Spring, Apparently, is Here SOLSC 21

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Spring, or, as we call it in Alabama, the three hours between winter and summer, appears to be in the air.  The air is warm (80 degrees yesterday!), the birds are nesting, the trees are starting to get leaves, and our daffodils have already faded.

As I headed out to the playground today with my third graders, it was wonderful not to have to walk over to my cabinet to get my coat.  Nope, spring is here.  There’s also a feeling of excitement around the school because spring is, of course, followed by summer.  And summer means summer break.  (Out of principle, I call it a “summer break;” if I was getting paid, it would be a vacation…minor distinction.)  Honestly, I’m not counting days.  Yet.

Of course, there’s another side to the end of the year, and that’s the feeling of oh-my-gosh-how-am-I-going-to-fit-all-of-this-in?  Just as the air warms, the birds nest, and the trees leaf, I’m sure we’ll get everything done.  No worries.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go cut my grass.  Spring is here!

Thank You, Amy SOLSC 20

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Just a few thoughts about Amy helping to make me late for work this morning.

First of all, this isn’t the first time that “Amy” and “late” have been used in the same sentence.  My least favorite sentence, albeit the most relevant, is “I was late to the Amy party.”  I’ve had an awareness of the works of Amy Krouse Rosenthal for years now, but was always distracted by something else and never really explored her stuff.  My loss, but better late than never, I suppose.  The lost years…the lost years.

“Amy.”  From what I’ve read on other people’s blogs and websites, I’m to use her first name like “Cher” or “Bono,” as if the last name isn’t really necessary.  How cool is that?  (“AKR” and “akr” are now initials I recognize as well.)

Her loss, brought to most of the country’s attention through her viral essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” is a source of increasing sadness as I get to know her better through her works.  I, along with the rest of the world, will move on, but as with all losses of this sort, it’s not easy.

So, I was late (but not too late) to work this morning.  I know it’s really my fault, but Amy’s book Textbook certainly played a part.  Wow, what a great work.

I think I might come to rely on what I call the Textbook relationship test.  It starts with me giving you a copy of Amy’s final book to read.  If you find yourself also late for work because you stood in your kitchen reading just one more page until there wasn’t one more page, I’m fairly certain you are the sort of person I can call a friend.  She probably would too.

Thank you, Amy.

Has Anyone Seen My Routine SOLSC 19

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Would everyone please check your pockets?  I’ve lost my routine.  I know it was here just a while back, so I’d appreciate you helping me find it.  Thanks!

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting in my classroom writing this slice instead of getting ready for the upcoming week.  Oh, I’ll have time for that later–right now, I’m just trying to reabsorb the classroom groove.

I have about 16 hours of spring break left (and I’m spending it in the classroom–doh!).  My students will come in tomorrow, excited to see their friends and compare notes on how they spent the last week.  We teachers will have made it in a bit before they do, but we’ll do the same comparing-notes exercise.  Some of us made it to the beach (I live in north Alabama), some, like me, actually travelled north, and some–the lucky ones, I sometimes think–just stayed home and relaxed.  All of us are keenly aware that there are only 10 weeks left in the school year, but the excitement of the home stretch is tempered by the knowledge of all we’ve still got left to do.

I’ll be glad to have my routine back.  I look forward to each of my students coming through the door (even that one or two), and I’m eager to hear their stories as well.  I’m ready to dive back into our units of study, hopeful that they haven’t forgotten too much.  The thrill might wear off before the announcements are over, but for now I’m ready to go.

I know my routine is here somewhere.  Maybe it rolled under the desk…I thought I heard something fall a few minutes ago.

Questions I Would Ask SOLSC 18

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Interstate 65, southbound through Kentucky and Tennessee

Questions I would ask, if I could bear the pain

To the last family that lived in the dilapidated house just off the right of way, what was it like before the interstate came through? Was it quiet before the constant sound of engines and the smell of exhaust?  Where are your descendants now, and do they know your stories of the homestead?

To the gentleman driving the truck with all of those bumper stickers, do you really want to express those sentiments toward that politician, and if so, what motivates you? What have you lost? What anguish have you suffered, and can it ever be made right?

To the officers who served with the trooper for whom that stretch of highway is named, what was he like? Could he crack a joke to ease the ever-present tension? Was he an inspiration to those around him? Do you still keep in touch with the family, and can the grief brought by that kind of loss ever heal?

To the farmer walking the hillside field eroded from the heavy rains that followed so many weeks of drought, how do you recover from a loss that’s measured in acres?  Will crops grow in soil that won’t be revitalized in your lifetime? Can a chemical spray truly negate the damage?

To the family who maintains the roadside monument with yet another new teddy bear and the fresh pink balloons tugging against their moorings in the afternoon breeze, how do you drive this stretch of road, feeling the heartache that can’t ever go away?

To the vultures circling overhead in the thermals rising off that much asphalt, do you, one of the only species of birds with a sense of smell, find yourselves drawn to the essence of loss below you, or are you simply riding the winds of a beautiful day, unknowing and unaffected?

Questions I would ask, if I could bear the pain.

Wild Kingdom SOLSC 17

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

In the community of naturalists and environmentalists, there’s pretty much so always been an active discussion about the merits of backyard bird feeders.  This might come as a surprise to some of my readers, but it’s true (really!).

Bird feeders (the pole-mounted kind as well as the people) provide important food to local wildlife, some say.  Others say that putting out food detracts from a wild animal’s ability to forage for itself.  Some say there’s no harm–the impact isn’t that great–while others say any amount of intervention is significant.

The argument is totally lost on my mother.  It just doesn’t matter.  She’s a bird feeder (not the pole-mounted variety).

Since moving from my childhood home, my parents have always had a birdfeeder, or two, or three, and maybe a squirrel feeder in their back yard, just outside of their kitchen window.   Oddly enough, there are rarely birds, though.  Squirrels?  Now that’s a different story.  

The occasional bird comes through, but the most common consumer of bird seed outside of my parents’ kitchen window is the eastern grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis.  (At this time, the reader is supposed to say to him or herself, “Ooh, he took the time to look up the genus and species.”  If you haven’t done that yet, go ahead…I’ll wait.)

Grey squirrels.  Lots of them.  They come In two varieties: Eating, and looking-put-out-because-the-feeder-is-empty.  I’ve spent more than a little time watching them over the past few days (road trip!) and enjoy them a lot. I walked outside yesterday and actually had one of them give me a healthy dose of what for, but other than that, it’s been a positive experience for all parties involved.

My parents’ suburban nature sanctuary attracts other animals as well: Chipmunks that have gotten out of bed way too early with the flirtation of spring-like weather, a growing family of rabbits that resides under the shed, possums that wander through late at night, and a monster-sized raccoon that comes from who-knows-where. In addition, there’s a red-tailed hawk that is fond of sitting in the pine tree in the adjacent yard.  (My mom has kept a few pinecones just inside the door in case she ever has to throw them in defense of the smaller mammals, but I’m not sure she’s ever actually pulled that one off).

It’s a regular wild kingdom out there.

The for-or-against argument?  Sure, it’s there.  For now, though, I think I’ll pour a cup of coffee, take a seat, and watch the show.

Road Trips SOLSC 16

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Road trips are:

  • Packing and double-checking, knowing you’re going to forget something anyway
  • Airing up and topping off
  • Deciding on snacks, coffee, and a playlist to get started
  • Setting off with the early-morning sun in your eyes
  • Turning it up and singing along
  • Gas stations and fast-food restaurants
  • Eating what you probably wouldn’t eat at home
  • Driving on, long after the conversation wanes
  • Stiff backs and a sigh of relief when you’re there
  • Hugs, handshakes, and hellos
  • Just a quick trip down the hall
  • Love, laughter, and catching up
  • Quietly mourning those who were here last trip, but aren’t here now
  • Sleeping in a not-quite-like-at-home-strange bed
  • Missing those who couldn’t make the trip
  • Packing and double-checking, knowing you’re going to forget something anyway…then working your way back through the rest of the list again
  • Home, sweet home

Football and Kittens SOLSC 15

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Throughout this Slice of Life Story Challenge, I’ve been determined to tell stories that are, indeed, slices of my life. I know a lot of writers lean toward the introspective (and I really like what they’re doing), but I’ve tried to keep it light. What’s going on within the last 24 hours? That’s been my goal.

Yesterday I wrote about relationships. Current relationships, yes, but while I met my time span goal I definitely felt as if I’d wandered away from the light side of things. As I wrapped up that piece, I decided then and there that I’d write about something more carefree today, like football, or kittens. One of my commenters (thanks, y’all!) said she was hoping for football, and another was leaning toward kittens, though football and kittens together was okay with her. Encouragement. I’m lovin’ it!

Full disclosure: I’m not playing football right now, nor have I done so in the last 24 hours. Heck, only a few times in the last 24 years, truth be told. And I don’t have a cat, much less a kitten. Not that I wouldn’t want to play football, or have a kitten, or have any combination of two, but I don’t now.

Quick aside: Can there be more than one combination of two things? I guess it would be a matter of degrees. Watching football while holding a kitten would work, I suppose. Watching a kitten while holding a football is a possibility, but I have to confess that it doesn’t have the same appeal. Playing football with a kitten? Best not to go there.

Football. When the topic comes up, I always enjoy letting people know that I lettered in high school. Really, I did. When pressed, I’ll add that I lettered in Orchestra. Cello, all four years. Why muddy the waters, though, with details? While I’ve been well over 6 feet tall for most of my life (tallest kid in elementary school), I have always lacked just a few of the things a football player needs, namely speed, strength, skill, and desire. I do enjoy watching a game now and then, and tossing a ball around the playground with the kids is always fun, but that’s about as far as I go. It’s some sort of cosmic twist of fate that I was raised in Ohio State Buckeye territory and came to live in Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide. Perhaps you’ve heard of those teams.

And kittens. Cats in general. I enjoy holding cats that belong to other folks. We had a cat for 17 years, but one was enough. My wife was pregnant with our first and really, really, really wanted a kid Right Now. The joke was on her–who knew they lived that long? That first kid of ours? She’s got three cats, so I can get my fix whenever I need to.

As I’m keyboarding this, by second daughter is driving as we’re passing through northern Kentucky on the way to Ohio for a visit with my folks. Tomorrow’s writing should have a northern feel…without cat hair.

Relationships SOLSC 14

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

Occasionally, I’ll sit at my desk for a few minutes and watch my students as they go about whatever routine it is they’re involved with.

Just a quick thought: I’m a teacher, writing for an audience that is, in all likelihood, mostly teachers.  The phrase, “I’ll sit at my desk” is difficult to type without thinking that someone, somewhere, is probably poo-pooing the idea that I’d actually sit at my desk while my students did their thing.  To those few teachers I say that eventually you’ll hit your thirties and understand.

Another quick thought: That first thought was my attempt at humor. Please, just accept me.  I like me…you can like me, too.

Okay, where was I?  Right…watching my students while I drink coffee.  (Darn, I did it again!)

Watching students as they develop the ability to develop relationships is a difficult thing.  At any given time, I want to walk over and stop them with a, “Hold on there sport, you’re screwing things up,” or a “Really, do you really mean to talk to your friend like that?” “You know that’s not a nice way to put that, don’t you?”  “I think you should figure out a nicer way to say that, don’t you?”

Relationships are hard, especially when you’re 9 years old.  Or 52.  34 isn’t too easy, either.  No one says it’s a piece of cake at 45, and I’ve never heard that being over 60 makes it any less difficult. Nope, relationships are hard.

So, Tim, how is this a slice of your life?  I’m getting there.

Last night I was at a friend’s house.  He’s the artist I mentioned a few slices ago.  Here’s the weird thing about the first sentence in this paragraph: “A friend.”  As a guy, I have a lot of people I call friends.  We talk school, or football (I’m not a fanatic, but conversant), or woodworking, or families, but honestly, there’s not a lot of depth to our friendships.  But this guy, the one I was hanging out with last night?  He’s a friend, an actual friend.  With depth.  I don’t have a lot of those (as in, I can count them on one hand and have fingers left over), so this is pretty cool.  As our conversation went on, I was thinking about how our relationships (we’re both married with daughters) took effort to maintain and nurture.  Effort we both gladly give, but effort nonetheless.  Even if you’re not a third-grader, relationships take work.

Just before I left to head home, my phone dinged the Facebook Messenger ding.  I don’t get a lot of those (not a big Messengerer), and when I do it’s oftentimes someone I haven’t heard from in a while.  One of the joys of having an uncommon name is that I’m easy to find on social media.

I said my good-byes to the family, got in my truck, and pulled to the end of their driveway before reaching for my phone.  To distill a really long story into just a sentence or two or three, this was a message from a friend from 20-plus years ago (not uncommon for us retired military folk).  Up until this point in time, I’d only heard (second hand) his ex-wife’s side of the story of their separation 15 years ago. Kinda out of the blue, he was telling me his side (a difficult story, but told succinctly) and asking if we could reconnect and be friends.  In essence, would I accept him?  We could be friends if that’s what I want.

Relationships are hard.  I told him that my response to their situation is that I’m sorry for the heartache they both must have gone through.  That’s it.  Of course I accept him (though those weren’t the words I used–this is a long-story-short and all that).

We are who we are, and what else could I say?  This wasn’t the time to be philosophical or theological or even entomological (levity to ease my tension).

We’re fortunate to have people in our lives to help us through our years.  Love the ones you’ve got.


Tomorrow’s slice is going be about football. Something easier…maybe kittens.

Cables SOLSC 13

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

I haven’t seen the television show Sesame Street in years, but a snippet of it flashed through my mind this morning as I sat down to write this slice.  As I remember it, there was a time during each episode where it was announced which letter and number sponsored the show.  “Today’s show is brought to you by the letter “r” and the number “3.”  Or something like that…it’s definitely fuzzy.

Today’s slice, with a nod to Ernie and Bert, was brought to me (and is brought to you) by cables.  Cables.  

Cables?

I’m not the oldest slicer you might read today, but I’ve been around long enough to remember getting a pager.  (Don’t judge.)  Part of maintaining that little gem of technology was making sure it had a fresh battery.  A single AAA battery was tucked into the back, and it lasted for quite a while as I remember it.  Then…a phone.  300 minutes on the plan because I’d be doing some traveling.  In addition to the phone, we got a charger with a built in cable–no more buying batteries.  

Technology has, of course, marched on, and our usage has tried to keep pace.  About the time my wife and I both got phones (we shared the first one; one of us used the pager), we moved on to flip phones.  Then I got an early smart phone, and then she did.  We both started to “upgrade” at the same time, and within the last few years we’ve moved into tablets as well.  (We were late adopters, and if those wily service providers didn’t start to bundle them into plans we might not be where we are today.)

Then, miracle of miracles, my school district started to make a more concerted effort to get handheld and portable tech into the classrooms.  Enter the Chromebooks and more IPads.  

My wife and I are empty-nesters, but at any given time we might have 10 or 15 computers in our house.  10 or 15!  The desktop, the laptop, our kindles, our phones (probably our most powerful computers at the rate we upgrade everything else), our tablets, my school tech that comes home to install apps, and even a smartwatch thrown into the mix.  Okay, this is a little bit crazy.

And the cables. Oh my gosh, the cables.  My wife just went Apple (I still love her dearly), so our chargers aren’t compatible and the number of them effectively doubled. I can’t throw away an old charger (what if we need it?!), so we’ve got boxes with “extras” on three different shelves, sitting there with a few loose tendrils of plastic-sheathed conductors peeking out of each one.

Stop. The. Madness.

Full stop.

Okay, I’ve gotten up to let the dog out (the dog, by the way, who is not wearing a smart collar) and I’ve calmed down a little bit.  Now I’m thinking about my next slice, and pondering the idea that over the last 13 days I’ve composed on no fewer than 7 different devices running 4 different operating systems uploading through hard lines, WiFi, and cellular service.  And commenting on the slices written by others?  It seems like every time I do so another old blogging profile (Google, Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Weebly, etc.) of mine is popping up.  Sigh.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go recharge myself…

Friends SOLSC 12

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

As I’ve written my slices over the last 11 days (we’re on day 12–wow!), I’ve become more aware of the small things that are going on all around me.  Things that are worth taking a few minutes and committing to paper (well, the digital version) to help create a record of sorts, hence, I’m sure, the term “Slices of Life.”

Yesterday, we had friends over for the afternoon and dinner, which led into the evening.  Before they arrived, the thought crossed my mind that certainly something would happen that I’d be writing about tomorrow morning.  And I was wrong, but right at the same time.

We simply enjoyed several hours of each other’s company, a meal, several cups of coffee, good conversation, and more than a little laughter.  We talked about our kids, our different endeavors (we’re teachers, artists, museum directors, and tax accountants), our hopes for the future, and our experiences with the past.

Nothing significant, yet almost everything, all at the same time. I hope the same for all of my readers this day.  Thank you for sharing this with me.