Slice of Life: Confusion and Being Human

My #nerdlution15 challenge is a warm up for my SOL post.

Today’s word: confusion

Confusion — bewildered, baffled, confounded, mystified.  In a tangle of knots. Not knowing which end is up. The state of confusion is a place where we are lost and sometimes frustrated verging on the edge of anger and despair. We feel it’s our fault. Clearly we aren’t that smart or perhaps we are losing our mind. Or maybe someone is playing a trick on us; changing the rules mid-stream and not letting us know. Laughing behind our back. That is where the embarrassvertical confusionment comes in. A confused person is one who doesn’t understand their world or situation. But wait, is confusion a cultural shame? Why shouldn’t we view confusion as the necessary precursor to clarity?





If you haven’t read Anna’s One Little Word post, you should. Her words helped me find mine.

Time and being human are at odds. Humans make mistakes and messes, and the limited nature of time can magnify the impact of our imperfections.

My parents, at 94 and 87, have been each other’s best friend through 56 years of marriage. They have been their children’s and grandchildren’s biggest fans, giving what they thought was the best they could give. They have fought for their independence, never wanting to be a burden. They parented, modeled how life goes; they taught what it is to be human.

They taught me about mistakes.  How mistakes can hurt and be life changing. Number one they taught me to be brave and own my mistakes. To admit to them and apologize for them, no matter how painful and embarrassing. They taught me to reflect on my actions. To question, and if found wrong, rectify my thinking and doing. They taught me to be honest. To be honest with myself, and in so doing made me more responsible for my actions.

This Christmas there was a misunderstanding that grew from confusion and resulted in anger.

My parents refused to see my brother. This was the first Christmas my parents did not see their son. The first Christmas we were not all together.

First there was confusion.

Baffled, mystified were the words my parents used.

I don’t understand what could have happened were the words my brother used.

Then came anger. The feeling of betrayal on both sides.

I tried to piece together the events and the actions, but it was impossible. I had a feeling as to what had happened, but in the end had to rely on what I knew to be true about my brother and my parents.

They have a relationship of over 50 years of love and trust. This had to be a misunderstanding based in confusion that moved to anger.

After a long discussion with my dad on New Year’s Day, he came to believe he had made a mistake. And even if it wasn’t completely his mistake, he saw the need to reach out. “I made this happen,” he said, “I have to make this right.”

The next day, he called my brother and apologized. Not an easy thing to do.

Right after the call, I got a text from my brother, “Dad called, I think we’re in a better place.”


Being human is hard. We react badly at times towards people we love. We make mistakes.  And (if) time is linear, we must make amends quickly. I know my dad wishes he could turn back time and eliminate the moment that precipitated the trouble. But, that isn’t possible, so he did what he had to do.  And I watched, getting instructions on how to be human.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers Blog, to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara, for this space11454297503_e27946e4ff_hto share the small moments that construct and constrain our lives. Read more slices here.

#Nerdlution15 Day 5: EXTEND-ing to It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

If you’ve been following this blog, I’ve given myself a challenge to  write about a word (of my choosing) a day for 50 days. My “rules” are here.

So far, this is fun. Most of the work is in my head and five minutes of writing is quick and  interesting. Some of this stuff I didn’t know until I wrote it.

#nerdlution day 5

Today’s word: Extend


I extend my hand and reach out expecting. I am hoping to be met, to not be left alone.  I extend and sometimes it hurts. I fear I could fail. The possibility of is frightening. The outcome is unsure. I could be left alone, exposed and vulnerable. But I still want to extend myself to someone else, to reach beyond where I was before. The push to extend to find the possible joy is worth the possible rejection and being left hanging. The pain and risk is worth it. I extend and I receive in return I am enriched and benefit from my stretch.


I am extending into It’s Monday, What are You Reading, a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and Sheila at BookJourney.


I love the title of Karen Harrington’s book Courage for Beginners. It perfectly frames the story of Mysti Murphy, a 12-year old, whose world is filled with problems some typical, and some not so typical. 1) She hates her name. 2) Her  “best” (and only) friend has abandoned her in search of a popular girl’s attention, and 3) her father is hospitalized leaving her to contend with troubles at home because her mother is agoraphobic.    She faces “nefarious” situations and people with humor and questioning hope that her best friend will return, Dad will be home soon and Mom will get in the car. Mysti makes you laugh out loud and cry inside as she tells her story.


The idea that Mysti believes her best friend will return and all things are going to be ok will have my 5th graders wondering: why doesn’t Mysti see her so-called best friend for what he is, and why is she kidding herself. That is exactly what I want my students to be thinking as they read Courage for Beginners. Wondering and making theories as to why Mysti doesn’t face the realities of her situation.  The challenges she faces are extreme in some ways, but her approach to troubles teach great lessons on how to navigate difficult middle grade years.

#Nerdlution15 Day 4: CONSUME

image by Kristi Mraz

This year I chose just one goal: to write about a word (of my choosing) every day.

My “rules” are here.

#nerdlution day 4.

Today’s word: CONSUME

Consume seems necessary. On the surface that is how it feels but really it isn’t. It feels deep and destructive on some levels. It can take over my soul if I let it. It could take over others. Consume seems a greedy word if let run wild and free. As I consume I might be consumed, that is the risk I face as I dive deep into something. I might be taken over and miss life. Consume in and of itself is not evil. It is necessary to survive but if it is give free reign, ah it will destroy. Consume needs a control mechanism.

image created with canva


Celebrate: A Fresh Start for 2015

It’s Saturday and time to Celebrate this week with Ruth Ayers. Find other celebration posts herecelebrate link up

Five things I loved about last week.

ONE: A clean, organized closet and garage.  I go through this process every year, but I don’t believe I have ever seen our garage as clutter free as it is now. Everything has a place and it is put away. I know it won’t last, but for now it is quite refreshing.

TWO:  Not having to set an alarm. Nuff said.

imagesTHREE: My cute little Chromebook, a Christmas present for my classroom.  We have iPads which I am grateful for, but I have high hopes for this little baby. iPads have their powers, but to write, to blog they have limitations. I hope the kids take to the Chromebook as I have with its great keyboard and internet search abilities. And I hope for more of these lovely little devices. Maybe it will inspire some to buy one for their homes or for our classroom. As long as you have wifi access, for  about $200 they are a sweet deal.

FOUR: One little word(s) have been sprouting up everywhere on Twitter. Many of you who celebrate weekly have been doing it for years. I tried it out for the first time last year.  I love the simple idea that one little word can guide your thinking, your focus for the year. It’s sort of a mantra, a subtle undertone, or  soundtrack for your year. Last year, my OLW, wonder led me on a great journey, and it is still with me. This year I’m growing my ideas around my new OLW, listen. I loved listening to Elise Cripe interview Ali Edwards on her OLW journey.  Check out Ali’s blog foe some wonderful resources.

FIVE: Beginning #Nerdlution15. Last year nerdlution was born as a way to spread the nerdy (think Nerdy Book Club) attitude in other places of our lives. The idea is to commit to something for 50 days in order to create a new habit or mindset. This year I chose just one goal: to write about a word (of my choosing) every day.  My “rules” are here.


created by Kristi Mraz

Today’s word: Mediate.

Mediate. In the middle.Often between two extremes. Looking to find a point where both sides are at ease. The job of a mediator is one who has to guide or help find that sweet spot of comfort. Where the polar opposites can sit beside one another in peace. I have been the mediator. This has been my job of late, to mediate. I picked up the phone to call my brother. Not an easy call. Part of mediating seems to be measured honesty. I know that does not sound complete. Maybe it is better to see steps in mediation as sticking your toe in the water, just a bit. Showing a bit of the truth, getting people used to the idea so they can put themselves a little further into the lake. One person on one side, the other across the lake. Mediation takes place on the wooden raft in the middle. To get there it is a bit scary for all parties and the mediator has the very difficult job of coaxing each party closer towards that warm safe raft in the middle.


Happy Celebrations and Nerdlutions to all.

Word-a-Day #Nerdlution15 Challenge: ROLE

Hello #Nerdlution15 !

I saw it pop up on Colby Sharp’s blog with the great Kristi Mraz graphic and of course I had to join.


What to do?

Something simple.  Something I’ll make a habit of.

Something that won’t be impossible.

I found my OLW for 2015: LISTEN, and strangely, that word seems to be propagating more words! Yesterday, role popped up. I turned it around and looked at it; considered how it worked in my world. And in that moment my #nerdlution15 challenge came to be: a word a day. Thinking about words pleases me. Completely nerdy.

A Few Guidelines:

  1. A word qualifies if it lingers
  2. Research is important
  3. When I’m ready, I have five minutes on the clock to write.
  4. Where I write is optional

Today’s word: Role

My role in my family takes on various personalities. It is an interaction of emotions, of people and their current needs. My role morphs with the role they take on. Sometimes the role switches unexpectedly. When a parent gets sick, a child is forced into a role that is unfamiliar. The parent as well. The outcome dubious.

As children at play we took on roles easily. Tried on a costumes and then took on the role. It was an experiment. Temporary. No real commitments. In fact the process of putting on the hat, the dress was an opportunity to become something that might give us a glimpse at what we might want to try on later in life. The doctor’s coat and stethoscope and we were a doctor. In control and all-knowing. Take it off and we are ourselves again. How closely does life imitate play I wonder.

The flexibility of our roles is necessary. Our role can define us in the moment. The temporal nature of the role is interesting. The changing nature of roles is child’s play but when we grow up dangerous if we take our roles as who we are.

Welcome 2015: My One Little Word

A new year, a new one little word.

My 2015 OLW has been with me for a while. It’s been lurking, hanging out with wonder, my 2014 OLW. Waiting in the wings. Helping out when needed. Saying here I am,  psst over here. I’m here.

I worried that this word was too direct. Too single minded. Too pushy. So I tried on a few others. Some words were beautiful and might fit someday, but not right now. Some words were tempting. They looked magical.

But this word kept whispering in my ear. Driving, I’d hear it on a podcast; browsing through a magazine at the grocery store, there it was again. It could have been the Honda Accord phenomenon. You know, the thing that happens when you buy a Honda Accord and then you see that car everywhere. You’re sensitized to something, so you see what was there all along. Which brings me right back to my one little word’s promise. The promise to see what I’ve been missing, what was there already. And it has nothing to do with the visual.

You see, I’m not taking it all in. My thoughts and words are strong and often overpower other words. I’m not really listening.

I thought I was listening in my classroom. I quieted my voice, and made a space for student voices. I recorded their thoughts in my notebook. I started to capture their words with my phone.  I continued to jot and ask follow up questions in response to or to solicit more.  Later, I’d review their thoughts, play the recordings to flesh out my notes. I was stunned: there was so much I did not process initially.

What was said was filtered, perhaps hidden, by my thoughts. I had tried to create questions that were open ended that showed no prompting or bias, but my understanding was skewed. Sitting at my dining room table, reviewing student’s voices I had recorded, LISTEN stood up and said pay attention.

I am not taking it all in. I ‘m hearing what I am listening for, or as Gordon Hempton, an audio ecologist, calls listening “for something in particular.” I had no idea.

I thought I was listening to my daughter. She’d say you never listen to me. I thought that was just the typical teenage cry. Now I wonder.

I wonder, what else am I not listening to?

Here’s to this year’s OLW.recite-14h15lu