Random Word Generator

I read on page 40 of Kate Messner’s book 59 Reasons to Write (Stenhouse, 2015) this assignment: “Get inspired by a single word. Go to the random noun generator – click here.
With the first word that pops up, either 1. generate a page of ideas related to that word OR 2. dive in and let that noun kick-start a piece of writing.”
My word – EDGE – I chose option #2 and here’s my story, with EDGE in mind.

I live at the edge of Lacey Wood Park. On one corner is the basketball court. Because the court has lights, it is most busy after dinner. It’s a treat to be outside then, with the dark sky above (is this another kind of edge?), running and dribbling and sweating with the moon watching from above.

An open meadow is adjacent to the court on its one edge. Behind the court is a covered pavilion housing 6 picnic tables. And to the right is a playground.

Then the trees begin. A thick, wooded space fills the remainder of the park. A path meanders through the middle of the woods. As I head down the path on a Saturday morning, the trees get thicker. They are so tall, the sky no longer can be seen. Though it is daytime, the light is not as bright back here in the forest. It is quieter. It is still. It is peaceful within the forest park.

I head through and out the back edge of the park. Now, houses dot the street beyond and cars can be seen and heard. 

Why does all the action seem to happen at the edges?
Why is the middle so still, so peaceful?
What do you like best – edges or interiors?

Note: I had no idea I would write this piece before starting. But having one noun got me to this topic, this piece. Mid-way, I was wondering what this piece is really about (a question I often ask my students in writing workshop. I then searched on my computer, opposite of edge and saw the word interior. Then I started thinking about the actions at the edges and the interior of this park and anything. I love where writing takes me! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for this safe place to play with my writing. Thank you, Kate Messner for your inspiring lesson.

#21 – "add the weather…"

I feel very spoiled. Today, just 2 days after being inspired by Lucy and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at their 90th Saturday Reunion, I was invited to a conference 10 minutes from my house to spend the day with Lucy learning about the Units of Study for Teaching Writing. During her presentation, she had us writing. To make this point: Writers get better with explicit instruction, she told us to pick a moment that happened over the weekend and jot it down.

I quickly jotted:
I walked with Fran, Tara and Donna down Broadway to Deluxe. Once there, we sat at a booth and ate and shared all we learned during the day. 

Lucy stopped us and said: “Try this tip – add the weather to mirror the inner emotional state of the character.”

So now that I have a little more time, I wrote this, trying to use the tip to add the weather to mirror my emotional state:

              “Hi, Tara. Hi, Fran! It’s great to see you in person,” I said as I pushed through the crowded Riverside church. “This is my friend, Donna. Do you have time to grab a bite? We’re starving!”

            “That place you mentioned sounded good. Let’s head there,” Fran said and the four of us began to walk slowly down the main aisle of the church, slowly because he were following the herd of a thousand teachers also leaving a busy and tiring day of learning at TCRWP. As we exited, I pulled my coat closed and zipped it up as a cool breeze reminded us that snow was in the forecast. I was next to my friend Donna, while Fran and Tara followed a few steps behind us. Down Broadway we walked.

       As a cold wind kept blowing as we walked, I wondered about having lunch with these two teachers who I don’t really know that well. Would I, who tends to be shy around strangers, have stuff to talk to them about? Then I remembered that I had met Fran last summer twice – to chat at a coffee shop and then again while attending a week-long institute together. We even spent a whole afternoon together at a piano bar (The Carlyle where the walls were painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author/illustrator of Madeline) followed by dinner. “You have nothing to worry about,” I reminded myself . “Fran is very easy to talk to. I can ask her about her grandson and about books she has read recently and of course, about the writing challenge we are all doing.” 

     As the wind continued to blow, I thought how crazy it was that I get to eat with Tara today. She is one of the TwoWritingTeachers! She is one of the leaders of my favorite blog which sponsors the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge. I guess I am a bit starstruck by Tara. I love reading her blog posts. She always has strong school reflections and stories. And now I’d be sitting in a restaurant talking with her over a whole meal.

     As I wondered if this lunch idea was a good one, I realized it was too late to change our plan. We were  standing outside of Deluxe. I stepped inside and it felt so warm. I unzipped my coat and a friendly waiter led us to a booth. He even agreed to plug in Tara’s phone so it could charge while we ate. I sat down thinking how lucky I am to spend time with these two ladies. And for the next 45 minutes, we all chatted non-stop, as if we have been close friends for a very long time.

PS – Thanks Lucy for the writing tip!
I do think the explicit instruction made my writing better today!!

Why Don’t ALL Houses Have Large Windows?

As I sit at my double-height dining room, gazing out the south-side wall which is all windows, I am watching a squirrel sit in a tree in my backyard, way up high. I wonder, “How high up is he?” I start to imagine myself standing next to the tree’s base and pick where the 5ft mark would likely be. Then I move my eyes up, in increments of five. He appears to be about 50 ft up, just sitting there on a part of a tree limb that jets out and is very narrow. As I sit and eat my cereal, he is eating, too. The sky is brightening, with a streak of pink next to shades of light blue. And then he leaps to another branch and another and another and scurries out of my view.

Just beyond that tree are the backs on the houses on the next block over. All have that typical, double-hung standard house window which allows light in but is too small to see much out of it. I wonder why? Why did the windows my husband designed to be in our new dining room not become the norm? Why don’t all houses have really large windows to observe the outside?

My mind starts to wander more and I start to think of Laura from Little House on the Prairie and the house Pa built on the prairie. It also had small windows. But then, Laura and her family spent all day outside, easily seeing episodes like the one I am viewing. Then she headed inside her prairie house to sleep. So big picture windows weren’t really needed, not to mention cost-effective or energy-efficient. A house’s purpose then was more for shelter than a place for sitting and making observations.

But as I sit here this morning, eating my cereal in my warm home, looking out my energy-efficient windows watching this squirrel, it seems to me that windows could evolve. I am very grateful that my new house has windows that bring the outside in! Maybe soon, all houses will have windows like my house does!

Peek-a-boo and Blizzards

All babies love peek-a-boo!  The baby’s big smile appears when the face they were staring at reappears when hands shift. I contend that the peek-a-boo-er loves this game just as much or maybe even more. How simple it is to delight a baby with a simple cover-up/reveal game! As it snowed and then melted this week, I’m reminded of this simple game.

Last week as the blizzard began and the snow fell, my motivation to do routine “stuff” lessened. I found myself sitting and watching it snow. I snapped pictures showing how the deck bench was collected in inches and the whiteness next to the cedar was striking. I baked cookies because I had time. I watched an old episode of an old series on Netflix because I had time. Then I watched another and another and another. I saw a friend post on twitter that she read a book and added #blizzardbook. So I went on my kindle, bought a book and read and read and read and finished it in a day and a half because I had time. Then I cooked more. And watched it snow more.

As the snow stopped and the clean-up began and the school and Federal Government announced closures, I had more time. Some I used to shovel. Some to do more cooking. Much more time spent reading and watching old episodes on Netflix.

Today I taught again (Feb. 2nd…last time I taught was Wed, January. 20th). My alarm went off at 5:30am. I arose, showered, drove my husband to the Metro and headed to work. I taught 23 great kids all day long. I barely stopped, on my feet all day long, guiding all the lessons and transitions and squeezing in one more thing to make-up for all the days we missed.

A week ago Saturday during the blizzard, the deck bench that gathered inches of snow eventually was completely buried in the snow. But today, I see it again! Somehow when was covered completely by the white blanket of snow, my motivation to do “stuff” also got covered up. Somehow that snow blanket whispered to me to rest. Somehow that snow blanket let me feel a bit like a bear. I hibernated. I stayed in my house. I read stories, watched stories , rested, cooked, rested some more.

I can’t control when the next nature-induced hibernation will come but when it does, I will fully embrace it. Maybe a snowstorm is mother-nature’s way of playing peek-a-boo with us, allowing us to close our eyes and rest. Then, when the white blanket melts away, we smile widely, just as the baby in the peek-a-boo game does, feeling refreshed and motivated to return to our busy, routined lives.

Blizzard 2016

I awoke Friday already knowing I didn’t need to go to school as it was cancelled because a blizzard was predicted to start in the afternoon. I still got up and drove my husband to work. Usually I only have time to drive him to the Rosslyn Metro. “I’ll drive you all the way in. I have plenty of time,” I reminded him. As we headed over the frozen Potomac River into DC, the sky was all white. “If it starts snowing, be sure to head back home,” I warned Brian as I dropped him off.

Back home, hours went by and nothing. “I could have taught today,” I thought. Then at 2pm, like the weather channel predicted, flakes started falling from the sky. They swirled down and started to sprinkle the front yard. Within an hour, Brian texted to say he was heading home by Metro. As I drove to retrieve him from the metro stop two miles from our house, the windshield wipers batted the snow off the car. The street was still black but the sidewalks were now white. As the sky got darker, the snow continued.

I stood looking out on the bench on my rooftop deck and I took this photo at 7:29pm to show the Blizzard’s progress.

And this one at 11:59pm, just before falling asleep.

It was snowing when I awoke Saturday morning and continued to snow all day long. I was warm inside my new house. I happily read a whole book and watched some TV and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and a beef stew and watched it snow and snow and snow.

And then, the next day – Sunday – at 1:18pm, when the sky was blue again I took this photo. It is my rooftop deck but instead it looks more like a playpen filled with white foam and no bench in sight!

I took pictures also of the patio table on the back porch as the blizzard progressed:



When I stuck a yardstick in what looked very much like a BIG white bundt cake, it measured 18 inches!!

This was my first time watching it snow for 30 straight hours and recording its progress.
My feelings started as, “So cool!”
Then, “Yep, still snowing…it’s so pretty.”
To, “Has it stopped yet?”
Finally, “Hurrah, blue sky!”
“Oh, my…this is a lot of snow…”
“Will we ever return to work and a normal schedule?”

As I type this story on Monday, I received a text saying that school will remain closed for Tuesday and Wednesday, too. I get why. No plow has been on my street yet and until one comes, I can’t drive. Brian took a walk today to make sure he can walk the two miles to the Metro stop tomorrow and he can so he will go to work on Tuesday.

And I’ll stay home and watch the white bundt cake out back melt some more.
And maybe I’ll see the bench soon.
And maybe I’ll have school soon again, too.


Celebrate – cable installed in new house today!

Today I celebrate being connected once again to wi-fi and TV cable….

However, it has also been a bit freeing to move on Dec. 23rd and NOT have wi-fi and TV installed in my new house for 11 days.

However, it wasn’t like I was totally unwired. I still had my cell phone but was careful not to do too much on the phone for fear of using up the data allotment. It did give me the opportunity to learn from my daughter that my phone could be used as a “hot spot” allowing me to pay a fee bills online at home on Dec. 31st.

Without wi-fi, my biggest treat was to I stopped binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on my kindle through netflix and just READ!!

I ended up reading 6 books:
1. Who Was Maurice Sendak by Janet Pascal
2. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
3. Orphan Train by Christian Baker Kline
4. Wait For Me by Judith Viorst
5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
6. Platypus Police Squad – The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett Krososczka

And I realized that the 2 netflix DVDs that arrived months ago could be watched without cable hookup. So I also enjoyed watching The Wizard of Oz and The Theory of Everything on my TV screen using my DVD player.

But now I can sit and blog at my dining room table using my newly installed wi-fi. And I’m looking forward to watching Downton Abby tomorrow night on my newly installed cable.

Today I celebrate the friendly cable guy who hooked up our house with cable and wi-fi!

March 12 – My Writing Place

I sent this photo in when asked, Where Do You Slice in March 2015? And it got added to this video made by @blkdrama:youtu.be/onfdjS03fG8

As you can see, I’m at Starbucks. I am not a coffee drinker. I either order a vente hot chocolate, no whip or a vente black iced tea, unsweetened and a sausage sandwich. 

If I go to the Lee and Harrison Starbucks, I sit at the counter facing the large window which looks out at the strip mall parking lot. Not a great view but I like the feel of the large view offered by the large picture window.

If I go to the VA Square Starbucks, I usually walk. It is about a mile from my house. I enjoy the morning walk and then, once there, sit in a booth and write.

If I go to the Chesterbrook Starbucks, I order and then head upstairs. I call it the double-decker Starbucks. I sit at one of the large dining room tables, both next to the large picture windows with a great view of morning horizon.

At all, the piped in music lulls me to my writing zone. I tune out all the hustle and bustle around me and can write. 

If I stayed home, like so many others on the video did, I’d never write. I’d be too distracted by the dishes that needed washing in the kitchen sink, the homework bag filled with ungraded papers and the lack of background music.

At the moment, Starbucks provides me with a great writing place!

However, as soon as my house that my husband and I are building is done, I do think I will be able to stay home and write. Maybe while sitting at a large dining room table in the double-height dining room or in the TV room chair next to this beautiful window:

 I guess I’m realizing that I will always write.
 And I’ll probably always be drawn to sitting next to a great view to get my writing ideas flowing.