Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writing Group

My writing group is meeting tomorrow night. Since we've all participated in this month's Slice of Life Challenge we'll take the time to talk about favorite slices of the month. I'll bring my favorite slice of each group member as well as my personal favorite piece of the month. It will be interesting to see if there are any common favorites.

I always look forward to writing group. The monthly meet-up challenges me to keep writing-to keep working at the craft of being a writer. Sometimes I think my writing isn't quite real, or road tested at least, until someone else has read it. I'm not always happy with what I bring, but there's always a part of the whole that I like. It can be as small as one well-chosen word, or just a sentence. That's okay though, there's always the next meet-up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No Cake Walk

One thing I've come to know about myself is that I don't like to read directions. If I buy something that needs to be put together I am more likely to start seeing how things fit on my own instead of taking the time to read the step-by-step directions. For whatever reason I don't have the patience for such things.

I have made exactly one cake in my life. That one cake was for the Cake Booth at the annual spring fair held at my high school. It wasn't a self-less act of kindness-it was a necessity of sorts. A cake for the cake booth meant extra credit in my Alg. 3/Trig. class. Sister Rita Dolerine was not only my math teacher; she was also in charge of the cake booth at the spring fair. What a simple equation: 1 cake=a better grade.

It was a sad cake, a lopsided ugly duckling that stood out like a sore thumb among so many other better-looking creations. Back then I couldn't have told you why it came out the way it did, but now I'm thinking it had something to do with my lack of patience with directions. Too bad I wasn't as self-aware in high school.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Smiles

Two things made me smile today. They were pretty insignificant events but that's the way it goes sometimes.

I was waiting at a stoplight this afternoon, watching the cars go by, when I noticed an older man-probably somewhere in his 60s-making his way across the street. He moved with purpose, taking long strides with head held high as he looked forward. But then, in the middle of the crosswalk, he took a stutter-step and came to a stop. He bent down to pick something up off the ground, some kind of coin I assumed. He took a closer look at the side facing him, smiled a put it in his pocket before continuing on his way with a small smile on his face. It was then I knew what he had found...heads up...good luck.

I thought about that little moment during my short commute home-how something so small and insignificant can brighten the day. And then my little moment arrived. I stepped out of the car and found a rubber band on the sidewalk. It was just a rubber band-no big deal. I took a second look and noticed it had fallen to the ground in the shape of a heart. It was my turn to smile.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Curses on the blinking cursor and the blank white space in front of it! And, have you noticed that there's always a vast area of nothing, as in no thoughts or words, in front of the damn thing? It's pretty tough to get ahead and see the progress of one's own thoughts and creativity when the cursor continues to blink, like it's tapping an impatient finger as if to say, that's all you've got...really? Only when the space behind the cursor fills does one begin to feel some amount of success, thinking hey, take it easy! If you'd take a look around you'd see I am getting somewhere. Geez!

Yeah, the cursor can be intimidating, but only if you look ahead of it for too long.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chit Chat

As promised, there was a tiny layer of snow on the trees and grass when I awoke this morning. It's was nothing more than "conversational snow"--the kind of snow that doesn't cause any change in schedule, but just offers up a little something to talk about that day.

While out for a jog later in the day I noticed two birds, one a bright red cardinal, the other a small sparrow. They were perched side by side on a telephone wire. Their heads were turned toward one another, and so it looked as though they were exchanging a few words. In my mind I imagined the conversation two birds might have, surely on this day any small talk would have had to include that sporadic dusting of snow that greeted us all in the morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Taking Charge

When given the opportunity to get a little bit of control in an out of control situation it's best to grab the reins and do what you can. That's what a friend of mine did today when she let a lovely woman shave the thick, beautiful hair off her head.

A month ago she was a seemingly healthy woman. Two weeks ago she was diagnosed with cancer. The first chemo treatment came on Thursday. Those in the know said her hair would fall out within two weeks. She took the reins--first there was the head shaving, next was a wig purchase. Myself and two other friends came along for moral support. Surprisingly, there were fewer tears shed than I would have thought. The wig shop works with a lot of cancer patients so there was a steady stream of woman coming and going. There was also a great deal of support between strangers.

Shortly after my group's arrival another lady came in, visibly upset. Her hair had started coming out in clumps the day before--the only thing she could do was have a friend cut the rest off. She was unsure of the wig she had chosen. We became her support group, as did others in the shop.

I can't say it was an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but it was nice to be there for a friend in need.

By the way, her wig looks fabulous.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Maryland Day it, hate it, or leave it? My relationship with this social network is not strong. As an introvert I'm not much interested in sharing my every thought with whoever is my virtual friend at the moment. So, not surprisingly, I rarely post messages or a current status. Today I was feeling nostalgic. It's Maryland Day, the day that celebrates the day a group of settlers landed their boat on the shores of the St. Marys River of what is now St. Marys City, Maryland. It was the first settlement in Maryland and also the place I spent four years of college.

Maryland Day weekend meant fun, frivolity and time outside with college friends. We would spend that day on the lawn of the old State House looking out on the glistening waters of the St. Marys River considering those who first arrived on the land we lived on at the time.

Okay, really, we just drank a lot of beer in the name of statehood. Yeah, it was another reason to gather and enjoy the company of friends. But it was historical, so it wasn't really like another night at the local pub.

Tonight I actually posted a status on Facebook, it said, "Happy Maryland Day to all my fellow Marylanders!"

Within ten minutes I had heard from three college friends. One is living in Belize, one in Washington State, and one in Annapolis. For all of us, living so far apart from the others, it was an instantaneous step back in time--one we all took together in the same moment. The responses made me smile. In that moment I felt like we were all sitting on that bluff above the St. Marys River together with an Old Milwaukee in our hand cheering on the setting sun.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dinner Time

I wasn't surprised to see my cat peering out the window when I got in from work this evening. After all, it was 7:00 o'clock, about two hours later than my usual arrival time. Some may think it's sweet that a furry little animal was watching for me, like he was concerned, or missed me. I know better.

This cat is a creature of habit, as I'm sure most are. He likes his first dinner at about 5:00. Dinner number one is followed by a little time outside to patrol the area for mice, small birds and cats that may be thinking about trespassing into his territory. He knows dinner number two comes after he returns from his nightly rounds. Well, he thinks it comes upon his return--really, I feed him half of his dinner portion when I get home from work, whatever time that may be, and the rest about 9:00. He spends most of the evening coming and going hoping his return will remind me it's time for dinner time number two.

He probably thinks my lateness has completely messed up this evening's ritual. Actually, he'll be happy when that second meal comes sooner than he figured on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Break

The sky outside my window is darkening with the gathering of storm clouds. The wind hasn't started quite yet, but I can sense the storm is close. The balmy temperatures of late last week have given way to the 40s and 50s. There's even talk of a wintry mix next week. Spring may have sprung last week but it's lost a little umph this week.

I worry for the delicate, daffodils that brighten my backyard beds and feel as though I should knit up a quick scarf, in a pastel color of course, to help them fight the chill that's coming.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back on the Road

First it was the vein surgeries and then it was the recovery. Next came work---there was too much to do at work. It was cold, too cold. I had a cold. I was sick. I was tired. I had to write my blog.

So many excuses. Tonight that ended. I got home from work later than I wanted and needed to make dinner. There was a friend, someone who's been going through a rough patch, who needed checking in on. By 6:15 I could see my brain formulating the excuse of the evening. And then I realized I'm in charge here! Without another thought I turned my heels and walked upstairs to change my clothes. With shoes laced tight I marched out the door and put one front in front of the other and got moving. My legs were pumping, my arms were swinging and I was smiling. My love/like/hate relationship with running was off and, well, running.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yes, I Can

Somewhere along the line, about the time I bought a house of my own, I became intimidated by the process of filing taxes. It was much easier when I was not responsible for itemizing deductions and could whistle my way through the 1040EZ form. For the past few years I've paid someone to do the thinking and deducting for me.

This year I decided to give it a shot on my own. So tonight I sat down with my stack of unorganized tax documents and wound my way through the process with the help of an online tax program. Seventy minutes later I was finished. Now I have nothing to do but wait to see my refund appear in my bank account.


Sunday, March 20, 2011


The Z-Pack didn't quite have the punch needed to fight my sinus infection. Even though I woke up last Wednesday feeling better in some ways I was feeling worse in others. My head hurt, but not in the headache kind of way. The back of my head was swollen and tender to the touch. I waited for the antibiotics to do their thing. Friday morning brought no relief so I decided it was time to take a trip to the doctor's office.

A look in my ears got a comment of "yikes, your ears are a mess!" My throat was red and my lymph nodes were swollen. I was running a slight fever. It was time for a new, super antibiotic.

A weekend away became a weekend at home. I took it easy, I slept, and I took it easy some more. Sunday morning came with a feeling of restlessness. The sun was shining and I wanted to be out soaking up a few of those rays. It took a bit of doing, but I was able to wrestle my bike out of the closet for the first ride of the year. My ten-mile jaunt started in Arlington and continued over the Potomac to Georgetown for a ride along the C & O Canal. It was an excellent way to break the monotony of my self-induced weekend at home.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quite a Sight

I stood beneath the Air Force Memorial in Arlington this evening. From my perch upon the hill I had a beautiful view of the capital city. In the forefront stood the Pentagon, behind it the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Capitol. The Kennedy Center lit up the Potomac River as the National Cathedral glowed in the distance.

And then the moon appeared in the eastern sky. It wasn't just any moon--it was a super moon. It was a big, orange celestial sight-- one that added a nice exclamation mark to my hilltop view.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I have never watched an entire episode of The Simpsons. Actually, I can't recall ever watching more than two minutes of the show. Really. So whenever my students and I are working on crossword puzzles in class I have to ask them for answers related to the show. Thanks to them I now know that Ned is the neighbor of Homer Simpson.

As sixth graders there are far more clues that they have difficulty with. Today's stumper was "______ and Stimpy." I was surprised. I understand they may not get "what happens to a record in the sun," as they have never owned a record and only know the word warp in connection to characters that warp in novels. But I expected them to know about cartoons. After all, they know everything about The Simpsons. It wasn't until tonight that I realized that Ren and Stimpy was on and off the air before they were born. Sure the Simpsons originated before Ren and Stimpy, but it's still in production today.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Colors of Spring

Well it seems like the color yellow is everywhere these days. The forsythia have sprouted a bit of joy. The slim, yellow petals like to strut their stuff with a big reach toward the sky. Daffodils are everywhere in my neighborhood, especially in the common area near my townhouse. Whenever I see them I'm reminded of the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in which Gene Wilder sips a bit of tea from the flower of a daffodil.

Yellow is certainly one of the first colors of spring around here. Pretty soon the grass will shed the dull brown of winter in exchange for the deep, dark green of summer. Pink and red azaleas will bloom, as will dogwoods and cherry blossoms. And of course there will be tulips.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Clean Start

Tonight the possibilities are endless. My brackets are neat and tidy. All my predictions are correct and in my mind I'm sure I will be the winner of the family March Madness pool come April 4. What a nice way to go into the NCAA tournament.

This time tomorrow I'll be in the thick of basketball, rooting for teams I've never seen play before and looking forward to seeing my name at the top of the group standings. Let the games begin!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Sick Plan

I slept a lot yesterday. I came home early from work and slept through the same movie two different times. Sleep is always my first line of attack for a cold. The next line of attack comes in the form of food. Yesterday I rallied off the couch long enough to throw together some chicken soup. Of course I loaded up on Vitamin C and did a lot of gargling with salt. By 8:30 I was in bed with a big shot of NyQuil in my system. Who knows what they put in that stuff. It smells and tastes terrible...unless you like Good and Plenty candy...but the stuff knocks me out for up to four hours every time I take it. Sleep is always a good thing.

I woke up about midnight but with five hours before the alarm was to go off I downed another shot and rolled over. Certainly all the sleep and such was sure to bring a change in health. But it didn't--I woke up at 4:35AM to a pounding headache and a sore throat. I closed my eyes and considered the possibility of calling in for a sub for the day. The thought of what I would need to do to make that happen overwhelmed me and I fell back asleep until the alarm awoke me forty minutes later.

A warm shower cleared my head a bit as did nasal spray, Advil and DayQuil. I packed up my honey, lemon and tea bags and headed out to face the day. I survived, but boy am I happy to be back under my quilt on the couch.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I should have recognized a problem last night--even though I was exhausted I couldn't get to sleep. I tossed and turned, watching the clock pass 11:00, 12:00 and so on. I did get some rest, but it came in 30 to 40 minute intervals. When I awoke this morning I realized the ache in my body was more than the kickback from a little exercise. My throat was screaming in pain and the aches took over every part of me. It was not going to be a good Monday.

I managed to power through most of the workday. At least I made it through all my classes. Fortunately, everyone was tired today as a result of Daylight Savings Time. We muddled along and got through the work at hand as best we could. As my last class walked out the door one student asked if I'd be in tomorrow. I told her my plan was to go home early and get some rest. She patted me on the arm and wished me well.

Here's hoping my plan works and that I'm back up to speed tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Damn that kettle bell workout! Thanks to all that squatting, lunging and kettle swinging I wince in pain every time I stand up or sit down. If I consider the "no pain, no gain" approach I would have to say that I have gained a great deal. That's supposed to make me feel better, right? The pain is really a wonderful reminder of how hard I worked, right?

Wrong. I feel tired, and oh so very sore. Fortunately I do know that time heals all wounds. I'm just hoping I heal quickly; after all I'm due for another kettle bell workout tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Parents Say the Darndest Things

A snippet of the unbelievable conversation I heard at the hair salon this morning:

Hair Dresser: "Are your kids good looking? I mean of course you think so, but what do other people say?"

Awkward silence...

Gray-haired Client: "Not really. My son was probably the best looking but he's not now, he's fat."

Me thinking: "What...the...hell?!"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Long Ago But Not So Far Away

Most people who know me are aware of my interest in reading the daily obituaries. In fact, the one thing that's kept me from canceling my paper delivery is the interesting obits that I might miss out on.

Today I read about the passing of Ulysses S. Grant V, the great grandson of the president of the same name. I showed the write-up to the Social Studies teacher on my team and we both remarked on how amazing it was that someone so close to the history of so long ago lived in our lifetime.

My grandmother was born in 1903. I find it fascinating to think that she was alive at the same time as someone like Harriet Tubman who died in 1913. She was 17 when women were granted the right to vote. The times she lived in seem so far removed from me until I think of her place along that timeline in history.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

After Dinner

The soft bread melts on my tongue as I try my best to savor the flavor for as long as possible. Without thought my fingers move slowly to the partial slice sitting on the crumbled, white napkin before me. Another piece finds its way to my mouth. Pumpkin-brown crumbs scatter in my lap and drop to the floor below. My cat takes a sniff and moves on--apparently pumpkin bread is not his kind of snack.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reality Check

Today's reality moment came in the midst of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution titled, "America on the Move." The exhibit highlighted how transportation has changed in America over the years. Among the things on display were a 1903 Winton, the first car to make the drive across the USA. There was also a car from Chicago's famed "L" system as well as a portion of the cross-country Route 66. There was a lot to see and with time running out on the meter my group and I moved through the exhibit pretty swiftly. Until I saw the small Honda Civic--it was of the first generation, from the year 1975. I stopped for a moment and shook my head with a laugh.

"I went to my senior prom in a car just like that." I offered.

"And now it's in the Smithsonian," my sister replied. "I'd say that makes you old."

I guess so, but it's nice to know we were driving around in a "classic" car...even if we didn't know it at the time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Survey Says

They break their pencils. I never knew that until today. I was chatting with my classes about the different ways that students procrastinate on a daily basis. You see, I'm an expert in the area of procrastination-I've been putting off until tomorrow for quite awhile now.

Our class discussion started off with my insights on student procrastination techniques. In the end we came up with a list of three top procrastination strategies. It was easy to see that students use bathroom/water breaks as their go to way to put off class work. It's a solid technique--one that I employed often during my two hour British Literature class in college. My students easily identified with this strategy, even smiling and nodding as we talked about it.

Then there was the general staring out into space. This is a tricky one for teachers, because when a student is asked if they're actually working they can quickly respond with a safe answer; "I'm thinking." Yeah, they smiled and nodded on that one as well.

And then I innocently surveyed the group. "What else do you do to procrastinate?" I asked.

A few hands shot up.

"We break our pencil points on purpose."

Wow, they say you learn something every day and boy did I.

Monday, March 7, 2011

An Afternoon Stroll

Today I watched as two happy Robins danced a little Do-Si-Do in a neighbor's front yard. A third robin sat high above in a tree, its orange breast exploding with pride as it chirped in the late day sun. I ducked as a hawk buzzed over my forehead in search of a little something to eat.

There's much to see on a walk about the neighborhood.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

So Wet

It's been a rainy Sunday around here, the kind of day that could easily be spent under the warmth of a blanket with a good book and a cup of tea. Gray skies, the gentle sound of a soaking rain and a little more time with Cutting For Stone...that was not to be.

I had a 90-mile drive to deal with first. Even though the rain can be soothing from behind the sheers that hang in my living room, it is anything but that when barreling down I-95 at seventy miles per hour. The worst part was the surprise sprays that come from cars as they pass by. Today those sprays felt more like driving through a waterfall, often reducing visibility to nil until the wiper blade could catch up and clear the windshield.

It was good to get home.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Going Back

Tonight I found myself sitting in my the auditorium of my old high school. It was the first time I'd been back in the school since I graduated thirty years ago. I was there to watch my niece perform in the school's musical.

During intermission we gathered in the cafeteria for refreshments and I recalled the very spot where I slipped and fell on a red cube of Jell-O. The tables looked pretty much the same, in fact it was easy to think back and see myself sitting with friends at the usual table.

The play was much bigger than any musical that was put on during my four years of high school. The two-story set, complete with sliding elevator doors, was much more technical than any set put together way back when.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to go back, but it was a nice visit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good Thing

Conference Day usually comes with its share of ups and downs. Today it started in a panic when I awoke at 6:10 to realize that my alarm didn't go off at 5:00 like it was supposed to. My first conference was scheduled for 7:00. I don't know if it's really possible to run through the shower but I sure felt like I did. In fact, I was on the run from the time my bare feet hit the floor until I headed out the door 2o minutes later. I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed to get a shower, dry my hair, put on a little make-up and grab a large cup of coffee before storming out the door. I was in my classroom and ready to go by 6:50.

It was a tough start but thankfully, that was not a sign of things to come. The day went smoothly. Yes, there was a somewhat contentious conversation with one parent but I believe we parted ways feeling satisfied with the end result.

The workday may have had a shaky start but in the end the day was a successful one--that's always a good thing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blinded by the Light

The blue skies and bright sun had both of us fooled. We sat on the window seat watching a squirrel as he spread his body the length of the green suet feeder. He worked efficiently, with skill and balance, to gather up as much birdseed as he could. His entourage was on the ground below working furiously to eat whatever he dropped.

Intrigued with the scene, we strolled over to the back door to unlock the deadbolt. With all that sun out there surely the forsythia had started to bloom. I wanted to be sure to get a picture of the tiny yellow blooms. We both thought a walk around the patio to take in the sun would be a good idea. Besides, I couldn't continue to watch as the squirrels pilfered from the bird feeder.

I opened the door. The skies may have been a warm blue, but the temperature was nothing but cold. My cat barely even stuck his nose out the back door before he backed up and turned toward the warmth of the window seat. I tightened up my sweater and headed for another cup of coffee.

Too cold-- if the forsythia were out they would have to wait until the morning temperature rose above 30 degrees to be photographed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring Signs and Memories

The first buds of spring surprised me, as they usually do. It was only a week ago when I was hastily scraping a thin layer of ice from my car's windshield. Yesterday afternoon I looked up to see the first red buds on the maple tree towering above my car.

I started taking note of the changes that signify spring quite some time ago...on the dreaded, daily bus ride to middle school. Richard and Steve were unlike any boys I'd ever met. They were loud, obnoxious and fond of inappropriate hand gestures. They were bullies. They never targeted me, but I had my problems with some other bullies at school so I knew it might be just a matter of time before they turned their attention my way.

I decided it was best to "lay low" on the bus and keep to myself. And so each morning I quietly slid in next to the window and adjusted my body to the lowest position possible, turning my gaze away from the chaos of the bus towards the quiet of the outside.

Over the course of the year I became well acquainted with how the landscape changed along with the seasons. The first red buds on the trees not only meant spring was coming-- they also meant the end of the school year was nearing as well. Hello spring. Goodbye Richard, Steve and other bullies.

I love the coming of spring, but it's hard to look at the red buds abounding without thinking of those painful days in middle school.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Out of Customs

Mylar balloons bearing messages of "Welcome Home" hovered weightlessly above the anxious crowd. With each opening of the gray doors came a turn of heads. Necks craned to see if the wait was over.

The area designated for International Arrivals at Dulles Airport was a happy place yesterday. Yes, there was a small amount of restlessness in the air, but that was only because the group who stood around the perimeter of the arrival doors was tired of waiting.

A blonde-haired woman leaned against the sign she held to welcome Libyan evacuees. And then the door opened to reveal the evacuees. In an instant her arms were outstretched and ready to embrace a part of the group she was waiting for.

Young girls and boys squealed in delight as they ran toward fathers, mothers, grandparents and cousins. Young couples embraced. Smiles abounded.

It was all good.