On Status and Observations – SOL Day 31

So, for this my last blog for the 31 Day Slice of Life Writing Challenge, some observations about where I am this moment.

– For whatever reason, I’ve been unhappy coming here to blog. It’s not you, it’s me. This is my 2nd year — I’ll be back next year, as I know the year will be different.  I’ve noticed I’m mercurial from sets of years to sets of years as I approach my middle age — and I just could not hit a rhythm with my SOL blogging.  I knew to find some moment in my life and tie it back to a memory or a story, but I just couldn’t.  I could. Not.  It’s like my brain didn’t want to go there, and really, I feel like a non-comformist, especially when I read all the beautiful writing and blogging from my fellow teachers.

– The good news is that I absolutely have not felt a whit of jealousy when I read their profound, moving posts (like I did last year during my first year).  I really, really enjoy seeing the blogs of fellow Slicers.  I’m refreshed when I visit them.  Last year, I wanted to conquer the writing I saw, this year, I just want to wallow in it like a little grateful piggy.  I plan on visiting more teacher-writer-Slicers in the days to come.

– But I come over here and .. what?  .. Just couldn’t find my grove.  Probably because this was my Dad’s place last year — I’ll Give You All This and More — and, well, maybe a part of me feels I profaned it by just deciding to blog whatever this month for the SOL Challenge.  This is probably what’s going on.. I have to get over it..

– Chuckles with the hubby tonight at Carabba’s, a local Italian restaurant.  Actually, the laughing was afterward, when we went to REI and tried looking for tennis shows for his size 14/15 monster feet.  Aside from Keens, they have the uglieset shoes.  Today, he tried on these yellow and black stompers that looked like the cross between a giant bee and a rubber duck.  We didn’t get them.. but they were so comfortable, he almost got them.  Hubby didn’t think they went with anything.

– Selena’s Anniversary — the anniversary of her death.  She’s from where I’m from, but I only knew about within the first 2 hours after she died. Now, every couple of years, I binge and listen to her music, watch her videos and live concerts and dream about her.  Today, I came across an article on a festival they’ve begun having every year in her hometown of Corpus Christi, TX.

Said an actress who attributed her success in Hollywood to Selena:

I moved to Hollywood, and the struggle was real,” Cruz said. “But after 15 years of struggling, now we’re getting representation with ‘Orange is the New Black,’ and that is something that I feel Selena broke some barriers for us.

I’m sorry .. if she struggled for 15 years, only to end up on Orange, then Cruz was just wasn’t a good actress.  No, I’ve never seen her on her show, but to say that ending up on a prison show and saying that this is “representation” for Hispanics.  Playing an Hispanic on a television wasn’t what Selena was about.

Selena started with her Mexican-American culture, but aimed for mainstream because she saw herself as an American. Driven by her talents, she knew she was unstoppable, until the end.  Not once, in all that research and interviews I’ve read, have I heard her mention “representation.”  She worked her butt off to make it.  Which is all any of us can ever ask..

Forget “representation.”  Find your talent, work hard, keep looking for avenues to show your work.

Kinda like writing..

– So.. on this, the 31st day of our SOL challenge, I plan on starting another blog somewhere else, just to knock the funk out and do what I want to do.  Here, this isn’t it.  I’ve struggled.  Here, I want to think and reflect about my Dad.  To blog, something I now feel comfortable with (thank you SOL), needs go somewhere else.  I’m ready to move that intention over.. and just write.  🙂

Just Posting 2.0 – SOL Day 30

Okay, I know what it is.

My alert self is realizing my subconscious is trying to come to terms with the Slice of Life Challenge coming to an end..

I want to continue this blog.  Continue *A* blog, just to blog, just to write.. but I don’t have to be definitive about the type, style, source, type of thinking, of said blog.  Am I really that organized in life?  No.  I think it’s just another procrastination gimmick I’m setting up for myself.

Well, if I can’t figure out what this blog will be about, what it’ll be like, what I’ll be blogging about, it’s time to say good bye until next year..

Yeah, right.

Today, I taught my kids about discovery in their rough drafts for Opinion.  I know this is what captures voice.  The best voice.. So, for me to confine myself to structure is just stupidity .. for me, because that’s not what I want to do.

Discovery.

So, anyone who’s reading this, I apologize for the thinking that keeps running through these pages.  You know I’m not defining anything, I’m just perusing through the cob-webs, trying to find order.

Sometimes disorder is something to be celebrated.  Going to celebrate now, because tomorrow’s the last day..  Going to mentally prepare to continue..

Building Addition, Circa 1985 – SOL Day 28

We had a mock state assessments today while 7th and 8th graders took their actual tests in another part of the building. For about 5+ hours, we were stuck in a room together, trying to be silent as blind mice.

After lunch, though, we jailed convicts were released (thanks, Texas) to walk the track.

We walked out the nearest door — our front entrance — and walked the sidewalk along the front of our building.  Kids were calm and almost near-meditative as they walked with their blinked at the early-afternoon sun.  The spring warmth nearly put me to sleep as I walked.

I didn’t have sunglasses, so I slowly made my way, head down, eyes half-closed, as I followed my kids.  Then I saw something surprising.  Two curbs — what would frame a small road — jutted out from beneath a hard edge of the building.  I’d found what must have been an old driveway when the building’d been build 30+ years ago.  I’d heard they’d added on, but this was the first time I witnessed a remnant from years past.

I felt excited — like I’d just witnessed something extraordinary.

Two, actually.  First was the driveway, but the second was naming what I’d long suspected about myself:  I like discovering architecture additions.

This .. charm that add-ons to buildings has over me .. must be called something.  But it’s something I look for almost every time I enter an old building.  I didn’t grow up around architects.  I never owned or traversed any old buildings other than those near our State Capitol.. and I wonder what in my past defined my interest in looking up as I cross the threshold of a building long created.

Is it the additions of my own mind I’m considering?  The layering of my own mind over time I am subconsciously searching for?

Is it the site of original thinking I’m looking for in other people?  Maybe in my own students?  Am I looking for the perfect spot in the mind of a student, where I can help attach new discovery, new understanding through my own teaching?

I have to think about this.. and I’ll add on this..  Soon.

When does one ever have the chance to discover a road beneath your building?

 

The Four Seasons Pen – SOL Day 27

When I was clearing off the motley of stuff on our bar — really relocating stuff that had been dumped on my daughter’s 1,000-piece puzzle, the same puzzle she threatened to put away because, well, there was just too much junk on it and it couldn’t be seen and valued — our pewter mug appeared, there, beneath mounds of school papers and staplers and books and receipts and church bulletins.  There, still full of random pens, highlighters and whatnot.  There, safe in it’s hidden spot, as though it were playing peek-a-boo beneath freshly raked leaves, where it’s been since .. I relocated it from another clutter-prone spot in the kitchen.

I pulled out a pen I hadn’t held in quite awhile.  It’s a skinny-sliver of a silver pen, weighty like a Cross pen, scripted with “Four Seasons” and a nice little etching of a leaf on the pen’s top edge.  I stole it [!] from a pew at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, several years ago.

The story is this:  when I first saw it, I imagined some fancy tourist, a fancy gentleman who decided to jaunt over to St. Mary’s from the Four Seasons, donate some of his wealth, and leave the fancy free pen from the Four Seasons in the little peg-for-pencils to the poor person who was going to sit there next (me).  Oh, it was so intended!

I was surprised when I first found it — it fit perfectly in the little peghole, and fit perfectly in my little hand.  This “perfect,” for me, translated into, “Oh, it’s perfect FOR me.  I like it, therefore I shall take it.  It’s no dole off this person’s rich back, since it’s obviously one of those hotel pens you’d happen to find in a bedside table drawer in a hotel room.  Hotel pens, as I know, are usually cheap Bic pens, but this nice, silver pen just happens to be fancy because it comes from a fancy hotel.  Oh, it’s just a throwaway.  And it’s here, just for me!  How lucky I am!”

Bah.

I wanted to taste Ferrari, that’s what it was.

So many times, as I’ve drifted through life, I’ve kept my eye open for a talisman of what could be, a wish I couldn’t quite define or pursue, and if it happened to come my way, well, I was entitled to it.  Maybe it was an attitudinal thing toward the wealthy.  They have so much.  If I could find a Ferrari hubcap, well, hey!  Pretty cool!  Let me rub it and hopefully a genie will pop out and I can be rich, too!

I must’ve grown up.  Or given up.  … I like to think the former.

I will take this pen, tomorrow.. and release it into the world, instead of keep it here in this pewter mug that’s been it’s armored protector all these years — so much so, that I hardly ever used it when I came across it.  I’d merely write “This is a nice pen” on a random scrap of paper nearby.  What was the point of even keeping it?

I would return it to St. Mary’s — I can probably think of a day I can make it out there — but, more than likely, I will just carry the dang thing around and use it for awhile, and let it accept the fate of every other pen I’ve ever possessed:  it will get lost.

It will get lost and float out into the world for someone else to find and consider.

Hopefully, it will be a witness to a conversion like mine.

10 Minutes – SOL 24

10 minutes.

I haven’t quite been here in awhile — where I thankfully remember my SOL post for the day a few minutes before the deadline.  Last year, I think this is where I was everyday, battling the last moments before deadline.  Today, it’s the 24th.. so I’ve gone 24 days in without hitting the panic button.

Today, though, I don’t quite feel panicky.  I know my little post will come out fine.  Not because I trust in my posting ability.. but because I’ve had a good today in Process.

We analyzed a mentor text for structure — came in as we read as soon as we came in through the door, shared our focus findings with friends, went over them in whole-group, compared structure of this piece with yesterday’s — and finally found a key detail  that lead the reader into introspect.  Could we do the same?

Time to talk with our partners and mine for ideas that lead to this type of thinking for the reader — inferencing, wowzer details that lead one to pause and reflect.

Jot down notes.  Check our community chart on Google Classrom, modify our claim and author’s purpose — check our feedback from peers to tweak our ideas.

What a day.

Notebook Miracle – SOL 21

Notebooks make all the difference.  Used by the teacher, that is.  Of this, I am an official believer.

Let me tell you..

I had been a day-to-day notebook keeper since early 2015.  Prior to that, I’d written weekly in several notebooks and journals — as many as raising children would allow.

Notebooks in 2015 increased my teacher performance, improved my relationships with my students, boosted my self-esteem — I have stories on these, but I’m under the gun to get this SOL out before midnight.  🙂  This all happened because I began my work with the National Writing Project.  I was drawn to it because I’m a believer in marrying your beliefs to your work.  Writing has been my belief all my life..

Sometime last year, a cork got shoved somewhere in my brain.  It started by not keeping the writing habit going.  It got so bad, I didn’t even keep my little journal and notebook writing around the house.  Maybe it was the political climate — or the nation’s climate — that got to me.  Maybe it was my mother being place in a nursing home (separate from my Dad) and losing access to my childhood home, possibly forever.  Major upset, I haven’t gone back to guess why my writing stopped.  All I know is the effects.

Here is how I was affected:

  • the worst personality crisis I have ever experienced in my adult life. We spend all this time, day by day, week by week, year by year, beginning with teenage-hood, perhaps, trying to figure ourselves out.  We improve, we backtrack, we jump with ecstasy when we’re in a place we’re recognizable to ourselves and have figured ourselves out a little.  All that stopped for me, for a period for, gosh.. I can tell you if I went back to my notebooks.. I want to seriously, seriously guess 1 year.  The. Worst. Totally not myself.  Silent.  Lost.  Inside Out.  Where was I?
  • teaching impacted.  Totally stilted. I could still perform, still love my children, but there was a wall there .. you know?  I felt.. inauthentic.  Something definitely missing.  How can I be totally me if I’m not totally there.. or there’s a part of me that is lost as I stand in front of my kids?  I functioned.. I worked hard.. I stressed SOOOO much because not “being” all there just didn’t seem right to me.  That’s not how I’ve ever lived.  It’s all or all..
  • thinking impacted.  There were times when I would begin to write something down.. and my mind could not hold a sentence. My mind would flip and I’d draw a complete blank.  Or I would hit a skip and begin thinking of the next topic without finishing the first sentence. Twice in a paragraph.  Very odd.  This is recorded in my “Classroom Notebook” that I used while I still tried to write during Writing Time with my kids during Workshop.  I learned to record these [boats on a river] lapses with brackets — just you just saw now.  Over time, I grew afraid of the blank page..
  • creativity null and void.  Gone, just gone.  All my life, I’ve had an edge on idea. I enjoyed my brain and thinking stuff up, a new version, a different angle, a unique perspective.  This was absent during that time…

But let me tell you what’s happened.

I had a mahvelous Workshop with a mentor from the Heart of Texas Writing Project (our NWP affiliate here in Austin).. and it was just what I needed to get the Notebook started again.  This happened February 20th.  I have been writing non-stop.

Today, the cork popped and my creativity sparked.. and roared!!!!

I came up with a quick-draft for curriculum for next unit.

I came up with 1 Topic-Talk chart for my kids to work with during Workshop tomorrow.

I came up with a Risk Rubric as they develop their ideas for Opinion.

I came up with a Community Chart for listing their Topic Commitments.

I DREW UP PLANS FOR A TEACHER APP!!!!!!

That… I was not expecting that…

… and I wrote it all in my Notebook, which is going fabulous.

Please, please.. if you want to streamline your practice and don’t feel you have time to work in your Notebook, do whatever you can to carve out time to get back into Writing for Self, for you, for your mind, for your thinking, for your soul, spirit and sanity in this world.

Give it a solid month, like I did — 15 minutes everyday, like I did with my students (I was bound to them through a promise).

You will notice the stress disappear, your thinking become clearer, you’ll become more efficient, your confidence will rise, you will be yourself and more pleasant and friendly and fun to be around, you’ll be more at peace with yourself and the world.

It is so worth it..

..Veronica, don’t forget.