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 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.

Week 2, Nerdlution: A Failure and an Aha

nerdlution-button-tiny-01-1This week has fallen a little short in terms of meeting nerdlution expectations.

Excuse number one and only: Parent conferences.
I just don’t have the same time with my students and we have been letting the classroom tweeting slip. Conferences start at 7:30 am and resume at 1:00 pm once the students leave. They continue till about 6:00 pm.  At that point I clean up and organize for the next day of conferences and teaching.

Home by 7:30 to read a few posts, emails and tweets.   I see the #nerdlution stream on tweetdeck.

Oops. Tomorrow I think,  we will tweet.

There has been lots of things to tweet about, but when my student came up to me today ask me about tweeting she wasn’t sure what to say. I told her think about it and come back, we’ll tweet later. She forgot. I forgot. But the thing that sticks with me is she didn’t have anything to say. Hmm.

Note to self. If she wasn’t sure what to say, what did she realize, learn, or do in my class for the last two hours?  Hmmm.

We wrote, read, discussed poetry. BUT she didn’t have anything to say. That said volumes. Hmmmm.

Got to get on this tweeting thing a little more.

Here’s me with an aha a little late in the game: tweeting classrooms are a little more accountable for their learning. AND tweeting classroom teachers are a little more accountable for their teaching.

Thank you #nerdlution 2 for pushing me. Thank your Michelle Haseltine for hosting our thoughts. Check here for more information about nerdlution.

#Nerdlution Two — Week One

If you’ve heard of Nerdlution and want to know more, read this post from Chris Lehman to get some perspective. Join in if you are so inspired. There is no expiration date and no invitation  is needed. Post your journey on Michelle Haseltine’s blog on Thursdays or tweet #nerdlution.

So far, week one is on track.

Goal #1  Check!  My  Slice of Life post this week brought some wonderful feedback. The Slicers are an amazing group o storyteller teachers. Read some of these posts if you want a boost!  The support I received in comments this week filled me with the energy to meet my student writers right where they were on Wednesday.

Good news: the reluctant writer of my post had two meaningful stories he was planning on Wednesday. Both were memories of moments that have shaped his “inside and outside smarts.” A huge leap from his I-hate-writing-stance last week. His success gave me strength and patience for another struggler with a deer-in-the headlights look and nothing on the page. Tomorrow is another day. Thank you Stacey Shubitz for sharing your reluctant writer story. You’re my inspiration.

Goal 2: Tweeting as a class is rolling. While the beginning was a little shaky, we got off several tweets about The One and Only Ivan. Yeah us.2014-01-17 19.09.15

If I had Ivan as a friend I would make sure he had a lot of other animal friends & make sure he had a good owner who cared for him.-Michael

Ivan grew up as human baby..why was he treated that way but now he’s in a domain? -Lydia

I learned from the One and Only Ivan that mack and his wife took care of ivan when he was a baby.Why didn’t they keep him -Jill

Goal 3: The getting to bed on time…not yet. BUT the week isn’t over, and I remain ever hopeful. This is one of those I should because it’s good for me, but something always gets in the way things. Maybe that’s how some of my reluctant readers feel about reading at home. They know it’s good for them, but something gets in the way.  Hmm. Even something to learn from my inactions.

Happy rest of the week!nerdlution-button-tiny-01-1

SOL Reflection: Making the Writing Box Bigger


Slice of Life hosted by Two Writing Teachers makes Tuesdays wonderful. If you’d like to join in the slicing, check out this link.

The very nature of goal setting is to challenge ourselves, to reach for more, to measure our progress, to prove or affirm our place, to keep up, to be acknowledged or some combination of all of the above.  Certain people are goal-oriented; they are driven by the need to succeed. Certain types of activities are based on achieving goals: think sales or sports.

This is all fine and dandy, but it makes me wonder about those times when we don’t succeed and label it failure. It seems so final.

Nerdlution, part 1 had many people saying they had failed.  This tweet from Franki Sibberson made me think:  “I wonder what our #nerdlutions failures mean in terms of our expectations of students and their goals?”  Hmmm… I wonder too.

There are some students in my class that succeed in traditional school ways. But there are some that don’t. For various reasons they don’t fit into the box we call school. They are bright kids and can succeed, but not in the school way. In organization, writing, reading, math — certain students hit walls. Success based on standard measures doesn’t happen for them, yet. They know it and feel bad about it. They feel bad about themselves because they fail to succeed. It isn’t a life sentence, just school. So how can we make the box that means success a little bigger?

Last week we drafted our memoirs.

Forty minutes had passed. One student hunkers over his paper. I walk over. He has written four lines. His piece is all about how he hates writing.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“This is so hard.” His writing tells me more. Writing was easy in first grade, but now it is so hard because there is so much more to pay attention to. Really something worth pursuing with him, but not now. Poor kid’s in a panic.

While he has only written a few lines, what he has done is beautiful. Ironic, I think. This child who hates to write has a gift for it. He knows how to put words together. But at the same time, he feels he has failed. In mis mind he hasn’t written enough.

He says, “I can’t do this, I don’t know what else to say.”

I tell him I know the feeling. I tell him his style reminds me of so many memoir texts that start out, “When I was…” and then continue with a string of “when I was…” moving toward the present.

I ask him if he remembers writing in second grade, or third or fourth? How was it then?

His eyes perk up, “I remember second grade. It was ok then. Things got much more difficult in fourth grade.”

“Ok,” I say, “Start in second grade, then work your way forward, grade by grade. See if that can get you a little more and perhaps you could figure out something along the way.”

He sits back down, leans over his work, and writes. Ten minutes pass. Four more lines written. He seems better with this product, and better with himself.

As we walk to recess, I tell him that he has grit.

“What’s that?”

“That’s when you keep working, even when it’s hard. Extremely hard.  When you do this you have grit. You don’t give up.”

“Oh, sort of like perseverance?”

“But doesn’t it sound cooler – grit?”

“Yeah, kind of like getting messy in the dirt,” he says.

“Exactly,” I say. “You have a way with words.”

And then he runs off to recess.

While I want him to love to write, this year might just be about making writing a little less painful. The real question in in my mind is how he feels about himself and his abilities.

He is being asked to do a school thing defined by a unit of study.  There are other opportunities to write. But this is how he defines writing. Let’s face it, this is how we have defined it. After all, it’s called Writer’s Workshop. The process of writing overwhelms him. There is just too much to remember, to organize and then a deadline on top of it makes it even more disturbing. Bottom line, this type of work makes him feel like a failure.

He doesn’t fit into this particular writing box, and because of this he hates writing. Regardless of what the Common Core says, for the sake of our students, writing needs to be seen as something we do everywhere. Our definition of writing and what we present as writing opportunities needs to expand dramatically.  The box needs to get bigger, making room for students to find a writing space that fits and equals success.

Post Op Celebrations

Thank you Ruth Ayers for creating a place to share celebrations. I look forward to it every week.celebrate link up

Today, I have a post op celebrations.

The Road to Recovery: My daughter got through the first few days of knee reconstruction surgery. It’s been painful and frightening for her and me. We got through the first day all based on belief — belief that it would get better. The second day pain was tolerable; not ready to give up painkillers yet, but not crying. Day three, sleeping till the next pain medication was doable. Day four, she could play with her kitty, and I could be in the next room. Celebrations happen amid the set backs, and hope for more celebrations keep us going.

Nurses Are Angels: Day-in-day-out dealing with patients in pain is a God given gift. I was amazed at the kindness we encountered at the hospital. Every nurse from check in to post op, handled my daughter with care. Once home, I have become that care giver. I can do it for my child. I can be at her beck and call. But it is exhausting. And there are times when, I just don’t know what to do. Last night we called on our neighbor at 9PM for her nursing help. She came to the rescue: concerned, compassionate, competent and loving. I celebrate all the nurses including my beautiful neighbor who care for those in pain.

Being a mom to a teenage daughter is an exercise in patience and maintaining a respectful distance. Closeness recedes. But when trouble happens, things change. The relationship reverts. Amid the worry and the fatigue is the opportunity to care for her in a way I haven’t had to do in a long time. Not that I’d wish this situation on anyone, never. But this week I celebrate the fact that I can care for her overtly. I celebrate being a mom.

Christmas Afterthoughts

I forgot I love honey. My dad loves honey. But I forgot that too.

I love honey on toasted bread. I forgot that as well.

Even when I opened it yesterday, I didn’t remember.

Even when I tasted it last night, I didn’t remember.

But this morning, I slowly remembered, because I got some honey for Christmas.2013-12-26 10.53.07

When I reached for another piece of bread, because I hadn’t had enough, it started to dawn on me.

When I thought, maybe I’ll just take a spoonful of it, or perhaps lick the knife.

Then I remembered.

I remembered I love honey.

And that reminded me of my dad’s love for honey. It is something we share.

Thanks to my son, who gave me honey, unknowing its power, Christmas isn’t over.

This memory was an unexpected gift, delivered the day after.

The best gifts reach beyond Christmas day. The presence of people we don’t see much of and time to savor simple things, gives reminders of what we love and what others love.

Now, I’m on the look out for other gifts I haven’t noticed.

And, I think I’ll go get my dad a jar of honey.

Paying Attention to the Heart

I’m not paying attention. Things that are right in front of me, I just miss.

I can blame this on the hurry and hustle of life. Perhaps it’s my tendency to hyper-focus on certain things. Some would call this obsessive compulsive behavior. Whatever you name it, I tend to do it. And I miss things.

Poetry is one of those things I don’t see.  It has been there all the time, quietly waiting, but I tend to put it aside for other more “important” pressing things. Saying, I’ll get to it later. Right now I’m too busy.

Now is the time. Inspired by Vicki VInton’s recent posts on poetry, I start searching.  Poetry seems to get buried amongst everything else. Lost in between thick tomes, and many emails (thank you for the reminder Vicki, Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac,) it’s easy to overlook. Poetry is unassuming.

Plowing through my book shelves I find quite a few books of poetry. Each one signaling memories, like listening to old songs.

One book stands out, Wind Song by Carl Sandburg. It was published in 1960 and cost 45 cents. Some of the poems were published in 1916. It was purchased by my dad at a used book store. This book, from the heart of my library., is evidence of dad and his loving ways of scouring old book stores for just the right book.

In the front of the book is my name and home address in cursive. No date, but I’m guessing by the script I was probably 11 or 12 years old. The pages are yellowed and fragile. It smells like an old book store. 2013-12-22 11.15.05

Flipping through the pages I find this:

I know this poem and this picture I’d sketched, but I’d forgotten it.

Once loved, this collection now has the opportunity to be loved again.

I’m wondering what my much older eyes will see in these pages.