Black and White: Slice of Life

A little surprise arrived when I pulled off the road the other day…

The call came right on time, which surprised me.  Reaching down, I grabbed my earbuds and fumbled to plug them into my phone.  “Hello!” I chirped, greeting my friend.  Sunlight sprinkling through trees dappled the road before me as I pulled out onto Redding Road.

It wasn’t long before I realized driving and talking just wasn’t going to work.  The friend on the other end of the line was a former Teachers College colleague, and we needed — well, I needed– to talk through some staff development ideas for an upcoming day of professional development I would be leading.  I needed to take some notes, jot some things down.  I needed to pull over.

Glancing around, I studied the shoulder of the road: narrow, grassy.  With a steep drop-off.  Better be careful here, I thought.  Slowing down, I flipped on my left-turn signal.  Gingerly, I pulled the car to the side of the narrow road and activated my hazard lights.  Great!  Now I can get some of this down on paper. Seizing my blue Pilot gel pen, I silently celebrated.

It was perhaps around three minutes later when I noticed it. At first, I wasn’t sure.  But then my peripheral vision began to pull my attention away.  Looking back now, I am guessing it may have been the color scheme of the car that had inched up next to me: black and white.  Maybe that’s what somehow drew my attention from the notepad in the passenger’s seat to the driver’s side window?  Whatever it was, there it was.

And there he was.

An officer of the law, now blocking traffic, lowered his window.  I lowered mine.  As anyone can likely imagine, several thoughts raced around my mind, like fruit-flies suddenly startled off a ripe peach.  Was I doing something illegal?  I actually wasn’t sure.

Then came his words: “You okay?”  he asked.  Not sure exactly how to respond, I explained that I had pulled off the road so that I didn’t have to talk and drive at the same time.  I left the part about taking notes out.  “Alright,” he said.  He seemed to be satisfied with this response.  “Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”  And off he went.

The fruit-flies settled.  Shaking my head, I went back to taking notes.

Out for An Apple: Slice of Life 9/17/19

“Let’s go! Let’s go!  Let’s go!” The urgency in my wife’s voice caught me off guard, unsettling me.  Alarmed, I looked up from the plastic Snow White and seven dwarfs figurines my three year-old and I had been playing with to meet my wife’s gaze.  Both the twinkle in her eye, as well as the one in my 8 year-old’s, immediately  allayed my concern.

“What is it?” I queried.

“Holy giant beaver!” my  wife chirped.

Snatching my little one up out of her chair and away from the dwarfs, I followed my wife and two older daughters hurriedly through the back sliding glass door, onto the deck, and out into the expansive back yard.  Our voices fell to whispers, as my wife quietly explained what she had spotted from our upstairs window.  Skulking up from the meandering Bantam River behind our property, she’d seen a rather large brown creature making its way toward our grape vines.

As quietly as possible, we all tiptoed down the backyard incline, my youngest now walking under her own power.  I’d never seen a beaver in the yard before and wondered a little about their temperament around humans.  Would we be okay getting up close?

Sure enough, at the bottom of the slope, something resembling a small brown bear sat frozen in the tall grass beneath an apple tree.  “Do beavers hurt us?” asked my  youngest, as she stretched her arms upward toward my shoulders, the sign she wanted to be held (right now, please).

“Um, I don’t think so, honey,” I offered with no confidence whatsoever.

Silently we all watched.  Then suddenly the beaver pivoted to his left, sniffed the ground, and picked up an apple in his mouth.  Faces of wonderment turned to face me.  “Papa!  He’s taking an apple!”  Back to the river headed the beaver.

“Guess he was hungry,” I said.  Let this moment soak in, I told myself.  Let it soak in.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 31 #sol19

Last day now.  Thank you…

To all you wrote.

To all you who commented.

To all you who learned.

To all you who lived like a writer.

To all you who believed this matters.

To all you who contributed to my life.

To all you who contributed to the lives of others.

Because you care.

It took something for you to do this.

So thank you.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 30 #sol19

"Heard"

Something about
Feeling heard
Makes the soul sing
Makes us feel
Like we matter
In the world.

Softly closing the door on a long day
She greets me.
“Well?” she asks.
I nod
And feel my eyes shine.
“I felt heard today,” I say.
Writing. Literacy. Music.  
A trifecta.
She smiles.

Crawling into bed late, 
I thank the cloud
the one that’s been holding me.
Sleep now needed,

my smiling soul 

drifts off.

to sleep.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 29 #sol19

Opening my eyes in the darkness, I realize I’ve fallen asleep.  Two warm bodies lying on either side of me breathe peacefully.  Reaching silently up, I slowly slide my hand along the headboard to locate my iPhone. I check the time.  Okay, still time.  Later than I wanted,  I think to myself, but there’s still time.  These early mornings are wearing me out. Making as little sound as possible, I sneak from the room.  I’ll carry those two sweeties to their beds later, I think as I exit.

Downstairs now, to the basement.  I pull on the old chain and illuminate two keyboards next to a couple sets of headphones.  It’s late, but I’ve got a rehearsal this week.  And there’s work to do.  I’m playing for a fundraiser for my children’s school next weekend, and one of the other fathers (a guitarist and producer) has assembled an incredible band. Only one rehearsal remains before the dress rehearsal, so… I’ve got to learn my parts.  I take a deep breath, switch on the power strip, and watch the displays on my keyboards light up.

I can feel the exhaustion in my body.  But once my fingers hit the keys, the magic of music wipes it all away.  This skill I have to create music– a skill honed over decades of lessons, practice sessions, rehearsals, repetitions, performances and shows- must be honored.  Although I am only able to dedicate very thin slices of my life to this part of me right now, now, in the dead of night, I feel grateful.  For music has become like a friend I don’t see often anymore.  But I am always glad when I do. We know each other so well.

Finding the file on my phone, I press play to hear the song.  An original R & B tune written by a local artist.  Okay, I think, here we go.  Let’s learn this…

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 28 #sol19

Hallways now filled with students passing to their next classes, I ventured out into the stream.  There she was.  Our eyes met.  “Oh,” she said, “there you are.  It’s just the person I was looking for.”  Silently I wondered what this interaction might bring.  Making my way through the throng of book-laden middle schoolers, I approached her, a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher from my building.  A colleague.  A friend.  She stopped, waiting for me.

“Hi,” I said.  “What’s up?”

“Well,” she began, “I wanted to tell you something.”  My mind raced with possibilities, as likely anyone’s would.  I nodded, focusing my entire attention on her.  Her face exuded seriousness, but this is her way.

“Okay?” I said.

“You and I have spoken a few times about this year… about how I feel I’ve been struggling in some areas of my teaching, right?  Like conferring, for example.”  Briefly, she cast her eyes down to the floor, but then right back to mine.  “But last Friday, you said something that was so helpful.  Remember in our meeting, you mentioned a few specific things that we as teachers could focus on in our conferring?  For some reason, when you said that, I felt like I could do it.  And now…well, I’m excited to confer in this unit.  I just wanted you to know that what you said really helped.”  And she was gone.

I stood, silently feeling the smile forming on my lips.  I could feel these words taking hold, warming me inside like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter day.  And although I knew I couldn’t bottle this moment, I returned to my office knowing I could live off of it for at least the rest of today, if not this week.

How much of a difference can a kind word can make.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 27 #sol19

Every year I complete an NCAA Bracket for the men’s basketball tournament and enter an “office pool” (usually a $3 bet).  And every year I come in close to the bottom, never winning.  Not even once.  For those unfamiliar with Bracketology, this once-a-year tournament typically brings big surprises, with teams that are “favored” often losing to “underdogs.”  Over the decades I have been alive to witness the incredible the action, many Cinderella Stories have played out before the watching eyes of millions.  It is always exciting.

But I never win.

This year, I thought I would try a different strategy.  Over the years, I had heard of entrants in office pools choosing winners by methods seemingly unrelated to basketball strength… like team mascot, team name. Even songs.  It seems no science exists to choosing the winners.  So, I figured, why not try something new…why let my children pick the teams this year?  Could be a winning strategy, maybe?

Last week, my two oldest daughters and I sat down to consider each game.  As we deliberated on who would win each match-up, I recorded as the girls seemed to choose based on whatever association they could make with the teams.  “Let’s pick Yale,” my oldest said, “I want to go to Yale.”  Then, “Oh, Syracuse?  That’s where Patrick is from!  Let’s pick them to win.”  And, “Buffalo?!  We love buffaloes!  They’re so cute!”  And so forth (Buffalo was picked to go to the Final Four, by the way).  They looked at me for approval each time.  And each time I nodded, saying, “Sure. You girls pick ’em.”  Eagerly, they did so.

After the first round of games, we checked our bracket.  The girls had picked 23 out of 32 games correctly.  Many of them upsets.  Hmm, I thought…that doesn’t seem too bad, does it?  But the next round brought some key losses.

Yesterday, walking into a crowded teacher lunchroom, I located the standings of our staff pool on the wall, near the door.  As usual, it looked like around 25 or so entrants had tried their luck this year.  Names were listed in order of most points to least.  Scanning the list, I searched for my name.  Then I found it.

Second to last.

Oh well.