Monthly Archives: February 2021

too fast

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I read fast. I write fast. And I’m finding this year that I talk way too fast.

And it has become one of my biggest problems because of sheltering in place this past year because Dave, my shelter buddy, is slow to speak and sometimes annoyingly decides not to speak to me at all.

This happened yesterday, and for some of the teachers in the room, you need a bit of background info. We both just turned 65, so in our state, we qualify for the vaccine. Illinois is notorious for county control, and there are many, many counties. Our county is still trying to get with the program. We are second from the bottom with shot #1. Dave and I go to Dr.’s in opposing counties, and I think my Dr. recommended me for the Covid vaccine before Dave’s did. So I promptly signed up with a personal code and am going Saturday to a hospital in a different county; I guess county doesn’t matter when a hospital administers the vaccine.

So Dave is silent and has seemed upset for two days. I volunteer to keep checking Walgreens for him. He says he doesn’t want to keep checking.

Yesterday we skied together, and he is out in front as usual. Dave is so competitive even at 65; I muse as he trots up each hill like a mountain goat. I go up with my legs in V formation so I don’t slide back to the bottom; I forgot who taught me that crazy technique.

My right ski gets stuck going up the hill in an icy drift, tangled up with roots and weeds. My left ski keeps sliding, sliding… until I’m almost doing the splits.

     I yell, “Hey, you up there— stop!”

No response.

Typical Dave, ignoring me because he’s mad.

He’s at the top now, and he begins to kick and glide. I’m stuck, and he’s having so much fun, probably hysterical at my predicament. I take my right ski off, pull it out of the drift, take off the other, walk uphill, crashing into the ridges on the side for some traction, sinking about a foot with every step.

I reach the pinnacle, jam my feet into my bindings, seeing Dave about 100 yards ahead. He stops, turns, and looks in my direction.

     Cupping his gloves, he shouts. “You okay?”

     I reach him, stop and spew, “I’m sick and tired of you never listening to me, you being so jealous of me because I’m getting the shot, and you being Mr. Expert skier and all of that.”

     “I’m jealous? I always listen to your blah, blah blah. it’s my best strategy with you. ” And tell me, when didn’t I listen?”

     When I yelled, “Stop when you were going up the last hill.”

     “If I had stopped, I would have slid backward; I wasn’t at the top yet, you know? He paused, waiting for my response.”

 I smiled. I hadn’t heard this amount of words from him in two days.

     “Why? What was wrong? Were you stuck in your ridiculous herringbone you continually try to practice? Small steps are always better— you know that.”

I looked at his warm eyes and tender heart. I took a good slow look.

     “Sometimes I go on and on because you don’t say anything back to me.”

     “That’s usually because I’m thinking, that’s all.”

I knew that was maybe part of it, but the larger part was about me. I want a fast response and immediate attention, like the whole universe, revolves around me.

Dave just walked into the room asking me if he could borrow my space heater for a bit to warm up his snowblower, which wasn’t starting.

     I looked at him and said, “Sure thing.”

    “And Dave…”

    He responded. “What, Nancy?” 

   “You’re a good guy.”

   “No, I’m not.”

  “Yes, you are.”

  “No, I was jealous.”

  “The shot???

  He nodded.

 “I knew that’s what it was all about. I know everything.”

 

 

“I think I can, I think I can…”

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I want to take that “dare to care” that Ruth encouraged me to do,

But I feel so safe,

On cozy Tempur-Pedic with blankets

Warm and secure

I pull my comforter down under my chin

and

 Spy snow… drifted like sand dunes

Outside— glimmering, radiantly

Beckoning me to

Unfurl my covers that protect

My heart,

My mind,

My soul,

I take the leap,

Click on the Zoom.

I’m tethered to my girls

with frayed cords that bind us

as we

abide

 in

HIM.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Matthew 18:20

Bookish Encouragement, by Ruth Ayres

An Ode to Miss Grace and Scandalous Teachers Everywhere

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She could be explained in one word: CROCHETY. She moved faster than anyone I knew, rapping her cane on the desk of a sleepy 7th grader, or hitting the blackboard in rapid succession so we would look up at her flowing cursive that she had just scratched. Her white ponytail bobbed as she read dramatically from Dudley Randall’s “Ballad of Birmingham” or selected poems from Rod McKuen’s Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows.

We called her Grace when we talked about her behind her back because 7th graders usually talk about what they perceive as whackos. Even the craziest among us didn’t dare to disturb when we entered her hallowed kingdom. She demanded our desk be free of debris, just a #2, a pink eraser, and multiple sheets of notebook paper. We dared not touch our grammar books under our chairs because she believed in what was called ‘Transformational’ grammar back then. Grace didn’t believe in doing rote exercises in comma placement or tense. And believed if you were a reader you were also a writer. And that all of us were sojourners and that many of us were at best only average or below average at that point in our lives.

One day, I was writing a mystery in class and got brave enough to raise my hand after she was done writing what literature we would read that night for homework.

“What, Miss Olson (she never called us by our first names)?”

“I’m not sure about how to punctuate this conversation.”

She ran up close, I feared she would be making an example of me any moment.

“What’s underneath your chair, Olson?”

UMMM, my grammar book?”

Bamm— her hand came down flat down on my story.

“Not that, that’s not a real book. I’m talking about #44.”

Shocked I muttered, “You mean my Nancy Drew?”

“I just finished #45. I think you’ll even on that first page she will be blabbering about something to someone. I know you can figure it out, Olson.”

All heads were pointed in my direction as she made a quick getaway to her chalkboard. She turned and rapidly looked in my direction. I will always remember her wink and her toothy grin.

PS In the winter of that year I was happy with a C- on my poem entitled Toboggan Run and forever will remember her comment on the top, With a little work this could be a dandy!

PSS A month later I got the good news from American Girl magazine that they would be publishing my poem in their next issue. My tidy mom even said she liked it, right before it went in her circular file. Oh, how I wish that I had it still. One scandalous teacher can make all the difference in one little girl’s life. Miss Grace was mine.