Tag Archives: slicing

Prose Poem for the View

Slice of Life #28


The middle of the night view makes you feel like falling out the window…

out the three floor-to-ceiling windows

from Twin Peaks gazing down Market Street

to downtown SF and beyond the Bay Bridge

across the East Bay and Oakland shipping yards

pulled the miles to the dark hills behind.

That view is a blink of jeweled strings of lights

mostly monochromatic and moody

with an orange shimmer from a local street lamp

patterned lines of lamps and traffic crisscross

taking your eye to the Bay Bridge with traffic backed up

people driving around at 3:00 a.m.

Human lights build the scene.


The view at 8:00 a.m is a glaring palette that rocks you back on your heels…

blink, blink, blinding whites and shining greys

under a huge canvas of sky with the bay reflecting  back.

Now sunlight jumps into the three floor-to-ceiling windows

A bold shine skipping off tall rhododendron and camelias

various angles of roof and musical an array of vents and chimneys

slick surfaces offer up greys and watery tones

while rows of terra cotta house roofs take the scene

human life scaled back under solar glory

the lovely geometry of dwellings

outlined with wind-whipped shrubs and sparkling trees

sit easy and securely in the broad daylight.

Now the view down Market Street and the slope of the land

swoops your eye downtown.

The immense broad array of buildings and sky scrapers

make their own horizon against the SF Bay

From the Peaks up here the cluster seems

miniaturized by detail, but still commanding it its sweep,

like a  monochromatic sculpture done by some ancient civilization.

This is a view that never tires me no matter the light or season

I have watched reverse sunsets when those tall buildings turn pink

then glow tropical orange and tempered glass glints with fire.

I have looked for the same architecture

Mysteriously altered under blankets of fog before dawn.

I’ve taken endless photos from these very windows–

Studied the lay of the land

the space and distance planed by streets, roof tops, buildings

I’ve admired the bay with cloud scapes or panoramic clear blue

It is a simple composition with endless variety to which

I’ve sometimes offered spoken comment from the table

Or appreciated it aloud from the upholstered swivel chair.

This morning I’ve tried

to picture it only

with words.



Slice of Life # 25


Getting out for a walk on Twin Peaks this afternoon in the fabulously fresh air made it officially vacation.  Packing and cleaning the house did not count.  But now, D. and I are at “Cousin Gary’s,” her long time friend from SF.  We are staying in his home over Easter weekend and then heading up to Ashland.

The walk from Gary’s includes several flights of brick street steps and then a wooden staircase up to the old water tank site.

I love the homes perched up here on Twin Peaks. Many are elegant and graceful and the gardening is lovely.


Here’s a bit of the view from the Water Tank.  The Golden Gate Bridge is slightly to the left (Marin across the SF Bay) but the afternoon haze made it hard to see at this distance.

G. and I walked and chatted.  It was a rush of clean air and movement for me.  It felt really good to be out of doors and enjoy the scenery.


Sun rise, sun set…

Slice of Life #24


Another full day, the last before Spring Break.  I will feel like I’m really on vacation when I escort my mom to the car and we roll out the driveway, hopefully by noon.

I had early morning yard duty.  The kids playing basketball have become quite adroit.  There’s one short guy who is just fantastically fast.  He ducks and zooms in and takes the ball away from whoever has it (on the other team, of course.) I lobbied for the three basket balls to be added to the 4 tether balls allowed at before school recess.  I am proud of what good sports and what practiced players these fourth and fifth graders have become.

Then I met with my first reading group.  We are in the end of a unit and so reading a chapter book aka historical fiction novel. Nicely finished with a read aloud of the final chapter after some close reading in the previous one.  Students wrote a reflection on their reading since we’re wrapping up this level.  Four out of the five had started by letting me know they dislike reading.  We’ll see if there’s any change and I suspect there is.

Next group loved a book I thought was so so and did a quick reread and got a new book, but elected not to take it home over the week off.  I secretly let the kid who was outvoted take his home.  He needs more time with texts.

Yesterday I’d had a break so I put consonant cluster words, first grade words, into plastic eggs and hid them around the room.  The first graders came in after recess and chose an animal to help them.  The game was find one egg, read the word, show it to me and read it and I put a little chocolate orange stick in the student’s bag.  The wildly fun part was romping around my room finding the eggs.  If a word was too tricky, I’d say, “Try again,” which meant go hide that egg and get another.  My most unpracticed and therefore most reluctant reader started having some bumps midway, with the “I can’t” stuff, but she persisted and got 9 treats.

Then my next group, whittled down by students moving to two, got to fast forward to the chapter book which we started and they will read over the break.  It has a ridiculous hook at the beginning.

Two kindergarten groups later and ready for my leftover pizza at late lunch, I realized my final group would be doing marble parties and holiday stuff, so I worked on adding to units.  That gave me leeway to go over to the neighbor school earlier, before the parent rush traffic.

I hauled three cases of HonestKid juices, several cartons of granola bars and fruit treats and my certificates for the five after school writing club teachers.  I supervised the set up of the community center and the kids came rolling in with their writing notebooks and journals.  About a dozen parents, maybe more.  The principal brought in a color banner and taped it up on the board.  Sweet!

After the opening ceremony we got treats and did a read around the room, sitting down to read and posting a positive comment on a sticky note.  The student enjoyed the lavish treats and the freedom to move around and sit where they wanted.  They really didn’t know how to respond to writing, but they knew how to lavish praise.  The excited ones forgot to sign their names, but it was fine.

I would so have loved to go home after the writing celebration but my school open house was this evening, so I went back and analyzed reading records and filed them in student folders until my eyeballs wanted to drop out.  At least we had some music in the pod and parents came.  Not many to my room, but there was a nice hum.

I left a few minutes early, picking up take out at CreAsian so that my mom and I could have late dinner without messing up the kitchen.  The trick now, leaving for SF and Ashland, is to clean our way out of the house.

I went to the store for a few items house guests would appreciate in the fridge and then watched two episodes from Season 5 of The Good Wife.  And then I realized that the schedule of this day did not allow my usual come home after school and write routine.

It is kind of hammered out like a list, or a this happened, then that, but that’s it.  Post.








Packing It In

Slice of Life #23

I left school asap this afternoon so that I could ready the bungalow for the house cleaners tomorrow and for packing to take our road trip to San Francisco and on to Ashland, Oregon.  Since my arrival I have mercilessly emptied the vegetable bins and scrutinized refrigerator shelves for anything that could be tossed or composted.  This refresh in the kitchen department fits perfectly with my spring cleaning impulses.

I have removed personal documents to the locked filing cabinet, moved jewelry and Mom’s drug collection to the locked garage.  Whew, it is nice to have only a tablet a pencil box on my desk.  I made a list for the house cleaners who will come in after one set of guests leave and wash the linens and make the house ready for a teacher staying here for a conference for four days.

My sister in Ashland asked for old photos, so my deposit was to get the bags out of the front closet that had sorted photos I had intended to use to make albums for my grandchildren, oh say, about seven years ago.  Alas, I don’t have the historian genes.

And no writing cat.  He’s sleeping out on the driveway.  He will get wind of this packing traveling thing soon and not like it.  However, he will have excellent wait staff I especially screened for him on airbnb.

One more school day, and who in the heck put the open house night on the calendar the day before Spring Break?  So I’ll be on campus from 7 am to 7 pm.  When I should be packing.

It will all work out.  Always does, somehow.  It is going to be wonderful to have a change of scene.


Slice of Life #22


The sky is bouncing off piled up white clouds and the clouds are throwing shadows all over the valley. There are mini suns on rear windows of cars that snap on like spotlights.  All through the bright and shade the wind blows chilly, cooling down any warm patches.

The wind lifts branches and flutters leaves, makes flowers bow and the clouds scutter by.  The palm fronds up high are pixelating, like a current is flowing through them.

Everywhere spring is evident with flowering cherry and iris, but this cold wind holding a claim.  The cumulus clouds dark over the hills won’t let us forget the winter season, even if the equinox is here.

I am feeling maybe a first dose of spring fever, just wanting to curl up with a book, or nap, or simply sit and stare out the window.  I could so easily fall asleep (like my writing cat lying beside me) but then I wouldn’t sleep tonight.

Perhaps this almost lethargic sense is a change in the air pressure?  Or is it just the deflation in my nerves — having a full day of being at work getting my job done and not worrying how my mother is doing?  Is this how normal life feels?  Not on edge, not sorting through the calendar, not balancing needs?

The day is clean, windy and crisp.  I am quiet.



Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Ask Yourself…

Slice of Life #21

Today on lunch break I watched my a beta-test Pinkcast — a short, low-fi, weekly video offering insights, advice, and tips for working smarter and living better by Daniel Pink.

Ninety-five seconds. Pinkcast 4. Advice from Bob Sutton, Stanford U. professor of management. Bob credited a researcher and explained how they reached this conclusion. Dan asked Bob “What’s one question we could ask ourselves to be better leaders, better team mates?”

Do people leave encounters with you with more energy or less?

So, after someone talks with me, do they know I cared? (not am I cute and charismatic)  Do they know I have their back?  Did they get pushed to learn, to do well?

I think this is an interesting self watch.  I certainly notice my own energy boosts and drains with people I interact with all day.  I wonder if I can notice whether I leave them with more energy or drained?

So, that was my lunchtime fun and then on with teaching reading, going to the neighbor school to collect UOS teacher guides I begged and borrowed to use in the after school intervention, and then a stop at Costco for snacks for Thursday celebration.

While I was driving cross town — didn’t feel like getting on the freeway with the rain just starting — I settled into such a quiet lull with the stops at lights, the lines of cars and the rain coming down quite steadily.  It made everything silver grey and soft.  It washed all the lines away from my view and my thoughts.

It ironed the wrinkles out of my emotions and I cheerfully let a white haired woman driving a huge RV pull out in front of me. I let the rain plop and my wipers barely take care of it.

We weren’t supposed to get rain. The storms that come in off the coast have been dousing the north bay and south of here, and yes, snowing in the mountains, but Silicon Valley hasn’t been getting the drenching rain.

Just for a little while.  It really rained.  And I loved it.







Happy First Day of Spring

Slice of Life # 20

The long awaited Equinox is here.  Spring arrived with two surprises.  I have a Sunday morning appointment with a spine specialist for my mother and I believe that, after months of authorizations and twists and turns, she’s actually getting treated today.

That is amazing in itself. Plus Spring has brought back the connection in both her hearing aids, which were messed up with ear wax removal oil.  Now she can hear!!

I think this week is going to be so much easier than last.  And that’s a good thing because we are packing out of our bungalow and going to SF and then on to Ashland, Oregon for Easter break.







What? Day 19 Already?

Slice of Life # 19

It seems so not fair, this time thing.  That it is already time to post on the East coast and we are just wrapping up our Friday night on the West coast. 
It was sundown and I was out grilling a couple Aidel sausages to go with our probiotic saurkraut.  Mickey was in the garden at the new catnip plants, eating leaves.  He got his fill and fell asleep with his chin resting over the plants, inhaling their fragrance while he snoozed.
I brought in the grilled sausages and showed Mom out the back window.  “See?  Mickey is zoned out on the catnip.”  She laughed.
We took dinner with a few cute St. Patrick’s pics of great great granddaughter Kate.  I sent my sister a whiny email about why I didn’t get a picture of Kate walking.
With chocolate the Big D (aka my mom) and I repaired to Comcast on demand in her room to plow through as many episodes of Season 5 as possible of The Good Wife.

We were aided in our Friday night comfort by some Grand Marnier in teensy glasses and dark chocolate with orange.  When On Demand finked out during an episode we called it quits.

I went to my bedroom window and meowed out the window.  “Maio?  Mickey?  Where’s my kitty?” who was last seen snoozing in the catnip.  Shortly thereafter, as I began this blog, my magnificent writing cat showed up, meowing.

Now he is washing up, getting paws and face cleaned thoroughly as I try to cope with the idea that it is already Saturday somewhere.  I guess this is my Saturday post and I can sleep in.

Really need a rest.  Really need to engage in some radical self care.  Tomorrow is for me. Spoken like a cat.  A true cat.

Wait, I’m a person.  But apprenticed to a cat.  And needing some radical self care.





Music to my ears

Slice of Life #18
writing cat


This has been a strange day, so my writing desk is especially inviting this evening. I am looking for the story in the mishmosh of unexpected turns.  I was at school this morning, getting ready to teach reading intervention, when…

I had to call Outreach for a ride for my mother to take her to her doctor appointment to have ear wax removed.  She has been deaf this week on top of having the designer virus. It would be close to the wire because the Outreach scheduling line didn’t open until 8:00 a.m. but I calmly got on hold.

My first transfer, once a representative got on the line was to the same day scheduling.  That person told me my mother’s account had a $2 deficit and I would need to pay same day fees.  I offered my debit card number, but that had to be taken on transfer call number 3.  After giving them $50 I thought for sure I could schedule mom’s ride.

I was transferred to the fourth person, who of course said “Same day?” and transferred me to my fifth person.  It was time for my students to come in….

This nice lady read me the fees, the penalties actually, for my mom not having scheduled her ride in advance.  About the same as taxi fare, $16 each way, with whatever times they had available.  I heard the representative mumbling through the schedule after I gave her the doctor’s address.

“No, sorry, we have no transportation available today.”

This only took a half hour and I thanked her weakly.  Mom is going to that appointment.  If I have to handle one more thing without her being able to hear I’m going to shoot myself.

I met my group and did a quick readers’ theater then went to the office to check out. I am the designated driver.

How odd it felt to come home in the morning after zooming off to school in the commute time.  Mom looked up from her coffee quite surprised to see me.

“I’m your ride.” I wrote on the pad.

During the rather lengthy procedure to get out very stubborn ear wax, even though it had been treated with drops for four days, I had a pile of reading records just waiting for me to interpret.  A big pile of them.

Marking the M S V for each student and mulling over the fluency notes was sort of like teaching reading today.

On the drive home, Mom couldn’t put in her hearing aids yet because her ears were too wet, but the Concerto de Aranjuez was on the classical station, so I cranked it up.  Might as well have something beautiful to hear for the first time this week.

We drove in the sunlight across downtown.  A very lovely smile on my Mom’s face.





Slice of Life #17

A good word in my life right now, with the Amoxicillin kicking in so that aches and coughs subside.  But I encountered prescription in a not so good way this afternoon in writing intervention.

I was in a class I hadn’t seen in weeks and back then the teacher was doing her own thing, not really trying the UOS lessons.  To complicate matters, both fourth grade teachers were combining their after school classes, defeating the purpose of having small group intervention.

So today.  Class opens with both groups in the room, in their seats and the one teacher (the other went to an appointment) asks students to think, pair, share about the importance of punctuation.  Then after sharing out — this took a long time — student were supposedly primed to look through their writing to do some editing.

Unfortunately, as I began to confer, I could find no one who had done any revision.  Their pieces were bare bones, not ready to fix up the punctuation.  I asked one student, “Did you write an introduction for this?”

“What’s an introduction?” she asked, genuinely curious. I gave her a sample and asked her if she wanted to try her own.

A boy raised his hand, which of course stopped all his writing, and the teacher was in a long conference on the other side of the room.  I asked him what he was working on.  He countered with a question about if these facts go here.  I had a hard time understanding what he wanted to know.

“Well, since you’re the writer, what do you think?  What would work best in this part?”  He looked at me like I was useless.  I looked for a checklist  in  his folder. Then his neighbor’s. None from the home team, but a student from the visiting class had one.  I pointed to elaboration on grade 3 and 4.  “Is this what you are trying to do? Are you asking if you should say more?”

He was asking for information about something about which I was clueless.  I said that I could see he was writing about an important topic, [why his dad matters to him] and that he should try writing in the air to see if the facts sounded right in that part.

Afterwards, talking with the principal about the incident, she said, “Oh, must be Step Up to Writing,”  Suddenly I realized what the boy was asking for –the prescription.  I got that he had been asking if this part (aka) the pink went with the yellow part?  He honestly wanted to structure his writing correctly, but could make no judgement about whether it was good, or if it was what he wanted to say. I wish that I could have grasped more quickly what that boy was trying to ask me.

Interpreting the formula he had heard made no sense to me since I abandoned SUW 15 years ago.  I see the teaching in the students’ work…and how different it is in that intervention than the student work in grade three and five. It was supposed to be a a time and place try workshop, a process approach with specific demonstrations and goals.

My prescription for the EL writers would be to give them a lot of moves, and instill a lot of language in their head about moves they can make as they write by writing with them.  Not a list.  Not a prescription for an essay.

Beyond a loose, skeletal idea of what one might put down on paper, pre-organizing the piece is like sticking parts of it into cupboards.  Organization is static.   Writing moves.  It is an action.  So our students cannot write fluently if they have to jam their thoughts into analytical patterns, into prescriptions the teachers don’t even use if they write.