Monday morning drive

Yesterday, I awoke early, grabbed some cleaning supplies and loaded them into my car. As I turned right and then left, and then right again, I was lost in my thoughts, making the day’s To-Do-List. I thought about what still needed to be ordered – the box spring for the double bed as her own King-size bed isn’t making this move. It is too big for this condo. I felt content with all that had already been sorted through – many photo albums, every drawer in the many dressers and all the dishes and glassware. Keep and pack. Donate. Throw away. Those three categories acted as our mantra. “Definitely need this!” “Should we let someone else enjoy it now?” “Can’t you let go of that?” “Just pitched that!”

For the past months, my mom and I have spent two to three days a week, going from room to room, from the large China cabinet to the small drawers in her end tables and touched everything in her current condo. By the first week in August, I feel confident that her 2-bedroom condo will be packed with just the things she needs to bring her joy in a one-bedroom condo down the road from where she resides now. My husband and I just purchaced a condo in the town I grew up it. My mom will become our tenant next month, allowing her to be blocks from the church community she loves and provide her with the safety of a building with an elevator. Her arthritic joints are already celebrating.

Suddenly,, not one, not two but three large deer jolted me out of my thoughts. They entered the 2-lane road I was driving on, about 30 feet in front on me. I glanced in my read-view mirror and saw no cars behind me so I slowed to a stop. With no cars coming at me either, it was just me and these three magnificent-looking animals. Their long legs gracefully trotted across the street and then began to graze in the yard to my left. All three had growing horns atop their heads. I simply stared at them. In the next moment, I spotted a car approaching me from the front and I flashed my lights as a warning. The approaching car slowed as the three deer stepped across the surburban home’s front yard and headed toward their backyard. I returned to driving and hoped the deer would stay safe today.

Moments later, I parked my car in the condo’s parking lot and my phone dinged. I pulled it out of my purse and saw my friend had sent me a text message. He often will share a photo with me form his morning walk. Today he sent me this photo:

I texted him back, sharing how I had just seen three of the same animal.

His reply:

As I read the article about the Deer Totem Meaning, I started to believe that the deer was my spirit animal today (and maybe this summer), guiding me, times three. Its description resonated :

By affinity with this animal, you have the power to deal with challenges with grace. You master the art of being both determined and gentle in your approach. The deer totem wisdom imparts those with a special connection with this animal with the ability to be vigilant, move quickly, and trust their instincts to get out the trickiest situations.

With determination, I dropped my phone back in my purse and grabbed the cleaning supplies. I felt ready to gently deal with the remaining challenges of this summertime move.

What’s your spirit animal for today?

Sunday at the Bakery

I have a Saturday and Sunday morning routine. I walked to my neighborhood bakery, buy two treats, walked back home, cut each in half, place the mismatched halves on plates for my husband and I and sit and eat while reading the newspaper.

My bakery specializes in scones and breads. They also only make so much each day so when they sell out, they close. Because of this I aim to get there when they open at 8am so I have more buying options. Last week I ordered a Strawberry scone and a slice of lemon poppy bread. However, I left wondering if it might be time to create a new weekend routine.

During the pandemic, this bakery only opened their door and had a mobile counter placed in the doorway. One worker stood and waited on one person at a time from this spot. No one entered the bakery and customers waited dutifully, one at a time to place their order, pay and leave. All stood 6 ft apart along the sidewalk outside of the small strip mall. One by one, orders were placed in the open air. This system stopped as Covid numbers in the area dropped and now all customers enter into the shop which is only big enough for about 10 people to stand and wait their turn to order.

On Sunday the bakery was hopping. As I pushed their door open, I counted three poeple to my left in line between me and the counter. Then along the side of the counter, where all the pastries sit only separated by a glass partision, another 3 people stood, looking at all the choices. And three bakery staff were taking orders. I glanced up at the chalkboard sitting on the counter listing all the options and started thinking about what I’d order.

Then the door opened behind me. A dad walked in, moved right past me and his 2 sons followed. The 2nd one stepped right on my sandled left foot. I jumped and moaned a bit but no one noticed what was happening to my foot, including the boy. He walked on to stay with his dad who was now looking at all the choices through the glass. As the person at the counter paid and left, I moved up a little and another man entered and asked me (what I thought was a stupid question), “Are you in line?”

“I think so” came out of my mouth. Then I heard one of the bakery staff say, “I can help the next customer” and the dad with the 2 boys spoke up and ordered.

Finally, I exited the crowded bakery with my order and a bruised foot. As I walked home, I wondered if I needed a new weekend morning routine.

Nudge to revise

“Can you add more about your mother? Did she ever work?” stated my one writing partner after I read aloud my draft. (which I posted last Tuesday and you can see HERE).

I awoke early last Tuesday morning and drafted and posted that slice at one Starbucks. Then drove to meet up with F & B at another Starbucks at 10am for our first of the summer writing club meetings. This has been a happy habit of ours for the past several summers. As I drove, I was already thinking of a few revisions. I felt I had rushed the ending so I chose to work on my slice some more during this time. B wanted to write about her garden and F arrived with no set idea but our celebration of her recent retirement and her sudden broken iPad gave her two. We set the timer for 30 minutes and wrote at the same outdoor table in silence. When my phone alarm sounded, I offered to share first. As I read my writing aloud, F & B listened with full attention. Then both offered compliments and suggestions.

As a write, it is so helpful to have trusted “strangers” listening. They make me aware of rushed, confusing or missing parts. Today, I took their advise and added more about my own mother’s story to my last week’s slice and pressed Update, all because I am lucky enough to have F & B as my writing partners who nudge me to revise. I am doublly lucky to then be a part of this virtual writing community which gives me a place to share little moments and which ultimately keeps me writing.

Do you have any trusted, in-person friends who listen and offer writing suggestions?
Do you ever return to a slice and revise it?

Laws and Women

Today, in light of the Supreme Courts recent ruling, I find myself reflecting on both women’s rights and on the women in my family.

I just read about the 19th Amendment HERE to remind myself of the date it passed – 1920. This amendment legally guarantees American women the right to vote. Yet, as I read on, I realize it should instead be more specific and say white women, stating that “Decades of struggle to include African Americans and other minority women in the promise of voting rights remained. Many women remained unable to vote long into the 20th century because of discriminatory state voting laws.” (from National Archives)

Those words, discriminatory laws, stick with me as I remember my grandmother, Isabel. (I wrote about her HERE back in March). When describing her career working at American Security Bank, I briefly state “She had to say her name was Miss Isabel Sulzer because a married woman couldn’t be hired”. A discriminatory banking law would not hire Isabel unless she hid her identity as a wife and mother. So she hid this part of her life and took the job and earned the needed money to help raise her family. She continued working in this way for 30+ years at the bank. Such a law, created by the white male bankers who were fine with her skills, devotion and work ethic to the bank, allowed those same men to ignore her whole identity. They never took the time to see her as a woman, with a life beyond the bank as a wife and mother and grandmother.

My grandmother and grandfather valued education and ensured their one daughter attend the neighborhood Catholic school and two years of college before she married. They were thrilled when their daughter became a wife and then a mother. They embraced and spoiled their five grandchildren. My grandmother must have celebrated when her daughter was seen by all as a wife and mother. No hiding of her identity was necessary for a woman marrying in the 1950s America. My mother first was a a homemaker and mother to five. Once her husband chose to start his own business, she jumped in and used her secretarial skills to send out the billings and record the payments, as if she had an accounting degree. When her husband died suddenly at age 55 from a heart attack, she went on to run his company until she retired when she turned 65.

Now in 2022, it seems America is returning to a 20th century practice, when women must again hide and lie due to a law created by white males. My grandmother’s two female great-granddaughters purposely vote. These same two women, my daughters, purposely are choosing to live in Europe, one in France, one in the Netherlands. They both value living in a country where healthcare is given to all. They both value living in a country where parents are given time off when a baby is born. They both value living in a place where women are allowed to make decisions about their own bodies.

Back in 1920, as Isabel turned twelve, her mother could celebrate how her white daughter would grow up with the right to vote. Now, over a hundred years later, I see laws made by white American men causing my girls to leave America. If or when I have a granddaughter, I wonder what life will be like for her? Will she be able to share her identity fully and freely? Will her country treat her with respect? Is there anything I can do to help? Today I reflect on laws and the women in my family but I am a bit too numb to make a plan of action.

Reflection of my 2021-2022 school year

Last week, I read Juliette’s reflection and today, I follow her 5-4-3-2-1 structure.

5 Things that Made Me Smile
1. Planning and pulling off a successful Teacher Research conference for my district. I personally guided nine cohorts, helping 40 teachers choose a topic they were interested in researching. Then after a moving Keynote speech by Ellin Keene, 20 teachers shared their research story on the 2nd to the last Wednesday evening of the school year. Reflecting on ALL this smart works brings smile to my face!!
2. Guiding my entire staff and then guiding all 800+ students to create an Identity Web, a strategy I learned from Sarah Ahmed in her book, Being the Change. This action helped teachers and students to see all aspects of the people in our school. As an ELA teacher, it helped me connect books to students with the goal of the book acting as a mirror. All should see themselves in a book!
3. Seeing a passing score on the state test from the student who simply spent time in my classroom reading their choice book. This proved to me that we get better at reading by reading!
4. Planning and ending the year with author, Leah Henderson as I wrote about HERE. Her message to “Be open to the possiblilties” will serve me well as I start summer and then another school year in the fall!
5. Structuring my ELA department meetings each month to include a read-aloud and a quick-write. Since we teach reading and writing, I was proud of us for spending time doing what we teach.

4 Words to Describe my School Year
1. juggling. 2. leading. 3. learning. 4. rookie-year as an ELA Coach

3 Plans for my Summer
1. #SummerofNana – I will be helping my 87-year old mother move from 2-floor walkup, 2-bedroom condo to a 1-bedroom condo in a building with an elevator. Thankful for the gift of time this summer to help her!
2. #read&write – I plan to post every Tuesday, something. I plan to read LOTS!! HERE’s a photo of my stack. Just finished Loyalty by Avi – WOW!! Check it out!!
3. #Get Organized – I plan to organize my own clutter and also my finances. I just finished year 29 as a teacher. How many more to go? Maybe it is time to start making a plan, especially since my daughters will both be living in Europe. Maybe I should have a more flexible job so I can visit them? Time will tell!

2 Things I Learned this School Year
1. I learned that it REALLY is important to KNOW my students’ identities.
2. I learned to LISTEN to both staff and students before acting.

1 Goal for my Next School Year
1. I want to grow as a stronger antiracist teacher – I attended a book event with Ibram X. Kendi last Wed. I bought his books, How to Raise an Antiracist and GoodNight Racism. With lots of summer reflection and reading on this topic, I do want this to be my goal for the 2022-2023 school year. I still humbly have lots to learn and then use to inform my white woman actions.

“Be OPEN to the possibilities!”

She stood holding the mic, stepping back and forth across the front of the auditorium in her red canvas high tops and a jean jacket, the perfect outfit to connect with her middle school audience. She started by sharing where she gets her ideas.

When writing this first novel, it was a photograph of a boy, sitting on a wall by the sea in Senegal.

It was walking outside her front door in DC, a place, and always seeing people protesting that inspired her to research 25 marches to become this nonfiction picture book.

For Daddy Speaks Love, it was her friend’s words telling her what George Floyd’s daughter said. She hadn’t even her the daughter speak the words but her friend told her about it.

For The Magici n Changing Your Stars novel, it was her dog,(my favorite inspiration story!) He “paid his respects” to a statue in Richmond, Virginia while they took a walk together. She believes her dog asked her, “How will you pay your respects to Bojangles Robinson?” She did it by naming a character in this novel after this example of Black Excellence (as she did of ALL the characters in this novel).

For her Memorial Day picture book, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (his last book to illustrate before he died), it was also a photograph but not one she took. It was taken in the 1800s of black children gathered at a memorial service. With Floyd’s character, Eli, she told this story she researched of the first Memorial Day in Charleston, SC.

She shared with this audience, made up of 250 sixth and seventh graders, that ALL creative inspiration comes from words, pictures, names, places, people, moments. Then she said the one thing to remember from her talk today is this:

BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITES!!

This is erfect advice to hear as we all get ready to begin our summer vacation!
Thank you, Leah Henderson! #AuthorAreRockStars

NOTE: READ and enjoy ALL books by Leah Henderson. Schedule her to visit YOUR school.
She has such a lovely command of a school audience, amazing writing advice to share
and a powerful message for teachers and students!

Summer Reading Stacks

My last assignment of this 2022-2023 school year is planned.
Students will reflect on ALL they read this year and make a plan for what to read over the summer break. First, they will look through their Reading Log (a slideshow with four slides where they posted book covers of books read, one for each quarter).

I also gave them an organizer and asked them:

  • to notice the authors whose books they chose to read.
  • to notice the format they like to read (graphic, picture book, novel, audio, etc.)
  • to notice when they got hooked into a series
  • to notice the genres they read
  • to notice who recommended they read a book

Then I will have them completed this sentence: This year as a reader, I am proud of ___.

I will modeled by sharing what I am proud of as a reader:

  • I read 57 books during this school year.
  • I read books by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Jason Reynolds, Neal Schusterman, Pam Munos Ryan, R. J. Palaccio, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Leah Henderson.
  • I tended to read novels and picture books, some in a graphic format and some in verse format.
  • I did not get hooked into any series.
  • I tended to read realistic fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction. But because I like Neal Shusternman and Pam Munos Ryan’s writing style, I will read their fantasy novels.
  • I noticed I get my book ideas from many organizations: Global Read-Aloud, NCTE, VSLA, Book Love Foundation. Also from when an author visits my school and when my friends recommend books.

The last step is to make a plan to read this summer. I have decided to read both for enjoyment and to read to grow professionally this summer. Here’s my plan in a photos:

Happy Summer of Reading!! What’s in your stack?

Meeting Leah Henderson

I recall reading through the VSLA Conference program and circling “Speed Dating with Authors”. If you know me, you know I attended this session. I’m the one who buys the hardback of favorite YA authors the day their book comes out. I’m the one who attends book festivals to meet authors in person. I’m the one who uses the hashtag #AuthorsAreRockStars when tweeting about an author visiting my school. This session at the Virginia State Literacy Confernece in April drew me in.

During the 2nd round of “Speed Dating”, I sat down in one of the 8 chairs arranged in a circle and the author Leah Henderson was sitting next to a chair holding 5 books – 2 picture books, 2 novels and a nonfiction text about protest marches. As she spoke, sharing about each of her experience becoming a writer and about her books, I discovered she lived in DC. Right then, I knew I wanted her to visit my school.

Now in just 10 days, she will visit! To help prepare the students at my school, I made this SLIDEDECK. The students can choose one of her books on slide 2, click the cover and it takes them to another slide. There, they can listen to either me read-aloud the book or listen to a video I found of Leah reading the book. I added some discussion questions and a quick write prompt to each slide, too. I learned from my school librarian how to hyperlink slides, making the deck feel like a “Choose Your Own Adventure”. I can’t wait to start using this today with my students. And I really can’t wait until June 10th! What a perfect way to spend our last Friday together at school – an author visit with a local author. #AuthorsAreRockStars

NOTE: I have now read ALL her books and recommend ALL of them!! I finished One Shadow on the Wall this weekend and am so glad I got to meet Mor and his sisters and “travel” to Senegal. Add ALL her books to your Summer Reading pile! And feel free to use my slidedeck with your students, too!

Hope

I glanced at the clock to find it was only 3am. Yet, the light filtering through the bedroom drapes told a different story. Confused, I shifted, focused and instantly could tell why. The full moon was transforming night into a early dawn. I readjusted my pillow and laid on my back, staring back at this natural wonder.

“That will be $20.10 and ready in 15 minutes,” I heard. I ended the call, grabbed my purse and headed to retrieve a pizza for Sunday dinner. The downpour of rain had just ended. To the east, the sky was still grey but to the west, blue and sunlight were reappearing. So much so that the sun suddenly was creating a blinding light and made it a challenge to drive. It was at the second stoplight that I saw it. First a pale arc. Then, with each passing second, the colors deepened. After parking the car in front of the pizza shop, I stood, looked up and took in this natural wonder. The colors actually spanned across the entire sky in a brillant arc. And to its right, another arc appeared faintly. Like all the humans around me, my smart phone camera app was pressed and I snapped away.

Today, I awoke early due to the moon.
Today, I scroll through my photo feed to see the colors again.
Today, I feel hopeful.

My Daughter’s Wedding / #ProudMother

My daughter, Bridgit, and her partner, Charlie, recently gathered family and friends in Savannah, GA and on the afternoon of May 1st, they stood under an immense oak tree covered in spanish moss and said, “We do” after the officients (their siblings) took turns reading their five personally-written vows.

The night before this joyful event, Bridgit and Charlie invited all their wedding guest to gather at a local Savannah distillery for the “Welcome Party”. It was important for them to orchestrate many opportunities for their family and friends to spend time together because over the past several months, due to Covid, together time mostly involved screens. (In fact, many guests were meeting in Savannah in-person for the first). During the party, Brian and I gladly offered toasts. Brian went first, sharing a few small moments from Bridigt’s early years (yes, a few tears were shed by all) and then I went. Click to read if interested.

Brian’s Toast
Sally’s Toast

The following day, guests arrived via the Savannah Trolley and Bridgit and Charlie arrived by horse-drawn carriage. First, guests mingled and played lawn games – bocce, croquet, giant jenga. And after an hour, all were asked to take a seat under the live oak tree for the ceremony. First, three adorable flower-girls, dressed as princesses, walked across the field and down the aisle as the song “Happy Feet” played. The seated friends and family clapped and sang along as the little nymph-looking girls reached into their baskets and dropped a rose-petal trail for Bridigt and Charlie to walk upon.

Then the music changed to something that sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it immediately. “It’s the West Wing theme song!” a voice in the crowd whispered and I thought, “how perfect”. Both Bridgit and Charlie didn’t just watch this series but were inspired by the Sorkin-idealist-democracy portrayed on TV and spent many years working for progressive candidates. It was finally their work with the DNC to elect Biden that allowed them to cross paths, meet and fall in love. Of course, they were walking down the aisle together to this TV-theme song. This gathering was so them. They stood under a ginormous oak tree glittering with Spanish moss and joined hands. Charlie’s brothers, Joe and Hank, placed colorful braided cords over their hands as Bridgit’s sister, Anne explained this chosen ritual of handfasting.

Bridgit and Charlie explain it best in their online wedding program:
Handfasting – OUR CHOSEN UNITY RITUAL
In a nod to May Day, Beltane and our shared Irish heritage, we chose handfasting as our unity ritual—literally tying the knot! Handfasting is an ancient Celtic ritual in which the hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of two lives. We like that it is a lasting, physical representation of our commitment to each other, as well as a very egalitarian ritual. We made our handfasting cords ourselves, based on color meaning: BLUE fidelity, longevity, strength, safe journey GREEN fertility and growth, love, luck, prosperity, nurturing PINK love, happiness, unity, romance, honor, truth GOLD wisdom, prosperity, longevity BLACK pure love, wisdom, success, strength.

Once their vows were share and the knot was tied, they kissed!! All cheered and waved their miniature May Pole in celebration. Then family and friends proceeded inside and we ate, drank and danced the night away, under the twinkling lights that covered the ceiling.

I can’t think of anything that would have made this wedding weekend better. I am so grateful that Bridgit and Charlie found each other and planned such a lovely weekend in Savannah to celebrate their union with family and friends. #ProudMother

Photography by Carraway Weddings – highly recommend!!