Friday, March 31, 2017

Loved and Lost

Today is the final day of the Slice of Life challenge.  I have not written every day, but I have come close.  I have done much better than a previous attempt and WAY better than not trying.  I will take that as a win.

Tomorrow, I drive another 824 miles to bring Alexis home. It seems an appropriate time to share our story.  If you have heard this before, no need to read on.  But, if not, hopefully this will warm your heart as it has mine.

Alexis's mom is a friend of our oldest daughter. They went to junior high and high school together.  Their friendship, as is often the case, had its ups and downs.

Alexis was born approximately a year after the two girls graduated high school.  Jen is Alexis's godmother. With this decision, our lives were forever entwined.

Fast forward a tad over 2 years later.  
Alexis's mom contacts us to let us know they are homeless - and she is pregnant. We invited them to stay with us for a week which led us to offering to have Alexis stay with us while her mom got a job and a place to live.

Alexis became a member of our family that day.  Not legally but in every other way. She lived with us until she was for almost four years - until she was just about six years old, at which time she went to live with her mother in MN.

Interesting bit of information - one state does not necessarily honor an agreement written in another state.  

We did not see Alexis for two years.

But, we were reunited 25 months later and have been a part of each other's life every since. Alexis spends a good part of her summer with us as well as one other break (Christmas, Spring Break  - -whatever works).  She has been the flower girl at two of our children's weddings.  She is a god-sister to my grandson.  In every way that matters, Alexis is one of mine. I love her no differently than if I birthed her.

Having Alexis in our life has been a blessing many times over.  Don't get me wrong. It has not always been easy.  Our life changed when she came to live with us. My husband and I were in our fifties, approaching empty-nest - ism. 

And when we didn't see each other for two years - - 

I don't think I realized how deeply I was affected until she came back into our lives.

I vividly remember a conversation with my father, in which he told me, "The more people you love, the more you have to lose."  

I have loved and lost this young girl.  But, if I had to do it all over again, I would.  Because it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. 

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this opportunity to share a Slice of my Life.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What to read?

Alexis and I went to Barnes and Noble today. Book shopping is one of our traditions; every time she visits, we go book shopping. Sometimes I have to work very hard to get her interested in reading. Today, that was not the case.  She knew exactly what she wanted - Thea Stilton books!  She choose two books she has been waiting to read (How I love those words - waiting to read!) and one of the Geronimo / Thea books. 

As we walked to pay, Alexis spied another set of books.
"That's what I've been wanting!"

"Do you want to put back one of the Thea books and start The Land of Stories series instead?"

She carefully considered her options and decided to stay with the Thea Stilton books because she knows she likes them. They are funny.  

As we walked up to pay for our books, we agreed to save The Land of Stories for this summer; we could read the series together.

Right now, as I write, Alexis is finishing Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. She is anxious to start one of her new books....but, we agreed, it would be silly to not finish the last 12 pages of this book. 

Our reading identity changes throughout our life and is often influenced by the people around us. Alexis does not read a lot at home but, when she visits us, she reads.  We go to the library and the bookstore.  We read together before bed.  She sees us all read when we have free time.  Alexis takes joy in the fact that she is a reader - and so do I!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I forgot to blog yesterday.  Literally - forgot.

There have been other days that I have chosen to skip due to exhaustion, extreme busy-ness and so on.  But yesterday...

I got lost in a book.


 have not had as much time to read as much as I like lately.  Yesterday, I grabbed Salt to the Sea to start while waiting for my doctor's appointment.  It followed along with me all day as we unsuccessfully tried to set up guardianship accounts for my brother.

Went with me as I went to visit him in his new residence (it is really nice there!).

Followed me back home again.

Then, after dinner, I sat down  to read a bit before a single make-up piano lesson.  Then, right back to the book I went.  I was just about finished when it was time to pick up Alexis from Jen's house.

Back home again.

Helped get Alexis settled in for the night.  We are reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

After she fell asleep, I turned back to my book to finish the last few pages.

When I looked at my watch it was after 11 PM - Chicago time.  That means, after midnight NY time.  So I missed my chance

But, as excuses go, getting lost in a book is one of the best.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for giving me this opportunity to share a Slice of my Life.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday

My family is not very good at celebrating holidays in a timely manner.  Earlier this week, my son Stephen texted me to verify that we were, in fact, celebrating Easter on Easter Sunday.  We are.

Tonight, we celebrated my husband's birthday - -which was actually on March 17th but I was heading to NY for the Saturday Reunion so it go rescheduled.  A week and a few days is not so bad, at least for us.

But tonight was a dual-purposed celebration.

My husband and I were also "receiving" our Christmas present from our children.  

We share the belief that time together is more valuable than more stuff.  Our kids, years ago, opted to stop exchanging gifts with each other.  Instead, they have Sibling Day. They all gather together to prepare and eat a meal. Lately they also play a board game or two. Their Christmas Sibling Day was earlier in March, I believe.

Our Christmas present from our children was Family Dinner and, as the children prepared dinner, my husband and I got a "date" with our grandson.

Dating out kids goes way back to when they were little themselves. The kids used to get TV tickets - 14 tickets, each worth 30 minutes of TV time. When they spent all their TV tickets, they were done watching TV for the week.  But, if they had TV tickets left over after the week ended, they earned stars on a chart.  Ten stars could be traded in for a date with either my husband or myself (we alternated).  The kids preferred the dates: a movie, a game for just the two of us, mini golf, etc.  They became masterful at collecting dates with us.  Even now, my husband still tries to get them one-on-one for breakfast several times a year.  I grab whoever is around as time allows for a meal or an afternoon.


Rod and I took our grandson to the Arboretum.  Alexis decided to join our date instead of helping cook, so the four of us explored the Children's Garden, went down slides, picked up wood chips, touched branches, squished dried leaves, when through the mazes, crossed rickety bridges, and found snails in the pond. As we explored, the 6 kids (our 3 from birth - each with their significant others) chopped, diced, sautéed, blended, and baked a delicious dinner.  When we got to our daughter's home, we feasted on an amazing mix of food.  Lauren planned the tapas-style menu with a mix of some tried and true favorites along with some new options.  It was all delicious.

The best part was watching and listening to these 6 together.  Each and every one of them pitched in - cleaning, making coffee, loading the dishwasher, playing with T.  

I am so proud of the people they have become. Not because they hold glamorous jobs, or have fancy houses, or drive expensive cars.  But because of who they are and what they stand for.

We may often be tardy in our celebrations.  I don't really mind.  We are tardy because we treasure the time together; it's important. Sometimes it takes a bit of scheduling for all 8 of us to be available at the same time.  But it is well worth the effort.  Because time is truly the best gift we can give each other.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

824 miles

Today, the first day of spring break, I woke up to my alarm at 5 AM, showered and drove 824 miles.  I drove to the Minneapolis area and back to Chicago.  13.5 hours round trip.  And I will repeat this process again next Saturday, as my spring break winds up.  Why?

Because a special 10 year old lives in Minneapolis and is going to spend her spring break with us. I have driven this route countless times, sometimes by myself and sometimes with company (other than my young friends).

Sometimes I go up for the weekend, driving up on Saturday, and home again on Sunday.  But, more often than not, I make the round trip because, in the end, I got more time with Alexis.

The story of Alexis and I is for another day.  All I really need to say is that she is family in every way that matters.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring break means

Spring Break
somewhere warm and sunny 
for some
no school for some
no work for some

but, for others, 
Spring Break is just
another week
of work

Sometimes I wonder
how I go to be 
so lucky to
still celebrate 
Spring Break

Last year, we took a trip
to Norfolk
I needed to 
get away
I needed sunshine

This year,
I am staying home
Family is requiring 
too much of us 
to get away 

But there will still be
time for fun
Beauty and the Beast
Girl's tea
Nonna time
Spring baking

Spring break
No matter where or when
means rejuvenation
means family and fun

I am ready
tomorrow at 3
Spring break begins

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Every time I hear the phrase "non-negotiable," I think of the staff at Teacher's College. I am not sure who I heard it from first (Lucy?), but it is a phrase I really appreciate. What is non-negotiable?  What am I not willing to budge on?

This morning, a group of teachers met to discuss non-negotiables in Reader's Workshop -- what belongs in a book box, how often students should get new books, what should a class library look like, how long should students be reading, per trimester, per grade.  We each shared what we value (the student) and how we can best meet the needs of all of our students. We created a list of non-negotiables that we could all agree upon.

Tonight, I am considering other non-negotiables. What is non-negotiable in my personal life?  The health and well-being of my family.  That's the big one that I can not, will not sacrifice.

But this feels a bit more blurry than the discussion this morning.  My husband and I are balancing a lot of things right now - my brother's health and long-term care, aging parents, our daughter's upcoming ankle surgery. All of these involve the health and well-being of our family. How do we determine what we are not willing to budge on?  There are so many factors that we have absolutely no control of that.

I have complete trust that we will get through this - because there is one other non-negotiable in our life - -our faith. At, bottom line, that is the one we need.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Day by the Numbers

One parent meeting
at 7 AM
talking about how 
reading and understanding a 
math problem
is as important
(more important?)
then doing the math

Two tutoring sessions
practicing for PARCC
reading a Newsela article
classifying triangles
discussing why the Roman Empire collapsed

Three grand conversations 
talking about Freedom Summer
and why it was important that 
John Henry brought his own
for his own
ice pop

Four items on my 
to-do list
getting paperwork ready
as a newly appointed
co-guardian for my brother

Five new books
from the library
in anticipation of
additional reading time
over spring break

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Keep Going

This is my first year to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. I thought about it in other years but never really took the plunge.  I must admit, I have missed two so far.

One night, I got home after another 15 hour day and was simply so tired I just crawled into bed.  As I curled up, I remembered I hadn't sliced yet and thought, "I am going to just miss this one."  I gave myself permission to skip.

Last night, I forgot to slice too.  I woke up early and worked quietly on lesson plans and grading in the hotel room, while my son slept in.  Then we started our day. I wanted to go to The Strand, because I always go to The Strand when I'm in New York.  I bought The Love U Hate; I am forcing myself to wait and read it this summer with a girl I tutor.   Then we went to Stephen's old job so he could see some friends.  

By the time we got him it was early evening and I simply had forgotten. 

But, twenty days in, I am starting to lag.  I am wondering if I have enough to say.  I am questioning my purpose in this endeavor.

I imagine that is how our students feel at time.  Why am I doing this?  What is the point?  Weariness - of the body and the soul -  can be debilitating.

I know why I slice.  I believe that, to be a better teacher of writing, I need to write myself.  However, this year, I don't teach writing - just reading.  So - again - why am I doing this?

Maybe to be a part of a community? I do enjoy reading others posts.  I enjoy reading the comments left on mine. I feel connected when I realize I am not the only teacher that wants nothing more than a quiet Friday night in front of the TV after a busy week.


It's important that we understand the why behind what we do.  

I introduced the idea of writing a letter as a readers response today.  From a character to a character.  To a character from you.  From the character to you.  All sorts of options.  One 2nd grader asked, "Can I write a letter to the author?"

"What do you want to say to the author? What would be the purpose of your letter?"

"I would tell her what I learned from reading the book."

"Yes, that would be a great readers response."

So, tonight, I search for my purpose.  I don't want to "phone it in."  I want my commitment to participate in the 2017 Slice of Life challenge to have meaning - to me mostly. Even though I am struggling, at times, to think of something meaningful to say, I keep going. Because sometimes the purpose it just that - - to keep going until you discover it.  Or it discovers you.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So many take-aways

Take-aways from the  Saturday Reunion at Teachers College

  • create a baggie of books - specifically series books -  that I have read and "marked" up.  I can use these to teach what readers need to do at each level.
  • instead of a book talk, book talk the series.  Introduce characters, setting, what kinds of problems they have, what tricky things the reader can be on the look out for.  This allows the reader to do the hard work that is required of them.
  • Everyday Diversity: I need more books in my library. I want to spend time this summer working through which books I will use to teach mini lessons and for small group instruction .
  • Expand my own writing and conversation to invite a wider world into our discussion.
  • Start books clubs during read aloud with partners.  Expand to read aloud communities.  Then branch out to partnerships reading same books.  Move into partnerships within series. There are many ways to facilitate and grow independence in book clubs.
  • reimagine units of study to build in my social injustice work for our younger students.  Implicitly teach through carefully chosen read alouds.
  • teacher collaboration: try learning walks and study groups
  • teacher collaboration should be teacher-directed; administrator supported
  • start with a short study group - meet every other week for 8 weeks
  • set specific goals and expectations of members; determine how to maintain accountability

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Friday, March 17, 2017

TC Bound

There are a few places in my world that, now matter what, bring me great home and the homes of my children.  The beach.  Those are probably my top choices.  But, coming up pretty close behind, is a visit to Teachers College at Columbia University in NYC.

I first came to TC a number of years ago, for a reunion weekend with some co-workers.  It was a phenomenal experience and really changed me.  I have a better understanding of what literacy instruction can be.

I have since attended three Reading Institutes. I come to at least one, if not both, reunion weekends each year.

This year, when hemming and hawing if I should come again - mostly because of everything that is going on in with various family members, my husband asked, "Do you always get something out of your time there?"

"Yes!" I responded without hesitation.

"Can you afford the trip?"

"Yes, I can."

"Then why wouldn't you go?"

I had never thought of it quite that way.  I love coming to TC.  I learn so much.  I meet people with like minds.  I reconnect with friends I have made at various institutes and reunions.  I become re-energized.  I have no reason not to come, and many reasons to come.

Previously, when coming to TC, I was double excited because I was able to visit my son, Stephen.  He attended NYU and then, after graduation, stayed in NY.  I stayed with him, wherever he happened to be living, each time. Later, I stayed with him and his wife.  That was an added bonus to each visit.

Stephen and Julia now live in Chicago. I wondered, at first, if my desire to come to TC would diminish because they were not here. But, happily, I have found that it has not.  I am still excited to be here and learn tomorrow.  I have already perused the offerings and made a noted a few of my favorite choices - - we all know some decisions are based on proximity.

There are many kinds of joy.  Learning at Teachers College is one of the joys of my life that I am happy to be able to relive many times over.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers
 for offering this opportunity to share a slice of my life.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A different morning

Still tired

I'm not going to school today
Doctor's appointment with Lauren

Another surgery
Sooner rather than later is the goal

Sleep in?

Gotta get up
Throw in laundry
Fix lunch
Type up lesson plans for tomorrow's sub

Chat over coffee and breakfast
with Rod

Too much going on

Need to stay focused 
in the moment

Can't let my mind jump
too much ahead

We can handle 
whatever is thrown our way
We are Suttons

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers 
for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It was a fun class today.

"Please gather around the perimeter of the rug."

14 young bodies plopped on the floor around me.  I joined them, with two colors of square tiles. Constructing a rectangle of yellow, I asked, "What's the area of this rectangle?"

Without any hesitation, they each said, "24."

Removing yellow 6 tiles from the center, and replacing them with red tiles, I now asked, "What's the area of the yellow rectangle now?"


"How do you know?  What's your equation?"

"24 - 6 = 18" Followed by an explanation of why 6 was subtracted.

Another shape appears on the rug, but this time it is not a simple rectangle.

"What is the area of this shape?"


"I did this on Khan!"

"Can I break it anyway I want?"

Students eager to share their learning, talking over which rectangles they formed to solve for area.

Another shape appeared.

"How about this one?"

Students reached in to show each other how they broke it apart.  Murmurs of "that's how I did it too" as different options were shared.

My second graders love math. It is obvious in the way the interact, the way they talk with each other, they way they learn.  They have really, truly, and honestly embraced the idea that mistakes help us learn.  They support each other and willingly share their thinking.  They hold each other accountable for high quality work and behavior.

At the end of the class, we met on the rug again, this time for a game of BUZZ.

"Can we do 6s?"
"No.  Let's do 4s"
"We made it to 60 yesterday then we ran out of time. Can we start at 60 today?"

We started at 1. Made it to 70 before an error derailed us.  When class was over, 14 smiling faces walked back to their homerooms.  And I thought, "That was fun today! I'm glad I am here!"

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share a slice of my life.

Monday, March 13, 2017

That is just what family does

"That is just what family does," I told my mother in law.

"Not every family."

How true.  And how sad.

My family - from all sides - is going through crisis after crisis right now.  My brother's situation.  My daughter may need a 4th ankle surgery.  My in-laws.  We are being hit from every which way.

But we have a family that all steps up to the plate.  My eldest daughter, pregnant with twins, brought grandma her new clothes.  My second daughter baked cookies and brownies as a thank you to the nursing staff.  My husband spent the day taking care of his parents while I spent the day, along with my sister, taking care of my brother's issues.  Sunday found many of us -my son, his wife, my husband and myself, a nephew and a niece, Rod's brother -  all gathered at the rehab facility, visiting. Grandma was in her glory.

We all do our part.

"This is what family does."
"Not all families."

OK.  Fine. This is what OUR family does."

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for allowing me share this slice of my life.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Earlier today, Rod and I sat in the living, listening to our daughter, Lauren, help her friend set up a budget. 

Lauren has had her financial set-backs over the years.  She moved back home a while ago as a means to pay off some bills and get back on her feet.  She has worked hard to live on the budget she and her dad created.  She has learned that the budget works - she has paid off some debts and is able to save money AND plan a vacation.  Budgets work!

Lauren asked her friend all the important questions: What is your goal? What debts do you have?  What do you spend your money on?  Not surprisingly, her friend was not able to account for where much of her money went. Lauren explained that she should track all of her spending for a month, so they could review her habits and adjust her budget, if needed.  She recommended her friend allow her enough spending money to enjoy herself but not so much that she could not save money every month.

Lauren came downstairs to get her budget notebook to share with her friend. Rod told her how proud he was of her; he remarked how much she had learned.

Growing up is hard.  The world is not always a friendly place. Our children are starting their lives with greater debt than my husband and I have ever had, with the exception of purchasing a house.  

Sometimes, as adults, we have to make hard choices - - like moving back home to save money.  I am so proud of our daughter. She has learned a valuable lesson that she is now sharing with her friend.

It's a good life!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

If only we could "tutor" each and every student!

I tutor two students each week. I work with one of those students, a 6th grade girl, two times a week. She is quite bright; much of what I do is support and help build confidence. I truly enjoy my time with her.  We have built a good relationship over the past almost 2 years.
Today, both of the assignments she was working on were writing work.  One, a reader's response to a short story, took us about an hour together. First, I needed to read the story to be able to discuss it with her. Much of the time, however was spent pushing her to do more.  The format she was required to use (MELCON) is very specific.  Main Idea, Evidence, Link, Conclusion.  In and of itself, the format is fine.  However, it has been presented very formulaically, using specific sentence starters, etc.  My goal today was to push this particular student to do more than what she perceived as "required."  We have had this discussion several times. Today was the day we needed to put it into action.
"Before we start writing, I want to talk about the story.  I am wondering why the mother felt angry, than guilty, than angry, than guilty. What do you think?"
"Why would the man pretend to be poor and sell apples if, in fact, he has ample money?"

Both of these questions took a great deal of prompting and support.  I believe she had answers but was hesitant to explain her thinking because 1) she was afraid she was wrong or 2) she did not have the vocabulary to express her thoughts clearly.  We talked about these ideas for about 20 minutes, with me prodding with "Why do you think that?" and "Tell me more about that." With time, she was able to express her thinking and support it with evidence.

Finally, it was time to write.  The prompt was based on which idea was she most interested in from the class discussion.  We were able to narrow down two ideas she liked.  We then sorted through evidence, determining which idea she could better support.

Up to this point, the work was similar to work we have done together.  Now comes the actual writing!

"What is your thesis statement going to be?"
"I am supposed to start with the main idea."
"Thesis statement is your main idea. What is the premise of your writing?"

We work best when she can think aloud and I type. As she introduced a piece of evidence, I pushed her to explain, explicitly, how that evidence connected to her thesis statement. This required a great deal of support but that is what I do when I tutor....I offer specific, individualized support.

"How does this connect to your main idea?"
"Don't assume your reader sees what you see. Explain it to her!"
"Why would he do that?"

We did the first two paragraphs together.  As she started the third piece of evidence, I asked her to add the additional support on her own.  I reassured her that the work we were doing was hard and more than she had done in the past but I knew she could do it.    It took time, and some leading questions, but she got there.

This session made me wonder a few things. 1) Why are reader's responses still perceived as a specific, formulaic response.  Shouldn't we welcome a student's thoughts, presented in a way that feels natural to the student? 2)  Wouldn't it be wonderful if every student could get the same individualized support my student got this morning? --I know, they can - if the teacher regularly confers!--3) Why is there so much stress put on doing it "right" and getting a good grade and so little support in honoring the writing process?  Writing is a chore for most students because we don't allow them to experience regular writing just for the joy of it.  

The other day, as I left the library after tutoring my other student, a patron stopped me. He commented that, as a  junior high student, he had been tutored as well.  He still remembers those sessions fondly; looking back, he is able to appreciate the growth surrounding those times with his tutor.

Not everyone can afford tutoring. It is a luxury. However, every student deserves support geared specifically to their needs.  And every student will benefit from a close relationship with a teacher.  I am thankful for my time as a tutor. It helps me reflect on my time with a class of students. Am I giving them the individualized support they need?  Am I getting to know them as well as I know these two?  I hope so!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for this opportunity to share a slice of my life.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Night

Friday Night

Friday after school
I stay late to lesson plan
make copies
organize my room

I meet my husband
for dinner
a cocktail

This week
A change in plans
Rod has been traveling
all week
Off to Jen's I go
to play with Timothy
have dinner

Friday night
home at least
exhausted from the week
ready for the weekend

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Tonight I'm tired.

I don't really feel like blogging.

Seriously considered skipping today.

Here, in Chicago, it is after 9:30.  I left my house at 6:30 AM for school.  Got home at 5, with just enough time to do the dishes and grab a quick dinner before teaching piano lessons til 9:30. I haven't even looked at my grading yet!

So I am tired.

But, when you make a commitment to do something, you do it.  Even when you're tired.  Even when you wish you could have put your pjs on at 6:30 and curled up with a good book.

Other people are tired for way different reasons than me - way more serious reasons that me. Truly, I am blessed to have not one, but two jobs that I love....teaching my little kiddos and teaching my piano kiddos.  Piano students are different than my regular students in that I keep them year after year after year. It is such a different, wonderful, glorious relationship.  I have a student that I taught when she was in first grade.  Then she moved away for a few years.  When she came back to the area, she came back to me for piano lessons.  She is now in 7th grade, and is learning how to box.  How cool is that?  I bet she's tired too; she just left here at 9:30!

So, yes, I am tired.

But I am also super be so tired after such a great day.

There could be worse things than being tired.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share a slice of my life.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grateful for Good Friends

Susanne and I have known each other for years. Our kids are all about the same ages - our two oldest are only a year about, as are our middles.  Our youngest went to school together starting at the very tender age of 3.  Needless to say, we have spent a lot of time together over the years....trips to the Dunes, weekends away, playdates, family dinners.  The list goes on and on.  

As often happens, we lost touch with each other over the years. Nothing happened except life.  Our kids grew up.  They no longer needed us to drive them places. Her kids were into sports; mine were into music.  So we drifted apart.

Last summer, we ran into each other at the community pool.  A place we had spent many a summer hour together when our kids were young.  Delighted to see each other, we vowed to get together for dinner soon.

Tonight - 8 months later - we finally did. It was like we never lost a beat.  We quickly got caught up on all the kids and our husbands.  Talked about our jobs.  Chatted - just like old times.  It was a wonderful evening over delicious food with a good friend.  Because good friends, even when they don't see each often, remain good friends.  

It may be a while before we see each other again...not that we didn't have a great time together.  It's just that we each have lots going on.  We are both grandparents.  We have full-time jobs.  We have family obligations.  But I am sure that, when we do get together again, it will be just like old times again.  And for that I am extremely grateful!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


A storm rolls in
Fierce winds
Driving rain

I'm awake
I don't know why
Roll over
Try to sleep

Forget it
Grab my phone

Try to go back to sleep
Toss and turn


It's going to be a long day!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Nonna...or Nananana


That's what my grandson says as soon as he sees me. Or hears my voice.  I absolutely love that!  There is nothing quite so wonderful as being a grandmother (I go by Nonna but willingly take Nananananana...)

Timothy is 16 months. And, I must say, he loves his Nonna a lot.  Of course, the feeling is mutual.

Even when Timothy was just brand new baby, holding him was the best stress reliever known to mankind.  His big eyes would just stare into mine and I could feel by whole body relax.  All worries evaporated as I took him in.

That feeling has not subsided, even though he is not quite so meek and stationary as he was back then.  Today, he grabbed my hand and walked me to the door.  We went for a walk down the hall, to push the elevator button. When he saw his Mom-Mom walking behind us, he took off "running."  This was one of many to-be-experiences Nonna and Me events.  

My daughter is now expecting twin girls.  Yes. Three babies under the age of 2.  There will be no shortage of Nonna-time this summer.  And I can't wait!  I loved every phase of being a mom - and still do. But being a Nananananana is absolutely splendiferous!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for letting me share this slice of my life.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


1. Wake up early
2. Convince myself to go back to sleep

Repeat steps 1-2 three times

Lounge in bed
Read Missy Piggle-Wiggle (delightful!)
Time for brekkie - avocado toast
Out the door, ready for Sunday visits
Stop 1:  Rod's mom
Stop 2:  My mom
Stop 3:  My brother

4:45 - heading home
no one else around

What should I eat?
Scavenge fridge for whatever looks good (not much)

Tonight's goals:
Lesson Planning
Send out piano billing

So glad this is a long weekend
I need tomorrow to recover from today!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Seeking Spring

My favorite season, without a doubt is summer. I love the heat. The freedom of time.  The opportunity to dig into a subject and really study it.  THE BEACH.  Barbecuing.  S'mores.  Reading outside on my hammock or chaise lounge.  Bike rides. Hikes.  Exploring new neighborhoods.  You get the picture.

Spring comes in a close second because spring ushers in summer.  Spring hints at the delights that await us. Flowers start to bloom.  It's warm enough to walk into town for coffee.  Browse a neighborhood's shops.  Grade papers on the deck.  It's a close second to summer.

I live in the Chicago-area.  Our weather is erratic.  We can have a 70 degree day and then, two days later, be back to brrrrr.  Today - possibly snow.  By Monday - back in the 60s.  This season - the transition between winter and spring - is my least favorite.  Winter seems determined to hang out well past its welcome.  I want to retire my boots that, several months ago, I couldn't wait to wear.  My warm fluffy coat that I am so thankful for during cross-guard duty?  Done.

I want sandals and sundresses.
I want to bury my toes in the sand.
Impromptu gatherings in the deck.

But I live in the Chicago-area. So, for now, I wait.....and enjoy the brief glimpses of what is to come. Knowing that, before I know it, I will immerse myself in the magic of summer.

For now,  I will be satisfied with a hint of spring.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share a slice of my life.

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

Teaching is a second career for me (well, maybe a third?).  My first degree is in piano pedagogy and, to this day, I continue to run a small piano studio from my home.  Having once taught over 45 students per week, the 16 I have now is a breeze!  

Another part of teaching piano is accompanying the students from our local junior high every year at the Solo and Ensemble Festival in February.  This event took place just a few weeks ago.

As I was waiting to enter a room to accompany one of the 41 students I was working with this year, I ran into a former student.  Immediately the talk turned to books.

"What are you reading now?"
"I just finished a series and now I don't know what to read."
"What did you just finish."

I honestly don't remember what he said but it was a fantasy series that I was surprised he had not read before because he is a voracious reader.

"Oh!  Did you enjoy it?"
"May I suggest a series I think you will really like?"

"Try Gregor the Overlander series.  I think you will really love it.  There are about 5-6 books in the series."
"Awesome!  Thanks."

During this brief encounter, his mother attentively listened in.  When he walked out of the contest room, she asked about the book again.  I reminded her of the name as she pulled out her phone to send herself a reminder.  I imagine that series arrived at their doorstep a day or two later.

There is something so absolutely wonderful about running into former students and immediately reconnecting over books.  I live in a small town; it is not unusual to run into former students and instantaneously ask, "What are you reading?" and learn about a new favorite book or author.  It is the a connection that will never disappear.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share this slice of my life.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Simple Question Brings on a Major Revelation

Last December, my oldest brother was in town, visiting.  My husband and I picked him up from the airport. As we were driving to our mom's house, conversation flowed.  We had a lot to catch up from California and his family, news here with ours.

Suddenly John turned to me and asked, "How's your new job?  Do you like it?"

I must have paused for a brief moment, because Rod, my husband, jumped in. "She absolutely loves it."  And I realized I did.  I hadn't really thought about it, but I was happy and it took someone else to notice.

I was still working hard. I was still faced with regular challenges (that is one thing that makes me happy!).  But I was HAPPY.

I have pondered that brief moment these past few months.  Why didn't I realize the difference?  What does Rod see?  How often does our happiness just get absorbed into life?  What is "happy"?  Is happiness elusive or do we just not notice it?

I can now state specific things that make me teams, my position, the students I work with, the freedom I teach with. But those are just things. I have come to realize that what is truly making me happy is acceptance.  I am allowed to be me.  

There is a certain freedom and peacefulness that comes from acceptance....I am valued and respected.  I trust and respect my teams and they trust and respect me. 

And here's the thing -

Mutual trust and respect breeds creativity and innovation because there is no fear of ridicule or embarrassment. No fear of retribution or conflict. 

And for that I am thankful.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share a Slice of my Life.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Several months ago, in mid-November, my older brother, while at work, realized he could no longer read.  Just like that.  The ability to read words and numbers - even know his alphabet - had simply vanished!

At first the doctor's thought he had two brain tumors.  He had had brain cancer almost 40 years ago; they thought it had returned.  With quiet disappointment, we accepted this diagnosis.  Though sad, we could understand how cancer could return.

As the neurosurgeon  studied his scans, it was determined that, in fact, the tumors they spotted were too small - too insignificant - to cause what the changes he was displaying.

Suddenly, his eyesight started to diminish.  He lost peripheral vision in the right side of both eyes. The reigning opinion now was multiple strokes.  Unfortunately, with a shunt in his head from surgery 40 years ago, the hospital was not willing to perform an MRI to confirm the diagnosis.  We just had to accept it.  We were not so willing to accept this time around. There were too many unknowns, too many unexplained symptoms.  The neurologist even stated she was stumped.

He was sent to the best rehab facility in our area, only to return to the hospital less than 12 hours later after experiencing a Grand Mal Seizure.  With no answers to be found, he was transferred to a teaching / research hospital nearby.  

Fast forward several months.  My brother has been diagnosed with a rare condition - SMART syndrome - which is a result of the full head radiation he experienced almost 40 years ago.  The condition is very rare.  Most people did not survive the cancer he had for as long as he has, so the body of information is quite small. We don't have a clear vision of what lies ahead for him, except that - at least for now- he is not able to live alone or take care of himself.  

Over the past four months, I have learned a lot - about Medicaid, and Social Security Disability, and long-term care facilities -all things I never expected to be learning about for a brother that is only 19 months older than I am.

I also was reminded how our family comes together in a crisis.  How, no matter what, we are here to support each other. When the going gets tough, we carry the weight together.

I have also been reminded how precious life is - - -each and every moment.  My brother held multiple degrees: music education, business, special ed.  Yet, without any notice, all of that learning vanished. Will it come back?  We just don't know how much or how long it might take.

And I am reminded of my One Little Word for 2017....Joy.  You might ask  "Where is the joy in this situation?"  But it's a sister that shares the work (truth be told, she is doing the brunt of the work right now) a friends and coworkers that ask about him a simple family dinner.  It is also there in my brother and the fact that he is a survivor.  He survived a terrible disease almost 40 years ago. He survived several health setbacks as a result of his cancer.  But he has lived a productive life, touching the lives of many people.  

Joy is everywhere. Even in heartache.  But you have to be willing to look for it, and focus on it.  You have to seek it out and hold it tight.  This year, no matter what, I choose to find the Joy in my life and the lives around me. Life is not perfect.  We all have a choice, focus on the joy or to focus on the disappointments.  I choose Joy!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the opportunity to share a slice of my life, and learn from the wisdom and experiences of other slicers!