Monthly Archives: October 2012

what I do when there is too much to do…


Sunday- with a myriad of tasks left undone…

What should I start? Where do I begin? Should I start with easiest or hardest?  What do you do when your trying to inch your way out of an excruciating week of sighs and tears?

I want to do easiest I decide.  I put the dishes from last night into the dishwasher grab the crumbs and throw them into the sink, scrub pots and click the disposal on.  As it grinds, I say to myself, “lately it is all one big grind”.

Next, I grab my keys for the one errand that needs to get done so that I can mail the package to one of my daughters best friends who recently had a baby.  I grumble as I see it is trick-or-treating at the mall.  I need to get in, get out….fast, or a gremlin will recognize my slick backed, no made-up face.

As I quickly put the package in the trunk.  I spy three of my backpacks…one from school, one from the university class that I teach and a myriad of books from the workshop that our team led last week.  I’ve simply got to clean this because Dave is losing patience with my messy car.  I feel his judging eyes every time we are in this car together.  Papers are shooting out like ghosts chiding me, reminding me that I have yet to conquer the organization thing.

Peeping out from the back trunk  I see my Barnes and Noble bag that I have hidden.  It is filled with my secret purchase last Wednesday night before the start of my writing circle.  It is a new book, another secret present to myself, Joan Bauer’s latest … Almost Home. I am almost home, I thought.  Home to figure out what needs to be done before I start tomorrow.  The cover tantalizes me, the main character’s name, Sugar, beckons me, the plot summons me.

I ignore the piling up of emails from our union and from my undergrads.

I ignore the crumpled leaves that are starting to fly into our neighbors’ treeless yard.

I ignore the elliptical.

I ignore the laundry, the vacuum, my trunk and my office.

I turn on the fireplace.

I turn on the cozy light.

I turn the page and I begin to feel the joy return… flooding every cell, every worn out place in my life.



When I get a forward in my email in box I usually can’t click delete fast enough.  However, there is one  friend that I always read.  She was my daughter’s high school English teacher; well-respected mentor of my husband in the English department, and speaker of three languages fluently. She is simply just a wonder… this former nun who is now happily traveling the world in retirement with her husband of many years.  I never take a pass on her insight. Oh, one important thing that I must mention she has a fabulous sense of humor.

Now are you anxious for the forward?

18 years ago the USA had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash ….

Now we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.

I read that on last week before one of the workshops that I was hosting with my literacy team to all the third grade teachers in our enormous district outside of Chicago.  Why, you might ask?  How would that fit in during a workshop on writing workshops?

(This is just an aside, some of you might have guessed with things where I have to repeat information five days in a row, I do have a tendency to go off script a bit.)

But this is the exact script my district is facing, what all our teachers are facing, and what our world is facing. This forward is so negative…don’t you think?  Or is it?

I do miss Steve’s creativity, Bob’s joy and giving spirit, and Johnny’s amazing life story that is told cleverly through music.  So, I told our teachers this, as they cackled and wondered where I was going with this funny forward.  We have these amazing legacies forever;  creativity, laughter and music. And these things will never die and will forever be important to all of us.

Are we leaving legacies in our classroom? Planting love that will last forever?

Our children will never remember the topic of their one minute fluency timing even a second after reading it. They will however, remember the joy they felt as they practiced, rehearsed and performed a spooky Jack Prelutzky reader’s theater and that wintry day  when you brought a special delivery  letters to the class that were  straight from the North Pole.  And they were still cold, really, really cold.  Yes, we leave our touch, our imprint, our life on theirs.  I want to intentionally make those marks daily in my classroom.

…stand together and don’t stand alone…


I’ve been a teacher for thirty-six years. Three times I have taken a ‘intent to strike’ vote.  Today was my third.  We took our vote, hoping that this vote would send a strong message.  Thirty-four students in kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms is wrong on way too many levels.  Our students deserve the best that we can give them and it seems virtually impossible to give them the attention that they need in this present environment.  We are told that we expect too much, that we refuse to compromise and cooperate.  We are told that we are not being fiscally responsible to the taxpayer.  We are told that we don’t understand the economics of situation.

However, we do understand that children deserve the best from us, we do understand that they need well qualified and passionate teachers to deliver superior instruction throughout their entire school career.

And we understand that our children are the hope of this broken world.

Yes, I am a union girl.  My grandfather was in the brick laying union in the early 1900’s.  He was also an immigrant who proudly became a United States citizen.  My father went to college on the G.I. bill.  I’m proud to say he was the organizer of a pension fund at the engineering firm he worked at in Chicago.

Today there are whispers in my head from my grandpa and from my dad.

They say to me….stand together and don’t stand alone;  that is what your stock is made of.

I love this song by Nickelback.

I would miss the crimson leaf…


I’m staring out at our sugar maple amazed at the spectacular color that this hot, very dry summer produced this fall.  I can’t imagine life without color.  Later, I will start to rake all my red leaves into a pile on my day off.  Today, I decided that I would do just what I wanted to do, after a week of laryngitis and preparing for five days of a writing in service for our district teachers.   Catching up with my writing family, has become a new priority for me.  I can’t imagine my life without this every week.    I also make time to check in on blogs that I love, at least once a week.  I learn so much from Two Writing Teachers (Ruth and Stacey) and from A Year of Reading (Franki and Mary Lee).

This past week I read from Franki’s blog post about Lois Lowry’s new book Son, that recently made it to the shelves across the country.  Franki, at Mary Lee’s suggestion, was rereading The Giver, a book that I taught eight years in a row when I was teaching seventh grade.  My connection to this blog post ran deep; I was paying close attention to her words.

I suddenly, missed teaching that age range with all of my heart.  It has been fourteen years since I left that teaching team that meant the world to me.  I thought about all the students who experienced that book with me during those years.  They would be in their mid twenties to thirty years old.   It seems like a lifetime ago.  So, I decided this morning that I also would also reread The Giver, before reading Son.  I used to reread books every year because of how we had to teach literature back them…whole group no- student choice.    I secretly would evaluate the author’s writing, based in part if the book would move me again, and again, and again and again!  The Giver never failed me, and today….again, there was new insight…that I hadn’t remembered back when I was teaching it.  I think it is because I am fourteen years older, in so many ways trying to cast a new vision for myself after 35 years of teaching.

The text that jumped from the page  said:

“What did you perceive?’ The Giver asked.

“Warmth ,” Jonas replied,”and happiness.  And–Let me think .

Family.  and something else–I can’t quite get the word for it.”

“It will come to you.”

“Who were the old people and why were they there? It had puzzled Jonas, seeing them in the room .  The ‘Old’ of the community did not ever leave their special place , The House of the Old where they were so well cared for and respected.

“They were called Grandparents.”

“Grand parents?”

This is where I broke down…missing of my own grandmother who had been my world as a child.  Missing my own grand baby and daughter, ten hours away.  I am now a childless adult, as they called it in Jonas’s world.  If I was living in the book, I would have never seen my own children as adults.   My parents in their 80’s  would be in The House of the Old in the place Jonas lived, waiting to be ‘released’.

I will never have the opportunity to teach this book again,  because I will be retiring next year but, I don’t think it should stop me from sharing the whole idea of reading this book again, even if you have read and taught it ten times. The discussion of the themes of ‘individuality’, ‘pain’, and how very, very, important ‘love’ should be in this broken world are still topics that should be explored in middle school classrooms across our country.  The word Jonas was struggling for in this passage was love and how we all need to feel like we belong.

Now,  as I write these last few sentences I’m anticipating opening an amazing author’s new book, Son. The book is crisp, new and clean as I open it.  It will become loved and worn as I share it with those that I love.

I’m wondering if any of my former students will be joining me?  I’m wondering if any of you will…so we can talk about it along the way.  

you…do I need you?


You ring at inopportune times,

I never can find you

in the deep, dark

pitch black of my black bag,

or in the multiple pockets of my

blue backpack

You exasperate me when you ring downstairs… somewhere and

I’m in my cozy red chair… reading… with my blanket curled around,

Mostly you give me messages that I don’t really want to respond to,

Somehow even  telemarketers have found their way to your number.

I carry you in the car for emergencies, but you ring there and scare

me as I jump to answer,

A truck became highly annoyed as I was talking to you, as I tried to merge


I love that I can write mini letters on you and send them to friends at random,

but never in traffic, it could just be disastrous

My family tells me that I don’t respond to their messages and most of the

time I just forget that I even have you and forget to check for

missed calls or long and windy


Now… if I had that new phone with a whopping data plan.. you know the one

that will bring me up to date with twitter, face time and complete

digital access

maybe then I would improve and would treat you with more respect,

maybe then I would begin to love love your sound and would keep you

close for instant access and company

and you would never be alone in

the dark places, because my hand would probably be glued to your face