Friday, December 31, 2010

{these moments}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo (sometimes two) - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

{this *holiday* moment}

A Friday ritual, often a Saturday one for me, from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.


We spent Christmas Eve as we always do, with friends in town. The players change with time, and the venue has too, but the sentiment is the same: it is the closest I come to church. We socialize, enjoy amazing food, and read Christmas stories to each other. Every year is different, but the love is the same. Powerful stuff, if the truth be told.

I have always been fortunate with friends. Ok, maybe not always, but in my adult life for sure. I met some amazing people in college (and we hope to get together every November....) and am surrounded by incredible people here. But the longest friend I have was actually my sister's friend first. Let me sum up:

MVP lived about 2 miles from our house. She and my sis were best friends off and off through elementary school, but it 'stuck' in high school. (Best costume ever was the year they were a clothes line: they were each trees with a bit of line between them and mittens hanging off it. Nowadays they'd have to take it apart because of safety issues, but in 1980-whatever-it-was, it rocked BHS.) We all ran cross country together (and by "ran" I really mean "limped along the course to cross a finish line and score pathetic points"...) and became a solid group before too long. For many years, Sis and I would head to her house before heading to the Christmas Eve service at our church. Now, keep in mind that said friend was Greek. Which meant Greek pastries. So no matter how many Aunts were in the kitchen working on finishing touches, we were happy to stay in the living room out of the way, exchange gifts... and of course we'll sample the wares while we're around...

Her mother always served us ginger ale, in a paper cup. Every year. It was part of what happened: amazing baklava, and paper cups of soda. Flash forward 10 years, and her mom passed away after a battle with cancer. And now every Christmas Eve, I remember that first tradition that was mine, and not my parents, and toast Mrs. V's memory. This year, my children realized Santa doesn't like milk AT ALL, and would much rather have a Coke. So here's to you, Mrs. V. It's not ginger ale in a paper cup, but it is given with love by some wonderful children. I have no doubt you'd approve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


For the record, I don't tell these tales looking for accolades. I tell them because writing about them helps me process. To be able to "let it go" when I've had a rough day. All the love I get from all of you is an added bonus.

So thank you for supporting me. It really does make my job easier.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

lessons of the Magi

Most years the holiday season brings a bit of stress into our happy classroom. I've come to expect it. But this year... well, let's just say it fits in with the theme of The Hardest Year Ever. So what's my response? Just keep swimming. We made sugar cookies today... and 3 kids participated. Maybe 4 kids worked on the gingerbread house. Yesterday I couldn't even read them The Gift of the Magi without complaints.("What do we do if we've heard this already?" Heard this already? I hear it at least twice a year and it STILL makes me cry! You'll listen and like it!) So, I compromised, and showed the Bert and Ernie version, where Bert trades his paperclip collection to Mr. Hooper for a soap dish for rubber duckie, and Ernie trades RD for a cigar box for the paperclip collection. Mr. Hooper, who is Jewish and doesn't even celebrate Christmas, then saves the day by returning the prized possessions. (If you want to see it yourself, I found it on YouTube. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Clips are intermixed and I'm not savy enough to grab them.) For about 15 minutes, they were playing along. They got it. They understood why I love this story, whether about Jim and Della or Bert and Ernie. I told them the story of Devon's washing machine and all the checks flowing in... and the one friend who gave 'everything that was in my wallet', which was a number resembling $1.87. And I cried when I read them the final paragraph, as I do every time, and I heard Devon reading along with me. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.

If I do nothing else in this job, I want to fill them to overflowing with kindness and love and happy memories. I want them to know that someone enjoyed spending time with them. That someone thinks about them fondly, and tells stories about them for years and years. I know I don't send them away having mastered all the academics they're supposed to, and yes, that does bother me. But, I think anyway, I do send them away feeling important. And if that is all I do... that is enough.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual, often a Saturday one for me, from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual, often a Saturday one for me, from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Monday, December 06, 2010

It's not the lottery, but it may as well be!

To say I'm excited is an understatement. Oh, how I love pictures... and a photo session with this amazing photographer and my nephews... I just might book plane tickets this week :)

Friday, December 03, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo (or two, depending) - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It's been a big week of being conscious of being so lucky. And a big week for eating... which reminds me again just how lucky I am. It's like the Morton's Salt Girl of Thankfulness.

We started with Sunshine Thanksgiving on Tuesday. I can't really describe the magic of the event. To the outside world, I guess it doesn't look like much. But when I hear each reason they all have to be thankful... well, it gets me every time. I love that I am able to build that kind of relationship with them-- that school is not just for work, but it is also for positive relationships.

From there we headed to Cape Cod. It was a low key event this year, as Dave's brother in law had broken both his arms a few months ago, so his sister's family sat this one out. There were only 6 of us, and so the stress of having it all ready "on time" evaporated... we just cooked and played solitaire and Boggle and enjoyed each other. And then we ate. 4 pies for 6 people is a bit overkill, as was a 20+ pound bird... But then there are leftovers...

Yesterday Girly and I headed out shopping with some friends. We didn't get much, nor did we find any great deals. It started as an attempt to find more ideas for our PTO holiday store, but became a delightful day spent with wonderful people. Driving home in the unexpected snow wasn't as much fun... but we made it home, safe and sound.

Today was Gamma Day. Very few people in the world celebrate this holiday, yet it has become one of my favorites. It started when we'd go to Thanksgiving meals with 15ish people, and there were never enough leftovers to go around. So, we'd cook a second dinner for us, and invite our bestfriends over to share. The Bean named it in honor of her Gamma, and so it became our holiday. It's not always right after Thanksgiving-- we've had them in March before-- but they tend to be. And so we ended our three turkey week as it began; sharing our bounty with people we love and care about. I am incredibly thankful, for all the things and all the people, which put together make my life complete.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

{that moment}

This was last week's {moment}, but Blogger wasn't playing nicely with my pictures. I'm breaking all the "no words" rules, but this one deserves it. My kids rallied around their own and helped him through the night. I have never been prouder of them than I was then... no mocking, no teasing. Just love. Oh, I do love this bunch, and they do make me so proud...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual, often a Saturday one for me, from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

the season of the Grinch

As I think most of you know, I often take Friday detention. I certainly like the paycheck: I submit all my dates at once so it's a decent chunk of money (which yes, I do use to make an extra payment on something. Aren't I just a Responsible Engine?) But the $30 a week is not enough to keep me coming back... the real reason is because it gives me 2 hours to hang with the kids on the fringes and try to help them move forward. To let them spend time in a negative situation with someone who does enjoy spending time with them, even when they make bad choices.

Some weeks they come in quiet and resigned, other times fired up and looking for a distraction. If I told you the full moon for this month is in 2 days, would you be able to guess what sort of week this was? We weren't 5 minutes into the DT when I knew it was going to be a rough one. We made it, but it wasn't pretty. I left feeling like I let them down, and that my heart is too big to do this anymore. I'm already emotionally spent by 2:30PM on Friday, and to stick around for another 2 hours, in some ways doing an even tougher job than the first? I must be insane...

And on the drive home, I saw 2 kids walking. One had spent time with me, the other waiting around for the first. The two rides they'd lined up to bring them the 8 miles home fell through. I had my daughter's friend in the car to come play at our house, but I just couldn't drive by: in the dark and freezing cold, I knew they didn't have many options. "You're going to have to indulge me hon..." She was silent from the back seat, but really, what could she say?

As we left their driveway, I gave her my standard speech. "No matter how mad you get at your parents (and you WILL get mad at them) I hope you always remember just how lucky you are." Her 2 word reply, while simple, seemed heartfelt. Sixteen miles later we were back to where we started. " Thank you for letting me sleep tonight." I couldn't say more, because it's not safe to drive while you're crying.

I believe in paying it forward, and live by trying to leave everything I encounter better than I found it. My detentions are not the strictest ones around, make no doubt about that... but I sure hope they leave knowing I enjoyed spending time with them. Because even when they make me mad and break my heart, I keep coming back...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

red crosses look a lot like plus signs

I gave blood this week at our school drive. I like that I am able to give blood... but I hate the act of giving, especially at school. I always worry that things will go wrong while I'm out saving the world, but I can't have the vampires that close without giving it my best shot. Let me sum up...

I've always been a tricky donor. My first attempt at giving was successful... sort of. I was a senior in high school, and I just made the required 110 weight (I know, those were the days, huh?). I gave, sat up, and got escorted to the cantine. My sister and her best friend were working, and BFF looked at me and said "Do you feel alright?" I don't remember the bell ringing, or me being carried back to a table. Or my sister fainting after seeing me faint before her eyes. Good times.... but hey, I waited until they had a full pint before passing out, so mission accomplished, right?

I haven't passed out since then, but I have had a couple of unsuccessful attempts. Between low iron (I learned to ask them to spin it instead of using the drop...nowadays it's all computerized somehow, but hey, I pass every time!) and being a slow bleeder, I was batting .500 for awhile. I did finally have one tech tell me to force water all day, and that little trick has got me in under the 20 minute wire ever since.

When I was taking an online Children's Lit class 10 years ago, I brought one of my required novels along with me... and that was true inspiration! Kiddie Lit tends to be light enough you can hold it with one hand while you give, and the print is a bit larger, so you can read it while laying on the table and pumping the rolling pin thingy. I could dominate an entire book in a session. Win-win.

All these little tricks make it more likely that I'll complete the task (except for the one time in the bloodmobile that I was so claustrophobic that they couldn't get me to bleed at all), but I still hate the process. The waiting, the questions (I have not had relations with anyone I shouldn't have, thank you very much!)... and the 20 minutes on the table. I don't mind the stick as much as the queasy feeling I get while giving. Just typing this is making me feel queasy.

So why do I keep going, you ask? Because I can. Because 90 minutes of my discomfort could save someone's life. And because of that, I will try every time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual, often a Saturday one for me, from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

looking up

I am an optimist. That darned glass is always half full even if it really is closer to three quarters empty. This week I've had interactions with different sunshines that confirm to me that the exposure they get to my kind of optimism is helpful. The interwebs being what they are I can't go into detail, but suffice it to say a few kids reached out to me, at different times and in different ways, and I grabbed ahold of them and held on tight. I have no guarantees anything will work out, but it is so nice to be there with an outstretched hand when they need it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

just keep swimming

Just another day in muddville today...

20 kids with 20 different reasons for being there.

I may not be able to save every kid. But that doesn't mean I am not going to try.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

compassion, defined

Girly asked me today if I was an organ donor. Out of the blue. I am, of course.

"Am I?"

Good God in Heaven, how can I even ponder such a concept?

If the unthinkable happened, and parts of you could be used to make another child, another family, whole again, without hesitation yes...

And as my eyes filled with tears at the very thought, she reached out to comfort me.

"Good", she said with a smile on her face.

She is something, that Girly of ours...

Friday, November 05, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

preaching to the choir

Poor things.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

it's so much easier when you've got someone to lean on

Yesterday I had a meeting after school. We start these meetings with a check in: we go around the table and everyone says something-- life is good, my truck is dead, had a hard day, it's my birthday... even "I've got nothing" is an option. Mine included a reflection of all that's going on... and the acknowledgment that, in spite of it all, I love my job. I am making gains. We are making gains. It could always be worse. And on those bad days, there are people around who will hold me up until I can stand on my own again.

Meeting continues, I get picked up by WB because his truck died and he took the van to run errands. We call for a tow truck, vote in the statewide election, and continue on our day. Later in the evening I get a text from a Sunshine telling me about all that happened in his afternoon... and suffice it to say it put our parked-truck-with-leaking-brakes story to shame. Monday night I had a graduated Sunshine call because "I always feel better after talking to you". Two others popped in after school, just because they could.

It may not look like it every day, but we are getting somewhere. I may not be able to solve many of their problems, but at least they don't have to go through it alone.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

hold on

This could evolve into a picture blog... my head is still full and spinning with all the changes happening around me. Words right now are overwhelming... and the interwebs too public of a forum. I have so much to say, but no energy to say it.

Please do not take my silence for apathy. I hope to be back to regular writing before too long, but until then...I take comfort in pictures and the words of others.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (becoming a Saturday ritual for me) from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Friday, October 22, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Can Get Together --The Hold Steady

She played "Heaven Isn't Happening"
She played "Heaven Is A Truck"
She said Heavenly was cool, I think they were from Oxford
I only had one single, it was a song about a pure and simple love

There's a "Girl On Heaven Hill"
I come up to her cabin still
She said Husker Du got huge, but they started in St. Paul
Do you remember "Makes No Sense At All?"

And heaven is the whole of the heart
And paradise is by the dashboard light
Utopia's a band, they sang "Love Is The Answer"
And I think they're probably right

Let it shine down on us all
Let it warm us from within
He wasn't just the drummer, he was the singer's younger brother
I still spin that single, but it don't sound that simple

Let it shine down on us all
Let it warm us from within
He wasn't just the drummer, he was someone's little brother
I still spin that single, but it don't sound that simple anymore

Heaven is whenever we can get together
Sit down on your floor and listen to your records
Heaven is whenever we can get together
Lock your bedroom door and listen to your records

Heaven is whenever we can get together
Heaven is whenever we can get together
Heaven is whenever we can get together
Heaven is whenever we can get together

Heaven is whenever

Saturday, October 16, 2010

craving, doing, thankful for

From my friend Amity. Great idea.

an entire weekend with nothing to do
(no wood, no raking, no events)
time to nap in the sun, cook with abandon, laugh with friends

cleaning the kitchen, stacking wood, connecting online

scrapbooking.... if I'm lucky

thankful for:
my functional, loving, supportive family
the sunshines
a job I love even when it is overwhelming
children who know who they are and what makes them happy
true friends
a husband I enjoy being with, and he with me
having enough but not too much
being content and at peace with myself

If you read, consider yourself tagged. Leave a comment with your thoughts.... or post your own on your space :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Friday, October 08, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

you never miss your mother 'til she's gone

This week's Project Runway was quite intense. It was the same challenge as last season when they got to design their own textile, but with an added twist: the textile had to tell a personal story. It was a great addition to an already cool challenge. Add to this a contestant sharing a secret he'd kept for 10 years on the runway... well, even if you don't watch the show, you should watch this one.

It was billed as a 2 day challenge: day 1 to design the textile and get it made, and day 2 to use said fabric. The rest of day 1 was to shop at Mood and, I don't know, make patterns or something... but it turns out, they had flown their moms (and a few other family members) to NYC to visit, and they all got a day off. To say the workroom dissolved into a puddle of tears is an understatement.

What hit me most was how much these people still shine when their mom's validate their lives. And yet, it makes perfect sense. When I went school shopping with my mom this summer we were talking about my job, and I made a comment that what I do isn't magic.. and she jumped right in and said "Yes it is! I've always known you were going to do amazing things." I was shocked, because I had never realized they were proud of me for being a teacher-- and an alternative ed teacher at that. And it felt good to hear it. Really, really good.

I'm 40 years old, and have made choices about the direction of my life regardless of whether they'd have done the same thing. This isn't to say I've intentionally done things to disappoint them at all, but I guess I also hadn't thought I was still looking for their approval. But I am. We all are. Whether we're 6 years old looking out from the risers during the holiday concert or 32 and trying to make it huge in the fashion industry where our failures are very public... as long as mom is there saying "You're amazing!" we can all hold our heads high.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (becoming a Saturday ritual for me) from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Happy birthday, buddy. I do love you!

Friday, October 01, 2010

it gets better

Eileen posted a link to this site, and wowie wow wow. Somehow, watching this, I'm disheartened and inspired all at the same time. The premise of this site is to tell kids who are homosexual suffering through middle and high school that it gets better. That it's worth enduring the humiliation; it'll get better when you get out of school. Don't give in to the desperation, don't kill yourself; it gets better.

I'm thrilled adults are taking the time to help teenagers who are suffering. The interwebs often get criticized for disconnecting people, and to see hundreds of adults reaching out to unknown kids... yea, this is certainly an upgrade. But as a high school teacher.... I'm crying. That thousands of our students are suffering the worst years of their lives with us, in our 'safe' classrooms, well, it's a reality that is incredibly hard to swallow.

 I know I try to make it better for all kids, but I also know that I don't always succeed. The comfort I take is that I am trying, and that is all I can do. But until we don't need the itgetsbetterproject, I will keep trying to make it better for all kids, no matter what makes coming to school the worst part of their day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

you are my sunshines, my many sunshines...

So far this year I've had 5 sunshines come back and visit me at school, and another coming in later this week. In fact, I talked to 4 today! I can't tell you how wonderful it is to hear from all of them, and to still be part of their lives, whether they're looking for boxes for packing (who else should you call but your obsessive recycling teacher!) or wanting help applying for college, it's wonderful to still be a resource. Absolutely wonderful.

With all the crazy changes going on in my world this year, it's really nice to hear back from these guys. I've said many times "once a sunshine, always a sunshine"... and I'm so glad they feel the same way.

Friday, September 24, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

another brick in the wall

There's lots going on in our happy district... and lots of it is not so happy. So far this week I've had concerns about things happening at all four levels. I'm under no delusions that our district is perfect, nor that it is the worst around. We do many things well... and have many things that need to be improved upon.

I don't want to focus on the negative, because, well, my brain doesn't work well that way. So I've been asking myself what can I do to make it better? How can I help my friend and colleague get through her struggle? What suggestions can I make to spark a productive conversation instead of just complaining? How do we fix it?

What can I do to make things better?

[Believe me, when I answer that question, I'm going on tour.]

Saturday, September 18, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (becoming a Saturday ritual for me) from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

something to ponder

This is from What Ed Said, a blog WB suggested but hasn't really hooked me yet. I don't have time to read this post now, but I definitely will later.


Friday, September 10, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

highs and lows

Yesterday, contrary to what my sister who lives in the future indicated, was not a good day. We got it all in-- wired kids; a severe disagreement between me and Sunshines about what it means to answer the question "What happened?"; kids needing to be dismissed because staying the day would have resulted in something being broken; another needing dismissal because his GF was in labor; the FBI (no joke) showing up to question a student about someone else who had enlisted last spring; and one kid thinking about dropping out. Oh, and after school the local police called to follow up on a complaint and another called upset about something that happened at home.

Today was much better. Still wired, but at least willing to be roped in. I'll take it as it comes.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

the bright side

One good thing about getting 7 school days under your belt before Labor Day weekend is that the day off actually feels like you've earned it. We had a great weekend-- lots of friends came over to hang out by the fire, I got all our laundry washed and hung out on the line, and we cooked like crazy people yesterday; Girly made chocolate chip muffins while I handled the bread and butter pickles, zucchini relish which will get canned tonight, zucchini whoopie pies, and cole slaw to sit on top of the pulled pork best friends invited us over to share. When the alarm went off today I couldn't even be upset.

And now it's a short week. Sweet!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

ch ch ch ch changes...

I don't remember how much I've said here about all the changes in my classroom, but we've got lots going on. First of all, we've gone from a teacher and an ed tech to two teachers. Which is huge, because instead of being responsible for all 24 credits our high school requires for graduation, I'm only responsible for 12. That may not seem like much when you just read it, but trust me when I tell you, 12 is a very manageable number. We also changed locales over the summer. We had been down the street in a building that housed central office and 4 other HS classrooms. Now we're in a stand alone house the district purchased.... a long time ago. It really functions like a portable classroom, except it's not portable. Anyhow, both of us have our own classroom, which is wonderful. Next weekend they're taking a wall out of my room to make it better able to fit a dozen or more adult sized bodies, and at some point (I hope some point soon) they're going to get the basement ready for us to have one big room that will fit all 2 dozen students we share at once. So to translate... our classrooms weren't ready for the first day of school, and if they're ready by the first of October I'm going to be thrilled.

But all that is pretty easy to deal with. The really big deal is that we are now, in effect, employed by 2 different high schools. Another school in our region (I'll spare you from my rant against our state government's budget balancing scheme) does not have an alternative ed program, and the best plan for all (meaning kids, parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers) was to bus them up to ours. This was decided last spring, and at face value, it's not that big of a deal. Sunshines are sunshines, no matter what their zip code. But graduation requirements, well, those are definitely different. To say that it has taken me some figuring out is an understatement; I didn't leave work before 4:30 all week. Naturally, this other school reports grades on trimesters, while the first reports quarterly. Quickly doing the math... that's 14 times we'll be reporting progress reports and grades. One school awards credit at the end of each semester, the other at each trimester, which means some of our students need .5 credit of health while others need .67. None of this is insurmountable either, but it would have been helpful to have known before the first day of school workshop.

The good news is we have a plan and have it as figured out as it can get until going through it once. Two logins for the two different schools; everyone's transcripts have been reviewed and assigned to our appropriate classes. We each get a prep period, WHICH IS HUGE. I have not had a prep period since taking this job, and can you tell how thrilled I am to have one now?? My classes are basically English and history while hers are math and science, and we split the electives. It changes a bit second semester, but it does get everyone what they need. The returning sunshines aren't thrilled to have to learn a second teacher, but it really is in their best interests.

I guess the most significant part of this week was how quickly the kids from the other school assimilated. They are all interacting with each other, sharing stories about cars and cops and parents and realizing what I knew from the beginning: they are the same kids, they just have different school colors.... which they're still not sure they care about completely. It took us less than a week to start to form this community, which is all the proof I need that none of them are bad kids. They are now my kids, for good or for ill. I will defend them when necessary, and I will call them on the carpet when needed, too. Mama Bear has 22 sunshines, and it doesn't really matter where they come from. They're here now, and that's all that matters to me.

Friday, September 03, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

the end of summer means popovers!

We ended our summer the way we often do: driving across the state to have popovers and lobster stew at the Jordan Pond House. It's a 3 hour drive to get there, and it seems a lot of others had the same idea because we had a significant wait to get a table... but it is so very worth it. The popovers melt in your mouth, and the homemade strawberry jam and whipped butter are just decadent. The stew can't have much more than butter, cream, and huge chunks of lobster. If you've never gone, you need to fix that, and soon. You won't regret it.

The point is this has become part of our family ritual. We go to Acadia at the end of summer; one of these summers we really should go and stay longer than a day, and spend more time in the park. This year we didn't time it right to visit Thunder Hole, but we did make it up Cadillac Mountain. This massive cruise ship was in town, and it certainly looked to us to be bigger than some of the islands in the bay.

These crazy rituals of ours make me happy. Most of the people we know are not insane enough to log 6 hours of driving in a day just for some popovers.... but we are, and it helps define us. We don't follow routines much, but we have things we like to do at the same time every year. The end of school means take out lobster rolls, although most of us don't order lobster rolls anymore. Memorial Day usually has us on a Family Field Trip somewhere, but who knows where. Girly and Beaner have started a birthday shopping trip, as their birthdays are only 3 days apart... and I'm thrilled they are learning that rituals like that are part of what brings you joy and comfort in this life. That, and when you find a place that has incredible food, it is worth a day's journey for another taste.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. But I forgot my purse at school yesterday, which had my camera in it, so I'm a day late. Sigh.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

winding down

The alarm clock has been ringing more and more frequently, and the need for regular dinner times and bed times is becoming more apparent. Clothes are purchased, backpacks filled, and the list of things to accomplish whittled down to a final few. I am looking forward to getting back into the routine of our regular lives, but the end of summer is always bittersweet. It's not that I don't want to go back to work, but that I don't want the fairy tale to end. Who would? Even though I know all good things must, I'll hold on tight to the next week, so when it's time to let go, I truly have no regrets....

Friday, August 13, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Friday, August 06, 2010

{these moments}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo- no words - capturing a moment from the week. But because it's my blog, I get to make the rules, so I'm doing two. Because I can.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

{that moment}

So we were on vacation, and reliable internet was not part of the bargain. But here's my moment anyway...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

brain development

if you get a chance to attend a workshop or conference where Karen Williams is speaking about brain development, go. Trust me. Drop everything and go.

(I can't find a specific website to link to her, but check these out if you want proof.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

where everybody knows your name

The conference I'm at, formally known as Dropout Prevention, has been renamed Positive Youth Development (turns out youth who stop attending school don't really like being referred to as dropouts, and honestly, I can't say as I blame them). This year specifically is titled R3, which stands for Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I, the self-proclaimed QUEEN of relationships, am here. I have heard so much over the past two days that has affirmed what I do and given me ideas for where to go from here. (For those of you who attended two years ago, fear not: it's a whole new gig. The organizers took all our suggestions to heart and you really should come back with me next summer. Seriously.)

Anyhow, that's not the point of this post. The point, in my typically wordy manner (Strunk and White would be SOOO mad at me!) is that (madder still...) the organizers have taken relationships research to heart. As I was checking in (listed by first names, not last, as a way to be more personal) the woman in front of me had a lot of questions and held up the line. As I waited patiently, the administrative assistant for the college department that sponsors this event had my folder ready for me. Yes, she remembered me, out of a sea of hundreds of people and having talked to me face to face maybe 5 times? Wow. That is impressive. She is good, no doubt about it, and yes, one of her friends is the mom of my childhood best friends, but still.... that's darned impressive. Practicing what you preach.... yea, beyond impressive.

Over the last 2 days I've run into other organizers who remember me, both from state government and other alternative educators and administrators. Me! So much of this is because all of us in this field believe in the power of relationships, and know that no real work happens without it. No matter the reason, it feels pretty good to know I am making a name for myself in my chosen field. (Let's just hope they remember me for good reasons and not because I'm someone they're trying to avoid...)


My head is filled with ideas... and yet I may have just found the simple focus I need. Dr. Gil Noam designed a model he calls PEAR, and it's simple enough to work but complex enough to pack a punch. This is the model I think we'll use this year to sort of focus what we're trying to do. It is based on a 4 leaf clover, with 4 aspects that should be considered: active engagement, assertiveness, belonging, reflection. I can build lessons, curriculum, and programs around all of those models.

Other thoughts include using the 40 Developmental Assets that the SEARCH Institute have developed on a regular basis. These are measurable assets that have been proven to reduce risk behaviors; research has also shown these assets can be improved and taught.

I've got ideas on our schedule, what classes we can teach, how I can improve my classes, how to use these little white boxes more effectively..... So many thoughts, so little time to process!

Perhaps most importantly, however, I've had a chance to meet and talk in depth with my new colleague. I feel really good about our ability to work together, to help each other, and to improve our program and the lives of our students.

I love this conference, and I am so very glad I came and that she could come with me. I think it's going to be a great year. Summer's not over yet, but I'll be ready when it is. Man, I heart my job...

Monday, July 26, 2010

stay tuned

Thank you, WB, for making sure I came to this conference. Next year you might want to join me... yes, it's that good.

Deets later.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

my next Food Network star

One of the jobs that Boy has assumed this summer is starting the charcoal fire. It's not always easy acknowledging that the babies are growing up, but they are, and it's good to get some work out of them while we can. While starting the fire one night this week, he decided what he really wanted was Chinese, specifically teriyaki chicken. "So find a recipe and make it" I answered.

He did. He searched the net for a good recipe, and found one for fried rice, too. He also wanted spring rolls, and had a hard time finding one that had ingredients we could find in our very limited Asian foods isle, so I helped. (Which means I looked at a few recipes, and figured out enough to be able to wing it. That's a good skill to learn, too.)

Last night we made rice with dinner so we'd have leftovers for today. He put together the marinade for the chicken this afternoon, as "all-by-himself" as he could for the first time doing things like mincing ginger and chopping scallions. This evening, he assembled the spring rolls (cabbage, carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger sauteed and mixed with soy sauce and corn starch), including rolling them after I showed him how to do one. He cooked the rice as I deep fried the rolls (he's still afraid of a vat of oil, and I guess one should know one's limits when learning their way around the kitchen). He also convinced me to put the chicken on their sticks, and I cooked those on the fire he'd started before. "Let me get these plated before we take the pictures..." (I swear, I don't make this stuff up.)

It was delicious. Even more satisfying, though, was just how proud he was. He thought of the meal, figured out what we needed, prepped and cooked most of it. He also knows that he's got to learn to get over his dislike of raw meat and to get comfortable with the different heat sources. But he did get a better understanding of how to use his knife differently for different tasks, and how to follow a recipe and adapt it to your own likes and abilities. I don't think he's ready to take over full time kitchen duties, but he's not that far away. By the time he leaves home, I have no doubt that he'll be a great cook who can keep all those around him full and happy. Who knows? Maybe this will be the meal that he looks back on and says "It all started because I wanted some Chicken on a Stick..."

I'm proud of you, Boy. You figured it out and you did it. Sometimes that's all cooking really is-- knowing what you want and then figuring out how to get there. Fresh ingredients help, but confidence is also required. You can't be a good cook if you don't believe you are one. And you can practice on us anytime you want.

***It should also be noted that he normally picks around certain veggies, including peppers and onions, both of which were in the rice. It would seem that when you cut them yourself, you're more likely to give them a try, as Girly still tried to eat around hers. She's a few years away, though, so I guess I'll just wait and see.

Friday, July 23, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

at the top of the hill

WB pointed out to me that we're at the half-way point of summer, but sure doesn't feel that way. I guess the 3 day R3 conference I'm attending next week and the 7.5 days of work scheduled for August are coloring my view. Regardless, the math doesn't lie, and here we are. Katie agrees.

Bestfriend dubbed this "The Summer of No Regrets", and I do believe it's an apt title. We've gone to DC to meet up with my siblings and to Quebec City as just us. We've had lazy days around the house and have taken off in an attempt to find a body of water. We've watched Wimbledon, World Cup, Tour de France, and baseball. We've been to weddings and hung around with friends. We've cooked, grilled, canned, and enjoyed the bounty from WB's garden. The kids have socialized here, there, and everywhere. And the sun has shone through most of it... yes, there have been no regrets this summer.

We still have a month to go, and even with the work days creeping in, we have much left to do. We go to the Cape with WB's sister next week. Our party is coming up (are you coming???), as are other gatherings. And we still have a month of evenings to sit around and not worry about what time it is and what we need to wear when we get up. No regrets, baby.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

learn from the master

Many of my readers are sports fans, and many are not. All of you, however, are readers. Do yourself a favor, no matter where you place yourself on this divide, and read the above article. Joe Posnanski is an amazing writer. He's mostly a baseball writer, and I am most certainly not a reader of baseball blogs, but he is on my Reader: when he writes about other topics it is so worth my time. I promise it will be worth yours.

Since my sister headed off to UNC for college, I have been a fan of Coach Dean. I consider myself lucky to have been at a UNC/Virgina game in the Dean Dome (I even snuck in on one of her roommate's student passes-- I felt like such a rebellious college kid!) while he was still coaching. I won a basketball pool based on the infamous Chris Webber timeout call. The man is all class, and always has been. I did not know just how classy until I read this article, but knowing that he recruited the first African American scholarship player in North Carolina was all I ever really needed to know.

One of the diseases that scares me is dementia. I've always been known for my memory (certain friends call me when they need a phone number because it's quicker to ask me than to look it up) and the idea of losing that mental edge is worrisome. That the Fates subscribe to irony is certainly distressing, and they seem to have thrown their hats into this match. It is incredibly sad that he can't remember everything anymore, but he seems to be handling it with the grace with which he handled every other event in his life. It is comforting to know, however that the man does live up to his legend.

Forget about me... just go read Poz's post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

old roads

I've been fascinated with old roads for quite a few years. Maine has a lot of them; somewhere along the way DOT decided the original road needed to be straightened, but there were already houses on it, so they left it behind and built the new line around it. Some are easy to find ("Old County Road" sits to the right of "County Road") and some you need to look for other clues, like a bunch of houses that look like they were built facing backwards. When I find one and figure it out, it just makes me happy.

Yesterday we visited my parents and my brother, and I think I identified the source of this fascination. When we moved to town in 1978, they were in the process of changing the road. I don't remember it specifically, but there was the side road, just beyond the turnpike, that runs about a half a mile and dead ends each way, with a huge old farm at one end that is obviously facing the wrong way. I remember asking my mom about it, and suddenly, I could see where the road used to come in front of the remaining houses. I could see the path the old bridge took and how those yards on the other side were affected by the change. And I've been looking for them ever since.

(And yes, I did find old 173 SUD as we were driving home from Quebec City...)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Je me souviens

Since the beginning of our relationship, music has been key. We are famous for heading off to Boston on a random Tuesday night to see some band no one else has heard of... and then driving back home and teaching the next day. We started taking the kids with us when they were 4 and 6. We were on our way to a family reunion, flying out of NH... so when a triple bill of some favorites were playing 30 min away the night before our trip started, we couldn't refuse. So, when we were trying to figure out what to do for our 15th anniversary, we started with music.

WB found our current favorite family band performing at the summer festival in Quebec City, a city he loves and the rest of us had never seen. Because it was in honor of our anniversary, we splurged on a hotel room. I must say, I do like the summer mode of concerts... being able to walk back to the room and be comfortable and asleep within 15 minutes is much more fun than fighting to stay awake as we drive back home. But I digress...

Arcade Fire ROCKED! They played many of our favorites (WB called 2 of their first 3 numbers) and generally made everyone happy to be alive. One of the band members was born in Canada, butonly because her family escaped Haiti's dictatorship. The band has worked to help with earthquake damage, and launched kanpe that day, a charity dedicated to helping improve life for Haitians. We certainly love us a good band, but it makes it even more endearing when said band has a social agenda and uses their influence to make the world a better place. The Festival is donating .25 per person who attended this show, and Arcade Fire is matching up to 1 million given through a text donation number (sadly, it seems this only works in Canada). It really was the perfect way to honor our lives together as a family.

Tuesday morning we wandered around and checked out the Old City. It's a relaxed sort of place-- there's no rush, few lines... you just wander around and check out what intrigues you. And so we did. The kids found oversized lollipops, I found some postcards, and WB showed us different places of note. My lack of knowledge of the hometown language certainly hindered my ability to read up on the history of things-- many signs are printed in both languages, but not all. I was keenly aware of my language deficit, although all the shop owners and waitstaff were fluent in English. This trip did cement the idea in the kids heads that being bi-lingual is a good thing, be it in French or in Spanish. (The 2 years of Latin that I took most certainly did not help me this week!)

There is a good chance that both kids will return to Quebec City on 8th grade trips and that we will return ourselves. I may, however, need to sit in on a French immersion class first... I don't like feeling like the Ugly American who refuses to try to conform to the native culture.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Friday, July 09, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


So many things have started to make sense. I didn't know they hadn't made sense before, but sometimes the light bulb just gets shocked on, and then, suddenly, you know. Nothing has changed, but everything is different.

When I'm in the middle of something, something real and true, I never think about it being temporary. I guess if I thought about it, it would no longer be real, but would become a thing to hold onto somehow, and the magic would end. But looking back is sometimes so painful that it brings tears to my eyes because I miss it so. I've been lucky enough to have a few of these somethings over my relatively short life; usually the path-altering event is a sudden one-- something I, anyway, didn't see coming at the time, but can clearly see now. Something which, once occurred, throws everything under water and you hope to bob back to the surface, breathing, able to find shore somewhere. The scars do heal, with time, and the lessons to be learned emerge from the carnage, but still, some days you think back at how perfect that time was...

I've also missed some things along the way, and for that, I sincerely apologize. Not for not doing anything, because you can't react to something you don't know exists, but for not listening to that quiet voice that said something isn't quite right, and for not trusting it enough to investigate. I hope you know that I'm better at listening to that voice now; I'm sure it helps that I'm regularly getting full nights of sleep. But I know I still miss things; if you need my help and I'm not listening, knock me upside the head.

Sixteen years ago I agreed to bind my life to his, forever. I didn't really understand what that meant-- I understood the words, and the concept, but how can you understand something you've never done? Somehow or another, we've figured out how to navigate this crazy road, construction, right turns and everything else. Three years ago, bestfriend said "I do" for the second time. Which of us was braver? Crazier? Neither and both, I would answer, depending on the day. This summer, one of the next generation is saying I choose you, to be with me, forever. They are kids... like we were... but different, too, and as ready as they can be. I hope my little role in her childhood has helped prepare her, and if she needs help along her journey, I hope she will feel comfortable enough to ask, because we never stop needing the influence of those who have trod along ahead of us.

I started watching Saving Grace again, from the pilot, this summer. Grace has some demons... and some angels, too. I am lucky enough to not need a Last Chance Angel, nor to have met Satan himself. But I have loved my friends and family completely and without bias, and hope that that small part has made their journey easier. Ham tells Grace he will wait for her, and Rhetta trusts her truth without details to prove it. That I can do. I will continue to do. I may not have known at the time, but I know now, and I am here to help.

Monday, July 05, 2010

dip me in the water

Different places have different smells. You know what I'm talking about-- ocean air is heavy with an undertone of Coppertone and fried seafood; public pools have a harsh chemical smell where private ones smell clean; isolated ponds with little direct sun smell cold and untouched. Babbling streams where the unexposed rocks are coated with slippery flora but have been smoothed by the passage of time have a distinct smell as well. It's harder for me to describe, but the closest I can come is understated. Beautiful, yes, but in a quiet, confident way, without needing hundreds of people lining it's shores saying so.

Today, we set out in search of water, and ended up here. Once we'd slid down the little hill to the shoreline, my nose confirmed that we had, indeed, found the place of which we were seeking.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

4th of July

4th of July, X

She's waitin' for me when I get home from work
oh, but things ain't just the same
She turns out the light and cries in the dark
won't answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

She gives me her cheek when I want her lips
but I don't have the strength to go
On the lost side of town in a dark apartment
we gave up trying so long ago

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

What ever happened I apologize
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, Baby take a walk outside

Friday, July 02, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

the fortnight

In the past week, we've watched hours of World Cup, Wimbledon, USA Track and Field Championships, and the Tour de France starts soon.

This is my kind of daytime TV!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

it is so very good to be back in my kitchen

Our task for bestfriend supper at their house. Baking? Yes, I think I will, thank you.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Last summer, as many of you know, my brother in law mentioned they were considering a trip to DC after they visited his family in Tarheel country. "If you're on the East Coast, we'll come see you" I casually replied.

And so they were, and so we did. Big Little Sis is spending her summer driving from coast to coast, seeing all her peeps before she heads to China (yes, the country) to teach, and she joined us. And there we were: 3 sisters, 2 husbands, and 5 cousins ranging in age from 1.5 -12.5 years old.

It was a great trip. Since WB's friend from forever ago lives in the greater DC area and has been inviting us to visit for years, we spent our first 2 days in the city with them. We took in a Nationals game, as we're on a lifetime quest to attend games in all the major league ballparks. Our seats were on the first base side, which meant there was no shade. 4:05 start means it's still 90-something degrees out with some insane amount of humidity. And did I mention no shade? The game wasn't really captivating, and you know conditions are less than idyllic when WB is ready to go in the 7th inning. But we've been there, and it was an event Long Time Friends had not attended, so it's good we went.

Because my sister's family is younger than ours, we decided to do the Holocaust Museum without them. It was incredibly well done, and filled with overwhelming images. Both of our kids read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and there is a fishing boat from Denmark on display, along with a white wall with names of people who helped those targeted by the Nazis. It was a heavy morning for sure, but well worth it. The museum's motto-- the next time you witness hatred... the next time you see injustice... the next time you hear about genocide... THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU SAW-- is exactly the message we need to get out, and while I know I can teach that without taking the kids to see such things, the images help.

The rest of the trip was lighter. Over 4 days, we got to a bunch of Smithsonians: Natural History, American History, Air and Space, Native American (eat here, seriously. The food was AMAZING.) and the National Museum of Art. We did a double decker bus tour of the city, taking us from Union Station past the Capitol, around the National Mall, by the White House, out to the National Cathedral, and through Embassy Row into Arlington National Cemetery. We walked the Mall, visiting WW2 Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. I took a bazillion pictures of Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument. On our way out of town, I was determined to find the Japanese American Monument. I'd seen signs for it, and we drove by it on the bus tour, but it's exact location eluded me. Luckily Big Little Sis had her iPhone, and got the address for me, and as we checked out of the hotel I realized it was on the opposite corner from us, and that I'd walked by it 3 times without realizing it. I taught both the Holocaust and Farewell to Manzanar (memoir of a child who lived in an internment camp) this year, so getting to both these places was significant to me. The message, again, is we cannot let fear and hatred rule. I am certainly doing all I can to get that message out.

We ended up staying at 2 different hotels, partly because we used Priceline and couldn't get one bid for all 3 nights, and partly so we could be near the Capitol so we could hear the Air Force band play from the Capitol steps. The weather had other plans however, and the concert was canceled as the thunder rolled in. We did, however, get to spend the afternoon playing in the rooftop pool, so the move wasn't a total loss.

I am so thankful we took this trip, and that our families get along well enough that we want to spend time together. They have lived on the Left coast since they started having children, and we have only lived here; finding time for the kids to get to know each other is not always easy, but it is something we're all committed to making happen. My goal for this trip was to see my nephews and my family, but I also got to see more of DC than I'd expected. And I got to watch the Two Cathedral's episode of The West Wing in the city. Yea, it was a great trip.

Bonus! I loved doing trip updates so much last summer, but I didn't bring my laptop this time (4 beds in 5 days, needing to walk from one to the other, so I packed very light. If you can tell me what happened in the Two Cathedrals episode and why it was even more significant given our sightseeing, you'll win a picture of your choice. Check out FB for your options.

Friday, June 25, 2010

{this moment}

An idea from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.