Tuesday, September 27, 2011



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tired.I am so tired.
The school year
hasn't begun

did this happen?
a time of rest,
was instead
a time of
Good work
even fun work
but work.

I am tired

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Boys and Girls

Boys and girls.  We all know they are different.  Just look around your house, your classroom, any restaurant.  We think and react in very different ways.  I've considered myself a bit of an expert in this matter, after all, I have 2 girls and 1 boy.  I pretty much know it all.  Right?  Right? Right.

Enter the dreaded college application.  Ten years ago our oldest daughter was a senior. She interviewed colleges (visits and online), gathered her required materials, and submitted her applications.  I had almost no responsibility.  Six years went by and daughter number 2 entered the college application world.  Again, she did the research, gathered the materials and submitted the applications.

And then there is the baby...and the boy.  About to begin his senior year, he doesn't need to visit any colleges.  He knows his choice already.  Well, that's fine since it's Purdue, but they won't let you in without an application.  What?  Application?  What's that?  Who's going to fill that out?  They want an essay?!  This is way too much work.

Now, the application is done. Submitted.  Fingers crossed.  But it took a lot of work. I had to bite my tongue and the inside of my cheek more than once as I forced (his words, not mine) him to complete the work after football practice - the horror!

Boys and girls.  They couldn't be more different.  I thought I knew that.  But I was wrong!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It is coming...

Do you hear it?  Has it started for you yet?  I heard it for the first time yesterday.  Tick tock, tick tock.  I stopped and cocked my head.  Was I really hearing this sound?  So soon?  I'm not ready!  I have too much left to do, I screamed in my head.

What was this sound?  You know it.  The sound the remaining minutes of summermake as they run away.  In their place, the call of a new school year.  Tick tock, tick tock.  This is the 9th year I've heard the call, the summons really, to return to structure.  To put aside leisure.  To embrace change and challenge.

Am I ready?  NO! Luckily, the sound is fairly quiet so far.  But, every day I know it will become louder...louder....louder until like the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart, I must accept the sound...but without the madness and murder. :)

Enjoy the quiet, but be ready.  Tick tock, tick tock.  You will hear it before you are ready.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I am used up

On the outside
once again
nose pressed
to the glass
wanting, waiting
to be asked in

Excuses flood my ears
Frustration overflows

One day I will
turn around
walk away
to my own
where everyone
is invited

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A True Love

10 Book That Helped Me Grow Up:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (my #1 of all time.  How did Betty Smith create a character that was me?!)
Anne of Green Gables
Stuart Little
Nancy Drew (all of them!)
Cherie Ames, Student Nurse
The Yearling
Leaving Home
Hope of Earth
The Cay
Mrs. Mike

10 YA Books I'm So Glad I Discovered:

Twilight (sadly, not the entire series)
13 Reasons Why
If I Stay
Because I Am Furniture
Boy At War
The Looking Glass Wars
Looking For Alaska
Purple Heart

I look around my house and everywhere there are books.  Books to be read. Books to be remembered.  Nonfiction.  Fiction.  All books. As unique as my family, as my students.  Each as important to who I am.  I love my books.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I think about what to write
It feels like nothing has been going on
Nothing out of the ordinary that is
Is that bad?
Is that wrong?

I worry about people thinking I am lazy
All summer off
I don't have much to show
Is that bad?
Is that wrong?

I wonder about the future
How can I heal the hurts
Smooth the path
Is that bad?
Is that wrong?

Then I realize I am in the right place
A place of calm and rest
Time to get my strength back
It is not bad.
It is not wrong.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Everyone says
I am
and most of the time
I agree.

They are
healthy -
all that a mama
could want.

But when I least expect it
I feel the knife in my gut

Doubled over
I search for
the happiness
I know I should feel
as I watch
my babies

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I'm a word nerd.  It's true.  I LOVE words.  In fact, one of the first things I do every year with my students is share Maya Angelou's wonderful poem "I Love the Look of Words" and talk about words we all love or wonder about.  We make a special section in the classroom where we collect words throughout the year - words that make us stop and pay attention, or words that sound funny or interesting, or words that we simply like (I love the word "sasparilla," no reason, I just do).  And pretty early on all of my students learn that whenever we work on vocabulary we are going to also look at what the word means, at its part and try to figure out why it means what we accept it to mean. 

So, what does this have to do with my title - with "renovate"?  This weekend my husband and I started renovating our kitchen. It's our 30th anniversary and 50th birthday presents to each other. In all honesty my husband will do the majority of the work, but I will help when he lets me (I'm not nearly the perfectionist he is!).  Being the scary nerd I am, I had to check on its meaning.  Here is what I found:

re (again - already knew that one, I use it all the time with "revise" - to look again!)
nov - Latin, new
ate - suffix used to make verbs

So renovate means to make new again.  Duh.  I knew that.  And I know that what we are doing is making something new.  We are finally getting rid of the AWFUL linoleum and countertops we have hated since we moved in.  We are giving the walls a new coat of paint.  And we are bringing new energy and enthusaism to the space.

This is what summer means for me, too.  Renovate.  I come back to school after 10 weeks or so "made new," ready to try new things, to look differently at things that have been the same for too long.  We always say we need to rejuvenate (to make young again)...but what we really need is to renovate.  I'm going to give it a try....along with trying to figure out how to use the nail gun!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Friday...how did this happen?
Just yesterday
Tuesday was breathing down my neck,
insisting I write...something.
My brain
My fingers
I waited
it was
Oh my!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Tonight I'm thinking about memories....and what they hold...and what they don't.  My dad was with me this evening.  He has dementia and doesn't have many memories all of the time.  That bothers my sisters and my mom alot, but for some reason it doesn't get to me.  Maybe it's because most of my memories are bad...violent...painful.  I don't know. It just doesn't bother me.

As we were walking tonight I asked Dad if he remembered the weeping willow tree we had in our backyard when I was growing up. (It was huge.  We kept our picnic table and lawn chairs under it.  It was the best  place to be on the hottest summer day).  He laughed.  Sketched the tree in the air with his hands (he doesn't have many verbal skills most of the time) and then I reminded him of the night he and my uncle stayed under it all night drinking beer & tomato juice (poor man's bloody marys) and reminiscing.  He laughed.  His eyes lit up.  He remembered.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this but I know this:  Memories never really leave us.  They are always there, waiting for the word or picture that brings them back to the front.  I like helping my dad remember those good ones.  I'm glad he's forgotten the bad ones.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


My brain is tired tonight.  This heat...I wasn't ready for it.  But, then I found myself thinking about it, so here is my very lame poem...the best I have tonight :)

     pounding, searing,
     shivering, freezing,
     giggling, playing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's Okay!

It's summer!  Two official days out of school and I've finished my first "summer read."  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson is my kind of book: set in England, a sweet love story, but with a twist - this one dealing with prejudice.  I was captivated and renewed as I read this book.  It was a relief, a break, a treat.

It reminded me again of what I really do know: I am not a writer!  I am a reader who loves good writing and who every once in a while tries to imitate something that touches her.  Just before the end of Major Pettigrew I read this line, " ... there was only the pause of quiet reflection pooling between them like sunlight on carpet."  I had to stop.  Let this sink in.  Be thankful for being able to read something like this.  It is simply beautiful.

My husband wants me to be a writer.  I did write him a short story for his birthday.  It's okay.  He loves it, that's all that really matters.  But lines like "quiet reflection pooling between them" don't come into my head.  And I don't think you can "learn" how to do this.  It's there, or it's not.  And that's okay.  I collect lines like these like some small boys collect bugs.  I mount them on pieces of paper and display them in places I can see them.  I treasure them.  Savor them.  Love them.  Show them to my students and encourage them to see if lines like these live in their heads.

And that is enough for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To remember

Two days to go and this school year will be in the past.  Today it feels like it cannot come quickly enough!  But, I now myself well enough to know that I won't feel this way on Thursday at 3:24.  So, I'm going to try and make a list of things to remember about this school year (in no particular order):

1.  I discovered YA books - and love them.
2.  I convinced my son and HUSBAND to read.
3.  My husband is the best judge of YA books for the boys in my classes.
4.  I love working with my daughter!
5.  It is essential to have at least one friend at work who you can trust completely.  This year, I discovered I have that person!
6.  I saw a student's heart truly broken when her best friend was killed.  I saw her deal with that pain in her writing - and was humbled to be a part of the process.
7.  I am not always more mature than an 8th grader.
8.  I am too tired tonight to make this list!  It sounds stilted and disjointed and inpersonal.  But, I am determined to post tonight. 
9.  I will reread my writer's notebook from this year and use that to be sure I remember these amazing kids and the things we did.
10.  I still love teaching.

178 days down.  2 to go...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Writing with my kids!

My 8th graders are neck-deep in creating multigenre projects...This is my favorite time of my year.  The classroom literally hums with their creativity and I love popping from desk to desk and hearing all the different ideas.  This year I have kids writing about dogs, their best friend dying (this year!), anorexia, soccer, murder, immigration, imaginary creatures...you name it, they are writing it.  One genre lots of kids are trying is a recipe - it makes me stop and think to see what they come up with for the "ingredients" of their theme or focus.  This weekend I wrote a recipe of my own.  Here it goes...:

Happy Classroom

1 teacher, passionate and flexible (no substitutes!)
20 - 30 students, an assortments of backgrounds, skill levels, and talent is best
3 C willingness to take risks
1/2 C imagination
3 Tbs understanding of the writing process
1 C revision, divided
2 tsp peer feedback
1 tsp honest teacher feedback

Combine teacher and students in a large room, preferably one with windows.  Fold in willingness to take risks.  Whip together understanding and imagination.  Carefully add to first mixture making sure not to overmix or mixture will collapse.  Cover and let rise at least one day.

After at least 24 hours, stir down mixture.  Whisk 1/2 C revision with peer and teacher feedback.  Add to mixture.  Continue to add revision until mixture holds together on its own.  Bake in medium oven (375) until golden.

This classroom will improve as it is shared with as many others as possible.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Have you ever been so mad you wanted to spit?  Lately, I seem to be trapped in spit-city.  I have my government officials - all the way from president to governor to, sometimes, my co-workers - telling me I'm not doing my job correctly.  My husband and kids often don't act in ways that I think are fair to me.  But, I can handle that.  I can be frustrated, even spitting mad, and still move on.  What I can't get past is one of my kids being treated unfairly.

My son was treated to the ultimate "unfair" example last night, and all I could do was sit in the stands and yell, "No fair!"  Picture this.  It's the conference season-ending competition.  Your child has worked all season and steadily improved.  He's not the best, but he's darn close and he's peaking at just the right time in his season.  It's the perfect spring night. You can wear flip flops. You don't need a coat.  You've already watched your son clear 6' in the high jump.  It a good night.  Now it is time for the 2nd heat of the 110 high hurdles.  Your son is seeded 7th out of 16.  The top 9 would make the finals.  The race begins.  He's a little slow, but quickly hits his stride.  Your heart races with his long legs as they smoothly glide up and over again and again.  He is gaining.  Coming into the 9th set of hurdles, he is 3rd in a very fast heat.  Suddenly, a hurdle FLIES from the lane to his right into his lane, sideways.  Reade literally stops for a second as he tries to figure out how to continue moving forward.  And there it is.  Not fair.  In that split second, the runner who smacked the hurdle pulls ahead of Reade and qualifies for the finals.  Reade...doesn't.

Now it would seem like there should be a rule for something like this.  Guess what - track, like life, often isn't fair. There is a rule about a runner impeding another runner's progress but nothing about a hurdle.  Is that fair?  Nope.  Can I do anything about it?  Nope again.  Am I happy.  Absolutely not.

All of this has been on my mind all day.  Fair.  It's so often not a part of our lives.  I don't like it.

But, guess what?  Next Thursday, that same boy will be racing again at sectionals.  I will try not to spit on him.  I will remember that I'm an adult and this is not my son's entire life.  I will force myself to have perspective. I will hope for a race that is fair.  Maybe I'll get lucky.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rule follower

Is it because I am a middle child, or I'm Irish, or ...well, I really don't know why, but I'm a rule follower.  Take tonight for instance.  It is Tuesday.  Ruth's rule says I need to post an entry.  But, I forgot until Ruth called and reminded me.  Oops, busted!  Now, here I am, typing away.

Is it a bad thing to follow the rules?  Nope.  It keeps my life pretty ordered - or as ordered as it can be - and helps me feel like I have some control.  I am, though, also learning to be a rule-breaker.  Isn't that what writers are: rule breakers? It's all well and good to have rules for format, grammar, and even content, but only if you can play with them, try different things, become someone different.

My students started their multigenre projects this week.  And so did I.  I didn't do one last year.  Not fair.  Not following the rules. I'm trying to push myself to step outside my comfort zone and write a few new genres. Today I struggled with a recipe for breadmaking.  I thought and thought. Edited and revised.  And I'm still not happy.  But, I've got the beginning of the recipe and while I was making foccacia bread for dinner (yep, did that...and followed the rules to make it happen!), I got an idea for how to work "yeast" into my recipe - anticipation is the "yeast" of breadmaking.  Now I wish I'd brought my writer's notebook home so I could revise.

I followed the rules - I wrote my entry.  But I also broke them.  I wrote it the way I wanted to.  I started sentences with conjunctions and I even ended sentences with prepositions.  That's me - rebel rule breaker!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I'm afraid of poetry.  Especially of writing poetry. There, I said it.  I like to love it.  Sometimes I do. When I'm reading it by myself, not trying to "explicate" or worry any buried meaning out of it.  But writing it.  That is so far out of my comfort zone that I can't even see its shadow.  So, why a posting about poetry?  Because my dear friend Ruth has been writing some amazing poetry with song titles from her ipod and I couldn't sit by and not try it...so, here are my lame attempts.  I'm not sure what I even think of them, but I want to try them in my classroom, so I have to try them myself first.  And since I've challenged myself with this blog, I guess they belong here as well.  Be kind. :)

I guess you're right,
here comes good-bye.
You and me,
hanging by a moment.
It happens.

I want you
to want me
for good.
The way I
loved you.
Swept away.

Welcome to the future,
lonely ol' night.
Paranoia in B major.
Blue trail of sorrow.

Keep holdin' on,
you've got a friend.
One piece at a time.

All your life,
roll with the changes.

The one on the right
is on the left,
more love.
Dancing through life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes, I am a nerd

It is true.  So far on my Spring Break, I have read 1 1/2 professional journals.  Not only have I read them, I've highlighted, annotated, and made plans based on my reading.  And I'm excited.  And I liked doing it.  So, I am a teaching nerd.  I love, love, love reading about teaching English, thinking about teaching English, and trying out new ways to teach English. 

I haven't only read journals.  I'm reading 2 other books for pleasure.  I'm relaxing.  I'm watching too much tv.  I'm even making time for my elliptical machine. But, I love reading my journals.  I have my (yellow only!) highlighter.  My Sharpie black fine-tip pen.  My sticky notes.  I make notes.  I think.  I decide what to try.  And I hope I won't forget it all in the rush of everyday school. 

So, it's true.  I am a nerd - an English teaching, learning, trying nerd.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2nd time's a charm?

Okay, here goes...again...I think I created a blog earlier, but it doesn't seem to work, or to be available.  So...anyway.  My dear friend Ruth has been challenging me to try putting my writing out in public.  I'm scared, but I've decided to do what I ask my kids to do, to put my fingers where my mouth is - so to say - and to let others read my thinking.  I've decided on "Twists and Turns" because that is my life: a series of twists and turns.  Never boring.  Rarely the same.  Always challenging.  We'll see where I can take this...