Month: July 2018

Spending Time

I’m thinking a lot about time today.  For one thing, it’s time (7:32 p.m. EDT to be precise) to write something for the Slice of Life challenge, which has seemed like a significant challenge for me this summer.  I have wondered on several occasions, how I’ve managed to do so little in such an expanse of time.  Today is the last day of July, and that makes me very aware of time.  July is like the Saturday of summer,  long and carefree.  August, on the other hand, brings me the same anxiety I get on Sunday nights.  It’s not always a bad nervousness, but I worry about things I have to do in a shrinking number of days.  I recognize that one of my weaknesses is my time management.  I stew about dwindling days, but that doesn’t always make me tackle the things that make me nervous.

To counter that, I went to school today and spent some of my shrinking time in my classroom.  I was busy, but I’m not sure an observer would say I used my time well.  I unpacked and stowed away new supplies.  That was productive, and I now have that satisfied feeling, like my  friend from Nova Scotia admiring his massive  pile of split logs.  I have enough pencils and post-its to make it through the winter.

But then I plopped down at my desk, listening to my 80s playlist, and spent two hours culling  files from my overstuffed cabinets.  I recycled a lot of papers today:  writing projects from 2011. Jettisoned. Report card comments from 2006.  Discarded.  Copies of math tests from two curricula ago.  Subtracted.  At each juncture,  though, I actually paused to consider how much time had passed, and to wonder if there was any chance that this student might stop back in my room and want to see their old DARE essay. “Hey, he was in the class that just graduated from Staples.  Too bad I didn’t whip this out when he was visiting.”  Or, “Hey, I think I have this one’s sister in my class this year.  They might be amused.”  It’s doubtful.  More likely it’s just me, wanting to  pump the brakes on the time train as it speeds into the past.  I’m proud to say that I did not hold onto too much, and I now have lots of space for new keepsakes.

As I left today, my room actually looked messier than when I entered, but, it’s still July.


Where I’m From

I’ve been reading a book called Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed.  I’m following the lead of several of my colleagues who’ve been studying the book in an online professional development group.  In the first chapter, the author encourages teachers to try out the lessons for themselves before introducing them to students.  I tried an Identity Web and I wrote about my name.  This morning I’ve tried my own version of George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From.”   It’s a work in progress, of course, but I can also see how it’s helping me reflect on how I became me.

Where I’m From
(Inspired by George Ella Lyon and Sara K Ahmed)

I’m from an Aryan Swede and a New York Jew,
I’m from hard bread and liver glop,
I’m from tack för maten and oy gevalt.
I’m a mutt.

I’m from a chewed-up ball
From the oil-stained drive,
A George Street treasure
From the man upstairs.

I’m from a Mimosa tree at the top of a hill,
the Crestwood we climbed
with feathered leaves  
and cotton candy blooms.

I’m from MLK and RFK,
I’m from the hope
and the hate
of 1968.

I’m from piano lessons avoided for baseball in the street.
I’m from shagging flies in center field,  
I’m from Mickey Mantle to Manny Machado,
I’m from rooting hard for the underdog.

I’m from traipsing up trails with Deep Woods Off,
Tripping on roots and gasping for air,
I’m from filling canteens in a mountain stream, then
Spreading arms wide on a rocky peak.

I’m from a date at a diner,
And artichoke birthdays.
I’m from adoption angels
And bed-rest miracles.

I’m from Hazel the housekeeper
And Hazel of the Down,
I’m from Winnie Foster’s choice
And Jack Will’s second chance.

I’m from out of sight means 
Out of mind, but
I’m from places I’ve left
and refuse to leave behind.

I’m from losing a child.
I’m from butterfly sightings.
and support group salvation, 

I’m from night-long talks,
And Out of the Darkness walks.

I’m from scratching the ears
Of another aging mutt,
Who shows me how
To carry on.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Tweets

This won’t top the story my daughter told me last week.  Someone she worked with got fired for stealing.  There was a confrontation. There were tears. A tense meeting.  A storming out of the office. Very dramatic.

But that’s a slice from her life, not mine.

No, this won’t top that, but hey, it’s summer vacation, and I’m home alone, so the drama is a little more lame.  This afternoon, I ventured out to our screen porch and was attacked by home invaders…the avian sort. I am not really a bird person, which means that not only can I not tell you what kind of birds were flapping frantically above my head, but I can also tell you that I did not respond by saying, “Oh how cute! There are birds flapping frantically above my head.  I hope they don’t hurt themselves.”

No, in fact this was not my reaction.  It was more like, “Oh crap! What was that?  I’m being attacked by rabid birds?!”

Now, in a calmer moment, I might have reconsidered the disease descriptor that I attached to these beasts, but it wasn’t exactly a calm moment.  When massive wings are beating near your face, when at any moment, giant scaly talons could be skewering your neck, when a spear-like beak is hurtling toward your eyes, you sometimes conflate bat diseases with bird diseases.

I did recover quickly, I’m proud to say.  I scrambled out to the backyard, caught my breath, politely held the door, and invited my winged guests to exit.  From this safer distance, I could also ascertain the size of my feathered foes. I believe they would fall into the category known to bird experts as…tiny.  Massive wings? I’d give ‘em about a 5-inch span. Giant talons? Uh, no. Now, I tend to call all birds of this size sparrows, but I could be wrong. For all I knew these could have been wrens or titmouses (titmice?).  

Whatever they were, they were not taking me up on my polite invitation.  Instead, they preferred flying headlong into the screens. I tried to inform them that tiny as they were, they still were not tiny enough to fit through the holes in my screen.  They paid no heed. “Pretty sure we can,” they seemed to say, “All we need to do is get up enough momentum.”

It didn’t work.  I tried whistling for them at the door.  I whistled every birdsong I knew. I tried “Rockin’ Robin,”  though even I knew that was unlikely to be a match.   I tried “Blackbird,” (again, just a favorite of mine, not really appropriate for these greyish-brownish fellows).  I switched to inspirational, and tried “The Wind Beneath My Wings”  followed by “Fly Like an Eagle.” Nothing seemed to attract these birds.  I wracked my brain for the lyrics to “Bye bye Birdie,” but eventually realized that wasn’t actually a song. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. I finally resorted to “Freebird,” (usually an audience favorite).  Still no luck.

After a few minutes of whistling and holding the door, I concluded that perhaps my presence at the opening was actually the problem.  I propped the door open with a patio chair and bravely scurried through the porch toward the door to our house. This caused some consternation for my pair of beakbangers.  They took a brief break from their face-plants and buzzed over my head. I managed to slip into the house without letting the birds in. This allowed me to observe their escape attempts from a safe vantage point.   It was fascinating.

The screen porch has one wooden wall that is the side of our house.  To their credit, the birds did not try to fly through this wall. The rest of the porch is mostly screen, including the “wall” with the opened doorway facing the backyard.  The two birds seemed intent on trying the screen that faced the front yard – surprisingly impenetrable. And the one that faced the side yard. Similarly unyielding. After a few minutes, they discovered some other attractions.  The wind chimes made a good perch, from which they could survey the entire scene…before again trying the front-facing screen. “Damn! I thought I had it that time!”

“Ya know, we haven’t tried the side screen in the last 15 seconds.  Let’s try it again.”

“Good ide–” Crash.  “Nope. Still locked.”

I felt fortunate that we had a double-paned glass door, because if these guys ever discovered the house side of the porch, they could do some damage.  At this point, my dog, McGee padded up to the door (on my side) and politely asked if he could exit. Now McGee is some kind of herding mutt. Again, I’m not so good with the particulars of breed, but we know he’s very bossy, and he becomes concerned when we wander off.  I thought perhaps he might be helpful in this situation. After all, he has totally mastered the concept of door, and he’s not the world’s brightest dog.

McGee exited the house, sniffed around the porch for a bit, and proceeded through the open door.  Leading by example. If the birds were impressed, they didn’t show it. At this point, they had explored the table, the couch, two of the chairs and both wind chimes.  They had even rammed the screen just to the left of the open door. No luck. This really was a tough puzzle to solve.

I (like you, several paragraphs ago, most likely) lost interest and returned to the book I was reading.  When McGee whined at the door, I let him back into the house and discovered that one of the birds had (probably  by accident) exited the porch,  apparently leaving his wingman to fend for himself. This little fellow was becoming discouraged. I felt bad for him. “Perhaps I should try to steer him toward the door,” I thought.  Summoning all the bravery that my compassion could inspire, I cautiously slipped onto the porch, being careful not to let this bird into our house. If he thought screens were tricky!

Our little jailed bird was catching his breath on the back of a chair.  I veered to his right, thinking I would leave him fewer options, and he’d have to fly toward the door.  Wrong. He panicked. Flew into the rear screen, side screen and rear screen again in the space of two seconds, the last with a thud, followed by a sigh and a plummet to the floor.  “Geez, I’m trying to help, here, buddy.” He managed to stumble under a chair, and I decided I’d done enough to help. I moved his favorite roosting chair in front of the doorway, thinking perhaps if he were actually perched in the open doorway, he might be able to problem solve his way through it (in school we call that scaffolding).  

I returned to my book, and 30 minutes later, when my daughter got home, I updated her on the dramatic stand-off.  She shrugged and said, “So, we should eat inside?” I was hoping for a bit more interest, but then, she did have the robbery drama for comparison.  To humor me, she watched for a while as our dinner heated up. As we stared through the window, I gave her the blow-by-blow of the afternoon’s adventure.  “Wow, Dad, and I was worried you might be getting bored.” I’ve noticed she is prone to sarcasm after a long day at the office. Just then, our bird of little brain, hopped up on the ottoman, flapped to the table, launched, and glided through the doorway.  Sarah turned back toward the kitchen. “Well, that was exciting.”

I started whistling, “Norwegian Wood,”  (subtle, I know) wondering what excitement tomorrow would bring.

Bungee Day

To Sarah on her Bungee Day

You’re 22 today, and
I want to celebrate,
Your wit, your grit,
your smarts, your heart.
I want to shower you with gifts,
Invite your family and friends,

Sing to you in a crowded restaurant.

But for you
I’ll try to pull it back.

You’re 22 today,
stretching each year into new lands,
A mountain range,
A college dorm,
An African plain,
A graduation stage,

But these bungee days,
They snap you back
To who you were and
What you lost.

You’re 22 today,
Stretching each year into new times,
Five years past
The age your older sister reached,
Nine years past
The year your older sister died,

Birthdays don’t seem the same.

You’re 22 today, and I know
It’s 2 different days
For you
And me
Today I marvel at what you’ve become.
Today you’re pulled back by what can’t be undone.
Continue reading “Bungee Day”