Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crisis of Confidence Averted and Some Heartfelt Thank Yous - #Slice2012

I'm going to make a disclaimer as I write this final slice: I am watching all the Final Four basketball games; currently the Kentucky/Louisville one.  I'm hoping that the phrase, "And one!" doesn't accidentally appear in my writing (a little joke for any basketball fans that might be reading this post).

I enjoy writing, but this past year as I got out of the practice, it got very difficult.  I began to have a very large crisis of confidence about myself as a writer.  I had written exactly 30 blog posts and 1 Choice Literacy post between the months of April 2011 and December 2011.  I'm not sure that's even an average of four posts per month.

Life kept getting in the way and my inability to jumpstart my own writing plans got worse.  As with anything I keep putting off, the longer I went without writing, the harder it became to sit down with a notebook or my laptop.  Nothing positive was happening.

 Then, in November, I got a glimmer of the writer within me when I found out I would be attending a writing retreat this summer.  But July, the time of that retreat, seemed so far away.  What was I going to do NOW?

And then in February, during the Dublin Literacy Conference,  I heard Ruth Ayres speak, and she spoke so eloquently about how we need to live the life of a writer, and that means simply, we need to write.  We need to make time to write each and every day.  As an aside, one of my favorite posts of Ruth's during the Slice Challenge was her post titled, "B.I.C."  Like many others, I assumed she was talking about the pen, but no, she was talking about "butt in chair".  That's what she needed to do to meet some writing deadlines.  Ruth's talk inspired me and I knew it was time for me to try the Slice of Life Challenge.

 When I originally thought about this post, I assumed I would be listing my final reflections about this challenge.  But, as I typed, I realized what I really want to say is, "Thank you."

Thank you to:
 Ruth for her initial inspiration
Kelli for telling the truth, the good and the bad, and doing it with such great voice
Linda, who spread her positive attitude, even while dealing with issues of her own
Katherine because I realized we have so much in common and you introduced me to Daufuskie Island
Cathy for every single thoughtful comment she left for each of us; she helped me grow as a writer
Cindy for typing even while on meds and amusing us all
Julie for all the thoughtful posts about family and being that "old lady" in the fun sports car
Jen for being brave and trying a fiction piece
Nicole for being the kind of teacher that "shows" her students how big a blue whale is
Josie for starting a blog just for this challenge and sharing a love of literacy, kids, and family with me
Carol for sharing the heart-wrenching and joyful story of how she became a family with her two sons
Mardie for being such a determined biker chick
Stacey who loves her daughter so much and it shines through each of her posts
Mandy who is in the middle of assessing 44 kindergarteners and still found time to post each day
Katie D for sharing her love of teaching first graders
Michelle for being my model/mentor for writing poetry; because of you I tried it and succeeded
Ann Marie for writing so beautifully about teaching an adult to read
Laura for sharing my love of Delirium and Pandemonium (how soon can she write the 3rd?!!)
Elsie for writing about the flirty pansies and how we're still parents no matter how old our children are
Deb F who missed me on twitter but still stopped by to leave me comments while I was slicing
Bill, my blog partner, for letting me highjack our blog for the month of March
Everyone else who stopped by to keep me company these last 31 days.
I couldn't have done it without all of you.
It really did take a village to help me become a writer again.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Knit One Purl Two and the Slice of Life Challenge

With the challenge ending after tomorrow, I find myself reflecting back on this month and what I've learned about myself as a writer.  Today, when I walked by my bag of knitting, I had a slight aha moment as I thought about the connection between my knitting learning and my writing learning.

A few years ago, I took up knitting again after a long absence.  When I was young, my mother was a knitter and she taught me the two basic stitches -- knit and purl, but it had been a long time since my muscle memory had performed those stitches. 

And then an opportunity presented itself -- our local yarn shop offered classes of different skill levels, and I decided to take a year-long class called Block of the Month.  Each month, this small group of knitters gathered with our instructor (a dear friend), and learned new stitches to create a 12 x 12 inch knitted block.  After twelve months of knitting, we would be able to stitch these twelve unique blocks together to make a small blanket.

Each month Michelle, our instructor, taught us the new skills for the month, and each month I felt like a klutz with ten thumbs.  None of the new stitches came easily for me.  And when those around me seemed to master the new skill so easily, I was both envious and humbled.  But no matter how frustrated I was, I persevered, I practiced, and I got better with each knitted stitch.

*  *  *  *  *

Fast forward to the Slice of Life Challenge this March.  I accepted this challenge, knowing that I had some basic writing skills, but not sure if my writing muscles would remember how to put it all together.  There were days when I felt like I was all thumbs when typing: nothing came naturally, there was no flow.  There have been many times I've read other slicers' pieces, and I was both envious and humbled.  So much talent has been on display each and every day.  And writers were tackling all types of new genres, and doing so incredibly well.  But no matter how inadequate I felt on any given day, I persevered, I posted each day, and I felt like I got a little better with each slice I wrote.

Please check back for my final reflections on the Challenge tomorrow.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Club Poem - Slice of Life Challenge

I have attended two different book clubs in as many nights.  I value the time I spend with both of these groups on so many levels.  Where else can you gather and manage to talk about books, solve all the world's problems, laugh until your sides hurt, have a favorite beverage, and eat amazing food?  I am so fortunate to be part of both of these groups, so I am dedicating this attempt at a poem to all of the women in my book clubs.

Book Club

smart women sharing
and reveling in the power of words
gathered round a table or counter
brimming with goodies to eat and drink
 joined together by love of books

 equally content
to address personal matters
or share how we might run the world

 collecting great titles
for future reading
the books and the companionship
both hold equal value for all

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From Ohio to Jackson Hole and Back -- Slice of Life Challenge

While on vacation, I started telling my saga of moving to Jackson Hole and leaving the teaching profession.  There were some requests for me to finish the story, so this last week of the challenge seems like a good time to do so.

When I got to Jackson, Wyoming, the only job I could find was waiting tables at a restaurant (translated: a dive) called The Elkhorn Cafe, a place that was opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Many ranchers and locals frequented this eating establishment, and it was also a favorite spot for hunters in the fall.  I was a fish out of water when it came to being a waitress, but a job was a job.  I eventually transitioned from the ranching and hunting crowd to the skiing crowd when I took my not-so-highly-refined skills and became a waitress at a restaurant located in the Jackson Hole ski resort.

That job didn't last very long at all.  The second week I worked there, I dropped an entire tray of surf and turf orders.  I guess the good news was I didn't have to pay for the food and plates I destroyed; the better news for both the owner of the restaurant and me was that I was assigned to the hostess position the very next day.  It would seem that I had a much better skill set for that job -- I just had to be able to politely greet our customers; no balancing or coordination required.

However, as gorgeous as Jackson Hole was, it didn't take more than two months there to realize that I really did want to be a teacher and work with children.  One of my roommates was from Salt Lake City, and she was going home for a weekend in early November, so I decided to accompany her.  While there, I called the Granite School District (the school district that encompassed all of Salt Lake City at the time) to see what job opportunities were available.  Much to my surprise, they actually asked me to interview that weekend, and offered me a teaching position on the spot.  I accepted but with the caveat that I would finish my "ski bum" year in Jackson, and start teaching the following year.  What a bold and brash request that seems like in retrospect, especially in these times when jobs for teachers aren't always readily available.  Believe it or not, the school district agreed to hold a job for me until the next year.  I was so thrilled to know I would be teaching again, but also very happy to know I would still get my time in Jackson.  I think that's what is popularly known as having my cake and eating it too.

So after ten more months of fun and games in Jackson (learning to ski, getting frostbite, climbing the Middle Teton, becoming a tram operator /tour guide at the ski resort in the summer, living in a cabin with no running water, learning how to 2-step, and dating a cowboy, just to name a few things), I moved to Salt Lake City.  Much like my first job, I was given the job of special education teacher in a middle school, and I was teaching in a closet at the top of the school's auditorium.  Even with these similar circumstances, teaching just felt right this time.  I grew a lot as a teacher during my short tenure teaching in Salt Lake.

Fast forward two years, and I made my way back to Ohio -- the heart wanted to come closer to home.  Guess what my first job was in Columbus while waiting for a teaching job to be available?  That's right -- I was a waitress (and I still stunk at it!).

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Letter to My Calendar - Slice of Life Post

Last week, Linda did a fun post with letter writing.  It's 11:09 PM, I still haven't posted for the day, and her letter has been a little tickle in the back of my brain.  Hopefully Linda knows that I borrowed her idea because it just works for my purposes today.  Thanks for allowing me to use your text as a mentor.

Dear iCal,

Last week you were so peacefully quiet; you didn't have a lot to say.  Thanks for taking a break and allowing me to catch my breath and get some much needed restorative time.  It was very appreciated!

However, as this week began, I couldn't help but notice how many warnings you were giving me.  Did you miss me last week?  Are you making up for lost time?  It makes me happy that most of your dates allow me to gather with friends I haven't seen for awhile, but gosh, you sure are keeping me busy. 

Monday, you made sure I got my nails done and then helped me remember to meet the two students who won my teacher time raffle from the GRE Meltdown for dinner.  Tuesday, thanks for the reminders to go to the library to pick up my teacher collection (50 books!!) for our empathy study, and then head to the movies to meet my yaya friends for The Hunger Games.  Wow!  I am so thrilled you made sure I made it to the movie - it was incredible!  Then, if it hadn't been for your help, I would have forgotten to go to the grocery store on the way home to get the food necessary for book club at my house on Wednesday.  That's right - one of my book clubs is meeting at my house on Wednesday right after school.  Without your warning, I might forget to leave with the kids tomorrow, so I can get home to do final touches on food and beverages.  Oh my gosh!  I forgot to do the laundry from vacation; maybe I need to add that to your list as well.  I obviously can't remember it on my own.  Then I noticed on Thursday, you're telling me I have yoga followed by my other book club.  I might be a little late for the latter.

Whew!  What would I do without you this week?!!  Thanks so much for being there for me, but more importantly, thanks so much for your quiet last week.

Talk to you soon,

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Day Back - Slice of Life Challenge

As we did our Monday share in both language arts classes, it was so entertaining and enlightening to hear all the ways my students unwound and relaxed over spring break.

  • played in an AAU basketball tournament and won the championship on the last shot
  • went to an indoor water park in Ohio and spent hours enjoying all the water slides
  • saw the Hunger Games movie (surprised by the number of students that fell in this category)
  • returned to our school after doing horse training with her mom the last three months in Florida
  • numerous sleepovers (or as our classes call them, stay-up-overs)
  • shopped
  • played video games
  • read
  • visited New York City and even got to see the wolf diorama at the American Museum of Natural History that was featured in Wonderstruck
  • traveled to spend time with relatives, both far and near
  • played in a soccer tournament
  • watched movies at home
  • many hours spent playing outdoors in the beautiful weather in Ohio last week
  • many hours spent watching the NCAA basketball tournament
  • visited COSI and the Columbus Zoo 
  • skiied in Colorado
  • visited DisneyWorld for the very first time and got LOTS of autographs

My take-away from all these shares is how critical it is to remember what interests my students have outside of school, what they care about.  Monday share is a great vehicle to do just that.  Hopefully, my students have come back to school as rested and rejuvenated as I have.  Looking forward to a great last nine weeks with these two groups of 5th graders!!

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Drip Castle How-To -- Slice of Life Challenge

Sometimes I take for granted that everyone has the same frame of reference and background knowledge as me.  I know, I know -- I'm an educator, I should know better!  I so appreciated how many people stopped by for yesterday's post about sandcastle dreams, but what I didn't expect were how many questions people had about drip castles, something I took for granted.  So, before I start the massive laundry job and grocery shopping needed for today, my post today is a how-to for drip castles (I guess I wasn't quite ready to stop sand castle dreaming!).
**Disclaimer: There are other strategies, far more active and intricate, for how to accomplish this feat; this is just a time-proven way for the Terleckys. :)

Drip Castle How-To

As the tide edges backward
position your beach chair
on location the waves 
just inhabited

Now plop
down into that chair
make sure you have 
good access to reaching
wet sand with your hand

Time to scoop:
gather fistfuls of wet sand
in the palm of your hand
turn hand at 90 degree angle
let wet sand slide out 
of your hand 
and drip back onto the beach
drip, drip, drip

Formation of sand 
takes awhile
each castle artist 
 has own style
plan on spending time 
with feet dug into the sand
soaking up the sun's rays
listening to the waves 
moving further away
drip, drip, drip

 As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sandcastle Dreams - Slice of Life Challenge

As you're reading this, I'm probably somewhere between Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Dublin, Ohio.  Much like a week ago, my bags are packed and I'm ready to go (home this time).

But, as I'm heading back home refreshed, rejuvenated, and relaxed, I want to leave one last post about this amazing week at the beach.

As I was walking on the beach Wednesday and Friday, I was struck by how many sandcastles were being constructed.

When I saw the sandcastle in this first picture, my initial thought was the girl building the sandcastle was trying to trap some of the hundreds of jellyfish that came to the beach during high tide this week and then stayed.  But, when I stopped to ask if I could take a picture of her castle, I found out she was trying to save the jellyfish.  As her mom told me, she is always trying to save the world, one creature at a time.  I loved her outlook on life - I thought that jellyfish were a nuisance and a pain to have on the beach; she saw them as creatures of the earth who needed protection.  I hope she has that passion for living things her entire life.  She has sandcastle dreams.

The other thing that I loved about her sandcastle was that it was a "drip" castle.  Wow, did that bring back some great memories.  My husband would build drip castles with our daughters for hours when they were young, just sitting in his beach chair by the ocean, getting a pile of really wet sand, and dripping it into a castle shape.  Drip castles will always have a special place in my heart; they are part of my sandcastle dreams.

The second sandcastle I saw was my kind of castle -- the kind that doesn't require an architecture degree.  It was dug out, built up and then had the sand mold shapes on top of it.  I watched two families with their young children build this one.  Their children were so happy and busy as they built, after the adults had dug the original holes for them.  I'm betting they will have happy dreams about the sandcastle they constructed that day.

So, now I have to say goodbye to the beach for a while, but my mind will be full of sandcastle dreams for quite some time to come.

 As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Daufuskie Island Adventure - Slice of Life Challenge

I had an amazing experience today - I went to visit Daufuskie Island, an island right next to Hilton Head, only accessible by boat.  The fun part about this - it would never have happened if Katherine hadn't commented on one of my posts that I really should try a unique restaurant on Daufuskie Island, Marshside Mama's.  I value Katherine's opinion, so I started investigating how to get there, and from that, a plan emerged.

From the moment I stepped onto the dock at Daufuskie Island, I knew it was going to be a special experience.  It was in no way a hustle-bustle kind of dock; rather, the only boat unloading was my water taxi, and the occupants were a husband and wife coming to plan the building of their house on the island, a man from Atlanta coming to spend a long weekend at his house, and me.  At the end of the dock, our transportation awaited.  We would all be leaving in golf carts.

My boat captain, Captain Jim, handed me a map of the island and off I went.  It's hard to describe how absolutely "away from it all" one is while on Daufuskie.  From the time I left the dock until I saw the first golf cart that someone else was driving took almost five minutes.  And when people did pass me, they waved and said hi.  When your vehicle can't go faster than 30 mph, that's relatively easy to do.  I have no idea whether I was passing other visitors to the island or islanders themselves, but that feeling of a small community was ever present.

Using my map as a guide, I puttered around all the different parts of the island, stopping from time to time to either take a picture or to check out a historic site.  I've decided to do a partial picture travelogue to help the reader experience some of the special sights I saw today.

This is Haig Point, the first part of Daufuskie Island - this is my view from water taxi

Marshside Mama's restaurant

My view while driving my golf cart

The beach!!

An eagle's nest on the road to the beach
Mary Fields School where the author, Pat Conroy, taught the Gullah children of the island for 1 year. His room was on the right side.  To read more about this experience, read his book The Water is Wide.

I started this journey when I wanted to try to figure out how my husband and I could have dinner at Marshside Mama's based on Katherine's suggestion, but it morphed into so much more than that.  It became that one of a kind day that I will hold dear to my heart for a long time to come.  I'm so grateful to Katherine for putting an inkling of an idea in my head, and then answering follow up questions as I got more and more intrigued.  The power of our slice community is pretty amazing, and extends past the boundaries of just who we are as writers.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Passing the Baton for Slice of Life Challenge

I headed to our blogger dashboard to get my slice of life post ready for Thursday, and I saw that my blog partner, Bill, had posted a slice of life about his son, Steven.  Being such a thoughtful blog partner, he had it posted for April 1 so I could continue with my slices the entire month of March without any distractions.

But I read his post, tears welling up in my eyes, and I knew I had to let Bill have a bigger audience.  So today, I'm passing the baton to Bill and this incredible piece about his son.  He's a very proud papa, and after you read his slice, hopefully you'll understand why.

And as far as meeting the requirements of a daily slice, I'm counting this introduction to Bill's slice of life as my writing for today... :)

For all of you who were left hanging with my writing from yesterday, I promise I will come back and tell the abbreviated version of how I went from knowing I shouldn't be a teacher and moving to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to celebrating almost 30 years of teaching at the end of this year.  Life is funny sometimes.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

One More Slice From Bill

As parents we do the best we can to raise our children to be well behaved, respectful, polite, have strong character. Every day we hope and pray that we choose the right times to teach life lessons. We try to balance the lessons with love and encouragement, we hope that we aren't too long winded. Through all of this we watch our kids grow and mature, we see signs of success and failure, we see our children turning into responsible young adults making good choices but still capable of youthful mistakes. My son Steven is finishing his junior year of high school, and speaking as a proud father, he is an amazing young man.

Steven is a volleyball player among many other things, but it's through volleyball that his mother and I have seen the strength of his character shine. He picked up the game in 8th grade, sort of on a whim after playing at church camp over the summer turns out he has a real passion for it. Steven has played many sports and done well at all of them, he is sort of a natural athlete and very coachable, but none of them sparked his interest like volleyball. He began focusing on the game and getting much better even played for a club team in the off season where he really developed as a player and leader.

Steven doesn't have the volleyball pedigree, no parents involved in the program, no older brothers paving his way to the high school program, no political connections to the athletic department at his high school. What he has is a work ethic and desire to achieve things. He earned a spot on the freshman and JV teams his first year and started for the varsity his sophomore year, no easy task at Hilliard Darby High School, a Central Ohio men's volleyball powerhouse. In the off season Steven was asked to play on the top team for his club, this would mean he was playing with boys a year older and stronger than he, but he looked forward to the challenge. Through it all, the lovely Mrs. Prosser and I stood back, offering advice when asked, observing and pointing things out as much as we could. Steven took it all in and grew, as a player, but more importantly as a person. He took great pride in the fact that all of the accolades he was receiving were due to his hard work and dedication, he got them the old fashioned way,
"he earned them!"

In February he began complaining about his back hurting after a particularly strenuous practice. We took him to a sports doc, who recommended a bone scan, which revealed a stress fracture in the L5 vertebrae. Diagnosis? Volleyball was over for between 8 and 16 weeks. Steven would miss the last two tournaments of the year with his club team and some if not all of the upcoming high school season in which his team is one of the favorites to win a state title. The lovely Mrs. Prosser and I were sad, tears were shed, anger vented. Steven on the other hand was strong, obviously there was disappointment and frustration, but throughout it all his character shone through.

He continued to go to practice, encouraging the young man who replaced him on the floor. This young man just moved to Darby High School from Virginia and just happened to play the same position as Steven. My son has a strong religious faith and instead of looking at Corey as a threat, he saw him a God's solution to the problem.

"That's why he had to move here." was his direct quote. As his coach said, "Heady stuff from a 17 year old."

We traveled to Penn State with the team in February even though Steven couldn't play, plans were made and it gave us an excuse to see Happy Valley. Steven was on the sideline all weekend, cheering, and encouraging, and laughing, and sending a positive vibe to his team. Never once did I see him looking sad or depressed even though on the inside I know he was wishing he was on the floor digging and passing.

School season has started, and Steven is attending every practice, knowing that he won't be playing at least the first week of games. He shows up and encourages. He helps another player with his homework. He makes the new players feel welcome and important. He has started his rehab and physical therapy, the fracture has healed enough for that. Soon he will go for another doctor visit with hopes of being cleared to play, but if he isn't able I know he will be fine, sad and disappointed, but strong because as I said before, he is an amazing young man.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From Ohio to Jackson Hole, Wyoming - Slice of Life Challenge

I was particularly moved by Julie's haiku about paths untaken.  It made me think of paths I have taken, which is what this post reflects.  For those of you who have heard my story before, thanks for understanding that Julie's post made me need to tell it one more time.  And I really enjoyed trying poetry yesterday, so I might switch to that format partway through this slice.

I graduated from Miami University in 1977 with two degrees in education; one was for teaching elementary grades 1 - 8 and the other was for teaching LD/BD (the acronyms back then stood for learning disabilities/behavior disorders).

My graduation coincided with the passing of the national PL 94-142, otherwise known as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  School districts were scrambling to comply with this new federal law, so a person with my degrees was in high demand.  I actually got my first job in the same district where I student taught.  I was put into a closet of a room where the only identifying qualifications to get there was a student must not be learning or behaving in their current environment.  No documentation necessary (wow, have have times changed!).

I'm sure you can imagine which students teachers in my new middle school wanted to "unload" into my oh-so-tiny broom closet classroom.  We had no space to separate behaviors or learning issues, and there were plenty of both.  It was a very tough situation and I didn't have the tools or the maturity to handle the situation I was given.  After many difficult issues throughout my first year of teaching, I realized that teaching was not the life path I was meant to take. 

So, based on very little information gathering, I decided to resign from teaching, take my paltry retirement fund (where was my financial advisor with that decision?!!), and move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I packed my bright yellow Buick Skylark with all my worldly possessions (there weren't many) and headed out west.

Jackson Hole Bound

Was going to live in Steamboat Springs
with a friend
but she decided her life challenge
would be to work on her relationship with
boyfriend in dental school

Might have hindered a typical person
but not me
still packed my car and headed out on I-80
to Jackson Hole instead
much to my parents' chagrin

They had just paid for 
four and a half years of college
what was i thinking??
nothing more certain in life than
a 20-something who is sure 
she knows best

Interesting choice
Lots of "didn'ts":
didn't have a job
didn't have a place to live
didn't know anyone there
didn't know how to ski
but I was sure this
was perfect decision for me

Even got sidetracked on first attempt westward
ran a red light outside of Chicago
totaled the other car
major damage to my own
luckily all individuals weren't hurt

Some people might have seen this incident
as a sign to change minds
but did that stop me
oh no!

Just a bump in the road
had to come back and live with my parents
until the car could be fixed
more opportunities to hear 
why this was the wrong choice for me
still left two weeks later.

Finally arrived in Jackson Hole
two days later
one of my first memories
the antler arches in the middle of town

Several "dids" happened that first day:
did find a job
did find a place to live
did find a roommate to share expenses 
(knew at least one person now)

Still didn't know how to ski

I may come back and revisit this piece later.  But sometimes the "getting there" is the hardest part.  Thanks for sharing my story with me.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My To-Do List Today - Slice of Life Challenge

I'll be quite honest, I was totally stuck about what I wanted to write today, and I found my mind wandering, thinking about what was in store for me today.  That's when I realized a to-do list poem might serve my purposes for today.  Bear with me -- I haven't written a poem, facetious or otherwise, in a long, long time.

My To Do List Today

look out the window 
while connecting with my slice community
at the same time
watching the sun rise
and people starting to migrate
to the beach
notice that someone built a huge sand castle
that I missed seeing yesterday
because I was playing golf 
seeing the waves roll in,
starting to attack the castle

time for a nourishing breakfast
still at my window
a book in my hand instead of my computer
eating, reading, 
watching the waves roll in

time for physical activity
first take my daily 
hour-long bike ride
so pleased with the strength my knee has
after last year's replacement
time does heal...
wonder if I'll see another
baby alligator today
back to the condo for a quick drink of water
then time to get closer to the waves
it's walking on the beach time
walking until I'm ready to turn around
this beach goes on forever
favorite music on my iPod
lyrical sound of
the waves rolling in beside me

food time again
lots of liquids
and a great sandwich
why does a typical lunch meal from back home
taste so amazing at the beach?
eating on our balcony
book with me; at a very exciting part
but still those waves catch my attention
I know they will be reversing their direction
it's low tide now

well fed
liquids restored in my body
time to lather up
SPF 30 all over
with my book, towel, and beach chair
it will be time to head out
to the beach
time for more reading, relaxing,
and watching the waves roll in and out

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Horse Races... On the Beach??? - Slice of Life Challenge

On Sunday, I saw something I've never seen in all the years of going to beaches anywhere.

My husband and I walked outside and down to our right, we passed two LONG rows of people in beach chairs, facing each other about 25 yards apart.  There were ropes in front of each group, keeping them in specific locations.  Each row was at least as long as a football field, maybe more.  About half-way down the row, I noticed many people wearing orange shirts, looking official.  I made the decision that these were the people who might be able to unlock the mystery of this whole scenario, so I went to talk to them while my husband waited patiently for me down by the ocean.

This is an hour before races began, when horse were first introduced.
Turns out that this was the day of the Tacky Horse Races.  Yup, you heard me correctly.  There were going to be horse races on the beach.  From my discussions with the orange shirts, I learned that the Tacky horse was a horse brought over from Spain to this area, and it became a workhorse for people in the Gullah communities.  I was never quite clear on why they decided to start racing them, but I was told that it happens in many places; this was just the second time ever that it occurred in Hilton Head.

But it must have been an event people embraced because when I looked at the fans lining the race course more carefully, I realized that all the women were wearing hats, and not just any hats.  Hats that were decorated with flowers, balloons, flamingos, and much, much more.  What a hoot!  They had come dressed for the horse races. 

One of the orange shirts told me that last year's crowd was 5,000-strong, and they were expecting even more this year.  They had held the race in February last year, but had to wait until low tide hit at just the right time, which backed them up until Sunday, March 18. 

The picture above was taken two hours before the horse races began; the crowd just got bigger and bigger from then on.  Because I was so late to the party, it was hard to find a good location to watch, so I wandered back to my beach chair and read awhile before the races.  Then, at 1:00 PM, I headed back to watch the first few races.  It was more fun to watch the people hooting and hollering than it was to watch the actual horses.

Not a typical Sunday at Hilton Head.  Horse racing on the beach... who knew??!!

First race, where one of the horses bucked halfway through.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Our View for this Week - Slice of Life Challenge

I've heard that a picture is worth a thousand words.  If that's true, I will be well over my average daily word count with these pictures.  They show the scenery my husband and I will be viewing this entire week.  The beach and the ocean tide at Hilton Head make me so happy (and watching the dolphins eating breakfast in the bottom right picture wasn't shabby either!).  I needed to make this post short because this is our first full day to enjoy everything this island has to offer.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Becoming More Like Nana - A Slice of LIfe Challenge

For almost three years now, I have developed an affinity for scarves of all kinds.  I was visiting my daughter when she was studying abroad in Spain and all the locals wore scarves in a variety of fashionable ways.  So when Kate and I went shopping one day, we plucked up scarves in a variety of colors and patterns.  When I came back to Ohio, I just wanted to wear them all the time.

And then a funny thing happened.  Not only did I want to wear the scarves because they looked nice, but I needed to wear them.  If I didn't have a scarf wrapped around my neck, I got chilled.  The feeling would bring back memories of my grandmother, Nana, saying to my dad, "Bobby, please wrap that sweater around my shoulders and neck.  I'm feeling a chill."  I realized I had become Nana with my chilled necks.

But, I really realized how much I was like her last night when we stopped for dinner at a Pizza Hut.  Our server brought out five packages of Club crackers with our salads.  Neither my husband or I wanted them since we knew we would have all the carbs we needed when the pizza got to the table.  I looked at those crackers, and then looked at my husband and said, "Oh, I'll just take those packets with me and have them with cheese tomorrow.  I'd hate for them to go to waste." 

And then I immediately followed that with, "Oh crap!  That is exactly something Nana would do."

It's true.  My grandmother was notorious for saving everything - she would take packages of sugar from restaurants, save tissue paper that presents were wrapped in, save the actual wrapping paper itself.  She just couldn't stand for anything to go to waste.

I have many, many fond memories of my grandmother, and last night at dinner, I crossed yet another line in becoming more like Nana.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Friday, March 16, 2012

All My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready to Go - Slice of Life Challenge

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go

I'm borrowing the first two lines of John Denver's song, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" as my husband and I get ready to leave for Hilton Head today.  There is so much anticipation and planning that I love about heading to a new destination.

First, I have to figure out what my activities will be for the duration of our visit and match that to the weather forecast.  That way, I know what type of clothes I need to pack.  Based on the current extended forecast, I will need golf clothes, walking/biking clothes, swimsuits, and a few outfits for the two or three times we go out to dinner.  Even though it will be beautiful where I live this next week, I am so excited about being outdoors from morning until evening.

Then, the most important things I pack are books and entertainment.  I read on Katie's blog yesterday how she felt so "plugged in", even while traveling.  I will be the same.  I am taking two Kindles, my original because it is perfect for reading outside and my Kindle Fire because I love the way the it feels and reads while indoors. I have many books already loaded on my kindle, and those are books I think my husband might want to read as wellso we can share books. I also have my iPod for walking and biking, and finally, my iPad for staying in touch with the world.

My husband loaded the car while I was at work this morning, but he complained about how heavy my suitcase was - I couldn't help wondering how we have been married for 27 years, and he still doesn't realize my suitcase would be full of books. :)

So we're on the road now, headed for great beaches to walk on, wonderful seafood to eat, many outdoor past times to pursue, and an opportunity to unwind, relax, and recharge my batteries.

My bags are packed, and I am officially on my way!

**composing this in the southern hills of Ohio - here's hoping it looks right on the blog. **

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflections at Half-Way Point - Slice of Life Challenge

Today is almost the half-way point of the Slice of Life Challenge, and it has me reflecting on what has happened so far.

I notice that I have written entirely in personal narrative format.  That is a comfortable place for me, and I'm not quite ready to leave it yet.  My thinking is that, as a writer, I am doing "calisthenics" to warm up as a writer before tackling something out of my comfort zone.

Though I didn't plan it this way, my posts are mostly reflective in nature, or sometimes humorous observations of myself.  Again, as a writer who is out of practice, writing about topics that are so familiar to me helps with my fluency.

I thought I would reflect more on classroom practices and happenings, but so far, there are only a few of those posts.  I could have extended my thinking on a few posts and applied the thinking to the classroom, but I didn't.  Not sure why.  Even the school topics I've posted haven't been deep thinking about my own teaching and learning.  They tend to be more typically about the community of our school.

Some days I have felt overwhelmed about getting a post done, but so far, I've managed to post something every day.  I'm chalking that up as a success after such a long drought of not writing at all.

As I read other people's slices, I am in awe of the writing talent that is on display daily.  These people are my writing mentors, and push me to try even more as a writer.

Finally, I'm a little sad to realize that, in 16 days, this challenge will be over.  As hard as it has been some days, the part that I cherish the most is looking at the comments of those people who stopped by on a regular basis to leave a comment, a suggestion, a thought, a kind word, a related incident, or an encouragement.  I have come to realize I love writing for an audience and having a relationship with that audience as well.  I cannot thank my online writing support group enough.  Knowing that you would be there, pushing me and encouraging me, really helped my development as a writer.

Thanks so much to Ruth and Stacey for creating the forum that has allowed writers to grow, experiment, expand, and develop.  Thanks for being part of that community as well!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I have a cold... AGAIN!! - Slice of Life Challenge

Anyone who has seen me or talked to me in the last five months probably remembers that I had a cold at the time of our interaction.  And most likely, your memory would be serving you correctly.  I feel like I have had one long, perpetual cold since November.  What's up with that?

Yet again, my head is filled with gunk, I am sneezing all the way from my toes, and my coughs sound like the seals at Sea World.  What an inopportune time to be ill; just a few days from spring break.  However, two days before getting to that finish line, there will be "the talk" with the 5th graders.  You might know the one I'm talking about - in our neck of the woods, we call it the Human Growth and Development talk.  The talk that has boys in one room, girls in another, and both of them watching movies that make them either very giggly or very nervous.

The entire week of the HGD conversation, the 5th graders get a little squirrelly.  If there was ever a time I needed to be on my A-game, this would be the week.  Yet, this cold has a mind of its own, and I am putting my two classes in the hands of a substitute I've never met tomorrow.  My hope is that he/she (job hasn't even been filled yet at the time I composed this post, but no worries) can hold down the fort for one day while I stay home to rest and recuperate.  And, even if I'm not feeling terrific on Thursday, I hope that just my presence (or threat to sneeze on them) will calm the masses until "the talk" begins at 3:00 PM.

Then, the next day my husband and I are headed to Hilton Head for a week.  I keep telling myself that certainly sunshine, fresh ocean breezes, and the ability to be outside for long stretches of time will certainly cure me.

My hope is that at our next interaction, you will remember that I was smiling and healthy.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Spring Pedicure - Slice of Life Challenge

Monday evening was the night for my spring pedicure.  I LOVE pedicures!!  I love everything about them, so all day long, I walked around in eager anticipation of this appointment.

But, when I got to the appointment, and sat with my feet soaking in water that was the perfect temperature, with the massaging chair doing deep rolls up and down my back, I realized that no matter how much I paid for this pedicure, it probably wasn't enough.  Especially when we're talking about the first pedicure of the season.

The first pedicure has to deal with the feet that have been "clothed" all winter in socks and shoes.  It also has to deal with the feet that have started to take exercising seriously - biking, lifting weights, walking, yoga, and water aerobics.  This pedicure has to take into account how my skin gets incredibly dried out in the winter.

So, as I sat in my massaging chair, trying to read the book I had brought with me, cold drink by my side, I got distracted by how much of my foot was being left behind on the towel and in the foot basin (I realize this could be TMI for some folks).  I watched as this darling girl shaped my toenails, and then tried to massage some moisture back into my skin, before applying the lovely color on the nails.

It was an amazing experience for me, and I loved every minute of it.  But after really noticing what happened during this pedicure, I really can't help but think that pedicures should be priced by how recently your feet have had any type of attention.  Once I'm in shape for the spring/summer, I'm good to go.  But this one... well, let's just say I tipped VERY generously!!!!!

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Monday, March 12, 2012

5th Grade Talent Show - Slice of Life Challenge

Gymnastics,  piano, violin, jokes, singing, dancing, Irish stepping, guitar -- those were some of the talents on display at the 5th grade talent show at my school today.  Much like our recent GRE Meltdown, it was so insightful to see facets of my students not normally on display in our day to day workshop routines.
I love that every student at every grade level at my school will have the same opportunity to shine in front of others with their talents.  Better yet, since we only get to attend our own grade level's performances, what a wonderful idea to have a student tape it, and then loop it all day through the video system so that others can watch when time permits, or in our case today, when there is an indoor recess.
Celebrating the well-rounded child -- I'm happy my school puts a premium on that, and we honor their talents in such a special way.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life Lessons I've Learned at Yoga - Slice of Life Challenge

Recently I started attending a yoga class once a week on Thursday evenings.

My yoga teacher, who is also one of my close friends, has some phrases that she likes to remind us of as we breathe, stretch, and strike poses.  Some of my favorites are:
  • Be present
  • Be grateful
  • Be aware
  • You should feel an awareness in ... (and she names a location of our bodies)
Jen, my yoga instructor, also recently told us that the best yogis are not the most flexible or the ones with the best meditation skills; rather, they are the ones listening to their bodies and minds and working at the level at which they are most capable.  Then, they take a deep breath and see if they can go just a bit further.

While all these are perfect phrases for me to concentrate on while doing yoga, I've noticed that they've spilled over into my everyday life as well. 

Be present - I'm trying to be more present in the moment, whether it is with friends, family, colleagues, or students.  I am such a to do list kind of person, and sometimes I need to stop, and enjoy the moment or situation that might present itself to me, even when it is not on that darn list.

Be grateful - Since this challenge started, I have read many posts of gratitude.  While I feel gratitude and generally have a positive outlook on life, there are those moments where I get bogged down in what could be instead of what is.  One of my favorite slices about this topic was Kelli's.  I need to be more like her, and take a situation that might be frustrating and try to find the grateful moment in it.

Be aware / feel an awareness - I feel like this is similar for me to the "be present" goal, because both are affected by that darn to do list.  I think about the colleague that came to me recently, and I was in the middle of doing something so I only listened at 50%. I should have been more aware that her visit to me was of huge importance to her.  I didn't pick up on that until much later.  I need to lift my head up, make eye contact, and be aware of what others are saying to me.

So, as I write this on Sunday, and I'm looking toward the hectic schedule of this week, the week before our spring break, I need to take several deep breaths and see if I can go a little further in the skills of being present, grateful, and aware.

Hoping your week is filled with much presence, gratitude, and awareness, as well.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Freshly Washed Jeans - Slice of Life Challenge

Today, as I was getting ready for school, I was hoping there were none of those hidden cameras getting footage for What Not to Wear on TLC, because I definitely would have qualified as an individual needing help from Stacey and Clinton!

Today was a Friday, so I knew I could dress down a bit and even wear jeans.  This is normally the easiest day to dress for me because of how comfortable I feel in a comfy sweater and my jeans.  But then when I went to my closet, disaster struck!  As I was looking at my jeans, I realized they were all freshly washed.  If you are like me, a closet entirely full of freshly washed jeans is not a good thing.  Where were the ones that were slightly broken in?  Broken in so I wouldn't have to lay down on the bed to get the newly washed jeans zipped up.

I looked at that pile of freshly washed jeans, and I knew I couldn't do it -- I just couldn't put those jeans on today.  So there I was, half-dressed, with a nice sweater on already.  I had a decision to make.  Did I start all over, or did I go with the sweater I already had on and just put on a pair of regular nice pants?

Oh no!  That would be the smart thing to do, but I didn't take that path.  Right beside my pile of jeans was a pile of workout pants that caught my eye, including my favorite yoga pants.  My favorite yoga pants because they are so incredibly comfortable, something all of those freshly washed jeans would not be.

Guess which path I chose?  I must say, I was quite the lovely vision in my striped blouse under a nice sweater, followed by yoga pants, and ending at the feet with rather old tennis shoes.  I thought about taking a picture to accompany my slice, but it was just too bad.  However, I was comfortable, and my appearance made me chuckle all day long. 

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Side View Mirror and ACT retakes - Slice of Life Challenge

Tony posted a slice the other day that made me think of all the things I was seriously not ready for as my girls were growing up.  One of the things I was not ready for was them being behind the wheel of a car driving solo (or worse, with a group of friends sure to distract them).  This post recalls one of those car moments that really stands out.

It was a Friday night, and the next day was an ACT retake for our youngest daughter, Carrie.  We knew it would be a fairly early night for her as she would want to be rested for the next morning.  But, when I got a phone call from her at 9 PM Friday night saying she was headed home from hanging out with her friends, I was pretty surprised.  I chalked it up to her appreciating the seriousness of what these ACT results might do for her in terms of possible scholarship monies.  I was so impressed with this new-found maturity on her part.

About five minutes later, Carrie walked in our back door.  I was sitting at the kitchen table, with my back to the door, working on some type of schoolwork.  I heard Carrie say, "I need to talk to you," and the next thing I knew a very dented and scraped-up side view mirror was plopped down on the kitchen table as a conversation starter.  Turns out she had just sideswiped a parked car.  That's right, you heard me correctly... a PARKED car, and this side view mirror was just part of the damage she'd done to her car.  Don't even get me started on what she did to the other car!

Needless to say, after an evening of having to talk to the police, coming home to have her parents yell at her for being irresponsible, many tears (both hers and ours), and being grounded from driving for life (or so it seemed to her), her ACT retake scores had nowhere to go but down. 

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Publishing Party - Slice of Life Challenge

Today's slice is short, but sweet.  Last week was the end of the trimester in our school district, and I have been totally wrapped up with grading final writing pieces.  But, as I was grading this weekend, I kept flashing back to the celebration that took place in our classroom last Thursday and Friday.  Students published pieces of their choice, and almost every person chose to do a hardback book.  There were some that wanted to do spiral binding, and a very few that wanted to watercolor and mount their piece on that.

To honor everyone's wishes, I pulled out the watercolors, stickers, fun scissors, sticker letters, scrapbook paper, and other odds and ends that might work as they put the finishing touches on their bound book.  It was so fun to see boys and girls alike digging into the tubs of goodies to decorate their book "just so".   And most importantly, they were so proud of their published work.

After this successful attempt at a big publishing, I found myself wondering why we didn't do it more often; it is so simple.  I'm not a crafty person at all, but I know I will always have sticker letters, tag board, colorful duct tape, gel pens, scrapbook paper, and fun scissors available so, in the future, writers can publish when they are ready, not when I'm ready.

To wrap up, I'm leaving you with these pictures that tell the story of our celebration:

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Read Aloud Magic - Slice of Life Challenge

Everyday I read aloud with my students, some kind of magic happens within our class, but on Tuesday there was an extra huge dose of magic.  I have been reading aloud Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt for about a month to my morning language arts class.

On Tuesday, for those of you who are familiar with the story, I read the part where Doug fills in at the last minute for Lil on Broadway.  Life was happy, life was good, and then I got to the last part of chapter 9, when Doug arrives home and is sharing what happened with his brothers, and they tell him about a phone call they received from Lil's parents (page 323 if you own the book and need to refresh your memory).

I had been reading for thirty minutes when I got to that point in the story, and had closed the book as it was also the end of the chapter.  I thought we would be able to finish the book together on Wednesday.  Little did I expect the uprising of the group as a whole!  The students were so invested in the characters after the time we had spent with them, and what was unfolding at that particular moment, they weren't going to accept that it was time to stop reading just because I arrived at the end of the chapter.

This group of students is very vocal on a daily basis, but their indignation at stopping the read aloud of Okay for Now at that point was quite something to behold.  I realized that was the magic of an amazing book - it had cast its spell on my students and they needed to see it how it all turned out.  Who was I, a mere mortal, to argue with that kind of magic?!!

So, read on we did... we read until the very end of the book, another forty-five minutes.  During that time, not a student complained about sitting for too long, not one student needed to go to the bathroom, not one student needed a drink of water.  There really was magic in the room.  All that mattered was knowing what would happen to these characters who meant so much to them.  There were audible sighs and gasps at several points during that last chapter, and I teared up several times,  but they were riveted on every word.

I gave up several other language arts learning opportunities for Tuesday, but I don't regret it at all.  I had to bow down to the power and the magic of a beautifully written story.  And in our classroom this morning, we were far more than "okay for now".

**If you didn't see my tweet yesterday or my comment at Two Writing Teachers, I'd just like to apologize to my online writing support group for #slice12 for not being able to reciprocate when it came to commenting these past few days.  The good news is my report cards were finished tonight, and I'll be back and visiting you at your blogs tomorrow.  Thanks for being so generous when you stop by here at Literate Lives.

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

S & H Green Stamps - Slice of Life Challenge

I often hear stories from my forty-eight students of how generous their grandparents are with them when it comes to both items and time spent together.

Recently, I was reminiscing about those ideas and how they applied to my grandmother, my brother, and me.  My grandparents weren't dirt poor, but they most definitely were not wealthy, either.  Every summer of my entire childhood, we would travel out to Arizona or New Mexico (they moved around a bit) to see them.

It was the best feeling when we finally pulled into Nana and Papaw's driveway.  When Nana saw us, she would hug and kiss us, crying tears of joy all at the same time.  Papaw was slightly less demonstrative.  He was a tall, strong, quiet Swedish man, who let Nana get her loving in first, but always had a big bear hug waiting for us.

But after the hugs, the kisses, the unpacking of the car, Nana feeding the undernourished (in her opinion) occupants of the car, and cleaning the dishes, then out would come the S & H green stamps that she had been collecting since we had left the previous summer.  (I'm including an image for those of you not familiar with these stamps.  They were given with purchases at groceries, gas stations, drugstores, to name a few.  The stamps were then redeemable for merchandise.)

Nana would collect boxes and boxes of these stamps over the course of the year, and it was up to my brother and me to lick the stamps, put them into the booklets, and then count how many booklets we were able to fill with stamps.  Then, Nana would hand us the S & H Green Stamp catalog, and Randy and I would start to plan how we would divvy the wealth of the stamps to get items we wanted.

Like I said, my grandparents didn't have a lot of money, but when Nana gave us these stamps and booklets, we felt like the richest kids on earth.

S & H Green Stamps and booklets

As always, thanks to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!