Slice of Life Challenge Day 19 #sol18


“Papa, can you help me find a new book?”  The words came from my six year-old.  With bath time over over, dinner eaten, and my wife now in the other room with the baby (her story time finished),  it was reading time for my two older daughters.  My oldest had just settled in with Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvelous Magic, but the second daughter clearly wanted or needed some help.  “Maybe a mystery, or something?” she said.

A few weeks back, I had suggested the Cam Jansen (Adler) series, and she had read one of those books.  I reminded her of that, but she just looked at me, silently.  “You’re ready for something different?” I put the words in her mouth.  She nodded, happy with my ability to read her mind in that moment.

I must admit, as a reading consultant, I feel I should be better at this job of recommending books to kids.  But although I know I have strengths, I don’t believe this is one of them.  I sighed and took a deep breath. Luckily, we own a ton of books, I thought, so we have options.  The question hanging in the air, however, was: would she want to read a book we have?   “Well,” I began, “there’s the whole witch series by Ruth Chew.  What about that?”

Ruth Chew is a little-known author I absolutely adored as a child.  Every few weeks, when my teacher sent home book order forms, I would eagerly scan them for the latest Ruth Chew book– mystery books about witches (quite unusual for a boy, I must say!). Although money was not all that plentiful in our family in 1974, my mom always let me buy those books. And I read every one them.

I pulled three of my now old Ruth Chew books down from my children’s shelf.  “What about these?” I offered.  My six year-old gently took them from my hands.  “Give one a try…see what you think.”  Nervously, I watched as she sprawled out on her bottom bunk to open The Wednesday Witch.  I know not all books resonate the same way with readers… would she like this book?

Silence in the room.  I watched her turn the pages.

Then, “Papa, I like this book.”


Slice of Life Challenge Day 19 #sol18

Signs of St. Patrick’s Day…

The elevator door opened.  Putting my weight into it, I pushed the loaded luggage cart forward into the hotel lobby.  My girls followed me, my wife holding the baby.  To our left, in the wide and spacious Embassy Suites lobby, a coffee station beckoned.  While my wife assembled her usual cup (cream and sugar), I noticed a television broadcasting a parade.  What is this? I wondered.  I moved closer to the screen and saw it was a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.  Hundreds and hundreds of police officers, firefighters, marching band members, and others marched smiling through the streets of New York.  “I think today is St. Patrick’s day, girls,” I informed my daughters.  “Its’ today?” they asked.

You see, growing up in Oregon, St. Patrick’s Day… well, it just wasn’t a big deal. But now residing on the east coast- yeah, big deal. Very big.

After arriving home, we decided to order a pizza.  Fifteen minutes after placing an order, I jumped back into the car and drove to our favorite pizzeria.  Upon opening the door, I immediately noticed green decorations adorning the dining room, as I was greeted by a young woman wearing a shirt that read, “Whiskey Business” in green letters and shamrocks. She told me the story of how she had purchased the shirt months ago because she needed something new to wear on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Before returning home, I stopped in at the grocery store to grab some eggs for breakfast the next day.  Inside the store stood a couple wearing green bowler hats with leprechauns attached.  Passing them, I overheard discussion of the St. Patrick’s Day event they were headed for later that evening.

I grabbed the eggs and made my way to the checkout.  There, the checker asked, “Doing something for St. Patrick’s Day?”

Yeah, it’s a big deal here.


Slice of Life Challenge Day 18 #sol18

Stuck in traffic the other day, but the reward was sweet…



A million cars formed an angry trail of red taillights, stretching before me like a molten trail of fiery lava.  The two and a half hours of travel that had already passed formed a cloud of consternation inside the car; toll booths, crawling traffic jams, ambulances, cars cutting me off, missed exits, not to mention spontaneous tirades of expletives emitting from my vocal cords, all helped to form the molecules of the dark cloud inside my car.  Now, though, I found myself on the last stretch, almost to the airport hotel, my final destination.

But not quite almost.

Still another hour trickled by before, at last, I spotted the beige building, the green sign that read, “Embassy Suites.”  Finally!  Exhausted from Friday at work and an extended combative experience with five o’clock New York City / New Jersey traffic, I glanced to my left at the sign next to the hotel that almost seemed to point and laugh at me: “Parking: $20.”  Sigh.  How do I even get in there? I wondered, placing my forehead atop the steering wheel of my 2009 Honda Pilot.

Five minutes later, following a quick exchange with the hotel desk clerk, I wearily restarted the vehicle I’d temporarily left outside and drove to the mouth of the laughing parking lot.  After passing a magical card key over a black pad, I watched as a striped arm rose, allowing me to pass and park- reluctantly, it seemed…

Now the moment was getting close.  I could suddenly feel my mood altering, my countenance bending upward.  Quickly grabbing the green bag I had hastily assembled thirteen hours prior, I closed the car door, quick-stepping to the side entrance of the hotel.  In the elevator.  Up to floor six. Unlock room 604.

And there they were.

Three beautiful daughters, one beautiful wife.  Any angst, frustration, and consternation melted away as I embraced them.


Slice of Life Challenge Day 17 #sol18

The band hasn’t been together since February.  Feelings of excitement and cheerfulness permeated the cracks of our smiles, as the five of us set up our gear in the back of Bearclaw Studios.

“Hey man, how you been?” Brother hugs all around as drumsticks, guitars, and keys slowly came to life.

Looking around at my four bandmates, I felt so grateful to be part of such a talented group of musicians.


Slice of Life Challenge Day 16 #sol18

Music connects in interesting ways . . .

It was after school, and our faculty meeting ended early. With computer shut down and bag packed for the evening, I pushed in my chair, zipped up my coat.  Then the door opened.  “Hey, Lanny.”  Sidling into my office came our custodian, Ray.  “I hear you’re a keyboard player.”  Ray slowly made his way toward my desk, pulled out a chair and plopped down.

“I am,” I responded.  How did he hear that? I wondered.  I also wondered why he might be taking this time to talk with me, seated in my office.  This was a marked departure from our normal interactions, which sparked real intrigue for me.

He cleared his throat.  “You interested in an organ? I have a friend looking to get rid of one.”  An organ? I thought.

In that moment, I was transported back seventeen years, when I met a singer songwriter named Patrick.  We had been introduced by a colleague, a musical colleague who played viola, at her house one night.  She’d invited me over, hearing that I play keyboards.  Sitting in her house, just inside the door, was a small organ.  The three of us jammed that night, finding common chordal ground, inventing songs, improvising together.  Three years later, the three of us would record a record, all original songs by Patrick.

I’m honestly not sure I can accommodate an organ in my house.  I thanked Ray for the offer, as it sounded like this instrument was in search of a good home.  But I am mostly struck by the way music can connect me with people in unique ways…even with the wonderful custodian in my school.




Slice of Life Challenge Day 15 #sol18

A fleeting friendship . . .

“I wonder if we’ll actually get to take off at all today?” I mused aloud.  The woman next to me clutched her small, rolling suitcase handle and smiled.  “Hopefully!” she responded.  We now finally stood in the bridge ramp after several different delays had been posted, causing passengers on this flight to stand up, sit down, line up, re-line up… hopefully this time would prove to be the actual boarding.

In the moments that followed, I learned that the woman I was speaking with was a trainer of teachers.  “I am, too,” I told her.  She nodded.  We both had been forced to reschedule our flights.  Now, she was on her way to see a friend in Newark, New Jersey.  “Then I’m driving home to Massachusetts tomorrow,” she told me.  After boarding the airplane, we took our separate seats.

Following a successful flight from Portland, Oregon and a relatively gentle landing in Denver, Colorado I stepped off the plane, eventually finding my way to an airport Jamba Juice.  Studying the departure monitor, I learned my flight would be departing out of gate C12.  As I approached that gate, I saw the woman again.  “Hey, how was your flight?” I asked her.  In this second conversation, I learned that she worked with high school teachers, training them in a social studies program.  While in Oregon, where we had just been, she had stayed in the Columbia Gorge Hotel, but actually presented in the beautiful Skamania Lodge.  She was married. Her kids were grown.  After boarding the airplane, we took our separate seats.

After touching down in Newark and deplaning, I glanced around to find directions to baggage claim.  Making my way through crowds of phone-fixed travelers, I eventually found my way down an escalator to a large, metallic conveyor that would soon deliver my suitcase.  After waiting around five minutes, I saw the woman.  I approached her once again, “Everything go okay on that flight?” I asked.  She smiled, “Yes.”  I learned that the friend she was meeting was an old friend. One from college.  They hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and this friend only lived fifteen minutes from the airport.  Tonight they would go to dinner.  She looked forward to this rare visit.

And then her bag arrived.  She said good-bye.  I said good-bye.  It was nice chatting.

And she headed out the door to meet her friend outside.

I will never see her again.  This single-serving friend. I didn’t even get her name.




Slice of Life Challenge Day 14 #sol18

A little ditty about reading and my father…

I’ve come to believe that the act of reading is an extremely personal act.

Which is fascinating.

After all, the process is fairly straightforward.  Step one: Focus eyes on printed words.  Step two: Decode words, either silently or aloud.  Step three:  Understand words.

And yet, consider the vast multitude of variables here; say, for example, you and I decided to read the same two-page text on, say, the topic of homework.  Likely, we might begin similarly, but not necessarily.  I might cast about for a stack of post-its and a pen, while you might just grab a pencil.  Or, you might do neither of those things.  Let’s move to the reading, the actual decoding part.  Immediately, I would venture to guess, a meaning-making process would begin in both of our minds.  I’m the kind of reader who struggles to read without confirmation bias; while you might be just reading to learn what the text is teaching; nope, no need to write anything down or gather evidence for a position for you– perhaps.  To really hang onto information, I must write something down.  Whereas you, you might not need to write anything down, or maybe you might struggle to care enough about learning the information to want to bother with all that.

Take my father recently.  Picture this:  He sips his Double Americano, seated in the “Stomping Grounds” coffee shop the other day. He leans over and pulls a book from his soft briefcase.  He sees me watching him.  “I’m reading this a third time,” he matter-of-factly informs me with his trademark serious tone.  Here’s what the first few pages of his book look like (he is a lifetime theological scholar):

That’s how he reads.  Always has. The annotations scrawled around the edges of each page resemble the precision of horned owl tracks after an ink-soaking.

Sitting across my father and pondering this sight, I recalled a question my mother-in-law asked me one time: “Isn’t comprehension just reading the words and understanding them?” she asked.  Well, yes.  But I think about things like, what kind of background knowledge do we interface with while reading? What kind of experiences come to bear on our meaning-making process?  What ideas do we grow as we read? What ideas is he growing?

My father never got a B in college.  Straight A’s.  Eight uninterrupted years.  Which is phenomenal.   His reading process might fascinate me more than anyone’s.