Slice of Life Tuesday: How Are You, REALLY?

October 5, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Find a teacher. Maybe in the hallway at school. Or waiting for the copier. Or in the checkout line at the grocery store. Or somewhere online.Ask that teacher right now how they’re doing. My guess is you’ll get any of the following:

“I’m here.”
“I’m pluggin’.”
“Yyyyeahhh….”
“Another day closer to Friday.”
“I’m vertical, so that’s a thing.”

I know, because I’ve probably said all of those things. Truth is, it’s only a month into school and many of us are tired.

Bone tired. Worn out. Worn down. Plain old used UP.

So I thought for my post today I’d have some fun with different and creative ways that we can say how we’re really doing.

Teacher friends, the next time someone asks how you’re feeling, go ahead and give one of these a spin!

I’m feeling like…

-What the cat dragged in…dragged in
-A hot water heater held together with scraps of duct tape
-The toothbrush whose colored bristles faded two weeks ago
-The nerdles of cheese stuck to the plate from the microwave
-A pencil nub
-A dry-erase marker that’s been left open
-The crumbs at the bottom of the Chips Ahoy bag
-An iPhone running Waze with 2% battery
-The pebble that’s neither coming out of your shoe NOR your sock
-A pair of scratched-up Wayfarers with one lens popped out
-The business end of a cat toy
-A wad of Hubba Bubba fossilized on the underside of a table at Denny’s
-A scoop of rocky road dropped on a hot sidewalk
-A Cheerio dug out of a car seat
-A fork that got stuck in the disposal
-A twice-steeped English Breakfast tea bag
-That shopping cart with three sticky wheels and a handi-wipe stuck in the grate
-A newspaper (remember those?) left out in the rain and backed over three times
-Expired mayonnaise
-One of those peanut-butter taffies stuck to the bottom of the Halloween trick-or-treat pumpkin
-Those last four shreds of toilet paper stuck to the end of the roll
-A pack of M&M’s with the green ones picked out

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I am super tired and exhausted. So are my colleagues. But I’m also energized and enthused by my students, who bring me joy and wonder without bounds. Just like my colleagues.

But making this list was fun. A LOT of fun. So, like whatever tasty beverage you prefer, please take this list with a grain of salt. =))

And you? What would you add to this list? Have a little fun. Entertain us!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Story’s Sneak Attack

September 14, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that Story has been a recurring character in my not-so fiction. If you want the rest of the story, you’re welcome to dig in to our past “conversations:”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


It was a long day. A bone-tired day. The kind of day where she comes home from school and wants to get right into pajamas. But she doesn’t, because there are dishes and laundry and housework and cooking and homework. It was the kind of day where going to bed feels terrible because she knows she’s going to just have to get up and repeat the whole process the next day.

THAT kind of day.

She kicked away her sandals at the front door, narrowly missing the dogs. She gave each one a head pat and a butt scratch before shooing them into the yard for a long-awaited doing of business. School bags got dropped, one after the other, on the floor or the kitchen table or the counter – it didn’t matter, so long as she didn’t have to shoulder them any more.

What to tackle first, she thought. Empty the dishwasher? Walk the dog? Call her mom? Answer emails? Vacuum up the dog hair dust bunnies from the family room rug? Sometimes, she thought, the best solution to too much is nothing.

A few moments, she thought. Just a few moments to sit outside on the deck, to absorb some sunshine, to listen to the cicadas, to let myself just…sit…still. She made her way to the deck, found the chair in her favorite, sunniest spot, pulled another one up for her feet, and sank down to spend some quality time with the inside of her eyelids.

“It’s been a minute.”

She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who had just pulled up beside her.

Story.

Maybe if she just sat there without responding, Story would go away, kind of like when the dog wakes her up at three a.m. Five seconds went by. Ten. Fifteen.

Story cleared her throat. “You know I’m still here, right?”

“About that. You’re HERE. Usually you wait until I’m at a Starbucks to catch me off guard. Somewhere in public, where I know you’ll behave yourself. Can’t you give me just a little bit of peace in my own back yard?”

“Now that’s a good one,” Story chuckled. “When have you ever known me to give you a bit of peace?”

“I don’t know,” she responded. “You haven’t visited me for a while. I thought maybe you had moved on.”

“Moved on? HA! Oh, my friend, you may not have seen me in a while, but I am always, always here. Whether or not you acknowledge me, I’m wherever you go.”

“I’m not sure if I should be comforted or creeped out.”

Story shrugged. “It’s your imagination. You decide.”

“That makes the question even harder.”

“Well,” Story said, “all I know is you’ve been scarce. I miss you. Listen, not to guilt trip you or anything –“

“Too late.”

“–but it’s not just me. I’ve been talking to Poetry, to Memoir, to Essay, the whole gang. Nobody’s seen you around. What gives?”

She felt her shoulders go heavy, her stomach clinch. Why had she been staying away? Was it lack of discipline? Dried-up creative juices? Plain old apathy? Perhaps, she figured, it was a mixture of the three. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess…I haven’t felt like writing lately.”

“Haven’t felt like it? Haven’t FELT like it? C’mon. How many writers sit down and write every day because they FEEL like it? Honey, both you and I know you’ve let yourself go. It’s time to slide on back and hang out a little more often. No pressure, no guilt or shame.” Story thought a moment, reconsidered. “Well, maybe a LITTLE guilt or shame. You’ve hung me out to dry, you know.”

“Mmm, I like the no guilt or shame route. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been a rough go these last months.”

“All the more reason you should be writing. You’ve got things to say, my friend. It’s time to get saying them.”

She sighed.

Here we go again, she thought, as she opened her computer, squared her shoulders, and placed her fingers at the keyboard.

Slice of Tuesday: Welcome 5782

September 7, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today was the Jewish New Year, a day to reflect and ground myself spiritually. It’s a day of traditions – some in the stricter cultural sense, others adopted as family rituals.

A new challah recipe and braiding technique. Yes, I usually make these breads round for the new year, but didn’t want to tinker too much on the first try…
Chicken and rice dish, perfect for our pre-services dinner
A moment captured on our annual apple-picking outing. We started when my oldest was an itty bitty, and it’s just been a fun thing to do ever since!
The place where I performed tashlich (literally “casting away”), a tradition of casting bread (and other figurative burdens) out upon the water.
Apples and honey. Folks were on to something when they thought up this pairing!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Another Sort of Slice

August 31, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

Today was a whole day of online workshops. I really wanted to spend time writing, but couldn’t bear the computer screen any more. So, my Slice for today goes as follows. Enjoy!

Slice of Life Tuesday: At the Edge

August 24, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Next week I return to school, and I’ve been trying to articulate my feelings about it. I’m squished between a lot of emotions, and I thought this poem might reflect some of those thoughts…

At the Edge of School, 2021

It’s the
dread and excitement
that build with each step
up the high-dive ladder:
closer and closer to the top
the flutters grow
and it’s hard to tell
if my grip slips
from pool water
or sweaty palms

Standing at the top,
toes knurled around the edge
I take in the breeze,
the chlorine smell,
the faraway noises of grown-ups and kids
and splashes and squeals

I’ve been here before.

Sometimes
you don’t always
land so well –
you hit the water funky, or
water goes up your nose, or
your swimsuit goes rogue
and you question
why you ever came to the pool
in the first place

Looking down,
I wonder why I continue to
make this leap
year after
year after
year

But the pool is one of my
favorite places to be –
I’m comfortable here,
at home,
happy
within myself

So I guess
despite the funk
and the water noise
there’s really nothing to do
but brace myself
take a breath

And jump.

Slice of Life Tuesday: If You Give a Mom a Laundry Basket

August 17, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s 8:47 p.m. on a Slice of Life Tuesday. Usually, I’ve posted by mid-morning, and I’ve already scrolled through several posts by fellow writers. Today, though, I’m sitting down to my computer for the first time after a long, productive day. Now, some people work through their first days of empty nesthood by laying low and relaxing. My version of that is to clean and declutter. What can I say? It’s just how I’m built. So, I thought I’d have some fun with today’s post.

If you give a mom a laundry basket, she’ll want to gather up the bedding that hasn’t been cleaned in too long.

If she gathers up the bedding in her son’s room, she’ll notice all the clothing he left behind when he went off to college.

Sorting through the clothing left behind from college will remind her how stuffy and smelly the room is.

Once she sees how sad and stuffy the room is, she’ll want to open the windows.

If she opens the window, she’ll see how many dust bunnies have accumulated everywhere.

If you let her take care of the dust bunnies, she’ll see how filthy the rug is and want to clean it.

When she moves the rug to clean it, she’ll see how nasty the floor is and move all the furniture so she can clean it.

If she moves the bed, she’ll want to take it apart so they can finally give it away, along with the brother’s.

Now that she’s giving away the beds, she’ll want to sort through the sheets and towels for give-aways.

And if there are enough sheets and towels, she’s going to want a laundry basket to store them in…

Thing 2’s college drop-off
Bonus: dinner on the way home with Thing 1!

Slice of Life Tuesday: School Shopping, Redux

August 10, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s no secret that school supplies give me joy. For me, and for many folks I know, it’s why I got into teaching. Yeah, yeah, there’s all that noise about making a difference and touching the future, but have you seen a perfectly pink eraser?

I’m not a shopper, but I could spend all the time in the world browsing notebooks, pencils and art materials. If, for any reason, you need to keep me occupied for an hour, just drop me off in the middle of the school supply area of any store.

So way back when my children started school, I had visions of us shopping for school supplies together (please tell me you see where this is going). I dreamed of sharing – of reveling! – in the sheer delight that can only come from a new pack of colored pencils. We’d go through the school supply list, using our time in the aisles to bond and get excited about the school year to come.

My expectations for school shopping and the reality couldn’t have been any different. The kids whined, fought with each other, and were completely uncooperative. Any joy I had about markers, glue sticks, or pristine journals was promptly stomped to bits by constant squabbling and complaints.

It took me a few years of torture, but I eventually figured out that the best thing for all involved was to grab the list and do the darn shopping myself. My kids didn’t really care what I bought them, so long as they had what they needed that first day. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. My older son developed a preference for matching folders, binders and notebook color for each of his subjects, even choosing colors that he felt were suitable to the class at hand. Hope springs eternal…) Once I figured that out, it freed me once again to enjoy that time – alone! – with the school supply list.

So.

Why on earth did I think that college preparation would be much different?

This time, I pictured my younger son and me cruising through the stores with our shopping list, chatting and dreaming about college life, how the dorm room was going to come together, (now please tell me you see where THIS is going!) what sorts of things he’d need to survive the transition, literally and figuratively. Or perhaps we’d be huddled together around my computer, comparison shopping the best blankets and power strips.

Yep. That…wasn’t a thing.

By the time we made it through one store, I knew we had both had enough. I felt the grey hairs sproinging one by one. Did you know that it’s possible to get stressed out over hangers? Or pillows? Or room fans? Or coffee makers? Sproing. Sproing. Sproing.

So now, I’m clicking and shopping. By myself. I’ve got my chai tea, a trusty dog for company, and the satisfaction of knowing I can do this, pain and conflict free. Lap desk? Check. Ethernet cords. Check. Ironically-chosen pink blanket for the dorm bed? Checkitty check.

And really. Isn’t that what most of parenthood – most of life – is about? Releasing ourselves from expectations so that our current reality becomes easier to focus on?

While we’re on the subject of releasing expectations, I’ll leave you with this thought. Right now in our house, things are messy. Not in the figurative sense, I mean truly. Literally. Messy.

As long as it’s out of my living room by next Tuesday, I think I can live with this!

That little mama dream I had of piles of clothing, sorted out by what goes, what stays? C’mon. Who am I fooling? That’s not going to happen. And that’s okay. It may boil down to my son scrambling for a half hour with a bunch of garbage bags, but as long as the clothes are gone from the living room by the time my son is, I will be just fine.

Gratuitous doggo pic. I think she might miss the mounds of clothes. And maybe her brother. But mostly the clothes.

Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations.
Releasing expectations…

Slice of Life Tuesday: Two Weeks

August 3, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Two weeks.

In two weeks, both of my guys will be away at school.

In two weeks, my husband and I will have the house to ourselves.

In two weeks, I won’t have to listen to complaints about how empty the pantry is.

Poor guys. How will they ever cope?

In two weeks, I won’t have to nag anyone to take out the recycling and trash, or be up to my eyeballs in dishes that nobody’s putting away.

The answer is YES. I have a PHYSICAL response to looking at this…
(but I’m also not doing the job for them!)

In two weeks, I don’t have to close the door to the glory that is a teenager’s room.

now is probably NOT the time you wish you had Smell-O-Vision…

In two weeks, I’ll be able to enter the hall bathroom without a hazmat suit.

The bathtub. I just. Want. The bathtub.

In two weeks, I can worry so much less about grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. I’ll be without the compounding of clutter that causes that tangled feeling in the pit of my stomach.

But…I’ll also be without THESE guys.

(Yes, this is how it goes when I ask my guys to take a photo together.)

They won’t be around for random conversations, for occasional date days, for the get-a-load-of-this-video! nudges, for the can-you-guess-this-song game, for kitchen dance parties, for constant bickering and ribbing and poking, for eye rolling at the latest dumb thing…

…and I might miss them, just a little bit.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Life, in Metaphor

July 20, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Yesterday I had a GREAT idea for a blog post. I was starting to craft it in my head as I always do, until I got sidetracked.

Fast forward to this morning, when I got up and could not remember for the life of me what I wanted to write about. I racked my brain, trying to go back through my day yesterday to jog my memory.

Nothing.

So I started to think on what ELSE I could possibly blog about today, what subjects I could take on. They all seemed pale in comparison to the idea I had yesterday. None of them brought the same excitement.

To kill some time, I sat down with a crossword puzzle. I usually don’t enter a word unless I’m 100% sure it’s the answer. I’m the kind of gal who would rather leave things blank than track how far a mess-up went. Of course, I still make mistakes and need to erase them.

That’s when it hit me.

You see, just yesterday I was working on this same puzzle. Just yesterday I worked those squares, hoping for no major mess-ups. Just yesterday, I had one of those mess-ups, and had to rely on my trusty eraser to clean things up.

Only, I couldn’t.

You see, the pencil was old enough, and the eraser was unused enough, that it had hardened on the outside. Rather than deftly sweeping my shortcomings away in a pile of of rubber shavings, I just got a black blurry mess.

That got me thinking.

Erasers. We need them. They clean our messes, big and small. They give us a fresh start on things. Erasers let us take comfort in knowing we can take chances; there’s always a way out with an eraser.

But we can only begin erasing once we look at our paper, see something wrong and recognize it’s worth the time to fix it. Otherwise, we can plow ahead without worrying.1 And if we don’t use our erasers, if we’re not in the habit of recognizing and correcting errors, those erasers harden. They fall into disuse, and when we try to use them again they just leave a bigger mess behind.

And isn’t that the way of us humans? (C’mon, you saw where this was going, right?)2

We, too, have to be in regular practice of noticing our mistakes. We’ve got to be aware of times we leave messes that bear fixing. We’ve also got to take enough chances knowing we’ll mess up sometimes, knowing we may have to fix things. And if we don’t use those figurative erasers, if we fall out of the habit of recognizing where we’ve gone wrong and working to correct it, they3 will harden. And once we’ve fallen out of practice, it’s so much harder to admit mistakes – and SO much harder to find ways of making things better. 4 5 6

So yes, my friends, we need to keep our pencils sharp. But let’s also remember that pencils have another, worthy end.

“The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser – in case you thought optimism was dead.” – Robert Brault


1 and sometimes you do skip errors because who has the time to make sure we’re always 100% error free?
2 yes, this is definitely proof that I live in metaphor and can’t ever shut it off
3 like our hearts
4 yes, i know that every metaphor breaks down at some point, including this one
5 and even the best eraser job leaves traces of the mistake that wasn’t there
6 I mean, we can’t just erase our mistakes with people – there are always echoes, right?

Slice of Life Tuesday: Letters to Mrs. Levin

July 13, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Each June, I ask my fifth graders to write me a letter reflecting on what they’ve learned in our years together – what they’ve learned about language arts, and what they’ve learned about life. I ask them to make it heartfelt, sincere, and handwritten. This letter is what I will remember them by.

My tradition is to wait to read them until a summer day when I’m just turning that corner between relief that school is over and sadness over missing my loveys. Then I sit down with my folder full of letters and read them, one at a time.

It’s a veritable treasure trove! So many hearts, gathered together in one place.

I’ve been doing this assignment for several years now. Each year, I can predict how the crop will go. There will be some sweet, thoughtful notes. There will be perfunctory letters designed to fulfill the nature of the assignment. Some will astonish me. Without fail, each letter, regardless of length or depth, brings me every child’s essence distilled on paper.

“Do you like the cat?” and “Can you please write back?” Yes, and absolutely yes! All of this, down to the cartoons and doodles and parentheticals, sums up a child I’ve taught for five full years.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes I struggle with this assignment. I don’t take praise well. Compliments make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like the feeling that I’m asking for them or expecting them. So, I feel strange (arrogant, even) asking children to write letters that may wind up with them telling me I’ve done a good job. It feels self-serving. I can’t shake that.

But life is short. It’s important to reflect, to consider our evolution and growth. It’s important to see who helps us along our way, to articulate our gratitude, and to recognize the power that words carry in our relationships. And now that I’ve begun writing the children back, it’s much easier accepting their gifts of love and sincerity knowing I’ll be able to do the same for them in return. It feels good.

A handmade bracelet in my student’s favorite colors: crafted with love, looked over by a jealous doggo

This morning, I sat down with my folder of letters, and WOW. The whole experience was…unexpected.

My students expressed themselves with a level of trust, honesty, reflection and vulnerability I had never before experienced. I asked them to write from their hearts, and they responded with such openness that several times throughout the reading I just had to stop. Absorb. Feel. It was ovewhelming.

It shouldn’t have struck me so hard. I mean, c’mon. I’m a teacher. Teachers know it’s our job to reach our kids. It’s our job to make them feel seen and heard, valued and understood.

But I had grown so close to my students. I’m more attached to my students this year than I have in quite a while. They have my heart.

All of this astounds me. How is it possible to spend the last year and a half seeing one another only through a bunch of pixellated boxes, yet still come out of the experience so tight-knit? How is it possible despite not having our hugs and handshakes, not having moments to lay eyes on one another, not being able to build on that in-person energy together?

What is it that allowed us to strengthen our relationships in the face of our limitations? What was so different about what we created this year? Was it because we had to be so purposeful with our time and attention? Was it because adversity brought us closer?

I can’t completely say. But I’m determined to figure that out. And once I do, how much more will be possible once we’re back in person? The very thought is exhilarating.

Now. If you need me, I’ll be with my stationary, my Flair pens, and a folder full of letters. I’ll be spending the next several days telling a group of eleven year-olds how much I love, admire, and appreciate them.

Next step: mailbox!