Eat, Rest, Love

Those are the instructions on the front of one retirement card from my younger daughter.  I’m resting my feet on my  carry on bag in the SFO airport after eating a spinach salad with goat cheese and strawberries.

I arrived a bit early.  But everything else to do was done at home and I was so wired up.  Now I’m passing the time before we board for Frankfurt, then on to Lyon.

This blog seems a good place to post some photos and I can share the short link with my peeps so they can enjoy my retirement celebration vicariously.

Too bad I don’t have any cool photos — yet.


Around the corner of the building at SJSU this morning comes a pair of legs with two strong hands clasped around a stack of boxes. It looks like a homemade robot as it lurches to a halt round the turn.  A large backpack, a coffee and a bag dangle from arms and a hand. Boxes of medium and small-size fit loosely together, and are piled up above the face.  But I recognize the hair.  Trigger happy, I’m unzipping my camera case and pulling for the lens cap immediately,

But, no, an assistant rushes over to help the box lady.

“Don’t help her!” I urge, getting closer and focusing.  “Hey, step back!”

But he’s a good man who ignores me completely and helps Ms. J. by taking half the load.  There’s her smiling face, so, as they head upstairs, I walk along side, admitting my human depravity.  “Hey, that was a portrait!  It was teacher. Yes, I’m bad. I cared more for an image in that moment, than for helping a fellow human being.”

She shrugs and takes the stairs to ready for Power & Poetry, her class at SJAWP Writing Workshop.

I’m still seeing her arrival.  Boxes.  A pile almost as tall as she is.  Prep for today’s discovery and deep thinking for her class.  It’s a portrait in my mind.

July 6 Sketch

Since I spent the better part of my day cleaning and organizing in my garage, this is what I drew with the sepia pen when I finally sat down to sketch.  It doesn’t look exactly like this, but it feels like this.

July 6 sketch

Boxes of books and curriculum.  Boxes and boxes.  Art supplies.  Creative camp unpacked.  With a new carton looming front stage left.

July 5 sketch

message on my mind cartoon

Walking 4.2 miles with my girlfriend in Westgate Shopping Center one night  was exercise with the benefit of air conditioning and fun talk.  K.’s one of those friends Elbow refers to — “that’s why it’s so magical when you have a friend who actually understands much of what you are trying to say.  It makes you want to say things you never thought you had in you.” [pg 122] We get each other.  So, we were laughing and talking, in our typical style with five or six open incomplete threads, sentences that would be picked up after other anecdotes or comments.

For me, this walk was an art tour of the high-end handbags in various name brand stores, partly because K, had just attended a graduation where her ex was invited.  For some reason, her way of making him “eat his heart out” was for her to be dressed super fashionably with all the right labels.  I surmised he’d always required that kind of class of her.  Now K. was my docent.

My theme was trying to articulate why one purse got my attention or some repelled me.  We were in yet another a store, stopping in agreement that the best handbag was an unusually textured Ives St. Laurent.  It was softly illumined on its own shelf high on the wall.  K. wanted to know the price, so an obliging saleswoman opened it and found a card.

My friend realized that, in my inattentiveness, I hadn’t gotten it.  To help it register, she said “nine grand” in an aside with teeth in her words.  Just to let me know. Which was maybe information for her, but I went on mute.  Underwater, into the fog.  There was something to say I couldn’t articulate.  I could do the math:  ten times less expensive would still be $900.  Who would spend that on a purse?  And ten times less again would put it down to $90, a lot for one at Marshalls.  

So, I will try to finish the cartoon of the incident in more sketches this month.

Browsing Blogs

I enjoyed sampling from among the hundreds of posts and reading what others wrote during the SOL2018, the March Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers (link) , I enjoyed writing responses to a half dozen or so blogs each evening, sometimes as much or more than I enjoyed writing mine.  This was a new experience in the five (six?) years I have participated in SOL.

I appreciated the range of people who teache — the variety in what they were doing, background, age and experience.  Some were retired, some working in school leadership, and some starting their careers.  They offered daily poems, letters, memoir bits, snapshots, anecdotes and occasional rants.  They wrote of families, books, moments with students, of weather, weariness, and realizations.

Some were timid new participants who wrote with hesitation and some were seasoned, adept writers.  There were posts on the level of I-got-to-the-desk and that’s all I have left to give, but I wrote and then there were inspired, artful pieces of writing.

Maybe what I enjoyed most was tuning in to the voice of each.  Unique.

It was also nice to get comments on my writing, empathetic and sympathetic words that let me know I’d been read and heard.  I hope that is how people felt who read the comments I wrote on their blogs.

Having an audience for writing is at once daunting but also energizing.  This year being a reader and listener has been delightful for me.



The days are warming up in San Jose, CA and the dirt is producing voluminous quantities of grass, weeds, suckers and shoots. Also pushing out of the tended ground in my backyard are flower seeds.

This is a new thing to give over more of the gardening energy to growing annuals and perennials.  On beyond tomatoes.  Of course, I have two heritage tomatoes, which are fuzzy, cute looking little things like puppies right now, sitting demurely in the bottom of their big metal cages.  Like puppies, these varieties, a Mortgage Lifter and a Brandymaster Pink, will grow into enormous dogs, huge mutts dropping tomatoes everywhere.

But flowers.  Cultivated.  One sign of order and art in my house is when I make a flower arrangement.  The care it shows and the life it brings to a space, whether the kitchen table, the dining or the living room, is a nice touch.  So, this year, since I have the gray water system, I thought I’d try varieties of cut flowers, most of which are not so drought tolerant.

To think it all comes from the dirt.  And the temperature.  When the dirt is still cool, the lemon cucumber seeds will not sprout. But the red chard is growing by inches daily.  With the temperatures expected to be in the low 80’s for the rest of this week, I can expect more seedlings to appear, along with the usual weeds and unwanted grass.

Some people don’t dig the dirt.  But I find it very therapeutic to tend garden spaces and watch.  Yes, the best part of gardening may not be the hand to hand combat with the clumps of grass that got started during winter rains.  The best part may be sitting here at my writing desk, tipping my chin up a bit to peer over the windowsill to see the well manicured round, raised bed that is the main garden in my backyard.


Writing really wants us to tell the truth.  So, on the surface I don’t have anything to write about.  But after the words started coming and the blah blah blah of recent details were out, I hit the nerve.

And now I think that my Monday weariness makes more sense.  There’s another procedure, a caudal injection, for my mom’s excruciating hip pain scheduled for Wednesday.  So she has one more full day to cope.

I find it so wearing.  Not her, but hearing her breathing and gasps under her breath and watching everything be so laborious for her.  So, I’m not just tired from gardening on Sunday after being sick, and having a very full Monday, I’m just worn out in my nerves.  I cannot find a way to tune out what is happening.  And I can’t believe how many months we’ve been going through this.

So, I hope that something —- helps mom.  I really, really hope so. I know how it might sound.  You?  You’re tired of the pain?  What about her?  She’s the one who’s experiencing it.

I know that.  And I’m really weary of watching her suffer.


Miss My Cat

Slowly the reminders fade.  The sound of the kitchen mats sliding to place my yoga mat on them, while the tea steeps.  I remember a furry friend who loved to stay on the mat while I toed it over to the middle of the floor.  And, who, loving routines, became very adept at knowing where on the yoga mat he could lie under curled paws and when he’d need to move.

I still get a tweaky feeling as I notice I’m watching for the black and white fur as my car approaches the driveway, not only looking out for him, but expecting my welcome.  My house front wears a different expression now.

I thought I’d post a couple photos, only a few of the collection, and write my ode or to whatever memory.

My backyard was mainly concrete and weeds when I moved in.  I repurposed the extra driveway by having it jack-hammered and using the blocks to build a round, raised garden.  The only thing to do with the clay packed dirt was ground cover, to mulch it with “gorilla hair” as they call shredded redwood bark.  It fit because there’s a redwood tree.  (I know, who would plant one downtown in a city?) And it was affordable.  And Mickey found it wonderful bedding.

In several seasons the gorilla hair was breaking down and some tough ornamental grass seed was coming up in places.  I let it grow in clumps because it made Mickey a lair.

Every gardening move was supervised by this watchful cat.  Even when I put a gravel pathway in the front, it had to be tested.


Now my front porch is just a porch, with chairs, a swing and some plants.  It used to be a look out.


I realize writing this that, even when I was viewing the house, Mickey was in every photo, because he followed me around monitoring what I was doing on his turf.  And I realize that as I went through all the repairs and renovations, some of which I hired out and some I did myself, I always had my feline supervisor.

He was good company.

Why do we think less of a graphic novel?

Why did we have to dignify comics with the term “graphic novels?” And even picture books are not as valued as chapter books, it seems. What is this idea about academics being superior to and excluding art?

As far as writing goes, drawing is writing, and it preceded written literature.

In a world where most news is being presented live on site or by a video, wouldn’t school teachers do well to ensure their students are visually literate and can produce visual content?

The expressive ability of young students is sometimes stifled by insisting on correct sentences in paragraphs rather than using drawing with writing.

The social justice power in many current graphic novels for YA is going to be overlooked if every middle and high school English section is going to read the same text only literature.

I’m so grateful for teachers who are exploring graphic novelists.

But I’m noticing that some people still think it’s second class reading material.

Writing Club

I brought home a satchel full of writing journals from the “Finding My Voice” club, journals with each writer’s project, somewhat revised.  My task is to keep their syntax as EL students, and type their stories in a nice format with spelling corrected so that I can make an anthology, copied for each of them.  Then, Wednesday we’ll have a read around and comment on each others writing, with a reception.  Nice treats, of course.

We had little time, but I know they’re proud of what they did. They owned those topics that chose them.  Today we brainstormed titles in partnerships and then went round the table.  It was fun.  Some writers are using pseudonyms.

The projects include:

Brother’s Final Cup  (about the competitiveness between author and younger brother)

A Bedtime Story (the night mother told son her immigration experience)

My First Friend (being lonely and excluded until….)

Losing Grandpa  (honoring him)

Elena, My Role Model (death of beloved aunt)

Love That Tom (ode to his dog based on Love the Dog)

Oreo Love (hamster death)

And two more are coming in tomorrow, just under the wire.  My phone bedtime alarm is already reminding me to wind down.  I’ll just say that I’m a big fan of student choice in projects, and they take time.

Writing takes time to develop.  And learning to write, Peter Elbow so elegantly explains, is “a slow, underground process.”





Laura & Lorena: Inspiring Teachers to Write