A woman of words


When I teach my fifth grade students about poetry, I always start with a lovely poem about writing.

“Take a pen in your uncertain fingers”, it reads, “and trust that all the world is a bright blue butterfly, and words the net to hold it.”

I love that idea, the thought of holding all the world within my words.

Maybe that’s why I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking in words.  I try to be “mindful”, to simply relax and rest and be.  I try to turn off my thoughts, my words, my judgments.  I sit in a quiet place, I breathe in deeply.

I look at the warm evening sky, this first lovely evening of spring.  I sit in a quiet place.   I try not to think, to simply look, to observe, to be a part of the moment.

But I can’t stop the words from flowing. “I look at the feeder, at the remains of the suet that I put out last night.  I see the clumps of seeds and fat, piled and spilled across the deck, a reminder of the orgy of feeding that must go on all day, when I am not here. I scan the trees.  No birds.  Did they hear me come out?  Are they afraid?”

I sit, I am still.  I breathe.  “A swoop of wings, a flutter near my ear.  A chick-a-dee, of course!  That bold little bird, he won’t let me scare him away from his dinner!”

It makes me smile to see him, perching on the tip of pine branch just above me.  Cocking his head from side to side.  He calls out, “Chirrup!”

“As soon as his call fades, a flurry of wings and twitching tails, all flowing over the roof of the house and into the pines above my deck.  I pick out each one, watching them as they line up on the branches.  A pair of slate gray juncos, like proper little nuns, waiting their turns to eat.  A nut hatch, his long sharp beak stabbing one bit of suet after another off the railing.  A gentle phoebe, hopping along the deck and finding scattered seeds.”

A tiny flash of brilliance catches my eye, and the words increase in speed. “A goldfinch!  Wearing his bright spring coat, wanting to be brave enough to land, but flying instead from the rooftop to the branch and back again!  Finally, he gets his courage up, and flings himself onto the feeder.  Looking nearly panicked, he gulps down a few quick bites, seems to cast a wary eye my way, then shoots straight up into the sky.”

I laugh to myself.  I wonder why I don’t just grab a camera.

I guess its because, for me, nothing in life seems real until I have tried to capture it in the net of my words.

A mind of her own


I have heard writers say that sometimes the story “writes itself”.

‘Sure,’ I always thought when I heard this kind of comment, ‘sure it writes itself’.  I’d shake my head and scoff when I heard writers, authors, real published story teller types talking about how sometimes the story would go in a direction that they hadn’t intended.

‘Oh, brother,’ I always thought to myself. ‘How pretentious is that? The rest of us are slaving over every word, and Little Miss Novel Writer is telling us that her characters do all the heavy lifting and all she has to do is type.’

This stuff always sounded remarkably self-congratulatory and elitist to me. I was pretty damn sure that nothing like that would ever happen to me.

Then I started the ol’ NaNoWriMo challenge.  You know, the one where you can’t stop to think, you just have to WRITE as if your butt is on fire and you’re trying to outrun the flames.

And guess what has happened to me twice now?


My main character, the woman in the photo above, decided not to go into the restaurant I intended to send her to. Instead, she walked into a little general store that she found on the same street.  She met some people, had a good conversation, drank some coffee and walked back out the door.

What the hell?

Where did those people come from? Where did that store come from?

I don’t understand it, but it happened.

I felt like I was “spirit writing” or something.  I felt like Annie, the character, was running the show.  She didn’t want to go into the little breakfast place I had in mind. She apparently liked the look of the general store that I didn’t even know was there.


The same thing happened a couple of days later, too.  I wrote a chapter where Annie was lost, driving around a small town in Maine.  I thought she’d stumble on a little Inn and spend the night, but then she drove past a grocery store. She decided to go in for directions, and she met a young man in there who gave her the directions to his Aunt’s B&B.  I didn’t think him up, but there he was.  She liked him. I did, too!

I think he might be appearing later on in the story, but I’m not sure. I mean, I am clearly not the one in charge!

What a strange and awesome experience! (Even if I do sound pretentious…..!)

I knew I couldn’t stay away


I know I said that I’d be too busy writing to write…..but here I am anyway.

It’s been a strange couple of days. The wind is howling, the sky has been slate gray. Rain poured down on us all day yesterday, and the world seemed dark and threatening.

I set myself to writing yesterday morning. I have made my NaNoWriMo commitment, and I intend to get that story written. I can’t get myself to use the word “novel” because that sounds so official and so serious.  But I do intend to get this story out of my head and onto the page. So I wrote and wrote and wrote, most of yesterday and into a part of today.

And I got to a place in my story where the protagonist (main character? narrator? woman who is sort of me, but not really me?) went through a very sad time.  And I wrote it all down, and created her words and her reactions. And found myself in tears.

“What the heck?” I asked myself, already starting to think like a novelist, “Why am I crying from my own words?” I didn’t know what to think. I was slightly impressed with myself for having brought me to tears, but slightly embarrassed to be sniffling over my own ideas.

So I closed the laptop and started to cook, which is my usual comfort activity.  One batch of pumpkin-apple soup, one tray of roasted vegetables and one pile of cranberry scones later, I decided to head for the hot tub.  Football is on, and Paul is watching.  I have marinating veal chops to go under the broiler at half time.

I wrapped in my robe and stepped out onto the windy deck, listening to the trees as they bent and groaned in the gale.  I sank into the hot water, letting the jets sooth my aching back and shoulders.  I thought about my story, and about the woman who is both me and the product of my mind. I looked into the darkening sky.

And I saw a huge black bird, wings spread wide, soaring on the thermal drafts above.  He was as black as onyx, his wings gleaming as he flew.  He crested the rooftop, and the setting sun suddenly hit him from below.  Suddenly, he was pure gold. He turned, riding the winds, and the golden wave of sunlight moved over him, from head to tail.

I have seen a million crows, a million times, in my wooded yard.  They have always looked sinister and sly, and they have always made me shiver.

This bird, though, shining with golden light, was absolutely breathtaking.  I cried out so loudly at his beauty that Paul came to the door to see what was wrong. I pointed out the golden bird, soaring high above us.

After he drifted off, settling with his outstretched golden wings onto a branch in the woods behind me, I thought again about my story. I thought about every event in every book, like every event in our lives. They can all be either sinister and dark or shining and golden, depending on our point of view.

I’ll never look at a crow in quite the same way again.

And maybe my view of my sad and struggling “lead character” will evolve in the next day or two as well.

Who knows?

Write Now Prompt

I’ve never tried this before, so bear with me.  I have started to follow an interesting writer’s blog, called “Today’s Author”, which is designed to help wannabe writers like me. This blogger puts up writing prompts, people write to the prompt, then we share comments and observations about each other’s work.

Sort of an online writer’s group, without the coffee!   So here goes.  The first line of the piece is the prompt.  Gulp.

He was stopped at a red light when the old woman opened the passenger door and got into the car.

He was just taking a sip of his coffee when the door opened and she settled into the seat beside him. He choked on the hot liquid, blinking his eyes in surprise.

“Good morning”, she said briskly, settling her bulky red purse at her feet and carefully pulling off her pink mittens.

He was a polite young man.  His mom had raised him well.

“Good morning”, he replied.

“Green light, dear.” The woman nodded toward the light. “Let’s go.”  She snapped her seatbelt closed and smoothed her wool skirt.

Obediently, he put the old car in gear and rolled into the intersection. He wondered for a moment if he was dreaming, if maybe his late night bad habits were catching up with him. Maybe this was a vodka induced nightmare.  He looked quickly to his right.

She was real.  Her hair was wispy and thin, curling a bit under her felt hat. The wrinkled skin of her neck was mottled and pale. Although the garish colors of her outfit could be blamed on a bad dream, he knew he wasn’t imaginative enough to have added in those little details.

His head throbbed as he pulled the Focus into the flow of traffic.  They drove in silence for a minute or two, his body automatically going through the motions of driving, his mind sluggishly searching for an explanation.

“Um….”, he began, knowing that he should be asking some questions.  “I……”  his voice trailed off, and he cleared his throat.  The old woman looked at him expectantly. He tried again, “Can I help you with something?”

She laughed, a surprisingly robust sound from such a frail form. “Yes, dear, you can!  You can give me a ride.”

She seemed to think that was enough, settling into her seat and looking with interest at the passing scenery.

“Yeah, but…a ride where?” He realized that his voice sounded thin, even a little whiny.  He smiled awkwardly to cover his bad manners.

“A ride on this road, honey.”  She patted his knee lightly.  “You’re doing fine.”

He took another gulp of his coffee, and rubbed the back of his neck to ease the stiffness.

“So.” He tried to sound firm, assured.  Or at least to sound like an adult, dammit. “So…my name is Jake.”

The woman looked at him in surprise, tilting her head forward so that she was peering over her plastic framed glasses. Her eyes were large and moist, a very dark brown.  They looked at him sharply, her white eyebrows raised like inverted Vs.

“Of course your name is Jake”, she said calmly. “I’ve been watching you for ages.  I know all about you.”

Watching him?  She’d been watching him for ages? What the hell did that mean?  Was he in the company of the world’s oldest psycho killer?

The caffeine must have finally begun to kick in, because now Jake was getting annoyed.

“And who might you be?” he asked his passenger.

“I’m Sophie!” she smiled.  “I’m an old friend of your Grandma. We go way back!” She waved a hand in the air. “Old, old friends.”

Jake let this revelation sink in.  His Grandma? She had to mean his Grandma Annie, his Father’s Mom. He had never met his Mother’s mother, who had lived and died in the old country.

If she was a friend of Grandma Annie, it was news to him.  First of all, he couldn’t remember ever hearing the name Sophie. Second, his Grandmother had died almost twenty years ago, when he was just a kid. This didn’t make sense.

Sophie turned toward him now, her dark eyes shining with pleasure. He came to another red light, and slowed with the traffic.  For the first time since the strange encounter had begun, he had an opportunity to really look at his odd companion.

She looked like a character straight out of a children’s book. Her skin was very pale, but he could see spots of bright fuschia high on each cheekbone, the color matched by the crooked paint on her lips.  She wore a lime green scarf over a bright blue coat.  The pink mittens in her lap contrasted sharply with the scarlet of her wool skirt.  Her felt hat was a glaring neon yellow.  It hurt his eyes just to look at her.  He glanced away, searching the cloudy morning for something more restful. More real.

“So, listen,” Sophie began, reaching out and taking his hand in hers. “I have a message for you.”  Her hand was warm, and strong, the thin bones substantial and firm.  This was no dream. Reluctantly, Jake turned back to look at her.

“Your Grandma wanted me to tell you something.” Jake breathed in a smell of powder, familiar and comforting. “Jake, life is short and its speeding on by.”  Her dark eyes held his as she leaned toward him. “Every day is a new beginning. Your Grandma says you’re wasting time. Don’t be such a wimp. She says you should go for it.”  With a satisfied nod of her head, Sophie sat back, releasing his hand.

The light turned green, and Jake automatically moved forward.  He was almost at work. Time was running out on this surreal conversation.

“I don’t get it.  What kind of message is that?”

“Think about it, hon! Its pretty clear.”

“No, it isn’t!” Jake felt his heart pounding as his frustration rose.  “I’m not a wimp. What does that even mean?”  And why am I listening to a crazy cartoon lady at 8 in the morning, anyway?

“Take it easy, dear.  I didn’t mean to upset you.”  As Jake pulled the car into the lot, parking it in its usual spot, the old lady reached for her purse, dropping her fuzzy mittens inside. She gestured toward the glittering windows of the office building.  “She means all this, Jake.  She means that you should decide if this is what you really want from life.”

Jake looked up, taking in the rows and rows of identical windows, knowing that behind each one there were rows and rows of identical cubicles, housing rows and rows of identical worker bees. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of both hands.

There was silence in the car now, but even with his eyes closed, Jake knew that Sophie was still there. He could smell her powder, hear her steady breathing. He didn’t understand anything about this morning.  He only knew that the woman beside him was as real as he was, and that she was offering him a gift.  He just had to figure out how to unwrap it.

Finally, he sighed and raised his head.  They looked at each other for a moment, the sad young man and his colorful angel.

Jake reached for his briefcase, and Sophie reached for the door handle.

“Thanks for the ride, honey.” She said with a smile, climbing awkwardly out of the car. “Oh, and one more thing.” She leaned in a final time, her yellow hat flattened by the doorframe. “Your Grandma says to get off the sauce.”

With a cheery wave, she walked briskly away, leaving Jake with his mouth open.

Now please go back to Today’s Author, and read what others have written!

No swelled head here!

Well, my goodness.  This whole blogging thing can certainly lead a person to delusions of grandeur.

A while ago I posted a piece about how I wanted to come back in my next life as a duck, so that everything would just roll off my back.  I thought it was a mildly amusing little thing, but mostly I wrote it that night because I was feeling a little down. It was therapy!  Since I have been trying to jazz things up a bit here on Postdepartum, I looked for some images to insert.  I picked a nice, generic, not-trademarked picture of a mallard, and I put it into the post.  Clicked on ‘publish’ and that was that.

A week or so after that, I pulled together a few of what I think are my better posts about the empty nest, and I sent them with a query letter to a few literary agents.  I know, I know, delusions of grandeur for sure!  But I did it after being urged to try it out, to see if I could get published.  A couple of friends suggested it, and my blogging friend, Embattled Farmers, gave me a nudge.  So I sent out the queries.


Please tell me that you guys check your stats, too.  I try not to check them too often (is every five minutes too often?)  Usually, I just look, see that I have 20 hits for the day, and call it done.  But about five or six days ago, I noticed that I was getting closer to 80 hits a day.

Yay, me!!!  They like me, they really like me!!!  After I stopped skipping around the living room, I checked to see what posts they liked so much.   Huh.  70 out of 80 hits were on “I want to be a duck”.  I wondered why?

Over the next couple of days, the hits kept climbing, over 80! Over 90!  120!  150! Oh, my goodness!  Could it be that, perhaps, one or two of those literary agents were impressed with my wit and wisdom, and were out there reading my blog?!   I could practically see that Pulitzer Prize!!!!

Funny thing, though; it seemed like almost every hit was on that duck post.  When I checked the search terms, I saw “duck”, “duck photo”, “duck image” and “mallard”.  Odd…… I figured that I would have to use a duck image as the cover of my book when it came out.

And, hey!  Look at that!  People are reading my blog all around the world!  France! Germany! Saudi Arabia! Malawi….? Really?

Finally, I got suspicious. Or, as my fifth grade teacher used to say, “Light dawned on marble head.”

I finally googled “duck image”.

Holy Cow.  I mean, holy duck!  Off to the right, where the featured image is kept, I saw my mallard image, and it was titled, momshieb.wordpress.com

Gulp!   All those people were out there in Thailand and Uganda just trying to find a nice duck photo, and they were stumbling on my blog!  No agent, no book, no instant fame and fortune.

Just a huge belly laugh at myself, and a golden opportunity to hop on here and tell all (5) of you about my swelled head!

Kindly note: there is no image in this post!!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Fantasy Island

Its funny how our fantasies change as we age. Once upon a time, mine included dashing heroes, dramatic rescues and me as the brave heroine.  As I got older, my daydreams most often showed me becoming famous as a writer/singer/actress/diplomat/chef (I have a good imagination, what can I say?).

Then there were the Mommy years.  You know, the ones where I somehow managed to juggle a 35 mile commute, a full time teaching job, and three children.  Those were such alluring fantasies, pulling me in and holding me close.  I remember standing at the washing machine, sorting the dirty clothes while dinner cooked….my mind wandering to a delightful vision of me, asleep in a freshly made canopy bed.  Alone.

And now I am firmly ensconced in middle age.  I still drive 35 miles each way to my job as an elementary school teacher.  I get up at 5:30, turn on the news, read my emails and Facebook, check some blogs and get in the car by 6:15.  I turn on the radio and listen to political talk radio as I battle the morning traffic. Words, words, words. They swirl around me, flooding my eyes and ears.  Words go pinging through my brain, caroming and zooming around, waltzing with the words already filling the nooks and crannies.

I get to work at about 7, and jump right into the day.  I talk to my colleagues and friends; I listen, I consult, I plan, I read and write and chat and ask and answer.  Words, words and more words.

The students come in at 8:15, and the real day begins. I greet each student with cheerful words, then bring them to order with stern ones. I use inspiring words, cajoling words, empowering words, reminding words.  I talk, and talk, and tell and describe and clarify and comment and request. Phew.  Words!

Three girls come up to ask me, “Can we speak to you in private?”, and now it is my turn to listen. I sort through the “ums” and “likes” and “kindas” to try to find the problem that prompted the request.  I sift through the tangle of words, the intonation, the facial expressions, the gestures.  I listen, I ask, I weigh and measure and offer advice. With words.

Lunch is a conversation with a parent, a consultation with another teacher, and a series of questions for the secretary.  Words, words, my poor achy brain is choking and gasping with the glut of words.

The afternoon is just like the morning, with more stern words and fewer hilarious ones.  Eye contact, touches, smiles, words, thoughts, pats on the shoulder, words and words and words!  Words to write, to read, to edit, to circle.  Phrases and comments to puzzle over, mull, ponder and monitor.

At 2:45 the last child leaves, and it is off to the meetings, conferences, phone calls and strategy sessions.  On-line tutorials (WORDS!), textbooks to read (WORDS!!), emails to send and read and sort and delete.

And then back in the car, where the news of the day drowns me in more words, and I listen and judge and evaluate each one.  I try to turn to music, but the lyrics capture me and make me think. I worry in words, I remember in words.  I taste and breathe and drink in words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs.  I am exhausted with words.

And so.

Now when I am walking in the woods, or turning the garden, or trying to fall back to sleep, my fantasies have changed once again.

Now I dream of a tiny cottage on a remote island, looking directly out to sea. My back to the town, the neighbors, those who would communicate with me, my eyes and ears trained on the wordless ocean, I see myself in my fantasy life.   My dreaming shows me a quiet, middle aged woman with a job that she does all alone, every day, in a non-verbal world. Maybe she is a painter, or a gardener or a collector of sand dollars.  Sometimes I see myself as a shaper of wood; silent, undemanding wood.  Working with my hands, and not my mind, and not my voice.  Working to shape something beautiful (as I do now), but working with a medium that can’t argue back.  I see myself working to please no one else, in a place where there are no egos to coddle or anxieties to ease. No conferences, no conflicts, no challenging behaviors; no futures to touch or shape or craft. No sense of failure for having failed to find just the right words to get through……

In my dreams now, it is just me, without a dashing hero in view.  Just me, the endlessly rolling waves, and a sense of mute satisfaction.

Olive oil

The other night I was making dinner, as I do most nights after school.  I had onions and peppers sliced, and the olive oil was heating in the pan.  I leaned over to get some salt, and the smell of the heating oil was lifted straight up to mix with my indrawn breath.

Instantly, I was transported to my Nana’s kitchen, watching her heat oil to saute vegetables.  With that one scent of warm, rich, golden oil, I could clearly picture my Nana.  I could hear her laugh, see her petite form standing with spatula in hand. I remembered the taste of french toast with sugar when my sister and I would sleep at her house.  I remembered the velvety burgundy roses in her yard, flowers that I thought for the longest time were named for her, my Nana Rose.

One breath, one scent and everything connected to Nana came flooding back to me.

Other memories are equally powerful for me, and equally evocative of every sense and emotion.  The other day I saw a young Mother holding a little bitty boy in her arms.  He was wearing soft blue pajamas and the sight of his little ankle showing below the sky blue cloth brought back a memory of my middle son.  As clearly and sharply as if he was standing before me, I could see my little baby, barefoot in his blue pajamas.  I could see his wheat gold hair just brushing his brows, his soft pink cheeks and the sweet little pout of his lips.  I could feel his warm, damp, just-out-of-the-bath skin as I picked him up and held him close.

I don’t know exactly when either of these events happened, or what makes them so sharp and clear in my mind today.  I don’t remember what it was about either that gave them such importance and such permanence in my life.  But for some reason one small trigger, a smell, a color, the drape of cloth, triggered a flood and there I was.  Reliving my past.  Like a lucky version of PTSD, I guess.   “Post Terrific Sensory Disorder” for those who are sentimental about a happy past.

Both memories made me feel equally happy and sad.  Both left me breathless and tearful.  Both left me hoping for more.

And now I wonder.

What triggers will bring my grown children back to my house, my kitchen, my arms?

It’s elemental

I have just come back from two blessed and glorious days in Newport, Rhode Island. We stayed at a very nice hotel, ate at lovely little restaurants, walked through countless clever and adorable shops.  And none of that was what reached into my soul or touched my heart.

Newport is famous for its opulent and outrageous mansions, of course.  We ventured along the “cliff walk”, where chain link fences separated us from the .01%.  We gazed like indentured servants at cold stone estates that to me resembled sand castles without the charm.  I felt no desire to either come any closer or to join that set of elite residents.  What must it be like, we wondered, to live in a place where nature is so filled with glory, yet to struggle each and every day to keep that glory to yourself, and to keep out your fellow man?  One particular stretch of fencing along the “cliff walk” was marked every six feet with the following sign, which made me feel simultaneously ashamed and filled with mirth.  I mean, seriously?

Are they warning us about the dog, or calling us a "dog"?  Who knows!

Were they warning us that they owned a “bad dog” or referring to those of us among the riffraff as “bad dogs”?  Who knows!!

What did fill me with joy and peace, though, was the time that we spent simply sitting and gazing out to sea.  Newport has absolutely glorious, wild beaches, where a person of limited means can relax on a bench or a craggy rock or a stretch of broken shale and watch the waves roll in.

When I can see the endless view of water that is the Atlantic Ocean, I am immediately at peace.  When I can sit in perfect silence and listen to the whisper and call of the waves as they roll in one after another, I am filled with calm.

And when I can stand chest deep in the ocean, and lift my earth bound feet to float above the anchoring soil, I am a part of something as elemental as the universe.  And I don’t know why this is true for me, when I know that the same is not true for everyone that I love.

For me, to stand surrounded by the feel and smell and sound and taste of the ocean is to be back in touch with whatever it is that gives animation to my being.  For me, if there is a god, he lives deep in the sea.

I wonder if some people, people like me, feel a tide in our blood. I wonder if my heart and my brain are made of a salty, briny water that makes me one with the gulls and the seastars and the mermaid tales from days gone by.

All I know is this: I don’t yearn for a mansion, or a fence or a castle to keep me safe.  What I yearn for is a place where I could lay my head down every night and still hear and smell and feel the constant murmuring movement of the sea.

Figuring it out



I’m truly enjoying my new adventures in blogland.  (oops, I think I’m supposed to say “blogosphere”, but that sounds sort of pretentious.  Is it pretentious?)  I have found unexpected support at times when it has been needed. I have found laughter when my spirits were low, allies when I have felt alone, great ideas when I have found myself in a rut.  And let’s not forget the great recipes…..!

I love the feeling of belonging that I get when I refer to myself as a “blogger” or when I casually mention, in a conversation with friends or family, “a fellow blogger wrote….”  It feels so good to belong to a group of people who you admire, doesn’t it?  Hooray for me; I have cool friends!

But I find that I am worrying quite a bit about the etiquette of the whole thing. I want to get it right!  I want to follow the rules and be a good girl. (Are they really rules?  Should I say “expectations” instead, like I do in my classroom?)  I am a woman; we generally aim to please.  I am the oldest girl in a family of six children; we definitely aim to please.  And I’m a teacher; I can’t help trying to do everything the right way. I can’t help hoping that everyone will like me and no one will ever be offended by anything I say, do or write.  So I want to be a popular blogger. Not “popular” as in “my stats are going up”!  I mean “popular” as in, “She seems nice.” (Um…am I allowed to refer to my “stats”, or is that vulgar?)

I don’t know how to behave out here.  For example, after I had been writing for several months, I suddenly started to accumulate some “followers”.  This was wildly exciting for me, of course, and I immediately clicked on everyone and “followed” them back. I also “followed” everyone who made a comment on any of my posts. So much fun!!  But…..after a while I realized that my ‘in box’ was always full of enticing new posts and I wasn’t doing any of my slightly less pleasant chores (like correcting math papers or grocery shopping). What would a nice, well behaved blogger do about such a situation?  I mean, do you ignore new posts, do you “unfollow” (will the blogger be told that I did that? Oh, man, that would be horrible!!!) How do you manage this?

And what do you do about commenting back to people?  I am very chatty; I tend to comment constantly!  Is that OK? I find myself wondering if other bloggers are happy to see my name out there, or if people think, “Oh, jeez. Here she goes again……”  And how long are comments supposed to be?  And are they always supposed to include a compliment, or will people realize that since I follow them and reply constantly to every single thing they post, it’s pretty obvious that I admire the way they write?  Do I seem too eager, or too pushy?

There are millions of little etiquette issues like this! Am I expected to put in more photos? Am I allowed to mention personal information that would let people know where I live? Am I allowed to ask my new blogging friends where they live, or is that prying? Does it sound insincere when I reply to every comment on my posts with “Thanks for commenting!”, even though I really do mean it from the bottom of my heart?  Gah!! I’m giving myself a migraine……


This whole situation is reminding me a lot of my students. (I know. Everything in my life makes me think about school. What can I say?) 

It has reminded me of how hard it is for many kids to figure out the unwritten rules of classroom social life.  Rules that some kids, like some bloggers, seem to infer and internalize without effort.  Rules about when to make a joke and when to stay silent, where to sit at meeting without seeming either aggressive or pitiful, when to share and when to keep what is yours.  There are a million invisible and unspoken requirements for “popularity”, and some children never fully grasp them, no matter how hard they try. There are facial expressions to master, shoe brands to memorize, games and jokes and songs and books. There are even trendy words that change from month to month. How often should you raise your hand in class without seeming too eager to be the teacher’s pet?  What is the exactly perfect timing to make a funny comment during a lesson without making the teacher mad?

It’s all very confusing and potentially overwhelming.  Fitting in, pleasing the crowd and learning how to be accepted.  These are the skills and struggles that often define the lives of children and adolescents in school. These are the little things that are tripping me up as I venture into the world of internet writing.

I will try to follow the advice that I give to my students.  I will try to be observant.  I will try to always be kind.  I’ll think before I speak (or post). And if I know I have done all that, I’ll try my hardest to stop worrying and just relax and enjoy the ride.  

Happy blogging, everyone! I’d share my snack with you guys any time.

Writing challenge.

It is Easter morning, and there are no kids running around my house on a sugar high.  There are no kids at all.

There are no colored eggs, no little baskets, no hidden jelly beans.


Yesterday I read a great blog by ElGuapo, who introduced me to a writing challenge.  The idea of the challenge is that you have to use three words (in this case “cacophony, soap, insects”) within one piece of writing.  You have to use them in order and your piece must be between 33 and 333 words. You can find the rest of the rules and some wonderful, creative writing here.

What the heck?  I’m giving it a try.

It was a warm spring Friday. I sat at my desk, desperately sorting papers for correcting over the weekend. Math to the left, vocabulary in the middle, science questions on the right. Hurry, sort, hurry, sip some coffee, sort, organize, sort….my class was out for recess with the classroom assistant (also known as my Angel of Mercy and Right Hand Woman). If I focused and refused to waste any time running to the bathroom, I should be able to get it all sorted out before they came back.

Suddenly, the silence was broken by a cacophony of wails and cries, surging closer in a wave of running feet. “Hurry!” It was the Angel herself, running in the halls of the school! Shouting to the churning mob of children behind her, “Run! Get the soap and lather up, fast!”

I stood in shock, my hands full of homework papers, my mouth open with surprise. The kids came roaring into the classroom, some crying, some laughing, all slapping at their ankles and backsides.

I looked at my assistant for an explanation.

“Insects.”, she stated calmly, in her proper English accent. “We seem to have sat on an anthill.”