Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 25

Today, March 25th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Carefully, I dialed *67 on my iPhone, then the phone number.  I checked the time.  Eleven a.m. Earlier in the morning, I had sent an email, inviting a check-in with me.  Just to see how things were going.  Her mom had responded quickly, replying that her daughter would be happy to talk.  That she missed me.  Could we talk today? I wrote back- yes, today would work just fine.  How about eleven?

After dialing the number, I heard the ringing begin on the other end of the line.  Then an answer.  “Hi, Mr. Ball!” We chatted for a little while.  Yes, she has been reading.  Everyday.  Yes, her parents are trying to work from home.  Yes, she has already finished her assignment in science.

During this time, I have begun to realize all we have been taking for granted: A handshake or hug from a colleague or friend; a night out at a restaurant.  A ball game.

Or just a simple chat with a student.

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 24

Today, March 24th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Pandemic Journal - Day 12

How will this go?

How will I do?

What will they learn

when this is through?

The quiet chimes of the iPhone alarm bring me forth from sleep.  It is 4:30 a.m. Immediately, I realize I am awakening from a restless night. Dreams filled with Google classroom, distance learning thoughts, and anxiety. My room remains pitch black, as it did when I slipped into bed the night before.  The darkness, thick in its presence, seems to symbolize how I feel. Where I am. Where we all are now.

I am really not sure.  Of a lot of things.  Like the room in which I now lie, many things are present, I know they are there.  But I cannot see them.   What could those things be? I wonder in desperation.

Someone once told me, life is a bit like driving through a dark tunnel.  Headlamps only show us perhaps 200 feet ahead.  Now, I feel as though one headlamp has been smashed out, leaving only the other.  Which is covered in debris.

As silently as possible, I don warmer clothes, fumble for my glasses, and make my way downstairs. Time for day one.


Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 23

Today, March 23rd, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

“We want to read this book!”  I stood in my dining room, now alit with bright sunlight streaming in through the sliding glass door.  Taking the book gently from my oldest daughter’s hands, I read the title: Bed-knob & Broomstick, by Mary Norton.

I felt my eyebrows raise, just a bit.  This is the book you want to read aloud?” I asked, placing great emphasis on the first word.  I had tasked my two oldest daughters to run upstairs and, among the hundreds of books we own, to choose a book Papa would read aloud to them while schools remain closed.  I expected the girls to select something . . . well, more modern, perhaps?  But I suppose this made sense since our previous read aloud (last summer) had been The Phantom Tollbooth, another older title.

Looking up from the cover, I saw two two hopeful faces. I could tell there would be no changing their minds.  I flipped quickly to the copyright date, and a new worry suddenly arose.  1957.  Hmm, yikes.  Now, I had heard of this book but had never read it.  What if it didn’t pass muster in regards to cultural sensitivity?  What about representation?  Or diversity of characters?  Now I could feel my eyebrows furrowing.  Back up to their faces.  “You’re sure?” 


Well, I thought.  These are my children.  I’ll navigate this with them.  Try to address whatever comes up.  The book is a bit of a ‘classic’, isn’t it?  

“Okay, girls,” I said.  “You want to start right now?”  They did.


Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 22

Today, March 22, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Pandemic Journal, Day 10

I pulled the heavy metal door open and heard the familiar squeak.  With a sack full of bags, I entered my empty classroom.  The books, crowded together on the shelves, stared silently back at me.  Where have you been?  Where are the kids?  they asked. They didn’t know.  I felt their reproval.  On the white board, the date: March 12, 2020.  The last day I taught reading in this room.  The dark, green markered 3/12/20 now frozen in time.

Setting down my bags, I pulled out my checklist of things I needed to gather for distance learning.  Units of study, short story collections, post-its . . . this list was long.  Outside the wide windows, ominous and rolling clouds threatened rain.

I have been hearing, reading that states are beginning to issue shelter-in-place orders.  This may be my only chance to retrieve materials, I had thought to myself that morning.  Maybe not.  But better grab them while I still can.

Everywhere, signs of normalcy now felt abnormal: My daily schedule, safely inside the clear page protector, lay lonely on the round table.  My chart, “What Nonfiction Readers Do Not Do,” hung on the wall.  The bathroom sign-out sheet, now becoming dusty, rested near the door.  All normal, now not normal.

With a deep and silent breath, I commenced the gathering.

Slice of Life Story Challenge 2020 Day 21

Today, March 21st, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Yesterday was my little brother’s birthday.  If he were still alive today, he would have turned 50 years old.  Sitting with my notebook the morning, I took a few minutes break from worrying about the current global pandemic to remember him.  Allow me to recreate a small moment when my brother and I were around 9 and 11 years old.


Working together, we carried the heavy box into our new family room.  With its brightly colored orange shag carpet, this room was going to be perfect.  So big!  Removing the oversized Tinker Toys from the box, my brother and I excitedly initiated construction.  For the next half hour, piece by piece, we built our first soccer goal in the new house.  Over my brother’s shoulder, I gazed out our new downstairs window and watched as the Oregon rain intensified.  Beside me, the Nerf soccer ball awaited quietly.  Definitely a good day for indoor soccer, I thought to myself.

Finally, the goal was completed.  “But wait!” I said. “We need a net, don’t we?”

“Hold on,” my brother said, his face optimistic.  “I’ll ask mom.” Out of the room, down the short hallway, and up the stairs he dashed.  In a few minutes he’d returned, awkwardly carrying an old, mustard-colored bedspread.  “We can use this!” he chirped.

“Perfect,” I said smiling.

Many rainy days were spent in that basement family room playing indoor soccer.  We really didn’t play competitively, but rather acted out improvised games between fictional teams we had invented.  Since we were big Portland Timbers fans in the 1970s and attended many games with my parents, my brother and I created entire rosters of fictional teams and pitted them against one another in our own imaginary and dramatic league.  My mother’s curtains in the basement, I will admit, suffered greatly, as many stray shots on goal found their way toward the plastic hangers.  But the allure of pretend major league soccer games proved too great for my brother and I, so the damage continued on for some time.

The last time I spoke with my brother was February, 1997… 23 years ago.  A car accident took his life that month, but he has lived on in my heart since then.

Happy Birthday to Sean Kelly Ball, born March 20th, 1970.