#sol17 Day 18: Conversations with Colleagues in Cars

thelma_primaryPart of being a board member of the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE) means spending a couple of Saturdays a year with other English teachers making plans for our upcoming conference and other various responsibilities. Our board is comprised of a range of educators from different levels (high school, community college, four-year colleges), active and retired, and from across New England.

Often, I travel to the meetings with my former colleague. We used to teach together before she made what has turned out to be a fantastic move for her to a different school. As parents of young children, we don’t see each other nearly as much as we’d like. However, we’re able to catch each other up on the latest about our children, muse about teaching, and spend the majority of our time, often, talking about the hard parts of mothering during the time it takes to get to the meeting.

There, in the car, we have the warts and all talk: about how it’s easy to lose yourself in the midst of trying to care for others; about how sometimes all you want is a break from everything and what to do when you can’t get that break; laughs about how we finally extract ourselves and how that feels and musings about why we don’t do that more often.

It’s as though we know we have 31 miles to pack in as much self-care as possible to last us until the next meeting. When she dropped me off after today’s meeting, I told her that I had been looking forward to today all week. Somehow, I knew that once I opened the door, sank into her little silver Civic, and fastened my seat belt, I could exhale, that the commute to the board meeting was, really, the ideal way to set up what is always a productive day doing work that feels important.

One year ago: #sol16 By the Book

Thelma and Louise picture (credit)


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

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#sol17 day 17: Letter of Recommendation-Recipe Reviews

One of my favorite writing assignments is modeled after the New York Times’ Letter of Recommendation, “celebrations of  objects and experiences that have been overlooked or underappreciated.” Students have written about the best topics: Chap Stick, street performers, BBQ potato chips. This is one of a few other assignments intended for writers to pay attention to the little things that are, when we notice, quite big, indeed, and one that students love every single time.

ReviewsThis morning, I was reading a Cod Cakes recipe. I’d opted to do much of the prep work before school because I knew I’d never have enough time to let them chill for 30 minutes this evening when a hungry toddler’s stomach demanded otherwise. What pushed me to that choice, particularly knowing that chopping, browning and forming the cakes would definitely make our attempt to leave the house that much more chaotic?

The reader reviews. While I did not read all 160, I did read what I considered a representative sample. I also read Sam Sifton’s response to someone who lamented that his cod cakes had fallen apart. Sifton insisted they had to be chilled. That was the key.

And because so many people had already made the recipe and rated it highly, I conceded that if I wanted cod cakes with at least a fighting chance to be as good as Sam Sifton’s, well, then, I should make some effort to let them chill in the refrigerator before introducing them to my cast iron skillet later tonight.

Reader reviews about a recipe are a rabbit hole. I now try to read them with a timer in hand. For every recipe I think I want to make, it’s only a moment or two of scrolling before I’m either second-guessing myself, making a list of amendments to the recipe, or high-fiving myself on selecting what seems to be a good meal. I’ve also learned that people write recipe reviews with a couple of intentions: to call something a good recipe only after they’ve made it their own (thereby changing the original recipe, which, then, as it stands, seems that that would change the original recipe and not garner an excellent rating, but, okay, duly noted); to comment on the picture the original recipe posted (and they haven’t made the recipe yet but just wanted to say it looks “delicious”); or to complain: someone tried the recipe and hated it and/or it didn’t work for their child/SO/family. For these reasons, reviews must be read with a bit of levity.

I give about as much consideration to the reviews on a recipe as I do the recipe itself, largely because if a bunch of people are complaining about something, then they’re usually on to something and the truth is somewhere in between. My brilliant colleague, Michelle, and I have similar approaches to reader recipe reviews. We might be enamored with a photograph of something delicious on a plate, but we scroll right past the narrative that accompanies the picture to land ourselves smack in the midst of the reviews. That is where the meat of the recipe is, if you will.

Bon appetit.

One year ago: #sol16: Holders of Memory


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

 

#sol17 Day 16: Thank You Notes

Growing up, writing thank you notes was always part of receiving gifts. I vaguely remember it usually happened in a 24-hour span: open gift, ooh and aah, pull out some pretty paper and write a thank you note. Find a stamp–which my grandmother always had in abundance–address the envelope and either walk the card or letter out to the mailbox beside the road that evening, or wait until first thing the next morning.

Receiving gifts was a cycle that was completed only when the thank you note was mailed. It was a habit my grandmother started with me when I was young, and I probably only signed my name to start, progressing to more formulaic thanks as I got older until I evolved to be able to write thoughtful, genuine notes of gratitude.

I picked up a penchant for lovely paper along the way. I might have several boxes of correspondence cards stored in a drawer. Might.

Recently, I realized that I seem to have accumulated more pieces of lovely paper than were actually being used. Blame never having stamps on hand, blame email (my grandmother would probably lose her mind over that one), and blame self absorption.

What was once an ingrained habit had became rusty with lack of use.

Muscle memory is a fantastic thing, though. For the last few months, I’ve been writing thank you notes. Real ones. Some on lovely paper. Some on copy paper that I embellish with doodles I find on Pinterest. Lots for the many people who give E presents.

The more I write, the easier it is, and, miracle of miracles, the happier it makes ME, the one writing the note! I think that feeling of personal joy was not as apparent when I was younger. Back then, I’m sure writing thank you notes felt more like a chore than anything. At present, however, writing thank you notes is a reflective, mindful exercise. I’m able to write about what the gift meant and how it impacted me (or us, if it’s a gift for the both of us). I sit at my tiny kitchen table remembering, writing, and being thankful that someone thought enough of me to send something of meaning. I’ve even begun keeping a few cards near my journal and other writing supplies to make it easier to dash off notes.

The least I can do is write notes of thanks and teach E to do the same. (He already has his own lovely paper.)


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 Day 15: 42

I am 42 today. I made my own birthday cake, with E’s help. And tonight, we had a little dinner at our local favorite restaurant, came home, lit the candle and sang Happy Birthday. We mostly ate the frosting (brown sugar caramel over a white cake). He is my child, for sure.

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One year ago: #sol16: So Fresh and So Clean (Clean)


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 Day 14 Catalog Poem for a Snow Day

My awesome colleague Michelle is always quick to remind me that the energy I direct to any situation determines how it plays out. Because I have lived that out in practice, I decided to have an enjoyable snow day with my boypie. And, because it seemed poetic, of sorts, I offer the following catalog poem as today’s Slice of Life.

Snow falls, and I sense the building crescendo behind my right eye signaling a migraine.
Snow falls as I creep from my bedroom and onto the couch in the living room, pushing aside his owl pillow and a hungry kitten and falling asleep again.
Snow falls as I hear “Mommy! I’m up!”
Snow falls and, in quick succession, he eats breakfast, builds a fort under the table, and washes his trucks with a paintbrush and a cup of water. I do want to scream because while it seems that hours has passed, I realize it’s only been 20 minutes.
Snow falls: time for a call home to my mother and sister while E squeals with joy, asks them the same question over and over (and they answer it!), and tells them he is ready to see them soon.
Snow falls and it’s time for a Paw Patrol marathon for him. Online shopping for me.
Snow falls. Nap time. Finally. Back to my couch for the episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” where Izzy is going to die. Then, a quick click over to the more comforting rerun of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Snow falls and Kelly, Dylan and Brenda make this the best day ever. At least for the next 20 minutes until his nap is over.
Snow falls and we’re in the after nap homestretch. Because it’s a snow day: MORE Paw Patrol.
Snow falls and I remember how much I love baking. I try a new recipe for my birthday cake this year and E joins me for a moment to stir the batter, lick the beaters, and parade around the kitchen in his apron. He’s nearly naked and we have a dance break before he leaves me to complete his television watching.
Snow falls. Dinner time. I finally master how to cook the perfect pork chop. We eat them, while I admire how brown and savory they are, and I eat both of our kale and beet salads (because he won’t).
Snow falls: teeth brushed, 10 Tiny Babies read, boypie tucked in, sleepy head kissed.

Snow falls and I’m back on my couch, marveling at what a changed attitude can do to make this snow day a day of grace.

One year ago: #sol16: Patron Saints of Parenting


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

 

#sol17 Day 13: That Day That Finally Arrives

I’m pretty sure I was delirious when some parent somewhere said, “Don’t worry. Eventually, he’ll be able to wipe his own butt.” I’m sure I stared them at disbelief.

Tonight, while home from school, E galloped into the bathroom, used the toilet, and returned to stand before me, wiggling himself back into his Paw Patrol underwear. When he pulled them up to his satisfaction, he reached back down for his pants, hitching them up around his legs before stopping, unable to work the pants over the rest of his body.

Rising, I helped him with the final few inches to reunite pants with waist and he smiled, joyful at his accomplishment and went back to chasing the cat.

I sat down, proud of what E can now do, and cried. I find myself so underprepared for these moments of transition and I have become so close to the verge of tears all the time. When they ultimately arrive, I can’t believe it because time seems to get compressed and what seemed like such a long way away (an eternity, if you will), happens in an eye blink.

Yet, here we are.

One year ago: #sol16: The Kid Stays in the Picture


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.