Slice of Life Challenge Day 24 #sol18

A powerful speaker visited our school this week . . .

 

I looked at the clock one more time.  Yes, it was probably time to draw this assembly to a close.  For the last hour, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree, had been speaking in our gymnasium.  With mostly rapt attention, students listened as Lynda delivered a speech that included not just her own history as a writer, but powerful messages about life.  Of course, she shared her writing process, highlights of her career as a writer, where her ideas originated from, etc.  But she also devoted considerable air time to weaving a theme across her talk.  Much like a seamstress, Lynda wove threads of power and agency through her words, telling kids to never let someone else tell them who they are, that grit matters in life, and that even though they are in middle school, it’s not too early to begin to think about who they want to be in the world. Powerful, inspiring words, illustrated with compelling personal anecdotes.  Later that day, Lynda would share a story with me about a student who approached her, tearful, thanking her for the words she shared.  “Thank you for letting us know no one can tell us who we are,” the student had told her.

The clock now shown 11:20 a.m. I needed to wrap the assembly up and excuse students to their next class.  But with everything Lynda had said that hour, words that carried potential life-changing effects, I knew I couldn’t just say, “Time to go!”  There needed to be something more, something meaningful to close.  Suddenly, the idea came to me.  I pressed the button on the second microphone I held, and spoke: “Would you turn to the person sitting next to you and tell them what you will take away from this talk today?  What will you hang onto as you exit the gym this morning?  Turn and talk.”  The gym suddenly erupted with excited chatter.

In my ear, Lynda whispered, “You know, in all the talks I’ve done across the country, no one has ever done that.”  I was struck by that statement- allowing students to turn and talk, just for a bit, provides an opportunity to process.  I wonder why speakers and teachers don’t use that technique more often?  I will admit, it was a brief moment of pride.  But more importantly, I hope it was a moment that offered our kids a way to hold onto the messages of empowerment and hope delivered by one wonderful author, Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

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Slice of Life Challenge Day 23 #sol18

Family literacy vignettes…

With the smell of fresh oatmeal cookies filling my nostrils, I could hear the chatter.  I watched as my wife pulled the sheet of baked delights from the oven, while she and I discussed the day’s events.  After a bit, the chatter rose in my consciousness to press my curiosity button.  The chatter emanated from our living room.  What was my two year-old doing in there, anyway?  Peeking around the corner, I spotted her.  There she sat, next to our large brown ottoman, turning the pages of her Baby Body Book, commenting on the various pages, saying words she remembered from the many times that book had been read to her.  By herself. Reading.

Later in the evening, after dinner, pajamas, and little girl storytime, my wife bundled up that chattering two year-old in her blanket and carried her upstairs for bedtime.  My two older daughters, six and eight, remained at the table downstairs. Earlier in the day, my six year-old,  after returning home from an emergency dismissal, had decided to author and illustrate a picture book (not homework, by the way).  Diligently, she sat now, working feverishly to finish it before retiring for the night.

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At the end of the table, my eight year-old continued to write her screenplay, an idea she hatched just a few days prior (also not homework).  “Papa, I’ve already got four pages!” she proudly informed me.  I casually peered over her shoulder.  Stage directions, scene changes, narration…yep, it was all there.

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And the girls worked right through their normal reading time, which was fine.

Many tell me that, “Well, you’re a reading specialist, of course your kids…yada, yada…” However, I know that is not completely true.  Yes, I’m sure I played a hand here, of course.  But I also feel extremely grateful for these precious girls and these moments of literacy I get to witness.

It is no small deal.

 

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Slice of Life Challenge Day 22 #sol18

My March writing routine…

 

The alarm sounds on my iPhone.  It’s 5:30 a.m.  Not immediately, but a few minutes later, I quietly rise and make my way across the dark room.  Fumbling in the blackness, I locate socks, a sweatshirt.  Put them on.  Quietly now, although the old floorboards make sonic discreetness difficult, I tiptoe to the door.  Remember, don’t decide now, I remind myself.  Trust that ideas will surface.  Which is difficult since I’m such a planner.  Behind the door, cloaked in shadow, I am greeted by The Committee: two striped cats, purring.  Waiting for their breakfast.

All of us, members of The Committee and I, silently pad down the stairs to the first floor, where kibbles and a computer await.  I step carefully, avoiding a fur-laden misstep that could result in a face-first disaster.  At the bottom of the stairs now.  Around the corner we go, where two white ceramic dishes are ready to be filled.

With The Committee now engaged in their first round, I breathe. Across the room I head, where the laptop awaits.  Trust that ideas will surface, remind myself.  Everyday.  Time to write my slice of life.

What is your writing routine?

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Slice of Life Challenge Day 21 #sol18

Today is my brother’s birthday…

A tribute to my brother…he would have turned 48 today.

Young

  • I remember the time we learned our cat bore kittens in the neighbor’s boat.  We looked at each and smiled.  Kittens?!
  • I remember the time we slept in a treehouse Grandpa built for us, probably not safe.  Can’t believe we stayed all night!
  • I remember the time we built our first pinball machine using rubber bands and blocks.  Can we please have Atomic Arcade? we begged our parents.
  • I remember the time we performed on drum kits in my first grade classroom, Mrs. McVey my teacher.  All that practice paid off!

Later

  • I remember the time we snuck out of Grammy’s back door late at night to prowl through her small, eastern Oregon neighborhood.  You got scared and you cried, sorry.
  • I remember the time you performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  You were great!
  • I remember the night we played the church dance, you on drums, me on keys.  Not enough rehearsal, we both agreed.
  • I remember you picked up the bass, the instrument that became your life.
  • I remember we drove you to Arizona, dropped you off at college.

The End

  • I remember you visited my classroom.  You asked me, “Wow, this is all yours?”
  • I remember we spoke on the phone.  “I’ll come see you this summer in Tucson,” I said.
  • I remember I told you I loved you, brother.
  • I remember the phone call.  You were gone, a car crash on Route 10.
  • I remember you, my brother.

Happy Birthday, Seanie.

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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.”

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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.

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Slice of Life Challenge Day 18 #sol18

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

 

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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.

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