What Now?

Here we are. The last day of the 2020 TWT SOLC event.  Thirty one days of writing and posting and commenting.  What now?

What I want to keep doing:

Write every day.

Pay close attention to the world, and think, “I’m going to write about that!”

Stay close to my writing colleagues.

Write to remember.

Write to imagine.

Write to understand (or at least try to understand).

Write for fun.

Write to help others.

What I want to try next:

Spend more time revising and crafting my writing.

Work on one project over a number of days or weeks, or longer.

Try out some different genres.

Get specific feedback on my writing.

Revise it some more.

Maybe try to publish something (OK, I like to dream big!).


I do plan to continue posting some writing on Tuesdays with TWT.  I couldn’t even imagine my life without this community.



It’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that the 2020 TWT SOLC is coming to a close.   I have needed this experience and relied on this community over the past few weeks in ways I never imagined. I’ve always enjoyed the month of March.  I’ve always felt proud of myself for writing every day for 31 days.  I’ve always loved the writers I have met along the way, some of us staying connected over many years. But this year was different.  This year, the TWT Slice of Life Challenge has helped me survive.  It has helped me feel grounded.  It has helped me stay somewhat sane.  And for that, I say  thank you, Two Writing Teachers (TY, TWT).

I remember back to February, when I was already starting to think about some writing projects for March’s challenge.  My plan was to do some of the writing work that we were asking kids to do so that I could use my writing as a model for instruction.  Who knew then what kind of crazy turn we  would take in March. I abandoned those plans pretty quickly, and began writing to try to figure out what my life was going to be like as it was now being hijacked by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Writing over the past few weeks has helped me to express feelings and try to figure out life in a pandemic.  Writing has helped me to work through some tough situations and also share some of the beautiful things that were happening in spite of (or maybe as a result of) this virus. TWT has helped me to connect with others, and to hear their stories and how they were managing through this novel event.  And then there were the comments.  Hearing how people were responding to each other made me feel so connected, and so cared for. Writing and commenting has helped me find meaning in the midst of this crisis.

Thanks to TWT, people from all over the world spent a month connecting with each other through writing and commenting during a time when many of us were feeling so isolated, so frightened, and so on edge.

TY, TWT!  I don’t know what I’m going to do without you when April arrives.


Party Time

The girls have decided that we should put together a fancy party tonight. The guest list is, of course, rather small.  OK, just us, but that is fine with me. They have decided on an event that includes elegant appetizers and champagne.  I think I heard one of them suggest that we all get dressed up (That’s not my idea of fun, but I’ll do it if it’s called for.) And I suggested that we end the evening with a dance party (That is my idea of fun!).

So today we are spending the day together planning, shopping. and cooking.  Daughter One has been in the kitchen most of the day chopping and making and simmering and putting together some sort of elegant galette!  Daughter Two is planning to put together some shrimp cocktail and baked brie.  Husband One (OK, there is only one.) is making dates wrapped in bacon, and my job is to bake the brownies (Not that elegant, but everyone agreed it would be a great way to end the night!).

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.  We’ve all been off screens all day (except maybe to look up a recipe or two), no one has had a Google Meet or Zoom Meeting.  We have just been hanging out together reading the paper, talking, and just relaxing.

Let’s pop that champagne and let the party begin!

Dear Friend, I’m Sorry

I am perseverating on my day.  I’m stuck in an emotional state that I don’t want to be stuck in. I’m feeling guilty and sad. I’ve taken a walk. I’ve played some ping pong with my daughter. I’ve tried to relax. I’m still stuck.  A friend and colleague and fellow slicer calls this state paralysis by analysis. This same person advised me a while ago that writing a letter had helped her improve her emotional state. I’m going to give it a try.

Dear Friend and Colleague and Thought Partner,

I’m so sorry.

I know we had an open and honest conversation this afternoon.

I know we are OK.

I know we will move forward and continue to do amazing work together.

I’m so sorry.

I know my flurry of anxious early morning texts were filled with stress.

I know my emails were confusing and maybe even a bit terse.

I know I wasn’t my best self.

I’m so sorry.

You did not make me upset.

I made myself upset.

I could blame it on a really hard two weeks of distance learning.

I could blame it on not getting enough exercise.

I could even blame it on COVID-19.

But I’m not going to do that.

I overreacted. 

I don’t really know why I got so upset.

Every day has felt confusing and unclear and hard.

I don’t know why I got so worked up today.

I’m so sorry.



Being Part of Something Big

As I sit working and Google Meeting and Zooming and Flip Gridding all day in my new “office” (a desk and chair I moved into the guest room by the window), I feel alone.  This is somewhat ironic because my house is more crowded than it has been in years due to the fact that our girls are home.  It’s just that during the day, I’m up in my office, sitting at my desk. I have been eating breakfast, and sometimes lunch, alone while I prepare for the day or try to eat something between meetings. I have struggled to learn some of the technology needed to do this work.  I’ve tried to problem-solve on my own. I’ve watched videos on Screencastify over and over just to try to figure out how to add the extension to Chrome. And that is only the very first step of actually using this technology! After the Meets and Zooms and Hangouts are over, there are SO many emails to read and respond to, so I sit at my desk by the window trying to catch up.

But this afternoon I felt anything but alone.  This afternoon I joined (for the second week in a row) the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Office Hours with Lucy Calkins and colleagues. The topic was how to teach during a pandemic.  As the Zoom meeting started, educators started joining.  The list grew and grew and grew.  Hundreds and hundreds (possibly thousands) of teachers from around the world were logging in.  It was overwhelming and exciting and so very uplifting.  Lucy welcomed us all and, as always, inspired us to be our best selves so that we can help students and families navigate this pandemic.  She encouraged us to be innovative and to be responsive. Then teachers began to ask questions, and the TCRWP staff responded.  All the while, the chat box was filling with questions, suggestions, links, and ideas. Teachers are doing such incredible work in such desperate times.  They are creating materials since their materials are still in school buildings.  They are finding all sorts of ways to connect with kids.  They are providing support and professional development for families (as this is all new to them too), and they are teaching their hearts out.

This afternoon, I realized that I am not alone.  In fact, I am part of something that is big and new and important. I have colleagues around the globe. We are walking side by side, and we are all here to hold each other up.

Thank you, Lucy and TCRWP, for making me part of something big.

Loves and Loathings

Years ago, when I was a third grade teacher, I read something by children’s author Mem Fox about what she keeps in her writing notebook.  She shared a page that showed a list of things she loved and things she loathed (I love that word, loathed.  It just sounds so dark and bad and hateful.).  Here is that entry:

I love these things

  • My family and friends
  • World peace
  • A full moon
  • Green paper clips
  • Saturday mornings
  • ABC Radio National
  • Social justice
  • A clean kitchen sink
  • 19th century novels
  • Singing alone in the car

I loathe these things

  • The effect of war on children
  • Untidiness
  • Brown clothes
  • Economic rationalism
  • Cleaning up dog vomit
  • Racial intolerance
  • Identical letters from a class
  • Land mines
  • Mobile phones in airport lounges
  • Right wing newspaper column

I just loved it, so my students and I decided to try it in our notebooks. It led to some pretty good writing.  Kids especially loved writing about the things they hated! Maybe we don’t ask them about what they hate very often.

I thought I’d give it a try for our current pandemic-shut-in-distance learning situation.

I love these things

Waking without an alarm

Being surrounded by my family all day and night

Only concerning myself with my clothes from the waist up

The commute 

Learning new ways to deliver instruction

Not having to run errands

Playing games and watching movies with my family at night

I loathe these things

Sitting at a desk all day long

The absence of student interaction

Not seeing colleagues, friends, and family in person

Hours spent on screens

Everything taking me so long since everything is so new

Missing my dad

The closing of the town parks

Watching the news



What are your loves and loathings?


Pushing Myself to Write

I really don’t want to write tonight.

My brain is on overload.

Maybe I’ll just skip a slice.

Would anyone really notice?  Would anyone really care?

I’m so tired.

I don’t want to sit in a chair in front of a screen for another second.

I would just be missing ONE day.

Out of 31 days.

But it’s day #25.

I’ve made it this far.

I can’t miss a day.

It just wouldn’t be right.

So I sit here and try to write something.

It’s not good.

It’s not thoughtful.

It’s not meaningful.

But there is writing on the page.

I guess that’s something.



Distance Learning, Family Style

Our two daughters are home with us, practicing social isolation for who knows how long.  Today was the first day that everyone practiced working/schooling from home.  My daughters are both involved in graduate work, and one daughter is still working as well (lucky girl). My husband is launching a new business (not great timing, we know).

We have a small house, and we are now four adults.  This distance learning involves a lot of talking and noise. Yesterday, we decided to get organized for the week. I set up my office in the guest room.  Morgan decided that she would work from her bedroom (which is right next to the guest room.  Tim and Mackensie planned to have offices downstairs. Mackensie took over the sunroom, and Tim, the living room.  This seemed like a good plan.  We wanted to make sure that people were free to go in and out of the kitchen, that the dog had someone to let her in and out (She seems to want to go in and out all day now!), and that everyone had a space that offered privacy.   But when the morning came, it quickly became clear that adjustments were needed.

I had my first meeting at 8:30.  Both girls were still asleep. I certainly can’t be talking in my Google Meet in the room upstairs that sits between the girls’ two rooms, so downstairs I went to the sunroom.  At 8:55, Mackensie sent me a text.

“When do you think your meeting will be over?  I have a class starting at 9:30.”

“I’m finishing up in a few minutes,” I texted back. (Texting each other from one room to another may be another strange part of this distance learning situation.)

Thankfully, my meeting came to a close, so I went up to my office, and she took over hers.

Then Morgan’s classes started.  Did I mention that Morgan is getting her MFA in dance? Classical music started playing, professors were talking, and she was, yes, dancing.  I really enjoyed the experience, but it was a bit distracting. Morgan quickly realized that her small space in her small bedroom does not work for a dance floor. Tomorrow we are redesigning the dining room and making it into a dance/exercise space. We are all pretty desperate for exercise at the end of the day, so maybe we can have a family exercise class in the early evenings.

Then it was my time to have another meeting, and Morgan was on a meeting at the same time.  My desk is just on the other side of the wall from her desk.  This won’t do!  Into my bedroom I went for the next hour or so.

This new distance learning/working is going to take some adjustment, but we all survived the first day.  We will see what tomorrow brings.

Embrace Boredom

I don’t know about you, but I have had some moments over the past weeks when I’ve been really bored.  Today, for example, I walked around the house to find something that needed doing.  Everything was clean.  All the dishes were put away.  The garbage and recycling have been taken out. I had completed and posted my writing.  I had taken a nice walk. I had read my book AND the newspaper, and it was still only 4:00.  What, I wondered, was I going to do now?  I can’t go out and run errands.  The movies are closed.  I can’t call a friend to meet somewhere. I can’t even run down to the coffee shop for an afternoon latte (not that I ever did that before, but I could have).

So I decided to go read some of the emails and blogs I had flagged this morning.  And that’s when an email from Brene Brown popped up.  I should have known that Ms. Brown was going to give me the wisdom I would need to dare greatly through this challenge. I clicked on her latest blog post (Collective Vulnerability, the FFTs (“Effin First Times) of  Online Learning, and the Sacredness of Bored Kids).  There is so much wisdom in this post, but the thing that resonated with me was this:

But, we must be ready. Boredom will be an FFT for a lot of our children who have TikTok, memes, and games at the ready, 24 hours a day.

Just as we can come out of our skin during hard first times, they will too. It will take hours of complaining about feeling like they’re dying before they settle into that strange place that’s rarely visited by today’s children – their imagination.  We don’t need to entertain them, we need to model vulnerability for them and support them in this FFT.

Boredom is sacred. We shouldn’t deny our children this holy experience.

Brown got me thinking…..

Maybe boredom is our answer……..

I’ve noticed the way my two grown daughters have embraced this time.  I’m sure they are bored.  After all, they live huge lives in New York City; lives filled with friends and dining out and shopping, and visiting museums, galleries, and musical performances.  They also work long hours. Now they are sequestered in their family home in a very quiet suburb.  (There’s not much happening here even when everything is open.)  They have to be bored.  But I’ve been amazed at what they have been doing.  Morgan cleaned, painted, and completely re-arranged her bedroom.  This morning, Mackensie was sitting at the piano practicing pieces she had played when she was in high school.  They have both spent a lot of time quietly reading.  My oldest daughter, a teacher with two children,  has taken a trip to some beautiful outdoor space almost every day since her school closed.

And then there are my grandchildren.  They are usually very busy with school and sports and dance classes.  Now that they have been home for a few weeks, Cole has decided to start a stamp collection and write letters to his grandfather.  Elle has created a schedule that includes things like family walk time, create time (make something!), academic time, and, of course, before bed reading time.

I think Brene Brown is onto something.  Let’s embrace the boredom.  Let’s let kids get SO bored that they start to invent stuff to do.  Maybe kids will start gardens, or start a letter writing campaign.  Maybe kids will collect stamps or shells.  Maybe kids will press flowers or start scrapbooks.  Maybe kids will observe the birds in their back yard.  Maybe kids will learn to cook or paint or crochet.  Maybe the answer to this distance learning question is to let kids follow (or develop) their passions.  If that was the result of these months away from the school building, I think we would have accomplished something quite magical.

Improving the Environment

My daughter told me yesterday that one of the positive consequences (Yes, there are actually positive things happening.) of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the environment is actually improving. The air and water are cleaner now because factories have shut down and planes are not flying as much. She told me that the water in Venice is so clean that dolphins have been spotted in the canals.

My environment is improving too.  Yesterday my second daughter was rescued from New York City, unfortunately now named the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.  Last night, I set the table for four and we gathered around to have a family dinner.  We ate, we talked, we laughed. After dinner, we gathered in the living room to watch a movie. Morgan was perched on the high back chair, Mackensie on the couch wrapped in her favorite blanket, Tim on the couch, and me in my favorite tag sale rescue chair, to watch one of our family favorites, The Secret Garden.   The night felt so right in this world that feels so wrong.

The pandemic is an awful situation. The few positive outcomes will never make this situation OK. But tonight I am breathing in the beautiful air of my family.