Saturday, March 31, 2018

Slice of Life: Once in a Blue Moon 31 of 31

Say it isn't so?!  This is the last day.  We made it.  Every day in March I have been writing with the Slice of Life community. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.  Thank you to EVERY ONE OF YOU that have taken the time to read and comment.  

You know the saying, "Once in a blue moon....". It turns out that isn't quite as unlikely as it might seem.

Whether it was in a tweet, whether it was on the news, whether it was in something I read, I cannot say but, at some point, I remember reading that Saturday morning was our last chance to see the blue moon.

This morning as I sat on my couch and watched the sky turn from black to blue, I grabbed my cup of coffee and looked out the sliding glass door to see the full blue moon hanging from the sky.  It appeared to pause to rest on the branches in our backyard illuminating light all around.

This morning was the final opportunity to view the last blue moon.  The good news is that I was up to see it.  I had to chuckle; I feel there is always the last some-kind-of moon.  I'm sure it is a bit of good luck to have managed to view it this morning.  If, however, you missed viewing the last blue moon, all is not lost.  The next blue moon is in 2020, and on Halloween night.  That should be one worth catching for sure.

If you're like me, all of this moon talk makes you curious.  A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.  It isn't blue.  It isn't sad.  It doesn't look any different than a typical full moon, but two full moons in a month is a rarity.  If you're a teacher, you might pause to ponder this for a bit or start to book a vacation for Halloween 2020.  Nope, I don't think that will work in October.

There have been other "last moons" I have seen of late.  How about the super blue blood moon in January?  That was the first one since 1866.  That does make you pay attention a bit.  I tried to see that one.  It's supposed to be larger than a normal full moon and supposed to have a few red sunbeams across it.  I tried to view that one, but it didn't happen.  I either was in the wrong place at the wrong time or the sky wasn't cooperating.  No worries, though it was the first time since 1866, it appears the super blood moon will return January 31, 2037.

How about August 2017's total solar eclipse which sent people all across the United States for the best possible view?  Interestingly, it's the moon that stars in this event by blocking the sun in a game of hide-and-seek.  If you missed it, again no worries, the next one will be April 8, 2024.  Mark your calendars.

If you're really into mooning over the moon. (Okay that was bad.)  You can always celebrate by tracking down a good view of a supermoon.  This is when the moon is closest to the earth.  You could also celebrate each month if you want to consider the names given to monthly moons long ago.  I'm personally ready for the strawberry moon.

Truthfully, I really do get a bit fascinated when the weather forecasters start to crow about the next "can't miss" moon.  I don't know nearly what I need to know about the sky so it usually sends me to the internet to learn a little more.  Each "last chance" to see a moon sparks my curiosity a bit.  This handy celestial calendar might come in handy.  It looks like April 16th will bring a new moon.  I'll try not to miss it.




Friday, March 30, 2018

Slice of Life: Chasing Poetry 30 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Today I continue to gear up for 30 days of poetry in April...and it's getting hard to contain my excitement.  Today I gathered my favorite poetry books for young writers and began planning the month ahead.  Today I'm getting ready for the chasing of poetry by cross-posting with the Poetry Friday Community. Heidi Mordhorst is hoping today's link up at my juicy little universe.  Click on over and chase a little poetry.  



Chasing Poetry

Chasing poetry
always proves unsuccessful.

I've tried
racing after it
day after day,
in darkness and dawn,
in the cold of winter
and the promise of spring.

I've searched
all the places it might be:
near lakes and on mountaintops,
under rocks and in trees,
in the blue of the ocean
and the star-kissed sky.

Chasing poetry
always proves unsuccessful.
Poetry comes
in the stillness.

It arrives
in the silence of the night
as the stars grow bright
in the blackening sky,
the winds whispering
through the trees.

It arrives
in the moment
an unexpected surprise
gently taps your heart,
trying to grab
your attention.

Chasing poetry
always proves unsuccessful.
You must wait
quietly.
for it
to find you.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Slice of Life: Like Her 29 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Today is my mom's birthday.  I thought I'd start the celebration here.  Happy birthday, Mom.  

Growing up,
I always wanted
to be like her.

Fixer:
listener,
calmer,
realist;
able to narrow
a problem to its essence.

Learner:
reader,
problem-solver,
contemplator,
always moving
toward a distant direction.

Organizer:
maintaining order,
coordinating schedules,
getting things done,
wearing multiple hats
with the greatest of ease.

Cheerleader:
supporter,
joy finder,
advocate,
always helping others
to be their best.

Balance artist:
motherhood,
career,
life specialist,
knowing how to be
where she needed to be.

Even now,
I just want
to be like her.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018




Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Slice of Life: The Problem with Routine 28 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


Today wasn’t a great day at the gym.  I suppose the problem started at the end of the day as someone asked a question that made me wonder a bit myself so I had to work to learn more.  It wasn't a part of my plan for the end of the day, but I couldn't let it go.  When I finally left school, I really didn't want to go to the gym.  I could've easily justified skipping out.  However, I give myself way too much freedom to cancel my workout.  The fact that I was late wasn't going to be enough.

With a full evening still ahead, I tromped into the gym glad I made it but, wishing I was somewhere else.  The day had been long, I was tired, and there still was a lot to do before I could call the day done.  I needed to prepare two meals when I got home and put the polish back on my house when I finally got home, so I decided I'd need to modify my routine a bit.  I needed to be out of the gym by 6:30 if I stood any chance to accomplish my to-do list, and I was already late.  It made sense to make a few adjustments to the schedule.

Deciding I should concentrate on the part of the workout which seemed most important, I planned to dedicate the time to the elliptical and the treadmill.   As soon as I got on the elliptical I felt more tired than usual.  I cranked up the beat to my music, tried to distract myself with subtitles on the televisions, and worked to just focus on the speed I was working, but it wasn't going well.  I managed to finish that part of my workout without too much of a problem, but moving to the treadmill was a different story.

For me doing any part of my workout for twenty minutes keeps me from dying of boredom.  I work to improve the distance on the treadmill at the end of that twenty minutes.  My routine has been to walk three minutes and then run three minutes, walk three minutes and run three minutes, and repeat for the time.  To be done in a timely fashion, I had skipped the bicycle and gone straight to the treadmill.  I don't know if this was the change that got me, but as soon as I went into my first three minutes of running I knew it just wasn't going to work today.

I decided that for today it made sense adjust the running to two-minute intervals.  I wasn't happy with myself, but I reminded myself I almost didn't even make it to the gym.  As I continued my twenty minutes, I felt I had made the right decision to adjust my time.  For whatever reason, today the workout was exactly that:  a WORK out.

Adjusting the time was the right decision for today, but it made me think about how often I finish a workout knowing I really could have done more.  As I reflected some more, I began to think there were days that I came in and the elliptical was a breeze, the bike practically a rest, and the treadmill minutes not a problem, but I never changed this routine.  If I was willing to adjust on a hard day, shouldn't I be adjusting to do more on an easy day?  Shouldn't I be upping the challenge of the workout on the days where it was possible?  I'd become a creature of habit, forgetting about the real purpose behind my time at the gym.

As teachers, it is easy to get caught up in our routines.  These routines are essential to day-to-day practice, help students to know their part in learning, and provide opportunities for next steps in learning.  However, if we aren't careful we can get caught up in our routines and forget the urgency in learning.  We can forget to adjust when things get hard or push a little more when the learning is going well.

As weeks go by at the gym, I really should be upping my expectations of myself.  Yes, there will be days that will be hard like this one, but if I'm just going through the motions then I'm forgetting the purpose.  The same is true in my work, I want to remember to ask myself if I am pushing hard enough toward opportunities for growth.




Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Slice of Life: Dinner Out? Again? 27 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Before I left, I placed the pork roast in the crockpot on low as planned.  We've been a bit bad lately about going out to eat so this week I was armed with a plan for cooking dinner every night.  It's the deciding I find frustrating.  Sunday I had taken the time to carefully plan each meal for the week, went to the grocery store to buy ingredients, and had everything ready to go.  All through the day, I smiled to myself knowing dinner was not going to be an obstacle tonight.

Midday, I get a group text from my son who is on spring break, "I see there is a roast in the crockpot are we taking that out to dinner with us tonight."

"I won't fall," I coach myself.  My daughter and husband both laugh at the text.

"Noone has to talk me into going out," I quipped in response.

"It is Monday," my son added.

In the last few weeks, we've gone out nearly every Monday.  It's a terrible habit, but by the time we all arrive home from teaching, coaching, and meetings, it always seems the easy way out.  I'd carefully planned my menu for the week on Sunday.  I had meals planned every day except Thursday.  Since we were all off on Friday, Thursday seemed a good day to go out.  All day I reminded myself dinner was in the crockpot ready for us.  All day I reminded myself of my vow to fix dinner each night.

It was nearly six o'clock when I arrived home from the first day back from my spring break.  It had been a good day, but a very busy one.  The week after a break always seems the busiest.  Walking into the kitchen, I lifted the lid on the crockpot, shredded the pork for sandwiches, and gave it a taste.  Delicious!  About that time, my son walked downstairs, "Ready to go out?", he inquired with a grin in his voice.  Twenty-somethings are pot-stirrers.

My husband, resting in his chair, looks up to see where this will go.  I know he doesn't care either way.  He's also on spring break and is kind of a go with the flow guy.

I look at the roast in the crockpot and know I haven't figured out what sides I will fix.  My mind races to determine the sides.  French fries in the air fryer will be a bit of work.  Rice doesn't sound quite right.  We had potatoes yesterday.  No one will fall for a pasta salad.  The decisions seem too much for 6:00 at night so I fall again.  "I can just shred this for tomorrow," I reply.  I grab a container and put the pork in the refrigerator.

Dinner out again.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Slice of Life: Spring Promise 26 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

It's almost April so I'm finding myself in the mood for poetry.  Honestly, I love poetry always, but it seems in April I don't have to search for poetry, it finds me.  Today in our coaches' meeting I thought I'd share a bit of poetry love with everyone.  We began the meeting by looking at Eileen Spinelli's Poem of the Month for December 2017.  As we discussed poems as mentor texts, I challenged the group to use this mentor to consider a poem about spring.  It seemed fitting since we were just returning from a "spring" break that felt more like winter.  Here's to hoping spring - and poetry - surround us soon.

Here's my attempt.  Thanks for the inspiration, Eileen.  (I didn't quite get that amazing ending she found.)


Spring Promise
So many signs of promise:
the wind pushing
the cold away,
the robin perched watching,
the green speckled fields,
the clear blue 
of sky calling.
Darkness waning,
daylight swelling,
the hope of each day
renewed.
Warmth surrounding,
color sprouting,
life abounding.
As we each rejoice
in a new beginning.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Slice of Life: A New Do for You 25 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

This morning, I put a blanket over my backseat and loaded our dog, Trudy, into the car.  She wagged her tail excitedly.  You'd think by now she'd know that if I am putting her in my car, she's off to the vet.  Either she loves the vet, or she still thinks we are headed off on some amazing adventure.  Today is no adventure, today it's time for a spring haircut and a shot update.

Trudy is a Tibetan Terrier with wild hair.  This is how we know she has always been meant to be part of our family; it's the hair.  She fits right in around here as there isn't a person in this house that doesn't have some wild hair.  In the warmer months, we keep Trudy's fur very short, but in the winter we let it grow out to keep her warm.  As the cold months drag on, she begins to look like she's gained massive amounts of weight as her fur curls and points in every direction.  Brushing her doesn't change anything.  (Another sign she fits right into this family.)  By the end of winter, she more than needs a haircut.

Dropping Trudy off, the groomer comes over to check her out.  She laughs, "We're going to have to shave her all the way down."  She assesses her thick fur, her face, her tail.

"We like to let her fur grow across the winter.  Maybe it's not the best idea, but it does make for great before and after pictures," I quip.

"She'll be great," the groomer adds seeming to notice Trudy's calm ways.  Everyone who works with Trudy comments on her pleasant disposition.

Hours pass and eventually the groomer calls to let us know Trudy is ready.  Upon arrival, Trudy is excited to get back in the car, but she doesn't seem a bit excited about her new look.  She seems a bit uncomfortable in her new skin and, believe me, new skin is exactly the right phrase as she is shaved nearly down to it.  She looks like she lost twenty pounds.  The groomer has even taken the fur on her face and ears all the way down.  Trudy won't hardly maintain eye contact with us.  Having lost her warm winter blanket on another cold day, she seems to be having a hard time adjusting to the cold.  At least this groomer hasn't added insult to injury by trying to add some pretty bows.  Trudy never likes that.

When Trudy arrives back home, she immediately goes to the living room, curls up, and looks at us disapprovingly.  This is our routine every spring.  It will likely be a few days before she is happy about this new haircut.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Slice of Life: Today They March 24 of 31


For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

When we started drills for active shooters, I really don't know. In my mind, it seems we've been doing them for quite some time. It was always hard to sit with six-year-olds, knowing the reason we were practicing, and trying to tell them something that would calm their fears. They worried about fire drills and tornado drills, but it always struck me how wrong it was they had to worry about this.  As a child, I remember how I worried about tornado drills, but these students sitting silently around me were dealing with so much more.

The year of Sandy Hook had to be the hardest. We had a drill shortly after the shooting, and I still remember looking into the sweet faces of my students who were, at the time, the exact same age as the children I'd seen on the television screen: victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. I remember calming the anxiety of the children who worry in any drill, looking at them knowing I would do anything to keep them safe, and trying to keep my calm teacher face while thinking that my students were the same age as those who so tragically had just lost their lives.

Since then, as a teacher, I’ve been through more intensive trainings for defense, flight, and even triage. It breaks my heart every. single. time. No six year old - or sixteen year old - should have to wonder if they are safe in schools. The answers are surely complex, but I know we could move toward some common sense first steps. I don't believe those are more guns, metal detectors, or armed guards.  Those children that sat with me that day, are now in sixth grade, I believe. I only hope they, along with children and families everywhere, never have to walk the path that these families, who know tragedy far too well, are now walking.

They’re all our kids.


Today They March
Today they march
   For commonsense laws,
   For change,
   For their lives.

Today they march
   To do what adults could not:
   End the tragedy,
   Stop the violence.

Today they march:
   To raise their voice,
   To change their future,
   To save lives.

No more hiding in corners.
   No more practicing for the unacceptable.
   No more loss of life.
   No more!

Today they march.
    Young warriors of words.
    Shouting.
    Making a difference.

Today they march
   For their friends
   No longer able
   To raise their voices.

Today they march
    For commonsense laws
    For change
    For their lives.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018




Friday, March 23, 2018

Slice of Life: Robin Knows 23 of 31


For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Today I continue to gear up for 30 days of poetry in April. I'm cross-posting with the Poetry Friday Community. Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the gathering today at Writing the World for Kids.


Robin
perches on the branch
singing
her song.
The ground below
a mix:
winter white,
brown,
emerging green.

The air
around
still chilled.
The sun
fights
to rise above.
The sky
bluest of blues,
beginning
to show
promise.

Robin
knowingly
watches
from her branch.
Looking for
signs.
Waiting for
spring.


© Cathy L. Mere, 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Slice of Life: Spring Break Snow 22 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


Bzzzzz.  Bzzzzz.  Bzzzzz.

My husband's phone vibrates waking me from sleep.  Reaching up toward my watch that is charging, I touch the side to display the time.  It's 5:22 in the morning and his phone is ringing.  That can only mean one thing:  snow day.

Bzzzzz.  
Bzzzzz.
Closed.
For today.
Snow. 
Hazardous
Road conditions.

Nothing about that is unusual, snow days are pretty common in our rural area, except that it is March and it is my spring break.  Oh, the irony.

First day of spring,
Covered in white.
Temperatures dive.
Flakes fall.  
Ground covered.
White winter wonderland
Surrounds.

I try to go back to sleep, but I'm awake.  I creep into the living room and turn on the news.  The school closing list continues to grow and the forecast is for more snow.  It looks like we'll be getting 2-4 inches of snow before it is over.

Spring break
Snow?!


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Slice of Life: Queen of the Games 21 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


Gathered around the table, Grandma starts to laugh.  She has one of those laughs that makes everyone start to chuckle even if they have no idea what's so funny.  It isn't long until her laugh turns to a snort as she finishes shuffling her cards around in her hand and reachers them toward my cousin.  My cousin looks quizically at the cards, trying to find the best one to choose.  She starts to reach toward one side and weighs my grandma's reaction, reaches toward the other side and weighs Grandma's reaction, and then chooses a card toward the middle.  Grandma rolls her eyes and continues to snicker.

This was Old Maid with Grandma.  We played every time we went to visit, spending hours gathered around the kitchen table sliding the Old Lady from one person to another.  Grandma enjoyed playing games.  As kids, we spent two weeks with Grandma each year, one during the summer and the other at Christmas.  Every time we stayed, we spent countless hours playing games and laughing.  We played Aggravation, Parcheesi, Spoons, Kings on the Corner, Boggle, Scrabble, Crazy Eights, Thirty-One, Twenty-One and, of course, Old Maid.

Days had an enjoyable predictable routine at Grandma's.  You'd wake just after the sun for breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at 11:30, and dinner at 5:00.  In the summer, every day had some kind of adventure.  We'd walk through parks, visit lakes, and climb hills.  Every day Grandma would fill her picnic basket with lunch surprises and into the car we would pile.   When we arrived home it was dinner and then games.  The days were filled with love as Grandma worked her magic.

Today is Grandma's birthday.  It's been awhile since we gathered around the table for games and laughter, but I think of her often and smile at the wonderful gift she was to me.  I can still hear her laugh.  There are a million memories she tucked in my heart, but one of my favorites is my grandma, queen of the games.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Slice of Life: Still Spunky 20 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


It's early morning and I creep around the house trying not to wake anyone.  Trudy, our dog, is up moving around and notices my entrance into the foyer.  Excitedly she begins to jump like she's a puppy again.  She's a Tibetan Terrier mix and rather average sized, but as she jumps her hind legs nearly reach my knees.  I have to laugh.  Some days it's all she can do to get up to go outside, but this morning she's raring to go.  As I open to the garage, Trudy races around me nearly knocking me off my feet.  She's moving faster than she can handle and slides on the smooth concrete as she descends the steps into the garage.

Trudy was my father-in-law's dog.  We've had her for probably close to six years now.  Everyone asks how old she is, and we aren't really sure.  My father-in-law got her at a shelter.   Before my father-in-law got Trudy she had just recovered from a hip surgery that was a result of previous abuse.  She was lucky the shelter had worked so hard to get her back on her feet and find the perfect owner for her.  My father-in-law was certainly that.  It's hard to know how old she was when he got her, but we'd guess somewhere between 3 and 5 years old.  He had her for at least six years before we got her.  Our best guess is she is around fourteen years old, but that's likely a young estimate.

She certainly doesn't have the energy she once had.  My father-in-law lived in a small space.  I remember he'd bring Trudy inside and she'd run around their space like she was a horse at the races.  She'd run circles around the perimeter of their living room until she had to be dizzy.  Whenever he'd return from being gone, she'd hunch down on her front paws and then jump excitedly over and over.  She'd race around and around to let him know how happy she was to see him.  Of course, most often she was by his side.  She loved to ride in his truck and accompany him everywhere he went.

There are still moments where she comes into the house like she's her old self --- or should I say, young self.  She'll sprint into the house, circle all the rooms and then finish by racing around our coffee table in the living room.  She'll do this over and over and over again.  It's times like these, we just all sit and laugh at her antics.

While we still see these bursts of energy from her that make us laugh, she's also showing a lot of signs of getting older.  Most of the time she moves at a slow pace.  Getting up on all four of her feet can take her a bit of time.  We've placed more rugs on our hardwood floor so she can move around with greater ease.

She's most definitely the smartest dog we've ever had.  She can out-maneuver us like nobody's business.  We live in the country so we used to take her outside with us while we were working in the yard.  We didn't keep her on a leash when she was out on our property, but she quickly learned to notice when we weren't paying attention.  She'd sneak to the back of our property, ease around a line of evergreens, and then she'd be off running.  She plays every family member to get outside even if she was just out.  When my mom comes to visit, look out.  She has my mom's number and manages to charm treats and food from her all day long.

Trudy certainly shows signs of her age.  In addition to her challenges getting up on her feet, she can't hear us call her and her vision has become another challenge she battles.  Though she's getting older, she still manages a bit of jumping, some racing about, and the ocassional mad dash.  These bursts of youth make me laugh.  Trudy certainly adds a little energy to this house.



Monday, March 19, 2018

Slice of Life: Slow Mornings 19 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


No alarm.
No rushing.
No schedule.

A cup of coffee.
A book.
A computer.

Refrigerator rumbles,
Fish tank trickles,
Silence surrounds.

Sky shifts,
Morning dawns,
Birds awaken.

A little reading.
A bit of writing.
A lot of slowing.

No racing.
No hurrying.
No leaving.

The gift of
Slow mornings.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018






Sunday, March 18, 2018

Slice of Life: Books I Haven't Read 18 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


It's spring break!!!  I had big plans to go to Arizona, but those didn't work out as I had hoped so I'll be sitting at home all week in the gray cold of March in Ohio.  I'd like to say I will get my closet cleaned or finally empty that junk drawer in the kitchen or maybe match that bag of socks (or throw them out), but I'll do none of those things.  I'm looking forward to slow mornings, a little writing, and catching up on books I haven't read.  I'm not just talking about books in the world I haven't read; I'm talking about books I OWN and haven't read.

We're all friends here.  It's time to gather round and share the true confessions of our lives.  I'm sure I am not the only one who owns books they haven't read yet.  Yep, my shelves have a few titles peppered in that still need my attention.  There are books I've received as gifts, books shared by friends, and books I may have purchased impulsively as I wandered a bookstore here or there.  I might have a few professional books still calling my name, a few deals and steals I couldn't resist, and some fiction titles that went to the beach, but didn't make it out of the bag.

I honestly don't know how it happens, I buy a book ready to read it and then another book pushes its way into my life.  I've gotten to the point when a friend mentions a title which seems a little too familiar, I open my Kindle app to see if it may have been a book I purchased but then didn't get to read.  I'm thinking in addition to offering new titles to me, my Kindle should start to pop books up to the front that might need a little more of time.

If you're like me, and I know many of you are, you have some books in your world you've owned but, still, haven't read.  I know I need to break this cycle so I'm starting to recognize the warning signs, maybe this will help you too.

If you have a stack of books you own but haven't read, you might want to beware of:

  1. Book Friends:  You know the ones.  These are the friends that you have loved every book they have ever recommended.  When you are with them, you begin by adding their titles to Goodreads, but before you know it you have moved to Amazon™ and are pressing the 1-Click purchase button.
  2. Bookstores:  What is it about the "you can buy it now" thing that gets me every. single. time.  Yes, those bookstore walks are dangerous with their beautiful covers facing out calling your name as you walk by.  The shelves sprinkled with your favorite authors, genres, and enticing new possibilities will get you every time.
  3. Amazon™:  Yes, I'm a digital reader, and Amazon™ owns me.  You know what I mean, book friends.  You click over to Amazon™ to purchase a quick birthday gift for a friend and there you find books popping up on the screen calling to you.  Amazon™ knows you so well that they are careful to find just the book you might need next and at the perfect price.  
  4. Twitter:  Yes, just like a candy addict shouldn't walk into a candy store, readers with the problem of owning too many books, should beware.  Twitter is full of readers who love to gush about the latest must-reads.  It's easy to ignore a title the first time, but subliminally as it comes back over and over, your drawn into the spell.  Before you know it,  you are off clicking to purchase that book.  
  5. Book Lists:  Be wary of book lists.  You know you've stopped by the top ten lists of books to make your heart stop, books to make you laugh, books you must read before summer begins.  You know you've clicked into the New York Times™ Best Sellers, New Releases, or Top Amazon™ Reads.   You also know it's rare to get out of those lists without a purchase.  So, reader, beware of the book list.  
It's spring break.  I'm going to try to get a few of these books I own, but haven't read, moved from the "to-be-read" stack to the "read" category.  I'm hoping to finally finish The Bookshop on the Corner:  A Novel recommended by a dangerous book friend probably two years ago, waiting to be read.  I'm in writing mode right now, so I'm also hoping to read Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers purchased upon its release and waiting patiently in Notability for me to stop by.  I also plan to continue to read On Writing Well, a book given as a gift two years ago, as this challenge continues.

This spring break I'm going to tackle the books I own, but haven't read, stack.  Of course, the real challenge will be spending a week at home without falling into a trap that pushes me to purchase another book.  I know they will be lurking everywhere in the days to come....so wish me luck.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Slice of Life: Boxed Rice for Lunch 17 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

The group returned from lunch to complete our work together.  Teachers, some with half-eaten lunch in hand, found a seat at their tables and arranged their spaces for the afternoon.  I walked around the room chatting with the group as they settled.  Walking over to a table I overheard, "My energy is fading.  My stomach knows it is lunchtime."

"You didn't eat?" I inquired as we were just returning from an hour lunch break, a rare gift in the teaching profession.


"I had to run over to school for a bit," the teacher confessed, "and didn't have time to grab some lunch."

We still had over three good hours of work left, and I wanted to help.  "There are some vending machines in the back of the building if the chocolate on your table isn't going to cut it," I quipped.

Then I remembered I had a microwave bowl of packaged dried rice with me.  "I also have some rice if you'd like to eat it.  It's dried rice prepackaged in a bowl for the microwave.  It's cheese flavored," I added trying to entice her.

The group around her started to laugh.  "You really have boxed rice with you right now?" they questioned.

"Almost always," I replied.  "I never know where I'm going to be, and often can't carry a cold lunch with me all day without a lot of extra work so I carry boxed rice.  It's quick and I can almost always find a microwave."

I couldn't sell her on the rice, but it did make me chuckle about the lunches I eat these days.  I spend most of my day traveling from school to school in our district meeting with teachers and literacy coaches.  My days stay pretty packed so finding time to eat lunch can be a challenge.

Having been a teacher all of my life, lunch isn't really high priority on my list.  I'm used to hardly having time to eat because of needing time to prepare a lesson, arrange materials, clean something up, meet with a colleague or answer emails.  It's teacher life.  We've all packed a peanut butter sandwich so we can eat as we set up a lesson.  We've all eaten a salad running around our classroom.  Cheese and crackers, carrot sticks, or granola bars work too.

Now as I travel from building to building on a pretty packed schedule, I've come to rely on three foods:  almonds, Clif™bars, and a little microwaveable rice.  I'm living for sure.




Friday, March 16, 2018

Slice of Life: Shamrock 16 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Today I am also joining the #PoetryFriday celebration at TeacherDance.  I'm looking forward to filling this blog with poetry in April.  


Darkness creeps,
leaves
fold,
flowers droop,
the plant
sleeps.

Sunlight dawns,
leaves
rise,
flowers dance,
the plant
awakens.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Slice of Life: Own Your Words, but Not Their Reaction 15 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Sitting beside this stranger reading my words, I couldn't help but be uncomfortable.  A high school student at the time, I wasn't very comfortable with myself let alone someone else reading my every word.  He read the poem resting in his hands and looked at me questioningly.  Shifting in my cold folding chair, self-conscious of my work, I tried to straighten my body to appear attentive and calm.  Here was a man I did not even know, evaluating my words as if he somehow held some magical wisdom.

I wish I could remember the few questions he asked that day, but I cannot.  That year I had decided to take two projects for 4-H.  The first was a lamb that I had spent most of the spring training.  The second was a poem that I had worked to shape.  The lamb had trained quite nicely, but it was the poem I was most proud of that year.  The poem had been inspired by time beside my grandfather.  There was nothing I enjoyed more than time beside my grandpa.  Having been born one day, and many years, apart, he and I just seemed to click.  He shared his wisdom, I shared my questions.  It was our constant conversations about life that became the inspiration for the poem.

The poem from all those years ago.

To this day I know nothing about the man that sat across from me that afternoon.  If he told me his name, I have forgotten.  If there was a reason he was qualified to judge writing, I do not know of it.  I don't remember a smile.  I don't remember a kind word.  I just remember the look on his face - questioning.  I left the table, relieved to be away from the strange quiet of the person across from me.  Later that day, I returned to the table to see my performance, only to find a B ribbon on my poem.  Maybe he didn't like the poem's style.  Maybe he didn't like the lack of formal rhythm or the line breaks in the free verse poem he had read.  However, it occurred to me later, that he probably didn't believe I wrote the poem with its shifting perspective from youth to old age.  It occurred to me, he didn't know about the time I spent alongside my grandfather.  It occurred to me, that he likely didn't believe that I had written this poem in a time that you couldn't just run words through a search to check for plagiarization.

None of this really matters now.  I'm the only person who remembers the B, and the only person who remembers this awkward conversation.  Though I haven't forgotten this bump in the writing road, I've been writing long enough to have experienced a few others.  It has never made me put my pen down.  I don't train lambs anymore, but I do still write poetry.  In a chapter titled "Audience" in On Writing Well by William Zinsser (this March Challenge's read for me), Zinsser reminds, "You are writing for yourself (p. 25)."
"On the larger issue of whether the reader likes you, or likes what you are saying or how you are saying it, or agrees with it, or feels an affinity for your sense of humor or your vision of life, don't give him a moment's worry.  You are who you are, and he is who he is, and either you'll get along or you won't."  William Zinsser (p. 26)
 Friends, it's the middle of the month....keep writing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Slice of Life: Not Forgotten 14 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Monday I wrote this as a narrative, it felt like it should be a poem so I tried that today.  I still don't have it where I want it, but it's always fun to write about the same thing in a new way.  

For years
I've looked for it
in jewelry boxes,
drawers,
compartments,
long forgotten.

For years
I've tried to remember
the last place
I saw the pin
with its golden bow
shining.

For years
I've thought about
the mustard seed,
safely enclosed
in glass,
hanging.

For years
I've remembered
my grandma's words
of faith,
strength,
and promise.

For years
I've tried to find
the mustard seed pin,
but it's not the pin
I really miss,
it's time with grandma.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Slice of Life: Happy Birthday, Dad 13 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.


Celebrating Dad with six word stories.

Sunday celebrations with friends and family.

His hair still is not gray!

Cake, music, and laughter for all.

Turning seventy-five is something to celebrate.

Years of great memories to share.

Mexican on my birthday?  Oh, yes!

This guy makes the best grandpa!

I'm thankful for him every day.


Happy birthday to the best dad!




Monday, March 12, 2018

Slice of Life: Lost 12 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

Today's slice comes from a piece of writing written during our coaches' meeting today.  The idea was from an activity Brenda Power shared at Lead Literacy, What We Lost, from a mentor text by Amy Krouse Rosenthal:  Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  

When I was a kid, I spent two weeks each year at my grandparents' house.  For one week each summer, and one week over Christmas, I would pack my suitcase and head to their house.  My time there is among my favorite memories.  While I visited, one of my favorite things to do was to admire the jewelry in my grandma’s jewelry box. Every time I stayed, I’d put on her long beaded necklaces, clip earrings to match, and sport a pin or two. She always allowed us to play in her glamorous treasures which I realize now were just pieces of costume jewelry. My grandma was a simple woman; I rarely saw her wear any of it.

In her jewelry box, one of my favorite items was her mustard seed pin. The pin was a gold bow with a transparent glass sphere dangling below.  The mustard seed was suspended in the middle of the sphere.  It was fascinating.  Every time she pulled it out, she’d tell the story of how the pin reminded her that if you had faith in a mustard seed you could move a mountain. I honestly never understood the saying. As a child, I often found myself wondering who’d want to have faith in a mustard seed after all?  In time, I understood her to mean if you could believe in small things, big things could happen.

After years of pulling that pin out of her jewelry box, one day she gave it to me. I loved that pin. When I was still quite young, I wore it places from time to time, but eventually the pin spent more time in my jewelry box.  As the years passed, it moved from one jewelry box to another. At some point, it was lost. At what point in my life, I am unsure.  All I know is I think about that mustard seed pin and my grandma often.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Slice of Life: The Wild West? 11 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

I shouldn't have stopped, to begin with, that afternoon.  There's really no need to have a burrito and taco supreme at this point in my life.  The excessive calories just don't disappear like they once did.

I shouldn't have stopped, but I did.

After placing my order, I sat down to wait for my food to be ready.  There were several people standing and waiting as well.  The drive-through was also busy so it seemed to be taking forever.  That's when I noticed it: a man to my left with a gun on his hip.  Surely I was mistaken I told myself trying not to stare.  I took a second look.  Nope, for sure, a gun on his hip.

I became very uncomfortable.  I live in the midwest, guns for hunting are a pretty common thing and I'm quite sure most of my neighborhood probably has a gun tucked away in their house for extra protection.  However, a gun in a restaurant just wasn't making me feel comfortable.  I'm too familiar with the thinking these days shared by many; this gun might save us all from the next one that comes into the establishment, but I don't share in that thinking.  I saw this gun as increasing the likelihood that something could go wrong quickly.

At the moment I realized the man had a gun, I should've left.  I should've asked for my money back or, for that matter, I should have just kissed that $5 goodbye.  Afterall, I shouldn't have stopped anyway, but the cashier had been so kind earlier and I didn't want to make a scene - though my blood was starting to boil.  I moved to the other side of the restaurant, keeping my eye on this man with a gun.

Oddly, this isn't the first time I've experienced a man with a gun in an establishment on my side of town.  It wasn't all that long ago that the same thing happened as I was having coffee with a friend.  I've done a little research to learn we have an open carry law in our state, as do most others.  Who knew?  Well, apparently, everyone but me.  I've lived a long time and not seen a gun come into a place on someone's hip, but these are different times.  I suppose it is fear that makes this our new reality.  I'm starting to wonder if this is the reality everywhere, or just where I live.

I've decided that in the future when I see a gun on a hip, I'm making it standard procedure to leave.  Sadly I may not have many rights in this situation, but I do have the right to leave.  If I would have had a child with me, I wouldn't have thought twice, I just would've left.  It's 2018, not the wild west, and I didn't really need that burrito.




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Slice of Life: Passion Planner™ 10 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

A special thank you to Clare for today's post.  Clare, I appreciate your comments --- and especially those that ask a question that leads to new writing.  

If you know me, you know I'm pretty digital:  most all of my notes are kept in Evernote, I'm an eBook enthusiast, and I might be a bit addicted to Twitter.  It makes sense that for years and years, I put everything in my digital calendar.  When calendars started to send notifications to your screen, my life became even better.

If you know me, you know I'm so digital that the next sentence is going to throw you for a loop.  I'm in love with my paper calendar.  No, it's true.  You just read that.  Maybe it's the change in my work.  My calendar certainly has more reminders of places I need to be these days.  Maybe it's the near catastrophes with a digital calendar.  Let's face it, we've all had those update nightmares where suddenly our calendar commitments have momentarily disappeared or can only be found on our computers.  Whatever the reason, the calendar goes everywhere I do.

To be fair, it isn't any paper calendar, it's a Passion Planner™ --- and it's the bomb!  I learned about it from a friend I work alongside every day.  Each time we'd schedule something, she'd harmoniously pull out her Passion Planner™, write the date, add a couple of notes, and return the calendar to her bag.  I began to envy her ability to see her month with a glance, to jot quick reminders alongside, to see her daily schedule so well planned out.  Finally, I decided to give it a try and I have never looked back.

People who know me well are often shocked to see me pull out a paper planner, and are even more surprised when I start to gush about it.  Here are some of the reasons I think the Passion Planner™ is a game changer:
  1. Monthly Views:  I can see each month at a glance.  This is how I write down appointments and meetings.  No more tiny dots on every day of the month.  Now I can see the real events.
  2. Weekly Views:  Each Sunday night I sit down with my calendar, look at the week on the monthly view, and plan out each day.  This really helps me to get organized for the week.  Writing the events seems to help things stick, and has saved me more than once when I need to have something prepared in advance.  
  3. Daily Views:  Within each week, the daily view is set up by time so I can map out the day minute by minute.  I color code my school events and personal events.  
  4. To-Dos:  This is my favorite part!!!  At the bottom of each week, there are two columns of to-dos. There's a column for work to-dos and a column for personal to-dos.  There are three levels:  top priority, priority, and errands.  This has been a game changer.  What I like most is the ability to put a task needed to be completed weeks away from now on my calendar.  Let's say I have to have a document prepared for May, I just put the task mid-April on my to-do list.  (Of course, I love being able to check off the to-dos when they are done!)
  5. Focus:  The calendar has a spot to write a monthly and weekly focus.  I sometimes just jot down a word to keep me focused for the week.  
  6. Reflections:  The calendar also has a place to reflect at the end of each month.  
  7. Space of Infinity Possibility:  I love to web thinking, list around a topic, or sketch a new idea in the space provided at the bottom of each week.  
  8. Journaling:  The back has blank pages and grid pages for journaling.  I keep a lot of lists back there and notes about particular topics.  
  9. The pocket:  Oh, I almost forgot the wonderful pocket.  You know those papers you need all the time:  lists of phone numbers, assessment benchmarks (oh, that's probably just me), and inspirational clippings, they fit nicely in the pocket in the back.  
  10. Planning:  I drop the ball here for sure, but the calendar has places to set goals for 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, and a LIFETIME.  Yes, I said lifetime and that one always scares me a bit.  
Whew!  Sorry, I was gushing, but I just love this life book.  It's a game changer for sure!!!!  While I do still keep a digital calendar, I can't imagine being as organized and productive without my Passion Planner™.  It goes with me everywhere.  If I lost it, I think my world would come to a crashing halt.  It's a book I just can't live without.  I've already tweeted Passion Planner™ to see when next year's academic calendar will be available.  They're saying April or May.  I'm hoping April as my calendar for August is already starting to fill up.  






Friday, March 9, 2018

Slice of Life: Meeting in the Middle 9 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

"Caw.  Caw.  Caw," the bird squawks from the pine tree, obviously wishing he had arrived after the snow.

The flurries fall from the sky in big beautiful flakes.  It's March, but I still love the beauty of a snow.  There's something about the bright white that covers the earth I can't help but appreciate.

I snap a picture and send a text to my husband, "You have to admit it is pretty."

His reply quickly appears on my screen, "So is a Harley tearing down a twisting, isolated country road on a 70 degree, sunny day."

This is our banter these days.  Nearing a place to consider retirement, this has become a constant badinage between us.

Jeff isn't a fan of the cold or the snow.  His dream is to move someplace warm where he can ride his motorcycle all year long.  I, on the other hand, enjoy watching the change of seasons.  After years of observation, I've learned the signs that signal the beginning and end of each.  I don't mind the cold, especially if there is snow.  There's the wonderful white.  There's the cardinal who stays for the winter, his red even more brilliant in contrast.  There's the white snow weighing heavy on the branches of pine trees, and the thin contrast between ground and sky.  I love it all.

My husband, on the other hand, would happily stay locked in the house with his book until the madness ends.  If he could, he'd spend the months from November to March in a far away land of sunshine; a place where the days are longer, the evenings filled with warmth, and the sky a constant host to bright sunlight.

Having been married for over thirty years, we'll eventually figure this out.  We have a lot of experience finding our middle.  He's the chill parent; I'm the enforcer.  He likes the house freezing in the summer; I like it comfortably warm.  He likes the house burning up in the winter; I don't mind finding a jacket.  I like to be on the go; he likes to sit in his chair with his book.  I like to snack all day; he likes one big meal.  I fall asleep just after the sun sets; he comes to life as soon as darkness surrounds us.  I'm sure this won't be any different.  I'm sure in the years to come we'll find that sweet spot in the middle.

Luckily we have some time before a decision needs to be made.  There are a lot of possibilities ahead.  I'll probably never get him to fall in love with winter.  He's not likely to get me to move too far from where I am now.  Maybe, just maybe, we'll find the middle.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy the snow in March.  He'll count down the days until his motorcycle can make it out of the garage.




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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Slice of Life: Read Alouds Abound 8 of 31



For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days. Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.

The fourth graders enter the room with joy and purpose.  They're returning from recess and getting ready to begin their afternoon.  They hang up their coats, talk quietly to one another, stop by their spaces to pick up tools, and begin to gather on the carpet.  Everyone seems happy to be in this place at this time.  The teacher enters the room with an equal amount of joy.  I suppose the sunshine outside and the fact that the students were able to get some fresh air after weeks of cold helps everyone to feel better.

The teacher grabs the book as students settle in on couches, chairs, and floor spaces around the meeting area.  Some students have their iPads, others have notebooks, as the class begins to recap what they learned about the story the day before.  The teacher sets up the class to think about those moments they have to infer in these first chapters of the story.  After some discussion, the teacher begins to read.

It's obvious this teacher loves books and knows her students.  She pauses here and there as students react to the story.  She peppers in small nuggets of thinking as she reads.  Her voice races and slows, rises and grows quiet, depending on how the author weaves his words.  I haven't heard this book before, but she makes me want to read it.  The learners in this classroom remain spellbound, pausing every now and then to add notes to their notebooks or type a thought on their iPads (often the Post-It Plus app).  As the teacher places the bookmark back into the book, a heavy sigh fills the room.  "I want to give all of you time for your own reading," the teacher reminds seeming equally as sad to close the book.

"Take a second to think about what you heard today," the teacher requests.  "Write down something you inferred today as a result of our new reading."  The class grows quiet as students write their reflections; a few are shared and the teacher names the thinking students are doing, drawing attention to the text clues readers have sited in making these inferences.

I'm visiting today as part of literacy walks I am doing with one of our new elementary principals.  Today we are going into two buildings to talk about the environment, the language, the work kids are doing, and the evidence of literacy learning in classrooms.  We stay in this classroom to soak up the reading for about an hour, and then head down to the office to meet with the principal of this building.

It's late afternoon and there is a variety of learning going on in classrooms.  What catches my attention is how many are taking an opportunity to read aloud.  One classroom is finishing a read aloud and preparing to go to special.  Another is writing about a book they just finished reading together.  Even the social studies block is starting with a read aloud.  My heart sings.  Read alouds abound.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Slice of Life: Start a Contribution List 7 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community.  Disclaimer:  I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.  

Looking at my calendar for the next two weeks, I try to take a few deep breaths and gather some perspective.  How did it get so packed?  There are upcoming professional development meetings, deadlines for communications, and building team meetings among a myriad of to-dos.  I'm excited about all of it, but I know there's a lot of work to do be done to get it all right.  It's times like these that it seems like there is never enough time in the day.

Time to return to my contribution list.  

I first learned about a contribution list when reading Option B:  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Gant.  I won't put it nearly as eloquently as they did, but essentially a contribution list is a list you keep that shows things you've done across the day.  These contributions are steps forward in the day.  When recording items on my contribution list, I try to first list things I've done that in some way contributed to others or to the bigger picture of the work I do.  For me, it reminds me that while there will always be things to do, I also got a lot done.

As someone who has been known to write things that are done on a to-do list just so I can cross them off, a contribution list changes my focus from the hard climb up the mountain to the downhill coast of things accomplished in a day.  It takes that overwhelming feeling of not being able to do enough and puts it into perspective.  Each evening, in my Passion Planner, I grab my pen and write three contributions for the day.  Interestingly, most days I'm selecting from far more than three so I just choose those that may have had the greatest impact.

If you're finding it a bit overwhelming to look at your calendar, or if life just seems a little hard to manage, pick up your pen and start a contribution list.  You might be surprised; a simple list can make a big difference.  


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Slice of Life: Flock Invasion 6 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community.  Disclaimer:  I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.  


As I write,
the morning silence
takes a turn,the sound of spring
fills the air,

Suddenly I note
the rambunctious chorus,
which continues to grow,
its notes off key,
its song persistent.

Looking out the sliding glass doors,
the cloudless morning sky,
recently bright blue,
a contrast to the black
of this flock invasion.

I continue to watch,
minute upon minute
as the blackbirds fly overhead,
some stopping in the trees,
some resting in the prairie.

Happily I note
another sign
the cold days of winter
will soon be behind us;
spring beckons.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2018





Monday, March 5, 2018

Slice of Life: A Familiar Pattern 5 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community.  Disclaimer:  I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.  

My brother needed some new jeans so our family piled into our 1977 Pontiac and headed to our local mall.  Recently covered to make shopping in the winter a bit more bearable, a trip to Sears was usually our first stop for items needed.  My parents, both working for Sears at the time, had a discount that made purchasing items there much more affordable.

The mall was about fifteen minutes from our house.  A quick turn into town, down the national road, through six traffic lights, and we were there.  Piling out of the car and into the store, my mom masterfully found the pair of pants, purchased them, and our errand was complete.  With the mall now covered, it was much easier to talk the rest of the family into walking around a bit before heading back home.  Whether it was winter with the snow falling outside or summer with the humidity index climbing, the mall was now a place to get out of the elements and walk around a bit.

For years, the mall continued to be a favorite place.  In my teenage years, my friends and I would often have a parent drop us off for a few hours.  We'd walk around; maybe have lunch at Lazarus or grab a drink at Orange Julius.  When I got a job and learned to drive, the mall was often the place I went to pass a little time or make a new purchase.  Years later, when my kids were little, the mall was in its decline, but it was the perfect place to go see Santa as there was never a line.

Of course, times change.  Investors eventually built another mall not ten miles from this one.  This mall had two floors of shops all inside the large structure.  No rain.  No snow.  And a lot of new shops.  New places tend to draw people in and everyone started going to the new mall.

Slowly shops at the old mall started to reduce merchandise and began to close one by one.  It wasn't long until the old mall that had been such a part of my younger years, closed its doors.  I missed the ability to quickly run into that mall to pick something up, but even I had spent some time at the new mall with its unique shops.

Fast forward several years, and yesterday I decided to go to the once "new mall" to walk around a bit.  Living in the midwest with its long months of cold, the mall is often the perfect place to get a few steps in when winter is making you crazy. Yes, this is the very mall that likely was a factor in the eventual shut down of the mall from my childhood.  In the last two years, every time I go to this mall a different store has closed.  Since the closing of Kaufman's, a large anchor at the time that has yet to be replaced, the mall has been in steady decline.  As a result, many stores, especially on the end with the missing anchor, have closed as well.  Some of the areas remain empty with a sign at the door that space is available.  The mall now has, I don't know how many, generic sports stores, game stores, and other novelty shops that probably won't stay for long.

Though I'm sure the decline is complicated by the increase in online shopping, I've seen this pattern before.  Unless the ownership of the mall can get crafty, I know it's just a matter of time before this mall closes as well.  Interestingly, there is a kids' play section in this mall that is always packed.  With an ice-cream shop and pretzel store located beside it, many people are there to let their kids play a bit.  I'm hoping they'll figure out a way to change things up to get people to the other end of the mall and help it to grow again, but I'm not optimistic.

In the last ten years, two new malls have been built about twenty miles from this once "new mall," each with a new collection of big name stores and peppered with unique high-end shops.  Yep, a pattern for sure.




Sunday, March 4, 2018

Slice of Life: The Gift and Curse of Mornings 4 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community.  Disclaimer:  I'll be writing every day so the writing will be a bit unpolished most days.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.  


Quietly I turn the handle on the door to our bedroom trying not to wake up my husband.  It's 4:36 in the morning and I know there is not a chance I'm going back to sleep right now.  As I walk through the doorway, I look down hoping the dog isn't asleep right by our door.  It's hard to sneak out without arousing her, and her paws on the foyer floor will surely awaken my husband.  Luckily, this morning as I creep into the foyer, I note Trudy still sleeping in her bed near the stairs.  Even the dog knows it's too early to get up.

Walking into the living room, light illuminates from the sliding glass doors.  The full moon makes it possible to walk around the kitchen without turning on a light.  Outside I can see the trees and the water from recent rain even though it is still night.  It's a beautiful sight, I pause to take it all in before grabbing a K-cup from the drawer.  I place the decaf K-cup into the Keurig thinking maybe I'll be able to go back to sleep in an hour or two.  Of course, that likely won't be the case.

Waking up early has been a gift and a curse for several years now.  There's nothing like the quiet of the morning.  It's this early wake-up that, during the week, gives me an hour or two to myself each morning before I head out for a busy day.  It's this "extra time" that allows me to do a bit of writing or catch up on some reading.  A cup of coffee by my side, this time is the perfect way to settle into the day.

I'm honestly a morning person by nature.  Even when the kids were little my husband and I found our internal clocks to be a help.  It wasn't hard for me to wake up before dawn to feed babies or to get up early with the kids.  He, on the other hand, took the night shift because I couldn't stay awake to save my soul.

While quiet mornings are certainly a gift, this early morning wake-up becomes a curse at night.  By seven o'clock each night I'm fighting to stay awake.  Reading only complicates the matter as finding a cozy spot to read is a path to trouble.  From seven to ten o'clock I fight the fight.  Honestly, most nights, I do not see ten o'clock.  So...I wake up at 4:36 in the morning and just enjoy the gift of quiet mornings.






Saturday, March 3, 2018

Slice of Life: Selfie Challenged 3 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the Slice of Life community.  Disclaimer:  I'll be writing every day so the writing will be raw and a bit messy most days.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for bringing this community together and for inspiring me to try to find the stories that surround me each day.  

"Everybody, lean in," I say, trying to find the sweet spot for my camera.

"Wait, I can't see all of you yet," I tell my dad, husband, and nephew, trying to capture the four of us gathered at our favorite weekly hangout.  My husband tries to lean a bit more toward the center of the table.  Nope, I still don't have it.

"Hang on," I follow, trying to get everyone in the camera frame.

"Almost," I add as I try to extend my arm as far as it will reach.  I'm rather tall, but no matter how far I extend my arm I still can't get the four of us in the picture.

I wrestle with the camera and then try to remember which button on the side snaps the picture when you aren't using the screen.  Is it the volume?  The power button?  I give up with a sigh.  Another attempted selfie unsuccessful.

Selfies, I just can't take them.

If you've ever been with me when I try to turn the camera around to take a selfie you know it's true.  It's not really the selfie I'm after, but the "usie" as I heard Katie Keier call them one time.  You know, that delightful group shot where you're holding the phone and all of your friends gather around to get in the picture.  I watch people do it all the time.   They hold out their phone, their friends cluster around them, and bam - a great picture.  Not me.  It's just a skill set I don't possess.

To be fair, I can't even take a true selfie with my phone.  No matter where I hold the camera I can't get the picture right.  Sometimes I'm looking away from the lens so it looks creepy.  Other times, the angle is just awful.  Should I hold the camera high?  Should I hold the camera low?  Do I turn it slightly?

Apparently, the skill isn't naturally acquired for everyone and doesn't run in families.  My daughter can rock a selfie.  She's been doing it for years.  She'll pause in the house, in the car, at dinner, just about anywhere and grab that selfie.  She has a million different facial expressions she uses to take it up a notch.  Honestly, the only good selfies/usies I have on my phone are the ones she took.  When we're out I'll attempt to take a picture of us together; eventually, we end up laughing so hard that I pass the camera to her and she snaps a picture shaking her head at my inability to master this simple skill.

On Facebook and Instagram, I'm always a bit envious of the group photos people have snapped holding their phones in selfie position.  I've seen friends take a selfie of a group gathered around them.  I've seen friends snap a picture where they're in the front and then, at a bit of a distance, the group can be seen in the background of the picture.  Sometimes this is two or three people, but I have a few friends who somehow manage these great shots with groups up to ten.  Really, it's a gift I don't possess.

By now you're probably thinking, "Just buy a selfie stick," but that will never happen.  Those sticks are big and bulky, and would only amplify my problem as I pull it out of my purse.  I guess I'll just continue to hand my phone to some kind some stranger and say, "Do you mind taking a picture of our group for me?"




My One Little Word for 2019

Let's say this year, I've had a little trouble finding my new word.  Last year, I chose reach  and, to be honest, I never quite fo...