Friday, March 6, 2015

A Singular Point of View

“I need someone to go
to the store for me.
I can’t go outside.
I need to say inside,”
she sighed with resignation.

“Hold on to me, dear.
I’m afraid I will fall.
This stuff is so slippery,”
she quivered hesitantly.

“Another day of more gray and white! 
I’m so sick of this damn snow!
Will winter
ever end?”
she lamented.

“Look at them, outside
making that igloo,” she observed.
“I will make them some hot chocolate
to help them warm up
when they come inside.”

“You can go down the hill
with me, honey,”
she coaxed. 
“I will hold you. 
It’s fun!”

“There is nothing more romantic
than a walk in the snow.
It is so silent and you are here,”
she whispered, as they
walked glove in glove.

“I’m not worried about
a little bit of snow,”
she retorted. 
“I’ve been driving a whole three months.
Don’t worry, Dad.”

“It worked!  Wearing my pajamas
inside out worked! 
We have a snow day!” she exclaimed, 
jumping quickly out of bed
to race for her snow gear.

“Mommy, it’s snowing.
Santa can come on his sleigh!”
She declared
with anticipation
and wonder.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Think Time and Long Car Rides


I am a good long distance driver.   I enjoy driving by myself for long trips.  My 10-hour journeys from Rochester to Cincinnati (my grown-up home to my growing-up home) are ones that I have relished.  Even when my children where very young, putting them in the car to travel to grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins was something I did with joy.  If I start out on the trip with an unresolved problem, by the time I get done with that long ride, the problem is resolved or my mind has shifted in my approach to the problem so that it no longer seems insurmountable.  Often I have a path toward a solution.  That space of uninterrupted time does this for me.   Unless it is too much of a good thing.
Recently I have found myself traveling back and forth from Rochester to Buffalo several times a week for a position I took with a charter school where I provide curriculum support and direction. I love the work.  And most of the time I like the drive.  The trip is one hour and 15 minutes on a good day (when I don’t stop for coffee) and with the winter as it has been, on a bad day I might be in the car for 2 ½ to 3 hours.  One way.  Because of this, my uninterrupted car time has been ample.  At times to the point of abundantly overflowing.   At times, actually, to the point of dreadfully overflowing.
Yesterday, I parted Rochester in the morning, with a beautiful sunrise in my rearview mirror as I headed to Buffalo full of anticipation for the day before me.  I arrived, full of energy, having reflected and planned in the car for my upcoming day, one hour and thirty minutes after I left my house in Rochester—I stopped for coffee.  What was dry, blue and sunny one way was the total opposite by 4:45 when I left on the return trek.  Snow started mid-morning, changing to sleet, snow and ice.  My one-hour trip became a three hour white-knuckled, steering wheel clenching nightmare. Countless cars had spun off the road.  Ice formed on my windshield, topped with muddy slush sprayed  by passing cars and trucks.  My thought time became one of angst due to road conditions and frustration because of the amount of time I spent in the car on a night that was slated to be a somewhat relaxing evening.  
Yes, I am a good long distance driver.  And much of the time I look forward to long road trips with nothing to fill the time but my thoughts and music from my car radio.  On those days, that expanse of time allows me to shape my thinking…almost effortlessly.  And then there is that short (by my long-distance driving standards) trip to Buffalo.  On good days, the time is delightful—even rejuvinating.  And then there are the bad days (and quite honestly this winter there have been many, many bad days).  During those times, time to gather my wits and think about what is happening and what might need to happen (or what I want to happen) evades me.   I just grip onto the week, bear with the drive and finally get there.  
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  I cannot wait till spring!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Back Story

Every good story will most likely have a back story—the story untold that is often the real story…the real message.  My story about my mom and the Quiet Room is one such story.  And I didn’t even know that there was a back story till I read Dana Murphy’s beautiful poetic writing called Moments, about catching those unexpected moments, those simple and often unobserved moments in the life of her daughter and mother.  I read her piece yesterday morning, hours after I wrote and published my piece.  I read her piece and cried a puddle of tears.  Crying in gratitude, actually.  You see, in January, days after I took my mom to the spa and returned to my life in Rochester, I almost lost my mom.  I thought my moments with her were to be no more.

The purpose for my trip to Cincinnati, besides giving my mom a spa day with me for her Christmas present, was to look at independent living residences with her so that she could begin to think about when and how to move into the next phase of her life.  Not so sure on her feet anymore, and suffering from many of the ailments that come with growing older, my mom was beginning to be open, with some trepidation, to moving to a residence that could provide her support.  Two days we looked at a variety of locations.  My sister, mom and I went from residence to residence comparing, discussing and thinking about a new chapter for my mom and for our family.

I returned to my home in Rochester in early January and talked to mom two days in a row about the possibilities and she ultimately decided that she wanted to sell her home before we made the decision.  So the move was on hold.  That was a Tuesday morning. 

On Saturday, in the late morning, I was co-facilitating a workshop and got a frantic text from first my brother-in-law and then another from my youngest sister, saying that my mom had fallen earlier in the week in the shower and she was discovered in her bathroom, probably four days after her fall.   Life stopped for me for a few minutes that afternoon.   Was she alive?  How hurt was she?  I thought my final moments with my mom were possibly over.  And I knew, at that poignant moment, that I was not ready for that reality.  I was 500 miles away, with no reliable information in that emergency hour, in a panic and unconsolably sad.  So I waited.  And I prayed.  And I hoped.  And I found myself cherishing those last chattering Quiet Room moments with her.  In mourning, hopeful silence.

Mom recovered.  She did not break any bones, but was in shock and trauma from laying on the shower floor.  In many ways the stars were aligned for supporting Mom through that terrible accident.  She was next to a heat register so she wasn’t cold.  Her positioning somehow kept her safer.  She had access to a bit of water.  She lived.

Fast forward to what is now about six weeks.  Intensive care, hospital stay, rehab, and moving to one of the independent/assisted living residences my sister and I looked at with mom during my December/January visit.  She is healthy and recovered.  And yesterday she celebrated her 83rd birthday.

Moments do count.  Embrace them.  Notice them.  Love them.  And love the one in the moment.  You never know when the moments disappear.  I am fortunate.  Mom and I have continued moments to share.  I will relish them with gratitude.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Quiet Room

My mom getting a kiss from me 
with two friends (who love to talk to her) 
at my daughter's wedding last May.

My mom is the kind of woman who loves a good conversation.  She has always made others comfortable and has made acquaintances easily.  People are attracted to her.  Conversation, is connection and people easily connect to my mom.

Mary was 82 and had never been to a spa before last Christmas.  Christmas approaching, I wracked my brain as to what to give a woman whose needs are met and whose wants are simple.   With what I thought was a huge risk, I put together a spa package for me and my mom as her gift.  Mixed with wine and a description of her day, the gift was given.  She would either love it or hate it.  To my delight, the gift was welcomed with delight, so on New Year’s Eve we went to the spa where my mom had a facial and a manicure and I had a massage.

We walked into the spa and changed into our robes and were led to the Quiet Room to await our treatments.  As we sat, mom loudly said to me, “What are we supposed to do in here.”

We happened to be alone at the time so I softly said, “Mom, this is the Quiet Room.  You can relax.  You can read.  They have different teas and waters over on the table that you can have if you want.” 

Mom picked up a magazine and read it as others joined us in the Quiet Room.  “What are you having done here?” mom asked one of the strangers sitting in the Quiet Room.

She started a three way conversation, with soon everyone knowing that this was her first spa visit and all of the different treatments that they were having through the day.  There was discussion about the whats and whos of each treatment option.  Talk filled the Quiet Room.  After a while the manicurist came to bring mom to her first treatment and the room fell silent once again.  Since I was only having one treatment, I enjoyed the luxury of the silence. 

Sometime later my mom came back to the room.  Very excited about her nails, she showed me them and then began to show them to others in the room.  Mom asked me a question and I responded softly.  “Why are you speaking so quietly?  I can hardly hear you,” my mom queried.

“Because it is the Quiet Room,” I replied.

To my surprise, my mom said, “Quiet, schmiet.  I don’t like quiet.” 

In walked two women, just having finished treatments and awaiting their next.  “So, do you two have plans for New Year’s Eve?” my mom asked.

Both women, in their late 20’s began to talk to mom about their plans.  Soon joined in by others waiting in the Quiet Room, they began to talk about their plans, the spa and other things.  My mom, the center of the conversation, asking questions, and laughing heartily.  I sat, a bit incredulously, observing and thinking, “This is a Quiet Room.”

Soon my masseuse and her facial specialist came to take us to our treatments.  “Bye, Mary.  Have a great New Year’s,” was heard as she and I left the room to be pampered.

We finished our day at the spa and left for a dinner to top off our day of indulgence.  “So, mom, how did you like the spa?” I asked.

“I loved the manicure.  I don’t think I ever had one quite so nice,” she said. “And I liked the facial, but not as much.  You know, the woman who kept putting the creams on my face, wasn’t talking much.  But she did a bit.  One thing I didn’t like was the Quiet Room.  But that’s OK because people were talking anyway.”

Yes, mom, they were talking.  You were leading the conversation. 

Fast forward a couple of months with mom’s 83rd birthday quickly approaching.  “Mom, I am coming down to see you in April.  Can I give you a late birthday present and take you to the spa again?

“Ah, honey, that is so nice.  Let’s go just for a manicure, though.  I really don’t care to sit in the Quiet Room.”

My mom is the kind of woman who loves a good conversation.  She has always made others comfortable and has made acquaintances easily.  People are attracted to her.  Quiet is not.

Happy birthday, Mom.  Today is your birthday.  I can’t wait to celebrate it with you in a few weeks when I see you in April.  And yes, we will only go to have a manicure.  You do not need to wait in the Quiet Room.  And I happily look forward to much conversation.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.