slice button this marchPaper thin, my skin,

Unable to take your best shot,

Unable to withstand an attack,

And unable to fight back.

Today I should feel a new energy,

After all, sorries were spoken and

Forgiveness applied‚ÄĒ

But wounds from those who matter

ache and sometimes fester when you have

a heart that perpetually seems to need two positives

for every negative.


PS because I usually feel the need… for my friends still in their writing classroom…please remember when you conference and mark up work…there are many ūüôā thinned skinned fledgling writers out and about. xo





oh no, not another test


Are all first-time grandmothers like me?¬† When I held our precious rosy haired hummingbird for the first time, it was love at first sight.¬† We raced down south and entered the labor and delivery waiting room with only ten minutes to spare.¬† I never thought I would get to gaze into a baby’s eyes during the ‘quiet alert’ after my own daughter was born. That miracle, that wide-eyed gaze was staring at me again‚ÄĒ eyes that looked like a¬†blueberry pie.

Dave and I cried in heaving gulps when left for five years to serve people in Ecuador. We made as many trips as possible to hold our dimpled girl.  She was the smartest, the naughtiest, multi-lingual girlie on the South American continent, but it was only our opinion.

Em Sam Dave giraffe

Em, Sam and Papa

As luck would have it, they ventured back stateside, and along the way, the family expanded to four‚ÄĒ another girl, we were so blessed.

Soooooo… This is when I get on my soapbox.

Samantha enters kindergarten after finishing three years of all Spanish speaking Ecuadorian pre-school, where she has learned not to bite others, how to sit criss-cross applesauce, all the numbers up to fifty, all the letters, all the sounds and how to blend letters into words, yes‚ÄĒSpanish words, like I said earlier, she is exceptional, terribly gifted.

After a month of American of school, the kindergarten teacher said, “Yes, she is polite, yes, she listens….but she is behind our benchmark for this time in the year.¬† She may not make it out of kinder.”


I am aghast, errrr, the dreaded one-minute timings?????

“Yes, m’am, we are a high stakes testing environment.”

GRADE ONE (she eeked through):

“Yes, m’am, her scores are okay now.”

Then why do you keep her in the low group? Aren’t these groups supposed to be ever flexible?

“It will be better for her to stay with the lower kids, we feel.”

Who is the ‘we’? I thought, trying to keep my grandma mouth shut.


Sammy is taking tests every single day for a week.¬† She says the tests will get her in the Explorer group because they get to go on field trips.¬† Besides that, she says, they get some more challenges. Oh no, I fear for her remembering my own little girl’s sadness picturing…


my own little girl sitting lonely in her ‘high’ reading group after they took all of her friends away to-the gifted classroom down the hall. That day I had to explain to Emily‚ÄĒ that tests will not show her creative side; the side of her personality that has no fear, or show her willingness to try hard, and the joy she brought to her mama’s heart every‚ÄĒsingle‚ÄĒday. Inside I felt terribly angry, angry at Otis Lennon gifted test creator. I carry my irritation with group intelligence testing. My fear has never diminished throughout all my classroom years.


Gifted. Samantha is designated Explorer by said test. But all of us knew that already. Finally, a test that worked (or maybe in all her brilliance she was a very good guesser).

They should have asked Grandma, and saved money on said test.¬† After all, don’t we know best? XO

PS because you know I like them.¬† The upswing of high stakes testing all over our country gives me pause…the amount of time daily, weekly and then many weeks during the spring doesn’t give a complete picture of a child’s worth and value. It is soapbox on which I will forever stand.



…a little sensitive


slice button this marchYes…people would say that I am a little bit sensitive, or maybe that I wear my heart on my sleeve and maybe sometimes…okay, quite often I over share.¬† The other day I was with my girls, they know me quite well and we were on a topic I don’t love- HAIR.

Hair always has been a such a problem, ever since my mom cut my bangs every two weeks as a child.¬† They were cut up high on my forehead and always at an angle.¬† Sometimes I got a frizzy Toni perm.¬† It’s a wonder my hair didn’t fall out, that chemical formula was lethal, I think.

I moved into my teenage years with lukewarm blonde hair, skimpy and straight and finally mom started letting me be a bit more independent.¬† I used Dippity Doo every night and tried to sleep on those horrible pink hard rollers.¬† ¬†Things started to improve¬†with the blow dryer and then things really began to improve with experimentation with my girlfriends.¬† We perfected highlighting with the pull through¬† snug cap.¬†¬†I could even do my own and when I married Dave he helped me pull from the back.¬† I never went to the beauty parlor, except for a trim, I’m a little cheap, kind of like my mom.

Fast forward quite a few years.¬† As I got older, my hair got better.¬† It had more heft to it. The person that cut my¬†hair told me it was because of the grey coming in, which I really didn’t seem to notice.¬† It just kind of grew in pretty naturally with my highlighted hair, or so I thought.

Here is the conversation around my table of friends the other night.

Friend #1- I was thinking about getting my hair colored.  (She has snow white beautiful platinum natural hair.)

Friend #2 (hairdresser)-¬† Don’t do that, people pay for your color.¬† Some put purple streak in, it’s all the rage.

Me–¬† I need to do something with my hair, I’m bored with it.

Friend#3-¬†¬†Nancy, you need a style!!!!¬†(Okay, she might not have said it in such an intense matter but I also might have been a wee bit offended, because I’ve worn my hair the same way for so long and no one had ever said anything)

Me to Friend #2 (hairdresser friend)-  Do you think you could give me a style next week?

Next Tuesday I trot over to my friend’s for the style.

As she cuts she says.”You know how we were talking about Friend#1‘s beautiful grey hair?”

“Mmmhmmm,” I murmured thinking she would tell me how great my greys were.

“Your’s aren’t the pretty kind.”

“Well, (hmmph I thought)¬† Did you at least give me some style this week?”

“I think you look better than last week with the layers. But…”

“Next week…I hope you can help me out with the the other problem.”

“Anything for a friend, I’ve got your back, I mean, your hair.”





…sometimes I just


slice button this march

sometimes I just

miss it all, too much.

the rising early, coffee in one hand

my backpack in the other.

the sound of soft quiet

before the

precious ‘lights’ enter my classroom.

the hustle, the scurry, the plans,

the joy.

and sometimes I just

shake my head in disbelief.

that the unbelievable has just happened


that the innocent victims will never

have a chance,

to change our world and champion

love instead of hate,

giving instead of getting.

it is

so sad.

it is

so pathetic,

that the so-called adults in

the room seem

terribly insane about this issue.

But hopefully soon,

the children

will lead

us into

a better


their hope.

their ideas,

their perseverance,

will change hearts.

sometimes I just know.










…kelly’s gotcha story…again


Our story of getting our daughter Kelly has been told a million times.  It has been fourteen years now and beginning to sound like a fairy tale, a very true good and sometimes scary tale.  God and his goodness is very apparent in this yarn.  The dream of her heart has happened.  She is married to one of the best men I know. and has the sweetest baby boy ever!  I admire this dedicated mommy who loves so well!

slice button this march

This was unusual for Dave.¬† After a Sunday message at church he turned to me and said,”I don’t know what, but I think God is going to be asking us to do something big- that’s gonna change our lives.”

I do remember thinking that this is definitely out of character for my guy that makes sure that he is well researched before making any big decision at all. ¬†He checks the money, he checks the mood, he consults his mother, he wants me to ask my father… yep, God must really be talking loudly today for him to even be telling me this.

The next week, he came home on Tuesday and told me that he found you sitting at a table in the Media Center at school. ¬†You had wanted to let him know that you wouldn’t be able to play for him this season because they were placing you in another foster placement out of our school district. Dave knew instantly, this was it, this was the big thing and that no…Kelly Marie would be definitely living at our house instead.

The next week we got you set you up in Jeff’s old bedroom upstairs. ¬†Dave told you that he would paint the room whatever way you wanted. You chose ‘Pepto’ pink with stripes down one side of the wall, ¬†I didn’t like hot pink. ¬†Dave just smiled and painted away. ¬†Your clothes were moved in. ¬†I noticed you were a ‘keeper’ like me…a trunk of cheap stuffed animals and all the dresses and dried flowers from important events. ¬† You said, not to worry, that you wouldn’t get in our hair. ¬†You said you’d be off to college soon and that you were a ferociously independent type of girl.

You hung your pictures back from Jr. High…friends and more friends of every nationality, every creed.

Dave wanted to be your dad, he even looked like you. ¬†You called him ‘Papa’. ¬†You called me ‘Nanc’.

You gave your story to us, it told of the day when you thought you were going on a fun mini-trip to a hotel. ¬†You remember that you had your ‘swimmies’ on your arms when you were pulled away from your mother. You thought you were meeting a new friend in a giant building called ‘court’.

You’ve been waiting all this time to be back with your mommy. ¬†It’s been years of waiting and now you are in another placement my family…and that dream still continues to pulse inside of you.

Don’t worry sweet Kelly, “You can call me Nanc. I know you have a mom.”

I want that dream to stay alive for her…but I’m fearful of all things big and little… realizing early that years in a group home and then in placements that hadn’t worked out had to have taken a toll. ¬†One day I asked you if you had any pictures of your little girl self.

You¬†said,¬†“not a one…but you said you looked just the same only smaller.”

I tried to¬†imagine but didn’t want to imagine, a little curly-headed girl with¬†swimmies¬†reaching out to a mom that was walking away.

I think we’ve come to the place eight years later that you are¬†my girl¬†and I am your¬†Nanc¬†,¬†and I’m very happy about that. ¬†Now you have a different dream¬†that includes a vast array of friends and older folks that have fed into your life for many years…you hope and yearn for the day when you will be a mom, who will hold on tight and never let go….never let go…never let go.

PS because I like them…I am proud of my girl…tell your story…tell it to the world- a story of strength, of perseverance, loyalty, and¬†love.

PSS because I just can’t resist…Kelly is realizing part of her dream in June. ¬†Papa will be walking her down the aisle, to begin her new life with her best friend, Matthew. xo¬†nanc¬†¬†Papa and KB¬†PSSS Oh, did I tell you Francis is smart, really smart…and affectionate… such a good combo I think! xo



…in my 20’s, 30’s,40’s,50’s, yikes 60’s


slice button this marchIn my 20’s I swam because I didn’t mind putting on my suit and cute leotards on for Jazzercize.¬† In my 30’s I did high impact aerobics, then low with my girlfriends and walked or ran on the Y’s quarter-mile outside track.¬† In my 40’s I tried to solve the chubbiness setting in with Jenny Craig and hiking in the woods.¬† In my 50’s I loved walking my dog, but after tripping quite often breaking multiple body parts I hung the leash up. I remember trying Zumba only once because some of my Latino girlfriends laughed the whole class away watching my comical ‘Swedish’ moves’.

Last week a new/old friend on the block said, “Nanc, I want you to be my special exercise¬†friend.”

“I would be happy to be your new exercise friend,” I said even though my friend the elliptical.¬†had me feeling quite content. “You know that I am in my 60’s now, don’t you?”

“Not to worry, I know I don’t look like it or act like it, but actually I’m in my¬† 70’s.” my friend responded.

But what I didn’t expect was that last week my friend would pick me up every morning at 8:00 o’clock sharp.¬† Every day of the week we tried something different…Pilates, Yoga, Piloxing, Tableta, and Zumba, of course.¬† I left with his yearning for the days when we just called all of this stuff high aerobics and lifting weights.

After each session, I went up to each instructor,

“Thank you for the class.¬† I hope I didn’t distract you too much because every time you went left, I went right. And every time your arm was up mine went down.

All of the 20 something teachers smiled and said,

“Well when we are learning something new we always struggle.¬† After all, some of these people in this class have been doing this their whole life.”

A big inside sigh…¬†ah yes, some of us have.

My new 70-year-old friend just looked at me and smiled.

“What will we try tomorrow?”

“Maybe a senior class?” I snarled.

“But we’re not… you know.”

“Not in our heads…but my knees are.” I quipped.

PS¬† This last week we have been exercising¬†like it’s our job.¬† But on Friday after the free passes expired I decided to join. The rewards?¬† Friendship and strength I hope!

…goose convention


slice button this march

That’s right, we’ve got a convention right in our backyard. I loved going to NCTE or IRC when I was teaching, but, I’m resentful that this goose convention was planned really close to our bedroom sliders without even Moi!

We live in Illinois, thirty miles from the best city in the world (according to my mother) and about two hours from the ‘Mighty Mississippi’ (I was so proud in second grade when I learned to spell it).¬† Why won’t these goosey guys from¬†Canada plan a convention in another beautiful habitat like Kansas City where there’s tasty barbeque or even southwest to ‘Sin City’ where a few of them can try out a new comedy act. The perfect place I think would probably be on the ‘Daytona Strip.’¬† The sound of the surf is so amazing, and I know those sunbathers would have some room for them on this beach (heck, I’m sure the Atlantic waters are still flowing free in Florida).

Every fall these geese awe us with their practice sessions of their famous V formation. But instead, of flying south like God taught them to do they decide that our small wetland area suits them even on many below zero days.  And nights.

I know you are thinking, “Oh Nancy, why don’t you care more about these precious little honkers?”

Well, it’s not like I want a hunter to go out and massacre them in the dead of night.¬† I can’t can’t gather my hunting friends because of legal issues they would incur.¬† Here’s a new fact, my teaching friends…they are nocturnal, did you know? I’m guessing it’s the guys in the group having a party every night after the convention hours are over.¬† They are up all day learning what to eat in the tundra. And at night they must somehow get a bit inebriated and get mad when their ‘girl’ gets too goose cozy with a new feathered friend.

And then they let the whole world know about it at one, two and three am.

And for the life of me this one I can’t figure out. What do they even eat when the lake is slick enough to skate on, and even fishermen¬†have to cut holes in the ice to dip their lines in.¬† But they must be eating something because they leave a ton of excrement behind (maybe more like two tons).

I’m sure I’ll get used to all this stuff after a time, we’ve only been here since July. People have told me that they don’t hear subway trains after a while.¬† All I know is this.¬† I can’t roll them over from their backs to their sides like I do with Dave on some occasions.

And don’t tell me to that I need to sing them all a sweet lullaby every night until they drift off calmly.

They won’t.¬† I know because I’ve tried.

…working from home


You know the feeling of lingering and not having to rush.¬† The luxury of not having to be anywhere, not having to put your make-up on or change out of your pajama pants.¬† That slow cup of coffee is pretty sweet when it doesn’t spill out of your cup as you jettison to¬†work with your honey pies.¬† As a matter of fact, I haven’t spilled down the front of my shirt for a good long while.

It’s sweet to make decisions on your own about what tasks you will take on and in what order.¬† Much like my former life in the classroom working from home is a pleasant existence of choices.¬† On a perfect day I write a little, read a little, write a little more. On a good day, I do the same but open the garage door to let the delivery men unload tile, or put a load of laundry in.

I have time.  Time to dream up stories and new ideas for stories.  Time to compose and look for a different sentence structure or a better verb that fits the rhythm of the article I am working on.

I’m still learning.¬† The pace of my former life still lives inside of me as I reach for my dad in a hug.¬† While I’m with him, the calendar and the ‘to do’ list emerge quickly.¬† With him, I do issue commands but also try to offer the dignity of choice.

Finally, I love this new journey, this new life, this new kind of slow.  slice button this march

PS¬† Many people have encouraged me to sub after I retired.¬† To be a good sub is a calling and it just wasn’t mine.¬† Last night a few of my friends said I maybe could try dog walking or being a personal grocery shopper. Both of those might be something to think about,¬† but writing and reading will always be a part of my daily business.¬† It’s who I am.


…you can


slice button this marchI don’t have an ounce of patience for stripping wallpaper that comes off in small half-dollar sections.¬† I don’t have an ounce of patience for painting closets, ceilings and edging or even rolling.¬† But ” you can,” I say over and over again from July to January. I have no idea how to lay hardwood in a kitchen and in a great that suddenly doesn’t appear to be so great.¬† I have no idea how to cut trim, install all new doors or do a subway backsplash with light grey grout.¬† But “you can learn, by watching YouTube, I¬†have the utmost confidence in you, Dave!”

It has been a journey so far and I am pretty proud that we have finished all one level of our fixer-upper.¬† Oops, excuse me…that Dave has finished; my perfectionist…the love of my life.






i didn’t want to



slice button this march

I didn’t want to leave my cozy red chair where my writing room where books surrounded me day and night and framed photos made me smile and cry. My window to the cul-de-sac festivities lost.¬† My battle with my man and his need to design waged on until he drove me down a lane lined¬†with walnut trees and smelling of pine and wood smoke.¬† Seeing the wetland lake in the distance my heart did a pitter-pat. It was unkempt, not loved and as we crossed the loose gravel and opened the door, I feel my resolve begin to fade.¬† A massive rock wall from the peak to the lower level stood proudly before us beckoning¬†us through the mess to view the lake beyond.¬† Awestruck I stood there, without taking a step any further I knew this was the place my¬†dreams are made of.

PS I’m kind of excited about flash memoir…which is what you do every week when you SLICE.¬† A new person just joined her writing group, and this is a craft that she teaches. This is her blog.

PSS I like the idea of trying to write small and not long.


not done in an hour…part 1


slice button this march

It seemed like Dave was always looking for a new house but maybe it got more intense when his landscape for fixing, changing and decorating seemed finished.

“A retirement house, that’s what he said he was looking for.”

He looked in Colorado for a ranch, dreamily looking for a place where we could care for llamas and alpacas.¬† Too expensive, I declared, even though that’s where Jeff and Brit live.¬† We looked in Ecuador for a second but then realized it was hard for us to even visit Emily and family for three weeks.¬† And what if they came home from the mission field, we would be stuck not even knowing the language of the wonderful people there.¬† We gave up the living somewhere else thing finally realizing that we could never leave our dad’s, our church and our friends and start over like we were in our thirties (double that and that’s where we are).

Dave kept searching.  I was content.  I loved our fireplace, our cozy finished basement and my office cheered me every single morning.

“We need a ranch,” he declared. “Look at our dad’s…that is why they can still be independent, you want to always be independent, don’t you Nancy?”

“I argued…well…I just get one of those chairs that go up the stairway, if that is what happens.” I retort.

Knowing he needed another argument. “I’m just looking, you know, for that special place…like the house you grew up in.”

I was startled, “You mean the house that we had to practically drag my mom out of when she was too old to climb stairs?”¬† My mom had lovingly spent all her summers scraping the ancient wallpaper and using smelly goop to scrape the wide trim and then re-paint.¬† She had patiently worked all the years of my childhood going room to room bringing it back to its former glory.¬† ¬†“Dave, you’ve got to be kidding.¬† Are you really in the mood for a fixer-upper! ”

He nodded, ” A¬† special fixer-upper, that’s right.”

“It won’t get done in an hour like Chip and Joanna do.” I said.

“Together, we can make something special.”

“I know,” I said.

“Be open, you’ll know it when you see it, Nanc.”

And Dave was right, as he usually is.


you’ll never forget


slice button this marchyou’ll never forget your first job,

getting your job the day before school started,

and walking into the district union meeting thirty minutes late

because no one told you about it.

you’ll never forget that first class,¬†

the day before spring break when you actually cried

while trying to teach them double digit-division

for the 300th time.

you’ll never forget your first blog,



a challenge you created for yourself,

to communicate your ‘Slices’ weekly never knowing

a community would develop across the

writing miles.

you’ll never forget your first novel or your second,

a daily routine that gave you such pleasure

envisioning  protagonists that you loved

like they were sitting next to you

for the wild ride.

you’ll never forget the promise,

you made to yourself.

resist the temptation to stop

letting the words percolate,

letting the phrases swirl

forward … always.






ending the silent blog streak


You know me, I’m never silent, especially when I’m in pain,

I talk, I moan, I cry, I whine,

But I have been silent on




this blog

for a month….not wanting to

look at my friendly

paisley design

saddened because I really never thought

my years of teaching

would ever


Two and a half years of finishing strong

I wrote

I poured out my heart on this page,

Completed it … nearly done

I finished my last years with your help, finding joy in a new community of friends.

Thank you,

because I know

this habit now resides deep,

and you will be there,

as I start my new life ¬†of…

writing for my district, writing for my God, writing with my university students

writing with you,

and of course

writing for myself.


PS ¬†just because I like them…I’ve been silent because of all the writing that I have needed to do for my class at the university and all the writing I’ve needed to do for my church community…so pretty much I have been in ¬†another Slice of Life challenge. ¬†I’ve missed you and will be able to get in the…reading and commenting phase soon as well.

PSS ¬† Taking on 4 jobs when you are trying to clean a very messy room and bookroom isn’t recommended…just remember that, because someday…someday…

love to write, love to think, love to SLICE... please join our community

love to write, love to think, love to SLICE… please join our community

don’t read if you don’t want to read the longest paragraph ever!


slice button this marchI had been swatting for two days. ¬†We fondly call it that when many of us swarm the building giving every child 3 passages to read that last only one minute. ¬†In and out, 4 minutes tops, including the directions, a hello and a goodbye. ¬†By day 3 my neck did hurt, which is typical…started feeling light-headed around the 10 am. mark. ¬†By twelve, my throat stung and my head began to throb. ¬†Oh no, I can’t be sick, I won’t be sick, I haven’t been sick this whole entire year! ¬†I have another half day of swatting and a rather important CCSS meeting on Thursday. ¬†It’s Wednesday and I have an important meeting at church tonight. ¬†It’s all important. ¬†I can’t miss anything. ¬†I start the count the days. ¬†If the sore throat goes away Thursday, then maybe I’ll just end up with a baby cold. ¬†It it lasts longer, my cold will be worse. ¬†I start to fret. ¬†I go to the meeting at church. ¬†I leave right away, no time for chit-chat, and besides, I’m sure I’m contagious. ¬†Thursday, I swat with the team, leave for the long drive to the meeting. ¬†We talk for two hours about mission statements and what this team is about. ¬†My head is spinning. ¬†I want this to be over, I want my Nyquil. ¬†I know it isn’t a baby cold. ¬†I start worrying about Good Friday. ¬†On Good Friday, before church I have to go over to the college I teach at to prepare for Saturday. ¬†Oh, I hope the cold is better on Good Friday. ¬†I work, work, work. ¬†I come home and go to a fabulous church service, but my then I can’t really sing, nothing is working. ¬†Still, I am amazed at what Jesus did for me! ¬†In the middle of Good Friday I pray about my class on Saturday. ¬†I get to class at 6:30, there are still things to do. ¬†I start talking at 8:00 to the ‘early birds’. ¬†These are such good girls. ¬†We check in and away we go. ¬†I talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, about books, about reading, about writing. ¬†We go to the library to start work on our first research project. ¬†Most of them are working independently and finding great articles. ¬†Some ask for advice. ¬†This is an amazing group. ¬†I buzz out at 4:30. ¬†Our church has 7 Easter services. ¬†We are going to the 7:30 service and then I’m ‘in charge of a big event’ after. ¬†My father-in-law is with my husband. ¬†I drive alone, because he might be tired and might not want to hang out after. ¬†Kelly and her boyfriend are coming, never can be sure if they are on time. ¬†Today I am not worrying because I’m focusing on something bigger. ¬†I have completely lost my voice. ¬†This is my new job, it is all about talking. ¬†I solve the problem by telling Dave what he has to say over the microphone at our event. ¬†He makes a joke about me being a ventriloquist. ¬†Well, it went okay. ¬†Was God trying to tell me I talk too much? ¬†It all starts to seem really funny. ¬†I get home, hop in bed….all set for the Easter family gathering at my house the next day. ¬†For the first time in days I relax and breathe in. ¬†These people are my family…it will be fine! ¬†I smile inside, because my dad won’t have to turn his hearing aid down because Carol and I aren’t shrieking, laughing and interrupting each other. ¬†Wait, there is more to the longest paragraph I’ve ever written…. the longest week of my life…my daughter Emily called me from Ecuador, at 1:00am and said they were going to the hospital to have their second baby girl. ¬†

God is smiling; I just know it!  

Juliette Faith Hatcher Darnell was born in Quito, Ecuador

April 21st 2014.

She is a child of the world boasting dual citizenship!

I’m so happy to be a grandma for the second time.

and her grandma Mo Mo, is rendered speechless by this amazing blessing! 

what not to say, what to say


What not so say when someone is retiring from teaching in 30 days…

“I can tell by your face that you are ready to retire, today!”

“Exactly how old are you?”

“You’re my mom’s your age…she needs to retire just like you do.”

“My mom says she doesn’t trust the Illinois pension plan. ¬†Will you be able to make it?”

“I just bet you can’t wait to get outta this place!”

“Did the principal make you retire?” (this from one of my little ones, just today)


The only right thing to say…

We will miss you and love you and wonder how we will do it without you!

Thank goodness, I’ve heard the latter much more often than the former, this year. ¬†I guess my best piece of advice to anyone going out in the next few years is this: ¬† ¬†don’t put on your cheater glasses in the morning, to look at yourself in the mirror, love, love your students like you always have, keep on writing…keep on reading…keep on smiling!

PS After the ‘slice’ March challenge my new job kicked in at church and my spring class at Judson just started (9 wonderful women). ¬†I’ve been doing lots of writing and¬†building a team of people to work with. ¬†God is good. ¬†It is hard right now to get it all done, but with his help, I know that I can.

a new book…Soccer Star


SoccerStarI know that this is against the rules; but it is my last post and I’m so excited about this opportunity. ¬†Last year during the ‘slice’ I got an advance copy of a book by an author that I greatly admire. ¬†It was her third book and I was so excited to be able to review her book during the ‘slice’. ¬†This year I wrote to a relatively new author after I was so excited about hearing of her new picture book coming out April 8th. ¬†I told Mina Javaherbin about the ‘slice’ and she agreed to send me an advance copy for her new book, one I will use in my university class this April. So….I am breaking the ‘slicing’ rules on the last day, and sharing this amazing book. ¬†It is about ‘futbol’, the game that the world plays. ¬†Outside of the United States, the game of soccer reigns supreme.

Her latest book, Soccer Star,¬†set in Brazil, arrives on the shelves April 8th. ¬†This is her second book about soccer and it will score big in your elementary classroom this year, before the World Cup games are played in June. The story follows Paulo as he dreams big dreams of soccer stardom. ¬†He hopes to become a star so that his mother won’t have to continue to work so hard and so long to put food on their very humble table.

The author note at the beginning of the book tells of many children in Brazil who work hard to help their families survive. ¬†Many soccer stars world-wide continue to have the same dream as Paulo does. ¬†Paulo works with a fisherman who also plays soccer with him. ¬†Paulo then returns the favor and teaches his little sister the soccer moves and she teaches him math that she learns in school. ¬†Of course his sister Maria begs to play with Paulo and his friends, ¬†however, his team has one rule,¬†“no girls”. ¬†And then one day… This is a story of bravery, of hope and a story that your students, regardless of their social economic status will relate to. ¬†They will beg you to read this story over and over again. ¬†Books like Soccer Star and her first book, Goal,have special power to unite children around the world. ¬†Students will see that we are more alike than different and that their dreams can really come true, for boys and girls alike.

…and she scores, again !

slice button this march


safe until I’m not


i never think,

i mostly always trust,

i think i’m always safe,

until i’m not…

today i walk,

i walk on a fresh




turning a corner i walk up hill,

using my arms,

pumping hard,

my head looks down,

i look up




alone i feel,

i smile,


i nod…wary

he moves

approaching quickly,

i scan the street,

no one


i look forward,

running still

up hill,

i don’t look back,

just forward,





gave up,

I didn’t.

slice button this march

poetry month is coming…


slice button this marchWhen I think of April I always think of poems.  I love the special month celebrations.  We can celebrate!!! Our state testing schedule is over.  Though I am a firm believer in integrating poetry all year-long, I love that April gives a special national nod towards poetry.

This will be the last monthly celebration of my career as a teacher. ¬†I hope I can engage our whole school in Poem in Your Pocket Day. ¬†Maybe I can get help a whole grade level celebrate with a poetry coffee-house. ¬†I’ve always thought there is value in memorizing….it builds fluency and confidence. ¬†Ken Burns of the digital Ken Burns Effect, evidently thinks so too. ¬†This month he is celebrating the Gettysburg Address with a school for ‘gifted learning disabled students’. ¬†Every year at this school the students memorize part of the address. ¬†You can read about it here.¬† It is his latest digital project…it will be broadcast this April on PBS.

Scholastic and Read Write Think also have a myriad of ¬†poetry resources at every grade level. ¬†If you haven’t ever read the poetry of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater ¬†¬†you are missing out. ¬†She is generous about sharing her poems on her blog and her first poem book has won several awards. ¬†I am a big fan.

The ‘slice’ is coming to a close, however, we have poetry month to look forward to.

new assignment…


slice button this marchThe last several months I have been in search of what the second half of my life maybe will look like. ¬†I’v gone back in time to understand my strengths and weakness along the way of my career. ¬†It has given me insight. ¬†I have prayed and asked God to direct me and to open and close doors. ¬†I am graduating with a number of friends this year. ¬†We’ve all talked about what’s next. ¬†Many of us need to work, at least part-time. ¬†So of course, substitute teaching is a viable option.

One thing however that I’ve discovered is that I’ve never been a ‘wing it’ type of person. ¬†I’m not exactly what you would call ‘flexible’. ¬†I feel the job of substitute teaching is best for a person that can go with the flow, a bit more than I am. ¬†So I have decided that I will substitute only in the building that I have coached and taught in for the last twelve years. ¬†I also want to give my calendar to my friends, so that they know that these are the only days that I am willing to come.

I also plan to still teach in the university program that I have worked hard to build.  It is not a program for the faint of heart.  It is an intensive program that examines and produces leaders in the field of  literacy education.  I am humbled to a teacher in this amazing program.

I have been exploring a new job at my church and I signed a contract to work part-time just a week ago. ¬†It also was a rigorous process, getting this position. ¬†Just a few facts about our church…we are called a ‘mega-church’. ¬†35 years ago when we started in a movie theater we grew faster than lightning. ¬†At that time there were only a few Christian churches bigger than Willow Creek. ¬†Many were critical at the time. ¬†It was a place that we could bring anyone that was curious. ¬†Our music, drama and teaching were second to none. ¬†The daughter of our pastor recently wrote ¬†about what it was like to grow up at Willow…she has become an amazing author and speaker. ¬†But of course, when something grows quickly there are always problems along the way. ¬†A couple of bumpy roads were size and leadership capacity. ¬†Back then were all in our early twenties. ¬†And one thing I know from having three twenty somethings…the brain is not fully functioning until age twenty-five.

So fast forward thirty-five years, obviously we stayed, grew stronger in our faith and raised our children at this place. ¬†Some of you, who know me maybe wonder, did you ever miss being a part of a traditional type of church. ¬†For many years, I really didn’t. ¬†We got involved in small groups early on and it satisfied our personal need for connection…until the ‘crazy’ year ¬†which I call adolescence. ¬†My husband coached three seasons, my children were active, I worked full-time. ¬†We became only Sunday attenders because we couldn’t squeeze anything more into our ‘during the week routine’. ¬†And we really were okay with that. ¬†On Sunday we could sit in the same place, week after week, shake hands with people at the designated time and we were good…until….the mass exodus of children away at college. ¬†Suddenly we felt alone in our mega-church. ¬†I craved and even missed so many things about the small church I grew up in.

Three years ago, a friend, that I shared the bleachers with from our high school asked if we would be interested in this ‘new thing’ at church…making the ‘big church feel small’. ¬†So a spirited, woman, leader who was leading this new charge introduced herself to us. ¬†We were a bit reticent at first because there had been many attempts through the years to get this community thing right. ¬†But gradually we began to love this ‘section’ community. ¬†It is an absolutely genius concept, because if you are a church attenders, you might notice something…everyone alway sits in the same spot. ¬†Our church is massive in scale…main floor, mezz and upper deck. ¬†Each section has from 200-300 seats in it, the perfect mid-sized community. ¬†Every week there are new people who come to our church…we welcome everyone. ¬†The section community and events are orchestrated by the Section Leader. ¬†This is my new job. ¬†Of course we have a fabulous ‘core team’ of people in every section that is devoted to serving as well. ¬†The mid-size community is so important, because some people would like to know many people, but aren’t ready to jump into a small group just yet. ¬†It has been what our church has needed for many years. ¬†Just like in the beginning, it is so exciting ¬†to be a part of something that is so ground-breaking. ¬†I LOVE MY CHURCH!

So just a bit more about how my life seems to always cycle back. ¬†Though I love literacy and reading and writing workshop for many, many years, I believe in ‘building a classroom’ and school wide community is even more essential. ¬†Children thrive in an atmosphere where they are known and trust those around them. ¬†They need to feel freedom to experiment, to use their creativity when they read and write. ¬†The sky is the limit on learning in an environment like this. ¬†I have very intentionally built community every single day, ¬†in every classroom I have been in for the last fifteen years.

So it is with a full heart and buckets of joy that I start this new phase of my life.  I will give it my all and serve my God who sees my every need and blesses me beyond belief.

limping my way the last few days


slice button this marchHey Slicers,

I knew that I should have been more prepared, had more slices and drafts. ¬†It is coming back to haunt me. ¬†Remember I was trying to get fifteen ready when Dave was in Ecuador? ¬†I created only 10 ahead. ¬†It has turned out that I’ve needed all of them because I interviewed for a new job which chopped up a bunch of days. I ¬†got a new job which involved extra hours beyond my days at school. ¬†Now I am on vacation and though my husband promised me time to work, he didn’t tell me that he would get sick in the middle of the trip and we’d spend a day at the ER. ¬†Not that I blame him for getting sick, but I have a tendency to match get ‘sick’ with worry as well

Some of you might be saying…well Nanc, “Cry me a river.” ¬†That is the challenge; working through it all when we don’t have anything more to write, anything more to give.

Well, this is a pretty disjointed narrative, I know. ¬†I’ve tried to follow the rules this year, but today it just seems impossible. ¬†And I feel sulky at best.

I can turn it around. ¬†I can be thankful. ¬†Thankful that Dave didn’t need surgery and though it’s a serious infection we can treat it with antibiotics. ¬†I am thankful that we can still enjoy a few more days and that we will be able to see our son in St. Louis, one of the biggest reasons we headed this way. ¬†I am thankful that my daughter is very healthy and about to have our second grand-daughter and that even though they are far away from us…she works hard to Skype at least a couple of times a week. ¬†I am thankful for a new job, even though it starts, right now. ¬†I’m thankful that I will be ¬†working with people I love ¬†and at a church that I have loved for 35 years. ¬†God is so good to me.

He even gave me a post…another post, when I didn’t think I had anything left to write.