Dinner

My husband will eat anything (except scallops=allergy!). He has only one request when I cook. “Make lots of it.” It doesn’t matter what “it” is. He’s eaten my best cooking and my worst cooking. It’s either “good” or I hear, “It was fine, but maybe next time…”

Over nearly 46 years of marriage, my interest and motivation in cooking has gradually diminished. I would rather spend my time doing other things. Without kids at home anymore, I haven’t had much motivation. With the pandemic, we have fallen into survival level food. Take-out has been more frequent (curbside pickup is so tempting), and my cooking has been very basic.

Enter 16-year old granddaughter, Samantha. She is living with us for a few months and being a nanny for our new grandson–her cousin, Peter. This has been a very happy summer for me with her in my home. When I knew she would be coming to stay, my biggest anxiety was dinner.

“I’m going to have to remember how to cook again!” I said to my sister. Daily dinner seemed like a big challenge.

Imagine me going back and forth the five paces between kitchen and dining room as I put plates, forks, salt, and napkins on the table. A big bowl of shrimp pasta salad and a bowl of watermelon chunks were in the center.

“I’m so excited!” she said.

“Why?” (I assumed she would tell me about an activity she was invited to go on.)

“For this salad!”

“Oh! I hope it’s good!”

It really is the little things that matter. I have loved having Samantha with us, and I found that my pleasure in making food has increased. I don’t even mind doing the dishes. And that says a lot.

Stories from my life, Tuesdays and every day in March. Thank you Two Writing Teachers.

Fireworks

I have been out of the habit of attending the 4th of July fireworks in my town even though we live just up the street from where they are presented. It started when I had a child who could not bear the sensory overload of flashing lights and booming sound. Later, it was I who could not bear the mosquitos and crowds. And then, there was often a grandbaby to stay with that made it easy for me not to go. But this year, on Sunday, the 4th of July, I was coaxed into going.

“It’s just down the street. You can go home if you need to, but come!”

I sat on a neighbor’s concrete driveway and waited until dark. I looked up and saw splendor I had forgotten. The lights, colors, booms, and thrill of not knowing what would come next. I tried to pay attention and be present this year. (We have been through a lot as a nation, and it seems more has been criticized than celebrated.) But, that’s an essay for another time. Instead, here is my poem to try to capture some of the experience I had celebrating our America.

Spirals of fiery light

Shoot toward the stars.

A ball of light bursts into luminescent spokes

Tipped with red, white, and blue.

Colored bits of light fall like confetti and disappear,

Leaving spider veins of smoke etched on the night sky.

Then, flash!

A ball of light surges upward again and again,

Erupting to rain fronds of sparkling weeping willow boughs.

Glittered fire-anemones briefly kiss the sky

Like celestial Queen Anne’s Lace.

It’s a wonder to consider

what gave man the desire to send earthly joy to

the glories of the night sky–even if just for a moment.

“We seek the fire of the spark that is already within us.” ― Kamand Kojouri
Writing slices of life Tuesdays and each day in March. Thank you twowritingteachers.org

Curmudgeon

Lucy Calkins sometimes tells students that they can write like a curmudgeon or write like the words are gold. Today, I had my second tutoring session with a student who is determined to be a curmudgeon. He says that he hates writing because he doesn’t like to share. Well, in a 1:1 setting, would sharing be so bad?

First tutoring session:

Me: So, T—, what did your mom tell you about why we are working together?

T—: (with a sneer) Nothing.

Me: What did she tell you about the work we did together last week?

T—: (with a louder sneer) Nothing.

I proceeded to point out many of the strengths I observed while doing initial assessments. And then, I mentioned that his mom and I felt that perhaps some work on writing would be fun. This student was on a computer for virtual school all year. He hasn’t had a real workshop experience in over a year. He’s an avid reader. He’s a great speller, and he has made it clear that he’s not buying what I’m hoping to sell.

Trying not to be intimidated by an 8-year old, I pressed on. In my teaching, I have often used the 5-minute quick write to build a bank of writing and to build writing stamina. I thought this would be an easy invitation to writing with the open topic, “Summer.” We talked a few minutes to prime the pump and I set the timer. We began and I wrote, too.

My writing took me back to fun summer evenings of my childhood and memories of neighborhood kids gathered for games of Hide-and-Seek, S.P.U.D., and jump rope. I could hear the ringing bells of the “Popsicle Man,” and could feel the stickiness of popsicles dripping down my arm. I remembered the bikes, wagons, and roller skates we shared and being chased by neighborhood dogs. I loved getting to stay outside until dark when it might be cool enough in our un-airconditioned house to sleep. It all came back in just 5 short minutes of writing. “I love writing,” I thought to myself.

T— wrote 38 words in the 5 minutes. He wrote something to the effect that summer should be for fun and other activities and “not this annoying writing thingy my mom is making me do.” I thanked him for his honesty, even though inside, I was wondering, “Am I annoying?”

Second tutoring session:

I hoped our second session would improve. Today, I gave him a choice of prompts for the quick write. (Choice is motivating, right?) He checked the box. Again, I wrote, hoping to model what “write the whole time” looks like. He wrote 9 words, 7 of which were the words of the prompt. My heart sank as I wondered what would help turn this relationship in a more positive direction. One voice tells me to discontinue–it’s been a hard year and this student will be successful when he returns to school. Another voice asks, could some writing support now help him be more confident when he returns to school?

What would you do?

June 1, 2021

I am happy to report that my work with my granddaughter, Alice, has been a success! Last week, she read a first-grade benchmark book with 97% accuracy. She reads with expression, especially when her 3-year old sister shares her chair and listens. My favorite day was her rendition of The Teeny Tiny Woman (If you’ve forgotten, you can refresh your memory here.) with the Teeny Tiny imperative, “Take it!”

A year ago, I had packed up my classroom and sadly left an empty school, retiring without getting to say goodbye. I wondered how I was going to navigate retirement. My Alice Project helped so much to fill the void for me. At least 4 mornings each week this school year we have met on Zoom, practiced letters and sounds, studied how words work, and learned to read, write, and spell. It’s been a great year, at least in this way!

Cicadas

We’ve been hearing of the return of our 17-year cicadas for weeks. Doug Kammerer, NBC meteorologist, has been giving updates daily for the last few weeks. Today was to be the day where we would really begin to see them.

My son, Tim, was 7 when he first fell in love with the odd, clumsy, red-eyed cicada. He collected their exoskeletons which are left as they molt and played with them. I don’t remember the details of that play, but it was such that he was excited when they came again when he was 24. Now he has a 7-year old himself, and the cycle begins again. A new generation of boy, and a new generation of bug.

Whether you are freaked out by cicadas or not, there is something comforting in knowing that nature continues to do its job, and yes, the cicadas arrived right on time.

On May 5, 2021, Tim posted the first pictures of emerging cicadas. His caption read, “I’ve been waiting for you.” He meant it in the most gentle way, finding nothing sinister in this unique creature.

I may have more to say later this summer when the incessant sounds of cicadas preparing to mate and lay new eggs become intense. But until then, I’m willing to let them be.

Weekly writing on Tuesdays with TwoWritingTeachers.org

For Jane

When warm weather calls
and the grass is just green
there’s a time of day
when bunnies can be seen.

Jane is my daughter who
loved bunny hunts best.
“Mommy, look!” she would say
“It’s our small, furry guest!”

Now she’s a mom,
her baby still new.
Will she teach him of bunnies,
spring green, and sky blue?

Baby feet, April 27, 2021
Writing on Tuesdays and every day in March.



Upstairs, Downstairs

In my sister’s house there are definite things that are done upstairs, and definite things that are done downstairs. When our kids were growing up, my kids knew that when visiting their cousins TV watching and play of all sorts were done downstairs. Upstairs was for sharing a meal, conversation, or listening to music. Our kids are now grown and “upstairs, downstairs” activities recently took on a new meaning.

My sister and I have been able to spend more time together now that we are both retired. We often meet for an afternoon of conversation and knitting. We have taken some online classes, followed @Knit1chgo (a cool knitting store in Chicago), and tried new patterns. Recently, we have taken on the challenge of knitting with multiple colors, known as colorwork. This involves reading charts, counting stitches, and working with several balls of yarn at once. There are many opportunities for mistakes.

“This is really fun,” said Evelyn. “I wish I had learned to do this earlier in my life.”

“Yes, but earlier, we probably didn’t have much concentration power left over after working all day. Knitting was a mindless way for us to relax and unwind from the day,” I replied.

“True.”

“I can’t watch TV and do this colorwork,” said Evelyn. “So this is my upstairs knitting. I need to get an easier project for downstairs.”

“Haha! Upstairs knitting and downstairs knitting.”

We now have a new way to characterize our needlework projects. Can it be done downstairs?

My Upstairs Knitting – Ranier (pattern by Kate Gagnon Osborn
A wonderful community of Teacher-Writers supported by twowritingteachers.org

Ars Poetica

I have read this term before, but it wasn’t until last night that I got to learn more about it. It was our last class with Georgia Heard in this series of classes. She taught us that Ars Poetica is a term for a poem that is a meditation on the art of poetry, the poet’s beliefs about poetry, where poems are found, or what poetry could be in an individual’s life. This form of poetry dates back to Horace in 65 B.C.E. and has been part of poetic literature ever since. We read Ars Poetica by Pablo Neruda, Lucille Clifton, Jose Olivares, and Georgia Heard.

I am a beginner on this road; a novice at poetic forms and techniques; an emerging reader and writer of poems. I’m enjoying being a learner and am trying new things in my writing. This community has contributed to my having courage to do this.

Georgia gave us an exercise which I will share. Perhaps your students would take these questions and create something truly wonderful.

  • What kind of animal is your inner poet?
  • Who does your inner poet speak to?
  • What does your inner poet say?

In our group, these were the animals chosen: lion, spider, wolf, owl, haw, doe, deer, sparrow, striped bumblebee, and hummingbird. It was remarkable that there was so much variety. We did it as a quick write in the moment. Here is what I wrote last night. It is a DRAFT, at best, but I share it to give you an idea of something you might try.

Ars Poetica

My inner poet is a great blue heron
standing still in hidden wetlands.

It speaks to the tides flowing in and out.
It speaks to quiet souls who weep.

It says, Be patient.
Wait for the miracle. Watch and wait.

Thank you to all at Two Writing Teachers who support teacher-writers in growing as writers.

March 29, 2021

Today was pretty much an ordinary Monday with dishes to do, sheets to change, library books to return, and a quick run to Target. I was on the lookout for a slice. Nothing felt right.

Even though the cherry blossoms have burst open; even though daffodils are shouting their joy to a blue, blue sky; even though it felt wonderful to be back inside the library and to walk out with a stack of books; the stories wouldn’t come.

But then, ding! ding!

The miracle of technology allowed me to share in this big event. A huge event for this just-turned-six Kindergartener. I love her enthusiasm and irrepressible joy in life. She’s a special one.

Thank you to everyone at Two Writing Teachers!

Young Writer

Dear Young Writer,

I know this has been a different year for you. You have not been in the classroom with your friends. You are naturally shy; you didn’t really get to finish first grade strong last year when the pandemic began. Maybe you have forgotten that your small moments are important.

I’m proud of you for working hard at your reading. You are getting in to some really great stories now. I know that you like the stories with strong characters who can solve problems.

Guess what? YOU are a strong character who can solve problems, figure out stuff, and notice new things. I’m really looking forward to our time to have fun working on our writing together. Already, you came up with four really good ideas for stories you can write. I can’t wait to read them.

Love,

Mrs. Miner

Today was the first day of my writing time with J. He’s in 2nd grade and has been homeschooled this year. I’m grateful his parents are trusting me to help him with his writing development. After all, writing IS my favorite thing to teach.

Tonight my teacher-heart feels like this:

Thank you to the writers and leaders at Two Writing Teachers for creating opportunities for teacher-writers to share.