All posts by paulabourque

About paulabourque

Literacy coach K-8, Author of Close Writing, Nerdy Reader, and Mamarazzi!

Why I Write


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Thank you to everyone in the slicing community this month who has helped me to live a more writerly life! I have loved reading about your children, parents, friendships and pets. I was uplifted by your challenges and triumphs. I have been inspired by your creative spirit and style. I appreciated your comments and connections on my own posts. I will continue to follow many of you and hope that our paths will continually cross through life-if not in person than through our words posted online. Keep writing, keep reading, keep living and loving.

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There’s a Shirt Out There Somewhere

slice-of-life_individualI’ve been teaching a long time. So long that I can’t remember all of those moments that I swore

Moe and I sporting our kidlit shirts (that kid on the left is me)

I’d never forget! Last night my friend Moe posted a picture on Facebook of her and I in our early years of teaching together. Back then I taught a first grade and Moe taught a pre-first. Oh man, did we have fun! Just the sight of that one picture flooded me with memories…

I used to read and reread books to my class and then we’d make our own version as a big book. We had quite a collection of Brown Bear Brown Bear, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Where the Wild Things Are, and anything by Tomie DePaolo. I’d spend hours at home recreating the covers and we’d bind the student pages together. Then we’d read and reread our own versions and keep them in the classroom library.

Each year we’d do at least one class play based on a favorite children’s book-long before readers’ theater became a thing. We’d invite our neighboring classes and even parents if they could come. Of course we’d have to have a cast party and our beloved lunch lady, Joan, always made us the yummiest cookies. Our room was literally where the wild things were.

And one of my favorite activities was creating kidlit character shirts for my students who met their reading goals.¬† They’d pledge to read a certain number of books and when they succeeded, they could bring me in any shirt and choose any children’s book character and I would draw it on for them. I went through hundreds of fabric markers in those days.

It was fun reading the comments on that Facebook post and reminiscing with those colleagues. But the best comment came from a former student, ” Just as I remember you both ūüėä I still have my shirt we made with the Little Critters characters!” That blew me away. This former student is all grown up with kids of her own, but she still has a shirt I made her from first grade. Just goes to show, we never know what kind of impact we’ll make on our students that will linger.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 9.16.20 PM

There’s a shirt out there somewhere with Max and a Wild Thing, with Little Critter and his mom, with Strega Nona and her pasta pot, with a coconut tree filled with letters, or a Magic School Bus racing to adventures. Maybe it’s tucked in a drawer, or on a shelf at Goodwill, or even on the child of the owner.

There’s a shirt out there made with love and once worn with pride and I almost forgot it existed.

Sharing a Pint With a Stranger


I try not to let the little things get to me, but it has been raining and sleeting for two dreary days and I was feeling more like hibernating than giving blood last night. I made my appointment¬† for 5:45 because I almost always have some meeting after school. Well, today I didn’t so I thought I’d go early to see if I could get in. “Can’t take you right now.¬† Come back in 45 minutes.” the Red Cross volunteer tells me.

“Do I need to get on a list or sign in?” I ask.

“No, just come back in about 45 minutes.” I go home and read through some work on my national boards and then head back. There are more people waiting. So I approach the volunteer¬† and let her know I’ve returned.

Oh, all these people are ahead of you. It’ll be about 45 minutes.” (UGH.)¬† I remind her that’s what she told me 45 minutes ago. I realize she hadn’t changed my appointment time.

So if I come back in 45 minutes you’re not saying I’ll get in then are you?”¬† I ask.

“Well, if no one is ahead of you…”¬† (UGH. )

“I’ll be back for my 5:45 appointment.” I head back home and do a bit more work, and try it again.

I walk in and only one person is sitting and waiting. I approach volunteer again.”Third time’s a charm I hope.” I smile.

“Do you have an appointment?”….. (UGH. )

A short time later I’m lying on the table, squeezing a small ball, and pumping some O+ into a plastic bag. I was perseverating a bit on the annoyance of the process when I realized how “annoying” it must be to be on the other side of this supply/demand equation.

I’m sharing a pint with someone who was probably having a truly bad day, someone who would trade places with my annoyance in a heartbeat, someone who might not make it through the day without the fruit of my frustration. Perspective, Paula, perspective.

So I’m toasting the pint to the stranger I’ll share it with…

Always remember to forget
The troubles that passed away.
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.

                                                                                                 -Irish Blessing



Privilege Primer


  • “I don’t need to march, I’m not oppressed.”¬†
  • “They just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
  • “I’m not racist. Those people are just looking for attention.”¬†
  • “My ancestors came here legally.”
  • “How do you not know what sex you are?”¬†¬†
  • “They’re rapists, and some I assume are good people
  • “She’s too shrill. She’s such a b***ch!”
  • He shouldn’ta been wearing a hoodie.”
  • They don’t want equal rights, they want special rights.”
  • He’s so disrespectful not standing for the National Anthem.”
  • “I just start kissing them, I don’t even wait.”
  • Nobody helped me!”

What I’ve Learned From My Place of Privilege

Privilege is when you aren’t constantly reminded of…

Your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your income, your education, Your identity.

Privilege is when you don’t have to fear…

The police, the government, the landlord, the neighborhood watch, your future

Privilege is when you don’t have to think about…

Where you drive, how to talk, what you wear, who you date, where you live, pigmentation

Privilege is when you can choose…

Who you’ll marry,¬† where to dine, which color of car to drive, what college you’ll attend

Privilege is when you can choose not to…

March for someone’s rights, listen to someone’s pleas, tune in to disturbing news, see color.

Privilege is never having a reason to notice your privilege or deny its existence.

Privilege does not require an apology…but seeks acknowledgement

Privilege does not demand a sense of guilt…but should engender gratitude.

Privilege is not possessed by only few, but often only perceived in others.

My privilege can empower me,

to push others down

or lift others up

Privilege is relative…Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.38.35 PM

Privilege is real.


The In Between

slice-of-life_individualThe In Between varies it’s arrival time.¬† Some days, hours early, other days much later. Sometimes it is a welcome visitor and others, an unwanted intruder. The In Between slips in unannounced in those minutes or hours ‘tween sleep and rising.

I lie in bed dozing and the In Between caresses my mind, enticing me to engage. It starts interjecting images or ideas as teasers, waiting to see which will seduce my cataleptic state.

Sometimes I consent to the intrusion and I am gifted with flashes of inspiration. Creative conceptions overwhelm me and I race for a pen to capture them before they retreat.

Other times I resist as a cascade of catastrophizing contemplation consumes me. Distress disturbs my  dreams and worry wakens me.

Where does the In Between come from? Where does it retreat? Why does it choose to haunt and daunt me one morn, yet motivate and invigorate the next, leaving me vexed and perplexed at the dawn of the day?

The answer absconds and I rise to meet the day, while the In Between withdraws into murky memory.

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Tax Reminders

Today is my tax day.  As I pulled together files and receipts and forms, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on 2016.  All of these papers were evidence of the life I lived. It gave tax preparation a whole new meaning and perspective for me.


Taxes are a reminder..

That I am paid for doing what I love.

That I bought some really awesome books last year.

That I traveled to new places to learn new things.

That some people actually bought my book.

That my home really is my castle.

That I have two dependents that mean the world to me.

That marriage to this amazing guy is always an advantage.

That I am contributing to the welfare of others.

That I am a citizen of an already great nation.

That I existed.


Thou Shalt Covet

slice-of-life_individualIt was a long day, followed by parent conference night.¬† It was a little disheartening when there were a few cancellations from parents I really wanted to meet. I walked down the hallway, headed for the teachers’ room, and around the corner raced TJ*.

Hey buddy, slow down there.

He pulled up, clutching a book to his chest. His dad caught up with him. I introduced myself. “Yeah, she teaches us,” he told his dad. I explained that I am the literacy coach who comes in to work in his kindergarten during reading and writing workshops.

I gotta book!” TJ thrust it out to me.

What’s it called?” I asked.

Read it.¬† Read right here,” he swiped his fingers across the title.

Mouse Paint?” I asked him.

Yeah. That’s my book. I got this in Title I. I’m in Title I now.” he beamed.

I heard. That’s awesome.¬† You’ll get to read lots of books,” I said.

Yeah, but this one’s my book!” He pulled it to his chest.

He and his dad headed down the hall.

May you always be so covetous of your books my little reader.” I prayed.


*not his real name

Say It Today

slice-of-life_individualIn the past few months many of my friends have lost loved ones; parents, step-parents, grandparents in particular. Some have been sudden. Some have been expected. I read the comments that try to convey the depth of feelings that range from love and grief, to acceptance and relief. They talk lovingly about what made that person so special in their lives. They try to share a little bit about who they were. Encapsulating the essence of their being into words that cannot completely impart the complexity of their lives.

It made me think about the loved ones in my life and how much they mean to me.¬† I think they know it. I hope they feel the depth of my love. To be sure, I don’t want to wait to speak those words only after they cannot be heard. I want them to hear those words of endearment while they can appreciate and receive them.¬† I want to speak them often.

It also made me think about how I would like to be remembered. Are the things that are important to me obvious to others? Do I make others feel as special as they truly are to me?¬† We don’t all get the opportunity Ebenezer Scrooge had to overhear the remembrances and opinions of others about lives. But we can all appreciate his epiphany and contemplate being a better person to those around us-to make the world a little kinder and a little better through our words and deeds.

We get busy with life, with work, with responsibilities and it isn’t until we are reminded of our mortality through the sorrows of others that we stop to take stock. We can honor those sorrows and grief by reflecting on the gifts we have, including our loved ones, and showing our gratitude while we can.

Don’t wait.¬† If you are grateful for someone’s love and presence in¬† your life, speak the words to let them know….SAY IT TODAY.Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 8.33.26 PM


Moments of Elation

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Finding a note on my windshield after work; a flirtation from my future hubby.

Standing by the water’s edge, holding his hands, and proclaiming, “I do.”

Seeing a heartbeat on the ultrasound beyond the fateful weeks of four miscarriages.

Feeling my baby laid across my chest as I sob “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

Watching my daughter cradle her baby brother in her lap for the first time.

Waking to the realization we’d slept through an entire night.

Getting the call from mom that the spot on her lung was an imaging error.

Putting her on the bus for the first time and racing to school to watch her arrive.

Celebrating his little league team come from behind to win the championship game.

Mesmerized by her pirouette, tendue, and leap across the stage .

Cheering his first varsity soccer goal and humble celebration.

Opening the acceptance email from my editor.

Showering my colleagues rejoicing life changes.

Hearing her give the salutatorian speech to her graduating class.

Hugging my hubby before returning home in our emptied out van.

Lying side by side, spooning throughout the night.

Waking up each morning and realizing this isn’t just a dream.