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A Friendship like Magic Mud

A young boy walks past me, hurrying past the grown-up books on display to the children’s section.  He looks familiar.  A moment later another, also familiar boy walks past.  It’s been three years–I’m pretty sure they won’t recognize me or even remember meeting me, so I debate calling after them to say hello.  I turn towards the children’s section, turn back, and see their mom stride in.  She looks thinner than I remember, though maybe she was that thin three years ago.  Her wild, curly hair is cut short, though I’ve seen it in all different lengths over the years.  What’s new are the streaks of gray.

Our hug is familiar, but not as long as our hugs once were.  In high school I might have squealed and run to her, rocked back in forth in our bear hug.  Now, I think about all that I don’t know in her life.

Later, in the car, she tells me about her new job.  I don’t know when she left her old job.  She tells me about the boys’ current interests, and I try to remember their ages–are they second grade?  Third?  I wonder if this is the last visit we’ll have together.  Will we make the effort to see each other again in another three years?

But at her house, my coat is hardly hung up before one son has dragged me off to see the book nook the brothers created.  I head back down to my friend, and he brings me books to recommend.  He lends me one of his favorites to read.  “He doesn’t do that with many people,” she tells me.  “You’re special.”

At yoga class, the teacher gives her a correction, then the same one to me, gives me a correction, then the same one to her.  I think about dancing together in high school, when our arms would swing at the very same time, when I could reach out my hand without looking and her hand would be there.

After, I compliment her sweater and she says, “I have two others just like this.  I’ll give you one.”  I remember the skirts we traded back and forth in high school, the midriff-baring tank top she gave me when I pierced my belly button while visiting her.

At home, she invites me to join her family for their community Shabbat dinner.  We talk about the camp reunion coming up this summer.

We’re like magic mud, she and I. That combination of cornstarch and water is rigid and hard when pushed too quickly, but with a gentle touch and time, it is soft and yielding.  Our friendship takes time to ease back into, but the softness comes.



Ready for Summer

The lights were turned out.  My glasses were placed gently next to the bed.  The pillow was soft and the covers just the right weight.  I was ready for sleep.

The humidifier hummed its usual monotone, and then … I heard a short, higher pitched whine.  Was it the humidifier … or was it a mosquito?

It’s pretty early for mosquitoes, but I did see one (I was pretty sure) over the weekend.

I listened carefully.  No more mosquito drone …. did that mean that there wasn’t a mosquito in the room, or did it mean the mosquito had landed?

The back of my neck felt prickly.  Was the mosquito right now on my neck, biting into me, sucking my blood?  I tried not to be paranoid.  Probably there wasn’t a mosquito in the room.  But I couldn’t help myself.  I untangled my arm from the covers and rubbed my neck.  Nothing there.  No mosquito whine to signal there was an insect flying away.

The sound was probably the humidifier.

But then my nose itched.  And then my forehead. And then my hand.

And then my foot, which was buried deep under the covers.  I knew there wasn’t a mosquito on my foot…..but still.   It itched.

I lay awake, on high alert for any more signs of a mosquito.

It snowed yesterday, but I was ready for a summer visitor—as soon as this sign of summer appeared, I was ready to kill it.

Slice of Life Challenge

March 1, 2018, about 6:40am

I’m ready for work a little earlier than usual.  Husband’s off to work.  I’m in between books, so haven’t gotten sucked into reading just one more page (and just one more and just one more).  I could leave for work….but I decide to check the classroom slice of life challenge once more.

Am I really going to do this with my students?  Do I have the time?  Are students going to buy into it?


I read the instructions.  Check out the padlet.  I think it could work.  Yes, I really am going to introduce this to students today.  I double check the essential information.


I read background information about the slice of life.  I know all that, from my years of lurking and thinking about participating.


I read that teachers and students report experiencing a huge increase in engagement with writing.  I hope so.


I read, “If you haven’t already done so, please commit to participating in the month-long adult Slice of Life Story Challenge.  It is crucial that you are writing alongside your students, serving as a role model of the writing life.”


I shift myself on my office chair and chew my lip.  I don’t know.  It sounds like too much for me. I really want to focus on my students’ writing.


I reread those words, “It is crucial that you are writing alongside your students, serving as a role model of the writing life.”


I look at my watch.  It’s only 6:50.  Lots of time left before I need to leave.  But I don’t even have a blog set up.  …. or I think I don’t.  I did set up that blog a bunch of years ago.  But I don’t even know its address.


I go to WordPress, type in my email address, type in the password I usually use for work related things (did I consider this a work related thing when I set it up?), and my eyes open wide when the screen shifts.  My password worked.


I think about that scene at recess yesterday.  I could try writing about it.  It doesn’t have to be great….no one is going to read it anyway.


I’ve got time this morning.  Maybe I’ll just write today.  I don’t have to do the whole month.


I open a word document, and start typing.

Making Charoset

Apples peeled, I chop them

smaller than my mother is chopping hers

 less uniform than my sister is chopping hers

Throw them into a bowl

smaller than the bowl we used when the family was all together

Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon

each of us eyeballing the amount

Add walnuts

Sprinkle with grape juice

or the Manischewitz my mother has had in the cabinet for years

or the good, red wine my sister has bought for the seder

Stir in a touch of honey

enough to keep the tartness of oppression

and family in different states

enough to give the sweetness of freedom

and family traditions that connect.

Going to a Party!

I’ve so been enjoying reading other people’s RSVPs for this party.  All month I’ve wanted to join in so I could come to the party too, but I thought I should hold off, in case there was a day when I would need a quick, easy idea for a post.  I’m going to take the leap of faith that I’ll be okay without this backup post tomorrow and Saturday.

It’s actually appropriate that I’m RSVPing so late in the month–that’s totally typical for me.  I always mean to RSVP to events right away, but time slips away …. my excuse this month is that I was busy slicing!

Here’s what I’m going to bring:

A favorite book: I’m going to bring the Harry Potter series (they’re all connected–it’s like one book…in a way….right?).  I’m a big Harry Potter fan, as is my husband (we read the whole series out loud together), so we’ve fed off each other over the years.  My husband is currently in a (year-long) phase where his evening entertainment is to listen to one of the Harry Potter audiobooks.  My corresponding entertainment is to see how quickly I can identify which book he’s listening to that night.  I’m bending the rules about how many books to bring, because I figure if there are other Harry Potter fans at the party, this could be a fun game–one person reads a sentence and everyone else figures out where in the series it’s from.  Doesn’t that sound like a great party game?

A favorite person: I’d bring my husband.  I try to hide it, but I’m pretty shy, especially at parties.  Randy, on the other hand, loves meeting with people and learning all about them.  He’d keep me from sitting by myself over near the bookshelf, just looking at the titles on the shelves. (I’ll probably end up looking at the titles at some point–because that’s how you know when you’re visiting a kindred spirit, right?  But at least I’ll be more conversational the rest of the time.)

A favorite food or beverage: I’m bringing chocolate milkshakes for everyone (flavored with just a touch of orange–that orange-chocolate combination is my absolute favorite).  If I were feeling ambitious, I might bake some bread as well….or maybe if there were a snow day just before the party (my district has had 8 already–what’s one more?).  I love baking fresh bread on snow days.  If I weren’t feeling ambitious, I’d get Randy to make chocolate chip cookies for me.  He tends to keep logs of chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer in case we ever need cookies at short notice.  (They’re amazing!  He has a sort of a cult following in the schools where I’ve worked.  If I bring in a baked good, people will say they shouldn’t have any–they’re trying to be good–but if I tell them I’ve brought Randy’s cookies, they decide they have to make an exception to their diet.  Not that I’m jealous.  But I’m not a bad baker, either.)

A favorite song: I have a hard time choosing a favorite song, but a song I love that would go well with this event is “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.  I wanted to copy in a sample of the lyrics to share with those of you who don’t know the song, but I couldn’t choose a short enough section.  Here’s a link to them:  Really–you should go read them.  Many years I play this song at the start of writing workshop every day.  I like the cue it gives students to settle into their writing (and I like starting writing workshop dancing and singing to it).

A surprise: This month I rewatched a documentary I had seen years ago that I loved, called Louder Than a Bomb.  It follows several teenagers as they prepare for and then compete in a poetry slam competition.  It’s all about the power of poetry.  I watched it with friends, to whom I had really talked it up, and I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my memories, but it was just as good.  Now I’m back into wanting everyone in the world to see it.  (But I want everyone to watch it with me, because I love it so much.)  Maybe our party could be a sleepover, and we could settle into our sleeping bags and watch this before we pulled out our flashlights and books.



Thoughts on Wishing to be a Saint

Version 1:

I am a bad teacher.

Version 2:

Yesterday was a bad teacher day.  I know, I know, some days like that are inevitable in teaching, but it was one of those days where I didn’t have the patience I wanted.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be a student in my classroom.  I wouldn’t have wanted my child to be a student in my classroom.  It was such a bad day I don’t even want to put words down to describe it because I don’t want to have to admit how mean I was.

Hours after school is over, I give myself small consolation with the thought that if I was a Severus Snape sort of teacher today, at least I wasn’t Deloris Umbridge.

Version 3:

Yesterday was a no-good, very-bad, horrible, move-to-Australia sort of day.  I could list all the frustrating non-listening that students did (Did you have to ask me that question immediately after I finished giving the answer?), describe the epic pile of glue poured into a math journal, name all sorts of other behaviors to rationalize losing my patience, but it doesn’t matter, because I lost my patience, and that’s, in the end, why I feel bad.

I feel bad for having a limit to my patience.

Realistic?  Does it matter?

Why have I decided that being a teacher means being a saint?

Have I decided that?  Or is it society that has decided that?  Where does this feeling come from?

Version 4:

I drive to school, hoping the extra caffeine will kick in soon and cheer me up.  It was a long time of lying in bed last night, beating myself up about all the better choices I could have made during math time yesterday.  I’m tired.  There’s a lump in my stomach.  I still haven’t decided how to address such a bad day with my class.

My thoughts circle round and round, like vultures, when a tune I recognize comes onto the radio.  I only know two songs by this singer, one depressing but ultimately uplifting, and the other just depressing.  A few lines in and I know it’s the more depressing one. I sing along with the chorus: “Fish swim, birds fly/daddies yell, mommas cry/old men sit and think/I drink.”  About right for my mood.

That song ends, and it shifts to the one other song I know by this singer, the one that ends with “Everyone could use a little mercy now.”  I think about showing myself some mercy.  What would that look like?  And suddenly I’m sobbing.

Version 5:

The classroom has been straightened from the mess I left the day before when I walked out with nothing finished because I realized I NEEDED to go to yoga class.

The morning message has been written: “Yesterday was a hard day, wasn’t it?  I’ve thought about how I can make today better.  I hope you have too.”

I’m standing near the door, ready to greet the students.

The first one walks in, smiling.  I say, “Hi.”  He says, “Hi,” cheerfully back as he hangs up his backpack and starts the usual morning routine.

The next three enter together, laughing as they gather around the lunch count bins.  “Hi,” I say.  “Hi,” they chirp at me.

The class rolls in, students smiling and chatting with friends.  Are they happier than usual, or am I just noticing it more?

I watch them fill the room with their good humor and energy.  I’ve spent the last 15 hours agonizing about what a mean teacher I was yesterday.  Aren’t they going to give me a few sidelong glances?  A few grumbles as they enter?  The answer, apparently, is no.

I am a bad teacher.

I am not a saint.  I make mistakes.  It appears the students have already forgiven me.  Perhaps it’s time to show myself some mercy.


The roar of the waterfall outside the yoga studio

Breath going in

and going out

Days getting longer, as they will later get shorter

My wandering mind,

trying to write poetry instead of staying still.