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

Monday, February 27, 2012


Last week, I posted about my husband’s upcomingbirthday.  Now that the day has passed, I am going to seize my opportunity to brag about his party!

My husband is a social studies teacher at the same school as me.  In fact, his classroom is directly below mine.  I sometimes hear him through the vents.  At the beginning of the year, when his new students ask if he is married, he answers, “My wife is up there,” and points to the ceiling.  He waits just long enough for the room to get silent and sympathetic, then bursts out with, “No, I mean the classroom right above ours.  She’s an 8th grade language arts teacher.  Jeez, you guys are so serious!”

Although he is the most incredible teacher I know (he connects with students like nobody else I know), his dream is become a YA writer.  He has been working on a book since I met him over 12 years ago.  It wasn’t until recently, however, that we finally rearranged our schedules to intentionally make time for him to write on a regular basis. 

So, it was only natural that his 50th birthday party have a retro typewriter theme.  To top it all off, his party was held at a local 50s style diner owned by a friendof ours. 

I made him a banner using my typewriter key font from Creating Keepsakes.

Our guest book involved use of this fabulous vintage Underwood typewriter I was able to get last minute from Blurred Visionary on Etsy. 

I typed 50 of the thousands of reasons why I love my husband as my page(s) for him. 

This note from a beloved colleague made us both tear up when we finally had time to sit and read the messages.

Another friend of ours created this beautiful cupcakes display in the form of a vintage typewriter keyboard- even down to the missing number “1” key!

The party favors were silver button pins containing the message “write your story” with an image of a retro typewriter.

I made table centerpieces by placing quotes and jabs about turning 50 in these clothespin holders that I stamped with a vintage typewriter.

Best of all, we got to spend time with old friends. 
 My husband, Mark (on the left) with his old friend Dave (on the right).

Me (on the right) with my dearest friend since 2nd grade, Beth (on the left).

I liked being in charge of this celebration!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Me:  What do you want for lunch tomorrow, we have NO food.

Mark:  How about another sandwich?

Me:  It can’t be a sandwich like you had today.

Mark:  No, that’s fine.  How about just a cheese sandwich on a bagel?

Me:  You know that’s ALL it will be: cheese on a bagel.  We have no lettuce or tomato or anything left. 

Mark:  Well, you could put mustard on it to spice it up a bit.

Me:  You know I put mustard on the sandwich you ate today, right?

Mark:  Oh yeah, you did.  But you put the mustard on the bottom.

Me:  It was two slices of bread, dear.  You were holding it upside down.  

This is just one of the many moments in which I am reminded how much I appreciate having my husband in my life.  He gives me so many reasons to smile. 

This Saturday he is turning 50.  There is quite a bit of difference in age between us.  Mostly, we just try not to think about it.  I mean when we met, we had no idea there was such a difference.  He thought I was older, I thought he was younger.  We didn’t plan for things to be this way.

However, now that he is turning 50, I want him to know how much I like that he is who he is, and that he is where he is in life.  I want him to know that every one of his 50 years have added up to this moment.  I want him to know that I am grateful for every one of those years even if he sometimes feels like those years just make him, well, old. 

If not for those 50 years, he wouldn’t know how to make me giggle right before I fall asleep so that my sleep is deep, contented, and relaxed. 

And if not for each of those 50 years, he might not have had the grace to meet my smug attitude with a genuine, “What’s it like to be so perfect all the time?” the other night when I showed off my inner city-girl by getting us to a concert downtown without a hitch. 

Without his 50 years experience, who knows if that sparkle he gets in his eyes when he channels the fourth grade boy inside of him would be quite so charming?

On his 50th birthday, I am going to make sure I tell him these things.  I want him to know that I am so glad he will not only be 50 on Saturday, but he will also be 49, and 48, and 47, and on, and on, just like Sandra Cisneros pointed out in her story “Eleven.”  Every one of those years matters.  Every moment in his story was a moment that brought him one step closer to our story. 

His party invitation reads “Join us to celebrate the first 50 years in the Life of Mark {the rest is yet to be written}.” 

I feel so lucky to be his co-author! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It Worked

Me: Q, if you have a question about her book, you can go ahead and ask her.

Q:  I don’t have a question about the book.  I have a comment about No Name-Calling Week.

Me: Oh, okay.  What is it?

Q: It worked.

This moment made my day.  Our school has continued to celebrate No Name-Calling Week long after the actual week ended.  Every morning, on the announcements, a staff member or student has read a personal story of their experience with bullying/name-calling.   Each story inspires more stories.  And as Q, one of my tough guys, so eloquently put it: It worked.

We honestly never thought it would.  When our district decided to push No Name-Calling Week, our 8th grade team was leery of the response we would get from our students.  We have had ongoing issues with our 8th grade boys basketball team members especially who all have vicious nicknames for each other.  They claim they are “just playing” even though several of the boys have broken down in private over the names they are called. 

Yesterday, one of my students, a basketball player, read a piece during morning announcements.  Today his friend Q reported the results: It worked. 

Have you ever been bullied? Fata**, Fatty, Doughboy, I get called these names and many more at least six times a day. It’s mean and cruel to call people names. I hate it when people do, but it hurts the most when it’s your best friends saying it the most. Bullying happens a lot in school. When you enter middle school, it’s more than likely going to happen. So if you’re a bully or have been bullied, make a change in your middle school and stop it.
I used to bully because it made me feel like I fit in, because if I didn’t do what others did, then all of the attention would be drawn back to me. I regret all of the bullying I have done. I feel bad for the people I have bullied, I wish I could take it back and restart things, but I can’t.
Now I am trying to stop.
Bullying causes the people who are bullied to do terrible things, such as killing themselves. According to BullyingStatistics.com 4,400 people kill themselves a year because of bullying. If you bully, think about it. Those people would rather be dead than to take another day having to live with nasty and mean names that you call them.
Bullying hurts people and it doesn’t make you cool to make someone else feel bad. When you bully does it make you feel better about yourself? If your friends bully you, try and find a new group of friends that you can trust and hang out with. There are people out there who really want to be your friend and won’t bully you while they are.
Bullying isn’t right and it shouldn’t happen. For all you bullies, it isn’t too late to turn your life around and become a better person, just say no and stop bullying. You can be a better person and help people instead of making them feel worse about themselves.

The impact of these shared stories cannot be measured in test scores.  It will not show up on our school report card.  However, these are the moments that change lives. 

And that is good enough for me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Counting My Blessings

Every time I am on the phone with my mom, my dogs beg for treats.  They know how to play me.  Sometimes, I can put off the inevitable indulgence by letting them run in the backyard for a few minutes. 

So, my pacing routine while on the phone includes wandering around the dining room table, passing by the sliding door to the backyard frequently in hopes of stalling. 

Last Sunday night, at 8:20pm, I had just circled the dining room table on a lap that included letting the dogs back into the house. 

Thank goodness.

I had just reached the far end of the dining room table when I heard the sound of a crash.  Right outside my window.  The sound got louder and closer and finally stopped with a crash against the house. 

I frantically told my mom our house had been hit and got off the phone to call 911.  As I dialed 911, I opened the curtain to check out the damage.  I was faced with headlights directly outside the glass of the window.

I headed to the kitchen window to put some space between the pick-up truck that had hit our house and me.  I also needed to get a better view of the license plate because the truck was backing up and pulling away. 

When dispatch picked up my call, all I could do was repeat the license number of the truck for the first few seconds.  Finally I calmed down enough to explain what had happened. 

The police arrived quickly (we live down the road from the station), and we stood in our yard to survey the damage: a quarter of our fence was obliterated, but luckily the structure of the house itself was intact.  The air conditioner (also obliterated) had been enough to stop the truck, and the bumper had merely scraped the brick on that side of our house.  The only loss we suffered that night was a loss of property.  Property can be replaced.

Still shaken by the crash, we heard the officer received a report that the driver had pulled away and hit another house two blocks down.  Again, the only damages were to property.

The driver was eventually caught when he fell out of the door of the truck on a main road near our neighborhood and nearly ran himself over.  His injuries were treatable and he was released from the hospital by the following afternoon.  Ultimately he, too, only suffered damage to the pick-up truck his brother-in-law had lent him.

The day he was released from the hospital, the driver and his family visited our house to apologize.  His wife returned the day after to offer us more support and give us additional insurance information. 

In all of the madness, this is the moment that will stick with me—the family came over to apologize.  Sure, I am still rattled when I think of the sound.  Sure, I wonder how that apology would have sounded to me if my dogs hadn’t been in the house, but still in the backyard instead.  Sure, I am disappointed that our lives were impacted by a drunk driver.  However, when I count my blessings, I include the driver and his family. 

I am proud to live in a world where people who make mistakes apologize and accept responsibility. 

I am grateful that the driver is alive to make the apology and to respond to this wake-up call the universe has offered him.

I am relieved that the impact on my family can be measured in dollars and not heartache. 

I am filled with hope because even though good people make bad choices, people are still good.