Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 17 #sol19

No Saturday Reunion for me…

“Would you grab the thermometer?” asked my wife.  I’d just arrived home from work.  Friday afternoons usually had a way of projecting excitement and anticipation, but not this one.  I set down my laptop bag and surveyed the living room.  Two girls on the couch, one on the armchair.  This is isn’t good.

I stepped just to the inside of the kitchen and pulled open the drawer.  “Let’s go ahead and check all of them,” my wife suggested.  I grabbed the no-touch infrared digital forehead thermometer and gently pushed the drawer closed.  Now wielding the digital truth-teller, I approached my oldest daughter draped wearily in the armchair with her Harry Potter book.


Next, I tiptoed through the colored blocks and miniature Scooby Doo figurines over to the couch to the second daughter.


Sighing, now it was time to check the baby.


I reported out these temperatures to my wife.  She nodded and coughed gently, blowing her nose quietly into a tissue.  Looks like I’m not going to Saturday Reunion, I thought.  Family comes first.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 16 #sol19

Car now placed in park, I reached up to touch the top of my head.  Yep, glasses still there.  Good.  I stepped out onto the pavement and held my wrist up to check the time.  Eight minutes early.  Okay, I sighed.  “Too early to pick up the pizza, so I may as well get it over with.”

Instead of sidling into DiFranco’s to wait for my pizza, I turned left and headed up the street.  The sun, now shining in the sky, seemed to suggest that while her intensity wouldn’t be up to the task of melting all the snow today, this would be the sun’s work over the next several days.  A work in progress.  Which is good.

Arriving at my destination, I pushed open the beautiful glass door.  With a jingle of a bell gently greeting me, I took a few steps across a yellow carpet. Then, from behind a wooden table a woman said, “Hello!  May I help you?”

“Um yes,” I stammered. “I need to, uh, schedule my annual eye check-up, or … exam?”  This whole eyes-going-bad thing has been rough on me, I’ll admit.  My whole life, my eyes have been amazing, bionic almost.  Now blurriness.

“Okay, sure,” answered the woman.  “Gosh, last time I saw you, you had just been in the hospital with the flu.”  Wow, I thought.  I only met this woman twice- once for my first eye exam, and then again to pick up my first set of reading glasses.  That was last February! How could she remember such detail?  I expressed my amazement at her comment.  A bionic memory.

Leaving the optical center that day, I realized– perhaps not for the first time– I am probably making my need-for-glasses mean more than it really does.  Perhaps it just signifies that, well, I am a work in progress.  As are we all, right?


Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 15 #sol19

One by one, the musicians rolled in.  Some I’d never met, some who’d come to feel like old friends.

Introductions complete, instruments assembled, and speakers humming, the M.D. (musical director) of the project called out the tune and counted it off.  Suddenly, extraordinary music filled the room of the old remodeled Dutch barn, played by a group of people who had never previously played a single note together.  Who had never even occupied space in the same room before.  I felt the energy in the room rise, fueled by talent, years of practice, and passion.

Music still truly amazes me in this way, how it can sometimes allow total strangers to gather together and connect in an unexplainable, sonic fashion.  How it can create entirely new internal and external narratives within and outside a person.  How it can both evoke emotion and fill a room with it.  How this secret language spoken only by those who have dedicated a life to studying it can generate a conversation hued in beauty.

Not all rehearsals feel this way.  But driving home last night, with keyboards now resting in their cases in the back of my car, I knew something special had taken place.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 14 #sol19

Settling in at the sleek, black table, I opened my laptop.  Across from me sat our school librarian and media specialist, Shannon.  Behind her, large windows revealed a small courtyard, haphazardly adorned with patches of grubby snow, vestiges of a winter storm stubbornly refusing to fade away.  I could hear the roaring blowers of the heater working to fill the space of the vast library.  Gradually, Shannon and I commenced our task.

Sometime toward the end of our work that day, our conversation diverted to an article I recently read at entitled, “Dr. Seuss Books Can Be Racist, But Students Keep Reading Them.”  Since Shannon and I plan activities for our Read Across America celebration each year, I felt curious about her take on a central question posed in this article:  “…Should we continue to teach classic books that may be problematic, or eschew them in favor of works that more positively represent people of color?”  I also wondered what she thought about viewing Dr. Seuss as a racist?

This question raised in the article caused me to remember and repeat a claim by a book club member only last week who had said, “It’s not really fair to view history through the lens of today’s norms.”  Since she had made that statement, it has been rolling around in my mind like a marble in a jar.  On one hand, I tend to agree that in many situations it would seem inappropriate to judge the actions and words of historical figures by today’s cultural standards and mores, as those people were living within the confines of a culture informed by different standards and mores.

However, I am also able to see that on a topic like racism, the question can become much murkier, especially when it comes to a well-known and beloved author like Dr. Seuss.  And it’s interesting to think about his books being characterized in such a way as they are in the National Public Radio article, as akin to snow that stubbornly hangs around in the courtyard, refusing to go away.

And I also wonder about the possible effects on my own children?  Have I unwittingly instilled any type of misrepresentative, mono-cultural understanding of society upon them by reading Dr. Seuss to them as young children?

Shannon and I didn’t reach any hard and fast conclusions in our discussion, as I am not sure the answers are simple.

Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 13 #sol19

Sometimes kids surprise you.  For twenty minutes before my reading student Danielle (not her real name) arrived, I had been preparing book recommendations.  Danielle has informed me that she “did not like to read,” and yet also claims to enjoy graphic novels and fantasy books.  Interesting.  So I had traveled down to the library to grab a couple of titles in each of these genres for her, along with one more book I knew to be widely popular with our middle school readers.

Returning to my office, I slid into my desk chair and pulled up Amazon on my computer screen.  A strategy I’ve found to be successful with some of the uncommitted or unmotivated readers I work with is, after procuring a small stack of recommended books, to locate “kid reviews” for books and print them off.  This way, the books I recommend aren’t just endorsed by me– “See, kids like them, too!” I say.

Danielle has not read many books this year, a fact that sends a cold shock of urgency through my body.  I’ve got to get her reading.

With a small stack of books now prepared (a strategy based on an idea presented in Kylene Beers’ article, “Choosing Not to Read: Understanding Why Some Middle Schoolers Just Say No,”) I awaited Danielle’s arrival.

Then, pushing through the door, came the surprise.  “Mr. Ball, I know what I want to read!  It’s called Middle School, and my mom’s going to buy me the book after school!”

I smiled. “That’s great!” I replied.  Sometimes kids surprise you.

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.