SOLC Day 15: Hey, Siri, Take a Note!

March 2023 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.

I talk a lot in the car when I’m driving to work, but even though no one else is in the car, I’m not talking to myself. Well, not really. You see, I’m talking to Siri.

Some mornings my brain is still in writing mode on the way to school, and I often hear (as in on the radio not as in auditory hallucinations–just clarifying since I was talking about talking to myself!) or think about things I want to remember. So, I rely on Siri to take notes for me, to capture phrases I want to remember, odd reflections, bits of poems, words that intrigue me, etc. She is not infallible by any means, but she generally gets down enough so that I can capture my idea. Often I come back to these ideas later and work them into something more.

It always starts like this: “Hey, Siri, Take a Note!”
What do you want it to say?

Here are a few recent examples that Siri recorded for me in Notes:

“The birds perch atop winter trees…Hey, you &*%, you just ran a stop sign! Oh…sorry Siri, I wasn’t talking to you.”
Oops. (Is there anyone else reading this who apologizes to Siri and/or thanks her when she’s helpful? Or is that just me?)

“Look up juggernaut.”
I was just thinking about how cool that word sounds and wanted to check my understanding of the meaning, which felt incomplete. Big? Overwhelming? Rolling over things? So I looked it up, and I was pretty close!

“A whale is like swimming trees.”

I heard a snippet of a program on the radio. This phrase caught my ear. I completely forgot about it until I went back to review my notes. Then, I couldn’t resist doing a little research. It turns out that whales capture huge amounts of CO2 during their lives and that restoring whale populations could be a viable approach to helping combat climate change. I had no idea.

“Italian you don’t eat at the table Rick Steeves NPR”

Okay, this one is a bit more cryptic. I had been listening to a Rick Steeves program on NPR. He was talking about an Italian phrase meaning essentially that time stops in the purity of enjoying a moment, often one that is centered around gathering for and enjoying a meal. Those words were the ones I quickly asked Siri to note to try to remember that I wanted to look up the phrase later. Just a few minutes ago, I entered “you don’t eat at the table Italian” and much to my amazement, the first response was:  ‘A tavola non s’invecchia’: ‘At the table, one does not grow old. ‘ What a wonderful saying! (It also sounds like a great strike line for a golden shovel poem. )

“Sometimes in my effort to find beauty in the midst of grumpiness, I give myself whiplash.”

This was just me thinking about how out of sorts I’ve been lately and how actively I’ve been trying to appreciate the beauty that’s around me. I feel a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde-ish at times. These words came to mind and made me laugh. So I had Siri take a note.

Time and again when I go back to these notes, I find odd inspirations or phrases that I’ve totally forgotten about. Periodically I transcribe them into my notebook. Often they’ve served as starting places for blog posts or for poems. Here are a couple more without background:

“I put on a dress this morning and wore a memory.”

“Moon as fortune teller, her gauzy veils predicting coming storms.”

“Perhaps a wall is not a place for setting boundaries, but instead a place for celebrating a connection.”

What surprises me most when I go back to my notes is how often I’ve forgotten what I had Siri take a note of. Though I would never have expected it, it seems like Siri and her note-taking have become an important part of my writing life. Sort of like a portable digital writing notebook.

It’s nice to know I’m never really alone…

“Hey, Siri, take a note!”

SOLC Day 14: Thinking about a Cookie

March 2023 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.

Sometimes mid-way through the challenge, I find myself diving into my old drafts, hoping to find some unfinished ideas that might serve as a spark for a new slice. Perhaps something that might resonate now more than it did then. Today I found a prompt.

The prompt was simple: “Tell us about a cookie.”

A cookie? Hmmmm…What would I want to say about a cookie?

And then memory flooded in. A sort of touchstone memory. Not a video, but a snapshot. Me, walking into the kitchen from school. Mom, pulling freshly baked chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. I linger in the memory and almost capture that elusive long-ago scent of warm cookies, our home, my childhood. The unquestioned feeling of security. The before.

The snapshot stutters into a quick video clip. I remember I was singing something, and she started singing along. I cut her a look and she stopped. The memory of that look cuts me now. But I was 13 or maybe 14 and how was I to know that soon there was going to be an after? After that. When everything took such a crazy, dizzying turn.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m still spinning.

You never know where thinking about a cookie can lead you.

SOLC Day 13: When You Go to the Marsh

March 2023 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.

When you go to the marsh before sunrise, you’ll arrive to shadows. You’ll hear the geese calling, low and throaty, but you won’t be able to see them. You’ll see the silhouettes of ducks, but you won’t be able to identify them. Not yet.

As you wander down the old railway path, out into the marsh, you’ll feel the bite of a still-winter breeze on your cheeks, and shrug a little deeper into your coat. The pungent scent of earth and water will permeate the air.

As the sun rises, you’ll watch the colors shift from rose toward gold. You’ll try to count the geese that stretch off into the distance, as far as the eye can see. You’ll watch seagulls hover in amber light, see the golden eye ducks dip and dive, and find your eyes tracing the hummocked lines of marsh grasses, frozen in movement, sparkling with jeweled evidence of the once-higher tide. At the far end of the trail, you’ll hear the first red-winged blackbird of spring. Conk-la-ree!

Serenity will pulse through your veins like the marsh water flows through its carved channels.

If you go to the marsh before sunrise, you’ll want to go back again.

SOLC Day 12: Overreaction? I don’t think so!

March 2023 SOLC–Day 12
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.

“No way,” I said to my husband.

“Yes,” he replied.

“But I haven’t heard about it!” I insisted. “Surely I would have heard something.”

“It’s this weekend,” he said.

“NOOooooo!” I wailed.

Do you ever have one of those dreams where you’ve misplaced your child? And you’re frantically trying to find them? And it doesn’t make sense because you know you would never have left them alone or left them at the playground or in the car or wherever, but apparently you did and you’re madly scrambling to find them and your phone won’t work or maybe it will, but your fingers are clumsy and you keep on hitting the wrong thing and then it won’t disconnect so you can try again and you push and push and push and most of the time it’s a rotary phone which really makes no sense but every time you try to dial or push something goes wrong and you have to try to start over and time is passing and you’re getting more and more frantic and what are you going to do? What are you going to do!?!?

That’s how I felt yesterday when my husband told me it was Daylight Savings this weekend. I knew I was overreacting, but the thought of Daylight Savings this year, the thought of losing an hour, felt like it was pushing me over the precipice.

I want that hour.

I need that hour.


SOLC Day 11: Choices

March 2023 SOLC–Day 11
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.

This morning I got out of bed, grabbed my glasses and phone and headed out of my room to go downstairs. As I stepped into the hallway, the moon light stopped me in my tracks. It flowed through the window and painted itself upon the old wooden floors. I stopped to take a photo, fascinated by the light and shadow interplay with the only hint of color in the illuminated pine boards.

I continued on my way downstairs, feeling a little lift, fed the cats, turned on the coffee pot, and sat down to write.

Wait a minute! My pen stopped in its tracks. It was supposed to be cloudy this morning. If it were cloudy, I wouldn’t be able to see the moon! (Yes, it did take me a bit to connect these dots.)

I looked outside again. There was the moon, brightly shining behind the trees.

I walked into the living room and looked to the East. A shimmer of red glowed on the horizon. A few clouds lay low in the sky.

Next, I looked at my weather app. “Bowdoinham, cloudy”.

Not so much! I thought.

So, now the question loomed. I knew I was in dire need of a dose of Nature, but I had thought today wouldn’t be a great day due to the forecasted clouds. Now, it looked like opportunity might be knocking. I glanced at the clock. 5:35 am. The sun was due to rise about 6 am. I couldn’t make it to the marsh, or the beach…but I could go down to the river.

And so I did.

When I first arrived, things were pretty low key. I sat in my car for a moment debating if I really wanted to get out and take pictures. It was colder than I’d thought it might be, and my energy has been hovering in the low range.

Maybe I should just go back home.

Finally, figuring I was already there, I convinced myself to get out of the car.

I crunched across the snowy grass and snapped a picture or two. At first, it looked like this:

Next, I wandered up to the bridge for a better vantage point. Just a few minutes later, it looked like this:

What a difference a few minutes can make! I turned to look up the river and wondered at yet another difference.

Looking west, upstream, there was just a subtle wash of pink in the clouds. The river was cluttered with ice.The mood was somber, cold-looking and somewhat severe.

I turned and looked back and forth between the two views–somewhat mind-boggling and definitely fascinating!

The colors faded, the day lightened, and I wandered a bit more, watching the morning unfold.

Later, as I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about what I would have missed if I hadn’t left the house, if I hadn’t gotten out of the car, and if I’d only looked one way.

Our days are filled with so many choices. Here’s hoping I make a few more positive ones along the way today.

SOLC Day 10: Thunder Bees!

March 2023 SOLC–Day 10
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.

“Mrs. Hogan, did you know there are thunder bees?” S asked.

“Thunder bees?” I repeated.

“Yeah, thunder bees.”

It was first thing in the morning and I was checking in with kids, taking attendance and doing all the mundane tasks that start the day. This sounded much more interesting. I put down my clipboard and gave S my full attention.

“I’ve never heard of thunder bees, S. Can you tell me more?”

“Well,” he said, “there are these thunder bees. They go up to the thunder when there’s thunder out.”

“Where did you learn about that?” I asked. (I was a bit doubtful about the existence of thunder bees, but willing to be convinced. I mean, I’m no bee expert. )

“I just saw it in a shark book.” (Okay, that wasn’t what I expected to hear.)

A quick bit of background information: S. is super imaginative and creative. He sometimes misinterprets things or presents odd ideas as facts. He’s the kind of kid you call on with your fingers crossed, as you are never quite sure what you’re going to get–interesting insights and/or facts or seriously expressed long-winded convoluted explanations that leave me trying to manage the expression on my face (and watching the clock). The other day, when lobbying to go to the nurse, he told me his throat felt funny. He was pretty sure there was either a “piece of cotton or a small animal in there.” Also, reading is really challenging for him. Really challenging.

As I was quite curious about his discovery of thunder bees in a book about sharks, I asked a little more.

“Which book was that?” I asked.

“It was a shark book. It was right in the back,” he said. “Wait, I’ll get it!”

He dashed away and returned triumphantly, book in hand, quickly turning to the back.


I looked to where he pointed. Sure enough there was a picture with a bee and an ominous cloud and bolt of lightning.

The lights went on. I could see how this had all unfolded. (Though, to be fair, I did have a bit of an advantage, as I’d already suspected that thunder bees probably weren’t a real thing, and I’d read a few shark books in my day. )

“Oh, I can see what you were thinking, S.” I said. I pointed to the words next to the picture. “I bet we could read this and get a little bit more information.

We read it together, “A person is more likely to be killed by lightning or a bee sting than by a shark.”

“Oooooh,” he said, “Okay.” He took the book back and left me to go put it away.

The whole exchange was illuminating and I took a minute longer to think about it. About how S was making sense of his world. About the birth of misconceptions. About the insights we gain when we take a little extra time and ask a few questions.

I picked up my clipboard, the day ticked back up to full speed and rolled along, but to be honest I felt a little let down.

I’m still kind of wishing there were thunder bees.

SOLC Day 9: Low Energy, Short Slice

March 2023 SOLC–Day 9
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 e-mail popped up toward the end of Sexual Abuse Awareness training. It was from the executor who’s handling my step-mother’s estate. I looked around, then opened it and skimmed it surreptitiously. The date we’d discussed was good… There’s still a hold up on one item… The transfer is ongoing. ..He’s waiting to hear back about something else… My brother still hasn’t been in touch.

My brother still hasn’t been in touch.

Now that’s a concise summary of a novel of pain and aggravation.

I tapped out of the e-mail and returned my attention to the meeting, feeling my mood shift to unsettled. Yet again. Some days there just seem to be too many emotions. Too much juggling. Too much tired.

I got home later and tried to write my slice for today. (If I don’t write the night before, it’s just not pretty.) But, it really has been a long few days on the school front and on the home front. I’m worn out. In theory I had so many slice ideas. In reality, I had so little energy. So, this is what happened instead:

There once was a teacher so tired
she felt overwhelmed, uninspired
when it came time to slice
she tried once, twice and thrice
then she threw in the towel and retired*

*To clarify, I meant retired for the night not the other kind of retired, because while I know that some people might be able to retire soon, I am not one of them.

SOLC Day 8: Spring Concert

March 2023 SOLC–Day 8
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’d been a little grumpy about it all day yesterday. I’d arrived at school shortly after 6:30 am and sat for a minute in my car in the empty parking lot. Well, you won’t be leaving for about another twelve hours. Sigh.

You see, last night was the Second Grade Concert. At our school, concerts are held in the evening. Students meet in the classroom about fifteen minutes before the concert starts, and teachers are in charge. If you have any sort of commute, it doesn’t really make sense to go home beforehand. Which makes for a really, really long day. And some grumpiness. Regardless of how cute you know the kids are going to be.

So, at 5:30 pm, about 15 minutes before kids were due to arrive, I finally ran out of steam and stopped working. I packed up my bags, turned off the lights, and sat in the dark room. I was pooped, and, to be honest, perhaps a wee bit resentful. I’d been working for almost 12 hours (though I still felt behind) and had spent a big chunk of my weekend finishing up report cards. I knew I’d be staying late after school the next two days as well for meetings. Couldn’t parent volunteers help out with this?

And then the kids arrived.

They jumped, skipped, hopped and even spun into the classroom. The last few moments of quiet evaporated as the room was filled with happy, nervous chatter.

The concert was a St. Patrick’s Day theme, so green was heavily favored. There were fancy dresses (“These are real gemstones, Mrs. Hogan!”), blazers, t-shirts with leprechauns, and much-admired button-down shirts. A couple of leather jackets were evident and some sparkly boots as well. Hair had been slicked and curled and eye lids and lips colored.

“I’m so nervous and happy!” S bubbled, bouncing into the room. “I don’t know what to say! I don’t know what to do!” He boomeranged off the cubbies toward the tables.

I heard C whisper to a classmate, “I’m so scared!”

“Me, too!” she whispered back.

They held hands and jumped up and down together.

Another student was holding court, telling the story of his preparations. “I was like, ‘Mom! Don’t touch my hair!'” Then he patted his carefully arranged hair. “I did this all myself,” he said.

M decided to do an impromptu Irish jig across the carpet. I turned around to remind B and K to walk in the classroom, and saw S. with the large plastic lunch bin upturned over his head, spinning it around and around. The volume was soaring.

Oh, my.

Reinforcements were clearly in order. I pulled out some coloring pages I had at the ready, and quickly distributed them. Within moments, the kids were coloring away, and the volume had dropped to a more reasonable level. Ahhhh, the magic of coloring. It was just enough to take the edge off.

After about five minutes we cleaned up and lined up, preparing to walk down the hallway to the gym, where the bleachers and a large audience awaited. The excitement was still palpable, as were the nerves. We took a few deep breaths together, and then walked out the door. They were ready to perform.

And they totally nailed it. Cute as could be and so focused and happy. Swinging to the music. Grinning to beat the band. Waving to parents. Singing their little hearts out.

I may have started the day feeling grumpy, but I ended it with a big smile on my face.

SOLC Day 7: Nice Try!

March 2023 SOLC–Day 7
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 been having a quick narrative reading assessment. I’d read students a story and paused every so often for them to jot answers to some questions about character feelings, changes in feelings, lessons, etc. For some reason or other, we had gotten into a bit of a time crunch (so unusual, right?), so I had ended up scribing a little for one of my students. As we finished the story and got to the last question, I told S that he needed to complete that one independently. I thought he might grumble, but he didn’t, and I moved away as he picked up his pencil, concentrating on the page in front of him.

A minute later he popped up by my side. “Here, Mrs. Hogan,” he said, handing me his paper.

I looked down and saw that he’d written, “fichin” (fiction). 

“Great, S” I said, “but remember the question was: What is the genre of this story and how do you know?” I pointed to the second part of the question on his page. “You still need to answer that part.”

He hesitated a moment. Was he going to refuse?

Then he frowned, grudgingly took his paper back and plodded back toward his seat. Several minutes later he appeared again at my side. He stood in front of me, paper in hand, waiting while I talked to another student. Then, as I turned to give him my attention, he held his paper up for my inspection and said, in a somehow simultaneously serious and nonchalant way, “Mrs. Hogan, the second part is just written in Chinese.” 

I looked down and saw that under “fichin” S had filled a line with a series of intersecting lines, both curved and straight. Apparently he’d spent the past few minutes creating what, to him, looked like passable Chinese.

I know it wasn’t professional, but I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. It was all just too funny–His studied nonchalance… His misguided hope that I’d be taken in and accept his answer (Maybe ask for a translation? lol)…and all that creative effort expended on avoiding answering the question (which, by the way, I knew that he knew). It pushed me over the edge. As I laughed, even his lips twitched and a small smile appeared.

“Oh, S,” I finally said, pulling myself back together, “I am so sorry, but you can’t answer this one in Chinese. You’re going to have to try again.”

And off he went, paper and pencil in hand, resigned to his fate.

SOLC Day 6: Wait…what!?

March 2023 SOLC–Day 6
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.

Wait. What? 

I was at a last minute impromptu staff meeting on Friday afternoon. Maybe I hadn’t been listening quite as intently as I should have been. (Blizzard coming, food to buy, wood to stack, report card comments to write, etc.. Oh. And don’t forget the aforementioned “Friday afternoon!”)

I couldn’t have heard her say…

“Yes,” she replied with toxic positivity convincing enthusiasm. “That’s right. For next week. Isn’t it great!? We’re sooooo excited about it!”

My jaw dropped. 

My brain started frantically churning, trying to remember what she’d said. Trying to put together the pieces of this impossible puzzle.

  1. A new fundraising week. (“What a great opportunity!”)
  2. We had to come up with the fundraiser ideas. (“You all are so creative!”)
  3. Everyone was supposed to have a different idea. (“Like a fun fair of fundraisers!”)
  4. It was due to begin next week. (“Maybe the timing isn’t great, but … you can do it!”)
  5. Report cards were still due on Tuesday. (“You’ve got this!”)

My brain felt like it was shorting out. I think my eye started twitching.

Danger! Danger! Information overload!

We gathered up our belongings. No one made eye contact. Other than the warning messages screaming in my brain, it was silent as we filed past our beaming Assistant Principal and into the hallway.

Suddenly, a blaring sound filled the school.

Now, what!?!

We looked from left to right, trying to find the source.

The noise continued, insistent and unabated, filling the hallways. It definitely wasn’t the fire alarm…

People started to move a bit faster. To look even more apprehensive.

What could it be?

Then I realized.

I took a deep, relieved breath…
rolled over and turned off my alarm.

It had all been a dream.


(With apologies to our Assistant Principal who is not nearly this insane and while upbeat and positive, never veers into toxicity!)