SOL Tuesday Where X marks the spot

I am learning all over again
what is dear
and beloved.

A warm summer evening
lush green grass surrounds
a reddish wood 
beneath their slow dancing feet

Cheek to brown cheek
in close and sure
so sure of every step
as if there were never
a forgetting 

I want to blush
at their embrace
I hardly know them this way
these familiar strangers
to whom I owe everything

but before me and ever
they remain each others'

For a moment,
their moment
I saw where x
marks the spot.

I spent several days in search of a precious photo album which contained my favorite picture of mom and dad. It must have been 1996 or 97 when my oldest was around 3. We visited my godparents who had a house out in the ‘boondocks’ as my mother called it. Of course we had ribs and potato salad and music. When my parents got up to dance on this generous patio I snapped a photograph that has remained deep in my heart although I have only looked at it a handful of times in the many years since. Today I found the album and recovered the picture which I will now frame and hang up in our new apartment.

Photo: S. Spelic

SOL Tuesday April 6th Poems

Sometimes we walk the earth with more feelings than our bodies can contain. Some of us go ahead and write a poem or two to take the pressure off.

The lost lemons

I found the lemons, he wrote.
among the potatoes.

Lemons are tricky, I replied.
Bright yellow secrets
hiding under dull
dusty potatoes.


How you like your tears?
Singular and leaky, one pitiful drop 
after another;
Or maybe like a gush,
flash flooding your face and every
tissue you can find?

You keep them tears a secret
they'll divulge your business
some other time when you think
they are long gone.
Folks afraid of tears let loose
Tears can break things.

Ever think about how tear and tear
look alike but ain't the same
but could be related;
causal cousins sometimes
tears that tear,  
not hearts but facades.
the slow steady work of salty 
water damage.


SOL March 31st Another Year of March

A year ago I wrote a post called “The Year of March”. Today we have “Another Year of March.”

One year ago, I was just getting a grip on how to “teach” PE from my living room and balcony. Today I had to push myself to complete the SeeSaw tasks for my students as we enter another lockdown period of distance learning tomorrow.

365 days ago, I was sad for the Slice of Life Challenge to end. Today I’m sad again.

One year ago my 12 year old 6th grader was losing steam, feeling mostly cranky about doing school at home. Today my 13 year old 7th grader is thriving and making the most of his hybrid experience; able to take this next lockdown in stride.

One year ago I shared a household with my husband. Now that is no longer the case.

A lot can happen in a year and a lot can happen in minutes. The question is always what we notice and how we allow those experiences to shape us.

I’m different now after a full year of pandemic reality. It would be worrisome if I hadn’t changed in some way.

What I noticed in my last post of last year’s challenge was the remarkable faith. Faith in us, in our humanity, in our increased sense of interdependence.


Remember, then, how we recovered

how long it took until we found not the way back

but chose a different path

One that held space for everyone who needed it

A path that afforded more humanity and care

than we had seen in centuries.

That was us, you remember.

We did that.

From The Year of March

Well, that recovery is slow to come and arrives in fits, starts and mirages. One year on and we may be a good deal wiser but not necessarily more humane or gentle or justice-driven.

But at least we know that we are vulnerable and reliant on others in too many ways to count. We know that the help we receive may not come in the form we asked for. We know that even our best selves are not immune to selfishness and envy. It has been a year to remind us that not all learning is chosen.

As I leave this nourishing and affirming space, I want to remember Slice of Life as a place I come to dream in words; a place I return to again and again to choose learning and growth and fellowship in writing and humanity. Such that even another year of March is a gift bestowed.

Thank you all.

SOL March 30th Six-word Stream

son’s laundry mistaken for mom’s – cool.

whip smart, slow start, looks sharp

No one is in a hurry today.

Wowzers, let’s stretch this truth, yup.

just kidding you know I’m lost

Something different I said, not this.

There’s no measuring absence is there?

Home base is no good metaphor.

What’s missing is everything, not more.

“Imma leave the door open, girl…”

Wake up writing all through March

Tell me a sorrow you’re hiding.

I don’t meditate. It shows, yo.

Peace: someone’s idea of your silence.

Hold that thought. Hold it in.

Speak up now and risk alienation.

Alien nation merged is no accident.

Bright idea gets the parking lot.

Get to school already, future tardy!

Going, not gettin’, on my way.

Masked up, we enter the campus.

A school day, whatever that means.

SOL March 29th Journal Junk Drawers

A preponderance of words

spilled spread

pressed onto page upon page

One hundred years of journals for a life half that long

To wit, a startling number of blank notebooks
traveling across time
from desktop to shelf to box in a cellar
only to re-emerge: a practical curiosity
what was it I wanted to say?

among these finds
also greeting cards unused
still waiting to say Happy Birthday
or Thank You
in mint condition with an uncertain future
stationary stationery - a memoir

Why is life like a junk drawer
stuffed full of minutiae?
my miscellany runneth over
keys, stamps, coins, love letters
antacids, business cards, memory stick
AAs, safety pins, expired warranties
erasers and pens, bank statements.

In the end, there will come 
The Great Disposal
Until such a time
journals will fill and be lost
journals will be bought and set aside
journals will be kept and leafed through
journals will be my junk drawers
for the duration.

SOL March 28th Golden Shoveling

Fran Haley introduced Golden Shovel Poems in her slice today:

Try digging with the Golden Shovel yourself. Take a line from a poem or a favorite book, speech, or song that has special appeal to you and transform it into something of your own. Each word in that line becomes the ending word of a line of your own poem (or the beginning word, if you prefer). Your poem may reflect an aspect from the original work. It may not. A Golden Shovel poem can mean whatever you wish; it’s just inspired by the line you use to create it.

Fran Haley, Digging For Awe: Golden shovel poems
"Our stars weren't meant for
 their sky. We have never known
 the same horizon." 
 - Clint Smith, "Canon" in Counting Descent.
What we know is that our
reaching and grasping towards stars
reflected a desire we weren't
prepared to justify, to say what it meant. 
Stars are not property. For
whatever reason they decided their
version of sky
could never be the same that we
might claim too. Have
faith, rest assured, one man's never
is but a wish. Not known,
not fact, only speculation. The
stars remain the same,
we become the horizon.

"we bring a part of where we are from
to every place we go."
- Clint Smith, "Meteor Shower" in Counting Descent
Whatchu mean we?
You see all this meaning I bring:
a feast of metaphor and magic, a
philosophical smorgasborg in part,
a banquet of 
ideas. Check out where
the difference between I and we
grows wide, grows deep. Are
you seeing the gap from
not enough listening to
overbearing surveillance every
time I enter this place?
It's no picnic, you know. We
say we're good. My heart says go.

What a challenge! I had no idea where I was going with either of these and yet here they are. Something like this might really unfreeze some learners. I usually resist given structures but this one intrigued me just enough and truly got me to dig.

SOL March 27th Tired of Boxes

Tired of boxes. Full boxes, empty boxes, cardboard boxes, plastic boxes.

Almost every box seems to hold one treasure or more: Photographs, a student’s note, a creation by one of the boys. But I’m still tired of wading through their jumbled contents. One box contained final bits of junk from our last move that we literally never touched in the 12 years since. Although tempted to dump it all, I found some gems: The ad through which I found our nanny for N. in 2008, a bunch of mixtapes from the 90’s, magnetic poetry just waiting for a reprise.

It’s the photos that always draw me in, though. Still in their developer’s envelopes in collections of 24 or 36, I see and remember the way we were and that we were not always the same people. Today it was pictures of the motorcycle trip my husband and I took to Italy and Spain when I was 3 months pregnant with N. followed by snapshots of my oldest son when he was about 11. There I am with my favorite niece, both of us smiling brightly into the frame. That was the summer I arrived in Atlanta and she picked me up from the airport. How are you? She asked. Pregnant! I said. And we laughed for most of the car ride back to my brother’s place.

I’m still tired of boxes and all these parts of me they carry.

It’s actually not the boxes that I’m tired of. It’s the need to decide over and over again which parts of myself and my story I’m going to keep and which ones I can shed.

One day the boxes will be gone – stored or recycled – in any case, out of sight. Right now, I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.

SOL March 26 Write Stuff On The Internet

I write stuff on the internet.

I tweet.

I post.

I thread.

I blog.

I publish.

I comment.

I write stuff on the internet.

Here’s a thing I’ve learned: I never wanted to tell stories that were someone else’s, so now I tell my own, however inconsequential. But it turns out that the stories I choose, the ones that make it onto the screen, actually matter, even if they are not important. Sometimes it’s the act of telling; of deciding to tell that is brave. Other times it’s the way we’ve used words to carve a reality that someone can run their hand across and tell you what it felt like. Whether we write, sketch, sculpt, sing, dance or film our stories, that we do it is what matters. All else is of little consequence.

Once upon a time my mother revealed that she had dreamt of writing the great American novel. She was serious and wistful. I was surprised. She is long gone now. When I write stuff on the internet I often think of my mother and what she did not get to write. The stuff I write on the internet is her legacy.

SOL March 25th Teach, taught, taught

3rd grade in the big gym. 20 kids, everybody’s here! The plan is on the board: jog 2 laps, kick to a partner (place kick, drop kick, kick a rolling ball) , Garbage Can Kickball or Battleship. After most have jogged the 2 laps, I quickly demonstrate the 3 kinds of kicks with a student and then invite everyone to find a partner and get busy.

“Can we make a group of 3?”

“Have you checked the numbers? Let’s see if we can get everyone a partner and if we have one person left over we can make a group of three if necessary.”

My prescribed steps take the wind out of those particular sails. Turns out we’ve got an even number. No threesomes.

Much kicking ensues. Music is playing. I circulate offering hints towards improvement. I need to run downstairs to grab some equipment that’s missing. It’s fine. I have them separate from their partners to play a quick game of kicking garbage which provides a nice segue into our next activity.

I decide on Garbage Can Kickball realizing that most have had an introduction but not everyone. We can practice kicking, fielding and base running without too many complications and newcomers can catch on pretty quickly. I take a few minutes to explain the game and for the most part, folks listen. They’re ready to play.

Garbage Can involves 3 players kicking and running the bases at one time. They run all the bases without stopping and are racing the fielding team who are trying to get all three balls to their “garbage person” positioned behind to the left of the kicking team before the kickers return home. It’s exciting, fun, briefly chaotic and cognitively manageable. Perfect for 3rd graders with mixed levels of kicking, catching and running abilities.

When it was time to line up, I noticed a strange feeling wash over me. What was it? Something like satisfaction. A kind of private joy of having been able to do what I intended to do. For once, I felt like I taught a class. We had a plan, we followed it, we experienced learning success! After weeks of toggling between indoors and out, conducting class opposite recess or when the wind picks up; selecting activities that don’t require to much hand action because fingers may freeze. Oh my goodness, the pleasure of a contained space, just for our group, no extra weather or people distractions! We just don’t realize what we’ve been working without!

Friends, when we look back on this year of improv and making do, remember that the specific conditions for teaching and learning matter! We can be outstanding educators – creative, engaging, seasoned and committed – but without reasonable conditions and settings to work in and with, we and our students will struggle and/or manage and/or survive but it will be very difficult to thrive.

Today’s rare opportunity to get that happy feeling of having taught a thing, of students learning a thing, just reminded me of what my teaching life in the before times was like (NB, sometimes, certainly not all the time). The tangibility of it all kinda blew me away.

SOL March 24th A Sight for Sore Eyes

I collected a few scoops of ice cream in a bowl, put the package back in the freezer then took the 3rd grade hallway back in the direction of my office. Oh, let me just stop in and see S. I turned left in the stairwell and strode into the art room. A quick peek around the corner and there she was!

She donned a mask and we gave each other a hug gesture as I took a seat on the worktable closest to her desk. Our eyes smiled. It dawned on me that it has been weeks since we last had a moment like this: no students, no colleagues, no pressing scheduled event; just the two of us and some time. I put my bowl of ice cream aside as we caught each other up on our lives in progress.

When S and I do get time to talk, it’s cathartic and honest. We go deep and with care. We have a way of holding each other through listening; warming each other with encouragement. There’s a natural flow to how we encounter and bolster one another. We are able to truly show ourselves and relish being seen.

Our conversation literally made my day. S was, like so many times before, a sight for sore eyes!