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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


New music.  I need new music.  I just don't have the time to invest in new music, like I used to.  I remember spending hours in my bedroom when I was younger, discovering, getting to know, falling in love with new music.  So often when I get the chance to listen to music, I just want to relive the old days as opposed to challenge my brain to learn new lyrics.  So, I sit at the kitchen counter, typing this slice, listening to the Bangles and the BoDeans instead of Bruno Mars.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saved by a Tattoo

I have this tattoo on my arm that says “inspire.”  It is my own little mantra.  Today, it saved my students’ sanity as well as my own.

It’s almost time for our state testing.  So, my students were practicing completing a graphic organizer to aid them in writing an extended response to a text (part of the standardized reading test).  This was an assignment that they started yesterday with a guest teacher, but many did not complete.  I had given them additional time to finish up today.  I was sure to preface their work by reiterating this was practice; I wanted them to ask for help when they were stuck.  I even promised not to lecture them about whether they had tried to find an answer by returning to their notes instead of asking me first. 

Not a single 8th grader asked a question. 

Some students were completely finished and had moved on to other work, but most just sat and looked around the room, as if they were waiting for some unidentified flying object to beam them up, up, and away from this brutal assignment. 

Now, I was out sick yesterday (my first sick day in years—it takes a lot for me to miss a day), so my resistance was down and frustration quickly set in.  The bell rang for break time (language arts is a double block in our school). 

I stepped into the hall.  I wanted to run away.  I knew I couldn’t walk back in and face the class.  I wanted to berate them for sitting around like bumps on pickles and letting life pass them by.  I wanted to scream that the extended response to reading is the one aspect of our state testing that actually measures a worthwhile skill in a meaningful manner, and they were trying to ignore it as if that would make it go away. 

Then, I looked down and saw it—inspire. 

Although I always rationally know venting does nothing to work towards a solution, I sometimes need to be reminded. 

When the bell rang, I headed back into the room—this time with my mantra in mind.  I had them open their literature textbooks to “The Gettysburg Address,” and I made it sound really intimidating and difficult.  Then, I told them I thought they were sitting there not doing their graphic organizer because I think some of them believe they CAN’T do it—they can’t make meaning of text well enough to answer an extended response question.   I told them it wasn’t true—they CAN do it.  And then I made them prove it to themselves by guiding them through reading “The Gettysburg Address” independently, applying active reading strategies, and ultimately making meaning of it. 

And guess what?  They did!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Grocery Store

My husband is an incredible guy.  He does the laundry.  He almost always cooks dinner.  He even picks up the dog poop in the backyard.  The jobs I deem most undesirable, he is always willing to take on.  Except for grocery shopping. 

After several trips where I chastised him for not pushing the cart through the checkout line in front of him and backing into the checker behind him to scoot the cart past him, he is no longer interested in the task.  Go figure. 

So, I am left to fend for myself each week.  The only problem is: I. Love. Food. Quite often as my groceries are being rung up, the checker will say something like, “Oh, are you having a party?” To which I lower my eyes and confess, “No, and there are only two of us at home.” 

At one point, my husband and I were actually shamed into switching grocery stores when the manager of one of the big chain stores sent us a hand-written thank you note for our business.  That’ll teach that manager to have good customer service!  We were so embarrassed by the red carpet treatment, that we turned and ran to the other big chain sore near us!  Well, that AND we started Weight Watchers. 

So, today when I went to the grocery store, I was not looking forward to gathering the items on the long list that just seemed to keep growing.  When the cart was so heavy that I could barely maneuver my way through the store, I was hesitant to head to the checkout line to face the checker who would have to total all of this food for just the two of us.

However, today I chose the right line.  As I stacked my unbelievably overflowing cart’s worth of food on the conveyor belt, I listened to the friendly banter of the checker and the patron in line in front of me.  Sometimes friendly chatter is all it takes to spark a change of mood.  Well, that AND knowing I was heading home with a truckload of good food to eat!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Like Mother, Like Daughter

“Most people stock up on food when they know a blizzard is coming, but we’re the crazy family that has to stock up on books,” my mom confessed to our secretary in explanation of why she was stopping by the front office of my school this morning to pick up some books I had left for her.

It’s true. The first thing I lamented when I heard we were going to be hit with a big snow storm was that I hadn’t bought Trapped by Michael Northrop the last time I was at the bookstore. I held it in my hand, but figured I wouldn’t be in the mood for it since the snow season was coming to a close. Clearly, I was wrong.

My mom left my school this morning armed with my latest book recommendations from the world of young adult literature to keep her busy throughout tomorrow’s storm. Although, I headed home after school today without a copy of the book the snow has given me the itch to read, I did not head home empty-handed.

My mom had left me a gift in return for the borrowed books. The reused plastic grocery bag held her latest creative endeavor: a skirt for me. Years ago, I would’ve surely rolled my eyes and begrudgingly pretended to like the clothes she made me, hoping nobody would notice when I stiffly wore them out of obligation. Now, I understand the treasure that this skirt really is. It doesn’t hurt that it is the perfect style to match my favorite pair of boots, or that the skirt has a fit tailored perfectly to flatter my shape. Mostly, though, I am proud to wear something my mom cared enough to create for me.

So, tomorrow, I will snuggle under the covers with my second choice in books, toasty warm with the knowledge that my mother still finds ways to take care of me. And I know she, too, will be cozied up with good books, warmed by the knowledge that she has a daughter who appreciates her.