#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.

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#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.

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#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?

#sol17 My happy place

When I was pregnant, I decided to take Hypnobirthing classes. I wanted to have a drug-free, natural, calm delivery, but I was terribly, deathly afraid of pain. (Still am.)

During the guided meditation, J would read the script instructing me to go to my happy place. (The language was a lot more effective, I must admit.)  Every time, in both birthing practice and my labor and delivery, this was my happy place:IMG_6452

Floating in the large blue drink of the lake in New Hampshire where J and I grew up. And, like happiness, it’s temporary, impermanent, perfect and cyclical.

On days like today, a horrid March afternoon that was blustery and cold, I cannot wait until the height of summer, until we are back in the fresh liquid silk of the lake. We take off our sandals on the beach, the hot sand grainy beneath our feet, and wade into the water, tenderly stepping over the rocky floor, the water rising higher and higher up our legs.

Then the moment of choice: the water laps at our knees, our hips, our bellies. To dive in, or not?

The cold water shocks our hot skin, almost burns for a moment, but this feeling quickly gives way to refreshment. Our bodies buoyed in the water, suspended in time like the center of a marble. Blue above, blue below. This is summer at the lake. This is my happy place.

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