Tag Archives: #SOL17

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 😊 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



The Weary Colossus

slice-of-life_individualIn 1883, in an effort to raise money for the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus was asked to write a poem. Initially she declined, but later penned The New Colossus that was read at an auction of art and literary works. Though the statue opened in 1886, it wasn’t until 1903 when a plaque that bears the text of the poem, was placed on the pedestal of the statue, reinventing the purpose of Lady Liberty as a welcoming mother to refugees and immigrants.

My own ancestors passed through Ellis Island from Ireland and England, with few possessions and courageous hope. Almost everyone I know can claim descending from immigrants. We are a beautiful melting pot! And so this last year has caused my heart to break as I see nationalism and xenophobia on the rise, as I cringe at the push to ban Muslim immigrants and label them as dangerous, as I hear chants of “build the wall” to isolate us from our neighbors. So to deal with my angst I joined forces with Emma Lazarus to write this poem to my daughter,and for myself.

Writing can be so cathartic.

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“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

Through tear-filled eyes she strains to see

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Who seek solace and nothing more,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

From devastated lands they flee

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Downtrodden refugees of war

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

In spite of those who refuse to see

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Which America should shut no more

Our Life of Pi

slice-of-life_individualOur family has always found a lot of joy in traditions.  Some have changed as the kids have grown, but we try not to put age limits on fun!  Yesterday we didn’t let Stella get in the way of a simple pleasure. Yes, it was Einstein’s birthday, and that alone is cause for celebration, but it was also March 14th. All you nerdy teachers and math geeks know what we commemorate..


Pi Day!

For some it is the recognition of 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286 208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481 117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233 786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006 606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146 951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749 567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190 702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923 542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049 951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010 003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882 353787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909216420198938095257201 065485863278865936153381827968230301952035301852968995773622599413891249721775 283479131515574857242454150695950829533116861727855889075098381754637464939319 255060400927701671139009848824012858361603563707660104710181942955596198946767 837449448255379774726847104047534646208046684259069491293313677028989152104752 162056966024058038150193511253382430035587640247496473263914199272604269922796 782354781636009341721641219924586315030286182974555706749838505494588586926995 690927210797509302955321165344987202755960236480665499119881834797753566369807 426542527862551818417574672890977772793800081647060016145249192173217214772350 141441973568548161361157352552133475741849468438523323907394143334547762416862 518983569485562099219222184272550254256887671790494601653466804988627232791786 085784383827967976681454100953883786360950680064225125205117392984896084128488…

But for literal literacy geeks like me this is how we celebrate Pi Day!

I say, “To each his own!”   Hope you had a delicious Pi Day.

(Even if Stella shared it with you!)

These Go to 11!


11 is my favorite number. (It’s one better than 10.) I’m also an unrepentant Spinal Tap fan!

Inspired by top 10 lists I offer you 11 (one more than 10) of my favorite inspirational quotes. Don’t under estimate the power of an honest, uplifting message to stimulate someone’s thinking, reframe a challenge, and energize the weary. I love to collect quotes and reflect on the deeper meanings and implications beyond the ‘simple’ phrase that serves as their container. There are many more than 11 uplifting quotes, for sure.  I’d love to hear what resonates with you!

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What messages or memes inspire you?

A Series of Fortunate Events

fullsizeoutput_6266I have been keeping a journal for most of my life. It started with small diaries that locked with the simple key (that could be substituted with a fingernail). When I was young they would fullsizeoutput_6265capture what time I woke, what I ate, the score of the Cubs game, and a sentence or two about my day. An entire week of my life could fit on a 2 page spread. I liked the repetitive nature of their entries and the simplicity of my days.img_9294.jpg

By middle and high school I graduated to full-page diary entries that often captured my scores on tests  or other grades, how volleyball, basketball, or softball practice went that day, and who I sat by at lunch.  Riveting reading, no doubt.

There are gaps in journaling over the years when I couldn’t (or didn’t) find the time to document those moments of my life. They marched on regardless. On the verge of motherhood, I knew I wanted to capture life and contain it img_9295somewhere so that I wouldn’t forget.  I began incorporating photos, ticket stubs, and other mementoes with my entries. Now they are half images, half words on most days.

Each time I fill up a journal it feels like closing a book on a part of my life. I flip back through the 7 or 8 months that are captured within and relive moments, feelings, tastes, and sounds. There is something sacred in finishing a book and knowing that it represents the memories of the past and then opening a blank book and recognizing that it holds the promise of a future.

So today I sit here between past and future with a blank book in one hand and a pen in the other.  I am closing the book on a part of my life and beginning another. My life is more than a trilogy, quadrilogy, or heptalogy…

I guess I don’t know what you call 20 or more books. fullsizerender

Perhaps, A Series of Fortunate Events?


Random Acts of Zen


My life is full. At times I admit that it is busy. I believe that life is not a rehearsal and we are allowed one shot to ‘get it right’ so I want to experience as much as I can and try not to waste it.   I strive for a sense of harmony with work and play, and I am lucky that my work is mostly a great source of joy for me. I stopped thinking about “balance” as being equal distribution of time and energy, but embrace it as more of a consonance between work and play.

What I still still struggle with however is “being in the moment” and fully present with whatever I am doing. I am much better with this than I’ve been in the past, but it is definitely a work in progress. I’m sure we all do it. I find myself planning lessons in my head while taking a walk, remembering to reply to an email while working on my National Boards, checking on the progress of April the Giraffe while watching a movie with my family. To be sure these are little things and I am able to get back on task rather quickly, and in some moments I don’t really mind.

Sometimes Zen opportunities trot across my backyard.

But there are some moments, new experiences or instances of awe, when it is easy to be fully present and focused and attentive. It is during these moments that I feel most connected to this life, to this time I am given. These moments can come out of the blue and if I am not mindful I might dismiss them or they can be planned and savored. I see them as opportunities to be awake and engaged and present.

I often say to myself, “This.” This is my signal to engage with what I am experiencing, to call on my senses to raise my awareness, to focus on the slice of time before me. I consider these moments of ZEN.  To me, Zen involves seeing and experiencing things without the distortion created by my own thoughts. I try to let the experience wash over me and not filter it through past experience.

To be sure I do not walk through this life in a perpetual state of mindfulness. But when I get these Zen episodes I use them as a gentle reminder that each moment is really a gift if I stop to acknowledge it. What makes my life richest are often the things I forget to notice, that I take for granted.

So I am grateful for reminders. I continue to practice. I strive to be present. And I don’t criticize or chastise myself when I am not. I know that every moment offers a new opportunity to tune in and zen out.  I know that “slicing” helps me with this practice. All month I am tuning in to life experiences with a heightened sense of awareness and gratitude. I am embracing random acts of Zen.

I hope that slicing helps you with this practice as well. May you all find moments of zen in your day today.

Finding Myself in Hot Water


I love to find myself in hot water. It’s my moment of zen.  And it’s my hot tub.

Actually it’s a hot tub in name only…literally, a tub that holds hot water.  Don’t imagine a spa with jets and bubbles that massage tired muscles.  It is a 30 year old hand-me-down sans bells-and-whistles, but it is my space to connect with nature and the “wild Maine nightlife”.

Each season I feel more in touch with the natural world because of my time here. And each year these moments become more cherished.img_9016

In winter the atmosphere is so dry and crisp that millions more stars become visible. The night sky is alight with twinkles.  I watch satellites float across the expanse. I catch shooting stars streaking through the black. I pick out constellations as they journey across the winter sky. The blanket of snow reflects the moonlight so brilliantly that at times it feels more like day than night. And the quiet-it is oh, so quiet. Only interrupted by an occasional snowmobile, coyote, or fox in the distance.

In spring the sounds begin breaking through the sleep of winter. My ears ache to catch the first peeper of the season. An owl hoots from the woods across the field. A woodcock’s nasally peet calls at dusk and the drips of melting snow can be heard long into April.

Processed with Snapseed.In summer the days are longer and twilight tends to be my hot tub time.  I watch the sunlight cling to the tops of trees. Orange and pink compete for the landscape of the evening sky. I wait to see which robin will be the last to sing out as I watch the fireflies begin their dance over the field. I hear the giggles and shrieks of neighborhood kids allowed to stay out late. Sometimes a rumble or a flash will cut short my time, or my kids and their friends want me to share, but I don’t mind.

In autumn I note the changing silhouettes of the trees as they become near-naked week fullsizeoutput_565after week. The air grows cooler and the water feels warmer. Twilight comes earlier so my dips become darker and I stare at the horizon waiting for the arrival of the harvest moon. Life becomes busier and this time more precious.

The seasons pass and I soak it all up. Here’s to the weekend and some much-needed hot tub time.