Twin Peaks, Two Trees

IMG_0017We watch the fog come in and take over what was a sunny, windy day.  We had a short trip downstairs to the garden to let Wampus outside and Mom filled the bird feeder.  I pulled the new prairie grass sprouting around the roses, grass offspring which I had pulled out laboriously at the end of summer to save the asphyxiated rose bushes.

Mom was my sous chef as we created fresh tropical fruit salsa for the marinated mahi-mahi to broil.  She chop chopped and lemon zested the quinoa lemon basil salad.  I got her to sit down as I finished putting the meal together.

So the best thing to do after an elegant but simple meal like that, since the sky was darkening, was pull out the chocolate and dessert wine poured in tiny glasses and the Scrabble letters out of the box to play “Take Five” on the kitchen table.  Laughing, she beat me the second round so we were square.

And then it seemed good to coax Wampus to sit between us on the couch while we read.  I went into a time warp trying to grasp quantum computing and the physicist’s ideas of many worlds in The New Yorker.

It was a good day, from the cup of coffee this morning, through the trip to the grocery store, the garden and a quiet afternoon.

I am here so I can be with my mother, even though the fog is coming in and taking over the sunny day.

 

Watching the Sun Go Down in SF from Twin Peaks

IMG_0002When I arrived, and packed my bags up the front stairs, Mom had homemade chicken soup ready for dinner.  We supped and then moved to the living room windows and swivel chairs, with champagne and dark chocolate, to watch the gold light on the windows over in the east bay and the light play over the tops of the buildings down Market Street.

We told stories and talked and talked and swiveled around to notice it was dark and the light show was going on the Bay Bridge.  More talk and polished off the bottle of Chandon.  And maybe tomorrow we’ll take the F Train down to the Embarcadero so that we can be up close to the light show on the bridge.  Maybe really close at DeLancey Street’s with garlic mashed potatoes.

And I was just thinking, looking over at my Mom, so cute in the chair across from me, how the sun is going down and she doesn’t have much time here.  And maybe i don’t either, who knows?  But it was precious to be together, laughing and talking, sometimes about serious things and sometimes memories or absolute trivia.

When the city was entirely dark and lit by electric lights we both yawned at the same time and the evening gave way to teeth brushing and getting tucked in.

Beyond Accuracy

I’ve spent the evening, after falling asleep on the couch with the cat on my belly watching the sun set through the picture window, reading, not writing.  It is a pleasure and exercise to work through a chapter of Good Prose, The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd.  This evening’s workout was the chapter titled, “Beyond Accuracy.”

The chapter concludes with this assertion, or is it a call?  It is my life challenge.

One can only say it is possible that writers live most fully when their work moves beyond performance, beyond entertainment or information, beyond pleasing audience and editor, when it does all that and yet represents their most important beliefs.  [p 104]

I underlined the last six words.  And took a break to cogitate, got side-tracked reading Anne Lamott’s post about being on Match.com for a year.  Funny and true, as she usually is.  That made me think how I’ve wanted to rewrite my profile on SeniorPeopleMeet.com which I did.  More concise, trying to represent myself and hopes without being grandiose.

While I was on the dating site there were was a flurry of chat online and a message from a friend I dated awhile back.  Suddenly, I realized the evening was gone and I hadn’t blogged.

What’s the Latin that Don Murray likes to quote, meaning “Never a day without a line?”  I feel that tug to make sure I don’t slip back to only writing when it is pressed out of me, or when I feel the leisure.  I want to keep building the stamina and the capacity to think on the keyboard.  To notice more.

So, I really think portraying oneself on a dating site is “beyond accuracy.”  Here’s what I wrote, tonight:

A little about me...

You are looking for what? For whom? If you’re reading my profile my guess is that you are out of my “dating age” by ten years. If you are also an alienated war baby like myself, I’m suspicious about why you aren’t out with women 10 years your junior?

Seriously, this online dating game is crazy. I just have a hope that I could meet someone to be happy with, who would like me.

Certainly my work as an interventionist and educator doesn’t put me in contact with eligible men.

About the one I’m looking for…

I think most people know pretty quickly whether they really like someone or not. I mean, your actions, your first impressions, those fateful words on a first date…

Chemistry, a bit of excitement, tension…and not having to Act Interested.

I like people who are authentic, unaffected….and not completely self-centered. I have a cat who fills that role nicely.

With the current defiance of aging, it seems everyone cares madly about physical fitness. I work in my garden, walk and dance salsa. I have a road bike and want somebody to ride with if it is coming out of the garage. Exercise is good, but I don’t want it to be my religion.

I’d just like to add…

Family time matters to me and I also know how to recharge in solitude.
I tend more to the arts and literature, and while I love movies, I don’t have a TV. I can be easily entertained.
I will go to sports events, but mix up the players’ names. Like everyone, love the Giants.

Yo-Yo Ma is my rock star. There a window of Baroque chamber music that sends me…I don’t know why.

Maybe my all time favorite book is Les Miserables in the unabridged 5 novel form. I also read young adult fiction when it is pithy and well-crafted, like The Fault in Our Stars. Now reading Good Prose, the art of nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. I blog and am interested in writing.

I think a great relationship is the only thing I’d settle for at this point in life. What would make it great would be to be ordinary, kind and share the days’ ups and downs. To keep in touch, even if apart.

I’d like a man who could be on my mind but not drive me crazy.

Please write me a message. Tell me a teensy bit about who you are and maybe the conversation will continue…We can do coffee.

Photo on 2013-01-30 at 19.43 #2And the Good Prose challenge will be waiting for me in the morning…

When You Wake Up Dreaming About Teaching

When you wake up dreaming about teaching, going through the lesson again and again — each time more carefully — when you dream about the feedback you’re asking students to give, you know you’re trying to sleep late.

This morning I dreamed I had taught my lesson on multiple ways to determine the main idea of a passage and was asking my students, shadows hovering in the background of the thinking spotlight of my dream, for feedback on 1) clear instruction tied to the goal, 2) time to practice the skill, 3) opportunity for discussion with partners or team, and 4) time to self rate the effort and reflect on the learning.

Blink.  “I’m dreaming about teaching,” I mumble, pushing myself to awaken by sliding feet to the floor, my lesson feedback shredding to mental pieces as I pull up the cell shades one by one.  It’s Saturday.  The backyard is still under a bit of fog and there’s a hummingbird tasting at the tall, blue spires of the Pride of Maderia.

I am dreaming of improving, perfecting my teaching.  “I must be an addict,” I think to myself as I get the French press ready to make Columbian coffee.  I mean addicted to teaching and learning here, although I could go into my coffee habit.

When you wake up dreaming about teaching, when you dream about teaching to stay asleep you know you’re hooked.  Teaching is an art not easily unravelled.  It is a game of wit and nerve.  And, no matter how great some moments of teaching go, there are always places and ways to improve.

Well there you have it.  Teaching is a whole lot like writing.  Getting ideas, evaluating plans, making sketches to organize.  Trying out things, mixing the old with new.  Doing a long, hard discovery draft, which is like a teaching inquiry.  And revising.  Looking for the central idea.  Revising while you write, revising later when you feel you won’t quit or kill it, revising after you revise.  Stepping back.  Waking up dreaming about it. Once in awhile romantically comparing it to wine tasting.  Sometimes thinking you need therapy.

And finally going live.  Publishing.  “Hi kids.  Come on in, get your materials, and let’s get started….Yesterday I showed you two ways to find the main idea, which is really classifying information.  Today I’m going to show you two more ways to reach the same goal.  Are you ready?”

Sorting

This morning I cleaned out two personal double file cabinets, four desk drawers, six dresser drawers, six baskets in the closet and man oh man, do I feel Organized now.

What I noticed amid the collection of art brushes unused for some time now, office supplies, end runs of stationery, rubber stamps, and obsolete files dating back to a dial up account with AT&T, and the service manual for a refrigerator that died two years ago, was that I have files with writing tucked here and there.

It all began this morning with a search for one particular document, a binder I never found, however it ended with a satisfying sense of Order.  The classifying kind of cleaning makes me feel more mental space, like clearing a room for a dance.

I didn’t interrupt my archeological sort to read any of my old writing, but I will delve into it, now that I’m aware.  I wonder if it will be disappointing or interesting?  Simply layers of sediment or prompt new work, perhaps.  It awaits me.  My past, some bits of it recorded.  Some thoughts and attempts.IMG_0005

Who I Am

Guest blogging for Rick Hess, NCTM, Sarah Brown Wessling concludes, “Parker Palmer says that we ‘teach who we are’ and I suppose that means I teach my passionate, geeked out, vulnerable, imperfect, tenacious self who can’t wait to see 95 versions of those qualities in the faces I meet each day.”

What a great frame:  We teach who we are.  I suppose that means I teach my _____________ ____________________________________who _______________________________________.

I teach my creative, multi-modal, persistent, insecure, sometimes demanding self who can’t wait to see 75 versions of those qualities in the faces I meet each day.

Focus

RhiaFrom the moment I heard of purple sand at Pfieffer Beach, Big Sur CA,  I wanted to go.  Labor Day I bought a convertible and my granddaughter and I took a weekend road trip. 

What is even more grand than the places where the tide washes the sand with streaks of purple, is the triad of massive stones, sculpted on the perimeter of the beach.

When we walked onto the sand, I remember a few comments likes “Wow” but immediately Rhia was off exploring and I was following my camera eye.  We found each other maybe an hour, two hours later?  With the wind, waves and breathless beauty who can tell time.

To take in the grand, big things and to admire the infinitesimal bits of wonder was our joy, our sole purpose for being.

Writing has that beach feature.  I can zoom in on a tiny glimpse of a profile in the shadow of the evening and the one sound I heard, or vault around the meaning of life and universal themes that turn into essays, memoirs.

Writing: Reckless Proposals

The F Train

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Dolores Romaine Brown, aka Mom, pours over the skinny edition of the news, comfy in her full-length forest green robe.  Mom reads critically and remembers.

Much wordless history.  Yet the present is simple as scraping butter over toast, having another half-cup coffee.  The arc of houses on Twin Peaks is cleanly sculpted in pastel.  This season is sunlit relief that her kidney transplant worked and that she can take the stairs.

I could write Big D accolades.  Her perseverance, liberal dealings, midlife success and exemplary retirement.  Bon vivant.  But I’ll say her wrinkled face, raised eyebrows and ready laughter are dear to me.

After the leisurely breakfast, we take the F Train down to the Embarcadero with bags of tourists.  When we walk into the Slanted Door, the maître d’ eyebrows raise as we demure about lack of reservations.  However, we are seated soon, relishing a cava and jicama/grapefruit salad.

The satiated ride back into setting sun is comfy bumping and musing silence.  Until a fella with a big bag gets on midtown and asks the Big D how old she is.  She turns into Maggie Smith primly remonstrating his impolite question.  I’m trying not to laugh. From the seat across the aisle, I name my birth year, telling him to do the math.  He counters by asking me to marry him.  Lonnngg silence staring ahead.  He gets off at the next stop.

The F Train takes us to the Castro where we catch the 37 back up Twin Peaks.  Why does that awkward moment stick?

Life goes on, as Eliot says, on its “metalled ways” but there is something desperate in us to make contact, to commune, even to feel the loneliness of others.  It’s the F Train, with the ribald driver making all the tourists laugh.  It’s the mad rush of holiday people going downtown.  It’s lunch with my 84 year old mom. And later, it’s just the image of late sun in the windshield, glancing off the passersby.

That is perhaps one of the reasons I write.  To make reckless proposals I don’t have to keep.

Just about time

IMG_0008For me, spring break means some days at home with my cat, Mickey. Some days at home.

I live alone with this cow kitty who thinks he owns the hood.  He has just come in from the yard in time for blogging, a late night habit of mine.  He is making biscuits on the black and white blanket beside me.  He says “yeow” when I pet him.

I know people get silly about their pets sometimes, but I do love my cat.  He has attitude and dignity, and he is bonded with me.  Mickey is good company, as long as I keep the crunchies in the bowl that says “feed me” at the bottom.

Here’s to cats and pets.  And a break during spring.

Letter of Intent

CookieIn the ed world it’s that time of year, when talented new teachers are getting “pink slips” and tenured and veteran teachers are asked to state their intent.  Will you retire or return?  If not to the same assignment, what is your second choice?

My choice is to continue this crazy game of interventionist, a position which is “under review” by the admin.  My second choice was to support new teachers working as a teacher on special assignment (TOSA).  My principal nixed that and asked me to fill out a new letter of intent.

This is hard, because returning to one of the regular, self-contained classrooms is not my intent.  Maybe it is time to update the resume.  Or wait, wondering what my next year’s future will be.

Hard to give so much and stay engaged if someone in admin is toying with taking it away.  So a more focused, immediate future:  Try to stay focused on what the students need and how I am delivering it.  Find some humor.

And don’t look to fortune cookies for your answers.  🙂

Laura & Lorena: Inspiring Teachers to Write