Monthly Archives: May 2012

11+1=12, but it’s not a numbers story


You were starting to wrap up your classrooms in boxes filled with last-minute celebrations, poems and love.  You had spent all year as a gardener.   You planted the garden, watched it sprout, assessed the health, and continued watering and weeded when it was necessary.

In May, I planted my new garden, all of you anxious…wondering whether you would sprout.

In May, community was born…. your roots tangled, intermingled with one another, touching each other in love and support.

In May, you reached and sprouted…craving the sun and showers of professional advice from mentor texts and authors that are walking your very same journey.

In May, you opened your arms to crisp, fresh titles that awakened your hearts to new possibilities for your classrooms next year.

In May, the idea that you have something to say through your writing was born and some of you thought, for the first time…I can.

In one short month of May, we grew our energy, together…looking forward to the year of growing stong roots, stems, and flowering next May.  The fruits that come from this labor will be delectable indeed.

In May I was the first gardener…pleased and proud of 11 plus 1.

dedicated to MLit 5.…may there be joy in your journey of growth this year.

Mentor text imitated, In November by Cynthia Rylant

a clean finish


My grandma taught me how to sew when people used sewing machines quite often. In the sixties she made all three of us sweet dresses to wear to school.  It even seems odd to me today that we all did wear dresses or jumpers every day of the school year.  Well, I wanted to learn from her; her clothes were the best and somehow I realized that she would have the perseverance, patience and time that my mom seemed to be in short supply of.

We started out simple, making many scarves that were simple triangles that we wore constantly back then.  She taught the angles and how to keep the needle down as I turned the corner.   We moved on to making simple jumpers where she taught me clean finish.  A clean finish involves pressing the seam open, turning the fabric under a quarter of an inch and then stitching down either side of the seam a second time.  It prevents fraying….and guess what…it was lots of work, but I learned how to sew straight and also how to do a clean finish every time.  Grandma also  always insisted that I clip the ends of the threads precisely and as close as I could get to the fabric on either side.  It is a miracle that I survived the teaching, her persnickty ways, because guess what???? I ABSOLUTELY HATE TO FINISH! I loved Grandma and I did want her to keep on teaching me, so I tried.

I love to start, I love the middle, I just hate endings. But they are so…so…important.  I want a clean finish to this school year.  I want it all wrapped up with the threads clipped.  I don’t want any frayed edges.  Having just two days left, I feel like it almost is impossible to get all the book room books inventoried, put away in a tidy fashion and lost books re-ordered.  I have to say to myself repeatedly…I think I can…I think I can.  I’m feeling her whispering in my ear these days, “Nancy, do a clean finish, I know you can do it, you can, you can.”

“up in the clouds”


Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres.  I love the fact that the story is based on history, but that the characters in the story can come alive in any way that the author chooses.  This photo was sent to me last week because my cousin Doug is also curious about our family history…he wondered if the cousins knew anything more about the picture.

my grandpa looks like jeff

When I got this picture I had absolute chills looking into my Grandpa’s eyes…one of the things I remember most about him…were those grey blue eyes that matched my own.  He was this solid rock of a man who loved to watch and learn, a swedish immigrant- a man of few words but a man with a giant lap for his granddaughter.  I loved the way he opened his silver lighter.  He would let me hold it too, heavy in my little girl hands.  Then he would bounce me and sing this Swedish song,”Rita rita runka, asta beet a blunka…”( my phonetic rendition).  Sometimes he would show us his small garden plot near the apartment where he lived.  He was proud of growing his flowers in the shade of the tall buildings.  When I was eight he moved to California…so far from Illinois.  When I saw him again three years later he happily tended a bigger garden with lemon and orange trees in back of his small house in San Fernando.

I know that my Grandpa worked hard in Chicago in the trades after World War I.  He built their family home and then lost it in the Great Depression.  I know people on the north side of Chicago loved and helped each other out during hard times.  They all had the hope that things would turn around and dreamed big dreams for their children and their grandchildren.  America was still their land of opportunity, where the immigrant citizen mattered.

This picture makes me want to write it…his story of survival in our bustling city.  Research is needed, I know…but I feel like have a  start.

‘when the tears roll’


My friend once said in a whispered voice, “I really have a hard time on Mother’s Day.”  I looked at her face of sorrow, of  her missing her mom.  Determined to try to sleep in, after a very long week at school, I closed my eyes and felt a tear roll and then another…this unexpected emotion when I think of tomorrow, Mother’s Day.  I think of the physical distance; I am separated from my children.  I won’t feel their arms in an embrace.  I am one of those huggers. I want just one hug. I just want one giggle.  I just want to be close to them physically and that’s not possible, not right now. I shift my thoughts to my friend who has lost her son and how she feels, right now.  She too longs for physical presence. And the tears… they continue to roll.  No,  that’s not possible , not right now.  I think about those who long to be a mom, about those who are estranged from a child….all of the heart breaks…

And then, finally, I think of my mom who always knew how to hug me at all the right moments.  Who loved and laughed my whole life through.  I will go visit you tomorrow and give thanks for your good health this season.  I will celebrate the blessing that you are home now, thankfully not in that hospital bed.  You will be sitting in the back porch, watching the news with dad and looking out at the new green grass… together.  You will hug me tight, I just know it.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13

Happy Mother’s Day my friends…and to my mom, Lorrie Olson

xo nanc

“will I ever get up north at the cabin?” I just said it yesterday…


It couldn’t start any better than this….On the way up north to the cabin the sunshine sits in my lap all morning.  This sentence drew me in the first time I read this book over eighteen years ago.  Up North at the Cabin written by Marcia Wilson Chall is a classic in my collection, every time I pull it out to re-read I love it more and more.  Maybe it is more about my yearning for the end and the smell of summer, the joy of summer.  Maybe it’s because I miss that anticipation of those free and sticky lazy days of summer.  Maybe it’s because I remember yelling, “hit it!” the first time at my beloved camp in Wisconsin.  Maybe it’s because I can still see my dad sweating at 5 o’clock in the morning tucking three little suitcases in the loaded down Buick for a week at Silver Lake State Park.  What do you maybe miss ?  Do you remember?  Read this book aloud for the flavor and texture of summer…read it to your self, read it to your class…be prepared to get happy.

PS I’ll put it in my window in the second floor bookroom…for my bookie friends (not literally my bookie) Aleta you know what I mean.

PSS  Another good site for all!