Monday, March 31, 2014

Slice of Life: Writing is a Habit (31 of 31)

It's the 31st day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  The final day.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

Today ends the third year I have participated in the Slice of Life Challenge.  I remember the first year;  it was really all I could do to sit down to write each day.  There were days I just didn't think I'd be able to get anything down to publish.  Year two was a little better, but still sometimes just thinking of what I would write was a challenge.

When I joined in year one it was because I wanted to get back into the habit of writing.  Like getting back into exercise, I struggled.  After the challenge that year my ability to stay in the habit ebbed and flowed.  There were times I was writing and times I was not.  There were times ideas came easily and times they did not.

The First Challenge:  Crafting an Interesting Piece
Now in year three I have a better writing habit than I did those years ago.  This year, for me, the challenge wasn't in actually sitting down.  I've learned you can write about anything, the challenge is in making it interesting.  This time, the challenge was in crafting a piece of writing.  These three pieces were the ones I found most interesting to craft:

Respect the Dawg:  I had the most fun writing this piece.  I wanted to bring respect to the poor hot dog.

Making Gravy:  I've been trying to improve my writing of, what I will call, the personal essay.  My hope is to learn to write a piece that uses a story to illustrate a more universal message, to write about a truth we all understand.

Spring Symphony:  This was an attempt to continue the story I wrote last year, Did You Seen Her.  In these stories I played with personification a bit to tell the story of the push and pull between spring and winter this time of year.  In this year's story, Spring takes over the conducting of the symphony from Winter's long stay.

The Second Challenge:  Time to Polish
The hardest thing about the challenge is the lack of time to really polish a piece.  Because each day a new post is required, there really isn't time to leave the piece for a bit and come back to revise it.  This is always a little hard for me.

The Third Challenge:  Time to Read
Time to read is a big piece of being able to write.  There's something about studying the crafting techniques of others, discovering great lines, and considering interesting topics that helps make writing a little easier.  During the challenge I found it hard to get around to all of the blogs to read and comment the way I would like to have read.  Additionally, keeping up with my personal reading was a bit difficult.

The Gift
This community.  I'm so appreciative to everyone who has stopped by to comment.  The way you commented about the message, your connections to pieces, the parts of writing that caught your attention, really helped think more deeply about my writing.  The posts you wrote and shared on  your blogs taught me so much as I wandered enjoying the little slices of life.  Funny how all of the little pieces weave together into a beautiful bigger story.

What's Next?
For me, today ends the Slice of Life Challenge and begins my poem-a-day challenge for April.  I'm looking forward to a new writing adventure in the new month.  Thanks again to all of you who have stopped to comment, to all who have shared their writing, and to Two Writing Teachers for helping to support this amazing community.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Slice of Life: Live First (30 of 31)

It's the 30th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

This morning I awoke at my daughter's apartment to the sound of an unfamiliar bird singing outside of the window.  I pulled the blind open to try to spot the bird, but couldn't see it anywhere though its song was clear, strong, and unknown to me.  I looked at the flowering dogwood across the street thinking the bird must be somewhere in there and sighed.  Today was the last day of my spring break.  In a few short hours we'd be on the road home and back to the busyness of life.

Though I looked forward to seeing my students and hearing their stories tomorrow, I lamented all I had not accomplished.  I still didn't have my taxes done.  My daughter's graduation invitation wasn't done.  My house was clean, but the windows, closets, and drawers looked just as they did a week ago.  The sign turned heavy on my shoulders and caused a certain uneasiness.

Soon we left the apartment after thank yous, goodbyes, and hugs.  Knowing my husband would drive the route, I arranged myself in the car with my computer and coffee.  There are some things I could get done on the drive.  I decided to start by reading a few slices of friends and headed to Stella's blog.  Stella is my virtual life coach.  I love her optimistic outlook on life, her energy, and her ability to put everything in perspective.  Her post today, Sweet Spring Break, made me smile.  As I read about her fabulous week, I realized I had spent my time doing exactly what I love to do.  During the week I had arranged time with family, friends, reading, writing, and relaxing.

There's nothing like a little time for food and friends.  Spring break allowed time to catch up with friends for lunch.  Oh, the joy of a little free time for conversation.

I was finally able to try Dirty Frank's.
I also enjoyed a little home-like cooking
at Der Dutchman.

There was time for coffee with my dad and dinner with my mom and Jerry.

Love Stauf''s!

There was time for prom dressing shopping with Cassie and her friend.  I was also able to travel to visit my oldest daughter, Cortney, in the Carolinas.

There was time to play with a few new recipes.  Over break I made my own meatballs, tried two new chicken breast recipes, and discovered some new side dishes to add to our menu.

There was time for reading and writing.  During break I read The Invention of Wings (my review here),  The Longest Ride (audio), Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (audio), and One Crazy Summer.   There was plenty of time to write and enjoy the Slice of Life Challenge.  

There was time to study for the big family fantasy baseball draft.  I'm not sure the studying really helped me much, but I had to try to outwit my son and nephew.  If the draft is any sign, I think I still have A LOT to learn.

Spring break provided the time to visit Franklin Park Conservatory's exhibit of Bruce Munro's light art. While in Greensboro we were able to visit the International Civil Rights Museum.  It was interesting to hear the story of the Woolworth's sit-in and its part in the Civil Rights Movement.  

There was plenty of time for dessert!  Lots of dessert!

Le Chocoholique

Driving back through mountains still covered in snow and brown squiggly branches waiting for warmth, I realize how wonderful the break was.  I spent the time doing things I enjoy.  Thanks, Stella, for once again helping me to see what's important.   The best lists aren't the "to do" lists or the "it's done" lists, but the lists like these of the times I left my lists behind to enjoy life.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Slice of Life: Time with Mom (29 of 31)

It's the 29th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

We watched at the window until we saw them coming down the road.  Finally the car pulled into the parking spot, backed to straighten, and finally came to a rest.  The car doors opened and I raced to greet them.  Soon my mom and Jerry were on their way up the steps.  It had been three months since we'd all been together so I was thrilled when they were able to drive to my daughter's to join us for a visit.

There were hellos, hugs, and laughter as they came up the stairs and entered the apartment.  "Here are some cookies for the drive home," my mom said handing me a big bag of chocolate chip cookies risen to perfection.  I eyed the mountains of sweetness and thanked her, doubting these cookies would make it that long.

Jerry sat down to chat with us on the couch as Mom went into Cortney's kitchen with her cooler.  She began to unpack its contents.  She had individually wrapped cookies for her, as well as chili and stuffed peppers for her freezer.  "Why don't I get these kind of care packages when you visit me?" I joked.

This is my mom.  She's always doing things to make everyone happy.  If you're going to visit her house, you can expect warm cookies upon your arrival.  If she's coming to see us, her bag is always packed with some interesting little this or that she saw and knew would be perfect for us.  She Facetimes with my youngest niece.  Plays games with the kids.  Endlessly cheers all of us on in life.  She worries more than she should, but always with the best of intentions.  If you need an ear, call mom.  If you need advice, call mom.  If you just want to chat, call mom.

Since it was her birthday weekend, we wanted to take her out for dinner.  We jumped into the car and headed to a local Mexican restaurant.  We caught up on all of the latest over enchiladas and rice, nachos and salsa.  Our time together flew and soon they needed to begin the drive back home.  We were sad to see them go, but glad they were able to sneak in a little time for a visit.

Here I sit this evening with only one cookie left from the bagful she handed to me only yesterday.  Did she really expect those cookies would still be around for the drive home?  I should probably eat it in honor of her birthday.  Perhaps I'll luck into a few more the next time we get together.  That's one of my favorite things to do:  spend time with my mom.

Happy birthday, Mom!  

Past Mom Stories:
Gifts for Mom
The Window
Banana Splits

Friday, March 28, 2014

Slice of Life: wandering (28 of 31)

It's the  28th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.   It's also Poetry Friday so I decided to try a little poetry for this evening.  Poetry Friday is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading.

Yesterday Stacey talked about a piece of writing that takes readers in a different direction than they think they are headed.  I thought I'd try that with this poem.

via Words on Image
Tolkien Quote
i start
at the beginning
of the path
the first step
a touch familiar

i begin
to wander
enjoying all i see
moving beyond
the known

i pause
taking it all in,
one discovery
leads to another


i am 
at a place
where i must decide
where to go next
forward or back?  

i choose
and continue,
before i know it
i am lost
straying from
where i originated


i tap 
the back button
and wonder
how did i get here
to this new
treasured discovery

© Cathy L. Mere

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Slice of Life: The Invention of Wings (27 of 31)

It's the 27th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

The problem with reading, if we can say there is one, is that its hard to sleep when you have a good book.   Last night I woke up when I heard my daughter come in from work at 11:15.  I heard the knob jiggle, the door open, and her feet tap gently across the foyer floor.  She chatted with the dog for a bit and wandered into the kitchen.  I had the alarm set to check on her so I would have awaken no matter what.  Climbing out of my heated bed I walked in the kitchen to talk with her for a bit and then headed back to my room.  My book was calling me as soon as consciousness returned to my mind.   Since I am on spring break I decided I could read for awhile as I didn't necessarily have to get up early.

Picking up my Kindle I went back to reading Sue Monk Kidd's new book:  The Invention of Wings.  I had borrowed the digital version from the library, my favorite way to get books now, and had waited patiently to go from patron 748 on the waiting list to the one with book.  I couldn't put it down last night.  The clock went past midnight, but I didn't turn into a pumpkin I just kept reading.  One o'clock.  Two o'clock.  Three o'clock.  Finally at 3:30 I reached the end.  This is what I love about spring break, I reminded myself; the ability to do crazy things like stay up all night reading.

If you haven't read Kidd's book yet, you should.  The author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair does it again in my book (pardon the pun); she wove a story of women's lives nearly impossible to put down.  In The Invention of Wings, Kidd shares the story of Sarah a young white judge's daughter growing up with her wealthy family in the south.  At age 11, Sarah is given a slave named Hetty, a young girl nearly her age.  While Sarah should be excited according to her family and the sad customs of the times, she is not.  Even at eleven Sarah doesn't feel it is right to own other people and attempts to set Hetty free.  Her parents won't hear of this nonsense.

The story weaves through decades as Hetty and Sarah grow up in the same place, yet in completely different worlds.  Across the chapters we learn of Hetty's family, her struggles to maintain ownership of her mind when her body is enslaved, and her quest for freedom.  Entwined in Hetty's story is Sarah's as she struggles against the norms of Charleston's society she continually questions.  Neither women fits the molds the world has created for them, and both struggle and fight in their own way to find their place.  As a reader, I tend to love books with interesting characters and this book did not disappoint.  I enjoyed the way Kidd alternated the story chapters between Sarah and Hetty; each chapter like a square in a quilt, separate yet a part of the other.

As I finished the book well after 3 a.m. last night I was intrigued to discover Sarah was a true abolitionist in our history.  Kidd explains the parts of the story she knew to be fact, and those she had created to help tell the story of this strong woman.  I always love books set in a time period of historical significance in which people are placed in positions to do what is right, yet often, sometimes for survival, they put aside what is right for what is accepted.  People often lack the courage to stand up.  Books like The Book Thief, Stones from the River, The Help and this one demonstrate the way people will not always do what is right.  Sometimes a way of life is such a part of our current culture that we do not see the problems right in front of us.  Sometimes we lack the strength to stand up for what is just.  Who would you be, who would I be, in these times?

It is one thing for Sarah to disagree with the practice of slavery in a time when the church and society have made it seem perfectly the way of the world.  It is amazing she saw through this at such a young age.  It is another to choose to live your life differently because of it, but Sarah went even further; she fought to change it.  It took courage to speak for change with her family, in her church, in her town, and then take that fight into the world; a world in which women were expected to be silent.  A world in which basic human rights didn't belong to everyone.  A world blind to the truth before it.

Who would you be, who would I be, in these times?

Who are you, who am I, today?

Note:  If you have a chance to visit Cincinnati's Freedom Museum, you'll want to stop.  This museum tells the story of the time period Sarah and Hetty lived and the journey since.  It also, reminds us that slavery is still a problem across the world.  The last exhibit we visited in the museum was modern slavery.  It's hard to believe in today's world this still exists.  Of course, there are many forms of slavery and many things we can each do to make this world a better place.  There are still people courageous enough to take on the fight.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Slice of Life: More Time Should Be Spent Meandering (26 of 31)

It's the 26th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

Typically life is pretty busy and quick paced.  It seems weeks are spent racing here and hurrying there.  There is always something to be done, and never time to just stop for a bit.  This week is my spring break so I decided to put my calendar, lists, and deadlines aside to do a little meandering with my friend, Trish.  Since it is the 26th, I thought I'd share my day in 6 six word stories.

Every day should begin with coffee.

Pie with friends delights the soul.

My basket fills with fresh food.

Yutzy's Farm Market

Making meatballs from secret family recipe.  

Plants enjoy light day and night.  

Franklin Park Conservatory to see the light art of Bruce Munro

Lesson:  put lists aside to meander.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Slice of Life: Spring? Break (25 of 31)

It's the 25th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

Spring break shopping
Would someone please
tell Mother Nature
it is my

I should not
be wearing a coat
or waiting
for bright

I shouldn't see

I want to see green
feel warmth
see sun because
it is my
SPRING break.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Slice of Life: Respect the Dawg (24 of 31)

It's the 24th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

Let's face it, the hot dog doesn't get the respect it deserves in our culture.  As kids we loved a good hot dog anytime, anywhere.  We'd pull them out of refrigerators and eat them cold right out of the bag.  They were delicious cut up and dipped in ketchup, on a bun plain, or chopped in Spaghettio's.

There comes a time in our adolescence where we find out the truth about hot dogs.  Eventually the well kept secret can no longer be hidden; we find out the contents of a hot dog.  What...meat parts?  Ugh!  How did our parents let us eat them all of those years?  We feel cheated.  Lied to.  Let down. 

After the truth is told, it is sometimes days, weeks, or maybe even years before we can eat a hot dog again.  Gone are the days of grabbing them cold from the fridge for a quick snack.  Gone are the days of popping one in the microwave when we get home.  Gone are the days of cutting them up with a can of Spaghettio's.  The poor hotdog is tossed aside.  Disregarded.  It is no longer considered a mealtime possibility.

How can we do this to the hotdog?  Let's be honest, there's nothing better than a hotdog at a baseball game.  Wrapped tightly in foil, the juicy goodness stays tucked inside.  The smell is hard to resist.  Or what about on a rotisserie after it has turned and turned in the heat cooking those juices to a tasty perfection?  Why not tucked under coney sauce with mounds of shredded cheddar at the local Skyline or Gold Star Chili establishment?

And what about a campfire?  A campfire just isn't complete without roasting hotdogs.  There's something about walking into the woods to find the perfect stick to cook a hotdog.  Holding it over the fire, whether lightly or until the hotdog is crispy brown, is a hard treat to resist.

Our culture needs to rethink the status of the hotdog.  Thankfully, there are places that still respect the dawg.  Today I visited one of those places sure to make our grownup selves rethink the whole hotdog thing.  Columbus is lucky to have a place that understands the hotdog.  Today I visited Dirty Frank's for lunch.  The experience had me rethinking hotdogs in my life.  I ordered the West Virginia Slaw Dog (check out the possibilities for dressing up a hotdog on the menu).  The hotdog was tucked deep inside the bun under coney sauce, cole slaw, and onions.  De-lish.  With fair fries on the side, the hotdog was the consummate lunch.  The experience has me rethinking my opinion of a hotdog.  Let's respect the dawg.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Slice of Life: Dinner à la Pinterest (23 of 31)

It's the 23rd day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

"What's that smell?" Cassie shouted from upstairs as she got ready for work.

Dinner was in the oven and I was hoping we could eat before she had to leave.  We've had a hard time getting dinner ready before she leaves in the evening.  She ends up eating late, and by herself, when she gets home.  I started dinner earlier in hopes we'd be able to eat together.  It's nice to have the opportunity to sit down as a family to dinner.  Dinner seemed to be coming along on schedule.  The potatoes were nearly done cooking and ready to mashed.  The lima beans were simmering.  The smells from the oven were beginning to permeate the house.

"Is that cheese I smell cooking?" inquired John as he watched the hockey game from the couch in his Sunday attire.  If it has cheese, he might be interested in joining us.

John had taken a break from March Madness so Jeff had gone into the other room to watch the games.  Jeff waits all year for this madness.  He consults his bracket to see how it is looking and asks, "What are we having for dinner?  It smells good."

"I'm trying a new recipe," I reply from the kitchen.

"Is it a Pinterest recipe?"  Cassie jokes.  She's getting used to my Pinterest experimenting.  Nobody complains because most of the Pinterest experiments have gone quite well.  It seems like we have been eating the same thing for years, but Pinterest has livened up our mealtimes.

The timer buzzes and I pull the chicken out of oven.  The smell of parmesan cheese fills the house.  The coating has cooked to a slight brown crisp and looks delicious.  When I cut into one of the chicken breasts to check it, I'm delighted to see it looks moist and tender inside.  It looks like another Pinterest success!  We gather around the table.  The oohs and aahs continue.  Yes, this recipe is a keeper.

We enjoy our meal and our time together.  For dessert, no bake cookies.  This recipe works every time and you guessed it, it's from Pinterest.  (My Pinterest boards)

Tonight's Recipes
From Mmmm!  Let's Eat
Parmesan Chicken Breast:  Tastefully Simple

From Mmmm!  Start with Dessert
No Bake Cookies:  Squirrel Bakes

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Slice of Life: Spring Break! 22 of 31

It's the 22nd day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.

It's spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be
fingers at the keyboard,
cup of coffee at my side,
searching for words,
playing on paper.

It's spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be
desperately avoiding
wrestling with my taxes,
laboring over FAFSA forms,
cleaning cupboards, closets, and hidden piles,
scouring floors, sinks, and windows.

It's spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be
discovering places:
meandering through the zoo,
gazing at light shows,
walking through the park,
finding a new place to eat.

It's spring break.
If you are looking for me
I might be
putting responsibilities aside
reading a new book,
soaking in the sunshine (please let there be sunshine),
spending time with friends and family,
celebrating life!

© Cathy L. Mere

Friday, March 21, 2014

Slice of Life: The Line Between 21 of 31

It's the  21st day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.   It's also Poetry Friday so I decided to try a little poetry for this evening.  Poetry Friday is hosted by Julie Larios at The Drift Record.

The Line Between
The moon stands boldly
in the blue black sky
not ready to say goodnight.

It watches the sun
begin to rise
on the other side of the earth.

The sun peeks
above the green of the world
into the white blue sky.

It smiles at the moon.
Seeing itself
in the moon's reflection.

Driving down
the gray paved narrow road
I watch them play.

Moon greets sun.
Sun greets moon.
The line between
                     night and day.

© Cathy L. Mere

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Slice of Life: Did Someone Say Tony Orlando? 20 of 31

It's day 20 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  We're more than half way through 31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

There are probably things you shouldn't confess to on a blog, but here we go anyway….

Picture from Tralfaz Archives
My husband likely thinks I'm crazy as I run out of the room where I am writing because I heard the name "Tony Orlando" on the television set.  Suddenly, I'm ten again.  I used to stay up so I wouldn't miss the Tony Orlando and Dawn show.  I loved to see him sing.   I can still picture the album which played over and over on the record player my parents got for me.

Those were the days before reality television.  The days when you had three channels not 300.  Those were the days when you actually had to watch a show on the exact time it aired.  Though I was quite young I somehow managed to let the whole family know that was my television time.  There wasn't anything that would, or could, be important enough to miss Tony Orlando.

On the night of his show I'd be sure the rabbit ears were adjust perfectly, find a spot directly in front of the television, and sing along to every song.  I'm really not sure how my parents tolerated the whole scene.  My grandma was as into Tony as I was.  We'd watch the show together when I was at her house.  She was a trendy gal.

Who could resist "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" or "Knock Three Times?"  It wasn't long until Tony was replaced by posters of Scott Baio, Leif Garrett, and Parker Stevenson.  (Check out heartthrobs of the 70s here.)  Of course, there was always still a little room for a Tony Orlando poster.  Here I am years later; when I heard Tony Orlando mentioned on a show my husband was watching I raced into the room.  I had to see him.  It was conditioning from days gone by.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Slice of Life: Making Gravy 19 of 31

It's day 19 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  We're more than half way through 31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Before my husband and I were married I spent a lot of time at his parents' house.  His mom had a way of making everyone feel welcome in their home.   When she cooked, there might be four people in the house but, she cooked for an army.  It never mattered if someone stopped by because she always had more than enough food on the stove.  She was always ready to lend an ear, a hand, or whatever someone might need.

After my husband and I got married, she would always introduce me to people as her daughter.  Somehow this just always made me feel like I was such a part of this family.   In the first years we were married, we spent a lot of time at my in-laws.  They lived close so it was easy to stop by or join them for dinner.  We joined them for dinner A LOT.  Betty, my mother-in-law, was an amazing cook.  It wasn't uncommon for me to spend time in the kitchen as she prepared meals.

It was in her kitchen that I learned the secrets of making gravy.  She taught me to put the flour in a cup and add a little cold water.  She showed me how to continue to gradually add cold water until the flour was dissolved in the mixture.  When it was time to start the gravy she showed me how to scald the pan with meat flavorings.  Then, after adding hot water to the flour mixture, it would be added immediately to the pan.  I have always been sure there's something about adding the hot water at the end that keeps gravy from lumping.

Tonight I decided I was making cubed steak with brown gravy.  As I moved the meat over to scald the pan and prepared my flour mixture, I thought of her.  It's hard to believe it has been 14 years since I last stood beside her in the kitchen.  I can make a mean gravy, but it's still not as good as Betty's.  I've never been quite able to make dumplings as good as her dumplings, stuffing as good as her stuffing, or bread pudding quite like she made.  I've never even attempted to make grape leaves or stuffed cabbage.  I know it will never be quite like the food she made.

There's nothing like a little gravy to add comfort to a meal.  The gravy doesn't keep me from missing my mother-in-law.  It doesn't keep from wishing she was still here to see her grandchildren.  It doesn't keep me from wanting to pick up the phone to call her and tell her stories about the latest antics of our kids.  She loved a good mischief story.  It doesn't keep me from wishing we were all going to gather in her kitchen, eat her food, and sit around the table with her.  It doesn't keep me from wondering why we had to lose her when we did, but it does bring me comfort; comfort in the memory of all she taught me in our time together.  Gravy isn't just a comfort food, it's a comfort memory.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Slice of Life: A Tune for Tuesday

It's day 18 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  We're more than half way through 31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

I'm enjoying a young blog called The Lead Goose by Scott Jones.  On Tuesdays Scott always shares a tune and a story.  I'm not sure if the idea originates on his blog, but it is the first place I have seen it.  As I was driving to school today I heard the song, Happy by Pharrell Williams.  I don't know what it is about this song, but it makes me happy.   I doubt anyone can listen to it without starting to feel the happiness rise from her/his toes.  I knew as soon as I heard it the day would be filled with happiness. 

The Happiness of a Stinky Lunch

I hurried to get my lunch and get back to the classroom after recess duty.  I was looking forward to our Slice of Life lunch.  It would be nice to have extra time to chat with students participating in our Slice of Life Challenge.  I couldn't wait to hear about how their writing was going and to share tips with one another.

It wasn't long until I heard them coming down the hall.  They chatted as they came into the classroom, getting their lunches from their book bags.  We started a circle on the floor and began to pull out the contents of our lunches.  Taggart excitedly pulled out strawberries and raspberries.  Grace was thrilled to find she had not one, but two, packages of Gushers.  Students who were buying began to come into the classroom with their lunches too.  We made room for everyone in our circle.

I pulled out my salad and began to peel back the plastic cover.  We were laughing and talking when a terrible smell reached my nose.  What was that I wondered?  The smell was strong and unpleasant.  It didn't take me long to realize it was my salad.  Apparently the cheese was a little stronger than I imagined.  I lightheartedly apologized to everyone for the smell.

Of course, right away the kids on both sides of me started to laugh and hold their nose.  Before I knew it everyone was fanning in front of their noses and, of course, asking to smell it.  The joy of stinky food.  I jokingly said, "I think I know what my slice of life was going to be:  Stinky Lunch."  They facetiously agreed and my lunch quickly became the topic for everyone's slice of life (Madeline wrote about it here).  Funny how a few first graders and a stinky lunch can fill a room with happiness.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Slice of Life: Henry and Mudge Limericks 17 of 31

It's day 17 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  We're more than half way through 31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Since it's St. Patrick's Day, and I needed to write something my students might enjoy, I decided to create a few limericks about Henry and Mudge.  We've been enjoying these books by Cynthia Rylant for a few weeks now.

There once was a very young boy,
He wanted a dog not a toy.
He begged and he cried.
He tried and he tried.
The pet would bring him great joy

There once was a mom and a dad,
Who said a friend for Henry wouldn't be bad.
They got him a pet.
A dog, you can bet.
For all of this, Henry was glad.

There was once a dog named Mudge.
For a treat, he didn't want fudge.
It was crackers to eat.
For his favorite treat.
On that, he just wouldn't budge.

On another note, my first grade niece wrote a Slice of Life about me.  She named me the cookie monster!  Can you believe it?  Okay, maybe you can believe it.

My niece wrote a story 'bout me,
A cookie monster I just can't be.
Yes, I ate and I ate,
But I had to clean plate.
Wasting Girl Scout cookies I cannot see.

There once was an aunt very sweet,
It was Girl Scout Cookies that she would eat.
She loved Tagalongs too.
What was she to do?
These cookies just cannot be beat.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Slice of Life: The City 16 of 31

It's day 16 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  We're half way through 31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

The weather was warmer and the sun was shining yesterday.  Jeff and I decided it was the perfect day to go the city for dinner.

The City
creating ladders,
to touch
the cloudless blue.

Horns shout,
tires screech,
cars buzz,
buses roar,
on pavement.

Cement paths
guide visitors,
here and there.

pepper the maze
of buildings,
filling the air
with irresistible smells
to entice.

sprinkle the streets
sharing history,
breathing life.

it calls
New discoveries
in the city.

© Cathy L. Mere

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Slice of Life: Love, Peace, Cookies 15 of 31

It's day 15th of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.   Today I'm writing about Girl Scout Cookies.  Here's a poem I wrote about them in 2012 Slice of Life Challenge:  Girl Scout Cookies.

Returning from dinner I spot them in the freezer.  A box of peanut butter Girl Scout cookies are tucked on the shelf calling my name.  If they were meant to be hidden, someone should do a better job.  Besides you can't stash from a stasher.  I know how to find any piece of hidden chocolate within miles of my home.

Reaching in I grab a cookie.  Okay.  I grab two cookies.  Okay.  Let's not talk about it.  Who can resist a Tagalong?  Besides, they're only here for such a limited time.  These are the things I tell myself as I reach into the box.

This year I purchased cookies from my niece.  She delivered them with this lovely post-it, "Love.  Peace.  Cookies."  Doesn't that just say it all?  What if cookies could solve the world's problems?  Wouldn't it be nice if life were that simple.  Growing up a cookie solved any problem, or at least diverted my attention long enough for me to think it did.  I laughed when I saw her note.  I couldn't have said it better myself, "Love.  Peace.  Cookies."  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Slice of Life: Which Sky? 14 of 31

It's the  fourteenth day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.   It's also Poetry Friday so I decided to try a little poetry for this evening.  Poetry Friday is hosted by Kara at Rogue Anthropologist.  

Which sky
catches your attention?
You gaze,

Is it the sky
at dawn
as the sun rises
on the horizon
to say good morning,
then painting
the light blue sky
in strokes of pink and yellow?

Is it the sky
at noon,
as the sun
radiates from above,
high in the sky,
yellow ball of fire
heating the world,
by crystal blue
all around?

Is it the sky
at dusk,
the sun sinks
on fields,
saying goodnight,
turning soft clouds
from white
to red and purple and blue?

Is it the sky
at night
as the moon rises
into the blackness,
hanging high in the sky,
the stars
their silent symphony
of light
from the heavens?

you gaze.
Your attention on
which sky?

© Cathy L. Mere

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Slice of Life: 13 is a Lucky Number (13 of 31)

It's the  thirteenth day of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Well some people might consider 13 an unlucky number, but I disagree.  Today is my dad's birthday.  Yes, it's the 13th so that makes me consider 13 a gift.  I'm a little late getting this post in because I've been out celebrating my dad's birthday with him.  Here are 13 things I love about my dad:

13.  I don't have to clean my house when he comes over.
12.  He loves to drive.  I don't.
11.  He knows music like nobody's business.  On a recent road trip I tested his knowledge using Pandora's decade stations.  He was impressive naming artists and songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s.
10.  He has fun wherever he goes.  He can go with the flow in any situation.
9.  He can have fun just sitting around the living room and hanging out with the family.
8.  He has rocking internet at his house.  (Sorry, we have a painfully slow cellular connection.)
7.  He's willing to drive across state lines for an adventure.
6.  He is always ready for a coffee run.
5.  He is able to see things from two sides.  He's not extreme anything.
4.  He has great stories.
3.  I'm sure I saw a gray hair finally.  OK, I'm fibbing.  That red hair never grays!
2.  He's the best grandpa.  I mean who else takes his granddaughter out to lunch on his birthday and pays the tab?  I'm pretty sure she should have bought his lunch.
1.  He is my dad.  I know I can always count on him to be there.

A little more about my dad:
His 2013 birthday post.
His 2012 birthday post.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Slice of Life: Please Forgive Me 12 of 31

It's day 12th of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

I stare at the clothes hanging in my closet.  "Who picked all of this out," I ask myself pretending not to know the answer.  Reaching the bottom rod, I grab a pair of black pants.  That keeps it simple; everything goes with black.  Then I stare at the shirts:  purple, blue, black, purple, pink, blue, purple, black.  My closet is a giant bruise.  There's nothing I want to wear in this closet, but I have to find something.  It's still below freezing outside so my options are limited.  I push hangers from left to right, then right to left, searching carefully between shirts as if I might find some hidden treasure to solve my problem.

Knowing I can't stand in my closet all day I try to make a decision.  "Did I wear that shirt already this week?" I ask under my breath.  Pausing as if waiting for answer, I try to think back.  I did laundry last night so now things are complicated.  What did I already wear?  There was a time when I could have told you everything I had worn for the last two weeks, but now I can only recall the color of the pants I wore and that's because they were black.  The odds are in my favor on that one.

Telling myself that everyone I teach with is so busy across the day they can't possibly have time to pay that close of attention to my clothing choices, I grab a white shirt and black sweater.  I put them both back.  "I wear that all the time," I scold and continue to search.  There's something slightly dysfunctional about having a conversation with yourself in the closet every day.  That can't be normal.

These closet clothing crises really need to cease.  I'm sure it is complicated by the fact that we are at the end of a season.  Maybe when it gets a little warmer so I can look to the short sleeved shirts and lighter pants this will be easier.  Looking at the clock, I realize I have to decide.  Maybe I'll put a purple shirt under that black sweater.  That'll jazz things up a bit.

When you see me today in something I have worn recently, just look at me and smile.  Know that I gave it my best shot.  When you see me today in something I have worn recently, please forgive me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Slice of Life: A Writer's Lunch 11 of 31

It's day eleven of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Here we are viewing a tutorial
on how to add images to your blog.

When I told my class about the Slice of Life Challenge, they were quick to jump into the game.  I wasn't sure how first graders would handle a challenge, but I decided to dive in with them.  We developed a plan for the challenge and the kids dove right into it.  As part of our plan, we decided to meet every Tuesday for lunch in the classroom.  Our days are busy with learning so we weren't sure we would be able to find time during our day to talk about the challenge.  Lunch on Tuesday's would allow us to check in with each other.  

Today was Tuesday.  It was the Slice of Life Challenge lunch day!  After recess, the students who were buying went to the cafeteria to get their lunches.  Our packers set up the tables and started to eat.  When everyone was settled we started to talk about the challenge.  The students are thrilled with the way it going.  We talked about what was working and tips we were learning.  Madeline shared that she keeps a list of ideas on a piece of paper for the challenge.  She loves it!  I told them I keep a list of ideas on my phone.  Students started talking about places they could keep their ideas for their daily slices.  Someone suggested our writer's notebooks; another person thought an idea list could be kept on a blog.

Then we shared the ways a writer can share his/her writing for the challenge.  Some students have chosen to post on their blogs, others on paper, and some a mix of the two.  We are keeping all writing linked to our class blog.  Yesterday Maggie did her writing on paper, but posted it as a picture to her blog.  We talked about how putting it on your blog would allow more people to read your writing; it would also allow friends to comment.  Someone asked how she got her picture on the blog.  She explained how she did it.  We then reminded students of the resources on our website to help insert pictures in posts.  

After that we shared some of the writing.  We laughed over stories.  We celebrated the big steps in writing.  We shared and learned from one another as we ate our lunch.  I am in awe of these young writers willing to take on such a big challenge.  Every night when I sit down thinking I might not have the energy to write I think of them.  They inspire me.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Slice of Life: Time Change 10 of 31

It's day ten of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Time Change
6:00 a.m.
feels like five
8:00 p.m.
feels like ten
wanting a nap
needing a nap
hungry at the wrong times
so tired
moving the clock back
jet lag 
in your own backyard.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Slice of Life: Spring Symphony 9 of 31

It's day nine of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

I went out early this morning to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures.  The push and pull between winter and spring was obvious.  The ducks, back in their nesting places, were dealing with the ice still covering the ponds.  The confused seagulls filled the parking lots once again.  The irises pushed up among the decaying leaves of fall were not far from the lingering snow near the trees.  The neighbors snow fence still stood ready though the patio furniture was displayed at the store.  Reese's Eggs fill the shelves.  Surely Spring is near.  

Last year during Slice of Life I wrote, Have You Seen Her? after a beautiful surprise snow covered the ground.  This year, I'm a bit done with snow and am hoping for spring so I wrote this:

Spring Symphony
The concert was in days and everyone was worried.  Would Spring arrive on time?  Her timing was never exact.  Sometimes she was early and other times she was incredibly late.  The orchestra had been practicing for days in preparation of her arrival.  Spring was an amazing conductor.  She could make sun, wind, and rain play in perfect harmony.  Without spring they never sounded quite as new, quite as fresh.

To complicate matters, Winter just would not stay away.  He too was a smart conductor, but he had ice in his veins.  He always brought snow with him to sing along with the orchestra.  Though Snow was beautiful, she was cold and heartless.  Her breathy words seemed to take over instead of floating in harmony with the music.  For some reason, when she was around wind blew too hard, sun could hardly get warmed up, and rain disappeared all together.  Snow's presence seemed to blanket any room she entered, and though others were awed by her sparkle, she made it hard to breathe.

The rumor of Spring's upcoming concert was spreading far and wide.  The geese flew in to hear her beautiful music.  The daffodils put on their green and peered out to see if she was coming; saving their golden gowns for her arrival.  The rabbits and squirrels raced around to get ready.  Even the trees began to stand a little taller listening for signs she was near.  They too were ready to exchange their drab brown suits for those of leafy green.

Despite the rumors, the orchestra was getting nervous.  They hadn't had a strong practice.  It seemed every time they were together someone was having an off day.  Sometimes wind blew too hard.  Other days, rain could not warm up and made click click sounds instead of its gentle soothing music.  Sun was hard to keep motivated.  Some days she would hide behind the clouds, hoping to fade into the background.  Other days, she would disappear all together.  She needed Spring for strength.

It was the day of the concert and Spring was scheduled to arrive, but no one had heard from Spring.  She hadn't been to any of the earlier practices.  Snow kept showing up and Winter seemed to want to stay.  He enjoyed his time with the orchestra.  The concert would begin soon, and the audience sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation of Spring.  They enjoyed Winter's music at the start of his season, but they soon grew weary of its repetition.  Spring had a way of making everything exciting and novel.

It was time for the concert to begin, but the musicians were restless.  They buzzed among themselves wondering if Spring would make it on time this year.  Soon they settled down and an uncomfortable silence filled the auditorium.  Minutes seemed like hours as everyone waited.  The audience began to notice the cool air around them beginning to warm.  It felt good as it enveloped them, touching their skin with hope.  Everyone looked at one another knowing Spring had to be near.  They knew the signs.

Suddenly a murmur began in the front of the auditorium.   The murmur rippled to the back of the room and grew louder.  Soon they saw her walking toward her platform.  The crowd was relieved and rose in applause as she entered.  She was stunning in her suit of emerald green; her hair the color of daffodils glimmered.  Her eyes of blue glistened like the sky.  She looked confident as she smiled at the audience and motioned for them to be seated.

A comforting silence filled the room as Winter handed her the baton and exited with Snow at his side.  The room, filled with many, was too warm for them to stay.  Spring smiled at the audience and then turned to greet the orchestra.  She looked confidently at Sun who began to play.  The warmth of her piano created a tempo for others to follow.  Soon wind gently joined in harmony, and rain came in as needed to bring life to the music.  The gentle chirping of the birds could soon be heard by all.  The audience was motionless as the music moved through them.  They had missed the sounds of Spring's orchestra.

The music continued to move through them.  The audience moved between loud applause and appreciative silence.  It wasn't long until Spring began to weave her magic.  The hummingbirds began to dance around the stage.  The frogs joined the chorus with their deep tones and the insects added a quiet buzz to the music.  The trees, full of blossoms of white and pink, began to dance moving their limbs back and forth to the rhythms felt by all.

Friend smiled at friend.  Spring had woven her magic once again.  She was a team player.  She didn't realize how beautiful she was nor did she know how much others admired her.  She just humbly did what she loved.  Breathing life into all those around her.  Bringing joy and hope to the hearts of all.

© Cathy L. Mere

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Slice of Life: Sacred Time 8 of 31

It's day eight of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

This morning I woke up to light peeking in my window.  For a minute I wrestled with myself.  "Why am I still in bed," I wondered.  "I'll be late for school."  Glancing at the clock I realized it was already a little after seven.  Then a wave of relief poured over me as I realized it was Saturday.  I contemplated going back to sleep, but once my eyes open my head starts to spin.  I grabbed my computer and moved toward the living room.

I've managed few parameters in my life when it comes to time, but Saturday mornings have become one of them.  Quietly I tiptoed out of my room and into the kitchen.  Opening the cupboard I reached for the coffee to bring the day to life.  The smell quickly drifted into the living room.  Reaching for a cup I filled it with the steamy black liquid, added a little sugar, and poured a little chocolate caramel creamer into the cup.  Yes, dessert in a cup.

Saturdays mornings are a treasure to me.  They have been my day to write since my kids morphed from children to teenagers deciding that morning didn't start until it was nearly afternoon.  I work hard to protect this time of silence for putting my fingers to my keyboard.  I keep lists so I am ready to use it effectively.  Throughout the week I spin ideas so I'll be ready to write when I sit down to do so.  Some weeks are better than others, but still I hold onto this time tightly.  There is an invisible block on my calendar for Saturday morning.

My grandfather used to say, "If something is important enough to you, you'll find time for it."  Deep down I'm pretty sure he is right, but I wonder why there are so many things that are important to me which I still struggle to find time for in my life.  Where is the time to exercise?  Why can't I keep my house clean?  Oh, and that mail?!?  Why do I struggle to find time for just enjoying new things?  Why can't I finish the book I started three days ago?  I think these things are important enough for me but, I think until something is carved into my day or my week, it is easy to let other things take over this time.

This week my friend, Deb, came into school one morning and said she was going to make time to have breakfast at her island each morning.  I don't know what caught my attention about this statement.  Was it the fact that she was going to carve time for herself?  Was it the picture of peace in this little bit of time before our busy day with children?  Was it the word "island" that just made me want to relax?  I'm really not sure, but I know the statement has swirled in my head for most of the week.

The more I think about it, I suppose finding time is making time.  Maybe it's saying no to some things so you can say yes to others.  Maybe it's prioritizing what is most important.  Maybe it's setting limits for the amount of time that can be spent on work.  Maybe it's taking care of yourself a little bit.  Maybe it's making something a part of a routine so it becomes a habit.  Maybe it's just letting some things go.

In a meeting this week our principal smartly said, "Time will always be the enemy."  She's right.  There will never be enough time to do everything we want to do, but time is also our friend.  We are blessed to have it.  I don't have the answers for making better use of time, but this Saturday morning I'm comforted to be sitting here with my keyboard and cup of coffee with a little time to write.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Slice of Poetry: Night Gift 7 of 31

Poetry and story.  Perfect!  Last night I came home from a long day to a stunning night sky.  I wished I were a painter and could paint it.  I wished I were a photographer with a lens big enough to capture the light.  I am neither so I thought I'd try a poem.  It's day seven of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.   It is also Poetry Friday so stop by Reflections on the Teche for words, words, words.  

Night Gift
the dark sky
seems so far away
a black so dark

the crescent moon
aglow in the cloudless sky
reflecting light to earth

the stars shimmer
in my country sky
watching me watch them

away from the lights
they dazzle
shimmering softly

sparkling diamonds
contrasting the charcoal sky
tell me I'm home

© Cathy L. Mere

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Slice of Life: Indoor Recess Blues 6 of 31

It's day six of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Finger knitting
Photo via WikiMedia Commons
It's been quite a winter.  I've learned the meaning of polar vortex and hardly consider 32 degrees fahrenheit cold anymore.  I've also refined my understanding of winter warning vs. winter advisory.  Things you really don't want to know.  While we are used to snow on occasion in Ohio, it usually snows, melts, snows, melts.  It seems, this year however, we've had snow on the ground most days since December.  Needless to say we've been indoors for recess through most of January and February.  We've added new games to our classroom, located different kinds of paper for crafting, and purchased coloring books to add excitement to these days inside.  Still, we all have the indoor recess blues.

I was really out of tricks and then I stumbled upon Kimberley Moran's post about finger knitting; actually it was about helping young learners develop a reading life, but finger knitting was a part of it.   Kimberley taught her class to finger knit and had attached a video to demonstrate.  As soon as I saw her post I knew my class needed to know this.  Not only did I think it might give us something to do at indoor recess, but I knew it provided powerful writing possibilities.  I could envision opinion pieces about the best things to do at indoor recess or rules that should be changed for indoor recess.  I could see the possibilities for how-to writing to share other indoor recess possibilities.

Kimberley was nice enough to arrange some time to Skye with our class today.  She and her students showed us, not only how to finger knit, but other things they do during indoor recess.  Her class was from Maine and my students were interested in finding out where that is.  They also were surprised to hear it was even colder in Maine today.  I guess they didn't think any place could be colder than Ohio.

After our Skype conversation with our new first grade friends, the class was abuzz with excitement.  A few girls said they knew how to finger knit too, but it was a little different.  They wanted to create a video to show the other class.  Other students wanted to write about what they like to do at indoor recess to give our new friends suggestions.  Let's say writer's workshop was messy, but productive.

Of course, now that we have a plan for indoor recess the temperature inched just above our cut-off for indoor recess.  We excitedly put on our hats, our gloves, and zipped up our coats to spend a little time outside.  Though we didn't need finger knitting for inside recess, it did prove to be the perfect activity for our "black top only" outdoor recess.  Goodbye, inside recess blues.  Hello, tetherball.

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