SOLC 2019 Day 19: An Annoying…Habit?

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 19
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Somewhere along the way, I’ve developed an incredibly annoying….habit? I’m not sure what to call it really. Usually, getting up in the morning isn’t an issue for me. But on those days when I’m exhausted and my morning alarm rouses me to groggy resentment, I lie in bed for a bit, knowing I really need to get up. That’s when it happens. If I lie there long enough, inevitably, the Mexican hat dance starts dancing through my mind. I’ve even added lyrics. They’re not creative, but they are apt. And annoying. I’ve linked in the tune in case you don’t know it, so you can sing along if you’d like…

Get up! Get up! Get up!
Get u-up! Get up! Get up!
Get up! Get up! Get up!
Get u-up! Get up! Get up!

You get the idea. Now repeat this ad nauseam. Yup. That’s what I do, too. Fun, right?

Like I said, I have no idea why I do this, but it happens again and again. In sheer self-defense, I inevitably get up. It may be an annoying habit, but it’s definitely effective!

SOLC 2019 Day 18: An Eagle in the Fog

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 18
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Saturday arrived, blanketed in thick fog. Outside the window, everything was altered, softened by the atmosphere. I could have held out against a sunrise, but this lure was irresistible. After some minimal internal struggle, I tossed my grading intentions to the side, and stepped out the door, camera in hand. The world was transformed. Eerie. Timeless. Beautiful. .

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After wandering around at home, captivated by the altered scenery, I got into my car to head down to the river. As I drove down the hill into town, the fog got thicker and thicker. I hunched forward over my steering wheel, peering into the gray mist. Hmmmm…maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I strained to see the road, slowing down to a crawl. The weather worn center line was barely visible. The edges of the road had vanished. I was isolated in a pool of light, focusing on the little that was visible about  me. I slowed almost to a stop and began to wonder how and where I might turn around. Just as I was about to retreat, the fog lifted ever so slightly. I continued slowly, carefully finding my way down to the waterside.

As I finally pulled into the parking lot, a movement off to the side caught my eye. I looked up quickly and saw a bald eagle flying in from my left. It glided in low and steady, maybe ten feet in front of my car’s windshield. Oh! The words “totem animal” flashed into my mind. What did a visit from an eagle mean? I see the eagle often, but not like this– So close. So majestic. For a brief moment, we were together in the fog, the world obscured around us.

I took it as a sign. Clearly, I was where I needed to be.

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Later I looked up the meaning of eagles. “…the Eagle is a powerful animal totem that offers lessons about looking closely at the most minute of details in order to see life from a broader perspective. When this graceful hunter comes into your life, it’s time to look inward with a careful eye. (http://www.spiritanimal.info/eagle-spirit-animal/) How fitting that this eagle visited me on a day when fog obscured the wider view and focused my attention on the little that was visible.

SOLC 2019 Day 17: Late Winter Walk

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 17
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Sometimes when I’m hungry, I just can’t figure out what I want to eat. Even with lots of options, nothing sounds particularly good. Kurt and I run into a similar problem when we try to figure out where to walk, especially in the winter. We know we want to get outside, but can’t figure out where to go. Other than the beach, at this time of year, a walkable path is not a given thing. We’ve had snow, thaws, refreezing, etc. which can lead to slippery, uncomfortable and even dangerous walking paths. Sometimes our constant debate paralyzes us, and we end up going nowhere.

“You want to go take a walk somewhere today?”
“Sure.”
“Where should we go?”
“I don’t know. Do you feel like going to the beach?”
“Is it windy? When’s high tide?”
“Do you think the trails would be ok at Vaughan Woods?”
“What do you think about that railroad path up in Augusta?”

We circle around and around and other than agreeing we want to go, we get nowhere. Literally and figuratively.

Last Saturday the sun was shining and the temperatures were rising and we were once again debating the merits of various places. Beach? Woods? Somewhere new? It was starting to feel like that old familiar “go nowhere” pattern. Then inspiration struck!

“Wait! I  know!” I said, “Why don’t we check out the Eastern Trail down in Scarborough? Remember, it’s the one that goes through the marsh. We saw it from the Audubon Center last year.”

Amazingly, it sounded just right to both of us, and we quickly motivated, organized and departed.

About forty-five minutes later we arrived and stepped out of our car into the parking lot. Immediately, we knew we’d made a good choice. The path ahead of us had been built on an old railway bed. It was slightly snowy, but easily traversable. On either side of it, the marsh stretched into the distance in its striated monochromatic late winter wonder. Geese swam in patches of open water and ducks took off and landed with regularity. Crows and seagulls flew overhead. The trail was open to the blue skies and the sun was like a soft caress on our cheeks, so welcome after weeks of bitter, biting cold.

“Oh, this is perfect!” we agreed, and off we walked, thoroughly delighted with our choice and the sunny, warm-ish day. Happy to be outside, watching the birds, and going somewhere, together.

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Beautiful blue skies and wait! Are those buds!?!

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SOLC 2019 Day 16: Pizza Detox

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 16
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

As much as I was looking forward to the end of the week, I was dreading it as well. This will not be a weekend. It is already over-scheduled with school work (reading, scoring, writing comments, planning…), and I’ll be back at school on Monday having had no substantial time to refresh.

I also feel unhappy about the week behind me. As we all tried to adjust to the clock change, the trimester ground to a halt. We administered assessment after assessment. Everyone was tired and on top of it, I was stressed. That combination doesn’t lead to creative or patient teaching. Put simply, I haven’t been my best self.

Then, next week, we’re headed into state-mandated testing, so we’ve been prepping for that as well. I feel like a cog in a big ugly machine right now, running right over the children I’m supposed to be teaching, encouraging, supporting…bypassing their needs as I tend to the demands of the system.

At the end of the day Friday, I sat at my desk, discouraged, trying to find the energy to stuff everything I could possibly need into my bags. I contemplated the coming weekend, the past week, and the weeks to come. Every dormant herpes simplex cell in my body quivered at attention, happily feeding on the incoming stress, ready to blossom at the slightest encouragement. I had to “detox”, at least a little.

Finally, I picked up the phone.

“Hey, Kurt,” I said when he answered, “You know what I really want to do?”

“What?” he asked, somewhat hesitantly.

“I want to drive to Portland and go get a giant piece of cheese-dripping pizza at Slab. Maybe even two.”

He laughed. “You want to drive all the way to Portland to get a piece of pizza?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied somewhat desperately, “A big cheesy piece of pizza! I need a break. If I go straight home I’m going to start writing or working, and I want to hang out with you. I really need to get away.” I paused, then continued, “Also, if I’m going to eat pizza, I want it to be really good pizza!”

After some discussion, Kurt, good guy that he is, agreed that, while pizza wouldn’t be his first choice of a meal if we were driving half an hour into the city, he was okay with it.

So, I packed up, hefted my bulging bags into the car, and drove home. Forty-five minutes later we were on our way.

We enjoyed ourselves.

The pizza was delicious.

And now it’s time to work.

SOLC 2019 Day 15 : My Husband, My Hero

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 15
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

I pulled in the driveway almost 12 hours after I’d pulled out. It had been another long day in a string of long days. Kurt’s car wasn’t there, so I knew I’d just missed him and that he’d already headed out to a meeting.

I walked up the snowy path, laden with bags and the weight of multiple unscored assessments, unwritten report card comments, and incomplete teaching plans. Sigh. The work day wasn’t over yet.

Walking in the door, I immediately smelled something. Kurt must have cooked dinner for himself before heading out. We have very different dietary preferences, so now that the kids have flown the nest, we rarely eat the same thing. I wondered what he’d made, and what I was going to make for my dinner. If anything. Even thinking about making dinner felt like a big effort. Cereal, maybe?

“Oh, that smells like baked potato,” I said out loud, walking further into the house. Then I thought (or maybe said aloud ’cause who knows these days!), “Oh! Now I want a baked potato. That sounds sooo good. Ooooh!  And I’m going to steam up some broccoli, too.” I started to feel enthusiasm for my dinner plans, pedestrian though they were, and I could feel my mood shifting and my energy level rising.

I dumped my gear in the family room, then headed into the kitchen, ready to start cooking. I walked over to the stove to turn it on.

Wait….what’s that?

There on the stovetop waiting for me, was one perfectly beautiful and still warm baked potato. Next to it, in a pot, was some freshly steamed broccoli. I stood and stared. Then a smile spread across my face.

Mood shift complete.

My husband.

My hero.

 

SOLC 2019 Day 14: The Tiniest Sound

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 14
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

On a recent Friday we met the kindergartners in their classroom. The room was a buzz of activity. The little ones were working on lining up, each one clutching a piece of paper in his/her small hand. This was the day they were going to share their writing at the K-2 Assembly, and we had been invited to come along, to enjoy their final pieces and support them if necessary.

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My fourth grade class has been reading with kindergarten buddies since early in the school year. Last month, the Kindergarten teacher and I decided to try having them write together. Both classes separately listened to a mentor text (Mel Evan’s the tiniest sound) and then came together to write their own response to the question “What is the tiniest sound?” The book is a lovely poetic piece, inspiring creative thought and interesting word choice. Fourth graders supported their buddies as they wrote, reminding them use their “sound power” to write down each sound they heard.

It was a delight to watch them work together. I saw one of my less-than-focused struggling readers try over and over to encourage her wiggly, wandering buddy.

“Ok, now say the word. Squeak. What sound do you hear at the beginning? S-s-s-s-s-squeak.”

She was determined and persistent, thoroughly engaged in this work with her small companion. He remained distracted, but she never gave up.

Then on Friday we walked into assembly and my fourth graders sat behind their buddies.

“I love this,” a teacher next to me stated. She gestured toward a kindergartner who was being quietly encouraged by his fourth grade partner to sit quietly. “He’s already been sitting for longer than he ever has at assembly!”

Soon the kindergartners were standing, facing the audience with my students beside them. Behind them, their responses were displayed on a large screen. Each child took the microphone, read his or her piece from their paper and then handed the microphone along. As they read, sometimes they hesitated. When necessary, my fourth graders bent down, encouraged and occasionally whispered the necessary words to them. Their support was perfect–subtle and positive.

“I just love this,” the teacher next to me commented again.

Me, too.

 

SOLC 2019 Day 13: Part 2: The Day I Did

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March 2019 SOLC–Day 13
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

Part 1: Yesterday’s post was called The Day I Didn’t See An Owl.

Part 2:  Ever since I didn’t see an owl, it seems like everyone else is seeing them. I’ve become convinced that if I just look hard enough, I’ll see one. So, I drive everywhere slightly erratically, peering into the trees, occasionally crossing the center line, but to no avail. There are no owls in sight. At least not for me.

Since the owl I didn’t see, Kurt has seen two or three more barred owls, and then last week, as he drove home, a horned owl swooped out of the night and landed on a snow bank by the road.

I could see his yellow eyes!” he enthused.

Then, at morning meeting a student shared with the class, “You guys! It was so cool! There was a barred owl outside my window on Sunday. It stayed there for like an hour!”

On the regional birding site I follow on Facebook, people are posting pictures of barred owls daily. There have even been a couple of saw whet owls spotted.

Owl sightings are definitely up. At least for everyone except me.

Unfortunately, more of the story has emerged. Apparently, it’s been a very difficult year for owls to hunt. With all the back and forth freezing and thawing, the snowpack has become very dense. The owls can’t get through it to their preferred rodent diet. We’re seeing more of them because they’re starving, and they’re coming to scope out bird feeders and other likely hunting areas. People are now reporting finding dead or severely malnourished owls. They’re trying to figure out what to do to help, but there isn’t much. It breaks my heart.

This past weekend after looking at some recent owl-related posts, I said to Kurt, “You know, I almost don’t want to see an owl now. I’m afraid it would mean that it was starving.”

And then…

Yup.

You guessed it.

Really.

Sitting at the table that afternoon,  I glanced out the window, and there it was. A barred owl sitting in our birch tree above the bird feeders. Finally! After all my searching, it came straight to our house. And close, too! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I jumped up immediately, flapping wildly, barely able to speak in my excitement.

“An owl! It’s an owl! Kurt! There’s an owl! Kurt! Look! Right there in the tree! Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it!  Look! There it is! A barred owl!”

I fluttered about for a few minutes, then grabbed my camera and flew to the window to take a few photos. And then a few more. And maybe just a few more.

Then we stood by the window together watching it through the falling snow. It was a gorgeous bird.

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Kurt called softly to it a few times in his best barred owl call, “Hoo hoo ho hooooooo.”

I crooned to it. “Oh, you’re so beautiful!” and other sweet nothings along that line. I admired its feathers, its beak and its haunting, soulful eyes.

“It looks pretty healthy. Don’t you think?” I asked Kurt, seeking reassurance. “It’s alert and active, right?”

“Yeah,” he said, “I think so. In that one picture on-line the owl looked sort of slumped over, like it had its chin, if owls had chins, on its chest.”

I looked again. Our owl was definitely upright. No slump in sight.

Throughout the day, I watched and wondered and worried. When I wasn’t perched by the window, I’d glance frequently to check if the owl was still there. It remained for several hours, departed, and then returned again. I was entranced.

The how-to-help-an-owl consensus on-line was to sprinkle bird seed on the ground to attract rodents. Even though “our” owl looked fine, I determined to do my best. As night approached and the owl remained, I scattered generous handfuls of seed under the feeder. I never thought I’d be trying to attract rodents to my yard, but I guess I’ll do just about anything for an owl.

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Shortly after nightfall, the owl left. I didn’t see it fly away. It was simply gone when I looked. It had left as silently as it arrived. There’s a spot in the birch tree that looks bare now. Owl shaped.

I’m hopeful that our owl was fine, and that the snow will soon thaw enough to improve its hunting. Its whole visit seems like a dream now, even though I have the pictures to prove it. But it’s true. I finally saw an owl.