Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 12 #sol19

“Are we almost there?” came the small voice of the three year-old in the back.

“Yes, honey, almost.”  Although the library is only about eight minutes away, time likely passes differently when one is only three years old.  Driving along the wet roads, I noticed that even though the temperature had finally risen above freezing, piles of snow stubbornly remained, now looking more like soiled shaving cream than fluffy cotton.

Finally, I swung our Honda into the parking lot of the library.  Eerily, no cars seemed to be in the lot, nor anywhere.  “That’s strange,” I thought.  Squinting, I peered through the car windows to see if any lights were on inside the library.  Didn’t seem to be.  Hmm…

Suddenly, two cars pulled in behind me. Library patrons.  Oh, okay, I thought.  Maybe just a slow day.  Pushing my car door open, I circled back around the car to unbuckle the baby.  Since my two older daughters had decided to stay home (“We already have books, Papa,” they’d said), the youngest and I were about to enjoy some special time together.  As I pulled her door open, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a person wearing blue walking toward the front door of the library, confirming my theory that it was just a slow day.  It was open.

“Ready to go in?” I queried.  “Yeah!” came the delighted response.  Unbuckling her seat belt and placing my hands under her arms, I hefted my daughter from her car seat.  Library time!  Grabbing our stack of books to return and swinging the door closed, I tried not to slip in the wet snow beneath my feet. I then turned to face the building.

“I don’t think they’re open,” came an unfamiliar voice.  Looking up, I saw the blue jacket man walking back toward us, away from the door.

“Really?” I asked, trying not to sound exasperated.  “But they’re supposed to be open until three.”

“That’s what it says on the door,” he responded.  “But the door’s locked, and the lights are off.” 

I knew it.  Well, I didn’t know it, but I suspected.

“I’m going to head around back to the return bin…want me to take those books and return them for you? I see you’ve already…um, unloaded.”  The man had noticed my situation.

“Oh sure,” I stammered, “that would be great.”  While appreciative of the man’s offer, I attempted to hide my disappointment.

Back in the car, I checked the library website– yep, open until three.  Sighing, I broked the news to my three year-old. “The library is closed, honey.  Maybe we can read books at home?” I suggested.

“Can we read Found and Stormy Night?” came her answer.  I smiled, hearing her name two of her current favorite titles.

“Of course, honey.  Of course.”

 

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 11 #sol19

My father called me yesterday.  “I’m planning another remembrance celebration for your mom,” he told me.   This April will mark two years that my mom passed.  Last year, Dad had requested that folks close to Mom, who so wished, compose a letter to her and bring it to a private celebration.  On the day marking her passing, letters were read, one by one, at a favorite coffee shop in her home town in Portland, Oregon. In a small, intimate gathering, my Dad created the space to honor my beautiful mom’s life.

This year he is proposing a new idea called, “Imagine.”  “Imagine what your mom might be doing now,” he said.  Thus, I dedicate today’s slice of life to her…

I imagine…

Mom back at the college, working with her beloved students.  She continues to teach in the early childhood education program, helping to lift the lives of immigrant women and playing a part in fulfilling their dreams of becoming certified teachers here in the United States.

I imagine…

Mom planning her next trip to Hawaii with her closest cousin and friend, Brenda.  Perhaps their trip is postponed, as Brenda recently suffered the loss of her own mother.  But knowing them, a cancellation would out of the question…they would still travel.

I imagine…

Mom finding her next path for learning.  Whether it be enrolling in a foreign language class, ukulele lessons, a home-made bookmaking course, a quilting circle, my mother continues to always live as a life-long learner.  Constantly seeking a new creative direction, I imagine Mom continuing to find new learning journeys.

I imagine…

Mom sewing clothes for her three granddaughters.  Maybe some new winter hats, or spring dresses…perhaps new jackets or colorful pants.  Her hand-made apparel remains abundant in my house, reminding us all of her talents and generosity.

I imagine…

Mom’s optimistic spirit still elevating those around her.

For that is who she was.

 

 

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 10 #sol19

Loss has a way.

Reaching into your chest in its icy way, Loss has a way of grabbing hold of your heart and clutching it with a cold hand.

Loss has a way of escaping that closet that took nearly two years for you to stuff it into, trying desperately to make sure all of its dark corners remain pushed inside.  Not sticking out.

Yesterday, an email appeared in my inbox.  My mother, who passed away two years ago in April, left behind two sisters- my aunts.  Apparently, one of them had recently run across a beautiful and eloquent card my mom had written, dated July 11, 2016.  My aunt had scanned it and emailed it to me.

Casting my eyes on the familiar handwriting, I simultaneously felt frigid fingers begin to grip my heart, a discomforting lump form in my throat, water press into my tear ducts.  But while none of this felt physically pleasing, my memory and brain did finally arrive, coming to my rescue.  My mother’s words, as I read them…they were her.  Generous.  Kind.  Funny.  And so loving.

Suddenly an image of her arose into my mind’s eye.  And as I read the last words on the card:

Love you Peg.  You are a special wonderful person.  Love, Donna

This was my mom.  Even though she’d sent an everyday thank you card, she never forgot to be herself.  The fingers warmed.  Perhaps it was no longer Loss gripping my heart.

Perhaps it was my mom holding it.

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Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 9 #sol19

Anticipation felt palpable, as all of us parents waited in the foyer.  Through the tall front windows of the school, the night.  Finally, the invitation: “Welcome to our cultural fair, everyone!” came the enthusiastic voice of my daughter’s teacher.  “Please join your children downstairs, and witness their hard work!”

Over four separate days and 30+ hours, my daughter, her best friend, and their two moms had worked diligently to create a life-like, fully-clothed and fully- adorned paper mache likeness of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and nature.  See photo here:

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In addition, my daughter had written an eight-page epic poem, a report, and a fictional story depicting the life a person living in Ancient India.  With taking on such ambitious work, she had worried a little about completing it all.  Could this get done? But she and her team had seen it through to the end.

And tonight, she would share all of her hard work with an audience.

Walking into the gymnasium, I gazed upon the stunning variety of projects on display.  Replicas of Ancient Indian jewelry, models of the ancient city of Mojenjo Daro, recreations of ancient weapons of war… the creations of these fourth and fifth graders (and families, of course) took my breath away.  Wow.

Crossing the floor to the far side, I spotted my daughter and her friend posed with pride behind their creation, now clothed in Ancient Indian attire.  I watched as a smile crossed my daughter’s face upon my approach.  “Well girls,”, I said, “let’s hear it!”  Working in perfect tandem, the two girls launched into a knowledgeable talk about their project, the historical and spiritual significance of Saraswati, and the symbolism of all they had decided to display.  Their learning was truly impressive.  As were all the children that evening.

Later, as she quietly lay in her bed, I asked how she felt about the night.  “Good,” she sleepily responded, “We got lots of questions.  And compliments.”  I could tell she felt good.  And I kissed her forehead, as she faded off to a well-earned sleep.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 8 #sol19

“Good afternoon, everyone!” I chirped.  The end of the day had arrived, and most of my colleagues now sat nestled into a chair for faculty meeting.  The main topic for the meeting was SBAC (standardized testing) protocols and updates, but I had requested time to invite staff to a special writing event for our seventh grade writers.

This year, we, myself along with the seventh grade team, decided to deviate from the curriculum somewhat.  Although the unit of study, designed to support kids in strengthening argument writing skills, asked writers to study a topic beneath the umbrella of “media”, we had decided to open it up.  Instead of teachers providing the topic within which writers could research and take a position, students had been given complete freedom and choice in regards to their topic, with the only stipulation being that they select a cause or issue they truly cared about.  And teachers have watched as engagement has soared.

In order to push engagement even further, a special event is in the planning.  I explained at the faculty meeting that all students will be encouraged to invite an audience member to attend a Global Cause Symposium in our library next week.  In this symposium, writers will be organized in panels to present their positions to an authentic audience.  And although we know some kids will be successful in bringing someone into school to listen to their positions, I made a plea to teachers to stop by if they could make the time.  Perhaps they might provide an audience for some of our writers?

I know teachers’ time is precious, as the demands on our time are great.  But creating opportunities for broader literacy experiences is kind of a mission of mine.  So I am hopeful this event is a success.  Stay tuned…

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 7 #sol19

Birthday moment…

The lights out and candles lit, I watched as the cake wobbled in.  As my oldest daughter, the carrier of the cake, initiated the singing of the traditional birthday song, I watched as she worked to balance the beautiful (but heavy) plate in front of her.  Step.  Step.  Whoa.  Step.  Two other daughters and wife soon joined in the singing.

I basked in the moment.

Celebrating at our own marred, paint-stained dining table (rather than the lovely and rustic Village Restaurant in town), I sighed…and silently gave thanks for my three year-old daughter’s improved health.  Only 18 hours prior to this cake-and-singing moment, my wife and I had been huddled with the toddler in the soft glow of a blue whale nightlight, as she vomited in the upstairs bathroom.  With her temperature soaring over 101 degrees, all plans for dining out were dashed.

So here we were… making the best of plan B.  And she felt better, I could tell. No more fever.  Using her new-found strength and pulling her chair close to mine, she said, “I’m gonna sit by you, Daddy!”

So sweet.

Someone once said, “There are people in the world who would give anything to have what you have.”  I guess I lean on that phrase for perspective.  To remember that I truly am so fortunate.  So fortunate.

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Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 6 #sol19

Snow Day

Snow day

Snow play

A time from school to be away



Hillsides so bright

No lessons to write

Just reading, sledding, and snow cones to bite



A snowman we built

On nature's white quilt

No worry, no hurry, no stress nor guilt



"I'll get a carrot for a nose!"

And up the hill she goes

Up to the house, running in joy, 
my daughter wearing her 
warm snow clothes



Back she ran

Carrot in hand

A girl with a mission, a storm-inspired, child-like plan



And two stones for eyes

To look up at the skies

Snowman complete, returning inside we decide would be wise



So to hot cocoa we go

In a house where we know

Our beautiful snow day will continue to flow