I am amazed that today is the last day of the Slice of Life Story Challenge for March 2021! In the beginning of March it felt like the month would never end. It was so much harder to write and blog each day then I remember it being last year. I’m hoping next year my life will be calmer and writing slices will just flow effortlessly. This challenge is such an amazing experience because you have an opportunity to read blogs from other writers that make you wonder, imagine, remember and feel emotions that always take me by surprise. I want to be a better writer as I read stories that are so beautifully crafted. I hope that everyone who participated feels satisfied and enriched from this experience. I know I do.
thirty years ago
searching for those memories
of raising children
diapering a wiggly body
that somehow slides away
the shirt over the head
pant legs one at a time
socks on those tiny sweet feet
shoving a kicking body
into a backward facing car seat
every childhood song
never getting the words right
running, climbing, sliding
pushing a swing
feels like hours
sore back and arms
lifting the weight of a toddler
up and down
up and down
needing that afternoon nap
as much a nineteen-month-old
thirty years ago
searching for those memories
feelings hard to remember
of a little warm body
resting against yours
sharing a story book
hearing words said for the first time
Today, right now
no longer the parent
yet feeling important
there is nothing like it
in this whole wide world
I have loved to write since I was a child. Before I entered Kindergarten, I remember pretending to have a notebook and scribbling in it to feel grown-up. My favorite part of elementary school was when I could escape into a story that I could tell myself, read or write.
I kept diaries and journals. I’d say hundreds of them. I would begin a new diary with earnest, writing every detail about my day until I’d eventually lose my zest and abruptly stop writing. A few months later, I’d start a new diary because it never occurred to me to not start a new one. Before I knew it, I had a stack of diaries, a few pages in each, that I couldn’t ever throw out.
I never thought I was a good writer in high school and college. I blamed myself for never mastering learning grammar and the fine art of punctuation. It wasn’t until I began to teach reading and writing to elementary age writers that I realized I should be kinder to myself.
I decided to apply for National Certification a few years into teaching. It was a tremendous amount of work, but I found writing the entries and explaining my teaching was my favorite part. After work, after dinner, after my children and husband were asleep, I’d head downstairs and sit at my computer and write for hours. I would start at the beginning each time and found I could always revise what I had written. As National Board teachers help one another, at one point I sent my entries to a teacher across the country. I was in shock when my pages returned to me with a gazillion of red marks. I began to love those red marks because her comments helped me to improve my writing in ways I would never have thought.
Like many educators, I spent five or six summers when I first started teaching, taking writing seminars at Teacher College in New York City. I loved every minute of those workshops as I got a chance to not only learn about how to teach writing, but to write myself. One time, my writing was chosen to present at the closing ceremony. It was a great honor and made me feel like a "real" writer.
A few summers ago I was accepted into a summer workshop through the Long Island Writing
Project and spent three weeks at Nassau Community College with two mentors and a dozen educators from college professors to Kindergarten teachers. It was the most exhilarating experience because much of the time was devoted to writing and sharing your writing. It was this experience that introduced me to Two Writing Teachers and the March Story Challenge.
As much as I love to write, I’m finding this March challenging. I am happy that I had promised myself that I would not pre-write entries, even if it would have made the writing easier on me, but to write about something that felt important each day of March. As slicers know, it’s hard. I never have anything I think I want to write about and then somehow as I sit to write, something ends up on the page that feels important. I promised myself I would not get obsessive and rewrite everything like I usually do. I wanted to let my writing go free and enjoy the experience.
As I sat down to write today I began to think about the people who write for a living. What if they are not in the mood or don’t feel creative? They still have to write. They must produce. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that would be.
Pots and pans
Setting the table
Counting knives, spoons
Seder Plates, Elijah's cup
Parsley and salt water
ice in water glasses
Simmering hot chicken soup
Matzah balls floating
Ready for more
Ready for dessert
Creating care packages
Kisses and hugs
Thirty-eight years ago
a young bride
guided by fairytales
of what life
Thirty-eight years ago
this young bride
a very young man
despite his lack
I have been working from home since last March when the pandemic hit all of us. In August my school district allowed those that had health concerns to ask to work from home the following September. Since I had just finished chemo and radiation for breast cancer, my doctor felt it would be wise to request to teach my fifth grade class from home. I did. They did. And I loved it. And today, I decided it’s time to head back to the classroom.
I love working from home even with all the technical difficulties. My co-teacher was live in the classroom while I taught virtually. I purchased a large screen, a special mouse and set up an office in the middle of my den by a picture window. I could teach in yoga pants and slippers and with headphones I never worried about my hair.
I do think there are many advantages to teaching virtually. I had my students' attention all the time. As soon as a head turned I’d be reminding my student to sit up straight. I could ask quick questions and have responses in the chat while waiting for other students to join us like today’s, “How many cups in a gallon?” I could quickly poll my class and put students in smaller meets to partner up during math or reading. I was able to show quick videos and examples on the google meet. It was working. It was great.
Unfortunately, my co-teacher was in the classroom dealing with the nitty gritty of teaching: the daily discipline. She settled arguments, dealt with the disrespect for the lunch aide and reminded students who took off their masks or were not standing six feet apart of the safety rules while I watched from one of my two computers the class dynamics. Yes, I felt guilty. Every day.
I have had my second vaccine. I will be careful and follow the guidelines. I hope I’m making a smart decision. I will miss getting up early to work out in my basement and having time to take a quick shower...often drying my hair during my student’s specials. I loved having lunch with my daughter and grandson when they were at my house. Most of all, I loved getting my grandson out of his crib on the days he slept over and I had a little extra time to let my daughter sleep late.
But, all good things come to end.
Day 24: Top 10 things I love about me, in a much needed time for self-love (Inspired by Slicer CJ Snyder)
10. I can bake a great blueberry pie.
9. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it.
8. I like to try new things and most of the time, I am not afraid to stink at them.
7. I try hard to acknowledge and remember the birthdays of people I care about.
6. I have a great voice in the shower and can belt out a song with gusto.
5. When I love a book, I get so into it that I live in it for weeks.
4. I’m a life-long learner: I want to keep learning and continue to grow as a human.
3. I’m dependable. My family and friends know I am always there for them.
2. I share my love of the ocean, rocks and sea glasses and influence others to find them irresistible too.
1. My husband and I created a family that gives more love than I could hope for.
I just left my kitchen where I placed two large pots on the stove. I had filled each pot with water, added fresh parsley, dill and basil. Then, I added the essential veggies: onion, carrots, leeks and celery to the pots. I sprinkled lots of salt and pepper as I dropped in the most important ingredient, a whole fresh, organic chicken. I plan to let the liquid simmer for hours, allowing the aroma of fresh cooked chicken soup simmering in the pots fill my lungs and my house. It’s the delicious smell of holidays, love, family and of my mom.
I dread the hard part that will come in a few hours, after the soup's ingredients and spices have cooked and melded as the clear water turns into a yellowish broth. I will let the broth cool and then gather my tools to remove the bones, skim the fat from top of the broth the skin created and cut up the veggies and chicken meat that will be returned in the quarts along with the broth.
Sadness overwhelms me the moment I place the chicken into the large pot as I long for the lost soul who no longer is scooting around its coop, and now being cooked. Maybe one day I’ll be that vegetarian that I often contemplate.
My dad used to share with us how his mother, Sophie from Poland, would buy live chickens. My father’s job was to kill the chicken and then he’d help his mother defeather the bird and get it ready for cooking. I can’t begin to imagine that scene, but remembering what Grandma Sophie had to do to prepare her soup makes me appreciate that I live in this century.
As a kid I looked forward to my mother’s cooking, especially during the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Passover. She’d outdo herself every time as she prepared a banquet of delicious sweet and sour brisket, carrot and potato tzimmes, gefilte fish, and all the traditional fixings. My favorite was always my mother’s chicken soup and her matzo balls. Even though she had perfected them over the years, my father would comment as if he was saying it for this first time, “Edythe, let’s see if this year's matzo balls are “floaters” or ''sinkers!” Over the years, following my mom’s recipes, I’ve gotten pretty good at preparing the broth and the balls, but nothing I prepare will ever be as tasty and delicious as my moms.
Unlike matzo balls, my mom’s chicken soup wasn’t just for the Jewish holidays, it was also medicine. My mother’s nickname was “Doctor Bubbe,” as she always somehow knew how to cure everything under the sun. Her chicken soup would ail a cold, the flu or even pregnancy nausea. It was magical. I’m not sure if this comfort food worked because it was cooked with love or the benefits of the chicken’s bone marrow, but it always did the trick.
In just a few hours I will be busy separating the bones from the broth and cutting up carrots, getting my chicken soup ready to be shared with my family and two little grandsons for this year’s Passover dinner.
SOLSC21: Fuel, worries and learning Slice inspired by Tammy L. Breitweiser: The Accidental Inspirationalist
WHAT FUELS ME:
My mother had lots of
pearls of wisdom
which she can sadly
share with me
“Your luck begins if,
to the right parents.”
As a child I often thought
how life would be different
if I hadn’t been born
to the parents who bore me
Would I have still been given
to grow up
to be educated
travel the world
speak my mind freely
to pursue passions?
I could have been born
like my great grandparents
in Europe during a time of war
How can I really, truly
begin to understand
being a refugee
the horrors of war
separated from family
I have been
to feel as if I could possibly
a life filled with insecurities
where one must be brave
where one must be strong
Saturday is my day off from teaching. It’s my time when I can take a mental break from the long week and focus on me, my husband and my family. I treasure the break from planning, executing, worrying and sitting in front of my computer.
But, today I decided to attend the Teachers College Reading and Writing Saturday Reunion, which was virtual on zoom. I have gone to this conference in prior years, trekked into the city, pushed my way through the crowds and sat among what felt like thousands as I tried to learn something new that I could bring back to my classroom and enrich my teaching with.
The fact that the conference was virtual, that I didn’t need to register, that it was free, that I could choose amongst a buffet of a gazillion classes, that conferences were often just 15 minutes long, helped my decision to attend easy. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was an amazing experience. I went to several conferences and even joined two (one on my phone and one on my computer) at one point when I realized the conference I had chosen was material I knew already but didn’t want to insult the presenter by leaving the conference early.
Later, after the conference, I began to think about how wonderful this experience was and that zoom made it so seamless to attend and get excited about teaching. It got me thinking that there is always a silver lining to everything that happens in life. Who knows how the changes we’ve gotten used to lately, like conferences going virtual, will change once life resumes normality, but I hope some changes remain.
I used to compare myself
To the energizer bunny
I had more get up and go
Then anyone my age
Anyone even younger
I used to take care of
Teach all day
Food shop, cook, clean
Help with homework
Fit in time to exercise
Read with each daughter
I used to be in
Gymnastics, dance, art
Flute, oboe, swim team
Saturday swim lessons
at the YMCA
I use to busy every night
Saturday nights with friends
Book Clubs, Movie Clubs, Tennis dates
ski trips, sun trips
I never thought I’d get old
I never thought I’d be so tired
All the time
I never thought I’d wake up
Each morning surprised at the
acks and pains all over my body
My father use to say,
“Take my advice,
never get old.”
Then he’d add,
“But, it beats the alternative.”
in a fifth grade
a boy turns to face a
and tells her she is ugly
has a big forehead
tears fill the eyes of this
as the others
and say nothing
words can hurt
like a knife
Today I was lucky that I woke up next to my husband, as I do every morning.
Today I was lucky that Henry slept over last night and as I slowly walked into his room this morning and saw him lying flat in his crib, I heard him bellow: “Bubba, bubba, bubba”
Today I was lucky because my daughter texted me in the morning that her doctor’s appointment went well.
Today I was lucky because my wifi held out all day long while I taught online.
Today I was lucky to have a premade salad sitting in my refrigerator waiting for me as I left myself five minutes to grab lunch before teaching math.
Today I was lucky that I found an old box of colorful puppets to entertain Henry and heard him belly laugh as I pretended that the bird puppet and fish puppet were scaring each other.
Today I was lucky that I remembered to blog and post early, so I could watch some girlie television with my daughter tonight!
Our daughter and son-in-law asked us to host the bris for their week old son, Zachary. Of course we’d do everything possible for our new grandson and his parents. So we hosted his Bris today in our home.
It was a lovely gathering of less than a dozen immediate family members and the doctor, who was to perform the ceremony and circumcision. Our son-in-law, Josh, set up a zoom for relatives and friends to join the ceremony from all over the world at ten o’clock our time.
I am not a very religious person as I search to try to find meaning in the traditions that seem barbaric to me. My husband and I had asked (more like begged) our gynecologist daughter if she could arrange to have the circumcision in the hospital and later arrange a baby naming service in a temple. I kept thinking that cutting the foreskin of a male sex organ should occur where there are safety measures in place. But, her husband and his mother, who are more observant than us, felt a traditional Bris at home was essential.
Rabbi Harold Kusher writes, “The message to the one who is circumcised: The covenant involves pain and sacrifice as well as honor and sanctity. And it is part of who you are, banded into your flesh at birth.” We are talking about an innocent eight day old infant who the truth is, would be considered Jewish simply because he was born to a Jewish mother. He didn’t need to have pain and sacrifice to gain honor!
As the doctor cut into poor little Zachary, he laid drunkenly on my country wooden kitchen table covered in a tablecloth that had been moved in front of the stone fireplace in our den, I cried. Zachary cried a touch, but the Manischewitz wine had calmed him down. Throughout the circumcision I cried. I cried for Zachary. I cried because I missed my father, who had passed five years ago, and would have seen the importance of this ceremony. Zachary’s Jewish middle name is Abraham, after my father. I had placed a picture of my dad on that kitchen table. I took hold of that picture and held it tight.
Suddenly, we hear the heavy wheels of the garbage truck bang against our asphalt driveway. Henry and I glance at each other. It’s our unspoken language. I quickly grab my 19-month-old grandson from the floor and pick him up. I place him against my hip as we run towards the kitchen side door. We can see the huge green truck from the little window on the top half of the wooden door. Henry starts to kick his legs and I let go of the guilt of not putting him in a warm coat for our quick rendezvous.
“The garbage truck is here!” I bellow as Henry smiles and says, “Ruck, ruck!” He sits in my arms in awe and stares intently as the tall, muscular sanitation worker tosses the garbage from the can into the back of the garbage truck as if he is lifting flowers. Henry loves to hear the noise as the back of the truck opens and gobbles up our garbage. We wave to our sanitation guy as he gets back in the cab and smiles and waves at Henry. Seconds later we stand by the stoop watching the huge truck back up, burping and bubbling all kinds of sounds as it rolls up the driveway and is gone.
I had no idea until Henry became obsessed with trucks how cool garbage trucks are. I purchased a toy garbage truck at Marshalls that Henry brings to the park by his parent’s apartment in New York City. I’m told that all the other kids want to play with Henry’s truck. The other kids want to push the buttons on the top and hear the noises the truck makes. They like to open the trunk in the back. Henry beams with pride when he holds his truck and never leaves for the park without it. Obviously I’ve been missing this excitement my whole life.
As luck would have it, one day Henry and I found a show on Netflix called, Trash Truck. Coincidently, the writer has a son named Henry who loves garbage trucks who he’d make up stories for at night about a friendly garbage truck. Thus, the plot of the show. Although Henry’s mom and dad are strict with how much television Henry watches, we’ve somehow watched every one of the 12 episodes a gazillion times. The scenes are so cleverly written and I am in-love with all the characters, especially Walter the bear. It’s as if the author was inside the mind of a little boy and found a way to capture childhood.
As soon as Henry and I hear the jingle at the beginning of Trash Truck we cuddle into one another on the couch and get ready to watch our favorite garbage truck come alive. Having a grandson is better than I ever expected!
Idea borrowed from Elizabeth Ellington who mentioned in her slice: I borrowed the idea of reflecting on a year of Covid lockdown in the form of lists from Mary at Write Between the Lines.
Top 5 Saving Graces of 2020
Top 5 Reading Experiences
Top 5 Family TV/Movie Experiences
Four days old
Teeny teeny tiny
Wrapped like a burrito
Adjusting to his world
Four days old
Sun streaming into the room
Blue eyes darting side to side
Four days old
Soft cries and mumblings
Rosy lips form a tiny 0
Letting his demands be known
Four days old
So calm and perfect
Falling in love
First time meeting my grandson
Today I jumped in my car after work and drove to the mall about a half hour away. My heart was racing and I felt like I was on some exotic adventure. I felt free. I felt alive. I realized I didn’t even remember the last time I had been in a store to shop.
As I was walking around the store pursuing the shelves, I noticed a mini backpack. It was blue and green and shaped like a dinosaur. I picked it up, put it down, and then came back to look at it again. I think because it was half the size of a kid backpack that I thought it’ll be perfect for my little nineteen-month-old grandson, Henry. His dad carries a backpack so I thought he’d feel important wearing it. Little did I know.
As soon as I took the mini backpack out of the bag, Henry wanted to put it on. He quickly asked me to close the plastic buckle in the front and place the little grey elephant stuffy inside the pocket. The funny part was he wouldn’t take it off. He insisted on wearing it as he played all night long and even through dinner. It was a little rough getting him in the sassy seat with a backpack attached to his back, but he insisted.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget his face and how proud he was walking around like a peacock with his dinosaur backpack on!
I drove to school to pick up a package during my lunch hour today. It felt strange to drive to school as I’m teaching virtually this year. I passed all my usual landmarks. Put the news on the radio that I would normally listen to for my ten minute drive. Everything felt the same. It was as if nothing had changed.
Instead of pulling into my parking space in the teacher’s lot on the side of the building, I decided to park in front. I was going to be walking up to the front door of the school to the security station by the front entrance. The package of NY State test materials I needed to teach with next week would be waiting for me there.
As I pulled up to the school my mind drifted to thinking about how much I love elementary schools. I realized I wanted to be a teacher when I fell in-love with our small town elementary school my girls attended. Suddenly I noticed that there was a car parked in front of me. It’s side door and trunk opened wide. I realized it was a mom waiting for her child. I smiled under my mask. The child and I passed one another as I walked towards the front door and she was excited. I quickly turned around when I heard someone yell, “Hey, Mrs. Kaplan! Don’t you recognize Taylor, your student?”
I was dumbfounded. How could I not recognize my own student? I teach her reading, writing and math every day through Google Meets. We talk every day. She’s an enthusiastic student who I enjoy teaching. We share stories and discuss how she wants to be a writer one day. But, I had no idea that I had just walked past Taylor. As I stopped and stared at her as I thought, “Oh yes, those are her expressive eyes.” and apologized for not noticing it was her. Everything is clearly very different this year.
( Inspired from Slicer Rebecca Atwood in 2020)
I see the picture of my newborn daughter I searched for today in her baby book
I see her cradled in my arms all wet and slippery
I see my sister standing by the door with a balloon in her hand
I see my parents huge grins as they hover over the hospital bed
I see thirty-five years ago as if it were yesterday
I hear my daughters voice on the phone after her baby was born
I hear the joy in her voice yesterday morning at six am
I hear the quiet sounds of her little baby boy Zachary at rest
I hear the hum of hospital noises as I focus on her words
I feel relieved that her baby is healthy and fine
I feel unsettled about the uncharted path my daughter will face
I feel love and warmth without even meeting this little one
I smell the flowers I will bring to her home
I smell the chicken soups cooking on the stove for the days ahead
I taste the cookie I have treated myself with on this most special day
She thought she had
She thought she did
Nursing flu like symptoms
Spending the day in bed
Drinking a ton of water
Cuddled under warm blankets
Comforting her chills
Head spinning round and round
Achy back and sore joints
She thought she had
She thought she did
She’d somehow commented
Using her ipad in bed when awake
On slices that made her smile
But, alas, she surprisingly notices on Monday morning
Sunday, Day 7 had been skipped
How did this happen?
She had been so careful
Methodical jotting “yes” for each completed day
On the tiny standing calendar by her desktop computer
She pondered the thought, “Should I cheat?”
She thought she had
She thought she did
But, she didn’t
She wondered who would really care?
Should she just pretend that she hadn’t forgotten?
NO! She decided she’d be honest
She’d accept her forgetfulness and neglect
And she’d move on
And write a new slice today
And every day this March
SOLSC21 Day 8: My cinquain for the day
Now giving birth
Simplicity is gone
Her life is altered forever
I am all by myself for the first two days of the work week. Early in the morning my husband goes off to work and I am alone in a quiet house to teach virtually. No one to distract me. Just me. I thought I’d be lonely. But, I’m not. I find peace in the quiet.
After the sun goes down, my husband Eddie arrives home. Tired from the long day of driving and working. We share the trials and tribulations of our day as we eat the dinner I’ve prepared. Usually an early night, little or no television, maybe read the news or play a few games on separate ipads and off to slumber.
Then the magic happens. Wednesday morning our middle daughter, Chelsey and her little boy, Henry, drive from their apartment in NYC to live with us for a few days. Due to COVID their diabetic nanny, who lives in our town, won’t venture any longer to NYC. Our house comes alive as we laugh, watch and love 19 month old Henry exploring the world around him.
It’s after Henry goes to sleep in his crib that I begin to feel like a teenager again. Chelsey and I get in our pajamas, boil water for tea, and each lounge on a sofa to watch television. We stay with one series until the end and get caught up in the character’s lives. It’s just us so we watch the shows about girlfriends and romance. I love this time with my daughter and pretend it will never end.
Sea glass, found on beaches, is naturally worn and smooth by tide and time,. As a mother & teacher, reader & life-long learner, and of course, sea glass collector, I aspire to use writing to help me understand myself and the world around me.