Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 31

Today, March 31st, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge. Today is the final day!

Droplets seemed to dance in the air, misting my windshield as I crossed traffic and pulled into the parking lot. Immediately I spotted the woman standing in the drizzle, just outside my neighborhood grocery store.

Something had changed. I could tell right away.

Cautiously, I eased into the crowded lot, slowing to allow an elderly man to pass in front me.  I watched him as he proceeded across my path, beneath the new blue tent now stationed outside the entrance, and into the store.  Rolling down my window, I strained to eavesdrop on the conversation between the woman, clearly a would-be shopper, and an unfamiliar man wearing a brown jacket and holding a clipboard under the new tent.  “But all I need is gelato,” I heard her say somewhat pleadingly.

The man in the brown jacket, clearly stationed as a sentry to provide information on revamped store hours and policies, pulled his clipboard close to his chest.  He then politely explained that this time was for ‘seniors only.’  No one under the age of 60 would gain admission until 10 a.m.  “But . . .can’t I just grab that one thing?” the woman insisted.  Brown jacket man, steadfast in his courtesy, told her he was sorry, but they needed to keep the rules consistent- for everyone. Even her. I heard him say that this is how it had to be.  The woman pivoted and left.

On this final day of the 2020 slice of life story challenge, I am left wondering if some people really get it? Do they understand the magnitude of what we are dealing with in this global pandemic? All you need is gelato? Really? Forgive me, but that sounds like a comment from our old lives. Our old “ 21st Century“ lives, in which we dreamed up artificial “needs” and were able to fulfill them instantaneously. Right now that world is gone. And until people face up to that, we will remain sheltered in place.

It is my great hope that next year’s Slice of Life Story Challenge will reflect only a distant memory of this crisis. People will have followed government issued precautions. Our curve will have flattened. And COVID-19 will be nothing but a memory. That is my great hope.

Thank you to all of you who have participated in this challenge. It has been an honor to write with you. Comment with you. And receive your gracious feedback. Everyone stay safe. Stay well.

We will get through this.

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 30

Today, March 30th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to do it.  I looked at the five faces on the screen.  Everyone seemed thoughtful, trying to figure this out: How do we play “Balderdash” on Zoom?  Bigger questions would have to wait tonight, questions like, ‘When will we get to be in the same house with each other again?’  Tonight was game night.  And all of us, my wife and three daughters, as well as our friend Jami and her two daughters, stood committed to finding a way to make this work across two houses in two separate towns.

Finally, a solution surfaced.  “I’ll be the moderator,” Jami said, “so everyone can set the chat ‘private’ to me and send me your definitions.  Then when I have them all, I can read them and you girls can pick the one you think is the real one.”

“How about I pick the word, since I have the game cards?  I can text you the word and true definition?” I offered.  This work-around seemed like it could work, and the chatter amongst the girls suddenly brightened.  We all decided not to worry about rolling the dice, moving game pieces, or even worrying about the winner or score.  Since we only owned the older original version of the game (the newest version includes categories and other features), the fun would be had listening to the funny words (like “syrt” and “bumclock”), inventing fake definitions, and trying to bluff others into choosing a phony definition.

After determining our “rules,” playing ensued.  Several other challenges arose later: Our “free” Zoom calls ended multiple times.  Feedback echoed throughout the house.  New codes had to be generated and sent.  Several times.  We had to switch over to FaceTime.  But through it all, laughter did find its way into both houses.  And silliness.  Familiar elements of our old lives, the ones that featured human connection, improvised togetherness, and an undefinable warmth of humanity, seemed to briefly reappear.  Somehow, these familiarities found a way to penetrate the isolation, the fear, and the anxiety that characterize our current life situations.

Later, the girls moved on to playing charades. Even my little four-year-old, who had previously been running back and forth amongst the three devices (rooms), tasting cookie dough from the stainless steel bowl on her way, now found a way to join the game.  Adults faded into the background, checking our phones for the latest Coronavirus updates.  But to look up and see the joy in my daughters that night- these children of the pandemic- even though that joy sprang across social distance, somehow a new kind of hope seemed to alight in the house.

Closing the laptop at the end of the night, my eldest daughter remarked, “That was fun!” And it struck me that I had not heard those words delivered in that way for a while now.  It felt good to hear them.

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 29

Today, March 29th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

A little sanitizer now slathered on my hands, I rubbed vigorously, then carefully removed my shoes and hung up my coat.  An unexpected trip to the bank to replace a hacked debit card had forced me out of the house, and now, having completed the reentry process- removing rubber gloves, Lysol spraying the new debit card, sanitizing hands – I was ready to join my family, safely in the house again.

Suddenly, I heard the voice of my four-year-old from within the house, “Daddy?! Are you home?”

“Yes, honey, I’m back home,” I responded casually.  “How are you?”

Then, “We have friends here!”

Wait, what did she just say?

With the shelter-at-home order still firmly  in place in Connecticut, I knew no one should be in the house.  Who could possibly be here? I wondered.  Slightly unnerved, I cautiously proceeded through my wife’s studio-office toward the main living space.  Before this time, the words ‘friends are here’ would have stoked a joyful curiosity.  Interesting how not it created a silent panic, a fear now familiar to all living through this period.

Then, turning the corner, there she stood. “See?” she said, greeting me with a huge, impish smile.  “Friends are here!”  In her delicate, little hands, my daughter held up her brightly-colored, plastic toy laptop- the one that counts and sings nursery rhymes.  She held the “laptop” to face me, so that I would look at the nine-paneled display (that lights up to the rhythm). My daughter then shifted her gaze from me to the toy screen. Clearly, she was indicating that we were on a zoom call using her device.

“See?” she repeated. “Friends are here!”

“That’s great, honey,” I said, relaxing.  “It’s always so great when we can visit friends, isn’t it?”

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 28

Today, March 28th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

The countdown begins.  Wait, didn’t it?  Let me start over…am I recording? Was I recording?  I wonder to myself.  But where is the stop button?  Frantically, my eyes crawl blindly around the computer screen.  Oh wait, there it is.  Bottom left hand corner.  Got it.  Stop.

Okay, I say quietly taking a breath, let’s try that again.  Repositioning the tattered book in front of me, I prepare to read aloud again.  With right hand on my new mouse, I navigate back to the first slide of the presentation.  Here we go.  3, 2, 1, “Hi, readers!” I begin.  Suddenly, from outside my nearby window, a thunderous chopping noise invites itself unwanted into the room.  At first, I endeavor to continue reading the story.  Then, no.  It is just too loud.  Pause the video.  I rise from my “desk” (which is actually a rectangular dining table), walk over and, stepping through the legos and dolls on the floor, peer through the glass.  Outside, tree workers climb into their truck.  Looks like they’re moving down the road now, towing their heavy mulching equipment behind them, away from my house.  Okay, well that’s good.

So let’s begin again, I think.  I settle into my chair, reposition the book, sit up straight, and . . .lights, camera, action!

Then the phone.  Unable to help myself, I glance down at the caller idea screen.  It is my 81-year-old father.  “Hi, Dad,” I say.  He needs help with his email.

Perhaps I’ll try to record this read aloud tomorrow.

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 27

Today, March 27th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

In today’s post, I venture beyond my comfort zone. But inspired by fellow slicers like Kevin Hodgson and others who bravely pen their thoughts in verse and post them for the world to read, I share these thoughts as a poem today.


A whirlwind of change
like a net
cast upon fish
we are pulled abruptly
from the world we knew
Not our wish

But as spring sprouts
burst forth
from the once-winter soil
so, too, new learning
the fruits of this toil

Let this not be
a journey
of sorrow
but one of renewal 
and hope
for a better morrow

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 26

Today, March 26th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

“Daddy, can we please, please go outside? I wanna go sledding!” 

I popped the final bite of my tuna fish sandwich into my mouth and looked out the window.  Clear, bright sunshine reflected off the once-budding but now snow-covered ground.  Pulling my gaze back from the window, I met the hopeful face of my four-year-old daughter.  Lunch now finished, she was insistent.  “I’ve got to take a call,” I heard my wife say as she exited the room, reminding me that our work lives are now a constant balancing act.  My turn to watch the kids. Maybe we should go outside?

“Okay, let’s do this, girls!” Speaking loud enough from the dining room that my two eldest in the living room could hear, I resolved to embrace this moment.  “This may be our last chance to sled!”

*      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Outside, the air felt crisp.  All of us, now covered in January snow gear (did I mention it was late March?), turned toward the expansive sea of white that was now our backyard.  “You girls think you can still all fit on the sled?” I asked.  One by one, each of them arranged herself onto our purple plastic sled, proving to me that they could.  Looking down at the three of them, I felt myself suddenly gripped by nostalgia.  Would this be the final time I could pull them – all three of them – down the hill? I’ve realized it is true what people say: They grow up fast.  Indeed, they do.

I grabbed the yellow rope in my gloved hand and turned to face the snowy downgrade.  “Okay girls, here we go!”


Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 25

Today, March 25th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Carefully, I dialed *67 on my iPhone, then the phone number.  I checked the time.  Eleven a.m. Earlier in the morning, I had sent an email, inviting a check-in with me.  Just to see how things were going.  Her mom had responded quickly, replying that her daughter would be happy to talk.  That she missed me.  Could we talk today? I wrote back- yes, today would work just fine.  How about eleven?

After dialing the number, I heard the ringing begin on the other end of the line.  Then an answer.  “Hi, Mr. Ball!” We chatted for a little while.  Yes, she has been reading.  Everyday.  Yes, her parents are trying to work from home.  Yes, she has already finished her assignment in science.

During this time, I have begun to realize all we have been taking for granted: A handshake or hug from a colleague or friend; a night out at a restaurant.  A ball game.

Or just a simple chat with a student.