SOLC Day 25: Drifting Along

March 2023 SOLC–Day 25
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.

I hear the birds outside, calling. I’m choosing to think of it as a dawn serenade or even a cheery “Good Morning!” rather than as a reminder that the feeders are empty–an avian rebuke of sorts.

The small splash of last summer’s red nail polish on the tip of one big toenail? It’s a cheerful memento, rather than an embarrassing indication of laziness.

Those spider webs in the window? Not evidence of sloth. No, they’re an effort to foster a natural habitat, to provide refuge, or perhaps an investment in natural bug eradication measures. 

I’m weaving my world into different patterns today.

Thinking about the spider webs, I remember the time my son’s teacher laughingly shared with me how my son had shared with his class a story of us stopping our dinner to watch a spider wrap its prey. (Clearly, web has been part of my decorating motif for a long time.) I suspect she was thinking of this as one of those unfortunate revelations kids make to their teachers–the ones that would cause parents to cringe if only they knew. You may have heard some of these yourself, the ones that can make future eye contact challenging:  “My dad walks around in his underwear and farts all the time.” “My mom’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey.” or “My mom has handcuffs in her room. She says it’s in case there’s ever a bad guy.” But, while his teacher was, perhaps, considering my poor housekeeping efforts,  I chose to think of it as a time we fostered wonder and flexibility.

Anyway, this morning, after a week of long, long days and too much focus, I’m allowing myself to drift. You may have noticed already. I was late to rise (10 hour sleep celebration! Woot!) and ignored the pull to get up and out and greet the sunrise. Instead, I’m allowing my body and mind to be slow, to wander where they wish. To ignore the to do’s and simply to be. At least for the moment.

Yesterday at recess a second grader zipped her coat around a playground structure pole. She took each empty sleeve in one of her hands. Then she danced. An easy-breezy graceful dance. Her eyes half-closed, her body loose and relaxed, she and her coat dipped and swayed around that jaunty red pole. Utterly content in the moment that she’d created. 

That’s how I want to be today. I want to drift along, see where the tide of the day takes me and mix metaphors wherever I want.  To wander. To wonder. To create my own enchantment. To spend my day easy-breezy, eyes half-closed, loose and relaxed.

Wish me luck!

SOLC Day 24: Irish Bears?

March 2023 SOLC–Day 24
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.

We’d just finished reading “The Truth about Bears” by Maxwell Eaton III. As we looked at the final page, we examined the map showing where bears lived in the world. We’d already learned earlier that bears don’t live in Australia, Africa and Antarctica. The map confirmed this. Our conversation was winding down, and I glanced up at the clock.

“Time to get moving,” I said. “Let’s pack up and head to Specials.”

Chatter erupted. and kids picked up their stuff and headed to cubbies. A few lingered at the rug.

“Are there any bears in Ireland, ” S asked.

S, you should know, is a bit preoccupied with Ireland. It all started when the Music Teacher had the kids learn Irish songs for their spring concert. She spent some time teaching them about Ireland and Irish culture, and S remains thoroughly smitten with all things Irish.

Earlier this winter he announced, “Mrs. Hogan, I’m not going to be here for the whole year, you know. I’m going to be leaving.”

“You are?” I asked, puzzled, as I hadn’t heard anything about this.

“Yes,” he said, “I’m going to Ireland. And I’m going to miss the rest of second grade.”

He was quite definite about this and even though it didn’t sound quite right, I didn’t totally dismiss it. After several other teachers asked me in passing if S was really going to miss the end of the year to go to Ireland, I decided I should check with his grandmother.

“I wish,” she said.

At any rate, back to the potential for Irish bears.

“I don’t think so,” I said, glancing at the map.

“Yes, there are,” he said.

“Well, look,” I pointed. “This is Ireland, and it doesn’t show any bears there.”

He walked away and said quietly, but adamantly, “There are bears in Ireland…and they’re green.”

K, who was still gathering up her things, overheard him and shook her head.

“S, there’s no such thing as green bears.”

She turned to walk to her cubby, then suddenly stopped. Slowly, she turned all the way around and looked at me.

“There aren’t, are there?”

SOLC Day 23: A Disturbing Trend

March 2023 SOLC–Day 23
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.

We have Morning Meetings every day, and for the Share, I sometimes ask my students “Would you rather?” questions.

This morning I asked, “Would you rather go for a ride in a helicopter or in a submarine, and why?”

The first student earnestly replied, “I’d rather go in a submarine so I can’t fall and die.”

Several kids nodded their heads in agreement.

The next one said, ” I’d rather go in a helicopter because you’re less likely to drown. If there was a storm I could jump out in a parachute.”

“I’d go in a helicopter because in a submarine a sea animal could come and break the glass and water would get in and I’d drown.”

Again and again students responded with answers based on how they would be the safest, or at least less likely to get injured. Sure there were a couple who said things like, “I’d go in a submarine so I could see the wildlife and maybe have a pet fish”, but most answers were safety-based.

This is not the first time this year that I’ve heard these kind of answers.

A while ago I asked “Would you rather travel across the United States or sail around the world?”, and almost every student chose traveling across the United States so they didn’t drown. Or they just said it would be safer in some way or another. More recently, when I posed the question, “Would you rather live in a rectangular or circular house?” they mostly chose a triangular house, because “a house that is a circle might roll away in a bad storm.” Which brings us back to today’s responses.

I think about the past few years and the messages that have inundated these kids’ lives: “Wear your mask to stay safe.” “Don’t get too close so you stay safe.” “We can’t visit Grandpa, it isn’t safe.” ” Make sure to sanitize. We have to be safe.” and on and on and on. And while I understand and applaud the actions that promoted safety, I am becoming ever more concerned about the unintentional fallout.

I’ve been teaching almost fifteen years and these answers feel different. And disturbing. We’ve taught our children how to stay safe in these crazy times, but we seem to have also taught them that safety should be their primary concern when making any decision, and that every situation, even hypothetical ones, should be assessed for elements of danger. I worry about the impact of this and its ripple effect a lot. I want these kids to have big bold dreams. Sure, I want them to be safe, but I don’t want them to see the world and their lives and all their possibilities from a vantage of fear.

I’m not quite sure what to do about it, and it makes me so damn sad.

SOLC Day 22: Currently…

March 2023 SOLC–Day 22
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.

Currently, It’s 7:46 pm. I have had 12 Parent-Teacher conferences in the past two days, tucked in before and after full school days. I have four more tomorrow. And although I know I’m fortunate to only have 16 conferences total, I am tired. I’m also not 100% sure my day is thoroughly planned for tomorrow. (Actually I’m 100% sure that it is not.) Nor am I 100% sure how I am making it through three more days this week. 

I’m sitting here wondering what to write for my slice. I’m pointedly not looking at the large, flat box to my right. The one with two prints in it. The one that I special ordered this past weekend so that it would be here in time for the photography contest. The one I don’t want to open in case the pictures didn’t translate well to their enlarged printed form. 

Currently, I’m berating myself for cowardice. I love taking pictures but I don’t know enough about the digital/tech. stuff. So playing around with the photos to get the right size, the right settings is a bit of a crap shoot. Even when I have someone to ask for help (Thanks, Ash!), I easily get frazzled. I didn’t even end up having my favorite photo printed, because I couldn’t get it to cooperate. The file was too big, then the print size I wanted altered it and cut off a key part. And I’d left it all too late, which amped up the frazzle. The few times I’ve gone through this process, I ultimately get to the F-it stage, throw up my hands, send in my order, cross my fingers, hope for the best. Then I worry. That pretty much sums up this past weekend.

Currently, the box remains sealed, and I’m thinking of winding down and heading to bed. As noted, I’m tired. And I’m just not sure I’m up to facing the photos right now. If they’re good, I’ll be relieved, but if they’re not good, I’ll be totally stressed. There’s no time for a fix, and nothing I can do about it tonight. I’m a big believer in putting off today what I can worry about tomorrow.

So, no surprise, I’m opting to stall. Apparently, the worry about possibly being more stressed trumps the possibility of being relieved. Somewhere in my mind, I know this isn’t a healthy way to approach this situation. I think I’m going to blame it on conferences. Anyway, I also know the box will still be here tomorrow morning…or even tomorrow afternoon. I’ll definitely have to open it then…

SOLC Day 21: A Lot of Energy for a Monday Morning

March 2023 SOLC–Day 21
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.

The classroom was awash with energy in second grade yesterday morning. I stood at the door greeting kids as they entered. Usually they trickle in, a few at a time. Today there was a mad gush, and so many of them had something exciting to share.

First of all, it must have been haircut weekend, although I didn’t get the memo. One student strutted in sporting a new mohawk, another had new bangs*, and another two had fresh cuts (“and the lady who cut my hair accidentally cut my ear! But just a little bit.”). Of course that started an immediate avalanche of compliments and conversations.

Other kids had different news to share;

“I just found out I’m going to get my ears pierced!”

“I’m so excited!! I’m going to be on Spotify! My cousins have a band and they said I could be in it, so I’m going to be on Spotify! I’m so excited!! Do you know my Rapper name?” B was practically dancing as he relayed his news.

“No, what is it?”

“Inspecta’ Drippy!” he beamed.

“Inspector Drippy?” I asked.

“No, InspectUH Drippy!”

“Chicken nuggets and french fries for lunch. Oh, good! Soft food! ‘Cause look!” L inserted his finger into his mouth to point proudly at the newly empty space.

“Look, Mrs. Hogan! I remembered my orange folder AND my homework!” A beaming smile accompanied this news.

“Guess what! This weekend I was tubing with my dad and hewenttoofast and wewentaroundacurve and Ifelloffinagiantsomersault LIKE THIS (demonstrated with flailing arms and tucked head in the air) and Ibonkedmyhead and IthoughtIbrokeit!!!!Andguesswhat!!!! Ihurtmy….ARMPIT!”

Each statement from each student was delivered with maximum intensity. I felt a bit like a buoy bobbing around in the currents of their enthusiasm, enjoying it all, but still trying to direct some of the energy into the appropriate channels. With limited initial success.

Eventually we settled in to morning routines and the energy level settled down, at least a bit. I smiled as I sat to enter attendance. You gotta love second graders!

And so the week began!

*I discovered later, when complimenting the new bangs to the mother of that child, that this haircut had not been a planned event. Apparently there was a little extra energy that ran amok over the weekend and expressed itself with scissors. As I spoke with the mother who clearly wasn’t pleased, I had the fleeting thought, “She would have had a great slice to write!”

SOLC Day 20: I Get It

March 2023 SOLC–Day 20
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.

We go to bed pretty early, as we both love to read before we go to sleep. (Also, we’re in our 50s…and we’re kind of boring… and we live in Maine where sun sets in the winter before 4 pm. But I’m okay with all of that, and I’m digressing…)

At any rate, usually I head up a few minutes earlier and I’m in bed first. We read with book lights, but I leave the bedroom light on so Kurt can see. He switches it off before coming to bed. 

The other night I was the last one up. I walked over to turn off the light. There, lined up on top of the dresser, were three photos: one of each of our children as a child. Kurt must have put them there. When did he do that? How long had they been there? I tried to remember the last time I was the one to turn off the light. It couldn’t have been that long ago.

“Do you look at these every night before you go to sleep now?” I turned to ask Kurt, who was already in bed.

He looked up from his book. 

“Yes,” he said, without elaborating. 

He didn’t need to. 

I get it. 

My eyes lingered on each photo, then I turned off the lights, and got into bed.

SOLC Day 19: A Garden Amble

March 2023 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.

“It’s so nice out!” I said, stepping outside, “I think there are even some green things in the garden.” I peered down to look closer. There was definitely some green here and there, though it was still tough to identify. “Maybe we should do a garden walk?”

“I was just thinking that!” Lydia replied. 

Lyddie, our youngest, was here for an afternoon visit, taking a detour on her way up to visit some friends. During the 2 ½ years after Covid derailed her plans after college graduation, she lived at home with us. When the weather was nice, we got into the habit of walking together around the yard, looking at the different gardens to notice new growth, changes, new blossoms, etc. It’s something I’ve missed. 

So yesterday, when spring was in the air, though snow was clearly visible, we wandered around, looking at likely spots where the snow had melted and green was returning. Some spots seemed more like an impression of green than distinct growth, but then we noticed iris and lily leaves poked through crystallized snow. The lady’s mantle was sending up tender green origamied leaves. I even noticed dark green stalks on some store-bought hyacinth bulbs that I’d planted as an afterthought last fall.

We exclaimed and admired. I picked up branches here and there, putting them in a pile for a more focused future endeavor. I paused to pull up a few random tufts of grass, enjoying the feel of cold dirt on my fingers. After a bit we ambled around to the front yard. 

“This is where the deer like to come first in the spring,” I commented. “I bet something will be up.”

“Look!” Lydia pointed.

Sure enough there was a cluster of crocuses, tightly budded but sparking purple amidst the brown and grey garden debris. 

Behind them was a rogue bud–oddly shaped, but probably a daffodil. (I’d definitely be keeping an eye on that one.)

“Everywhere you look, you see something new!” we marveled.

We continued walking and talking, gently moving leaves and poking about in each garden. I felt my spirits lift with each discovery, even the slugs.

Finally, we ended up sitting on the deck, enjoying the last few minutes of her visit. It had been a lovely garden amble, and a lovely day overall.

There’s nothing like soaking up the warmth of the afternoon sun in early spring for stimulating a little regeneration.

Spring is coming…

SOLC Day 18: Poetry Writing with AI

March 2023 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.

My To Do list is approaching epic proportions this weekend. Lots of it is creative (submit photos, order prints, order frames, submit to my writing group, comment on Poetry Friday posts, write a slice, etc), some are social (hanging out with my daughter, getting together with a friend), but lots are not so fun (organize tax information, pay bills, get ready for conferences, plan for the school week). All of them are time-consuming and that’s not even mentioning that I want to get outside for a long walk because it’s supposed to be gorgeous! And there are the weekly errands to deal with. And I’d like to take some pictures. And I need to clean. You get the idea.

(Thank you, amygdala. (I learned at PD yesterday that I’m supposed to thank my amygdala when I start to feel anxiety, but then not let it take the driver seat.))

So early this morning I opened my e-mail to find the first prompt of the Ethical ELA Open Write . This once-a-month series of five prompts is always engaging, but today it felt a bit like a straw falling hard on my back–even though it’s totally not a “must do” but a “want to do.” I took a glance at the prompt…oh, it was something with AI. I had a knee-jerk recoil. Then I remembered that I just wrote about how I use Siri to help me record thoughts, etc. when I can’t write (here). So, I decided not to be a rigid noodle (something else I learned at PD yesterday) and took up the challenge. I looked at the list of linked sites and opted for a British-based one. It seemed to add a veneer of class and civility to the whole proceedings.

Having made my choice, I clicked on Poem Generator. It gave me some options to complete:

Then I clicked on “Write me a poem”, and here’s what happened.

“The Bristling And Wordy Notebook

A Poem by Anon

Whose notebook is that? I think I know.
Its owner is quite angry though.
She was cross like a dark potato.
I watch her pace. I cry hello.

She gives her notebook a shake,
And screams I’ve made a bad mistake.
The only other sound’s the break,
Of distant waves and birds awake.

The notebook is bristling, wordy and deep,
But she has promises to keep,
Tormented with nightmares she never sleeps.
Revenge is a promise a girl should keep.

She rises from her cursed bed,
With thoughts of violence in her head,
A flash of rage and she sees red.
Without a pause I turned and fled.With thanks to the poet, Robert Frost, for the underlying structure.

Please note: This poem was created with our quick poem generator, so results are fairly basic. Our other generators use robots who take your input then trawl the dictionary for rhymes, synonymns and alliteration, creating a more unique experience.”

Oh, my, I think I’m just going to let that speak for itself.

Thank you, amygdala.

SOLC Day 17: Spontaneous Beach Visit

March 2023 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.

It felt like spring when I stepped out of school today. As I drove away, I checked the thermometer. 46˚F! Wow! No wonder it felt like spring. Sunny weather. Mid 40s. You can’t ask for much better in mid-Maine in March. And tomorrow was a professional day, so I didn’t have to plan anything. Ahhhhh….

A little later as I pulled out of the library after picking up the newest book in my series (another reason to feel good!), the light was just gorgeous, rich and almost golden. My thoughts turned to the beach. I glanced at the clock. 4:48.

“Hey Siri, what time is sunset in Maine today?”

Sunset today will be at 6:47 in Portland, Maine.

Hmmmm….it was possible…and maybe there actually is an upside to Daylight Savings Time…

Shortly before 5 pm, I was home. I dropped my bags inside, and waved to Kurt who was on the phone.

“It’s so beautiful outside. Do you want to go to the beach?” I asked him, casually once he finished his call. (To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting him to say yes and wasn’t a hundred percent sure I wanted to go. I hadn’t sliced yet and had math assessments to score… Also, it was pretty last minute and the beach is a 45 minute drive.)

After a small hesitation, he answered, “I’d be up for that.”

Oh. Well, okay then.

Ten minutes later we were in the car, and less than an hour later, we were heading out onto the beach.

We paused on the way in, inhaling the salt air and taking in the scene, marveling over how much the beach has changed over the past year. Then we wandered along. Sometimes chatting. Sometimes not. Pausing every so often to linger over something–drfitwood, the light on the waves, the shifting color amidst the clouds, patterns in the sand.

Slowly I could feel some of the accumulated tensions of the day, the week, slough off.

“Oh, I’m so glad we came,” we said to each other more than once.

Sand. Surf. Sunset. And all with my sweetheart.

It was worth every minute.

SOLC Day 16: Overlooked

March 2023 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.

I’m not sure how long it took me to notice, but at some point late yesterday afternoon, I looked over at the tulips.

Oh, no!

The lavender flowers which had been so steadfastly beautifying their little corner of the world, were wilted, pooling on the table, still attached to their drooping stems. 

I raced over and gently pulled them out of the vase, knowing what I’d find. Feeling guilty already. Sure enough, the vase was bone dry.

How long had they been struggling?

In the hubbub of my week, I’d given their bright presence a few appreciative glances, but I hadn’t remembered to check and/or freshen the water. They hung limply against my hands, a silent reproach.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” I whispered.

I took them over to the sink. Even though they looked awful, I had to try. Maybe there was still some hope. Maybe…

I carefully cut off the bases of the stems, refilled the vase with water and gently tucked the tulips inside. I placed them back on the table, a dismal little bouquet. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture of them. They were so far gone that doing so would have felt awfully close to Victorian mourning practices.

A few hours later, I glanced over. They had perked up just a bit! No longer were the petals resting on the table! They might actually recover from my neglect and make it for a little bit longer.

This morning I noticed them first thing. The stems will clearly never return to their upright status, but the blossoms had rejuvenated…at least a bit. There was still some life in these beauties!

Tonight they’re still looking pretty good, and are perhaps even a touch more upright. I’m not sure how much longer they’ll last, but I’m so glad I made the effort. And I’ll definitely be checking the water every day!