Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Little Camper in the Woods

June 22, 2017

I like the early hours of morning best, when the sun has just risen, gently urging the land awake as it steadily makes its way across the pale blue sky. Every tree, every bush, every body of water both great and small, seem more subdued, as though each is still wiping the sleep from its eyes. Even the air itself is still and calm.

The only sound in camp this morning is the cranky calling of unidentified birds from high up in the towering pines. Perhaps they are scolding the sun for awakening them from sweet dreams. If any human in the surrounding camp sites is up, they are moving undetectably through their morning preparations, regarding the birth of the new day with the reverence it deserves.

Camping has been - for lack of a better word - an experience. My body is covered with bites (so much for bug spray!) and my hair is way beyond what one could call a bad hair day. I have had to overcome my innate squeamishness to shower in a public shower that costs $1.25 for five minutes of surprisingly hot water and to wash my dishes on a picnic table under trees that leave a fine dusting of yellow pollen on everything below them. The curtains I had spent so much time making to pretty-up our old used pop-up tent trailer detached from what I had thought was a clever solution to hanging them on the track, meaning I'll be going back to the drawing board when I get home. The handle broke off the door and we discovered big gaps between the canvas walls and the metal frame, problems that will need to be fixed before our next outing. Yes, our first camping trip in many years and the inaugural trip with our new-old tent trailer has certainly been an experience.

I have loved every minute of it.

Okay, maybe I haven't loved the bug bites, but there have been plenty of positives to outweigh the negatives. My video-game addicted son has spent the last three days surrounded by nature and real life, not a sorry pixelated facsimile. He has hiked and fished and held lengthy conversations with his parents. He's discovered the simple pleasure of making s'mores around a campfire. The public shower has been an adventure for him, prompting him to voluntarily shower when I would have had to coerce him at home. Even though he resisted reading a book, declaring that he doesn't like books in the summer (what??), I see by his bookmark that he is three-quarters of the way through the book I handed him yesterday.

Surrounded by beauty and miles from electronics and the pressures and demands of our jobs, we have reconnected as a family. Everything we do, we do together. (Well, not the shower part; that would be weird.) Hiking up steep, dusty trails, we encourage each other to keep going and congratulate each other on our success, all the while marveling at the spectacular scenery we would have missed had we not exerted the effort and pushed past our comfort zone. At night we gather around the table in our little home-away-from-home to play a game of Qwirkle (which I always lose) and sing out "Six point bonus!" when the first person lays down their last tile. When darkness has settled in for the night and we have trudged to and from the bathroom to brush our teeth, together, we lay in our bunks with our flashlights and books and read until the exhaustion of the day catches up to us.

The sun has now risen high enough to peak through the tree branches outside my window. Today will be our last day here in the woods. Tomorrow will be a repeat of Monday but in reverse, and will end with us back home in the suburbs amidst the clutter and noise and chaos of real life. Electronics will pull my son away. The pressure of jobs and commitments and responsibilities will march in like a dictator taking control of our lives once again.

But that is tomorrow.

Today the sun is gently waking up the land that calls to me to come explore. It demands nothing of me but that I enjoy and respect and experience that sense of wonder that comes from witnessing the breathtaking beauty of nature. I will immerse myself in that beauty and hope that I can carry a piece of it back with me, a piece that will remind me, when the pressures of the world start closing in, what life is really all about.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Life in Six-Word Stories

Have you ever heard of Ernest Hemingway's six-word tale? I can share it with you if you are not familiar with it (no summarizing or paraphrasing necessary): "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Kind of depressing, isn't it?

I wasn't familiar with the story myself until it was brought to my attention by the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life Story Challenge last month. Some bloggers used the six-word format during the month. I thought I would try it, but didn't know exactly what to do with it. Six words didn't really seem like blogging, you know? 

Today, the day after the challenge ended no less, I imagined a way I could tell six-word stories. This may be cheating (I prefer creative license myself), but I wrote six-word stories to tell the story of my life, a decade at a time. 

Happy girl skipping, singing, collecting ladybugs.

Moody teenager feeling out of place.

College grad looking for love, future.

Married woman teaching and having babies.

Wife, mom, teacher trying to balance.

Soon another decade. What is next?

What would be your six-word story? If you decide to give it a try, please share in the comments. It's really quite fun!

Friday, March 31, 2017

This Is Not the End

Today is the last day of March, the last day of school before Spring Break, and, of course, the last day of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

It is not, however, the end.

There is a new month waiting to greet us. There are still several weeks of school in which to teach, learn, and celebrate. There are still many days to write, though the writing will look and feel different, no doubt.

Over the last few weeks, I have had to stretch myself as a writer. Being naturally a planner, I found myself on many occasions having to operate as a "pantser" instead. It wasn't always a comfortable feeling. How many times did I hit that publish button before I felt ready? How many topics did I never write about because I just never had enough time to thoroughly think them through? The pressure of blogging daily kept me writing, but it wasn't always what I hoped for and the end result wasn't always what I imagined. Yet, I am proud that what I set out to do--write every day--was exactly what I accomplished. It isn't an easy task, as my fellow bloggers will attest.

A few days ago, I thought about all the ideas for blogs I had and knew I wasn't going to get to before the end of the challenge. That's when it hit me:  the challenge may be over, but this is not the end.

I can, and intend to, keep writing. Hopefully, on a daily basis, even though that publish button will no longer be demanding to be hit every day. Instead, it will wait patiently for me to decide when it's time. That's a comforting thought. All those topics I never got to, and all the ones I have yet to conceptualize, one day will have the opportunity to come to life on the written page. 

So, although I am sad to see the challenge come to a close and to lose the daily support of this community of writers, bound together by a common goal, I am also excited to see what tomorrow brings. 

This is not the end. It is only the beginning.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

It Was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

By mid-afternoon I was ready to curl up into a ball, preferably someplace soft and warm where no one could find me.

Yeah, it was that kind of a day.

Kids misbehaved, and one even kicked a chair, causing it to hit another student.

A spider that the kids have been watching for days, picked writing time, when I had all the kids sitting on the carpet in front of me, to rappel from the ceiling, headed straight for one kid's head. It was up to me, as the only adult in the room, to save the day. Looking at its thick, hairy black body I secretly wanted to scream and look for another adult.

A somewhat disturbing situation with students prompted me to seek out the school psychologist for help. She, too, was disturbed, enough to speak with the students and help me sort out the unpleasantness. I'm still in a state of disbelief about the whole thing, and really wish I could have gotten to Spring Break without it.

The aforementioned conversation with the psychologist led to unpleasant conversations with parents after school. One even yelled at me for not calling later. Or earlier. Or not at all. 

Checking email I found one demanding a phone call. What was one more unpleasant phone call? I was on a roll.

It would have been some comfort had I been able to leave work at a decent hour to be wrapped in the comforting presence of my family (although I'm sure one of them would have found a reason to be mad at me), but tonight was the PTA meeting, which didn't start until 6:30.

Wiping away the two seconds of tears I allowed myself to cry, I headed to the meeting.  Last meeting ended at 6:55. Tonight's went until 7:25. Knowing I had a blog to post by 9:00, I started writing notes on the back of the agenda, worried there wouldn't be enough time to write once I finally got home.

At 7:30, 12 hours after I left my house, I left my classroom. Climbing into the car, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone.  As I headed back, I laughed quietly to myself.  Of course, I had forgotten my phone!  After all, it had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

But, as Alexander's wise mother once said, there are days like that.

Even in third grade.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Crazy Cats!

Stealing sandwiches off counters 
and dragging them upstairs

Climbing up the backs of chairs

Wrestling at 4:00 a.m.
ramming our bedroom door

Opening cabinets
And sleeping in drawers

Meowing when left alone 
behind closed doors

Sharpening claws on furniture

Chewing on cords

Sucking on blankets and soft pj pants

Chasing each other in a crazed feline dance

Tearing down stairs to land with a thud

Grabbing hold of soft flesh, leaving trails of blood

Sleeping anywhere high that they can go

Chattering at birds just outside the window

Grabbing straws out of glasses unseen

Waiting for the dog to finish his dinner
to lick the bowl clean

Sitting on stairs, lying in wait

Performing death-defying stunts,
tempting fate

Snuggling up close,
purring night and day

Crazy cats!

Wouldn't have it any other way

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Morning Routine

Alarm goes off
and I spend several minutes
in internal debate between
warm bed or
cold kitchen

Knowing that time
is precious
I grab a sweatshirt
and warm, fuzzy socks

I don't look in the mirror
I don't want to know

After a slight detour
to feed hungry kitties
I head downstairs

I make a beeline
for the coffee maker
and set my laptop down
on the kitchen table

I grab the coffee,
pour the milk,
sit down to read and write

Penny appears on cue
jumps on my lap
and purrs
digging her needles for claws
into my leg in
pure contentment

Benny meows
from somewhere upstairs
looking for his sister
no doubt

The rest of the house
is still,
full of sleeping boys

This time is just for us girls
Penny purrs
and I write

Monday, March 27, 2017

Something's Not Quite Right

Honestly, today was one of those days that just didn't feel quite right.

Driving to work, a few raindrops fell on my windshield, reminding me I had forgotten to bring my umbrella.

There wasn't much to take for lunch, so I made a salad that was little more than wilted lettuce with questionable brown spots topped with dressing. It was decidedly unsatisfying.

Only one of my "lunch bunch" math group showed up to practice multiplication facts. Even she was five minutes late, and then took another five minutes to explain why she was five minutes late.

Working with a small group on decoding skills, one of my students informed me she was bored.

Walking past a table group in the afternoon, I caught one of my students hurriedly crumpling a piece of paper, hoping I wouldn't notice. When I asked him to hand it over, he asked if he could just throw it away, a sure sign that I needed to read that note. I discovered that he had written about putting a "rifull" up another student's butt and pulling the trigger. Later I found another note on which he'd written "Why do you want to have sex anyway?" What? I teach 3rd grade. Third graders shouldn't be talking like this.

I received an email from a parent regarding some missing fund raiser money. Seems her son has been telling her and me different stories about what happened to the $20. In her last communication, she said that "his story is different about turning it in." I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that meant.

Finally, after nine hours of everything feeling off-kilter, I left work and headed to pick up my sons. Once I had Jack in the car and we were on our way to pick up Jared at his grandmother's, the world seemed to make a little more sense once again. We listened to Keith Urban and even sang along and talked about our day. Arriving at my mom's we sat and talked, catching up on the latest gossip. By the time I left, I had shaken off most of the not-right feeling that had clung to me throughout the day.

There was, however, one last hurdle in my way. The deadline to post my blog was coming up quick, and I still had no idea what I wanted to write about.

I sat down and wrote anyway.