Wednesday, March 31, 2021

DAY #31- Thirty-one days of writing...


Today is the end.
The last of 31 slices.

I have written about my dogs
Probably more than anything else. 
I wonder what that says about me,
that the most interesting thing in my life 
right now is my dogs.

I have written about my students
quite a few times,
some years I have written about them more,
and I wonder what that means 
am I less compassionate,
or less observant,
am I watching less closely? 

I have written about my sons
a few times
but there's that whole privacy thing
they're adults, their lives are their own,
and I'm not really sure how much I should say.
Sometimes though, because their lives are so connected with mine,
I can't help it,
and I write about them. 

I have written about my mom,
several times. 
We almost lost her in February,
and it was so, so scary.
That writing was hard,
because she is 87,
she's doing great now,
but I wonder how many more years she will be in my slices. 

I wrote about writing several times
and about commenting.
I don't think I'm writing very well these days.
And that bothers me.
A lot.

I don't get very many comments on my writing,
and if I'm really honest,
that bothers me,
more than a little. 
I wonder if I am boring. 

I wrote one of those formula things.
It was fun.
And it got a lot of comments. 
But I'm not sure, 
That those really fit my definition of slicing. 

So now it's done.
Tomorrow is the beginning.
April 1.
National Poetry Month.

I am wondering if I have thirty more days of writing in me. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

DAY #30- Sometimes they just aren't ready when I am....


Rooney starts advanced training tomorrow, but the road to get there has not been without its bumps. 

Take getting into the car, for example. 

When the dogs are really young, the trainer lifts them in and out of the car.

After that, they get into the side door instead of the back. 

That's because the trainers don't want the dogs jumping too far on their still-developing limbs. 

They don't want any broken bones or torn ACL's. 

When the dogs get big enough, then they start jumping in and out of the back. 

The trouble is, Rooney decided, that he really liked jumping into the side door. And specifically into the driver's side, not the passenger side.  

And he didn't want to change. 

This has caused more than a little discussion and consternation over the past year or so. 

The trainers have offered a lot of suggestions. 

Reward him for putting his front paws up, then use hot dogs to lure him to come the rest of the way. 

Nope.  Rooney likes hot dogs, but not enough to jump into the car. 

Teach him to jump onto other things, specifically, the couch, then transfer that behavior to the back of the car. 

Nope. Rooney loves to jump onto the couch. That's his favorite place to nap now (did I mention that service dogs don't get up on the furniture?). 

Don't give him any other options except to get into the back. That might work, if I didn't have to be at school before noon.

Rooney does not like to jump into the back of the car. 

Every time Rooney goes on a stay-cation with another trainer,  they always give him glowing reports about his behavior, except for one thing. He won't get into the back of the car. The last trainer even called me from a shopping center, and I thought I was going to have to go over there and help her put him in the car. 

But then about two weeks ago, right after he had come back from his last stay-cation, I decided to try a new strategy. One that I thought of myself. Every time we went somewhere, I opened the back of the car, and just kind of waited a minute. When Rooney refused, I would really calmly open the back door and let him in that way. No big deal, we'll just try again the next time. 

And then one day, I was at my mom's in Colorado Springs. I opened the back door, and Rooney jumped in, like he had been doing it his whole life. I made a big deal of it and gave him a "jackpot" treat (where the dog gets a whole, whole bunch of treats at one time), and he's been jumping into the back pretty much every time ever since. 

He just had to do in on his timetable. When he was ready, he jumped. 

And like always, I think about teaching.

I wonder how many kids are simply on a different timetable. 

I can present the situation, and when they are ready, they will take advantage of it. 

Sometimes, they just aren't ready when I am. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

SLICE #29- Today I went to the grocery store...


To tell you the truth, I didn't even think about it. 

We were completely out of milk. 

Galaxy had about one more day of dog food. 

And so I went to King Soopers, where I shop pretty much every week. 

And where there was a massacre last Monday.

I don't shop at the King Soopers in Boulder,

that's about thirty minutes away from me,

but I shop at the branch in my neighborhood. 

Today, I walked in the door, and saw the front manager holding a sign about how to contribute to a fund for the victims. It had all ten names listed on it. And I thought about the 25-year-old front end manager that was gunned down last week. Some reports said it looked like she was trying to lock the doors when she was shot. 

I saw a dad shopping with two preschoolers,

and a mom with a baby that looked pretty young. 

And I thought about parents, shopping with their children in Boulder last week. 

I wonder whether those little ones will ever be able to walk into a grocery store again. 

I saw an elderly woman shopping with someone who I assumed was her daughter 

She had an oxygen tank in.a bag over her shoulder. 

I thought about all of the times I have taken my mom to the grocery store.

She uses a walker and doesn't move very fast. 

And I wondered what we would have done

if something had happened.

In the back of the store, 

just to the left of where I picked up my gallon of milk,

there was a door with a big orange sign,

"Emergency Exit only,"

I don't remember seeing that sign before,

and I wondered if it was there last week. 

The guy who checked me out today was pretty grumpy,

he told me no, I couldn't leave my thirty pound bag of dog food

under the cart, I needed to put it on the belt,

the checkers usually tell you not to worry, they will take care of it,

I wondered what he was thinking about,

maybe he didn't want to bend over,

or be in a position where he couldn't see everything.  

And the baggers- one of the women killed was a Special Olympian--

she had worked at the store for more than thirty years. 

As I walked out, I noticed the security guard,

He was wearing mirrored glasses, and you couldn't see his eyes.

I wonder what he would have done 

in the situation last week.

Today I went to the grocery store,

I wonder if it will ever be the same again. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021



Today was a "Do not pass go, do not collect $200," kind of day.

It actually started out great. 

On weekends, I usually spend either Saturday or Sunday hanging out with my mom. She lives in Colorado Springs,  about 75 miles south of me. Usually it takes an hour and a half door to door. But right now, there's a huge construction project going on, and the trip takes somewhere around 2 to 2.5 hours. 

Most of the time, my mom and I do stuff that she needs to do-- go to the grocery store, or shop for birthday cards, or go to a bookstore to make sure she has enough reading material for the next week. And we always go out to lunch. Basically, she just wants to get out for a few hours. 

This week, though, was a little different. My mom had outpatient surgery on Friday, and she's still recuperating, so today she wanted to hang out at home. I got there a little after nine. We watched her church service on television, and played a couple of games of Scrabble, and watched a little March Madness. I went and picked up pizza for lunch. A nice day. 

A little after two, she suggested maybe I should get going. I wrapped up the pizza, dumped the trash, put a new roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, and then took off. It took about two hours to get back to Denver, not great, but not bad. And all the way, I envisioned the things I was going to do with my Sunday night, given that I don't have school tomorrow. I wanted to write my slice and do a little school work, but I also wanted to write a couple of thank you notes, and finish the book I'm reading.

I pulled up in front of my house, and reached behind the seat, to grab my computer bag. 

And that's where the problems began. 

My computer bag wasn't behind the seat.

My computer bag wasn't anywhere in my car. 

My computer bag was next to the desk, in my mom's apartment in Colorado Springs, two hours south of Denver.

And so, instead of doing schoolwork, or writing thank you notes, or reading my book, I got back in the car, and drove the two hours back to Colorado Springs, and then drove the two hours back to Denver. 

Eight hours of driving, and I never got any farther than 75 miles from my house.

Today was definitely a "do not pass go" kind of day. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

SLICE #27- In which a medical situation becomes an opportunity for reflecting on teaching...


The beeping begins almost as soon as my mom gets back to the room. 

It lasts for about a minute, then stops. 

And then, about a minute later, it starts again.

"What's that?" I say to my sister, Betsy. "Do you think we should go get a nurse?"

Betsy is unconcerned. "Nah, Mom seems ok. And the nurses are right there. They'll come if they think anything is wrong."

I resume my text to Nancy, my other sister, who is a nurse. Because of COVID restrictions, only two of us can be at the hospital. Betsy and I are doing that, and Nancy will take the night shift at my mom's apartment.

Mom is back from recovery. She has to lay flat for four hours and have an echocardiogram in an hour, but she's talking and awake and seems good. 

And then the curtain opens and Debbie, who I think is a CNA, comes in. "Your oxygen is a little low. We're going to make you a little bit more comfortable," she says to my mom, unwrapping an oxygen tube and inserting it into my mom's nose.

Although the situation does not seem serious, I decide to pass on this information and text Nancy again. Her oxygen is a little low so they are giving her oxygen. 

Nancy texts back, right away. She better get taking some deep breaths!! What is her saturation on room air?

Her saturation on room air?? I have no idea what my sister is talking about. 

I get up to look at the panel that the nurses seem to be watching. 

Is it SPO? I text to my sister. 

Nancy texts right back. Oxygen saturation!  she says.

I still don't know what Nancy is talking about.  

"Take a picture of the panel," suggests Betsy. That seems like a good idea, so I take a picture and send it to my sister. 

Nancy replies with another question. How much oxygen is she on?

I don't know the answer to this question either, and apparently, it wasn't in the first picture. I take a picture of the dial next to where the oxygen tubing attaches to the wall and send it to Nancy. Before she can reply, Debbie comes back into the room and I decide to ask an expert.

Debbie knows exactly what Nancy wants. "She was on two liters, but she is doing better now, and we are going to turn it down to one. She was at 86 or 87% oxygen saturation on room air, and now she's popped back up to 96. She's doing fine."

I text my sister again, and she responds with two thumbs up. 

Betsy and I laugh for about ten minutes about our lack of medical expertise and about how Nancy asks and asks and asks, and we simply don't have any idea what she is talking about.

When I am driving home, though, I think about the situation, and I think about teaching. When I listen to a kid read, or look at their writing, I immediately go into diagnostic mode. What's going on here? What is the kid doing right now? What should I do next? How can I help this kid move forward as a reader, a writer, a learner? Those, I think, are exactly the kinds of questions Nancy was asking as she looked at my mom's data. What is going on here? What needs to happen next?

And then I think of the teachers I know that don't have this expertise, That can't analyze the data they are seeing. That don't know what to do next. The just-beginning teachers. The teachers who have switched grade levels. The teachers who have come into our profession with only minimal training, e.g. a six week summer course in how to be a teacher. They don't know what that data means. That don't know what to do next. 

And that's why professional development, and mentors, and professional reading are so critical to our profession. 

We have to look with educated eyes at what we are seeing. We have to be able to pick out strengths and needs. 

We have to be experts. We have to know what to do next.

Friday, March 26, 2021

SLICE #26- It was Ellen's Fault!


I blame Ellen Tebbits.

It was her fault I had the bald spot!

I mean, I was the one who did the twisting, but it really was her idea. 

The story went like this. 

I was probably in third or fourth grade. 

Definitely no older than that. 

And I was reading Beverly Cleary's Ellen Tebbits.

How I loved that girl!

I loved her stick straight,  unruly,  brown hair. 

My hair wasn't stick straight, but it was definitely brown and unruly,

just like Ellen's.

I loved that she had lots of great ideas, 

like pulling up a giant beet,

from a muddy lot vacant lot

before school one day.

Those good ideas with glitches regularly happened in my life too.

And I loved that Ellen and her best friend, Austine Allen,

regularly had friend difficulties,

that left them not-talking for several days. 

that sometimes happened to me 

with my best friend, Susie Allen

But we were actually talking about twisting the hair. 

Ellen was always twisting her hair,

And then I started twisting my hair,

and got a bald spot the size of a quarter on the back of my head

and my mom was sure that I had a fatal disease 

and took me to visit Dr. Pollard

And then he asked if I had any idea

what could have happened to my hair,

and then he noticed that I was twisting my hair

while we were talking

and asked why I was doing that

and I told him about Ellen Tebbits,

and he laughed and laughed,

and my mom was mortified. 

And told me I was't allowed to twist my hair any more.

but I still did it sometimes. 

I actually even do it now,

when I'm tired.

So you see, it really was Ellen Tebbits' fault

that I had that bald spot. 

But she was still one of my very best childhood friends. 

Rest in peace, Beverly Cleary

Thursday, March 25, 2021


If I had to describe this year in one word,
I think I would use the word breathless.
Take today for instance...
I finish my second language arts class at 10:50. My mom is having surgery, so I won't be at school tomorrow, the last day before Spring Break. Several kids ask questions about where assignments will be posted for tomorrow, J interrupts if I will please open the Google Meet for my 11:00 ELD class and it's 10:52 before I extricate myself, and pull together my belongs, to switch from teaching remote language arts in room 210 to teaching in person in 209, my third classroom switch of the morning. several kids help me carry my things next door, where 22 kids are milling around, enjoying their passing period. I quickly open my next google meet, the third one of the morning, Emily, the he nurse's aide for our building covers my class, so I can run Rooney outside, he needs a potty break after three hours. O, a student I have known since she was in kindergarten has been hanging around all morning, and asks if she can go outside with me. she and i race the half city block to take Rooney out. We get to the bottom of the stairs and I realize I have forgotten my key card to get back into the building, I know I will get in trouble if I prop open the door, so O volunteers to hold it while I run Rooney outside. I give Roo approximately 2 two minutes to do his business then we race back inside. I contemplate using the restroom myself, but it's 10:56 and I have to be ready to teach in four minutes, so I decide to wait 45 minutes until my lunch break. We are at least a two minute walk from my classroom. On the way, Olivia tells me that she is late because she had to go to get her eyes opened (dilated, I think). I walk into the classroom and the sixth graders immediately start to chant, "Kahoot! Kahoot! Kahoot!" V reminds me that I promised we could play today. It's true, I did, and I even stayed up late to create a new game. I settle Rooney, restore order, or at least try, and work my way toward my computer, on a cart in the middle of the room. The projector is on, but for some reason it is not projecting. It takes me a minute to figure out that the dongle is not connected tightly to the cord. As I am scrambling around, A, who is a remote student, asks me if I know about God. God, I think? Now we are talking about God? So if people didn't sin, wouldn't it be a waste if Jesus died on the cross? I say a quick prayer and try to respond in a responsible and professional way. The projector and the computer finally talk to each other, and my first slide projects on the screen. It is 11:01 when the kids' faces come into focus. "Hey, friends," I say in what I hope is a cheerful voice. "How are you today? It's good to see you."


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

SLICE #24- Moving On Up

The call came on Monday. 

My sweet Rooney is moving on up. 

The trainers at Canine Partners have decided Rooney, the service puppy that has lived with me for the last two years, is ready for advanced training. Beginning next week, he will spend two days a week at Canine Partners, learning how to be a service dog. He'll learn how to walk next to a wheelchair, use the accessibility buttons to open doors, get things out of the refrigerator or washing machine, among other things. All the while, the trainers will be watching him to identify his strengths. They'll decide what role would be the best fit for him. Maybe he will be a mobility dog, supporting someone who has been injured in an accident or has severe arthritis. He could also end up supporting someone with autism. If none of those are the right fit, he could end staying with me permanently, and perhaps certifying as a facility dog. 

And if I'm really honest, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, we've spent almost two years working toward this goal. Last summer, Rooney took an initial evaluation. One part of the test requires the dogs to wait (stay) until the trainer moves across the room, then come when called. Oh, and there is a toy between the dog and the trainer. Rooney failed that part of the exam. Badly. He did the wait part ok, but then on the recall, he picked up the toy. And then decided it was a good time for a game of keep away, so he raced around the room with the toy. Dune, another dog about Rooney's age, went on to advanced training. Rooney stayed in the intermediate class.  We kept working, and he matured a little, actually quite a bit. Two weeks ago, after he totally aced a really tough exercise, Angela, the head trainer, said, "I want that dog." Finally, Rooney is ready

On the other hand, Rooney is a big part of the culture in my classroom. He always seems to know who needs him. When K comes in after a difficult morning at home, which happens frequently, Rooney stops whatever he is doing to go across the room, and nudge K's hand. And when K needs a break, Rooney is more than happy to walk up and down the hall.  D, my little guy with Asperger's, regularly takes out his frustrations with a vigorous game of tug of war. S, whose family will be homeless this weekend, unless they find a house or apartment they can afford, sits with Rooney in his bed, stroking his head for hours on end.  The kids love him. We are on hybrid, and my Wednesday/Friday class is heartbroken that he won't be there with them anymore. I'm hoping we can go back to full time after Spring Break, so they will get some Rooney time. 

So Rooney is moving up. And soon he will move out. 

And it's kind of hard to think about life without my sweet guy. 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021


 I adopted him 

from the foster care system

when he was 9.

How well I remember that first weekend.

Walking up the sidewalk to my home. Introducing him to the dog.

Taking him to buy shoes. Two pair. Tennis and dress shoes.

"These are beauts!" he declared prancing in front of the mirror.

Taking him to meet my family.

His amazement that he got a whole cheese pizza 

(off the children's menu)

To eat for himself. 

And now he is 27.

The last ten years have been beyond hard.

A blown out knee blowing up his football dreams.


Several hospitalizations for mental health issues.

Car accidents. 

Jail time. 

Abandonment by his brother, former best friend,

who cannot accept the differences 

in how his brain processes the world. 

So much loneliness.

Most recently, four months picking up trash on the side of the highway. 

Lots of people quit. My sweet guy persevered. 

Tonight he has a job interview.

At a warehouse ten miles from our house. 

He dresses up.

Puts on enough aftershave that they will be able to smell him 

from one end of the warehouse to the other. 

I shudder to think of him riding his bike and the light rail at 3 in the morning,

when the shift would end. 

I worry about whether his femur, 

broken eighteen months ago, 

can withstand lifting boxes of paper. 

And yet I pray, that somehow,

something might shine

the slightest sliver of hope

into the life of my big hearted guy. 

The last ten years have been so hard. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

SLICE #22- It's happening again.

 The news flashes across my computer screen as I sit in yet another Google Meet.

Again. It's happening again.

Active shooter. 

SWAT team on the scene. 

Ambulances and helicopter have been dispatched. 

This one, though, hits especially close to home. 

It's in a King Soopers Grocery Store in Boulder. 

Roughly 30 minutes northwest of my house. 

About ten minutes south of the University of Colorado. 

Blocks from a home recently purchased by a dear friend's son. 

I hope he didn't choose today to go to the grocery store. 

I turn on the news 

The SWAT team is going through cars in the parking lot

People, who must have somehow gotten out of the store

sit wrapped in white blankets on the curb at the edge of the parking lot. 

A newscaster babbles endlessly about what is not yet known.

And all I can think is


It's happening again. 

How many more times

before we actually do something 

to stop this lunacy?

Sunday, March 21, 2021

SLICE #21- I am not very good at parenting adults.

 I have come to a conclusion--
I am not very good at parenting adults
In fact, I am actually very bad at it. 

I have two sons, ages 25 and 27. 
They both live with me. 
One has a job.
One does not have a job. 

Most of the time, they see themselves as men.
They are men when it comes to make decisions about friends,
and about going out, and about when they will come home. 
They are men when it comes to use of alcohol or marijuana.
I agree, for the most part, with those things. 
They are not teenagers any more. 
They can make their own decisions.

But sometimes they are not men. 
They are not men 
when it's time to buy groceries. 
Or pay the electric bill. 
They are not men when it comes to cleaning up after themselves.
Or when it comes to taking responsibility for stupid choices. 

Right now, for example, 
neither of my sons has a car. 
One son lost his license.
Mostly he rides his bike. 
Except it's still winter in Colorado,
and sometimes it's really cold or icy. 
He works fairly close to my work,
so sometimes I give him a ride
if the weather is bad. 
My other son left his car running
while he went into a convenience store
and came out, and his car was gone,
he hadn't been paying insurance premiums,
so now he's out of luck
and he thinks I should give him money, 
just a couple of thousand,
so he can buy a car,
so he can work with his biological dad
(I adopted my sons when they were 7 and 9).
to replace the car
(the Bluebook value of his Toyota Highlander was $7500).

Today we had a fight,
and he said some really mean stuff,
about how a single white woman 
should never have adopted two black boys
and how all of his problems are a result of that decision
or perhaps because of my lack of parenting skills,
about how I never support him
and about how I love his brother 
so much more than I love him.

And then he went into his room and shut the door,
and I have struggled 
to focus on the million things 
I needed to do for school
to write lesson plans
and do observations
and respond to student work.
And all I can think about is our fight. 

I am not very good at parenting adults
In fact, I am actually very bad at it. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

SLICE #2O- We almost lost her


Today I battled traffic for four hours 
to spend three hours with my mom. 
I didn't mind.
In February, we almost lost her. 
It was a Sunday afternoon. 
She was playing cards with her friends in a commons area 
of the senior center where she lives. 
All of a sudden, she couldn't talk, didn't recognize anyone. 
They thought she was having a stroke and rushed her to the hospital. 
Her blood pressure was 235/170.
The first doctor ruled out a stroke, a brain bleed, a seizure. 
The second doctor asked whether she had had her COVID vaccines.
Actually, she had just had the second one twenty-four hours earlier. 
It turned out that 450 other people in the United States had similar issues.
After the second COVID vaccine, they had gone into AFib.
For almost three days, my mom was in ICU. 
She didn't know where she was.
Didn't know our names.
Didn't know her own, for that matter. 
And then that third afternoon, things started coming back. 
She knew who she was.
Where she was. 
Remembered our names.
The doctors thought she was going to be released to a 21 day rehab.
Then decided maybe ten days would be enough.
By that Friday, they decided to release her 
with CNA support and out patient OT and PT. 
And now, not quite a month later,
she has a few minor memory issues,
but overall, she's doing really well. 
And I would have driven fourteen hours
to spend three hours with her. 
Because last month 
I almost lost my mom. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

SLICE #19- Are they ok?

 She is one of those kids whose brilliance takes your breath away. 
A straight A student.
Fully fluent in two languages. 
Articulate. Organized. Responsible. 
A kid who emails a question, 
then immediately emails again
to thank me for responding.

Her brother is also in my class. 
Not quite as strong academically,
But a super great kid.
Hard working. Respectful. Kind.
The kid who manages the chat box for me. 

Their lives are like those of 90% of my students.
Family in Mexico. 
Mom a single parent,
Recently remarried.
Not a lot of money. 
We are in a hybrid model. 
Their family has elected to stay remote. 
I've only seen the kids in person a few times.
Most recently, about a month ago, 
when I ran by their house with a Valentine present. 

Tonight, I can't stop thinking about them. 

It's because of something 
that happened in class today. 
I was reading aloud to the kids
from our district's e-book library. 
I was sharing my screen.
I don't have a fancy setup,
just a single screen
and when I project a book,
I can't see the kids. 

I'm reading along,
and all of a sudden,
I hear a string of expletives.
A man's voice yelling.
A child responding in a raised voice.
More yelling. Crying.
I don't recognize the voice,
and by the time I get my screen minimized 
to see what's happening
my kids have told my sweet
Straight-A girlie
to mute herself. 
To that point, she had been
 in full-on participation mode. 
After this, she doesn't say another word
for the next 45 minutes of class.

And so tonight, 
with the weekend looming
I can't stop thinking about them.
Are they ok?
Who was yelling? Why?
Does it happen often?
If it does, is there anything I can do?

I know I'm going to spend the weekend
worrying about them.
Are they ok?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

SLICE #18- A drop and go kind of day...


Today was a drop and go kind of day.

We are two minutes from the end of class, finishing the debrief of a small group activity, when K signs into the Google Meet. His late arrival is actually not all that unusual- not quite three months ago, he and two younger siblings very unexpectedly moved to the other side of the globe, to stay with a stepfather we didn’t even know he had. There is an eight hour time difference and the internet in his new country is not great, so he regularly arrives at very strange hours and often not at all. 

“I have to tell you my bad news,” he says, not waiting to see if anything might already be going on. 

I stop midstream, wondering what the news might be, and if it would be rude to ask him to wait just a minute, while I give tomorrow’s reading assignment. 

I don’t have to make a decision because he immediately blurts out his news. “Gizmo died,” he declares. “He threw up, and my dad was taking him to the vet and then he died. And now we have his older brother,” he says, holding up a slightly larger, slightly hairier version of Gizmo, the twelve-week-old Siamese kitten that had been visiting our Google Meet every couple of days for the last month or so. 

“I’m so sorry,” I say. “It’s so hard to lose a family member.”

K sniffs, and pulls the new kitten a little closer. “He was really cute. We were going to bring him home with us. And now he’s dead.”

I offer more condolences, tell him how sad I felt when Star, my old black lab, passed away in November. I ask if there is anything I can do. I ask if he wants to talk to someone on our Socio-Emotional team. 

“No,” he says, “I’m ok. I gotta go to math. I just wanted you to know.”


K has been gone maybe thirty seconds when D shows up.

" Hey D," I say.

"Who's he?" says one of the girls who has already joined.

"You know D," I say, and then I realize that no, they actually don't know D because he was in my class last year. He's in seventh grade now.

"What are you doing here?" I say.

"I finished all my work, Miss, so I decided to hack you." He laughs, and I remember why he was one of my favorite kids last year.

He looks around, "No one in my class keeps their camera open either."

"Yeah?" I say. "I think it's because they hate me."

D laughs again. "Nah miss, you're cool. They just don't want anyone to see their hair messed up."

"I gotta go," he says, and he is gone before I can say goodbye.


The third class of the morning. We are reading Alan Gratz's REFUGEE. Today C stays after class to talk to me. "Mexico is beautiful," he says, "but it's also very dangerous. My mom's had four. Several times she almost died."

"Your mom's had four?" I repeat, not entirely clear as to what we are talking about.

"Yeah," he says. "Once somebody pointed a gun on her. And two she went to a bus and got out and the next morning she noticed the bus that she was in got on fire."

A, who had also stayed after class, chimed in. "Mexico can be kind of dangerous," she says. "My uncle got shot but he didn't die."

I'm waiting to hear about C's mom's other two, but evidently it will be another day.

"Bye miss, we gotta go."

And they disappear.

Today was definitely a drop and go kind of day....

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

SLICE #17- Welcome Back! Year Two: Day One!

It's funny. I don't remember a lot about those first days of the pandemic. As someone who has never been married, I'm used to spending a lot of time alone, so that was not that different or that hard for me. What was different, and really hard, was the lack of routine, and the lack of stimulation. Those first few weeks, there was no church or Monday Night Bible Study. There were no Wednesday Spanish classes. The library was closed. I couldn't have coffee and read at the Tattered Cover, or admire the spring flowers at the Botanic Gardens. I couldn't go to the movies. 

I realized, in a relatively short time, that I was going to have to figure out some new routines for myself. That second week, I stumbled across an incredible learning opportunity. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher were online for about thirty minutes every day, sharing their thinking about reading and writing and teaching. 

Sometimes it was just Penny and Kelly. Other days, they had guest speakers, like Kylene Beers and Bob Probst and Franki Sibberson. I loved, loved, loved those sessions and made a point of watching live pretty much every day. The few days that I had something else going on, I watched the recorded sessions later.  At the end of thirty days, Kelly and Penny announced that they were stopping so that they could work on their next book. I cried. 

Today, I happened to jump on Twitter for a few minutes. And I was absolutely and totally thrilled to learn that Penny and Kelly are starting up again! Today was the first of 30 sessions. And of course, I had to put everything aside and listen.  Penny and Kelly talked about what they are currently reading and writing. And it was fabulous.  I came away with at least five new titles. And there's also a padlet. 

I can't wait for Day Two! Or the twenty-eight after that! If you are looking for some great PD, you might want to check them out. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

SLICE#16- I have given up read aloud this year.

I've given up one of my favorite teaching practices this year. 

I'm not reading aloud to one of my classes. 

Now wait, before you start making judgements about me as a teacher, give me a chance to explain. 

At the beginning of the year, I did read aloud to both classes. Every single day.  And we read good stuff. Jacqueline Woodson's Before the Ever After,  and Efren Divided were two of the first stories we shared. And then the kids asked if we could read something lighter. They pushed for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but I wanted them to try something new, so I pulled up Origami Yoda. It's kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, set in a middle school, but with Star Wars connections. And my sixth graders loved it, but they had lots of questions about Star Wars. 

I'm not a Star Wars fan, and I couldn't answer most of their questions, so I went to a resident expert,  our computer teacher and asked if he would come in one day and explain all of the Star Wars stuff. Mr. H is not getting a lot of teaching time this year, and he said he would love to talk to the kids about Star Wars. And the day that he came in to our Google Meet. I just randomly asked him if he wanted to be a guest reader. And again he said he would love to. 

And so he read that day. And the kids loved it, because he did the Star Wars voices. So he came the next day. And the day after that. And the one after that. And then we finished the first book in the series, and the kids wanted him to read another one. I usually don't read more than one book in a series, thinking that if the kids want to read more, they can do that on their own, but in this case, I made an exception.  We read another one. Or actually Mr. H read another one and I listened, and turned the pages on the ebook we projected onto the screen. 

When we finished the second Origami Yoda  book, I thought Mr. H would be probably be sick of us, and would be ready to sign off, but that didn't prove true. He stayed, and read When the Stars Are Scattered. He's an avid comic book reader, and I learned lots of new things about how to read graphic novels. And all of us wept together at the end of this incredible story of two Sudanese boys who grow up in a refugee camp in Kenya.

This week, we started Land of the Cranes. And again, I wondered if our very busy computer teacher, would want to bow out, but again, he jumped right in.  I'm not sure who loves it more-- the kids, or Mr. H., or me. The last couple of weeks we have had a weather delay and a remote learning day, and our schedule has had to be adjusted. I thought I would probably read to the kids on those days, but nope. Mr H. adjusted his schedule so he could still read. 

If I'm really honest, I have to admit that I kind of I miss reading to this group, but I have loved watching a new adult connect to my kids through read aloud. I think Mr. H. will probably continue until the last day of school. We are a community bound together by stories. And Mr. H. is a member of our community. 


Monday, March 15, 2021

SLICE #15: An Invitation to a Party, "Depending On When You Met Me…"

So today I hit one of those slicing walls, when I really had nothing to say. Yesterday and today, I dug piles and piles of snow. And read essays and worried about the state proficiency exams, which my kids are supposed to take the second week in April. And fought with my son, who thinks it should be no big deal for me to replace his car, which was stolen last week, when he left it running in front of a convenience store…

Then, this morning, Leigh Ann invited slicers to a party (ID required, but I definitely don't have to worry about that. And so I'm taking her up on her 

Depending on when you met me, I might have been: the oldest of three sisters, who always sat in the middle of the back seat to play referee, the kid who read a book a day under her desk, the horseback riding middle schooler, the uber responsible high schooler who had three car accidents before her 19th birthday, the homesick college student,  the cleaning lady who vacuumed 20 courtrooms a night, the Alpha Phi, the Dale's Tasty House waitress, the first year teacher living in her own apartment; the Marie Callender's Pie Kitchen waitress; the Young Life leader, the master's student doing all nighters fighting her dot matrix printer to write papers for grad school; the heartbroken, lovelorn, biological-clock ticking almost thirty-year-old; the trailblazer moving cross-country to start a new chapter as a doctoral student; the mourner crossing the Ph.D. stage without her dad there to cheer her on, the district literacy specialist with the office just down the hall from the superintendent's; the assistant principal; the adoptive mom; the literacy coach; the team mom eight years running for football and basketball, teams;  the empty nester, the full nester, the mom of the schizophrenic, the Spanish learner,  the puppy mom; the 35 years in the same book club member,  the one still working when all her friends have retired...

Thanks, Leigh Ann, for the invitation. It was fun!

Sunday, March 14, 2021



Today is a grilled cheese kind of day. 

For more than a week, forecasters have been predicting a storm.

The storm of the year.

Or maybe the decade.

Or the century.

It was going to start on Thursday.

No wait, Friday. 

Maybe not until Saturday. 

Saturday morning about 9

Finally, Saturday about 4, intensifying into Sunday 

and probably lasting until Monday morning. 

Maybe not two feet, maybe only a foot. 

The news went on and on.

The storm arrived yesterday.

It sleeted most of the day,

then switched over to serious snow late in the afternoon. 

It was still pretty warm, so when I went to bed

there weren't more than a couple of inches on the ground.

That changed over night. 

I woke to about ten inches of snow. 

It's continued snowing all day. 

We now have about fifteen inches. 

My sister, who is a nurse, made the hour drive from Colorado Springs,

so she can get to work tomorrow. 

She made it just before they closed the highway. 

School districts, mine included, are announcing plans to close for tomorrow.

The lights are flickering 

and I wonder how much longer 

we will have power. 

Snow means shoveling.

I really like shoveling.

Or any kind of purposeful exercise. 

I went out with my shovel around 10:30. 

I thought I would be out there about 45 minutes,

but it ended up being close to an hour and a half. 

That snow was wet!

And really, really heavy! 

I was drenched. 

And starving.

Definitely a grilled cheese kind of a day. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

SLICE #13-I contemplate spending $100 in a very stupid way...


I probably shouldn't admit it, but I am considering spending $100 (ok, actually $99.99) in a really stupid way. I want to do a DNA test on Galaxy, our latest rescue puppy.

I think it's really stupid.  

Galaxy is the latest in a long string of rescue dogs. There was Ramsey- supposedly golden retriever and chow. He looked like a golden retriever, he had a purple tongue like a chow, and I just accepted that that's what he was. Yeah, there was the thing that he was quite a bit bigger than most golden retrievers, tipping the scales at right around 100 pounds, but Golden/Chow was close enough. 

And then there was Maggie, clearly a purebred yellow lab, that just kind of found me, one day after I had done a presentation at a school. 

And Jack. The Dumb Friends League told us he was mixed Lab and Rottweiler, and that was fine. 

I bought Star out of the back of a pickup truck at King Soopers. The guy who sold her raised, I think, English Setters, but had a Labrador Retriever that he used for hunting. One day, while the mama dog was in heat, she connected with the hunting dog, and the rest, as they say, is history. Star definitely saw herself as more setter than lab, she was high energy, and smart, and just a little aloof. She loved us, but she made it clear that we were there to do her bidding. 

And now there is Galaxy. I found Galaxy on Craig's List in November, shortly after Star died. I really wasn't planning on getting a dog until next summer, but was just kind of poking around one day during Thanksgiving break. Galaxy, and his brother and sister, were posted by a local rescue. They had been found on the street in Houston. They believed Galaxy was about 12 weeks old, and that he was part Collie, part German Shepherd. 

And for whatever reason, I really couldn't say why, I want to know if those breeds are accurate. 

Galaxy, a little like Star, is fiercely independent. He loves us, ok, mostly me, but he's more than happy to hang out in the backyard by himself, for hours on end. He loves, loves, loves cold weather, and will play in the snow forever. Sometimes, at night, he goes out the dog door and sleeps outside, on the bed where Star loved to lay in the sun in her old age. And he loves to run. This week, while I was unloading groceries, he got out the front door and hightailed it down the street. I thought for sure he was going to get hit by a car before I corralled him. 

I wonder if maybe Galaxy is part husky.  Or maybe Basenji or some other long haired, outside kind of dog. 

And for some reason, I really want to know. And I could find out, if I bought a kit for $99.99. 

I think it would be really stupid. It really doesn't matter what breed Galaxy actually is. If I was going to spend $99.99, I should spend it on something worthwhile. Perhaps donate to the Rescue Mission to help care for the homeless in the impeding blizzard. Or even to CAPR, the organization that owns Rooney, the service dog I am training. Or I could use it to do some repairs on my one-hundred-year old house. 

But I really want that stupid $99.99 kit....

Friday, March 12, 2021

SLICE #12- In which my son considers leasing a $66,000 car....

 His car was stolen three days ago. 
and when I walk in the door from work
my son approaches me with a plan
he wants to buy a motorcycle
I am terrified of motorcycles
especially on the crazy crowded freeways in Denver
but I try to react calmly
how do you think that will work when the weather is bad?

Half an hour later he comes downstairs
I am preparing for a zoom meeting
He has decided against the motorcycle
instead, he will lease a car,
ok, a $66,000 car
the payments will only be $501 a month
he thinks he can do it
Again, I try to stay calm
a $66,000 car?

Have you thought about insurance?" I ask
If you are going to lease a car, 
(and especially a $66,000 car)
you are going to have to have insurance.
First he tells me that I am trying to ruin his plans
that I never believe in him
and then he tells me he can find insurance

he goes back upstairs
Ten minutes later he is back
he has found insurance
It will be $500 a month
but he thinks he can swing it
Will I take him to the dealership tomorrow?

I suggest that maybe he should consider 
renting a car 
for a couple of weeks
maybe his car
(which was, by the way not insured)
will come back
in one piece

He is insistent
He wants to go looking at cars

I envision him
who has not worked for almost two years
who will start a new job,
on Monday
striding into a dealer
and announcing that he is there to lease
a $66,000 car

I tell him I will drive him
but I will not go in. 
I will not co-sign for a car.

I am not looking forward to tomorrow.

I think it will be ugly. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021



They are predicting snow in Denver this weekend. 

Lots of snow. Somewhere between six inches and two feet. 

I'm a skeptic and suspect it will be closer to six inches, but who knows?

I went to the grocery store tonight, just in case. 

There was no bread, no hamburger or hot dog buns, no ground beef or chicken, and no potatoes, onions, or bananas. 

And it must be a slow news week, because about 75% of the articles are storm related. 

Including one today about the most famous snowstorms in Colorado history. 

I remember several of those. 

December 1982- 24 inches-- I had just graduated from college and was teaching in Denver. My sister was newly engaged. Her fiancee lived in an apartment complex about ten minutes away from our house. His family lived in California, and he was planning to spend the holidays with us. My sister was hysterical that he wasn't going to be able to get there.  My dad set out, got stuck, got a friend with a pickup to pull him out, and made it back to our house, with Paul three hours later. They are still married 37 years later, so I guess it all worked out ok. 

March 2003- 31.8 inches- This blizzard started on a Tuesday, the week before our Spring Break. I was scheduled to fly out that Friday afternoon, to spend a week in the Grand Cayman Islands with my mom and sisters. They were all actually there. School was closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. My neighbor, Todd, worked for a landscaping company and spent the week plowing. Joanie was just pregnant with their first child and wasn't feeling that great. I spent the week shoveling their snow and mine. On Thursday, the roof of a house in the next block caved in under the weight of the snow. On Friday, I dug my car out of a three foot drift, drove to the airport, climbed over sleeping bodies, many of whom had been there since Monday night, and jumped on a plane to the Grand Caymans, where I spent a glorious week snorkeling and sunning on the beach. By the time I came back, the snow had melted. 

December 2006- 20.7 inches- This storm started in the middle of the morning, one of the first days of our Christmas vacation. It was a really windy, noisy storm. Isaiah's best friend, Justin, was alone in his house, his mom was at work, and Isaiah asked if we could go get him. I said sure, thinking that his mom would pick him up on her way home that night. She got stranded on the other side of town, and Justin ended up staying with us for four days. It was a wild and crazy week, with four middle school boys. By the time Justin's mom finally got there, the boys were jumping over the second floor balcony onto a pile of couch cushions below. 

And so, supposedly we are having a big storm this weekend. 

I'm planning on finishing Kristen Hannah's new book, and reading a pile of essays, and grading papers, and maybe doing a little cooking. 

And shoveling. 

Yeah, shoveling will figure prominently. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

SLICE #10- A huge and terrible loss....


The email came Monday night, while I was in a Zoom meeting.

Tina, Jeff, and Griffin 

want to let you know 

that sweet Brody took his last breath on earth 

at 12:41 pm today. 

Brody was thirteen.

He and his family live in my neighborhood, 

about four blocks west of me. 

Last June, his family received the horrible news

that Brody-



basketball player, 

cross country runner,

and Lego builder extraordinaire-

 had a brain tumor. 

He had surgery, then went through any number of procedures,

but the news just kept getting worse and worse. 

A couple of weeks ago, the family heard 

that the tumor was spreading rapidly

and the end was near.

On Monday, Brody died. 

I didn't know Brody well. 

Really not at all. 

I actually met him once last summer,

shortly after he was diagnosed,

when his dog got out of the yard

and chased Rooney and I down the street.

Somehow, though, 

when the news went out last summer,

Brody wiggled his way into my heart.

Like everyone else in the neighborhood,

I wanted to do something.

Tina's best friend, Jamie, coordinated the neighborhood response.

I bought gift cards to restaurants,

a fancy Lego architecture set

and a Nintendo controller for his birthday.

I prayed for Brody when Rooney and I walked past his middle school,

and when I drove past Dahlia Street, 

which I do every time I leave the neighborhood. 

Today, I can't stop thinking

about Brody's family.

I'm thinking about Jeff, a physician's assistant,

and Tina, a yoga instructor, 

and Griff, Brody's older brother and best friend. 

I'm wondering

how a family moves on

after such a huge and terrible loss. 

My heart is breaking for them.