March 14, 2015

Bulldog Pi – Pairing My Love of Bullies and My Love of Poems!

Today is Pi Day!  Hippy yippy Pi day!  I love getting creative with the numbers in any sequence, but especially with the numbers in Pi.  I’m no longer teaching math, so I couldn’t give the time to calculating Pi, but I am teaching writing, so we celebrated that way.  We each wrote a poem, and in the same way that syllables are counted when writing Haiku, we counted words on each line to coincide with the sequence of numbers in Pi.  The first line has three words, the second has one, the third line has four words, the fourth has one, the fifth line has five words, and so on.  I wrote the digits of Pi on the board (to about 20 places).  Below is my poem.

Bulldog Pi

Large beautiful eyes,
Inquisitive, curious, always hungry,
Together they fill my heart.
Sumo is distrustful of people, but Fido loves them.
Feeding time …
Sumo chews carefully; Fido furiously swallows.
They slurp water, mouths dripping.
Time for napping …
Heads hanging off the couch.
Sumo on his side; Fido’s feet stick upwards.
I love to caress and kiss their soft heads,
then to give each a belly rub.
Pink tongues hanging out the sides of their mouths.
Are they smiling?
Definitely happy,
Sumo, Fido, me.

If you would like to read some student examples,  here is the link to today’s post on my classroom blog.  Click on any link in the comment section.

Happy Pi Day!

March 14, 2015


Something inside whispers

Yes… what a good idea.
How warm it always feels
to share a finished
or sometimes just
a mostly finished
piece of writing.

But what to write?
What statement to make?
What vision to share?
What image to shape?

Don’t force it.
Listen for the voice
that’s always there,
always willing to speak.

Be ready to have
a gentle conversation
with your soul,
your heart,
your inner self.

Share the truth
of who you are,
and how you see everything,
and what life feels like to you.

Resist drawing conclusions.
There’s so much beauty in
“what is”.

No one really needs a fancy bow anyway.
Leave your poem unwrapped
give it honestly.

March 13, 2015

The Weight of Waiting

Waiting for some fabulous news,
and how I’ll feel like fireworks
on a full star night when it comes.
I want this.  I want this.  I want this.
Not knowing the method of delivery,
I keep my phone handy and
check my email hourly.
I’m looking at every face,
peering into every set of eyes
with hope.

I’ve been feeling so sure
that I did everything right this time.
And that this proud announcement
will have my name all over it.

day after day after day
I wait
and every sun that sets
takes some optimism with it.

I practice not being too dreadfully disappointed
when I know I’ll be nothing else.
“It doesn’t mean I’m not deserving”
I’m just not deserving enough.
It just isn’t my time
and it’s not meant to be.
Preparing my heart for disaster.

There’s still time,
the news could still come,
but at this point I know I’ll cry either way.



March 11, 2015

Got a Light?

Our school nurse was in today to talk with the students about cigarette smoking.  She began with a short little Youtube video that I couldn’t help but admire for its genius, yet simple message.  The first scenes were of teens and younger adults (who were unaware they were being videotaped) standing around in public places and smoking.  These are images that are quite common.  But what isn’t common comes next.  A child of about 7 or 8 walks up to one of the adults and asks for a light for his cigarette.  When he is turned down, he asks another.  Over and over we see the adults say no.  They even try to explain to the child how bad smoking is.  They say things like, “It can cause heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer.”  “It will make you look older and not in a good way.”  “You don’t want to smoke.  It will make your breath stink.”

After a parade of video clips in which the child receives these responses from different people, we see the same child walk up and had a piece of paper to each of the smokers.  It says, “You are worried that smoking is bad for me.  Why aren’t you worried that it’s bad for you?”

The video went on to say that almost all of the smokers who were given the letter thought for a moment and then put their cigarettes out.  Absolutely all of them kept the note.

My students could see the irony in the messages the adults were giving the child.  But then I also think many children get the “do as I say, not as I do” message more often than they should.  I certainly hope the video lingers with them as it is lingering with me.

March 11, 2015

A Teachable Moment With a Surprise Ending

One year I scheduled my routine mammogram for those days between Christmas and New Years.  Unfortunately, something peculiar showed up.  The doctor was concerned enough that he suggested they do a biopsy.  It was scheduled on what would have been my first day back at school.  Of course I was alarmed, but did everything to remain positive.  Being at school would keep my mind on a million other things while I waited for the results.

When I did go back to school, my students were very concerned and asked where I had been. There was another teacher in the building who had spent the year going through chemo treatments.  The students were all aware of that teacher, so I decided to talk honestly about why I had been absent.

“Well, boys and girls, I had to spend a little time in the hospital.  The doctors were checking to make sure I don’t have cancer.  I had something called a biopsy.”  The students looked at me, knowing I had more to say. “Has anyone ever heard that word before?  Does anyone know what it means?”

The students became very thoughtful and quiet until one little hand shot up accompanied by a “Oh! Oh!  I know!”  I’m sure you can picture the wiggling arm and the confident smile of the little girl anxious to be called on.

“Yes.  Amanda.  Do you know the word biopsy?”

“Yes,” she beamed.  “Isn’t that where they find out why you died?”

I managed to stifle my laughter as I explained that she was referring to an autopsy, but I did say that I was very grateful that I had no need of one of those!

March 9, 2015

Being First in Line … Not Anymore!

Being first in line is not that important.  Believe me.  I learned that in kindergarten.

We were all gathered around the piano in Miss Eucke’s kindergarten class.  It was one of my favorite parts of the day.  The wood floor was warm from the sun that had been shining in for most of the day.  I sat “pretzel leg” facing the teacher and the black piano, singing and smiling.  But then I began wiggling.  “No, no,” I told myself.  “You can wait.  You don’t want to miss singing time, do you?”  The wiggling turned to rocking.  We sang another song.  Oh, how I loved the way the piano sounded and the way we all sounded as we sang together.  Miss Eucke had told me several times what a nice voice I had.  I simply couldn’t walk away from singing time.  The rocking continued, but nobody thought much of it.  It looked like I was just really into the music.

But then the rocking stopped.  I couldn’t hold it any longer.  A puddle grew underneath my dress.

At almost that same exact time, the teacher announced that it was time for recess.  We all jumped up and headed for the door.  After only two steps away from the piano, Miss Eucke spotted the puddle.

“Boys and girls.  Stop please.  It looks like someone should have used the restroom while we were singing.  Whoever it was who wet their pants, please come here.”

No one moved.  My heart was beating very fast.  I was so embarrassed.  I didn’t want  Miss Eucke to know I had done it.  Why hadn’t she sang just one song less?  But I didn’t really want that either because I loved that last song.  It’s the reason this happened.  Miss Eucke asked again for someone to admit it and step forward.  No one did.

“Well, boys and girls, there’s another way to find out who did this.  Everyone go to the cloak room and line up.”  I was fascinated and couldn’t imagine what she was going to do.

Now here’s where I made the biggest blunder of my young life (to that point).  I raced to the cloak room with everyone else in that innate drive that all school children seem to possess to be first in line.  And I succeeded.  Miss Eucke followed us in and announced that she was going to check one at a time to see who had wet underwear.  All she had to do was lift my dress in the back.

Well, as you can guess, my guilt was discovered right away.  Everyone else was excused to recess.  Nobody was really mad that I had done what I had done, just a bit disappointed that I made everyone else late for recess.  I don’t really remember what happened after that … whether my mom was called or what.  What I do know is that ever since that day I never rush to be first in line.

March 8, 2015

It Doesn’t Really Matter Where We Are

It doesn’t really matter where we are.

Could be on the couch, feet curled up under so we can be turned and facing each other.  The tv is on, but only for the dogs who seem to need background noise these days.  The sun shines in through the front window shouting its warmth, but as the conversation continues, the shouting turns to murmuring and in the end emits no warmth at all.  Day has become night, yet the conversation has not lost its glow.

Could be at a restaurant, sitting across the table from each other.  The smells of deliciousness bring a smile to both faces. Interrupted only to order food and drinks, the conversation resumes.  The clamor of the eating hour is full at first, but as the conversation continues, the din diminishes and finally it is as if everyone else has disappeared.  And when it is agreed to grab coats and leave, there is the realization that that is exactly what has happened.

Could be in a car, traveling to any of a number of destinations.  Our eyes inspect the road ahead, but the conversation digs deep into our hearts.  Every once in a while the scenery triggers a new avenue of conversation, much like the road map that guides us.

Could be on the phone, distance between us, but not between our hearts and souls.  Each focusing less on their immediate environment and more on the voice at the other end that brings an immediate familiar coziness to the conversation.

It doesn’t really matter where we are.  Our conversations empty us and fill us all at once.  Out come the moments that are so little and minor, things that don’t seem relevant to any other conversation with anyone else. Out come the reactions to daily interactions with co-workers and friends.  Out come the insecure feelings and the struggles to maintain a level of positivity. Out come the frustrations of failing at personal goals.

And as the load is lightened, it is also filled.  It is filled beyond what one might expect.  It is filled with feelings of acceptance, importance, relevancy, and most importantly a deeply rooted glorious acknowledgement of unconditional love.  What seems like endless blathering to others is as necessary as breathing to us.  We emerge recharged and comfortable, ready to take on another day.  It’s a mother daughter thing.  Amazing.

March 7, 2015

The Frog Thing

I often get asked the same question over and over.  “So when did you get into the frog thing?”

Well, it all started with a special pair of earrings that I bought while on vacation.  They were silver and, well, frog shaped.  I received so many compliments on them, that I started looking for another pair of “frog” earrings.  As will happen with collections begun innocently enough like this, the proverbial snowball rolled forth and we are where we are today.  My classroom, my home and my garden decor are all hopping with frog happiness.

My students know exactly what I will like as a gift.  And I love the smiles that accompany the stuffed frogs, or even better, the handmade frogs I have received over the years.  I have received several made of clay, one from toilet paper rolls, and even one painted on a rock which was then glued onto a paper plate that was painted to resemble a lily pad.  A gift you had fun making because of who it was for is the best kind of gift to receive!  The faces and hugs tell it all.


A while ago I repainted my kitchen walls.  I used a sponge and a mix of colors to create a faux brick look.  I couldn’t resist adding two fake windows and of course the frogs from David Wiesner’s book ‘Tuesday’.  My daughter drew them in pencil and I painted them.  What fun we had!

My favorite part about being known for liking everything frog?  People will stop me to say, “I saw the cutest frog thing yesterday, and I thought of you.”  Yes.  Think of me.  I’m alright with that.

March 6, 2015

Comfortable Surroundings

I’m sitting here at my computer in the bedroom that used to be my daughter’s.  My trusty dog Fido snores at my feet.  I can hear the heat turning on, but the warmth hasn’t reached me yet.  I should really get up and bathe the dogs, but Fido’s snoring is calm and rhythmic.  Teddy bears and hearts are still stenciled on the wall up near the ceiling.  Actually there are lots of pieces of my daughter’s life left behind.  For instance, straight ahead of me on the wall is an old bulletin board that still holds ticket stubs from “Les Miserables”, “Rent”, “Chicago”, and “The Phantom of the Opera”.  On another wall, above her bed, are a collection of pictures from her dance class days.  And on yet another wall are pictures she painted while in high school.  Hanging in the closet are a few prom dresses and a few bridesmaid dresses.

Since she’s been married I’ve been meaning to clear the room out and make it a more functional office for me.  But then again there’s something so comforting about being here with her things.  This has been her room since she was born.  I can so clearly picture her sitting at her little girl vanity with makeup smeared all over her face, or laying on the top bunk with her feet resting on the ceiling, reading a book. As is, this room keeps all of her ages alive for me.  There is plenty that has been forever removed from the dresser drawers and under the bed, but the stuff on the walls is probably going to stay a bit longer.  My choice.


March 3, 2015

Slice of Life -March 2nd

Thirty days of writing.  I’m really going to do it.

The question posed in my classroom today was, “Are you more like a thinker or a doer?  I’m much more of a thinker.  I love to come up with great ideas.  Great big original awesome ideas.  They have to be related to what else I’m doing in just the right way.  They have to be out of the ordinary and not expected by those around me.  There’s got to be the anticipation of everyone loving it.

And that takes more thinking.  And planning.  And thinking some more.  The more well thought out my idea is, the easier the doing of it is.  See?  I’m a thinker AND a doer.  But I spend days, weeks, and months sometimes visualizing and imagining before I’m ready to begin.

But that’s not always true.  There are also those times when I hear of an idea that makes perfect sense to my way of thinking.  I want to just start immediately and think it through later.  Sometimes this works for me and sometimes it creates bumps in the road.  Manageable bumps, but bumps nonetheless.  Nothing that discourages me from diving right in the next time!