#sol17 Day 31: This is It

slice of lifeThis is it: the last day of this year’s Slice of Life challenge.

Over the last month, I’ve enjoyed reading and “meeting” other bloggers. I’ve enjoyed writing every day – some serious posts, some poems, some silly things, memes and (in this post) gifs. I’ve also enjoyed re-reading my old 2016 Slices.

Ferris Bueller said it best:

Participating in the Slice of Life challenge (for the second year) in a row has given me the chance not only to stop and look around – but even better, to stop and actually capture it. Writing is like a time capsule, a snapshot in words. This blog is like an album, a moment in time I can re-examine and see how much has changed from year to year. Next year, where March rolls around again, my son will be almost-four, in preschool; J may or may not be coaching baseball again; I will be finished with my policy fellowship and *fingers crossed* have published more of my poetry and nonfiction. Who knows what I’ll write about then?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for hosting this writing community. Thank you, Dr. Parker, for encouraging me to blog last year. And thank you, memory, for actually remembering that this was a thing and committing to the challenge for Year 2.

That’s it, I guess. I’m grateful and tired. It’s snowing outside (boo!). I have a glass of wine and a book to read. The month is over.

#sol17 Sick day

Not mine. My toddler’s. And what a hassle.

My son is almost 3 years old, and between day care germs, my husband’s pre-K classroom germs AND baseball team’s germs, and my classroom’s high school germs, our household is a regular petri dish.

K spent a couple hours this afternoon with his babysitter while I attended a PD meeting and J was coaching. Super excited when I picked him up outside the library, K wanted to go catch the end of the baseball practice, so we hung out in the field house for a few minutes before we all headed home.

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K having SO MUCH FUN at indoor practice, about an hour before disaster struck…

The moment we pulled into our driveway, his face turned. We came inside; his head was on my shoulder, his body heavy in my arms. He gagged. We ran to the bathroom – not in time.

After we both got changed and J got him set up on the couch in his playroom and watching Daniel Tiger, J and I spent the next thirty minutes arguing about who was going to take a sick day tomorrow. Because here’s the ugly truth about a household full of working parents: it just doesn’t work when there’s a sick kid.

Our society is not set up to support working parents. Someone has to take time off when the kid is sick, when there’s a snow day, doctor’s appointments, meetings at the school. We’re lucky; both J and I are teachers, so things like school vacations and summer break don’t phase us. We get paid time off. We have salaried jobs. Many parents are not so lucky.

We are also lucky that there are two of us to share the burden; I have friends who are single parents by choice or by chance. If there’s a sick kid, an emergency, they either must stay home or try to find care.

Even preschool seems set up for the now seemingly antiquated notion that one parent (most likely the mother) is home full-time, or at least with flexible work hours. We are lucky to have a free public preschool program in our town, but the hours are 8:30 am – 2:00 pm. That doesn’t work for parents who work 7:30-3, like we do, nor for most 9-5 jobs. It seems that private preschool is our only option, and though the tuition is cheaper than what we’re currently paying for daycare, it’s still going to be four figures a month. How lucky we are that Massachusetts is the most expensive state in the nation for childcare, right?!

I’m not the first person to bemoan any of this, and unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be the last. Our culture requires many paradigm shifts, and what to do with working parents appears to be one of them. Luckily, J was able to take tomorrow off (with a little rearranging of his schedule) so I can teach my classes. And hopefully, fingers crossed, this will be the last illness of the school year to hit our household.

slice of life

#sol17 Sestina

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.” ~ Richard Harding Davis

Last week I assigned a form poem to my students: they could write a poem on any topic of their choice, but it had to be in the traditional structures of a sonnet, sestina, villanelle, haiku (5+), limerick (3+) or arun (an awesome new form I learned thanks to GirlGriot!).

The kids were a bit intimidated, looking at these forms, and understandably so: it’s not easy working within such structures. I could show them my own sonnets, haikus, and limericks, but when they asked about the complex sestina and the villanelle, I had nothing. “I tried to write a sestina in college once,” I unhelpfully volunteered.

So I decided to return to that unfinished sestina and give it the old teacher try. Here goes.

Sestina, Winter

I wake in the morning to the sound of my alarm. A light
dusting of snow has covered my car during the night.
I long to return to bed, to drift in sleep
and restfully dream. But my bed must remain empty.
I shower, eat, dress. I rush for the bus, never on time
but always just barely making it. Outside is cold:

it’s winter – a fact I don’t wish to acknowledge, but the cold
broaches no argument, freezing my lungs, my breath. The light
is less now; more moon, more darkness, more time
in the dark, alone. I have always preferred the day to the night –
day seems more full, bringing energy and life. Nighttime is empty,
long hours spent in bed, loud silent thoughts preventing sleep.

The bus bumps over frost heaves, preventing me from trying to sleep
before class. My mind is sluggish this early, the cold
working it like the joints of my fingers, unable to quickly search empty
pockets. No gloves. Instead, I hope for warmth from the light
of the sun, but in winter this is a foolish wish. Last night
I left my gloves on my table. I remember now – I didn’t grab them in time.

That’s something I never seem to have enough of these days – time.
I wake, I go to class, I eat alone, I read, I sleep
and the world carries me words. So many words that at night
I turn them over, spin them through my brain, muse in cold
silence, until I stumble back into the light
and the words escape me, leave me empty.

These are my days – full of activities but empty
of meaning – a black hole sucking away my life and time
and replacing it with shortened hours of day light
and a desire to forever retreat into my bed and sleep.
I’m searching for something, but what? I have discovered nothing but cold
shoulders and words that linger at the edges of the night.

And when it returns on day’s heels, that night
is filled with silent words, an empty
room and curtained windows that let in a cold
draft – my only visitors. No one else seems to have the time.
How I wish it were easy to fall into bed and sleep
and in dreams linger blissfully until I wake at light.

Because I wouldn’t mind the cold all of the time –
if I had someone else there at night. To sleep
in a warm, not-empty bed; to see reflected in someone’s eyes the morning light.

slice of life

#sol17 By the Book: Take Two

slice of lifeWell, it’s that time of March when I am totally brain-dead, so I’m going to use today to re-do a post I originally wrote last March: a copy of the New York Times “By the Book” questionnaire format. These particular questions come from the March 21 interview with Fran Lebowitz, but (much less clever and erudite) answers are, of course, my own.

What books are on your night stand now?

I just finished reading “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline yesterday, which I loved! I’m not a video game player, but I found the futuristic world and the action/adventure plot line very compelling, even though it wasn’t the best written thing I’ve read recently. I am also sloooooowly working my way through “Hidden Figures” although I’m finding it quite dense and less narrative than I expected. Finally, I’m re-reading two books I’m currently teaching, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

What has your postelection reading looked like?

A lot of dystopia! It’s actually mostly because I am teaching an elective called Dystopia, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy, but I’ve been reading and watching more of that, to be honest.

What’s the last great book you read?

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. My Goodreads review explains: “This is an important book for our current social and political climate, but that’s not the only reason I recommend you rush out and read it. This is also a beautifully crafted book, from Whitehead’s imagery and poetic prose, his characters, the pacing of the plot, even the very structure of the book itself. This is a work of Literature, and it deserves to be read.”

What’s the best classic novel you recently read for the first time?

I don’t know that it’s a “classic” but I read “Bodega Dreams” by Ernesto Quiñonez (which came out in 2000) last summer. It’s a retelling of “The Great Gatsby” set in Spanish Harlem, and I really enjoyed it. Quiñonez borrows liberally from Fitzgerald’s story but definitely made it his own, and I liked how he used a lot of the original language, even, to update the story in meaningful ways.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I loved “The Books of Rachel” by Joel Gross when I was in high school. It’s an epic saga of a Jewish family across major times in world history, following the women in the family all named Rachel. As a young Jewish girl in New Hampshire, that book spoke to me.

Whose opinion on books do you most trust?

My friends, most of whom are English teachers or librarians. My students – I love discussing books with them. I like to use Goodreads to see reviews, and I’m in a couple of online book groups. I also tend to peruse the NYT and Amazon “best of” lists in December/January to see what’s popular or well-reviewed.

When do you read?

Every day during school; I’ve got reading time built into my Creative Writing class every day and in my American lit class twice a week, for 15 minutes at a time. Also, at night, when I don’t feel like watching TV or grading/planning, usually a couple of nights a week. A lot on the weekends while my toddler is napping.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I love dystopia (which is why I’m teaching the class!) and light sci-fi/fantasy (not heavy duty epics or high fantasy or very tech-y stuff). I like stories with human substance, things that make me laugh. I’ll read just about every genre, I think, though I avoid straight-up romance (like bodice-rippers), detective novels, military stuff. And I don’t read a ton of nonfiction, though I’m trying to diversify that a bit.

How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or several simultaneously?

Paper! I’ve tried doing ebooks and I don’t love it. I enjoy the feel of paper, the weight of the work. And mostly I read one book at a time but right now with re-reading new books for teaching, I’m juggling.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

I stuck through it until the end, but I HATED “The Girls” by Emma Cline. Overwrought, trying too hard, pretentious. It was super-hyped and I did not like it, and it took me forever to slog through (because I was only reading one at a time last summer) and so I wasted four weeks trying to finish it.

What do you plan to read next?

“The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I loved “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”, plus he spoke at my school earlier this month and he was magic. Everything he said about writing and its place in the world I just wanted to bottle up and save forever.

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#sol17 Simple pleasures

slice of lifeThere are so many simple pleasures in life. The smell of warm bread, fresh cut grass, or sweet milky baby skin. The taste of good chocolate, good coffee, warm tea.

One of my favorite pleasures is going to the salon for a haircut – particularly, having someone else wash my hair. I don’t know why, exactly, but I immensely enjoy the sensory experience of tilting my head back into the sink, the pressure of the sprayer, the heat of the water, the spicy smell of the Aveda shampoo, and someone else’s fingers massaging my scalp.

Maybe it’s just about the change in perspective, this familiar experience that is so different from my everyday shower. Maybe it’s about the joy of being pampered, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Maybe it doesn’t matter why; isn’t that the point of simple pleasures, after all?