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Slice of Life

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Glass Half Full

Challenges seem insurmountable.
Solutions keep hope alive.
Challenges take our minds hostage.
Solutions free our thoughts.
Challenges summon fear.
Solutions sweep away anxiety.
Challenges interrupt sleep.
Solutions appear in slumbering dreams.
Challenges call self doubt to slowly creep in.
Solutions cheer on  inner strength.
Challenges seem insurmountable.
Solutions keep hope alive.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Seed packets, seed soil,  and trays are arranged on a table in the foyer. 70 degrees, no light, just right for the beginnings of a flower. Today, I will begin to plant. dianthus, snapdragons, black-eyed susans, columbine,  and more. Wet the soil, pack it into the trays, and scatter seed. Some stay on top of the soil (because they are so tiny) and others get a dusting spread over the top. Cover the trays and wait.

Wait for that first sign of life poking through the rich dark soil. Little cream and green colored stems will push their way through so they may unfurl their leaves and reach for the sun. Then ever so carefully, do not over or under water and expose to sun and artificial light 7-14 hours per day and wait.

Wait for the leaves to double and quadruple. Wait for the roots to full the container. Once root bound, tiny buds will appear. Place outside in shelter and wait.

Wait for the budded flowers to harden off. Give them plenty of protection from the wind but make sure they don't get too hot. Keep them covered at night and wait.

Wait for the last frost of the spring to pass. Then plant those flowers. Plant them around the house, in flower beds, in containers and window boxes. Plant them in green bags that hang from the trees and in whiskey barrels on the dock and by the mailbox. Plant them along paths that meander to the water. Plant until there are no more and wait.

Wait for the spectacular bloom when summer has arrived.

Friday, March 14, 2014


I like to present to audiences. I always have. At first it is a bit of an adrenaline rush but later it just feels good to share some success with others. I have presented an assortment of educational topics over the years to an assortment of audiences. Teachers have been my primary audience but parents, employees of an accounting company, the general public, and college students have also been in attendance. And yes, I guess I have an audience of children each day too.

In the past fifteen years my topic has most often been technology. I love gadgets and learning how to make them work for me. The problem solving is often what hooks me and then the joy of putting the solved problem into action keeps me interested. Technology is forever changing which keeps it fresh and my interest piqued.

Yesterday I shared my digital portfolio work with teachers. I shared how my first graders are saving their daily work and assessments  using video, audio, screen casts, and photos. I shared how they and I upload that work to Evernote. I shared how parents, teachers, students, and I benefit from this working digital portfolio.

Each individual in the room is in a different place. Their grade levels vary as do the subjects they teach. Their technology comfort level is unique.  Each gleaned something different from what I shared. Some tried Educreations and Explain Everything for the first time. Others opened an Evernote account and played with it. Still others just listened and watched.

My goal as a presenter is not to have everyone walk away with the same knowledge and skill. My goal is to pique interest and have people leave thinking. Thinking about how they might try one thing differently. Thinking about how they can mix it up for kids when they return to their teaching. Thinking about change, any change at all.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Unfriendly Visitors

They drop in unannounced at least once each month and sometimes more often. They storm right in and make their presence known immediately. They never ask if I have time. They don't really seem to care what is on my schedule for the day, where I have to go, or who I may need to see.
For the most part I try to ignore them. I keep doing what is expected and just put up with their outrageous, unruly behaviors. I try to focus and not complain. I try to pretend they are not bothering me. I must be a pretty good actress for many people have no idea how impaired I am.
Today they played a cruel joke on me. The first one arrived just after lunch and the second at the end of the work day. They attacked me from two directions, front and back. You see as I was getting into my trunk to retrieve a scraper. The lid to the trunk fell and struck me in the back of the head. Instant pain...I wanted to cry but I didn't. Yes a migraine behind my right eye after lunch and a bump on my crown from the lid of the trunk at the end of the day. I don't have an Oscar performance left in me. I hurt all over.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pending Snow

We await yet another snowstorm. I no longer am excited, as I was in December. Instead I am hoping it will not be as is predicted (6-12 inches). Funny how just a few months and many snowstorms later it now takes on a nuisance status as opposed to excitement.

This has been a long winter for many living in the northern part of our country and even those living in the south. Cabin fever has set in and all I seem to think about is planting flowers, taking long walks, and paddling up the river.

Noontime school cancellations scroll across the bottom of my television. The weather man has not changed his mind. Cold hit my face as I let the dog out. Here comes another storm...6-12 inches or more...starting Wednesday not leaving until mid-day Thursday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Gift

Do you have a bucket list? You know, a list of things you want to do, places you want to go, people you want to see before your life ends. I think many of us have this type of list sitting somewhere on our brains. The list shrinks and grows and takes twists and turns, getting revised as we move along with our lives.

My husband and I share some common bucket list items and for sure some individual items. Travel and golf are two that we share. We want to head to many places we have seen by photo and read about (Ireland, Hawaii, New Zealand). We also want to play golf on some of the world's best golf courses. We are not great golfers with low handicaps. We just have appreciation for well designed courses. It does not matter what we shoot, we just love the challenge, beauty, and craftsmanship of course well planned.

The months of December and January were difficult for my husband. He had many job related challenges that felt unfair, insurmountable, and overwhelming. He muddled through doing his best to put on a happy face, meet the challenges head on, and he made some major decisions that were not easy. As a family we supported him, encouraged him, and cheered him on for his bravery. In the midst of this chaos, he received an email from our son and son-in-law. It was a welcome letter from Pebble Beach which informed him he was to have a night's stay, a car, and a round of golf on of the finest golf courses in the world.

My husband was speechless. I don't think he could understand immediately what had happened. Our children, grown men, had given him a gift on his bucket list. First there was disbelief, then concern they were spending too much money on him (he never thinks he is worthy of lavish gifts), and finally acceptance and gratitude.

Yesterday he played his round. He called to tell me, after the first nine, it was the hardest course he has ever played and he was loving every minute of it. His voice was light and cheery void of the pressures December and January had placed upon him. He sounded like himself again.

Thank you son and son-in-law. You have given your dad his inner child back. Playing at Pebble Beach is like a trip to Disney for a young child. You have reminded him that life is more than just work, it is about play as well. The joy of the game, the beauty of the surroundings, and the love of a family is making him whole again so he can move on. Thank you for giving him an item on his bucket list a little early.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Self promotion
Reduced communication
Perceptions acted upon without evidence

These are just some of the ingredients in a toxic workplace. It makes one drag themselves to work grudgingly. It causes one flee at the end of the day. It feels hostile, unwelcoming, and just wrong.

Leaders who cannot lead create toxicity. They give permission to a few to wreck havoc by inaction or over zealous reaction. So often, the leader appears oblivious that a few are playing them. They participate in the game and even more turmoil bubbles up.

Self promotion
Reduced communication
Perceptions acted upon without evidence

It is Monday.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Laundry Tabs, Dishwasher Tabs...

In an earlier post I wrote about binging. No not alcohol or gambling or even copious amounts of food but on types of food I eat, reading books, writing, sports and hobbies. I begin a routine and embrace it to the fullest until I am no longer satiated and then I move on until I get the urge to read again, write again, dabble in photography, knitting, biking, etc. The good news is they always come back.

One of my favorite binges is baking which usually occurs in the dead of winter. I love being in the kitchen and concocting delectable goodies from new recipes. My husband loves it too for I can bake a mean pan of oatmeal rolls, cookies, and one of his favorites brownies.

Last August, due to health reasons, I became gluten/wheat free. It was a leap for me but I had felt so poorly for so long I had to try something more holistic than just taking stomach medications. And so the journey began. It was a learning curve but I am happy to report, I feel so-ooooo much better. But I digress.

My newest binge is making cleaning products. Why? Well, I think I still wanted to bake but a baker has to taste their product (or at least I have to). So the joy of baking was no longer there for me (my husband has not complained). I tried to replicate my recipes with specialty flours with no success. I still wanted to be in the kitchen in the dead of winter and food was not the answer. I saw a recipe for liquid laundry detergent on Facebook and decided to give it a try. It worked great. My next experiment was dishwasher tabs. I have never been a fan of the plastic encasement on the tabs that we buy. Where does that plastic go? Does it completely melt? I think not.

I get the same kind of satisfaction from creating cleaning recipes as I used to get from baking. Not all products come out great the first time but after tweaking and when you get one that really works well, it is an accomplishment and then the savings can begin too. The savings are a bonus factor. I did not do this to save as much as to fill a need to be in the kitchen experimenting in the dead of winter. I think of myself as a homegrown kitchen chemist. I love science.

I can make dishwasher tabs and laundry tabs for about half the price of the ones in the stores. I know what is in them and I can control whether they have fragrance or not. They are just the right size, not too much or too little. They take up less room and are less messy than their dry or liquid cousins. My spot remover works better than anything I have ever purchased and my kitchen wipes can be used in the classroom because they are safe for the kids. They are made with rags that get washed and used again instead of being thrown away. I like that.

Next recipe...a liquid to wash the outside windows that dries without squeegee and is supposed to be streak free. I will believe that when I see it and can't wait for it to warm up so my husband can give it a try!

Saturday, March 8, 2014


I used to fear being alone. I remember clearly the first summer both of our boys got jobs. Ryan worked at a local golf course between eighth grade and freshman year and Shaun worked for a lake restoration project as a future sophomore. The house was quiet from seven until two in the afternoon.

While alone, I would wander around the house seeming much bigger and the quiet much quieter. The time seemed to advance more slowly. I could not focus on any one thing: reading, chores, gardening. When the phone rang I would sprint to answer it, anxious for the voice at the other end. Turning on the radio or the TV helped but was not the same.

Fast forward to today. The quiet is no longer frightening. I hear the mantle clock, the boiler, the birds outside, and my dog's quiet snore. I hear the sounds that were obscured many years ago when voices were absent for the first time. The sounds were always there but I didn't know how to hear them. Tick, tock, tick tock...the mantle clock has a beautiful beat. Snore, breath, snore dog adds a melody. Snap, snap, snap, hum...the boiler kicks in some percussion.

Being alone can be a good thing. There is time for reflection, rest, and noticing things that have been in the background. There is time to recharge and time to focus on jobs set aside in favor of a more social setting. Though I long for my husband's voice once again, being alone is now small doses.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Shift

Usually the classroom is noisy. Voices too loud bouncing off the tile floor making sounds waves reach up to the sawtooth ceiling and bounce yet again like a pinball. Nineteen exuberant little people reading, spelling, writing, collaborating, Today is different. With four out, the room has a low steady hum like that of the boiler when it starts up in my cellar. You know it is running but it is not loud enough to break your thoughts and interrupt your flow.

I look around the room and pride swells within me. Three are recording their thoughts about books on iPads, three are writing in Tux Paint on laptops, more are reading from book boxes and in the library, some are writing in writer's notebooks, and two more are studying spelling words with iPads . One sits with me and reads a delightful story by Jim Arnorsky chortling each time he gets to a part he enjoys.

It has taken since September to mold this masterpiece. Children choosing their path, their tools, their interests. Children taking responsibility for their learning. Children cognizant of their neighbor's needs while pursuing their own. We are in the third rotation of a ninety minute literacy block. The room hums and I am overwhelmed with joy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Narcissist

"People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes."(

Do you know someone that has a way of making everyone in the room feel stupid? Do you know someone who always thinks their way is the only way? Someone who laughs at others, speaks in a condescending manner, and only sees the world through their own eyes?

Well I do. Actually I have had these people show up in my life multiple times. Each time the disorder is disguised to me. As it reveals itself over time, I am slow to recognize it until I am into the relationship too deep to quickly escape its perils.

Once I recognize the signs, I  think I can help the person by giving many points of view, modeling appropriate social skills, and being kind. Those tactics have never worked. In the end, I end up being the competition, target,  and recipient of their anger.

I feel for these people. They are alone. They have fleeting relationships and then have to move on to find another because they cannot sustain friendships without being in competition with the said friend/s. They have to constantly toot their own horns and are angry with those who are not quick to compliment them about each and every thing they do.
Why am I drawn to people with narcissistic behaviors? That is a question I would like to answer. I know that in each case, the person has had great work ethic and I admire that quality. Not all people with work ethic suffer from a personality disorders but it has been a consistent quality in those I have encountered.

I don't know how to help these people and their destructive behaviors toward others and me is too painful for me to endure. Do you know someone like this?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Giving Back

Our children are always a source of pride. They are now grown men with families of their own, well earned careers, and with homes to care for. It has been an honor to parent them, watch them grow, and prosper.
A few weeks ago they both flew home, from faraway places, to give a lending hand to their dad and me. It was decided in just minutes and put into place within hours. They arrived together having scheduled their flights so they could share a ride.
For forty-eight hours we returned to a world when our boys lived with us, ate with us, laughed with us, shared stories with us. We laughed and cried. We reminisced and looked to the future. Only this time, they shopped, cooked our dinners, did our dishes, and took care of us. One helped his dad with a project while the other made ice-cream for dessert.  This time they were giving back what had once been given to them.
I found myself starring at them, wondering when had this had happened?  When had the roles started to reverse that the children begin the role of caretakers when the parents need help?
Their impromptu visit was perfect. We got to snatch back a moment in time when we were all together each and every day. When we used to laugh together, cry together, eat together, and be together.
Whenever my kids leave, I usually cry after they are out the door. This time I didn't. My kids were no longer leaving. Grown men with families, homes, and careers of their own were leaving. Grown men, who will always come home not just for visits but when and if we need them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Guest Reader

Yesterday, in honor of Dr. Seuss, community members poured into our building to read to classroom children. I always look forward to this celebration of books and reading. Although the kids and I enjoy stories, books, and authors daily, having someone else come in to read is like having someone else cook dinner, it tastes better.
Francie joined our class yesterday. Francie works for our local Y and I have known her for years. She is passionate about everything she tackles and she put her all into her time with the kids. She read two books, one was by a famous children's author  about the arrival of spring and the behavior of animals. As she read she explained why she loved the book...its illustrations, its message, the author's work. The kids were motionless as they drank her Kool-Aid. Then she shared that she is a mom of three. She loves her kids dearly but sometimes she just needs a few minutes of quiet time. She pulled out a book about a mom elephant that just wanted five minutes of peace. The kids were hooked. The made predictions, as she read, anticipating what was next and then celebrating when they were right. As I sat on the floor in the back, I got to be a child, for a few minutes, drinking the Kool-Aid of books, stories, and reading. It felt good.

Monday, March 3, 2014


We went to see her the very first time seven plus years ago. She was happily chowing down on food while her brothers and sisters tumbled, rolled, and ran. The owner placed her sister in our laps. "This is the one you want, " she said. We held the fat, mellow sister as she turned on her laid back charm. While we played with the puppy, we watched one of her eight siblings aggressively attack the food inside a crate, bat a brother out of the way, only to hungrily turn back to the food.
"What about that one?" my husband asked.
"Teale? You don't want her, the owner quipped (referring to her by the color of her collar). She is nothing but trouble. She's too aggressive and bossy, the alpha of the pack."
We looked at each other and smiled. My husband got up and picked up the bossy puppy. She nestled into his neck. He brought her back to the couch and I put the mellow yellow down on the floor. Teale as they called her, plodded along our laps reaching out to nip our hands and faces. She looked at us intently, her face full of vibrancy and expression. Brothers and sisters attempted to get on the couch to convince us to take them but she guarded the couch barking and nipping at them. The message was loud and clear. We knew she was the one.
You see fourteen years before, we played with a yellow lab puppy while the owner told us why we should not take her. "She is the alpha. She will give you a hard time. They are very hard to control. It takes a lot of discipline to make them into good dogs." That day we had taken Molly home with us, never regretting the decision one day. She grew our boys up and stole our hearts. We all mourned deeply when she was gone.
After six months, we were ready for another, a puppy with personality, spunk, and a lot of love to give. Teale was packed up and readied to go home. The owner still giving us names of books, web sites, and words of her own wisdom on how to control an alpha. We glanced at one another with knowing smiles and placated the owner with pretend listening.
Holly greets us when we come through the door. She leans on us, sleeps at our feet, lays under the table when we eat, plays ball with us each night as we settle into the living room for an evening of relaxation. She nurses us when we are ill and celebrates with us when there is joy. She is our second best friend, an alpha worth the effort, and a great joy in our lives.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Confessions of a Binger

I have a binging personality. I can get a bit obsessive about things for small amounts of time and when I have had enough, I move on to something else. I have always been this way. Many of my binges return which is always welcome because I miss them. This is how I write, read, eat, clean, play sports, and do hobbies. It is also why I love being a teacher...I  binge on different areas of the curriculum. This personality quirk has landed me the following jobs over 35 years: kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, Title One, special education, and technology integration teacher. Oh yeah, I forgot adult ed, college instructor and trainer for the Department of Defense one summer as well. You see when I am focused, I am hyper-focused.

Wondering where this is leading?

Current food binge...roasted brussel sprouts with honey and mustard sauce. I can eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I have even just had them for a snack. I love the charred outsides and the crunch that is still left if I don't over roast them. I love the bitter taste with the sweet kick of the sauce. It is the opposite effect and right now I just can't get enough!

Current hobby...making my own cleaning products. I ran into this website
while cruising through Facebook. I started reading and I just couldn't stop. Many of the ingredients the author uses were in my cupboards so I started experimenting. To date, I have made liquid laundry soap, tab laundry soap, fabric softener, dryer sheets, spray stain remover for clothes, dishwasher tabs, and taken stains out of a bedroom carpet (using ammonia, a white towel, and an iron). I would like to think that saving money and knowing what is in my products is what is motivating me but I know that is not true. I am a science junky from time to time and this is my inner kitchen chemist getting her fix.

I think my husband is hoping these current obsessions leave sooner rather than later and do not make another appearance in the future. He has not liked all of my cleaning products and really does not like brussel sprouts! I often share with people I am a Jane of all trades and a master of none. I just cannot focus on one thing, one grade level, one genre, one subject area, one sport, for any length of time before I need to sample something else. Perhaps that is what helps me enjoy my life so much...I never know what new experience lurks around the corner.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dedicated to Grammie

It is March first. Time to slice for a month. I need to write for me instead of others. 
First procrastination: Create a new blog site...
Second procrastination: Fiddle with the design...
Third procrastination: Change my profile picture and so it went...

While I traveled this journey as a writer, I knew what I wanted to say, how I wanted to present myself, but nothing went the way I first planned. I wanted to create a blog that was positive. Why? My husband and I have had a run of bad luck lately and I just wanted to share how I keep my glass half full, how I know the sun is going to come up (those were already taken as blog titles and addresses). What was I going to call my blog? How would I write about a succession of set backs and how we just keep moving forward?

Enter...Grammie. Grammie always helps me out in a pinch. She is always there counseling me, coaching me, giving me words of wisdom. No, Grammie is no longer here for me to hug but she is here with me in the most important ways. She is in my head. She whispers to me when I need to hear her words. "Hands in the soil...Hands in the soil". Thus this blog is born!

You see Grammie told me, during a crisis, to get my hands in the soil when I was troubled. She said hands in the soil soothes the rough spots, gets you to focus on what is real and important. Hands in the soil help you discard that which you cannot change as you marvel at that which is amazing. Hands in the soil has been my mantra ever since. 

I live in Maine. I don't take hands in the soil literally. Five to six months of the year my hands cannot literally be in the soil (although I have plenty of plants inside). I see hands in the soil as a metaphor for going back to nature and all that is really important (you know self, family, love, nature). It reminds me to see all that is beautiful, graceful, powerful, and magnificent. I take the time to watch the eagle swoop onto a branch and eat its prey. I listen to the ice moan and crack on the river's edge. I watch the snowflakes gracefully dance their way to the snowbanks while the pastel rays of the sun peek through a cloud. I watch the intensity of my husband as he travels from bathroom to cellar over and over again completing a bathroom makeover. I think back to last weekend when our sons arrived for an impromptu visit and I still hear the laughter as we all gathered in the kitchen to enjoy their delectable meals prepared so lovingly for their dad and me. My family, nature, and whisperings from Grammie make my glass half full and keep me believing the sun will come up tomorrow.