Wednesday, March 31, 2021

#SOL21 | 31 | A Series Of Titles Becomes A Slice Itself

I saw many slicers reflecting and writing about the end of the SOLSC for this year.  I didn't necessarily want to write a traditional top 10 list, so instead I gave myself the extra challenge of composing a poetic piece using words from every title of my slices for this month.  

That's right.  

What follows are 30 lines of poetry, each linking one of my slices from this month.  I did not plan this ahead of time, so some lines were definitely more of a challenge, but I think this is a fitting end to a month of SOL writing as we move into what many consider to be a month of poetry writing.  

I've really stretched myself as a writer these past 31 days and I am so excited that I get to own the honor of being a slicer for the full 31 days!  This has been a thrill for me and I'm so glad I got to share this journey with all of you.  Thank you.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

#SOL21 | 30 | Never Gonna Give Up On Pranks

Tomorrow is the last day of the annual SOLSC month long challenge.  The day after that is April Fool's Day.  Today's slice is a nice blend of the two, as I decided just now that I would write about my plans for the days ahead.

Monday, March 29, 2021

#SOL21 | 29 | Senioritis Strikes Back

Today was our first day back from a week long Spring Break and the school was already off to a great start.  I had arrived to find that at some point over that week the power had been lost to the school and our clocks/bells were no longer working.  Not a big problem, at least, not compared to the Internet outage we would suffer a few hours later into the day.

But this slice isn't about the internet outage.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

#SOL21 | 28 | Some Assembly Required

Last weekend, my mom requested that I make a dessert for Easter this Sunday.  I pointed out that it wasn't Easter yet, but she countered with the fact that she wanted to celebrate early while my brother was still in town.

"Alright," I said, "Did you have something in mind?"

"What about an ice cream cake.  It's not very Easter, but it could be nice."

Saturday, March 27, 2021

#SOL21 | 27 | Chatting Over Coffee

Welcome to another weekend of sharing a nice warm mug of coffee (or your drink of choice) and some time together thanks to Natalie's link up: Weekend Coffee Share.

This is also the last Saturday of the Slice of Life story challenge (see the information at the bottom of this post).  I can't believe we're in the final stretch.  Last year when I first did the SOLSC I don't think I came anywhere close to blogging all 31 days!  Now here we are at the end and, though I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying this, this time I may actually manage to share a slice every day this month.

But there are still a few days to go before that happens.  Instead I'd like to tell you about my week as we sit sipping our coffee.  I've really been inspired by how Tammy structures her coffee share posts, so I am going to try and mimic that writing style today.

If we were having coffee, I would lead us outside to my patio with our mugs.  I would mention how I just got a new order of coffee in from Grounds and Hounds that I hope we can both enjoy.  We can hear the birds singing in the trees and a quiet lofi song plays from my laptop.  It's cloudy and cool this morning, but pleasant if you have a warm beverage to enjoy.  It's a little disappointing after the sunshine of most of the week, but at least it's not raining yet.  There are likely to be storms later, but at least we're outside for now.  There's a small window to enjoy temperatures like this in the southern US and I want to take every advantage I can to be outside.  

If we were having coffee, I would point out my nearly empty bird feeder and the new hummingbird feeder I put out.  According to what I've read the hummingbirds should be migrating through my state soon and I want to make sure I catch their attention this year.  I just hope it doesn't draw ants or wasps instead.  The other birds are happily partaking of the bird seed at least and I'll probably need to refill that soon.  Unfortunately, it looks like they may have also attracted a cat to skulk around this morning.  Her belly is low to the ground though and I'm starting to wonder if maybe she is a pregnant cat looking for a safe place to give birth.  I really don't need a cat or her kittens -- my dog Cooper doesn't share attention easily.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about the adventures I went on with my dog this week.  It was our Spring Break and I forgot how nice it was to just take things slow and go out into nature.  I took Cooper to several parks and gardens.  I tried to get him to ride in a special dog-back pack I bought, but he was pretty stubborn about that and insisted on being on the ground.  I think he enjoyed getting to smell and leave his mark on all the trees and bushes.  While he did that, I would try and leave my mark on the pages of my notebook: sketching the plants and creeks and scenery in either drawing or words.  It was pleasant and did wonders for my anxiety and stress, the opposite of having to brave certain crowded places in a mix of masked and non-masked individuals.

If we were having coffee, I would definitely share those pages of my notebook with you, as well as, some of the pictures I took of my time out and about yesterday with my friend Katie.  We are both vaccinated and felt a little more comfortable eating outdoors at a restaurant in Hot Springs called Diablos Tacos & Mezcal.  We ordered tacos and margarita flights to top off a day of shopping and garden walking.  It was delightful, though I'll admit I probably drank a few two many margaritas.  It was a nice treat for myself though and I don't regret the money spent at all.  

If we were having coffee, I would sigh and say that unfortunately we are going back to school next week and that I'm not sure I'm ready for Spring Break to be over.  It was relaxing and I have not yet prepared lessons for Monday.  It's still break though and I need to focus on that, not the fact that I didn't grade anything over break.  It really is hard to get out of the mindset that I should work during this time -- I shouldn't!  I've also reached another snag in my novel writing because I've reached a part in the story that's new and not just revisions, so it's causing some frustrations for me to write.  I know I just need to push through it, but it's not always easy to find the motivation to even open the document.

If we were having coffee, I would reach over and pet my dog's head for comfort.  He's sleeping soundly, even snoring, likely still exhausted from yesterday's adventures.  I would offer you a smile and invite you to share your celebrations and frustrations as well.  No sense in me doing all of the talking.

I'll sip my coffee and wait for you.  After all, it's not raining yet and the coffee is still warm.

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  

                    #SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

#SOL21 | 26 | Hot Springs

 Approximately 1 hour from where I live is the semi-famous historic town of Hot Springs.  Today my friend, Katie, my dog and I ventured down there to walk along the shops, eat tacos, and check out the gorgeous views of Garvan Woodland Gardens.

My favorite part was sharing my notebook for doodles and drawings — Katie didn’t think to bring her notebook but we made it work:

It reminded me of high school — we came here as a special trip when we were teenagers and high school was also when we used to pass notebooks back and forth.  

It was a good day out and I might write in more detail at a later slice when I am not trying to slice while riding in the car.

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  

                    #SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

#SOL21 | 25 | Short Hair Don't Care

This was inspired by the writing of my friend and fellow slicer, Britt, who wrote a slice about her hair.  I started thinking about my own hair journey and this came to mind.  Thanks for the inspiration Britt!

They tell me I should keep my hair long because boys find that attractive. They tell me I should "do" something with my hair -- blow dry, straighten, style. It's more mature, they say, it shows you care about your appearance.  People will take you more seriously.

Of course, by "they" I mean my mom and by "people" I'm pretty sure she means men. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

#SOL21 | 24 | Cooper's Three Stop Field Trip

Hi!  My name is Cooper and I'm a dog.  I had a busy day today because my mom took me to not one, not two, but THREE different parks.  

I didn't pay attention at first as she prepared food in the kitchen, though I did start to get suspicious when she packed food and a book and a metal box in her backpack.  Usually that's what she does when she is going to work and about to put me in the kennel.  I started following her around, hoping to remind her that she shouldn't leave me!  We were doing so good this week -- I thought we had finally broken the cycle of putting me in the kennel.  It looks like she was backsliding though.  Again.

Luckily, it must have worked.  She slipped on her shoes and put my leash on me and we headed out to the car.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

#SOL21 | 23 | Modes of Transportation

I wasn't sure what to slice about at first.  However, when looking for inspiration I found a question about the modes of transport I've used.  I didn't want to just list them, so instead today you are getting three memories related to modes of transportation and one memorable mode of transportation that I don't remember.  Enjoy.

Monday, March 22, 2021

#SOL21 | 22 | Small Sounds

I love listening to music while I write, but sometimes I forget about the little sounds just outside my window.

Far off in the distance, I can hear the call of the train passing to parts unknown.  But even that is drowned out by the twitter and chatter of birds conversing among the budding foliage.  I feel like I blinked and suddenly there was green among the browns and greys of the copse behind my apartment.  

Occasionally the birds are invited closer by the promise of bird seed -- even now I can hear one picking at the seeds -- or just as easily driven away by sudden movement from either myself or someone walking their dog.  They kick up leaves that have yet to be reclaimed by the wind, or decomposition, or the lawn maintenance the apartment hires.  The last dregs of fall hang around a lot longer than those of winter -- though the chill in the air reminds us that it isn't so far gone.

As the wind gusts through, it catches hold of the small "Hello Spring" flag I have hanging out there and sometimes if the wind is just right I can hear it flap.  Of course, that assumes it isn't drowned out by the windchimes that dangle just above them.  It's a set my mom bought for me when I moved to this apartment: the top part is a bronze sun and below, hitting the chimes, is a grinning crescent moon.  Every time they ring I think of her and my dad, as their backyard is filled with two things: bird feeders and windchimes.  

And then, as if summoned by my thoughts, my mom calls and I answer the ringing phone.

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  

                    #SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers. 

IMWAYR! Pity Parties and Untrue Stories

I really appreciate the overwhelming support on my last blog for IMWAYR and all of the comments that were left with guidance.  You all were super welcoming.  

I've decided to add one additional layer to my blog posts about reading: a rating system.  I already leave ratings on places like Litsy and Storygraph, so I don't see why it would hurt to continue that here.  I don't want it to be super complicated and of the rating systems I have used I think I prefer Litsy.  It keeps it to four choices: Pick, So-So, Pan, and Bail.  It's simple and I don't have to overthink it like star-ratings or whatever.  I couldn't find the exact symbols in emoji form that they use for their I improvised:

Pick πŸ‘    So-So ✔️    Pan ⏭️    Bail πŸ’€

Also, continuing from last week, you may also see these emojis pop up from time to time:

🎧 This means I read the audiobook. πŸ’¬ This means the book is a graphic novel.

What can I say?  I've really enjoyed using emojis lately...

Sunday, March 21, 2021

#SOL21 | 21 | A Slice for my Sister

My dad likes to make a joke "We should have stopped at one."  Usually this is reserved for when my much younger siblings -- Julia, age 21, and Jared, age 18 -- slip up.  But if he had "stopped at one" I would not have DeAnna in my life.  At one point I used to laugh and hold up my finger in solidarity.  But as I have grown closer to DeAnna, I have started to correct him.  "No...though maybe two."

Because I cannot imagine a life without DeAnna in it.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

#SOL21 | 20 | I'm Currently Stealing

 Living up to her blog name, Tammy B has accidentally inspired this blog with her post using the starter "I'm Currently."  Which I will now shamelessly steal and use for my own SOL this morning.  Thanks Tammy!

I'm currently...

Listening to a Pure Imagination remix.

Loving the joy my friends on Time to Write bring me.

Drinking coffee loaded with sugar and creamer.

Thinking about how I'm going to squeeze novel writing in today.

Wanting to go outside to enjoy the sunshine.

Procrastinating on grading more papers.

Needing to get dressed for the day.

Reading Slice of Life blog posts for inspiration.

Worrying about my family members who refuse to get the vaccine.

Wondering how I can persuade those family members to get it anyway.

Anticipating the freedom of next week as it is Spring Break!

What's everyone else up to?

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  

                    #SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

#SOL21 | 19 | What's More Spring than New Things?

Weekend Coffee Share is a new link-up I am joining starting today and, much like the IMWAYR link up, I have no idea if there is a right or wrong way to do this.  I am going to assume there is no wrong way -- which is reassuring and actually something I stressed to my students' today when we were doing a practice with sentence structure.  The point is to experiment, stretch, and try something new right?

I am hoping that this break will give me a lot of opportunities to stretch myself in writing.  My SOL post streak is still 19 days strong, but I also have a novel I am continuing to revise and I am hoping I can carve out a lot of quality time next week to focus on it instead of the burdens of reading student essays.  

I actually started a new notebook today and one of the first things I wrote in it (aside from a note to the notebook itself) was a brainstorm for a new novel idea.  That brings my novel idea count up to 3 and finished revised drafts at 0.  It's getting really hard to stay focused on the revision, but I am determined to see it through.  Also, I think idea is being generous -- I have a premise or concept at best.  But we all have to start somewhere and at least now I have a means of writing it down and coming back to it for later.

That's not what I want to blog about though.  It's been awhile, but I finally got back into the habit of using my notebook to do a 5-4-3-2-1 Recap of my week.  My new notebook is completely without lines and that's a first to me, but I've already noticed that it makes me want to play more with layout and drawing on the page.  That's what I caught myself doing between the novel idea notes and the recap.  I'm looking forward to seeing what I produce on the page now that I have no restraints with lines or dots or anything.

As for the recap.  Here are Five Things That Made Me Smile this Week (in no particular order):

5. The picture from my sister of my niece wearing a Captain America mask.

4. S's notebook share about music that included a subtle nod to the music we listen to in 3rd block.

3. My new story idea.

2. Attending wake up and write every morning this week.

1. Finishing one notebook and starting a new notebook.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to leave some comments and then make time to watch the latest MCU show: Falcon and Winter Soldier -- something I have been excited for since it was announced YEARS ago.

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  

#SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

#SOL21 | 18 | A Brief Exchange About Dreams

"Do you remember your dreams?"

I don't know why a small group of senior boys was having this conversation, but that's the part I overheard.  For the purposes of this slice I will give them the names Edward, Jeff, and Ned.  Edward was the one who had asked about dreams.

"I've been writing my dreams down.  Otherwise I have a hard time remembering them," I said, jumping into their conversation.  

Ned nodded while Jeff leaned back in his chair, "I can usually remember mine that day, but not for much longer."

"What's the last dream you remember," Ned asked me.

"Well, last night I had a dream about catching a koi fish.  I had nowhere to put it, so I stuck it in a garbage bag with some water and then I had to carry it onto the subway."

"Why were you on the subway?"

"I don't know.  I think I was in London?"

"London has subways?  I thought it had trolleys."

"No," I chuckle, "I think you're thinking of San Francisco."

"Oh! Right."

"A couple of weeks ago I had a dream I was a detective," Jeff added, sitting forward, "I was solving someone's murder."

I thought that was pretty cool.  I could actually see Jeff as a detective and would definitely love to read or see a story like that.  He'd be pretty cool solving crimes.

Ned seemed to agree with me, but then added: "I had a dream I was with these giant spiders and they made me the king of the spiders.  I had a crown."  He raised his hands to his head, miming the placement of the crown.  I would not want to rule over spiders, but again I thought it sounded like a pretty cool dream.  

We looked to Edward, the one who had asked originally, but he just shook his head, "I actually never remember my dreams.  I don't know what dreams are really like.  Yours all sound pretty cool though."

It made me a little sad that Edward didn't remember his dreams.  We continued to share a few we remembered and even had a brief discussion about flying in dreams -- especially if lucid dreaming was involved.  For Jeff and Ned flying and hovering came easy, but for me I always struggled with it.  But, at least I could have those dreams.  Unlike Edward.

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  

#SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

#SOL21 | 17 | Sideways into Writing

Today's slice was the culmination of a few challenges.  And so I want to preface this by mentioning those challenges that led to the creation of the piece I'm about to share.

First, it was yesterday's #10min10days challenge with Tammy B.  The prompt was to write for 10 minutes starting with the phrase "Right now..." and then look back at what you wrote and look for sparks.  My writing happened outside on my patio and focused on the usual sights and sounds with the occasional intrusive thought.  And then, source unseen, I picked up on the smell of cigarette smoke.  

As soon as I smelled it I was reminded of my Grandma Sug and I wrote about how I hadn't actually sliced about her before.  By now I've written plenty of slices about both of my mom's parents, but not my dad's and definitely not my Grandma Sug.  That was interesting to me, but at the time I just let it sit in my notebook.

And then today I visited EthicalELA's final Open Write invitation for the month I saw that the prompt was Backwards Poetry.  Katrina Morison provided examples there, but then also suggested when trying this form of poetry to "...take on change. Deal with something that is or needs to be turned around. Then, the form will truly reflect the content of the poem."  The aspect of "change" really struck me and after having written about my Grandma Sug yesterday. I decided to not only write a poem about her, but also dedicate this slice to her as well.

It was after I had written the poem that I realized it could also serve as a slice -- but I didn't want to just post the poem without some context and backstory.  Which brings us here and now to today's SOL post.  That's three challenges woven together for one blog post.  Pretty impressive I would say.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

#SOL21| 16 | A Day in the Life

I couldn't think of what to write today and wouldn't you know it, Leigh Anne had my back with her party invite ready to go.  So here's my id for the party and if you want an invite you can see Leigh Anne here.  Below you will find the mentor text, followed by my version.

“Depending On When You Met Me” by Devon Gundry, Soul Pancake
Depending on when you met me, I might have been: a checker’s champion, the kid who squirted Super Glue in his eye, a competitive Ping-Pong player, Tweedle Dum, a high school valedictorian, a fake blond, 1/12 of an all-male a capella group, a graduate of the Vanderbilt School of Engineering, a nomad, a street musician, or a pigeon assassin.

Depending on when you met me, I might have been: a 'Most Beautiful Baby' trophy winner, holding a pair of scissors and a chunk of my sister's hair, a gifted student, a penpal, a daddy's girl, wearing a shamrock green soccer jersey, an alto, a bus rider, a drama student with frizzy hair pulled back in a scrunchie, a voracious reader, a keynote speaker at Graduation, a Wal-mart cashier, a waitress, a secretary, a roleplayer, a fanfic author, an anime convention attendee, a cosplayer, a giant nerd, a graduate with a Masters' degree, a tea pot collector, a sniper of Silent Auctions, a Bingo queen, constantly questioning my sexuality until settling on the ace, an aunt, a teacher, and a would-be novelist.

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  
#SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers.

Monday, March 15, 2021

IMWAYR! An attempt at something new for this blog

Something I have discovered in this month of slicing is that there are OTHER communities and challenges out there to explore through the blogging community.  I know this is probably a silly realization or an obvious one to many of you, but I really had NO idea.  

One of the ones I discovered recently through just random exploration of blogs in the "Slice of Life Story Challenge" community (hosted by Two Writing Teachers) was the "It's Monday! What Are You Reading" community of book bloggers.  I'm still trying to figure out who hosts it and how to "officially" join (if one even CAN officially join), but one aspect of blogging I have not explored enough of is blogging about books and my reading life.  

I read.  A lot.  I set goals for reading, use sites like Litsy and Storygraph to track my reading, participate in various challenges and games related to reading, Book Clubs, I mean you name it and I've probably done it when it comes to reading.  Except blogging and I've never been consistent about sharing what I am reading -- even WITH Litsy and Storygraph making that supposedly easier.

I would like to change that and I believe IMWAYR! is a way to go about that.  However, since this is my first one and because it's already so late -- I'm also probably going to keep this fairly short.  I will be ignoring the little voice asking me about "Am I doing this right?" "Should I include graphics?" "Do I want to start some sort of rating system?"  And address those concerns on a different post.  It's 8 pm where I am -- best to just get this written, up, and shared.  

So, without further ado, let's get into it: WHAT AM I READING?

#SOL21 | 15 | Socks

Every day I ask students an attendance question.  Something simple and fun -- either/or questions or favorite/least favorite thing -- to start the class and sometimes even prompt conversation.  Much like stickers, my high school students can get strangely into it depending on the topic and sometimes I am completely shocked by what will get them excited.

Today's question was "Describe your socks."

We are coming up on weather that makes for less sock wearing, so I thought this would be a good day to ask this question.  My own socks tend to be colorful and fun.  I actively try NOT to wear just plain socks any more and I'll be honest it definitely makes folding/matching a lot easier.  

However, that doesn't seem to be the case with my students, which surprised me.  Most students' socks were black, white, or grey.  Many added the detail that they were wearing Under Armor, Nike, or Adidas socks.  Some mentioned whether it had a stripe or other marker.   There were only two that stood out as "fun" though: polka dots and llama socks.

One students reported they were wearing one sock due to an injury requiring a boot.  

Another student specified that they had stolen their mom's socks today because they didn't have a matching pair of their own.  

One student decided to provide me with a series of alternate names for socks: "Achilles Blanket" which I was amused by and "Foot Jacket" which made me cringe for some reason.

I proceeded to end the attendance question time by describing my own socks: white with pictures of records in alternating blue and yellow.  I expressed my disappointment that more of them weren't wearing "fun" socks.  A girl towards the front of the class replied, "Sorry.  We just don't have socks as cool as yours."

"That's okay," I replied, "I pride myself on my sock game."

What socks are you wearing today or what's your craziest pair of socks you own?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

#SOL21 | 14 | In Honor of Pie Day...

It seems only appropriate to write about pizza today on Pi(e) day, especially as I sit here waiting on my own pizza order to be processed down the road from me.  I'm not a math person, but you can bet I'll take an excuse to celebrate food any chance it presents itself.  Really, who needs an excuse for pizza though?

Besides, it's doubly appropriate when you consider this is Slice of Life writing and what better slice is there than pizza?  I mean I suppose your dessert pies, but my preferred pie was always the "pizza pie" variety as opposed to apple, coconut creme, or key lime.

Pizzas were reserved for Thursday nights at my Grandma's house.  Or was it Tuesday?  I can say with certainty it was NOT Friday nights, as those were reserved for going out to eat at sit down restaurants with my grandparents and family.  Honestly, as and adult I can't help but imagine it was whatever night there was likely a deal going on.  My Grandma was the kind of person obsessed with couponing and specials after all.  The pizza was always from Little Caesars (Pizza! Pizza!) and the order was almost always a cheese, a supreme, and a pepperoni.  Oh, and of course, an order or two of crazy bread.

Pizzas were also reserved for sleepovers, once my sister and I were old enough to start having those, and even now it's hard to shake the urge to want pizza whenever a friend is visiting.  Boxes would be piled high in the kitchen ready to fill the bellies of ravenous teens.  Usually they were also from Little Caesars, though sometimes my mom was feeling particular and would order from a restaurant called Shotgun Dan's.  However, that was only if it was a smaller gathering as those pies tended to be a bit pricier than the "Hot & Ready" cheap pizzas of Little Caesars. 

I don't get Little Caesars as much any more nor do I get pizza quite as often.  Perhaps because pizza is such a social food and for a lot of reasons I have not been social as of late.  Though luckily there is a place down the road from me that makes a decent personal sized pizza which I must leave now to pick up for lunch.  After all, it's pie day!

This post is part of the 14th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  
#SOL21 and information around Slicing can be found on Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

#SOL21 | 13 | Inside the Box

March 13 - 17 is Open Write over at Ethical ELA and so today's slice was inspired by the prompt there: "Weddings at Recess."  After reading the prompt and the example, I was immediately taken back to the summers I spent in the care of my grandma.  The grandkids -- usually me, my sister, and my cousin -- would take over an entire room off of the living room.  

It was appropriately called "The Play Room" because it was where we were allowed to play, spread out our toys, and do all the things kids love to do when given free reign of a place.  This was where all the toys were kept, as well as the children's books, dress-up materials, and whatever else our young hearts could desire.  Funny enough, it's not the toys I remember well, it was the cardboard boxes our grandma would bring home.  So this slice is about that.

Friday, March 12, 2021

#SOL21 | 12 | Packages

I already wrote a slice about receiving a penpal letter; now let's talk packages.

My apartment is located at the end of the breezeway on the first floor and I usually park close enough that I can peer down that breezeway and see whether or not I have packages waiting for me.  This wasn't always the case.  

Prior to COVID, sometimes I would have packages outside my door but just as often I would have to go to our apartment complex's main office and see if I had anything.  The delivery was very inconsistent as to which it would be, which could make for some frustrating scenarios.  The worst was when I expected a Blue Apron delivery to be at my door, didn't get home until after the office had closed, only to learn that my meals for the weak were slowly going bad in the office.  There was nothing I could do.  The office had strict hours (8 am to 5 pm) and I couldn't just swing home because I commute 20+ minutes to work.

I honestly prefer consistently getting packages at my door, even if there is the slim chance some rando can come by and take them for themselves.  It's just fun to peer down the breezeway as I pull in to park and see that I have a box or two on my doorstep.  Today was no exception.

My two packages today were not very exciting in the grand scheme of things: a box of laundry sheets and a four pack of Crofter's Jam (in support of one of my favorite Youtube stars Thomas Sanders).  But it was still something just for me to open and enjoy.  The bonus of course being that I got to use it as inspiration for a slice.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

#SOL21 | 11 | Today was...

Today was a school day.

Today was a day for calculating the 12th graders last days.

Today was a day for breaking open writing to see how it ticked.

Today was a day to remember that though they are nearly adults, they are still just kids.

Today was a day for wandering outside to fresh air, fields, and nature trails tucked behind schools.

Today was a day for imagining monsters emerging from a pond, partaking of student sacrifices.

Today was a day to remember that though they are nearly adults, they are still just kids.

Today was a Thursday trying to hide itself as a Friday.

Today was a good day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

#SOL21 | 10 | A Turn Before Algebra

I stand at the intersection of the English hall and the main hall of our building.  It's 7:45 am and the bell just rang, signaling that students can begin entering their first block classes.  It's a small trickle at first.  Each day the seniors seem to arrive just a little bit later, playing chicken with the tardy bell and a d-hall slip.

Across the hall from me, a teacher greets passing students with enthusiasm I cannot muster -- at least not for his subject area: math.  Most students are given some variation of this greeting: 

"Good Morning, Jordan! It's another good day for math."

"There's Elise.  I know she's ready for math."

I wait.  I am keeping an eye on the hall where most students enter.  I am looking for a particular student.  For over two weeks now I have watched this girl do a pirouette in the middle of the hall just before ducking into math class.  About a week ago I started giving her an applause, but today I decided to take it a step further and I can't wait to see how she responds.  

The clock ticks closer to the start of class and I start to wonder if I am going to see her at all.  She is a senior after all and may be taking her time getting here. Just when I think I'm going to have to go to my own class, I spot her and smile behind my mask.  

I quickly step forward, blocking her way to the door, "Hey! Let's both twirl!"

Even with her mask, I can see her eyes light up, "Okay!"

I have her demonstrate a twirl for me and then step away, ready to do one together: "3...2...1..."

And a teacher and student do a pirouette together just outside of math class.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

#SOL21 | 09 | Blue Choir Robes

Growing up I attended church and, when I was old enough (early teens), I was allowed to join the adult choir with my dad. I don't share many hobbies or interests with my dad, but we did share this.  

Every Sunday morning the blue robes came on over whatever dress I happened to be wearing that day.  I always felt special donning the heavy blue robes, turning to see other members of my church -- all much older than me -- wearing them as well.  I liked how the sleeves draped and swished.  I liked that it made me feel grown-up.  I liked that I was part of something bigger.

I would tuck the thick, brown hymnal under my arm and follow the rest of the choir out into the halls of our church.  We would wait for our cue and then file in to stand before the church congregation to sing, led by our choir director.  Of course, since I was sitting in full view of the church I had to be on my very best behavior, but it was a lot easier to stay awake up there than it was in the pews.

Our choir director would usually introduce the song.  The piano, keyboard, and organ would play their opening notes, and we would rise up and sing.  Everyone at my church sang, following along in their own hymnals, but I still felt special standing up at the front with the rest of the choir.  Most of my family sat out among the congregation, but my dad and me were joined together in a sea of blue choir robes.  It was something special between the two of us.  

Unfortunately, it wasn't to last.  The church membership dropped, the church moved locations (twice), more members left, the choir was disbanded, and though singing at church still occurred it wasn't the same without an official choir.  Eventually even the hymnals disappeared, replaced by projected songs on a screen.

There were a lot of reasons I stopped attending church, but writing this slice made me wonder if one of those reasons was because of the lack of a choir.  I also have to wonder if this was the beginning of my fractured relationship with my dad as well.

Monday, March 8, 2021

#SOL21 | 08 | This is Not that Slice

A few days ago I wrote about my dad and I referenced very specifically "blue choir robes."  Colleen asked me for more about those and, instead of answering in a comment, I thought it appropriate to use as a slice in the future.  After all, I'm always telling my own students to get ideas from the comments people leave on their blogs.  

Then during notebook time with my students today I worked on a rough draft of that slice -- knowing I would get to type it all up this evening.  Wasn't I smart to work on the slice in advance instead of frantically typing it?  

I paid careful attention to my details, trying to capture the memory and what I enjoyed about the choir robes, being in the adult choir with my dad.  Trying to recall what it was like to have an actual choir in an actual church -- both things I have gone without for so long now.  It made me reflect on how not only has my relationship with my dad changed, but so has my relationship with church. 

I was excited to share that slice with you all, but unfortunately this is not that slice.

Because while I was gathering my things to leave, I managed to remember to grab my winter coat (it's warm in the afternoons, but still chilly in the mornings) but not my notebook.  I grabbed the thing I wouldn't need until tomorrow morning, but forgot to grab the one thing I would need this evening.

I feel more naked without my notebook than I do my coat!  Ugh!  Of all the things to leave behind.   I hope you will forgive me, notebook -- you will not have to be alone for long.

So this is not the slice about blue choir robes, this is the slice about the tragedy of forgetting one's writer's notebook.  A piece of me left abandoned and alone on a desk in a darkened classroom. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

#SOL21 | 07 | Penpals

Yesterday, I returned home to find a letter in the mail.

One aspect of the pandemic that I have not minded so much is this resurgence of meaningful mail.  There's just something so nice about finding something in my mailbox that isn't an underwear catalog, a bill, or a coupon for a local pizza restaurant.  

Don't get me wrong, I love my discounts too, but I know the time it takes to pen these notes and letters having sent several myself in the time since this all started.  It's not as easy as typing and hitting 'Send.'  You have to go through the process of obtaining stamps, setting aside a portion of your day to write, and then walk it out to your mailbox.  That's not even taking into account the time you have to set aside to purchase cards, stationary, or envelopes on which to write.  But that time is a sign of love, captured forever with ink and paper.  

Most of these missives are one-offs, but still meaningful.  After a bout of card sending in October, I turned the tables and asked all my friends and family to send me Birthday cards in November. Boy did my friends and family deliver on that one!  By the end of the my Birthday month I had received enough cards to fill my kitchen table -- a tangible and constant reminder of their love.

I found myself wanting more though -- more interactions that were equally meaningful and methodical.  

Jump to a few weeks ago when a member of my writing group (Cheryl) asked if anyone wanted to be pen pals.  I eagerly replied "Uhm...YES!" and now here we are when I opened my mailbox on March 6 to find a letter waiting just for me.

As I slid it out of the mailbox I was both surprised and a little intimidated by its weight.  I opened it to find Cheryl had sent me a card plus three hand-written pages of stationary!  I had not been expecting that much, since up until now most of my snail mail exchanges had been contained to cards. 

That's when it hit me that this was going to be an actual pen pal with letters documenting our thoughts and lives.  I knew I had to sit with that for a bit.  That didn't stop me from quickly reading the note and three pages though.  However, after reading it I put it away and went to bed so I could write my own response with a fresh mind (and fresh fingers) the next day.

I may have been intimidated at first, but as I started penning my response I realized that I was going to write JUST as much as she did.  I don't want to say here what we wrote -- that's not as important and it's between us -- but I will say it was thrilling to get to write a letter to someone whom I have never met in person and who lives miles and miles away.  

Not only did it inspire me to slice about it, but it actually made me remember my first official pen pals that I obtained through a student program back in 1999-2000.  They were from even farther away than Cheryl: Yuka from Japan and Jessica from France.  Writing this slice and finishing my letter, I decided to see if I even still had anything left from our exchanges over a decade ago.  

Digging into my closet I found more than I expected to: letters, envelopes, bits of stationary they had mailed me, and even a photograph of Jessica's dog, Maya.  What scraps of paper written by 12-year-old me exist in the shoebox buried beneath a bed in France or folded into an album somewhere in Japan?  Or were they lost a long time ago just like our connection -- a fire, flood, or just a simple purging of papers?  Are they thinking about me as I think of them?  Do they even remember having a pen pal from the far off place of Arkansas?

Funny how this all started because I got a letter in the mail yesterday.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

#SOL21 | 06 | Dad's Car Wash Song

There are many things I associate with my dad: coconut, unsweet iced tea, blue choir robes, snow coming down in March and car washes.  

I don't necessarily remember this, but apparently when I was very small I used to be afraid of going through the car wash.  Perhaps it was the noise or the impossibly large brushes that descended upon the car like a monster's claws -- whatever the reason I was terrified.  I would cry and squirm in my little car seat.  I've been told that sometimes one of my parents would get out of the car with me while the other one went through the car wash alone.

Eventually, my dad made up a song that helped make it easier for me to handle.  This is what I remember:

Swish swish 

(His hands would move along with the words, a pair of pointer fingers turned windshield wiper blades.)

Swash Swash  

(Now his hands would go the other direction.)

Now we're at the car wash

(Clapping hands.)

Car wash! Car Wash! CAR WASH!  YEAH!

(And now jazz hands, with each cheer bringing his arms higher or wider until the end).

Actually, calling that a song seems a bit generous -- but it still helped and it's stuck with me all these years.  If there's more to the song, I don't remember it now.  But that little ditty and apparently the classic "Great Balls of Fire" were enough to calm me down when I was upset at the thought of the car wash.  I guess music really does soothe the soul...

Friday, March 5, 2021

#SOL21 | 05 | Who is Watching?

Am I the only person nosey enough to peer into people's windows as I walk past them?  I'm not talking full on face pressed against the glass or anything.  But if a window has its blinds open and you can see inside someone's space, do you mean to tell me you avert your eyes or are you like me and you take a peek into what's happening in there?

Maybe that's just an apartment thing.  After all, it's not like there's a yard to keep the distance.

I don't mean to do it, but as someone constantly on the look out for the next character, story, or slice idea it's hard not to take a peek into the living rooms of others as they have their blinds pulled back and their light streaming out practically inviting me to do so.

This is on my mind because while walking my dog, Cooper, this past evening I had to double take as on the second floor I caught sight of someone who had a deer head mounted in their apartment living room.  I've seen deer head dΓ©cor before, but it never occurred to me that something so big would be in someone's apartment.  

Here are a few other things I have noticed when walking my dog around our apartment complex:

- There is an apartment on the back side of the building with a tiny kitten who occasionally pokes his head between the closed blinds.  I always shout KITTY! when I see him.  I have no idea why.

Source: XKCD Comic

- The apartment at the end of the row has a pair of chihuahuas that absolutely DO NOT like Cooper.  I can usually count down when they will begin barking at us as we walk past.  I've made it a bit of a game.

-  The couple on the front-side, second story of my building who regularly watch anime and I try to identify what they are watching as I walk back to my own apartment to watch anime.

- The guy on the second floor with a dog that also likes to bark at Cooper.  Last night her owner was with her on the balcony and when the barking began he chided the dog, "Oh. My. God. Hannah. Shut up."

Of course, most people keep their blinds closed.  I suppose there's a reason for that.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

#SOL21 | 04 | A Good Pun

I know you are supposed to prepare your lunch the night before, but like most things I start the week strong and end it...well weak.  What starts as a civilized and orderly meal plan can quickly turn into a mad scramble for food: tossing it slapdash into a bag that might as well be a bindle with a chunk of cheese and loaf of bread.

Yesterday was a middle ground day.  I was taking the time to wash my grapes, but not necessarily taking the care needed to ensure I didn't lose any.  Three or four green grapes popped off of the bunch and dropped into the dirty dishes that, due to another aspect of my life that slowly loses my attention over the week, I had not put away the night before.

I looked at them for a moment and to no one but myself said: "Well that's no grape loss."

Turning to put the grapes away I stopped and realized what I had just said. I smiled, thought that quickly turned into a full-on cackle.  Of course I deliver one of the best puns of my life and no one is around to appreciate my clever word play.  

I immediately sent a text to a friend I knew would get a good groan out of it and left for school where I proceeded to share it with my students.

Their visible cringe was a delight and definitely the sign that I had made a good pun.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

#SOL21 | 03 | Of Swords and Scars

There is a pale scar on my arm from where a blade sliced me open in high school.

It was not self-harm, though it was arguably self-inflicted or at least a result of a stupid decision.  This is what happens when you give a group of high school drama students access to swords that are not exactly approved for stage combat.

I don't remember the exact assignment other than it was related to choreography.  It started as trying to figure out how to come up with a short dance number, but quickly got sidetracked into "Let's try blocking out a fight scene."  Swords were obtained (from who or how I also cannot remember) and a group of fledgling drama students with no training and too many hours in front of movie and tv screens got to work.

I stood at one end of the stage and my opponent -- a boy named Simon -- stood at the other.  We waited for our cue and then rushed each other.  The swords were metal and dull, so we thought them safe.  Simon brought the sword down slowly and I parried.  We worked through a scene where he got to hold the sword to my throat and I broke away by kicking him and doing a roll across the stage.  We thought we were being careful.

We were not.

I brought my arm up to block an oncoming blow and a moment later I felt something wet on my skin.

"Oh my God!  Are you okay?"

I glanced down and saw blood trailing down my arm.  It didn't hurt that much so I shrugged, lowering my own sword now.  "It's just a scratch."

Of course our teacher did NOT see it that way.  She insisted we go back to class and patch it up.  I left my sword and accepted the brown paper towel someone offered me.  Staunching blood with the cheap paper towels they keep in high school bathrooms does not work as well as you might think.  It does not replace a band-aid, no matter how much your dumb high school brain may insist it does.  I cannot recommend it for first aid purposes.

That's how you end up with scars that last into your 30s

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

#SOL21 | 02 | Flamingo Time

In my classroom we write in notebooks daily and in my classroom we celebrate that writing weekly with a Friday Open Mic.  It quickly became a part of our usual routine.  

First, a handful of students read aloud from their notebooks a selection of their choosing.   Then all of of us celebrate their writing with a compliment.  I make a point of complimenting every student who shares, although to save time I only have students give one compliment to one writer.  

I probably get more excited about it than they do -- both about reading and complimenting -- but I think they secretly enjoy getting to hear their peers read what they've written.  After all, it's a peak into a secret notebook that otherwise they do not have to share or comment on.

All kinds of writing gets shared during this time: to do lists, poetry, stories, memories, rants, and even doodles.  I decided I couldn't wait until this Friday for the next one (recent weather has put off Open Mic for several weeks) and so declared yesterday 'Make Up Open Mic'.  

One student shared their to do list that they made during one of the snow days.  Another read about their struggles with belief and doubt in regards to an afterlife -- a bold move in a highly conservative, highly Christian school.  What could possibly follow such a controversial and existential notebook entry?

A doodle of a flamingo with the words "Flamingo Time" scribbled below its stick-like legs.

There were compliments for all of these pieces and as we moved on I realized this is my class in a nutshell.  One minute we are discussing deeply personal or existential matters and the next it's celebratory doodles of exotic birds.

I still don't know what flamingo time is, but it does sound like fun.

Monday, March 1, 2021

#SOL21 | 01 | Of Chasing Sticks

My phone blew up with a series of messages: Tornado Watch, Thunderstorm Warning, Flash Flood Warning.  I looked up from my spot on the couch to watch it all.

The rain came down, though not it sheets.  Despite the warning this was a more traditional rain, fat globules that splashed in the puddles turning to ponds outside my door.  I got up and paused at my glass sliding doors -- movement catching my eye in the creek that was already full with snow melt from just a week ago (was it only a week ago we were out for snow).  

In the flooding creek was a branch, bobbing up and down as it was pushed onwards by the current.  I watched it, because it reminded me of old cartoons where the protagonist would avoid being seen in the water by using hollowed reeds sticking above the surface.  I lost sight of it briefly and squinted out through the trees to catch a glimpse again.

I can't say for certain why I stopped to watch it or why it amused me.  There was some part of me -- ancient lizard-brain perhaps -- that wanted to go out into the storm and follow it down the creek.  I grinned as I caught sight of it between a gap in the trees.  There was the little branch: bob, bob, bobbing along before vanishing out of sight completely as it was swept off to parts unknown. 

It's departure marked the return of my more rational side.  There was no need to go chasing sticks down in the rain.  By this point the earth itself was half water -- squishy and squelchy underfoot.  I knew because I'd made several attempts to take my dog out to potty and had yet to get much result.  Even he didn't want to go out in this mess. 

I turned away from the window, content to listen to the rain instead.