Sunday, March 31, 2013

31:31 -- Buntings and Slices...

This winter, I hatched a brilliant scheme -- recreate the seersucker buntings bedecking Magnolia Bakery's ceilings in New York City...for Reid's big boy room.

I was resourceful -- I enlisted the help of a talented friend, who just happened to have in her possession a Cricut system which whipped out the most perfect pennants from preppy patterned scrapbook paper.  She offered me some hints; she'd made buntings before.

I was studious -- I researched bunting construction to ensure I made ours correctly. Effectively.  Stylishly. I read articles, searched Pinterest for advice, and looked at hundreds of pictures on Houzz for ideas to drive my own work.

I was crafty -- After researching, I tried some of my favorite ideas on for size by creating mock versions of potential bunting styles.  I toyed around with the order of paper patterns, the spacing between each pennant on the twine, the strength of the twine (should I double or triple its weight?)...before finding
what fit best for me and this specific project.

I was driven -- I plugged in my latest acquisition, a hot glue gun, one cold evening and set to work constructing as many buntings as the organized-by-pattern pennant stack would afford.  My project deadline was March 1. No excuses.  I dreamed of hanging them up in Reid's room as soon as possible.

Tonight, reflecting on this month's slicing challenge, I connected these two pursuits. After all, they followed similar trajectories...

In February, I hatched another scheme -- slice for 31 days straight and comment on as many other pieces as I had time to enjoy.

I was resourceful here too -- I took the advice Ruth and Stacey offered leading up to the challenge's start.  I followed their hints to write early and organize a bank of pieces to share...if this felt comfortable.  I unpacked past challenge experiences.  I examined my writing territories.  I donned my writer's glasses, looking for awesome amidst ordinary everyday.

I was studious here too -- I read so many wonderful slices this month, and with each one, I took the time to notice what the writer 'was on about.'  How did they do their tremendous work?  And, after I noticed it, I named it -- for myself, for the writers in my comments.  Then, I saved it up in a giant treasure chest of ideas.

I was crafty here too -- The treasure chest of ideas provided daily writing inspiration. I tried them on for size: like the way Ellen Spears writes to her son and addresses him throughout her pieces as, "You...," like the way Christy Rush-Levine used the analogy of trying on slices just like she tries on clothes, like the way Ruth Ayres writes deep and true...unapologetically...always.  These pieces, and many more, pushed me outside my comfort zone to tailor slices that were informed as a reader and then transformed as a writer.

I was driven here too -- The decision to slice for 31 days straight came amidst my return to work from maternity leave.  Honestly, I didn't think I'd make it because sometimes packing bags, bottles, and lunches each evening and rising early each morning to prepare for school left little margin for creativity (or my perfectionism!) to grow a blog post I'd be comfortable sharing.  I stuck to it though, because I knew all my busy e-friends were plugged into the challenge too.  That's why it's called a challenge, right?  Because sometimes there are moments when you think it just may overtake you...

But it didn't.

And there is one reason why: community.  The caring one here who encourages through kind words and meaningful feedback.  The talkative one here who shares bits of their lives to connect with my own.  The faithful one who stops by everyday to see what I'm up to...what I'm trying on as a writer.  The growing one here that, which each passing year, attracts and connects more like-minded teacher-writers who want to capture life's moments through words.

The buntings hang up in Reid's big boy room now...and the 2013 Slice of Life Story Challenge is in the books.  Closure on both projects is tempered by looking toward what's next.  For my family, it'll be updating two baby books.  For this community, it'll be reconnecting on Tuesdays over a few yummy slices.

Congratulations everyone!  And, thank you...

Write on,

Saturday, March 30, 2013

30:31 -- Return debate...

Pulling up to a loading bay full of pickup trucks, we arrived at the blue and yellow Swedish megastore this afternoon. Finally. After a month of trepidation.

And sweat.
And nervousness
And confidence.
And then regret.

The four mixed in a unattractive recipe. One that always left me feeling unsettled, unsatisfied.

$300.  The dresser, although handsome and spacious, was nothing more than a glorified piece of cardboard.  And, better yet, it collected more scratches and dents than an appliance warehouse sale. This is the dresser we bought to stand up to Reid's growing up years.  But, somewhere in the middle of the whole assembly process he didn't even get the chance to test its durability -- because we couldn't make each and every component part (and there were hundreds) fit flush and plumb and...

Disaster.  Drilled holes in backward position does not a pretty dresser make.

Which is why we made the trip to the store again today.  To return it.  

Anticipating an unpleasant conversation with sales staff at the return counter, I folded and unfolded my receipt on my way through the gigantic glass doors that led toward Ikea's inner workings.  I shifted my stance and rocked in place (phantom baby syndrome, I guess) while waiting in line.  I watched other transactions.  I saw an opening with a new clerk...

Politely explaining the defective dresser piece, I felt like a human pin cushion.  She listened...and let me know that she'd seen the same problem this morning but the company doesn't offer cash refunds on products already in the assembly phase.  "Do you want to talk with a manager?"  

Nooooo, but yes.  "Yes, please."

She arrived; I issued my complaint, again.  Nonplussed, she stated that what is returned for cash is the store's jurisdiction and that my research call to corporate for preliminary answers was a waste of time:  "They just tell you what you want to hear to get you off the phone.  We have to check the piece out here to determine the real problem before we can do anything else.  It may be as simple as providing a replacement part or offering store credit."  Stunned at her candor toward corporate policy, I watched them wheel the dresser back to their makeshift repair lab.  Yellow shirts encircled it. Hushed voiced discussed it.  Workers laid on the floor around it. Out popped a drill.

I peeked back from time to time, which seemed to stretch out like a country highway with no real scenery to get excited about except the occasional old farmhouse.  They moved, I jumped.  They stepped closer to the return register, I jumped.  Yet, our destination...our verdict...remained out of sight.

Finally, she returned.  Her unnaturally bright pink lipstick spit out the words that had paved our 100-plus mile trip: "We'll just issue you the refund this time."

The first clerk, the empathetic one, stepped in to finish the transaction.  We glibly chatted while I signed the receipt. 

The sweat, nervousness, confidence, and regret separated and left.  I left too, learning a valuable lesson.

You get what you pay for.
(And, luckily this time, I wasn't stuck with what I paid for.)

Write on,

Friday, March 29, 2013

29:31 -- New life...

I've been nagged every time I'm out running errands...or at a clothing store...or walking past the Easter aisle at the grocery store during the past two weeks.

One voice in my head antagonizes.  "Good moms buy their kids Easter clothes. Matching clothes for siblings.  Look at all these cute tops and bottoms.  They're cheap."  And, the final blow -- "Everyone else does it."

Which, may or may not be true.  However, I heard on the radio the other day that the average Easter expense per child tallies a whopping $150.

The other rationalizes.  "The clothes don't matter.  We have more than enough clothes hanging in our closets to wear something special for Easter Sunday.  That's an unnecessary expense.  And, besides, the holiday isn't about pastel-colored fabrics as stores would lead consumers to believe.  You know this."

So I buy nothing...nothing at all.  Even though I continue my search by knowing what each store offers and at what price.

By today, the nagging followed me around like insistent toddler seeking permission.  I cave.  I want to be a good mom who has cute pictures and builds sweet memories.  Easter clothes are like birthday cakes. The baby and I head toward a close outdoor mall -- the sun feels so nice and we can walk between stores.

The first shop highlights adorable gingham shirts.
The second shop offers nothing; it's picked over by well planned moms.
The third shop boasts cute but expensive seersucker pants that, luckily, don't come in my sizes.

The clock's ticking; we return to the shirts.  Pleased with my diligence and their last-minute sale prices, I pay.

$35 for two shirts and one pair of oh-so-tiny baby khakis; Reid already has his at home.


Not a lot in the grand scheme of things...our western-thinking scheme that is.

But, elsewhere -- wow.  $35 would be enough to provide families with daily necessities.

Safe water.  Running water.  Power.  Clothes.  Clothes that fit...and are clean.

The antagonizing voice quiets.  The smaller voice invites me to reflect on needs and wants, culture and providence, self-sufficiency and submission.

The stillness of our car ride home closes with a bump up onto the driveway. The garage door ascends and while I wait, I notice something...

New life.

Which, isn't that what this weekend is really about?

New life.
New perspectives.
New responsibilities.

The baby sleeps, so I process my thoughts by slicing about them.

And, maybe this whole inner conversation isn't really about Easter clothes; maybe it's much bigger -- like about the kind of steward I am -- which, I know, could use some new life.  I'm being nudged in the manner of my 2013 One Little Word.  Refine.

New life...

Write on,

Thursday, March 28, 2013

28:31 -- Buyers' remorse...

In the store chock full of cheerful little clothes, I waited to checkout behind a woman whose arms were loaded clumsily with fluorescent pink glittery sandals, and sunglasses, and an equally special Easter dress.

"You'll have to get in the next line, Ma'am," the clerk instructed.  Ma'am?  We're peers. You would've been in my kindergarten class, but...  OK, calm down.

With a stylish orange and yellow sun suit in one hand and a tired baby in a pumpkin seat and purse in the other, I followed directions.  Now, I waited behind a middle-age woman and her ready-to-pop daughter.  They were already carrying a bag from this children's store...

I didn't pay attention at first; I hoarded the seconds over analyzing my prospective purchase.  The cutesy little sun suit for my future niece...or the really, oh-so-practical terry sleeper?  The inner debate roared as I celebrated the chance to actually buy pink, ruffly clothes from the girls' side of the shop.

Slowly, the pumpkin seat turned to lead in my arms.
The woolen scarf around my neck turned tight and scratchy.
The chocolate sweater I wore turned into a sauna.
My attention focused on the conversation ahead.

"No, Ma'am, they're not," the young clerk stated.

"Well, you have these little socks and shoes displayed underneath the 40% off sign," she continued her case.

"But, they aren't 40% off.  The sign is for the clothing over there, not the accessories.  The accessories are 25% off."

The expectant daughter chimed in, "Mom, I guess the signage is only for the clothing. That's what she's saying..."

My wondering eyes darted around the store for other onlookers.  There were some. These words sprinkled heavily on them, too.  And, feeling like I had more time than sense at this point, I mentally tried some wishful comments on for size.

Too obvious.

Too offensive.

Too commonsensical.

Too mouthy.

All my quips were completely unflattering, gaping at all the wrong places on my soul. The only answer that fit like a glove was to remain quiet.  I tugged at my scarf and fidgeted, embarrassed for this shopping duo as they filed the clerk down with their words.  I wanted to escape -- but I had Carter's bucks to use.  Today.  I shifted my gaze back toward a row of minuscule bathing suits.

"Well then, maybe you ought to say that on your sign -- CLOTHING ONLY," the insistent mother offered like a slap to the cheek.

The daughter agreed snottily, "Yeah," just one sentence away from echoing her mother's uncomplimentary behavior.

They noisily shoved the sweet, little pink and white striped socks back into their plastic bag and spun  toward the door.  The clerk's eyes were a fireworks display, although her voice was a snowy morning.  "Can I help you?"

"Yes.  You can.  This will be easy," I encouraged, "I just need to buy this sun suit using my Carter's bucks."

With relief, she authored the transaction which took less than one minute.  "Thank you.  Come again."

I walked out to the car, happy that I had tried my remarks on for size before wearing an unflattering one.  I could've looked really ugly...

Write on,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

27:31 -- Plus one...

I snuggled you at the restaurant this morning as we sat across from my friend, Andrea, pleased as punch to be carrying her own little you.  Inside.  At 22 weeks, she dreams of what he'll be like all while staring at you.  Your big blue irises beckon anyone who looks long enough to get lost in their wonder.  She does.  There are nursery plans, and diaper subscriptions, and name discussions.  You smile, and gurgle, in you understand: her words are aimed at me, but her heart is tethered to you.  You are her hope, at 38, after a miscarriage, after five years of marriage.  She coos, imagining what her new life will portend.

I could tell her,
this baby will be the sum of your hopes and dreams,
just like you are.

I could tell her,
this baby will bring you faith and more love than you thought you'd ever know,
just like you do.

I could tell her,
this baby will bring your family together,
just like you have.

I don't want to spoil the surprise though.
Her 'little you' will reveal these blessings soon enough...

You did.

Write on,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

26:31 -- Time's up...

If anything, you start out with time.

After all, there's no point in going to the grocery store if you don't have it.  The aisles, guaranteed, will be full.    The checkout lines, guaranteed, will be long.

You have to have time to go to the grocery store, and I had it today....because one baby didn't want to take his usual three-hour morning nap.  So after a few failed attempts that resulted in a little red face, and small crocodile tears, and one mommy who was tired of waiting for sleep to be productive, we grabbed our list and headed to the store.

Inside the woolly pumpkin seat situated in the back of the cart, one tiny guy rode through the aisles.  He made eyes at me...he stuck out his tongue at me (not offensively, this is his new trick...and it's cute)...he checked out the advertisement art hanging from the ceiling...he watched the shelves blur into a colorful mosaic.  He was pleasant.  We had time.

Until it started to disappear like flour through a sieve.  I couldn't gather it in my hand fast enough to finish our list.

His eyes turned red.
His little voice began to protest,
softly at first and then louder with each pause of the cart.

Our shopping pace increased steadily...and then rapidly...until we made it to the checkout line.

With no time left.

We picked the checkout lane with the shortest line.  In front of us in aisle 12, a caramel-haired woman, with two young grandsons, stocked the conveyor belt.  They were busy with corn and candy and chatter while I pushed and pulled our cart in appeasement.  I sh-sh-sh-ed, gently at first and then with gusto commensurate to my stress level.

Then, the frustrated 'I'm-done-with-this' cries set in.

"Oh, look, boys.  There's a little baby in that cart.  Maybe he's hungry.  You were that tiny once with a little voice like that," she looked at them through the glasses of her memory.  They surrounded around us, offering factual birth order tidbits and information of no consequence.

A polite smile plastered itself onto my rocking body.  Don't stop moving, he'll REALLY cry then.

The three of them returned to mounding and piling and talking and planning...until they stopped, turning toward us again.

"Would you like to go ahead?  I know he's ready to get home and you probably are too.  Please."   With outstretched arms, she bulldozed her perfect piles to make room for ours near the checkout scanner.  With empathetic eyes, she beckoned.

Never one to impose, I gathered my words with mounting confidence. "Yes, I'll accept. Thank you.  We missed our nap window this morning, so now he's over-tired...and well, just...done."

She nodded, backing up her cart.  "Boys, please move out of the way so she can go ahead of us."  They moved, absorbing in real-time the the life lesson their grandmother handed them.

The cashier sensed we were out of time too.  She speedily scanned and bagged baking goods and Easter fare and seven kinds of soup.  Swiping my card, signing my name, and transferring the bags to the cart became one fluid motion moving us closer to the car.

I turned, connecting my dark brown eyes to her green ones.  "Really.  Thank you.  It was so kind of you to make things easier for us today.  I'm grateful."

"It's my pleasure.  I remember those days.  It's nice to be able to help."

And there we all stood  in the 10' x 4' checkout lane at Target, our eyes glued to each other and swimming in her remarkable act of kindness...feeling like we had all the time in the world.

Write on,

Monday, March 25, 2013

25:31 -- Wallflower, Spring

I thought you came, Spring.  I thought you brought along warmth, and flip-flops, and sunshine.  I thought you'd unpack souvenirs of green grass, and budding leaves, and colorful blooms from your travels...once you settled in.

But like in a house full of relatives, where one leaves while the others stay, and one arrives while the others enjoy coffee and dessert in the living room, you came while Winter couldn't bear to part.  Too greedy for the next course.  Too worried he'd miss out if he left early.  Too insecure he'd be so easily replaced.

Our backyard winter wonderland...
So, today, you're both here...although one is quieter than the other. Spring, you're the wallflower relative, sinking into the corner upholstered chair while Winter loudly takes center stage, demanding all eyes on him.  Spring watches the goings-on, while Winter tailors them to his likeness and benefit. Winter flourishes under your observant eye, yet inside feels a little... egocentric...and bossy. All the while, you wait for a chance to jump into the conversation if the time is right.  Maybe.

So, today, we'll be like you, Spring.  We'll sit inside and stare, with contempt, at Winter's nervy frosting outside.  We'll dream of the sunshine, warm on our faces, and the delight in our hearts while we enjoy one of your beautiful days to come.  We'll imagine the baseball games, and trips to the park with no jacket; bike rides with or without training wheels, and washing the car on the driveway.  We'll try on sandals and skirts, bolero jackets and Bermuda shorts in hopes that they still fit, in hopes that we can meet again soon.  For real.  Out there.  With no chills or second guesses.  And, after the fashion show, we'll sip hot chocolate with mint marshmallows because it feels good to be warm...and the warmth with radiate into our hearts and minds. We'll remember what it's been like before...and pine for what it will be again. We'll bring the warmth this time, Spring; next time, though, it's your turn.

Write on,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

24:31 -- Waiting...

We sat today waiting.  Waiting just like we were at a concert, in the upper section, with free tickets that were passed along by a boss or well-meaning friend.  It's not really what we want to see...but yet we find ourselves here...waiting.  So, we pass the time by scrolling through our news feed, watching people, surfing the internet, and talking with friends.  We vacillate between fits of impatience and providential patience, but both are tempered by disbelief.  Disbelief that anything worthwhile will really come out of this experience.

For days now, there have been murmurs.  The murmurs turned to conversations.  The conversations turned to watches.  The watches turned to warnings.  And the warnings turned to red stripes scrolling on the bottom of TV screens and red flags on my weather apps and big, bold letters wherever the red showed up.

It's coming!!!  Pay attention!!!  WINTER STORM WARNING...

But the thing is, we didn't want to.  It's the end of March.  It's spring break.  It's that time of year when the flip flops weasel out of the closet on not-warm-enough days...just because it's nearly warm enough.  We're tired of this show, Winter, and we're ready for a new one.  This one's O-V-E-R.  Besides, we've really had our fair share of snowstorms this season.  One more is simply too much.

So, there was church, and a fantastic family feast at Grandma and Grandpa's, and an Easter egg hunt in the basement with cousins, and a few rounds of sugary snacks. But, still, nothing for our angst.  Just an unsettled, non-committal wait with periodic glances at the blue-grey sky and snowflake teases from time to time.  Nothing that amounts to anything...but a threat...and a good deal of Facebook attention.

8-10+ inches.  Really?

So, after waiting, and hedging our bets, and checking the radar, we started on the two-hour trek home.  Still no snow.  No blustery wind.  No dark, heavy clouds.  Within the first five minutes, the back seat grew quiet -- on both sides.Within the first thirty minutes, the front passenger seat grew quiet.  My husband drove.  He watched the sky.


An hour later my eyelids fluttered, surrounded by unnatural early evening lightness. The tires grabbed the road.  The front and rear windshield wipers swish, swish, swished in stereo.  The roads were white with black pinstripes.  The sky before us, a giant snow globe...freshly shaken.

It came.

Even though we weren't that interested.
Even though it isn't what we really wanted.

But, I guess it's something to do.

Write on,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

23:30 -- Efficiency...

I thought I was being efficient, really.

Thursday night, I tiptoed through the bedrooms of sleeping boys to rescue hampers two shirts shy of spilling over.  I collected our clothes in need of attention.  I hosted a sorting party at the end of the bed -- whites, darks, and lights all piled up waiting for their trip to the laundry room downstairs.

Darks first.  This load contained most of our sleepers and toddler clothes we'd need to pack for the weekend trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  I bounced back upstairs after adding them to the washing machine...and fell asleep, in peace, while my chore took care of itself.

Morning rolled around and I hit snooze.  Twice.  Rushing through our routine at lightning speed, we finally made it to the pass-through laundry room connecting the rest of our house to the garage.  With bags, totes, laptops, lunches, and bottles, we juggled them out to the pair of awaiting black Jeeps.

And that's when my efficient laundry plan resurfaced.

Car seats clicked and smooches kissed, my Mary Jane heels stomped back inside and over the wood floors, up the carpeted stairs, down the hall, to the nursery.  One last outfit should be added to the next load I'll start right now.

Hearing the clock's emphatic tick, I clasped a green onesie and navy pants with a soccer ball on the bottom before bolting back toward the stairs.  On the way down, I took them two by two until the flight angled...

and my three-inch heel caught the step...
and my right hand reached to grab the decorative ledge I fell past with alarming speed...
and my kneecaps beat the floor while
my ankles twisted and turned unnaturally
and my laundry polka-dotted the entry rug.

I didn't feel anything.  Except my beating heart and racing mind, which were busy gathering a bouquet of thankful thoughts.

I wasn't holding the baby.
I wasn't holding the toddler.
It's just me.  
And I'll be fine.  
Whatever the side effects are.

I gathered the laundry and picked up the wooden bowl of pine cones, splashed around during 'the incident.'  I rubbed my knees and headed toward the laundry room to add one last outfit before starting the next load.  The machine clicked, the light flashed green.  It would do my work while I went to work.

I came home yesterday to finished laundry...and a new definition of efficiency.

It's working smarter, not necessarily quicker...

Especially not on the stairs.

Write on,

Friday, March 22, 2013

22:30 -- Sugar...

I've made plans to leave it off my plate.
I've made efforts to leave it out of my house.
I've made decisions to leave it out of our mealtime repertoire.

Even though I really want to leave it in.


I think about it when I am stressed.  I dream about it when I want a snack and nothing else will do.  I pine for it when all I have for lunch is boring soup...because surely, after boring soup, I've earned a reward.

Without knowing it, I've nurtured a little boy who loves sugar too.  It started with making chocolate chip cookies together and then savoring each warm, chocolaty bite.  It moved into making good use of the frosting remainded in the fridge by slathering it atop a crispy graham cracker.  It progressed to candy treats gathered with each passing holiday.  He responsibly organizes it by type.  And rations it after sorting.  

And asks for it every night at dinner's close.

"What can I have for dessert?"

"You can have either strawberries or raspberries."  
Look at us; we're enabling healthy choices.  Controlled healthy choices, but choice none the less.

"That's fruit.  Fruit isn't sugar."

Internal gasp.

"I would rather have a cookie from the freezer."

Yes.  Me too.  Bring it.

"OK.  Maybe just one tonight.  Cookies are special treats though; they're not for every night."

Really?  Judging by my historical data, they must be.

The apple never falls far...


Write on,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

21:30 -- Deja vu...

We had a two-hour delay.

I'll say it again because it never happens: We had a two-hour delay.  Supposedly, there was a power outage somewhere nearby and everyone knows dark buildings and students don't mix.  They just equal trouble (and extra time).  Which, afforded me a coffee break at Starbucks with a friend before heading to school, and a few unexpected chat times with teachers, and an opportunity to collaborate on an upcoming project with a team mate.

So, with verve and anticipation, my outspread arms grasped a laptop, iPad, notebook, glass of water, a pencil, and school key as I clicked down the tile hallway to see her. Beforehand in my classroom, I used engineer stealth to stack these must-haves.  After all, last year when heading to a meeting, I absent-mindedly shut a spiral notebook in my laptop, which, in turn blackened two-thirds of my screen right where the spirals made contact.  (It was a crisis of district proportion that, after sweat and tears [mine], found resolution at the hand of a Computer Fairy.  Thankfully.)  

But, I digress...

At an impromptu workspace created in her room, we talked about close reading, and immersion, and transference.  We talked about research, and conferences, and Mary Ehrenworth.  I balanced my laptop on my....lap....and took notes while analyzing media clips.  We made progress.  I got excited.  (Nerd Girl Problem #432: Giddiness developed over really cool learning opportunity.)  With one smooth motion, I placed my machine on the student desk behind me.  I needed my hands to properly communicate my message.

And there it waited, patiently, until I was finished.  Our talking birthed ideas that needed documentation, so I jerked backward, watching my left hand
          grasp the keyboard slowly beside the QAZ
               push it over to the desk's edge
                    feel its weight a top my fingers mid air
                              release it like a hot potato falling
                              Resting on its side, it looked like a proper L.
                    Eyes shut; asleep.
           Devilishly dim in the mid-morning light.

Before I saw the L, I saw last fall's blackened computer screen in my mind.  I felt the stress, too, of calling technology; groveling to my boss; enlisting the help of friends to troubleshoot.  I imagined making the choice: no computer or paying the district for my broken one.  And, here I sat, again, in the middle of the messy scenario.

Fingers flying, I called my friend at central office.  She's a techno goddess.  I recapped my problem between nervous giggles.  "Have you tried turning it off and rebooting?"

I hadn't.  That solution was too easy.  Too obvious.

Half-heartedly, I powered the laptop down and then up again.  A tell-tale beep announced Microsoft's presence; a district logo -- yellow and vibrant-- filled the screen.


My cheeks stretched into an ecstatic smile, my eyes danced at the thought of dodging replacement fees.  They both faded, post haste, in embarrassment.

I just called my superior so she could invite me to turn off my computer.


It's like Deja vu...although this time, the Computer Fairy was Techno Goddess.

Write on,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

20:31 -- Perfectionism...

My baby is still sick so I'm at home this afternoon.

You'd think, with all this 'found' time...that I'd be doing something really cleaning out a closet, or washing the floors, or stripping each bed to launder sheets, or removing those pesky fingerprints from our stainless steel appliances.

And, no.

My scurrying around tonight after dishes and before bed will bear witness to the fact that I wasted my minutes on a compulsion -- perfectionism.  Found time is like found money.

I'm working with a small team at my school to offer a professional development series beginning tomorrow. (You can see the one-minute motivational SlideRocket presentation I created for it here!)  Because we acknowledge that teachers, like everyone else in the world, are creatures of habit and always choose to sit in the same chair, at the same table, with the same people -- most likely grade level team mates -- during gatherings, we want to mix it up a creating talk families.  A talk family provides cross-grade level viewpoints and strengthens colleagial relationships.  It's home base.  Families are created by the organizers and shared with the professional community prior.  To help guide early morning guests to the appropriate place the day of each event, we make a set of color-coded talk family table tents.  Which is exactly what I've spent too many minutes doing this afternoon.

First, I made a PowerPoint talk family document that I turned into a PDF to enable its addition to my SlideRocket presentation.  I could've written this information in a notebook, or at the very least, made a generic Word document.  Before I left school this noon, I started to type my table tents in Publisher so all the letters were straight and my text box spacing looked perfect; however, a teacher sent a few of her first grade writers to wisk me from my space into their workshop across the hall for a special poetry activity (which was more important anyway -- it was awesome!).  At home later with my six pieces of colored paper -- one for each family -- I sat down with a black magic marker to handwrite names.  First names or last names like I used on the email document?  

Completing the group signs, I flipped the switch into quality control mode.

Red tent -- I forgot the special education teacher who's in our building half-days.  Her schedule just changed.  Oops.  I didn't leave room for an additional name if she's there each morning now...

Yellow tent -- I forgot they have one more person than the other groups, so now the spacing is off.  Sheesh!

Blue tent -- Am I using D'Nealian handwriting?  Really.  What IS this?

There are competing voices in my mind.  They're just table tents, b.  Move on already!  No, this is me I'm putting on these signs -- I want to represent myself the best I can.  They deserve it. 

In the end, the latter voice won.  I spent MORE time on these blessed table tents by making them on the computer.  Now, they're perfect.  An hour (it feels like) later.

And I'm mad at myself for spending a ridiculous amount of time on a component that doesn't support the main purpose of our series.  Perfect table tents are inconsequential.

Excuse me now while I make the Hamburger Helper instead of the scratch casserole...and attempt to fit in a load of laundry before we eat...and pick up the house before my mother arrives to spend the night.

Wait.  I should make the casserole.  That's what a 'better' mom would do...  And I should dust too.  We can't invite a guest into this dirty house...

Evidently, perfect table tents are just one compulsion hiding under my perfectionist umbrella...

Write on,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

19:31 -- Jockeying...

DING.  IT'S 8:30!

With a red-faced, rattling baby on my lap, I dialed...waiting...waiting...

Wait.  Someone is answering!!  

No.  It's just the answering machine AGAIN saying they're not open yet: IT'S AFTER 8:30!!!

So, I dailed again...and again...(it got embarrassing how many times I tried) hoping, just hoping that a live soul would answer and field my request to see the pediatrician -- shortly.  

I jockeyed; I knew there would be others just like me.  I saw it in my mind: the clock ticking, the phones dialing, the arms rocking, the mothers desperately waiting to gain access to a physician.  I knew it would be like this, taking a good 20 minutes to reach an appointment scheduler.  You would've thought we were trying to buy a Cabbage Patch doll in the early 1980s.  

At 8:48, a rushed voice answered the call.  Will 10:00 work?  That's what we have available.  And, still, I'm jockeying.  For a time to see the doctor.  That isn't during a nap.  That's early in the day.  For my baby, who's so sick.  Coughing, coughing...and each time, it takes his whole body.

We changed clothes and freshened up before starting on the 15-minute trek to the office.  On the single-lane, two-way road, I jockeyed for an unobstructed route...that didn't involve the stop-and-go driving style of the heavy dump truck just ahead.  Roundabout.  Roundabout.  Light.  Would I make it on time?  I had to...

With two minutes to spare, I jockeyed for a spot with minivan moms, strollers, and drug reps in the small adjacent parking lot and then grabbed the cuddly pumpkin seat to rush inside.  Just in the door, I jockeyed between toe-tapping parents of sick children along with the cautious-looking well to make it to the receptionists' glass sliders before our scheduled appointment time.  One minute late, no two. Or four.  But at this point, who's counting?    

I'm tired of the struggle.

"Grant?" Nurse Holly searches the waiting room.  I think she has a halo over her head today.

Without checking the clock, or reading the door signs, we saw the doctor.  In quick succession, we tried a breathing treatment.  And just like that, we scored ourselves a parting gift, thanks going to our new friend, Bronchiolitis -- a 'Sami the Seal' nebulizer. The height of sophistication...

At least we had answers and a guarantee that his wheezing and coughing and mucus 'situation' would cease with Sami's support.

On the way home, it didn't matter how quickly we made it to the SuperTarget pharmacy.  Grant fell asleep and I rested in knowing more about how to care for him than I did while I waited on the phone, or behind the dump truck, or in line at the office, listening to his rattle-trap cough.  While the pharmacist prepared his medicine, we slid through the produce department and into Starbucks for mine.

Neither had a line; there was no jockeying.

The only jockeying we're engaged in now is for good health.

Write on,

Monday, March 18, 2013

18:31 -- Evolution...

It sits in the center of the room for now
just like where I found it
in a pole barn
at an auction
in a small Amish and Mennonite town upstate
I'd been looking for one
to spin
to sit
to think
to create
to soar
while remembering my roots
the old school building where I grew up
marked 1936

won the chair
that looked both like
its contemporary Pottery Barn counterpart
my elementary teachers' desk chairs
just rougher
more experienced
with splotches
and cracks
and squeaks
from some other classroom
some other teacher
some other desk
Now preparing to be at mine

Write on,

Sunday, March 17, 2013

17:31 -- Luck with SlideRocket...

It started with an invite...and then any sort of excitement I felt about the opportunity was chased around my heart by fear.
"Please come help us at our innaugural Digital Literacy Conference.  We would like you to do a session on SlideRocket March 13."  
Fear of incompetence.

I've perused lots of awesome presentations made by a talented colleague, but I have cut my teeth on PowerPoint.  In fact, I kind of own this nerdy little reputation with the program in my circle.  Kind of.  And SlideRocket, despite offering many of the same capabilities, is set up differently.  I'd never made anything with it.

See the walls?  They're really white boards where
students can collaborate during project-based learning
experiences.   Now the other schools in my district are
pining for this set-up... 
So, after realizing that I was paired up with my talented colleague to offer this session, the pressure fell off like a pair of fat jeans on a weight-loss commercial. She fashioned an unbelievable multimedia demonstration to share with teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators, while I made the handout (because text organization is something I secretly savor -- I'm working on it; I know, it's nerdy -- and I'm comfortable with it), and we she shared the information in our district high school's Creativity Lab that looked more like an Apple store than a space for inquisitive students.  During independent work time, guests asked questions that my isolated SlideRocket experiences couldn't satisfy.  I smiled and did my best.  Inside, I was a freshly caught fish flipping around a pier's slippery deck.

We're teachers.  We know the magic happens when we do the dirty work of rolling around in the content's mud to figure it all out.

So, that's what I did.  I got dirty.  This weekend.  I know; I'm four days late (and just typing this makes me pink-faced).  But, I made starting off with one of the templates available.

I ungrouped text boxes to add my own text.
Switched timing.
Swapped pictures.
Styled text delivery.
Reordered animations.

(Hey--this isn't so far removed from my trusty PowerPoint--and it's so much cooler!)

Here's a link to my first-ever SlideRocket project!  I'm excited to share it at a school-based PD session next week.  (Note: SlideRocket projects are best viewed on a PC...)

You should have a go with SlideRocket too!  I promise, in the end you won't be fearful of the app or sorry that you spent a little time rolling around in the mud with it. You'll be the lucky owner of an impressive new techno-tool.

Write on,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

16:31 -- Anticipation...

Many treasures have been unearthed in piles and stacks and mildly organized areas of things upstairs in our office.  Old birthday cards, my bouquet made of shower gift bows that I carried down the aisle at our rehearsal six years ago, out of date magazines, and a binder of home interior ideas.  These relics are not what Reid focused on during one of his exploring sessions yesterday.

He liked the red plastic State Farm bag we were gifted with at a parade last fall...because it in, I had shoved an assortment of Easter egg halves.  I'm sure this happened in one of my, "We've gotta get this stuff picked up!!" phases that always results in perfectly forgettable storage solutions.  Reid's timely discovery led to just one sequence of action:  fill, hide, hunt, enjoy.

Even though Easter is several weeks away.

From upstairs last night, I was eavesdropping:

"Daddy, let's fill the eggs.  Mommy has N&M's left from Valentines Day.  I don't care that they're not brown, and red, and blue, and green.  We can still put them in the eggs."

"OK."  (Insert puzzled Daddy look here.)

"See we can just open them, put in some candy, and then close them back up."

After bath, and nursing, and bedtime, I padded downstairs only to find a white plastic crate on the dining room table filled with jingly Easter it was in queue for a bigger project.

I awoke this morning to the doorknob flipping back and forth, back and forth, hollowly.

"Daddy!!!  I can't do this and the eggs need to be put outside!!!"

Daddy was gracious enough at 8:30 to open the freezing door, holding it while my barefoot toddler stood tentatively on the doormat tossing his treasures within a four-foot radius.

And, there they rest, like random jewels on an unexpected velvet mat.  Our velvet mat, though, is more like flagstone and patio blocks, frozen mulch and hibernating landscapes.

The house is quiet now.  The remaining eggs in the white plastic crate moved to the kitchen, as if the backyard will get the treatment after the boys' breakfast outing to Chick-fil-A.  Who knows.  But I many times we'll have a mock egg hunt before Grandma's.  Or, is Reid figuring out that sometimes the preparation and the anticipation are a large share of any fun experience?

Write on,

Friday, March 15, 2013

15:31 -- Doubt for dinner...

Doubt paced around my kitchen yesterday morning and then followed me into the laundry room where I swooped up our gleaming crockpot.  Everybody does it...I'll be fine.  Taken by the upswing in positivity, he relented a bit.  He watched the school bags become hard to zip and the cars reverse and descend our hilly driveway.  He saw it all...especially the moments when I added my frozen chicken recipe to the crock, plugged it in, and vacillated between the lowest two temperature settings.   But, he quickly became bored with just watching...

Doubt buckled in for the commute, bringing along unpleasant thoughts of blackened dinners.  "You know when you get back home IN NINE HOURS the chicken will be burnt to a crisp.  Smoke will build and then escape from the clear glass lid...wafting through the first floor.  It may even be up to the second by the time you get home. Your fire alarms will go off.  Remember in October when they all went off after everyone was in bed and the fire department came only to tell you it was a false alarm?  Yes, they could come again.  They'll call you at school."

That's crazy.  My friends cook in a crockpot and they seem to be able to make it work.  No smoke; no fire department.  I'm letting my hyperactive imagination get the best of me.

Doubt tapped me on the shoulder and pulled my chin toward the clock while I was in classrooms, in planning meetings, and in the middle of other thoughts.  Six hours remaining, five hours, four hours, three hours...  "There's no way your French Chicken will survive.  The sauce will congeal.  The sawdust meat will be unremarkable.  You'll have nothing to eat when you get home and then you'll have to figure something else out.  With two crying kids light on naps today.  And two hungry adults light on lunch today."

Geesh.  That will stink if we're in this situation.  The reason I'm trying out my crockpot tonight is that over-involved dinner preparations don't work with 6:30-7:00 bedtimes.  Because of these, I feel like I'm racing the clock from the moment I walk in the door just a few minutes before 5:00.  The crockpot will expedite the process and give me more time with the boys before bath, stories, and bed. I don't want crying children and an uptight husband while I draw straws for what can be made the quickest....  It'll be take-out.  It just has to be.

Doubt pushed the accelerator on the way home.  Five miles over, no, ten.  "Your house could be in flames because of this little crockpot experiment.  Do you think any of the neighbors you don't know yet would call 911?"

Has anybody's house burned down because of a crockpot malfunction (READ: overdone meal)?  STOP IT, imagination!!  You're driving me mad and I really should slow down; look at all these unmarked police cars out here this afternoon.  Everything will be fine.  

I hope.

After a day of darting exchanges that culminated with my embarrassing dash from the Jeep into the kitchen,

I lifted the lid

and stirred the savory sauce

and sampled the fork-tender chicken breast

and smiled.

The crockpot meal worked.

Doubt and I divorced.

(It's just too bad my husband wasn't as pleased with the finished product.  New recipe, please!)

Write on,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

14:31 -- My writer's notebook...

We both glanced up to notice a well coiffed man emphatically tapping his wristwatch from the back of the conference room.  My colleague and I sped through closing remarks that tumbled out of our mouths like clumsy hot coals finding respite in the cool waters of polite applause.  Before attendees fumbled with handouts and handbags, the man and his entourage strutted up the center aisle.  Laptops and papers, books and messenger bags overflowed from their shoulders onto our small table.  With arms like my grandfather's cane, we plowed our materials into any sort of spare space to prevent co-mingling (and any further embarrassment).  

Upstairs in our hotel room, we sat cross-legged on the floor to reorganize -- laptops into computer bags, chargers to match machines, iPod and speakers into cases, masters and handout packets separated and returned to the appropriate pockets within my accordion file, piles of professional books divvied up and packed into suitcases.  

A short time later, though, I needed my writer's notebook to model a strategy and it was nowhere to be found. I'd seen it last during the session...but in my mind's eye, I only saw our chaotic demise.  After tearing apart my offices at home and school, I contacted the lost and found department at the conference venue.  My desperate plea met an unempathetic ear.  "No, sugar.  It surely isn't here.  All NCTE items were already turned in."  Period.  Just like that.

 You don't understand, I thought.  I decorated that cover.  It's me there.  All my favorite lyrics and quotes.  In it, I wrote from the heart...all the things I know about and care about.  I need it back.  I want it back.  I'm not finished...  

I called back a month later.
I looked around our apartment
and my classroom.
No luck.
I let it go December 2011.
I started writing electronically.
I started collecting new lyrics
with the dream of 
creating another
writer's notebook.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I assembled an Ikea bookshelf to add to the newly fashioned office upstairs.  With joy I recovered my favorite books and articles from the basement to set up my creative work space.  In the four openings, my friends -- Calkins, Kittle, Lane, Heard, Ray, Teachers College staff, Ayres and Shubitz, Murray, and Graves -- found new homes, as did an old accordion file.  It begged me to untether the elastic clasp...

and, would you believe...

Ahhh.  Finally.  

I'm just going to forget that it was in the same space with me for over a year and pick up where I left off...

Write on,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

13:31 -- Knocking over the bank...

A stifled voice on the other end of the line led me to believe there was more to the story.

"We're at Grandma's.  You should talk to her," Mom measured her words.  I detected a smallish giggle underneath.

"Sure," with impatient curiosity I waited as the phone made its way to Grandma's wrinkled hands.

"Hi, Grandma.  How are you today?  Is everything alright?"

With spunk and a little sparkle, she laughed.  "Well, I am; but the bank isn't and my car has seen better days."

Nearly falling off my chair, the scenarios I began to see as 'Saturday Night Live' clips bubbled over the edges of my imagination.

Old lady's car drives through bank instead of drive-thru.
Old lady's car drives into bank; misses parking lot.
Old lady's car makes bank account deposit.

"What happened?" I tried my best to fashion a neutral response.

"I ran into it when I was parking the car.  It jumped the curb and even though I tried not to hit the building...I did."

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh my goodness!!!  This was so rich, I could barely handle its humor.  And irony.  You see, this wasn't just any bank -- it's the bank in my small town where she spent her entire career balancing debits and credits and it's the bank in my small town where my grandfather spent much of his retirement career doing odd jobs.

I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that this is also the bank where my dad works...

On the other side of the wall she nearly took out.
After she misread the gear shift.
And stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
And bolted over a yellow bump.

"Was the accident by Dad's office, Grandma?  Was he there when it happened?"

And jolted into the southeast corner of the building right where his desk sits.

"No.  He was home eating lunch.  The girls called him.  Your mom was home eating lunch too.  The insurance office called her to come take pictures for the claim."

Sheesh.  This is definitely going to be on the front page of my small town's newspaper.  I can see the headline now: Banker's mom just misses desk with car.  If it wasn't my own family, I'd submit it to Jay Leno; this is just the kind of story he'd like to share between a black cardboard-mounted newspaper clipping and a pile of laughs.

"Were the police there?"

"Yes.  They came.  They asked if my son was alright."  

It gets even better.  Now, I can just imagine the chatter after receiving that call from dispatch.  "Yeah, um, can you believe it?  His own mom almost ran into his desk," they'd gossip.

"Well, I'm glad no one was hurt," I chew my words to a pulp to prevent giggling.

"Me too.  I'm just so thankful your dad wasn't there."

"Me too.  I love you, Grandma."

"Love you too.  Here's your mom..."

"I'll call you when we get home," her words blurred together.

And, that's when I knew I'd get the rest of the story...

Write on,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

12:31 -- Unlikely Servant

Before the sun awoke,
the man came
uncovering the driveway
swath by swath
working hard
just like he does all day
in a pinstriped suit
making loans
helping customers
mentoring staff
His boots
powdered and melting
shortly to be replaced by
shiny shoes dry in his closet
at home
His breath
more labored than the middle-age couple sleeping inside
provided the rhythm
to finish before she went to work
and he arose to recuperate from
the heart attack
that came on the heels
of a knee replacement
that kept him from
shoveling his own driveway
wearing his own suit
slipping into his own shiny shoes
greeting his own boss
who is
this morning
his servant.

Write on,

Monday, March 11, 2013

11:31 -- Collecting moments...

Now that I'm back at school from maternity leave, it seems like every little task and tidbit is completely compartmentalized.  There's a specific order in which we get ready to make sure everything works out:

Get up
Feed the baby
Finish getting ready
Get the toddler up
Breakfast for everyone
Finish packing the bags
Move bags to the car
Get coats on
Get baby from upstairs
Grab school bags
Move out to the cars
Say goodbyes
Drive away NLT 7:20 a.m.

There's a specific order for how we unwind in the evenings too.

The jumble of jobs is smoothest if done in a certain order because the packing is dependent on the dishwasher and the dishwasher is dependent on the meal...  You get it.  If I think about all this too life starts to look like an instruction manual from Ikea.

But, in all these mundane, predictable moments...there are surprises too.  Ones that make me giggle, or want to shoot a few quick pictures, or give kisses and hugs, or close my eyes in complete thankfulness that all these mini-events are the stuff of my life.

The future isn't thinking about sending my boys to school in an actual elementary, or how they'll be in high school.  The future is what we do to manage the moments in the present.  How we collect them to make something special; a life with more to come.

This piece of wisdom (and wordart that I created above) is courtesy of Leslie Feist, singer-songwriter of 'Mushaboom,' which incidentally is one of our favorite songs right now.

One of the funny moments in our collection is when I pretend to be Feist and Reid pretends to be the mushaboom guy when we sing in the car...

Write on,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

10:31 -- Sticky fingers...

Within the first five minutes of arriving home after school, the contents of Reid's school bag are usually strewn around our house like a board game path.  Sitting cozily on the living room couch Friday in wait, I pre-emptively invited Reid over with the big red tote so we could go through it know, in an organized fashion.

"Do you have any projects?" I asked the two little hands already sifting through stuffed animals, a lunch bag, a Ziploc bag full of spare clothes, and his favorite chamois blanket.  Reid looked up, flashing a mischievous glance, and continued rifling.

Instead of an item involving glue, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and/or googly eyes emerging, before me hung a string of silver Mardi Gras-like beads shining in the late-day sun that streamed through our white wood blinds.  And, behind them, stood a wild-haired toddler now sporting a nervous grin.

"What are these, Reid?  Did you get them at school?" 

"They're beads," he offered; his eyes and smile conflicting.

"Are they yours?" I asked, confident I had cracked the case.

"No."  he replied without skipping a beat.

(That was quick.  And easy.)

"Well, whose are they then?"

"Mrs. Clark's,"  he answered and our deep brown eyes locked.

"Then Mrs. Clark should have them back.  They aren't yours.  And, when you take something that isn't yours it is called 'stealing.'  Jesus says it isn't good to steal.  It makes him sad."

"I'll write Mrs. Clark a note and take her beads back to the dress-up station next time I'm at school." he planned.

"I think that's a great idea," my heart leapt in response to his thoughtful solution.

"Can we put the necklace and note in a plastic bag?"  he asked already moving toward the kitchen drawer containing plastics and foil.

"Sure.  Mrs. Clark and the other boys and girls will be glad to have their beads back."

"They will," he confirmed as the silver necklace disappeared  back into the red tote to be hand-delivered next week.

Hopefully, this case of 'sticky fingers' will be an  isolated occurrance...

Write on,

Saturday, March 9, 2013

9:31 -- Making room for magic...

3:00 -- Reid's haircut.

I'm selfish: I always volunteer to take him to these appointments because it offers us a little special time...  Lately, with a newborn, our dates have dwindled; so like a champion scheduler who's more creative than logical, we left the salon with a tidy little boy's cut and a craving for mid-afternoon sweets.  After all, our favorite frozen yogurt spot connected this errand to the last -- grocery shopping.  A quick stop would fit.

Yojoy is one of those serve-yourself and pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt stores.  It doesn't matter that we stomped in wearing boots and a turtleneck; their treats are seasonless.  And, when I say 'treats' what I really mean are our two favorite standards -- cake batter yogurt with as many sprinkles blanketing it as Mommy will allow for the Master and oreo twist yogurt with a spoonful of crushed cookies for the Mrs.  We're creatures of habit.

What's variable, though, is our conversations.  Sometimes we sit, like an old married couple, to do the job of eating sweets bite-by-bite with our respective pink and green spoons.  But today, Reid joyfully explained lunch at school and the happenings at soccer this morning.  Enamored, I listened...until...

Spontaneous laughter erupted.  The rich, unpredictable, roller-coaster-like toddler kind.  The kind that takes the biggest smile, like an open garage door, to ensure every last giggle is freed and enjoyed by its delighted audience.  The kind that makes you want to laugh too.  Because it feels so good.

Near tears, I inquired, "What's so funny?"

"Ernie has a sock on his nose, Mommy!!!!"

I racked my brain for what this string of words could mean.  There's no TV here.  We don't usually watch 'Sesame Street.'  Between us, there are four socks, for which all are accounted.  And, I don't know anyone named Bert...unless you count the Boys and Girls Club leader at my school.  Reid doesn't know him or his socks.

"What do you mean?" I probed.

"You know, when Bert and Ernie are playing that game!!!!" he reminded me between velvety giggles and spoons of melting, tie-dyed yogurt.

With vague recollection, I pieced together an afternoon a few weeks ago when we did watch a deliriously funny skit -- by toddler criteria.  (If you need a pick-me-up: the link is below.)

So there we sat, giggling and eating and eating and giggling about a puppet playing a silly sock-on-the-nose game.

It was sweet and endearing, much like my date.  Even as I type now tonight, I still hear his laughter...and will trap the memory in my mind and heart as testament to the magic that happens on a regular Saturday in a normal store when we make room for it.

Write on,

Friday, March 8, 2013

8:31 -- My magnet...

It's simple, really.

There's this's bigger than's connected to both my brain and my palette, and by extension, my wallet...and it draws me close earlier in the day rather than later.  It's sometimes my motivation for getting up as soon as my alarm rings instead of hitting snooze for the sixth time (even when an extra few minutes of sleep would be fantastically refreshing) or making a not-so-great choice (even when I know I shouldn't).

The magnet is my favorite place in the world: Starbucks.  The latter is my cautionary tale of the day.

I left at my new two-kid departure time -- 7:20 a.m. -- to embark on my half-hour trek to school.  As an aside, along with the new house came an uber-convenient Starbucks stealthily located on the right side of the road as I head south to get on the interstate.  Just like always, I played the contingency game as my car gently veered into the right lane in anticipation of the drive-thru turn about two miles up the road.

"Will the line be short or long?
If it is, what will I do?  
How many cars are tolerable in the line...?  
Do I have extra time to wait if it's packed? 
If I don't wait, can I stop somewhere else?
No, the next store isn't as convenient as this one; I'd have to get off the interstate and then get back on. "

The car keeps moving and the conversation progresses until I pass the bank, and the fitness club, and the car wash....until, finally, the skinniest view of Starbucks' parking lot becomes available.

It's Friday and it's busy with all those self-regulating, disciplined people who save a trip to the coffee shop for an end-of-the-week treat.  A quick gander tells me the long line doesn't hold much promise for my travel time window which diminishes by the second.  The small voice in my mind confirms what my eyes behold.  

"Skip it today, b.  You don't need it..."

But, do I listen?  Goodness, no.

I go ahead and make the right turn, idling behind the other 15 drivers jockeying in the same small space for their caffeine fix.  

Five minutes pass; no movement at my normally efficient shop.  Impatience steals a few cars ahead of me and the situation improves. 

"You should get out too."

But do I listen?  Goodness, no.  

A couple minutes later, I order my standard beverage in barista speak: a tall, nonfat, no-water five-pump chai; however, I watch the clock like a child in time-out. Its reprimand stings more with each passing minute.

At the window, I offer enough cash to cover the random 20-cent price increase and make polite conversation with Jessi, my daily drink giver.  "Here's your nonfat, no-water chai tea latte," she announces as it's thrusted out the swing-and-shut window.

"I'm sure she just didn't read the entire drink description," I rationalized; albeit one sip a mile down the road spilled the beans.  

"UH.  No gusto; only the faintness of milk.  I shouldn't have stopped, but I'm pretty sure I already knew that.  The line was long; the price was higher; this drink was a paler version of itself."

For a second, the magnet lost its power.

Write on,

Thursday, March 7, 2013

7:31 -- I need to be alone...

Sometimes, during my maternity leave
the room would spin
and the house would shrink.
The noise level would rise
and race my blood pressure.
The non-stop neediness
perforated my polite nature
and toddler trials clouded
my sun.

On an episode of 'Grey's Anatomy'
Dr. Arizona Robbins
engaged in simulation therapy
to refocus her mind
after losing a limb.
She imagined the waves,
the breeze, the sun,
and the peacefulness
of being at the beach.
I thought I could benefit,
vacillating between sane stay-at-home mom
one whose fuse was about an inch too short.

At dinner one Sunday, I confided in my brother's wife
who also has two small children.
"I just want to lay on a quiet beach
all by myself
with a book and some music
where I can nap 
if I want to."

"Oh, I get it," she giggled knowingly,
"I'd go there with you."

That wasn't the point.

Write on,

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

6:31 -- Blessing Baby

I admit; when you first arrived
I wasn't sure what to do.
Your brother, although delightful now,
was a handful.
He cried and cried.
And then, he cried some more.
Daddy and I were prepared to be frazzled.
Family members were prepared to support
us in the event of a 'crysis.'
But, we weren't prepared for your gifts.
For the past four months, you have been smiley and calm.
Blessing baby.

On November first, you slept the day away. 
On the second and third days, you did too.
In fact, the first two months all you did was sleep:
at least 20 hours each day!
Your sleep was a blessing:
it helped Big Brother adjust to his new family structure, and
Mommy recover mentally, physically, and emotionally, and
Daddy return to work knowing that all was well at home during the day.
We weren't prepared for your gifts.
For the past four months, you have been a sleeper.
Blessing baby.

When I hold you near, you snuggle in to find your niche.
You move your cheek beside my lips for intermittent kisses.
You contentedly ride around with me to accomplish
and cooking,
and shopping.
My arms are your home; my shoulder, your rock.
We weren't prepared for your gifts.
For the past four months, you have been a cuddler.
Blessing baby.

You smile.  All day.
In the Bumbo seat, or the bouncy seat.
For two minutes while I eat my peanut butter toast each morning
or 42 minutes while I exercise each afternoon.
While I shower and dry my hair.
Even when I put on makeup afterward.
We weren't prepared for your gifts.
For the past four months, you have been flexible.
Blessing baby.

I whisper, each night at bedtime, how thankful I am for you.
I nuzzle your cheeks and stare into your ocean eyes with
chocolately pools of concentration.
We weren't prepared for your gifts.
For the past four months, you have been growing us.
Growing our faith,
growing our hearts,
growing our minds,
growing our love.
"Blessing baby," I tap your tiny fingers and tiptoe away.

Write on,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

5:31 -- Shoulder Ride

Yesterday, I rode on shoulders of
Loved ones
Electronic connections
Each supporting me by
Providing dinner
Saying prayers

Making contact
Leaving comments
Sharing surprises

All day, I didn't have to do the work of


No, I simply rode and it was


It made me wonder
Who I can


Write on,

Monday, March 4, 2013

4:31 -- Dinner Shift...

Breakfast shouldn't have been that much work yesterday.
The steaming, syruppy pile of pancakes invited me in,
but I didn't want them.
The warm winter sun beat down my back as I sat at the table,
but I couldn't enjoy it.
In my heart, Monday kept bullying Sunday.

My husband sensed my intermittant attempts
to be strong,
to stop the tears from flowing
every time I thought about my
maternity leave ending;
and taking my coughing baby to day care;
and wondering how our sleep schedules would meld with work responsibilities;
and imagining how crazy our mornings would be from tomorrow forward.

"Tomorrow's a big day, isn't it?"
his question more like the nod of agreement.
"Maybe we could make everything easier tonight
if Reid and I pick up dinner. 
Anywhere you want. 
Then, no kitchen clean-up will eat away our evening." 

(My hero.)

It was then Monday's menacing grip loosened and
Sunday's responsibility load lessened.
It was then I smiled,
and prepared to enjoy the day
with gratitude
with stillness
and the anticipation of delicious dinner
I didn't have to fix.
It was then I felt the sun.

Write on,