January 15, 2019

maggie's dress

More than two years ago, I set a goal to sew my granddaughter a dress. I’m not quite sure why this became a burning desire, but it might have to do with some complications around sewing I experienced growing up.

Until I was seven or eight, my mother made most of my clothes. We had Sunday dresses and school dresses. Just enough for a week of school. I always felt pretty in the dresses Mama made. My favorites were a blue organdy dress with ribbon trim and a red-and-white gingham dress with a round, white collar trimmed with red rickrack. I wore it on the first day of first grade.

My sisters began sewing in their teens and soon took over making many of my clothes since I was the youngest. I remember loving a navy corduroy dress with a square “sailor” collar. Another dress was blue with a white collar, red insets in the two box pleats, and red piping. I had a matching hat with a ribbon down my back. I wore this outfit to walk across the stage as the High School Choir performed “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from the Broadway show, “Gigi.”

In 7th grade, it was my turn to learn to sew. It was a DISASTER. I couldn’t sew a straight seam, nor could I visualize how pattern pieces fit together. I had no ability to solve problems of fit; my sleeves always puckered; and having very little chest at the time, darts were a joke. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t sew. It seemed like a rite of passage that I was failing at. So I turned away from even trying (lacking growth mindset for sewing) and focused on piano. We discovered many years later that there were REASONS I couldn’t sew, not the least of which involved my teachers making assumptions about what I already knew. That’s another story.

50 years later, I wanted to try again. Maybe at this time of life the stakes are lower. So I took my time. I sewed until that anxious feeling bubbled up. Then I stopped. A few days later, I gave it another go. I thought about the little steps that I COULD do until I was brave enough to try the part I wasn’t sure I could do. I have worked on this one little dress for a month and it has made me happy on so many levels.

All that is left is to sew the buttons on. Maggie will have a new dress for spring and I’m a happy grandma who pushed back at an old feeling of failure and was mostly successful. There’s just one little part that I did backwards, but unless you’re my sister, you wouldn’t know.


January 1, 2019

In March, 2014, I began the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge for the first time. Over the last few years, I have marveled at the impact this writing community has had on my life. I am so grateful to those who have helped me grow through the writing they have shared and through reading and responding to my writing. HAPPY NEW YEAR to each of you!

It was through this community that I began the practice of choosing One Little Word (OLW) for each year beginning in 2015. That year my word was remember. These are some of the things I wanted to work on remembering that year:

Remember to write.
Remember to practice and practice some more.
Remember to forgive.
Remember to laugh and give hugs.
Remember my parents, brother, and sisters.
Remember to exercise.
Remember to eat healthy food and drink water.
Remember my children.
Remember my grandchildren.
Remember to read every day. (That’s the easiest one.)
Remember to pay the bills, answer email, take out the trash, get rid of clutter, and all the other things that fill the to-do list that keep me from remembering the things I really want to remember.
Remember to look for beauty.
Remember the kindness of friends.
Remember to be a kind friend.
Remember to listen.
Remember childhood.
Remember those in need, which is pretty much all of us.

In 2016, my OLW was nourishI was struggling that year to balance work and family. It seemed that I was feeling depleted. Nourish was a concept that helped me achieve more balance. I’m still working on that. I started to try to read and write more poetry that year and found so many beautiful poems to feed my soul.

The next year, I chose walk. I loved thinking about all the ways walk is meaningful. Here are a few desires I had in January, 2017 with my OLW:

I want to walk physically for a healthier body and clearer mind on familiar and unfamiliar paths. I want to walk peacefully with my family and friends. I want to walk softly, with awareness of the feelings of others.  I want to walk resolutely toward new learning and growth in my walk as teacher and learner. I want to walk gratefully for all that is good.

Then, for 2018, listen was my word. Perhaps this word, more than the others, had the greatest impact to bring about change in my relationships, my work, and my heart. I tried very hard this past year to listen hard before I jumped into conversations, or tried to fix problems, or reacted to situations. I practiced listening for what was said and what was not said. I still need to practice this.

Considering a OLW for 2019, this year I want to continue remembering, nourishing, walking, and listening. To these, I will add lift. There may be some who see this as a word of privilege, a word that positions one to have power in order to lift. I understand that, but I see lift as a word of hope. I want to be the kind of person who lifts another’s burden, lifts a child’s feelings of worth, or lifts my voice against injustice. I will lift my eyes to try to see more clearly.

In 2018, I had a few months of pretty intense illness. I was so grateful for those who gave me a lift. Some lifted me physically; others lifted me emotionally. Some lifted my belongings so I didn’t have to. Some lifted my workload until I had more strength. Some lifted a hand to comfort me. These are the lifts we offer each other as human beings.

May 2019 be a year where we seek to lift one another. I will try to do my part.

November 27, 2018

I’m beginning again as everyone who writes must.
My desire to write is like a hardy pansy that survives through winter.
The cold presses in
As leaves and blossoms hunker down and hold on.

My will to write falters,
but tonight
I wrestle and push back against
the trembling quiet.

August 14, 2018

This is the last night of “summer,” as in I go back to work tomorrow. I’m calling this “The Summer of Delights and Disasters.” I’m going to list them to possibly write more at another time.

Delight #1 – a week in Maine with friends.

Disaster #1 – my sister fell and has a compression fracture at T-12. Ouch.

Delight #2 – a week on the Outer Banks, NC with some of my children and grandchildren.

Disaster #2 – my other sister had surgery to repair the tears bone spurs inflicted on her Achilles tendon. Ouch.

Delight #3 – a week at the TCRWP Writing Institute with my friend, Sally, and the great thinkers and teachers I encountered there. (Including Stacey Shubitz!)

Disaster #3 – getting sick in NYC and not knowing where to go.

Delight #4 – HAMILTON!

Through these delights and disasters at least one truth rings clear. Most people are good. Most people want to help.

Another truth: Aging is no joke. My sibling relationships have become more important than when we shared a room in a little house. We often switch roles as oldest and youngest, with youngest taking care of oldest. Our birth order no longer matters as we face the challenges of living what is sometimes called, The Third Third.

Another truth: Friends matter.

And finally: The best stories are often about forgiveness. That was one of the many things that struck me after seeing “Hamilton” which will surely become iconic of our time.

Family. Friends. Forgiveness. Not a bad outcome for a summer such as this.

August 7, 2018

I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment at the doctor. I had filled out my forms and was waiting for my name to be called. As I waited, I observed three young children, may I say, very well-behaved children. They each had a backpack with their own activities: coloring books, sticker books, and books to read. They were entertaining themselves without a single whine or bicker.

I turned my head and saw an attractive woman. She was wearing yoga pants and a tank top. Her arms were tan with well-defined muscles. She had a kind face. I gathered she was the mother of these sweet kids. What transpired next has lingered with me all day.

“Mama, are you crying?” asked one daughter.

“Mama, are you crying?” asked the other daughter.

“No honey, I’m just thinking.”

She finished checking out and setting up her next appointment.

“Mama, are you sick?” asked the little boy with so much concern.

“No, I just had a little problem and needed to talk to the doctor about it.”

“Are you sure you’re not sick?” he asked again.

“I’m sure.”


July 2, 2018

Since last I wrote two children have moved, two grandchildren have been born, reading tests have been given, data  has been analyzed, a classroom packed up for the summer, a literacy symposium attended, and a trip to Maine magically enjoyed. I wish I could say that I had kept writing through it all, but I didn’t. I’m okay with that because I know that I was present for the living of it which will someday inform some piece of writing.

I was in Maine with some old friends and new friends for a week of conversation, walking, reading, puzzlemaking, and even whale watching. I’m not sure what part I enjoyed the most, but I think it was the opportunity to be with smart, creative, thinking women who care about their communities, each other, and living purposefully in the world.

The common friend to all of us is Jen. She invited us to come together to celebrate her 50th birthday. We came from many different places, circumstances, and decades (I was the oldest). It was so fun to know Jen better through the friends she invited. We talked about books, religion, family, diversity, whales, music, food–there was always an interesting conversation going on. The TV never went on all week. No need. Such a restorative week.

Sue, the artist in the group, gathered small things on the beach. This said it all.

Sue 1