a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Friday, March 6, 2015


March 8, 2011

Friday I was cornered into subbing for a gym teacher afforded the unique opportunity to be a guest teacher in a physical education class.  I was terrified a bit nervous about being outside of my comfort zone.  Luckily, it was a free for all an option day, so I didn’t have to lead any activities.  Instead, I hovered along the wall watching out for flying balls of doom I walked around supervising the various games the students decided to play.  I found that I had lots of time to avoid being annihilated reflect.  It was enlightening to see my students run off some of their energy interact in a completely different setting than the classroom.  I wish I had more opportunities to dodge low flying spherical objects to see my students in a new light. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015


March 20, 2011

Most people say
write what you know,
but I don’t know
what I know
until I write it.
So, I write
what I don’t know.

To write fiction,
one has to be willing
to write straight ahead
and not look back.
Well, maybe until at least
a week has passed.
Then you can look back
and be surprised at the words
that came out of your writer’s mind.

Writing fiction is like
walking on a tightrope
into the sky
with no support,
except your own faith
that you will get somewhere.

A story should provoke questions,
not provide answers.
Readers should not look for the author’s message
in a story,
the story IS the message.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


-->March 27, 2011
Have you met my sister?

my sister recently sent me this old photo of the two of us
my sister and me at my (unconventional, in-a-canyon, wearing jeans) wedding

She is three years older than me, but if you met just our emotions incarnate walking down the street, I would seem ancient compared to her.  At one time, we were mistaken for twins, but we both laughed at that—even then, when we were so close, it seemed absurd.  Maybe it was just the pigtails.

She is fiercely independent, and though she might show her love through domestic gestures like cooking your dinners and doing your laundry, don’t try to hug her.  Her smile of approval will make you feel like you could conquer the world, but be careful because she will just as easily flash her dark eyes at you.  “The look” will stop you dead in your tracks.

Over the years she has worked to outgrow the chubbiness that I used to claim caused her to be mean and now has a slender figure.  She was graced with Mom’s olive skin instead of Dad’s Irish pastiness, which was reserved for me.

She is the smartest person I know, and I think I only began to truly know her once it was much too late.  Try not to miss your chance.  Her complex personality, changing needs, and physical distance (first to Iceland, now in Boston) have made it nearly impossible to maintain the sisterly relationship that once was. 

If you get an e-mail from her from time to time, be sure to let it sit in your inbox for at least a week or so.  She doesn’t like to feel smothered and you certainly don’t want to make that mistake.  She might stop speaking to you altogether.  You don’t want to be hurt like that.  Again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


March 29, 2011

(or what I am looking forward to most about the summer)

I sit in my backyard
in my Adirondack chair—

a purchase brought on by my longing
to recreate
and summer weeks spent at the lake.

My Maine lighthouses travel cup,
filled with ice cold water,
a reminder of my week with Nancie,
rests at the tip of the oversized, flat arm.

Farther back on the arm is my notebook,
accompanied by a variety of pens,
for notetaking.

I want to savor every moment,
to absorb the pages into my pores,
by keeping record of my thoughts.

At my feet,
the dogs lay,
panting in the cool grass—
content to travel wherever I may lead them.

In my hands, I hold a book—
my guide on a summer journey
of professional growth.

I sit in my backyard
in my Adirondack chair—
I read.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dad's Encyclopedias


A complete set of Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia (new in the 1980s, anyway), purchased one volume at a time from the grocery store, sits on the bookshelf at my father’s house.  I pass by this shelf countless times during each visit to his house on a lake in Indiana.  His new house.  His “Dad and Jane” house.  Not a house I ever called home. 

I wonder what Dad sees when he looks at those books.  I know he doesn’t see the towering display of encyclopedias that Mom, Rebecca, and I were giddy with joy over each week.  He was never with us to see that tower. 

I know he doesn’t pull the volumes off the shelf and touch the gilded golden edges of the pages.  I know he doesn’t choose random letters and flip open to random pages just to find out what he might land on each time.   I know he doesn’t run his hand down the spine of the books just to feel the bump of the decorative ridge. 

I suspect that instead, he has memories of the encyclopedias that I don’t share.  He might remember packing them as we moved from house to house over the years.  He might remember purchasing new cherry wood bookshelves to showcase the set of volumes.  He might admire the regal look of the complete set on the shelves.

His history of the encyclopedias is much different than the history I own.  

Part of me is comforted by the familiarity of those golden spines all lined up neatly.  Part of me resents their position amongst artifacts from a past I never knew—a past that belongs to someone else.  

I get tangled in this conflict every time I see my Dad.  I do not get caught up in mourning over my parents’ divorce.  It is not resentment of Jane, or his new life with her, that ensnares me.  No.  It is the way my Dad’s memory of the past does not match my own memory of the past that trips me up every time. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Last night I read this Vintage Slices post by Ruth Ayres.  Her words seeped through my skin straight to my bones:
I'm thankful for the years of learning and the Two Writing Teachers community. Because of you, I found my voice and learned my words matter.
Some of my dearest friends were met through slicing. Slicers are a critical piece of my history as a writer.
These words resonate with me.  They are truths Ruth has given me.  They are her truths, but she allows me--invites me, even--to own these truths for myself.  That is the very special thing about Ruth Ayres.  She lives the life of a giver.  This March she is giving to the slice of life community by posting vintage slices as inspiration and encouragement.  

I am not one to pass on a gift, so I am taking Ruth's inspiration and encouragement as fuel for my own writing kick start.  I spent some time digging through vintage slices of my own.  The experience was another example of the universe providing just what I needed, at just the right moment.  Immersing myself in words I crafted was like reaching for the hand of an old, trusted friend.  It was like holding up a mirror expecting to see a reflection, but viewing in it instead an x-ray straight into the core of who I am. 

I was reminded of Ruth's recent post about why she blogs--about how blogging allows her to stay centered and authentic, which transfers to and supports all other writing she does.  By revisiting some vintage slices of my own, I am able to reconnect with my most authentic self.  I can already feel the ignition of a flame burning within me.  This March, I am joining Ruth in selecting vintage slices of my own to post.  My purpose is most definitely different than her determination to give, but it suits where I am as a writer.  Like Ruth's, my purpose is authentic. 

I will center myself, fuel myself as a writer by posting my own vintage slices throughout March.  I will honor the Slice of Life community that has helped me find my voice and learn that my words matter.

Today, I will begin with my first blog post ever: March 1, 2010 (it was no surprise to find in my return to this slice that Ruth had commented)
Monday, March 1, 2010

You're Not a Chick

One of my students wrote his persuasive letter to me, convincing me to play Modern Warfare 2.

The next day in class I overheard him telling his friend, “Chicks can’t play Modern Warfare.”

So, naturally I interjected, “Hey, you told me to play it and I’m a chick.” A weak argument, I know, but the point was to call him out on his sexist statement. In the moment I thought it would be most effective if I pointed out his hypocrisy.

Little did I know, he was not being hypocritical, “You’re not a chick; you’re a woman.”

There you have it: I am old.

If it’s true and I really have reached the threshold between youth and adulthood, I really need to start doing something with my life.

And so, this blog begins with the hope that the act of challenging myself to take the time to make meaning of my world will cause me to breathe more deeply, to open my eyes wider, to talk less and listen more, to be in the moment—each moment of my days, to spend less time on the filler and more time on the good stuff, to live with intention.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Yesterday, my dad sent me an e-mail requesting some old photographs of dogs we had throughout my childhood.  He wants to order prints to frame.  He has been doing some redecorating since his girlfriend (of twelve years) left.  I appreciate that my dad is finding peace in filling the holes left by her belongings with reminders of our past.

I dug out my tote of old photographs (a box to which my response has long been one of these days I need to scan these photos).  Fifteen minutes quickly turned into an hour of flipping through images.  Though, it was not the shuffling of paper film that drew me in.  It was the pleasure of being immersed in my history.

Early this morning, I finished Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  It was a quiet story about a girl, Ari, who learns about herself--her history, who she is now, and who she wants to become--when she finds herself unexpectedly homeless.  Just like Jacobson's As Small As An Elephant, it is filled with gem-like lines and special moments.   As Ari begins to realize her story is worth sharing, she says, "...I realize that I don't have to be ashamed of my truth." This is a message that, even as a grown-up, I cannot hear too often: my story matters, my truth is worth sharing

Sometimes the universe has this way of giving us just what we need at just the right moment.  I have been absent from this blog recently.  More importantly, I have been absent from my own writing life.  My photographs and Jacobson's words reminded me this weekend that I am made up of stories--stories I've shared and stories waiting to be shared.

Reading images of my past and reading Paper Things have served to inspire me to begin putting words on the page again.  What a timely happenstance!  Tomorrow night, the Teach and Celebrate Writers Twitter chat I co-host with Ruth Ayres will be guest hosted by Aimee Buckner, who will talk about the connection between reading and writing.  Please join us!