I was leisurely scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw it.  Totally related to nothing associated with my daughter’s theater program, there was a posting that had been sent through my feed via “We are Teachers.”  Immediately, I saw my daughter’s friend, Elise, in a collage of performers.

Of course.

Elise always got what she wanted.  And, in this case, she’d gotten something she probably hadn’t even known about

I looked at the picture, and recognized some other kids from the theater group–a couple of girls who are older than my daughter, a boy who is a year younger.  I was just about to scroll past the picture, when I noticed a character out of the corner of my eye.  It was Cruella de Ville.  And the actor portraying the villainess?   My daughter, Claire. How close had I been to just scrolling past,  noting that my daughter hadn’t been recognized while someone else had, and bitterly tallying a score?

And then, when I looked again, I realized that I had seen this picture.  And the first time I saw it I hadn’t looked closely enough.  And I hadn’t seen my daughter.


Just so you know, that’s not my daughter’s actual hair color.


I thought back to the time I had seen the picture before, and I remembered that I had quickly dismissed it because of my own petty feelings about how someone else was getting recognition that I thought my own daughter deserved.   I thought about how many times I have told my daughters and my students not to let themselves be worried about what feels like unfairness when it appears that someone else is getting something that you’re not.  The opportunity to unexpectedly enjoy seeing my daughter doing something she loves had passed me by the first time I’d had a chance to enjoy it.  And, though this time I had the opportunity to see it after all, I wondered how many other times I’d missed an opportunity because of my own petty sense of injustice.





Driving past a funeral home

I passed by the local mortuary today.  The parking lot was full. I line of darkly clad figures snaked out of the door and extended down the sidewalk.  I’ve been to this funeral home and stood in a line this long once before.  I know how the line first curves around inside the building before it reaches the door.  Only a very long line makes it out the door.

I did not know the person who had passed away.  I did not know who he or she had left behind. But my heart felt heavy at the thought of those who mourned today.  I hoped they felt some comfort in the number of people who had come to grieve with them.  And, most of all, I hoped the person whose death had gathered so many people here had known this level of care when he or she was still alive.

Why he bothers

After falling off a treadmill (twice), I now only run on actual ground.  And after sweating around a sunny outdoor track, I now only run inside.  This leaves me a bit limited in options, but I’ve found my answer at my local Y.  You’ll find me there most weekends, as I slowly tread my course around  the ridiculously small track (24 laps = 1 mile) above the basketball court.   It’s a very old gym, one that been around for generations.

As I run, I watch the teens who come to play basketball on the weekends   I know who among them can shoot well, who has excellent ball handling skills, and who plays a great defense   If any college scouts are looking for talent  (I’m talking to you, bracket ruining MSU) I’m the person they should come to first.

This morning, I was not alone on the track. Two other runners were up there and there was one other person–an elderly man who very slowly made his way around the track with the help of  a cane.

I passed him over and over again  as he made slow progress. His movement was so inconsequential that I found myself wondering why he even bothered coming at all.

Beneath us, the teens playing basketball moved up and down the court with an unquenchable energy. The rhythm of the ball and the sound of each teen’s  shoes on the court composed a song of youth and vitality.

And then the man stopped walking.  He left his cane standing alone and turned toward the court, supporting himself with both hands on the railing.  And he watched the boys playing beneath us.

I wondered what he remembered as they moved beneath his watchful gaze.  I wondered how many years had passed since he had been the young boy  dribbling the ball, running the court, shooting baskets, enjoying an afternoon with friends.   And I wondered if the reason he came here to walk, if the reason he bothered at all, was because of the memories that flooded him now.







One of those days

I am writing this blog post from a coma.  It’s been one of those days.

It started yesterday, when I decided to try something new.  Another teacher had come up with the idea of having students take on different personas and then battling one another in a March Madness style tournament.  In doing so, students could practice making claims, supporting their claims with evidence, and using counter claims and rebuttals.  It sounded crazy, but I went ahead and threw caution to the wind and set it up for today before I left work yesterday afternoon.

As I drove in to work, I debated doing it at all.  I still had my original lesson plan for today–the one I had put together over the weekend.  It practiced these same skills… in a much calmer environment.

But then, once I got to work, I decided to go with the battles.  After all, if my lesson failed miserably, I’d have the entire weekend to start looking for a new career.

I began the lesson tentatively.  My first period class makes for good guinea pigs, and when they rose to the occasion I decided to use the battles in my next two classes as well.  My second class also enjoyed the lesson, backing claims with excellent evidence, and providing counter claims and rebuttals, before leaving the room with smiles on the faces…lessons learned, in a fun, new way.  What could be better?

And then my final class came into the room.  Two students tried to get out of the assignment, claiming they’d rather do the original paper and pencil task.  When I had them draw “characters” from a container, the first student changed his mind.  He had drawn “shark” and that was a character he was sure could win in a battle.

The second student, however, drew “a class of kindergarten students” as his character.  He argued that he should be able to draw again, and I considered letting him.  But I knew that if I bent the rules for him, my day would be over.  So, I insisted he play with the character he had drawn.  “If you lose in the first round,” I told him, “you can help one of your friends in his  battles.”

This placated him enough to get him to stand up in the first round–a battle against Barney.  When he came out of this first battle victorious, he changed his mind.  It probably helped that his friend “shark” had lost in his first round, and now “shark” was helping the kindergartners with their battles. Throughout the two classes, the class of kindergarten students battled and won against a varied group of opponents:  kittens, turtles, and Girl Scouts.  Finally, it was time for the last battle–a battle between the group of kindergarten students and an eagle.

Frankly, it didn’t look good for the kindergarten students.  The eagle had faced what seemed to be a more intense group of opponents.  Time and time again the eagle had provided sound and compelling evidence, had countered intense claims, and had rebutted well-stated counter arguments.

Standing across from each other, the two began to argue.  The rest of the class cheered and gasped as they argued about how a group of kindergarteners and an eagle would approach, carry out, and win a battle.

You know where this is going, right?  In the end, it was the kindergarten students who emerged victorious.

But, of course, it wasn’t just the kindergarteners who won.  My students who learned in a fun way today won, because they acquired new knowledge or practiced what they already knew it a new way.  One student in particular won, because he learned that sometimes when you try something you don’t think you’re going to like, you learn that you like it, after all.  And, of course, I won, because I took a chance today.  And I learned that taking chances can pay off in smiles, and laughter, and learning.

Yes, it’s been one of those days–one of those great ones!




Diagnosis: it’s okay

My oh-I’m-so-sick-I’m-probably-dying-but-I’m-still-well-enough-to-kick-my-sister-in-the-head daughter is stretched out on the surprisingly small (has it shrunk ?)  exam table at her pediatrician’s office.  Following some advice I read in a parenting magazine, or heard from a friend, or saw on a website, I don’t usually come back with her anymore.  But, today I’ve come back to help her remember her long, long, long list of symptoms.  Day three of the worst illness ever has brought us here.

The nurse takes down the aforementioned list of symptoms, and then leaves the room.  As she leaves, she takes Claire’s file with her and slides it into the space designed for it on the outside of the door.

“Last time I was here, they  left my file on the counter instead of taking it out with them,” Claire tells me.  “So, I read it.”

“Well, there’s nothing in there you can’t see,” I tell her.  I imagine what she might have read.  Her list of immunizations?  Her weight and height through the years?  The times she’s tested positive and negative on strep cultures and pink eye swabs?

“There was a note in there from Mrs. Stevenson,” she says.  And I remember her second grade teacher and I sitting together, discussing my daughter,trying to figure out what was going on with a seven year old who couldn’t seem to remember anything said to her, but who retained every single thing she ever read.

“It said that whenever I was line leader I never stopped where I was supposed to stop.  I just kept going.”

“Oh, I remember that,” I tell her.  Seven years ago– when we tried so hard to nail down a diagnosis of ADHD or auditory processing disorder, but never found anything that really fit–now seems so long ago.   Claire and I laugh a little, remembering the past frustrations…those of the teacher, of my husband and I, and of Claire, herself.

And then I think of the girl she’s grown to be–a girl who has been sick for three days but who has been in constant contact with her teachers so she won’t fall behind, a girl who took a full load of honors classes with no study hall and no limit on her extra-curricular activities, a girl who gets up early every Saturday–no matter how late she stayed out the night before–to volunteer at the local food pantry.   And I realize that the true diagnosis was right there all along:  she just can’t be stopped.

And I make a vow to remember this about her the next time she has worn me out with her constant movement,  her endless energy.

And then I look at her, stretched out across the table with her legs swinging, her renewed energy showing that she’s already feeling so much better than she did when I made this appointment only a few hours ago.

And I give myself permission to sometimes forget that vow.







Stopping by Chipotle on a Sunny Afternoon

The woman behind the counter assures me that my order will be ready shortly, but just for this moment I am in no hurry to leave.  Instead, I am noticing the quiet perfection  in the way the soft light from a sunbeam has drawn grey shadows on the restaurant’s well-worn wooden floor.  I am admiring the brilliant shine of the light reflected off the slender bar of silver chrome on a table’s edge.  I am basking in the warmth of this sunny afternoon.

There is an odd peace in this moment, and I wish that I could just stay and take the time to savor this rare tranquility.  But the woman behind the counter has been true to her word, and my order is suddenly ready.  I’ve got to get this fast dinner home to my family. Because there’s dance lessons and voice lessons and homework and lesson planning and paper grading and showers and maybe even laundry to do.

Yes, I’ve got promises to keep.  And, though my actual travel distance is very short, I have miles to go before I sleep.



Casting Our Votes

I walked to the polls today.

Past Matt and Carla, who were working in their yard, so I stopped and we shared jokes about the candidates.  Past Jenny’s daughters, who halted their hula-hooping to greet me with shy voices.  Past Mike, who was driving quickly, but who slowed down just enough to wave and smile. Past a couple who I did not know, but who smiled back and said “hi” when I greeted them.

The early spring warmth and late afternoon sun were new to us, an aura of hope hung in the air, and everyone seemed excited to turn out.

Lisa stood outside the library doors, and we asked each other about kids and work and spring break plans. Gussie pulled up in her van and pronounced herself lazy for driving three blocks rather than walking.  Corinna rushed past us, waving and shouting a quick greeting.  And James came up behind us and commented jovially on the long lines.

And my neighbor Ed?  The one who never says “hi?”  He turned his head and pretended not to see any of  us .



The sickest…ever

My fourteen year old is sick. She’s the sickest anyone has ever been.  Ever.

I was at a conference today and my phone did not have service.  In the end, that was probably a good thing. I was able to miss out on the illness updates she sent to my husband and me every 5 minutes.  (Here’s a quick recap:  I have a fever! I have chills! Help me!  I’m so sick! I have a fever! I have chills! Help me! I’m so sick!  Ad infinitum.)

After the conference, I called her  from the parking lot.  “Is there anything I can pick up for you on the way home?” I asked her.

She gave me a simple list:  every single item in the cold and flu aisle at Walgreens.  I hung up and headed toward the store. Three minutes later I glanced at my phone  and saw that I had missed four phone calls from my daughter.  I called her back.

“And a milkshake,” she said.  “I need a milkshake.  A strawberry one.  From Culvers.”  She seemed convinced that it would be the cure for her horrible, terrible, worst thing since the plague illness.

As I pulled into the Culvers drive-thru, she texted me a picture of a thermometer.  “I just can’t get my fever to go down!” The text said.  The thermometer read 100 degrees.

I pulled up to the speaker and ordered the promised strawberry milkshake.  And then  I ordered a chocolate one.  For me. I was going to need it.


Celebrity Sighting

Last night, in the midst of the sugar induced squeals of tween girls at my younger daughter’s  12th birthday party, there was a unexpected silence when the noise from the kitchen just stopped.

I looked up to see what had happened and was met by the returning stares of ten adolescent faces, eyes wide with awe.

“What’s going on?” I asked, before realizing that the gaze was not fixed on me, but on something just past me.

I turned my head to see what had captured their amazement and brought their silence. My high school Freshman was standing in our entryway.   “They’re staring at me,” she said, her voice light with amusement.

For a few awkward moments, no one said anything.  I turned my attention from my older daughter, to the younger group, and back again.  No one moved.

“Hi,” Claire finally said to them, breaking the silence.  She acknowledged the ones she knew personally by name.

At last, one of the younger girls spoke.  “You got highlights,” she said.

“Yes, I did,” Claire told her.

And then there was just more silence.   Claire got some paper from a cabinet and went into the living room to make cards for a party she was going to later.  When she had disappeared from sight, the younger girls slowly peeled themselves away from the kitchen doorway and retreated back to into the kitchen.  Within moments, the raucous noise had returned, and all was as it had been before Claire had been spotted.

And as the conversation returned to the latest antics of a particular boy in their sixth grade class, the upcoming school musical, and spring break plans, I knew the younger girls would probably forget about Claire by the time the pizza we’d just ordered arrived.

But the memory of what had happened–the silence, the awe, the hesitant respect of a girl three years their elder–that would live on and on in Claire’s mind.

Growing Up

There are times I look at my daughters and realize just how grown up they’re getting.  And then there are times when I realize just how much they’re actually not grown up at all.

Like today, for instance.

I’m not sure why my 14 year old decided to practice her self-defense moves on her sister in the middle of the ice cream aisle at the grocery store.  Part  of me thinks the older one was not so subtlety protesting the fact that I hadn’t taken her highness home before subjecting her to a shopping trip for her sister’s birthday party.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, I will long be haunted by the fact that when a came around the corner, I realized it was my kids causing all that annoying racket

Suffice it to say, I’m going to let some time pass , and some more growing up happen, before I take them both shopping again.

Which was probably their plan all along, now that I think about it.