to do it."

Everyone was silent.

"You guys," I said, "you got three invites from me for this one because I did the first two wrong."

That got them braver, and one of them went to her calendar with us guiding her along. 

In tonight's inbox, I have both my invitation to Monday's meeting, into three SeeSaw classrooms, and an email about how excited they are to be learning and playing together on this platform. 

I have to keep reminding myself for my sanity's sake that there are some good things...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 24 of 31- Teaching my mom to use Zoom

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

"You can do this," I said to my mom. "We can get you hosting a virtual cocktail hour with your neighbors using Zoom."

From my office two towns over, I could envision her jaw tightening. I really hoped this would work. 

"Get your computer, though," I said. "Not your phone. It's better on a bigger screen."

I held on as she got her laptop open. It's actually a fairly new Air, and it's fast. I didn't think it would be tough to get started, but I had to coach her through opening Chrome and not just her email. Once she was on Chrome, I sent her a text with the link to the Zoom meeting.

"I can get texts on my computer?" she said. 

It took a little time to get her down to the toolbar where she realized that the speech caption and three dots was the icon for texting. It took a little more time to explain how she could open a message. I had time. We'd get this. 

Once she opened the Zoom invitation, the fun started. She got on, and her face showed up on my screen. (Her jaw was tight.) I smiled at her, and she smiled back. (Her jaw loosened up.)

"Look at you, Mom," I said. "You're in a Zoom meeting."

By having her share her screen and sending a few pictures over texts, I was able to help her navigate how she too could do a few tricks in a Zoom meeting. After about ten minutes she was done, though. 

"So you have homework," I said. "Keep practicing texting on your computer, and send me an invite before you come for dinner."

I didn't get an invite. Maybe she's reading this post, though, and maybe she'll be inspired to send me a text message from her computer. 

Here's the thing. My mom's a smart person, and I had a lot of time to help. I even figured out how to do some screen-sharing and help her through. There are a lot of teachers with some big learning curves ahead of them. Some really big learning curves. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 23 of 31- A bigger slice than usual because I can't sleep

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

I don't think this is going to be a slice of life right now. More like a wedge of life because for the last hour I've been awake in bed (and it's now 3:07 a.m., and I'm still awake) thinking about the things I could do to have fun through this pandemic which doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon. 

Yesterday, we found many ways to have fun and connect within and beyond our family. We met Amy, my best friend and sister-in-law, at her yoga studio, and the five of us helped her live-stream a 75 minute yoga class on Facebook. I was in charge of some of the tech glitches in case there were any, and a few minutes into the class, I had a text message from our friends in Barcelona to please send the link. Throughout the class, I could watch who was joining, and there were at least fifteen people who were there for the whole time. I don't know if they were practicing, but they were there! How cool is that! And when I looked at the feed later, she had almost 300 views. 

Later, after a google hangout with a couple other curriculum writers, I experimented with Zoom. I texted a few fourth-grade teachers to see if anyone was available to try something out, expecting maybe one of them. Within a minute, three of the four were ready to go. The fourth was annoyed because she was unavailable and called me later. She was hiking and couldn't join us...but she wanted to hear all about it. The four of us met on Zoom for almost an hour laughing, sharing stories, and thinking about what would make the most sense for students as we move their writing lives forward. They agreed to a recorded "talk show" where I asked them questions about their feelings on social distancing, pro and con. Our "talk show" will be a mentor text for students when we get going on this on-line learning thing. 

And then, after some in-person time with my family, my high school friends and I met up on Zoom with all of us playing around with our virtual backgrounds. Sue showed up from Vermont with the Austrian mountains behind her, and she inspired us to put ourselves in all sorts of other places. That was a prelude to the virtual salad bowl game that brought together five households (three in Connecticut, one in Boston, and one in Denver) and my daughters connected the computer to the television set. You can read more about it on Larkin's post, if you like. It was a pretty gutsy way for her to introduce her new boyfriend to the extended family, especially since it was after eight, and some of us might have been drinking. 

So I've already written more than a slice. I did warn you if you need to reread the first line...

As I type here, and it's now 3:21, I am swirling with the ways some of this lends itself to teaching and creating play and connections for students. I am envisioning morning meetings with virtual Boggle boards. There must be virtual Boggle somewhere, and after I finish this slice, I'll research that if I still can't fall asleep. I have some grammar games that would work for silly morning meetings, like everyone think of a sentence that starts with an adjective. Ready? Go. Type your sentence in the sidebar. And don't forget your capitals and end punctuation because I won't get excited about your sentence unless those rules are showing up... Maybe just do a quick drawing of something you did today and get ready to share it. Ready, set, draw. Let me know when you are ready... so many possibilities, and that's only the tip of what I've been thinking about as I haven't been able to sleep.

Those are the fun things, and I'm not going to share the worries. Instead, I'm going to limit my slice, go look for virtual Boggle and research Zoom and what premium memberships cost now for educators. I'm also going to try to go back to sleep, so if anyone knows about those memberships, feel free to share in a comment. 

Have I mentioned how much I am valuing the community of slicers? Now more than ever, all of these connections are feeding my soul. Thank you. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 22 of 31- The Mystery of the Sports Bra and the Space Heater

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

I was on the phone in my office when my daughter came in, looking around. She came around to where I was sitting and looked under my elbow. Then on the floor. 

"Hold on a sec," I said into the phone. "What's up Julia? What do you need?"

"Have you seen the sports bra that was on the arm of your chair?" she wanted to know. 

The person on the other end of the phone, a mother of two boys, burst out laughing. "That would never be said in my house," she said. 

"I put it on the stairs to go up," I said. "I couldn't figure out why there was a bra on my chair."

"Did you not notice it was damp?"

I held my tongue, although I wanted to know even more why a damp sports bra belonged on the arm of one of my office chairs. 

"And did you not notice that the heater was on?"

That I had noticed. When I sat down in the chair for my call, the heater was cranking away, as it had been earlier in the morning when I was in there writing. I figured that I, in my less and less with it state of mind, had left in on. (I've been doing things like that. Anyone else?)

She walked out and grabbed the bra from the bottom stair, and I returned to my conversation, having a good laugh over the solved mystery of the sports bra and the space heater. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 21 of 31- Theme-based Nightly Dinners

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

"I think we should start dressing up for nightly dinners if this is going to continue," Clare said. "I have all these nice clothes and dresses in my closet that are getting no attention."

We've been managing to keep the routine of nightly meals, and all being together is still a nice thing, so she had my attention. 

"Maybe we could have a theme for each night," Julia suggested. 

They started cracking each other up thinking about various ideas.
  • Animal night: dress as an animal and no silverware allowed
  • Rock stars: instruments and playlists are encouraged
  • Nineteenth century night: inspired by someone's post on Facebook about the importance and wiseness of gloves in society
You get the idea. Under their decree and random number generator for who gets to decide on a theme first, I am the first decider, and my decision is due by noon. Any suggestions? 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 20 of 31- It's Surreal, But Also Very, Very, Real

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

How is it that it's almost 7 at night, I feel like I've been on my computer all day writing, and I still haven't hunkered down to slice? My usual pattern is to slice first thing in the morning, and these days all patterns seem to have dissolved. 

I keep hearing so many comments about the surreal feeling that's out there. Yes, there's that. But, it's not only surreal. It's real, too. There's the school element, for sure, and people are working and thinking harder than many ever have before. And there's also the financial piece. My oldest daughter called last night on her way to get laid off and on her way from being laid off. Not a conversation or an experience I'd wish on anyone. My sister-in-law who is also my best friend has temporarily closed her yoga studio. Tomorrow I will teach her how to use Zoom to stream a class. I want her business to survive. My brother's brand new office for weight loss is going to struggle, although I'm feeling like I may gain at least ten pounds from the extra alcohol I am consuming and the cookies my youngest daughter keeps making. 

"You've got this," I heard myself say over and over to my daughter when she was crying on the other end of the phone, over 2,000 miles away. "You'll get through, and you'll be okay."

As the Friday night sky darkens in front of me, I'm thinking about how so many of us are reinventing ourselves, and seeing how quickly we can pivot in a world that is changing  faster and faster and faster. I'm drinking my beer. I don't usually drink beer before dinner by myself. (It's usually wine.) I'm slicing. I don't usually slice this late in the day. (I've said that already.) Like so many, I'm adjusting, reinventing, and pivoting. And I'll be okay. And so will the people I love. I just need to keep remembering that. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Slice of Life 2020: 19 of 31- Happy Birthday, Julia!

March is for daily slicing, and all are welcome! Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

For all of my years of participation in the SOLSC, my March 19 post has been dedicated to my second daughter, Julia, who is 22 today. It's a tough day to have a birthday this year, but there have already been several tough days, and there are going to be several more. Not too many parties happening right about now. At least it's not her 21st...

We don't have presents for her today. She asked for the registration of her summer soccer league as her birthday gift. We are all wondering whether there will be soccer this morning. While she won't be unwrapping gifts, I'm taking her on a ride past friends' houses, and they are ready to sing in the rain and hold up cards and posters. She has good friends. We'll make her cake. We'll play games. Maybe if the rain lets up, we'll take a birthday hike. It's supposed to clear up a bit this afternoon. Maybe we'll pay a visit to a favorite on-line website. I have a feeling her current #1 is Urban Outfitters, but we'll see about that. 

This girl. 

Wow, I love her. 

Happy birthday, Julia. We'll make it as good as it can be!