Category Archives: Slice of Life

SOLC Day 21: Spring Has Sprung

The sun rose early today, spreading its energy and light around like confetti, creating a party-like atmosphere, lightening the heaviness of this difficult time. And it’s the weekend! Even though there is work to do, today I’ve tried not to work. I’ve read, watched some mindless Saturday television, Facetimed with my grandsons (oh, to be 4!), walked on the beach, and even braved the grocery store.

I can feel that burst of energy coursing through my veins, running through my marrow, clearing my mind and unwinding that tight knot in my shoulder. There are so many people out today. The neighborhood is teeming with walkers (keeping their distance, of course), dogs, and bicyclers. I noticed someone up the street blowing bubbles for their children to chase in the front yard. The folks in the cul de sac near us had their patio furniture spread out into the street to allow for socializing with social distancing. I waved to the mail deliverer as I picked up the package on my front porch and my husband was profuse in his thanks to the grocery store employees who were doing their best to make shopping in the time of coronavirus as enjoyable as possible.

And the beach was glorious! We had another negative tide this afternoon, exposing a huge stretch of walking beach. While some white clouds hunched along the horizon, the expanse of blue dominated the sky. Wildflowers are blooming, adding their brilliant yellow to the usually monochromatic palette of endless shades of blue.

Rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days–and while we always seem to need rain–I am selfishly rooting for sun. Once spring has sprung, I don’t really want to push it back into the box! (Although I do admit, sunny days seem to be harder for people to maintain their social distancing!) Hope you’re also finding some ways to enjoy these first days of spring and a bit of downtime to recharge your batteries.

SOLC Day 20: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I love plants. I’m drawn to their simplicity, their complexity, the subtle variations in color, the brilliant bursts of color, not to mention the smells and textures and the tenacity they exhibit.

At best, I’m a fair weather gardener. I always have the best of intentions and I love to pick out this plant and that one, sure that I’ll get it planted in the perfect place in my yard or in that beautiful ceramic pot I just have to have.

In reality, most of my plants arrive as gifts, frequently from students and their families. As they enter our home, they claim their position in the kitchen garden window (it’s one of those windows that pushes out, creating a sort of mini greenhouse). Lucky for them, my husband has a green thumb and works hard to keep all the house plants alive and well. He mists the ones that need mist, waters the ones that need water, and leaves those that need little mostly alone.

But every now and then, in a flurry of decorating and cleaning, I purge that window box exiling those that are overgrown or straggly or on their last breath to the back yard. (With the exception of the orchids–they get to stay in even if they are not looking their best!) The exiles take their place along the edge of the patio where they can take advantage of the sprinkling system, ensuring that they will be watered with regularity. (It doesn’t rain much here, so irrigation is essential!)

It’s been raining most of the month of March here (we seem to be trying to catch up on rainfall totals for the entire year), so we’ve turned the sprinkler system off for the time being. With a rain-free day today, I decided to take a break from endless Zoom meetings and worries about student remote learning (Google Classroom glitches) and wandered out into the back yard.

Who knew that dandelions can grow tall…like knee high? And that all phases of dandelion bloom can be represented at the top of a single plant? I love dandelions, so I left these to thrive…if only temporarily until my husband heads out.

Then I wandered over to the exile zone…and wow! Those exiles have banded together to become a beautiful wild garden! Lavender reaches high, waving its fragrant blossoms. Aloe, like a giant spiked serpent, peers out from beneath. Swirls of succulents show their perfect Fibonacci sequence–math and nature perfectly intertwined.

But the piece de resistance (imagine that said with the perfect French accent) is the fuschia plant that I was certain was dead. It is vibrant and healthy…and when I tried to turn the plastic pot it is growing in, it didn’t budge–the roots have reached out of the pot into the ground. Such a gorgeous harbinger of spring!

I can’t take credit for any of the beauty on display in the backyard. Luckily this wild garden mostly takes care of itself (with a little help from my husband). But I am delighting in it today as it lifts my spirits and brightens my day!

How is your garden growing?

SOLC Day 19: Searching for a Second Wind

Is it really only day 4 of the school closures? Today the lift felt heavy. It’s not actually my teaching day, but that doesn’t alleviate feelings of responsibility: to my students, their parents, and my colleagues. And then to top things off, our Google Classroom has decided to stop loading the stream. Students starting commenting that their lessons had disappeared and soon after a parent emailed confirming that they could no longer see anything past March 17th.

My immediate response was panic. How could our lessons go missing? We had put so much work into creating them. And while I, too, could not get my stream to load, I could see the lessons/activities in the classwork section, Phew! Our district Ed Tech Coordinator is working to resolve the issue, soon I hope.

So instead of student responses today, I found myself in hours of video conferences. All were worthwhile, but they add up to lots of time sitting in front of a computer. And that is exhausting. I am really glad that I selfishly took some time when it wasn’t raining late this morning for my daily beach walk.

I rushed down the beach, feeling the cool breeze in my face as I noticed the mounding white clouds in the distance. The tide wasn’t low yet…I couldn’t wait til then, there were video calls scheduled during that time. (And as it turns out, it was raining then too!) I came across a group of sandpipers dancing in the surf. They raced in toward me with each wave and headed toward the water as the water receded. I danced with them, my camera low, trying to catch them in motion.

Taking time for myself is essential during these stressful times. I need that walk on the beach more than ever: the time to let my mind wander, to breathe deeply, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and to move my body. I found a bit of a second wind. I know I’ll need another walk tomorrow to refill that wind supply!

SOLC Day 18: Looking for the Silver Lining

I’m tired of rain, I’m tired of the corona virus, I’m tired of endless breaking news with more stories of closures, infection, and dire economic consequences.

So…I’m making a list of those things I am appreciating today.

In no particular order:

I appreciate all the book suggestions from slicers in response to my blog yesterday. They have curated an awesome list for me to chose from…now I just need to pick one and get reading!

I’m thrilled that my mom has decided to stay with us for the time being. While my dad is in Yuma (really, a snowbird from San Diego?), it’s good to have her here rather than isolated 30 minutes away.

I’m lucky to teach in a place where parents are involved and care so much. I can see the evidence of parents following up with their children in response to the learning activities I post daily on Google Classroom during the school closures.

I’m grateful for Flipgrid. The daily prompts I’ve been giving my students lets me see their precious faces and hear their voices each day. And I’ve been enjoying making my own as an invitation to them. The challenge–a new prompt each day. We’ve shared favorite stuffies, how we stay active and healthy, our current book, and tomorrow…how we spend a rainy day. Anyone have ideas for additional prompts? I definitely need more–especially since our school closure just got extended by two weeks! (And that is likely optimistic)

And…I managed to squeeze in a between-the-raindrops beach walk with my husband! It was cool and breezy…and blissfully empty. I power walked my usual distance and still got back home in time for the scheduled Zoom call on my calendar.

Okay…I feel better already now that I spent some time thinking about the silver lining to today’s frustrations. And I’m looking forward to your Flipgrid prompt ideas for my students!

SOLC Day 17: What Are You Reading?

What are you reading these days? I was going strong with my personal reading as 2019 came to an end…and then came 2020 and my reading hit the breaks! According to my Goodreads account, I’ve completed only 6 books this year!!! (That does not count all the books I read to students, the amazing blog posts I read daily, the countless articles about coronavirus, professional articles garnered through Twitter and Facebook…)

I just finished The Paris Wife, a novel based on Ernest Hemingway’s first (of 4!) wife. It was okay, but not amazing. A better book I read recently was How to be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery. The frame was interesting and I loved thinking about the ways an octopus, dogs, chickens, and even ostriches contributed to the “good creature” Sy developed into through her interactions with these animals. When We Believed in Mermaids was light and quick, not entirely believable, but enjoyable. I read Where the Crawdads Sing when it first came out–loved it–and find it hard to top. The new Malcolm Gladwell book Talking to Strangers was completed at the end of September. I’ve read, but I don’t seem to be reading now.

I feel like I’m struggling to find that book–you know, the one that pulls you in and offers you escape. Not the one that feels like going up endless flights of stairs that end in nowhere.

So…what are your favorite books to read lately? The ones you read as the adult you, the books to escape, not to recommend to your students. What are you finding compelling? (Not necessarily “high brow” or make-you-a-better-person reading.) I’m hoping to crowd source a list to keep me going over the next several months–and I’m determined to get myself back on track with my personal reading.

I need you guys…start suggesting!

SOLC Day 16: Appreciating Unexpected Gifts

In this upside down world where nothing feels normal, a walk on the beach feels like a treat. Hearing that others in our state are getting directions to “shelter in place” makes me feel like my open air walks may be a thing of the past very soon. I worry about going stir-crazy with no outlet for exploring the natural world!

I did get my beach walk in today…an extra long one since rain is expected later tonight. But my real treat came later…in the most unexpected way.

If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram (@kd0602) you might know that I’m pretty obsessed with egrets and herons. I’ve written about them here and here and here. Now that both my husband and I are working from home, every invitation to go outside the house is a welcome one. So when he asked if I wanted to walk down the street to check the mail, I jumped at the chance. We headed out–the skies were gray and the wind was kicking up in advance of the storm forecasted for tonight–walking down the hill on the sidewalk in the neighborhood. And we saw it…that distinctive shape, pure white, landing on the deck of a neighbor’s house. A great egret. Perched on the deck wall, we had a perfect view from afar.

I never see egrets in my neighborhood, but like on the beach, I crept closer feeling lucky my phone was in my pocket and not in the house. When photographing birds I know to take many shots, increasing my odds of a good photo. As it took flight, I continued to press the shutter…

and then follow it as it landed across the street near the park and our mailboxes. Unlike the snowy egrets I see on my beach walks, the great egret does not have bright yellow feet. But it does have a yellow beak where the snowy’s beak is black.

It seems a bit strange to have an egret visitor in the neighborhood today, but what an unexpected gift it was! I love getting close enough to see the texture of the feathers, especially as they were ruffled by the wind. On days and weeks like these, I’m learning to appreciate the little things…like a neighborhood visit by an egret.

SOLC Day 15: Light and Shadow

Gloomy weather makes this global crisis feel like a blanket of darkness, weighing heavily on our shoulders as we attempt to find some kind of normalcy with schools closed, work re-directed, and social distancing the new norm. I’m trying to keep a daily outdoor walk a regular feature of my day…so headed out this morning when the tide was low to walk on the beach.

The beach was a study in light and shadow today with dark clouds towering above the crashing waves. Slivers of sunlight transformed the wet sand into a mirror, reflecting images of the cliffs onto the shore.

As I walked today I remembered a tower of rocks I noticed yesterday–one that was knocked over (unintentionally) by a clumsy preteen just as I headed over to photograph it. My husband and I decided to recreate our own version of it today, balancing smaller rocks on a large rock pillar.

Finding the just right rocks was a challenge–one we were willing to undertake. He carefully stacked one atop another, checking for balance, noticing the flat spots, the round spots…looking for stability. I tried to talk him into standing one with a heart shape up on end…but it wasn’t happening today. We left it in the stack though and built on it with a few smaller pebbles.

As we left our tower of rocks, the sun peeked out, illuminating the water. Brilliant layers of turquoise were framed by the white froth of the waves below and the dark of the clouds above.

Light and shadow…and a bit of balance, somehow the beach is always a metaphor for life and its challenges. Fresh air, exercise, and my camera–the trifecta that keep me positive and ready for whatever curveballs life throws.

SOLC Day 14: Finding a Poem

My face-to-face meeting with directors of California Writing Project sites all over the state became a Zoom meeting in light of the Corona virus pandemic. I was not looking forward to hours in front of my computer screen, I knew I would miss all the informal opportunities for conversation and camaraderie. But I was wrong. Today’s meeting was energizing and comforting and brought much-needed connection and shared experiences with others who can relate in a world that is suddenly so filled with uncertainty.

Our rich conversations had me jotting down phrases, words I couldn’t forget. And during my beach walk this afternoon, they started to become a poem of sorts. So here’s the early draft…not quite done, found in the words of my colleagues.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE

Just Wait

 

In a roiling cauldron of virus brew

we swim

blindly dodging infection

unwilling to get out

sure if we can’t see it, it’s not there

 

The pandemic spreads

morphing from fear of illness

into a pandemic of disappointment:

canceled events, weekend plans, the coveted spring break

we resist–just this once, I’ll be okay

wash your hands, pump the hand sanitizer

 

It’s time for each of us to listen loudly

to hear voices of those at risk

each of us is a single brick, interlocking, interconnected

whether we want to be or not

 

Distance physically

but not emotionally

wash your hands, cough into your elbow

cancel your plans and check on your neighbor

find ways to inject an inoculation of connection

without passing the virus

 

Write more, read more

Facetime with Grandma, phone call to Dad

and wait…

®Douillard

 

(And an image from this afternoon’s trip to the grocery store. Empty shelves are so unexpected!)

SOLC Day 13: In the Upside Down

I could feel this day coming, but there’s still no real preparing for it. Life and all the routines that keep it steady and grounded have been disrupted.

I knew when I heard from my colleague this morning that Los Angeles Unified School District would close their schools beginning on Monday that I would get a similar message before the day was out. And it was literally only minutes later that the email arrived.

Because of my Writing Project buy-outs, I don’t teach on Thursdays and Fridays so I was working from home when the message arrived. I texted my teaching partner to learn that the principal had called a meeting during recess. I couldn’t be there by that time, but as soon as my Zoom meeting finished, I headed over to school. I knew I wanted more information, I wanted to see our students, and I wanted to support my teaching partner in getting materials and information ready to send home by the end of the day.

And while we are prepared…as prepared as possible for an impossible situation, there is no roadmap for closing schools for a global pandemic. It feels like the whole world has flipped over and we’re now living in the upside down.

So…my students will be learning remotely for at least the next two weeks. They went home with their iPads today, knowing that they will find lessons and activities to do at home beginning on Monday morning. And importantly, they know that their teachers are on the other side of their apps…planning for learning and expecting to see evidence of learning coming back to them.

So will this move flatten the curve? Tamp down the spread of the virus? Keep us all safer and healthier? I hope so. And I know I will be ready for the world to flip back upright–knowing that our routines will likely continue to be disrupted even when our schools re-open.

Let’s keep washing our hands and keeping our spirits up, the kids out there need us!

SOLC Day 12: A Break in the Rain

I’m fighting some kind of upper respiratory infection and the laryngitis that always seems to come with it. Luckily, I was able to work from home today (obviously not a teaching day for me!) and not even have to deal with commuting on a rare rainy day in southern California.

So I laid low, kept quiet, and got quite a bit of work done as the rain pattered its soothing rhythm on the roof tiles.

So when the light changed in my house this afternoon and I realized the sky had brightened and there was a break in the rain, I checked the weather app and then headed out to the beach for a much needed walk.

Sometimes I feel like I am solar powered, energized by blue skies and sunshine and depleted by days that are pervasively gray. I could feel my energy levels rise as I headed from the parking lot down to the shore. It felt so good to get outside in the fresh air. In spite of the rain, it wasn’t cold out…the conditions were perfect for a walk.

I love that the beach always surprises me. There were people like me, in jackets and tennies walking along the shore. There were those in jackets and bare feet, walking in the water or throwing rocks into the surf. There were the teenagers in bikinis, seemingly not experiencing the chill of water in the 50’s and air temps in the 60’s. And always, always, there are the surfers. Most wear wetsuits year round…and nothing ever seems to keep them out of the water.

And today’s treat was the cormorant. I’m always on the lookout for seabirds–seagulls are usual, but it’s tough to see seabirds close enough to photograph. I saw from a distance that there was a bird sitting on the tide pool outcropping. I had my camera ready and crept as close as I could without drenching my shoes or scaring the bird. I click and click, watching as the bird gets ready to launch. And I catch that shot…just at lift off!

Sometimes a break in the rain is just what you need.