Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#sol15 March 31 SOL: It's a lot like a lacrosse season

As I sat in the nearly empty stands on a cold, windy, springtime afternoon, watching the game, I remembered how fast time flies,   Not that long ago, I spent many slices of my life sitting in the stands, sometimes roasting and sometimes freezing.  Not so long ago, my son, the coach, and his cousin, the other coach, were tossing lacrosse balls around the yard amidst warnings to, "Watch out for the windows!" Perhaps it was the memories of little boys grown into men or perhaps it was the shivering or perhaps it was the lopsided nature of this sporting event; whatever it was, it was hard to keep my mind in the "game." 
I reflected on how their daily practice hones skills and makes every move come easily, just like daily practice does for writers. 

I reflected how feedback from coaches and parents fueled their passion and supported them over the rough patches of the game, just like it does for writers.

I thought about those rough spots, the games that were lost, badly, and the tough seasons.  I thought about how coaches make a difference, just like they do for writers.

I thought about how it gets easier, the more you play, the more you practice, just like it does for writers.

I thought about how not every game will result in a victory, some post will be so-so or even boring.

I thought about how a little play can make a big difference, just like a little idea can spur great writing.

I guess you could call this an event-to-event connection.  The SOL challenge is much like a lacrosse (or baseball, track.....) season filled with supportive coaches, great memories, new friends, and new "ideas."  While the SOL Challenge is a short season, its intensity reminds us of what  our children need to grow as writers.  It reminds us that everything we do, see, hear, and smell has the potential to be a post - if we let it! 

I thank Stacey Shubitz, Anna Gratz Cockerille Betsy Hubbard, Beth Moore, Dana Murphy and
Tara Smith for sponsoring this season and the ongoing weekly practice sessions I will be part of all year long!  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

#sol15 March 30 Carpe Diem

Facebook must think I need some help remembering what I have done.  This morning, out of the blue, "they" posted a pictures from my trip to the Botanical Garden two years ago today!  I must admit it sent me for a loop for a minute; however, it really was a nice memory.  It was a wonderful spring day and the smell of new life was strong.  I remembered the promise of Good Friday mass later that afternoon at St, Patrick's Cathedral.
That picture led to wonder....what was I doing last year on this day? I did a quick check (thanks to writing every day in March) and the memories as well as the tears, came rushing back.  It was a day of immeasurable sadness as we learned that cancer had taken a colleague from us and from her young family. There were words (but no images) reminding me of the support and kindness from colleagues throughout the district.

Then, I did another quick blog check and found out that three years ago today, I wrote about my sister-in-law, my "mentor" in mothering and marriage.  She did not tell me what to do, she showed me. She showed me how to put a Sunday dinner on the table for 15 people in 20 minutes without having a breakdown.  She showed me how to recycle stale bread for hungry teenagers. She showed me how to do a butterfly bandage and avoid a trip to the ER. She, like my colleague, were not granted the privilege of growing old.

Then, because my mind sometimes wanders down a scary path, I began to wonder if Facebook trolls and cookies had looked at some posts and "passed them over" because they were not quite as "happy" or perhaps because they did not contain flowery images.  Life is made up of all kinds of memories that etch our hearts.  Today is a gift, with all its warts and bruises, and a bit of snow this morning! So, as they have said for centuries, Carpe Diem!

#sol15 March 29 Waiting for a break in the action

I should have guessed this was coming.  Lots of people have had it.  Yet, I'm ready for this spring-cleaning-catching-up-break.  My list of "things to do" is long and  I want to "do" them.


It started with a dry cough late last night as I was trying to figure a way to help those stuck on our local windy parkway in a spring snow storm. There was nothing I could do to help them or to stop the cough.

It was clear in the middle of the night that my cough had turned into headache, chills, and a scratchy throat.  I did an Airborne or three, felt better, and went back to be. There was nothing I could do to stop the inevitable.

As I type this morning with hot tea (with lemon and honey) in hand, it is clear to me that there is nothing I can do to stop this cold that probably was lurking for weeks waiting for a "break in the action."  However, I will aggressively treat it with Airborne.  I will drink lots of hot tea.

This will, hopefully, be "here-today-gone-tomorrow-smart" cold.  While I sip my tea, I'll ponder how how a cold virus with no brain and no education can be so smart!  That just might be the answer that will turn our schools around!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

#sol15 March 28 Celebrating Breaks

This morning, as snow swirls outside my window, again, I'm celebrating breaks. We all need them.  Most of us need to work at finding ways to take breaks from jobs, the homes, commuting, family, and the busy pace of life for kids as well as for adults!.

1. Seriously, this was my view as I left my driveway yesterday, for the last day of school before spring break! I know I am not alone when I say I need a break from this snow.  It has been a winter with deep teeth that will hopefully give way to sunshine, daffodils and crocuses.

2. Seriously, our kids need a break, too.  We really work hard in school; all of us work hard in school!  I am pretty sure we all are working harder than ever before.  It's amazing and wonderful that kindergartners are reading and writing and learning and working all day long.  They are indeed like sponges and it is a joy to watch them grow.  Yet, they need a break along with those kids who will be soon facing the testing season.  If you have kids on break, I hope you give them time to get good and bored!  Let them clean out their sock drawers and read all the old books in their rooms!  Let them explore the yard in their boots and look for sights of spring.  They need a break!
not a real photo
3.  Seriously, I had already celebrated her birthday on Sunday!  Then, her caregiver asked if I could stop by on Monday (her real birthday) to celebrate, again!  I could have said I was busy; however, the short break to celebrate 92 really did bring smiles.  Whether you are 2 or 92, you should always take a break and celebrate!

4. Seriously, I am not going "anywhere" this break.  I have a house in total disarray. My "peeps" have appointments.  I need to get to the dentist and finish the taxes.  I need to shop for a few spring things (or at least sweaters in light colors given the weather).  Yet, as I play catch up THIS break, I am very glad that I went wild and crazy in Arizona on the last break!

Life is short and today (even with its snowy start) is a pretty wonderful day even if it wasn't (but it is) the first morning of Spring Break.  I will (MOST LIKELY) not have a spotless house and an organized life at the end of this break; but, I sure hope I will take breaks and celebrate life every chance I can this Break!

Friday, March 27, 2015

#sol15 March 27 I am "approaching standards"

Sometimes, the "apps" and "icons" line up to teach us lessons we need to learn - even if we don't want to learn those lessons! Today was one of those days for me.

I've always love school and learning. but I am one of those who needs to work hard to be a "pretty good" student. Today, I found out how it feels to be "close" but not good enough!  Today, I saw words pop up on the screen that were clearly not words of congratulations!  Today I felt like I let down my teacher, my peers, and me.  Here's the sad story of my performance during the Google Educator test.

The first few participants taking the Google Educator online test passed with flying colors sharing their grades of "91, 92, 84...." Then, at the last minute as everyone was packing up, I finally hit send. To be honest, I was confident I had passed.  I use Google Drive all the time.  I felt like I knew many answers even without looking them up.  The ones I was not sure of, I went back and tried out the questions in Docs, Forms, or Slides.  Those questions that challenged my experiences were Googled or "Quizzletted."   In my case, despite my confidence and much to my dismay, I failed.  Not by much, just 2 points, but I still failed and that is exactly what it said on the screen!

After the initial shock wore I was driving home....I became reflective...and introspective....and realized this happened for a reason.  I needed this reminder.  Test taking scores are not always indicative of proficiency. Sometimes we are not prepared and sometimes we are "cocky."  Sometimes, we are approaching standards but not quite there.  The good news is that I can take the test again.  The good news is that I will not be kicked out of school.  The good news is that my "mom" will not see me as a failure or question if this will impact my ability to get into Harvard. The good news is that I am reminded how it feels to be "approaching, but not at, standards."

The bad news is that next week, during my "vacation," I'll be studying and retaking this #)%(&%#)(& test.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#sol15 March 26 Kodak moments?

"Kodak moment," has a clear meaning to me!  There used to be Kodak moment signs suggesting picture-taking spots.  When families gathered, we arranged ourselves for the best possible "Kodak Moment."  I grew up in the days when taking a "pic" meant placing a flash cube atop a box camera. Today, my photos live in the clouds.  

I saw the influence of Kodak's empire in the naming of buildings when I visited it;s hometown just before their empire took an abrupt turn thanks to their embracing the digital camera!

I haven't been back to Rochester in a long time and I haven't really heard anything about Kodak!  I guess I "assumed" Kodak was fading like an old photograph!  Then, I saw this posting on Twitter linking to a NYTimes article about Kodak!(thanks S)

Quietly, up on on the Rochester tundra, the company's glory has faded. The layoffs have been mighty.  Yet, there are a few hardy souls working with "nanoparticle wonder inks," or sensors that can indicate whether meats or medicines have spoiled.  I did a quick Google search and determined that while a full understanding of such particles alludes me, they " have a wide variety of potential applications in biomedical, optical and electronics."  Thus, while it's a long shot, with a lot of ingenuity, and a small miracle, there may be a few more moments for Kodak.

TO learn about photos back in the old days

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#sol15 March 25 Connecting slices

Long ago, 
She slept over,
(Stayed up much too late)
I knew her pizza, Chinese
I knew her little girl concerns,
Wishes, hopes, dreams.

She's slicing
Late at night
(No surprise there)
I know her commute,
Her daughter, drawers,
Her English-teacher
Shared passion for words

Of toddler hugs and car-challenges,
Of a young-family,
Filled with energy, enthusiasm,
Bursting with busy
Glimpses back into a world
I vaguely remember.

I've long known
People connected and reconnected
Over slices of pizza, lasagna,
Slices of  pie, chocolate cake
With spoken words,
Stories told, retold.

 I'm now sure
People connect
And reconnect
Over written slices,
Like T and I (have),
Shared snippets of diverse
Stages of living
Still filled with challenges,
Wishes, concerns and dreams

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#sol15 March 24 That Pesky Check Engine Light

My ol' Focus had one that just would not quit. Even when the car was just a babe under warranty, you'd go over a bump and the ol' check engine light would pop up like a new penny on the dark dashboard.  At the dealer, they would say, "We reset it.  It should be fine now."  But you know what would happen in a few days (or weeks or months).  Sooner or later, it would be back!  Every time we came to the mandated inspection, we took her in to the dealer and had the light reset.  Then, until we went through the pearly gates of the inspection station, we held our breath!

My old Jetta had one of these pesky lights, too. This time it was not an idiopathic problem; instead, there really was a recurring clog in the diesel particulate filter, a particularly (pun intended) disgusting, particularly time consuming, and particularly horrible job according to the guy who was doing the repairs (my husband!) At least, thanks to improvements in at-home-car-repair-software. we could do this reset at home.  Still, inspection season brought angst because you still can't do your own at-home-inspection; thus, we held our breath until the new sticker was attached to the windshield.

This winter, another pesky light has besieged our family and prevented a car from getting through the dreaded mandated inspection. The light was reset, then came back as those pesky lights so often do. Even though we realized check-engine-lights are not weather determined, they are quirky and this quirky light seems to bounce back when it was wet, rainy, snowy... We checked the Accuweather forecast and determined the short window through inspection before the next storm.  We all held our collective breath. The text message was simple, yet, so happy. it almost jumped off the phone.

She passed.
Light's still off 
364 days of peace,
Then, we'll fret,
Or trade.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#sol15 March 23 What do you do, at 92?

In a condo, in the suburbs
Aunt Gert is Rockin' 92,
(see the Friendly's Celebration roll?)
The 9th of 10, born on a farm,
The lone survivor
Of her clan.
No spouse, no kids.
Scattered nieces and nephews,
Friends have been lost,

She eats less, 
One meal at noon,
Some crackers for supper,
But loves her jelly beans, Hershey kisses,
Maple walnut, mint chocolate chip, 
Ice cream.

She sleeps more,
But, she waits up for me,
On Fridays, past 6,
Our date-night,
Setting up the pills,
Pricking her finger, her INR,
Every week we try to guess,
Pretend we are in Vegas.

She savors snippets
About Yankees,
Movie stars, gossip.
Of great and great-great
Nieces and nephews,
She spends her days with  
Ava, Liz, Grace,
Reruns of Law and Order. 

If I grow old,
Become home bound
If  life tries to pass me by,
I hope I will be graceful, peaceful,
Hopeful and gracious,
like Aunt Gert.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

#sol15 March 22 I can hear you!

"I changed the batteries, turned up the volume, but she just can't hear anymore," her caregiver observed back in January.  "The TV is up to 25They can hear it next door!".

So began the winter odyssey to hear, again. Betsy, the miracle worker at Hearing Solutions, is local two days a week. Sometimes, it snowed, or it had snowed, or the cold was record breaking, or the ice was too much for the wheelchair. Make an appointment; then cancel,.  So, I waited until the first day of spring. Surely, we'd be easily able to get out, I foolishly thought.

It started snowing as I arrived and I really thought she would say, "I'm not going out." She had not been out since November!  Instead, she sheepishly asked, "Do you think we can make it?"

"Let's go," I smiled as I put her jacket around her and pulled a blanket over her lap.

Fifteen minutes after we arrived, we headed to the car talking in normal decibels.
That was thirty seconds after I promised to come back for a tune up in 3-4 months.
One minutes after Aunt Gert said, "Thank you so much," to Betsy.
Two minutes after we put on her coat.
Three minutes after Aunt Gert laughed and said, "Crackling oat bran."
Four minutes after Betsy, checking the hearing asked, "What did you have for breakfast?"
Five minutes after she said excitedly, "That's better, I can hear you fine."
Six minutes after Betsy said in a normal tone, "Let's see how this works."
Seven minutes after Betsy put the adjusted hearing aids back into her ears.
Eight minutes after the hearing aids were on the computer being re-calibrated.
Nine minutes after Betsy checked out the hearing aids.
Ten minutes after Betsy said, "No problem."
Eleven minutes after Betsy took the hearing aids out while listening to us.
Twelve minuets after we explained the problem.
Thirteen minutes after Betsy said sincerely to Aunt Gert, "It's good to see you."
Fourteen minutes after we took off her winter gear and blankets.
Fifteen minutes after we arrived in the snow.
Twenty minuets after I "bribed" her with Optimum Showtime Movies.

Hearing Aid Specialists in Yonkers and Yorktown Heights, NY

Thanks Betsy for what you do so well!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

#sol15 March 21 Hawking's Celebration

I stumbled on this wisdom, again,
Looking for a dry cleaner stub,
In another black hole, my purse.

The connection,
More than coincidence.
The wisdom,
More than chance.

If you are lost,
Look, seek, hope
In the heavens,

If you are alive
Work, give, share
Your Gifts, whatever they may be.
Make a difference,

If you find love,
Work, give, share
Hold on tight,
You are indeed have something to 

Friday, March 20, 2015

#sol15 March 20 Someone needs to self correct

Dear Mother Nature,
      We have a problem  As you can see on the weather map, above, there is snow, sleet and freezing rain expected for today!  In fact, at 6:45, according to each of the weather forecasters I consulted, we are assured snow.   In case you didn't get the message, "We're done with winter and ready for spring."  
     According to calendars and Google, today is your Spring Equinox!  You know what that means: the day and night are the same length and spring begins!  We did not want nor do we need any spring snow to keep the slopes open for another day or two.  We've had enough snow, cold, and ice.  We would like to feel your sunshine on our backs.
     As a literacy specialist, I tell my students that self-correction, or noticing that something does not make sense and fixing it, is an important reading strategy.  I'm certain that you will be very proud of yourself if you can self-correct this little glitch in our weather map.  I encourage you to look at your forecast and to self-correct while you still can. 
One of many faithful, weather watcher, who thanks you for your snowy-stay-home-from-school days most of the time but now is sick of snow and ready for spring
March equinox illustration

Thursday, March 19, 2015

#sol15 March 19 Where do stories come from?

"Have you thought about your story?" she asked me when we talked on the phone preparing for our play date.

"Of course, I'll have a story," I answered quickly thinking that in fact I did not yet have a story in my mind, but hoping I could, once again, as I am "famous" for doing, craft a story out of the events of the day and the characters in their lives. "I always do," I assured my play date. 

To be honest, there are time when I have worried that my stories will not be good enough.  Often, I can't remember the last one.  But, my girls can relate details that amaze me.

Lately, there have been more fantastical tales of princesses living in castles with moats that spurred the inventions of swimming and ice skating.. Lately, we have included more than our share of Disney Princesses in tales of family members whose names are vaguely familiar, like Auntie Anna (a merging of Frozen's hero and their Auntie).  

In the beginning, I think, they were more realistic tales of little girls eating dinner, playing and brushing their teeth, but to be honest, I can't remember for sure!  To be honest, I have wondered if soon they will not need/want my stories.  Yet, something happened last night that assured me I had planted seeds that will last until we are sharing stories of teenage angst!  .

"Do you have a story," she grinned? 

"I'm working on it I offered," I'll be ready by bedtime!  

"Well, then let me tell you a story," she offered, clutching her new yo yo in her hand.  Without awaiting my response, she began,"Once long ago, there were these princesses....."

I'm not sure I remember all the details of this story either; however I can assure you I held in the proud-happy tears as she certainly would not understand my crying over a wonderful happy tale of a princess with a magic yo-yo.  

She knows the best stories come from seeds of our lives.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#sol 15 March 18 Someone Else's Moccasins

You've likely heard the Native American saying that you never know what "stuff" another is dealing with until you have walked a mile in others' moccasins.  I often think of those words as I "glimpse" into the windows of this writing community.  I marvel at the way people cope with so many of life's stresses.  It's clear there are concerns, joys, and chores on our plates as we struggle to find moments to write about small moments!  

I was thinking about (all of) our piled up "stuff" as I sat in a retreat, in a darkened church, in the middle of the week.  I had two zillion things to do, papers to grade, and power points to review; yet, I gave up one hour at least initially for my own petitions and prayers. In the quiet, I watched the pile of petitions seem more manageable, without fully understanding how that was happening.  I listened to my stomach quietly growl and realized I would deal with each the best I could.  It was clear, as I sat there, that I am not alone on this journey.  None of us are.

Sometimes, we miss "moments" as work, homework, housework consumes us. Sometimes, family consumes us. Sometimes, it's health concerns, or money, or loneliness. Sometimes, we balance the demands like a great conductor and the music is tremendous, for at least a few moments.  Sometimes, we celebrate and other times we mourn. Sometimes, we dance with joy and other times we writhe in worry.  Sometimes, we forget to tell others how much we care; other times, we wrap our arms (even virtually) around others.

Often, as I read and as I write, I remember that my own "moccasins," as worn, tattered and as ill-fitting as they sometimes are, these are the ones I am, will be and should be wearing. One step and then another.  Not alone on this journey.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

#sol15 March 17 Corned Beef - Once a Year

While everyone is Irish today, I'm 50% Irish all year through! Like most everyone (who remembers),I will wear some green. I'll think about those who take off from work to attend the big parade in NYC.  I'll think about those who will be celebrating late into the night.  I'll laugh about leprechauns with my first graders! 

Like many, I will cook and eat corned beef and cabbage (even though I could live without it) because that is what you are supposed to do, on St. Patrick's Day, right?  Yet, it's hard to find a good cut of corned beef (although Moseys is the best around here).  It can be hard to cook and sometimes comes out stringy or whimpy after cooking to long.  Sometimes, it's a bit salty.  I use a lot of mustard and throw in lots and lots of carrots to make it work.  If it was up to me, we'd have a kale salad with lots of Irish soda bread on the side and call  it a day.  However, my 100% Italian husband really likes corned beef! 
Once, long ago, when I was trying to get out of the work/stress associated with the cooking/eating corned beef ritual, I did a bit of research!  Corned beef really isn't Irish, I found.  It's as American as apple pie! In fact the idea of a parade is American, too.

Irish settlers came up with the idea of a parade in NYC (1762) to celebrate their growing numbers.  There were lots of Irish immigrants arriving here and they brought their traditions, like Irish soda bread. In the NYC delis, immigrants learned to love (and then to cook) corned beef stretching it with a few potatoes and lots of cheap cabbage!

Corned beef became a cheap, easy to prepare, American classic quickly.  In 1862, Lincoln even served it at his inauguration dinner and we know he wasn't Irish, or was he?