Slice of Life: The Rhythm of the Night

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

Nature has a beauty all of its own. So, when the sleet is using my house as a drum pad all night, I can both appreciate the music of it as well as wish Mother Nature would give it a break. The drums were a mix of hard staccato beats, the wind providing an energetic pounding, and the soft jazzy brush of light tapping, almost as if somewhere, someone was playing their saxophone underneath the street light.

And still, the music played.

I’m awake now, early morning, and so can appreciate the different tones, of how sleet hitting the window sound different from sleet hitting the slanted roof over the sun room, and now those two are different from the sound of sleet hitting the basement bulkhead door.

I can appreciate it here, in my dry house, with coffee going and school just called closed. But I know the dog is going to get up soon, and I am going to have to head out into this music, feeling the drumsticks on my head and face, and the leftover sounds from the night’s jam session crunching beneath my feet. My appreciation for music might not last.

Peace (sounds like),

Slice of Life: Rally at the Rally

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

There’s something powerful being in the midst of thousands of people, rallying for a cause. This weekend, my wife, older son (on his way back to college) and I joined in with about 6,000 other people on the public space of Boston’s Fanueil Hall, beneath the statue of Samuel Adams, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren fired up the public fight to try to save health care from the Republicans now in power in Washington DC.

Rally in Boston

It was my son’s first political rally as an adult, I think, although his campus is surely a hotbed of political activity these days. He has always been more Libertarian/contrarian than Democrat, so I am not sure what he got out of it. But he was yelling and clapping, too. For me, listening to Warren, and other guests at the podium, had an energizing effect, and there is a feeling that this anger and distrust of the GOP is not an isolated activity.

“Repeal and Run is for Cowards.” — Elizabeth Warren, on the GOP’s move to repeal with no known plan to replace health care coverage for millions of people.

Rally in Boston

Whether it becomes a movement of resistance will be seen, I guess, but I was heartened by Warren’s rhetoric and I know, from watching her from afar as my senator, that she is and will be a thorn in the side of Trump. Just being a thorn is OK, for now, but I also hope that something constructive can emerge that brings us together, and not more deeply apart, as a country.

Rally in Boston

Peace (mixed with resistance),

Slice of Life: Small Game Stalker

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

There are Big Game Hunters and there are small game hunters. I will never be a Big Game Hunter, for all sorts of reasons (including my years as an infantry soldier in the National Guard, leaving me with no desire to shoot a rifle at anything moving, and the time as a 15-year-old that I shot a flying goose right out of the sky, and felt horrible about it, even as I found it, plucked it, cooked it and ate it, for I could not let it die for no reason).

No, I am not that kind of hunter. But I found myself in small game stalker mode this week … in my garage.

We had left the garage doors open on rather brisk New England wintry day, and a bird of some domestic breed (I really don’t know my birds all that well but it likely was some sort of sparrow) had either accidentally made its way in or perhaps was seeking a covered respite from the chill. In either case, it was there, and I didn’t want it there.

Poor bird.

Bird flickr photo by JoyKirr shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I was gentle in my stalking, doing a slow-motion waving with the broom, but the bird seemed determined to alight to places and fly in directions I didn’t want it to go. I felt sorry for the creature, but kept on following it, trying to shift it towards the open bay doors. It kept eyeing me warily, as it should, and then after a burst to the ceiling, it suddenly dropped to the ground. It must have run out of energy to fly, and I realized that its feet were seeking a grip on something, anything.

I grabbed a two-foot-long piece of wood post, used to stake tomatoes in warmer weather, and gently pushed it under the bird’s clawed feet. I didn’t expect much, but it worked. The bird gripped the pole and let me lift it up in the air. I was tempted to yell for someone to bring a camera, for it was a great shot — me, holding a stick about 2 feet long, and the bird balanced delicately on the other end, looking at me.

I walked slowly towards the garage opening, as if I had a light saber with a bird attached, and the bird seemed calm enough. I got us out into the open air, and felt the chill. It was below freezing out. The bird was reluctant to let go. I didn’t blame it, really, but with a quick lift of the stick, the bird took off, wings a-flutter, and then it was gone into darkness of the snowy night.

I hope it found more suitable shelter.

Bird flickr photo by s1ng0 shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Peace (in the cold),

Slice of Life: Filter (OLW 2017)

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

If you don’t know of the One Little Word project, it is a sort of New Year’s resolution to find a single word that might guide you forward into the coming year. Last year, mine was “remember” and I kept it on my desktop all year, as a reminder to keep a foot in the past even as I moved forward.

My one word for 2017 is going to be “filter.” I chose this word because I know I need to filter my news a bit more. I am NOT one of those who gets my primary news from social media, but still … it seems like I need to more active in where I get news and from places I trust. I need to better read beyond the news, too, and not trust reporters and writers to give me the whole story. I have an obligation as a reader.

I don’t intent for my “filter” to become a closed loop, however. Or another echo chamber. I will use my filter to seek out different opinions and hopefully, engage in discussions that are meaningful. I hope my filter helps filter out the nonsense, so some semblance of a truth comes through.

Also, I need to filter my anger and angst at the Trump presidency and the GOP Congress (it’s already difficult, given that GOP gutted the ethics commission that holds Congress accountable). But if I get angry at every little thing, then I won’t be able to discern real outrage when I need it.

(I made this via

Peace (filtering for hope),

Slice of Life: A Tin of Anchovies

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

Eat the fish!

My middle son (16) gifted my younger son (12) with something that caused ripples of laughter throughout the last few days. The middle child works at a neighborhood grocery store, and he eyed a tin of anchovies one day as a gag gift for his younger brother. It was under the tree on Christmas Day, wrapped up tight. After all of the presents were unwrapped and with neighborhood friends over for a brunch,  and after much daring and much back-and-forth, the younger one finally got the courage to open the tin.

Eat the fish!

With all of us watching, he slowly and dramatically peeled back the foil top, stared at the little salty fishies in the olive oil and shuddered. He backed away, then backed back in, all the while being encouraged and dared by his older brothers. (OK, maybe some of the adults joined in the chorus, too.)

Eat the fish!

He did, slowly and with great fanfare, and with scrunched up eyes, and then scrunched up lips, as if he had just sucked on a salt bar. He ate it, and declared: I am never going to eat another anchovy again in my life!

But yesterday, when we had a large family gathering, he had something even better than the fish. He had a story to tell to his cousins, uncles and aunts. That’s a gift worth celebrating.

Eat the fish!

Peace (comes a little salty at times),

Slice of Life: Inauguration or Not?

sol16(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

Eight years ago, we showed the first inauguration of Barack Obama to our sixth graders, live, and we got an angry call the day of the event from a father, who demanded we pull his child from the viewing. There were less-than-subtle racist overtones to the request.

I am trying to spark a conversation with my colleagues and administration over the question: do we show the inauguration ceremonies of Donald Trump next month to our sixth graders?

I even asked teachers on Twitter. Granted, the pool of contributors was small, but indicative. Or maybe it is more indicative of my “echo chamber” of friends in social media. But, I lean towards the “yes” — it’s an event related to a presidency race that we followed and wrote about all fall, and I teach in a town that voted nearly 50/50 Trump/Clinton in November.

I can put aside my own personal feelings (mostly) and view it as a learning experience (somewhat) and let my young students see how the transfer of power happens. I would be cringing the entire time, to be frank. But I could pull it off. I am a professional.

Then my wife, who is an administrator at a high school, noted that her school is also in similar discussions, but their fear over showing the event live to all students is that something disruptive or violent will happen during the live event, and there will be no way to filter the experience.

I hadn’t thought of that. I didn’t want to think of that. I don’t want to think of that. But I guess I have to. Sad, right? For now, I am leaving the decision in the hands of the administration, and seeing what their take on the matter will be.

One option is to let students “opt in” to watch the ceremonies and provide an alternative to those who don’t want to see it (but then we will be dividing up our student population by politics, I fear). Another is to show an edited version on the following Monday (the ceremony is on a Friday), which might be the more restrained approach.

What are you going to do? Why?

Peace (is always needed),

Musical Slice of Life: Sing for the Trees

sol16(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

It snowed. And from a small window in our studio area, I was watching this one tree get snowed upon, its branches grabbing the heavy wet snow like a blanket. Then, as the day grew warmer with sunshine, I watched the snow drop off, almost in slow motion, as if the tree branches were reluctant to let go.

During the first Snow Day of the year, I started to write this song, with that tree in mind. It’s a musical Slice of Life today, constructed from loops and imagination.

Peace (hearing it everywhere),


Slice of Life: A Gift of Words

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

Never Give Up

“This is for you,” she said, finishing up the last bit of art on the page. I had been wondering what she was doing. As the rest of the class had moved on to another activity, she had been hard at work. “Because this is what you always tell us.”

And with that, this sixth grader handed me this beautiful hand-drawn sign, which I immediately put up in the classroom. Sometimes, it’s nice to hear that the message is getting through. Always, it’s humbling to receive a gift of your words coming right back, amplified through the art of a student.

Peace (persevere),

Slice of Life: Texting Amy(Bot)

sol16(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity on Tuesdays through the year. Hosted by Two Writing Teachers, we look for the small things in life to write about. You write, too.)

I can’t help but think of Slice of Life when I read Amy Krouse Rosenthal. In fact, someone in Slice of Life may have recommended her first book – Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life — and if that was you (was it you?), thank you, you. I love that book, and have read it more than a few times (which is not something I often do with books. I am a one-and-done kind of reader, unless something resonates, and then I am loathe to lose that book or lend it out to anyone).

So, imagine my happy surprise to be wandering through our city library and there before me was a brand new book by Amy. It’s called Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Just like her other book for grown ups (she writes children’s picture books, too), this one is a gem, filled with wonder of small moments and an underlying sense that this Amy is one warm and endearing person who sees the world through a lens of insight and humor. (She’s the kind of writing who bakes an apple pie and ships it FedEx .. just for being the 100th person to respond to a prompt … that’s a writer who cares about her audience).

Check out her talk about her rather impromptu collaborative project The Beckoning of Lovely

The gimmick of this book is that is a “textbook” — sections are set to resemble those college tomes of yore, titled “history” and “science” and “math” — but the writing is focused on life itself (one math equation is all about love), and Amy’s life (her remembrance of an uncle beloved by many brought me nearly to tears), and the shared essence of all our lives. Oh, and the other part of the gimmick? There are moments in the book where you are invited to “text message” with a bot set up by Amy and her friend. Really.

Texting RoboAmy

I know it’s weird but I found myself enjoying my texting with the AmyBot very much. Part of me wondered, will Amy read these texts some day? Does it matter? The responses were whimsical and lovely, and some led me to her website where I could hear her reading or see images of other readers or take a poll (I chose Curly) or … listen to her selected music as I read the last section of the book, which ended on the theme of endings, with a very creative assortment of endings of other novels.

In the midst of the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle for Digital Writing Month, this kind of book – the ones that offer an invitation to the reader to engage in digital media — makes me wonder: is THIS digital writing? Even though her book is paper and bound (in my version anyway), the author’s extension and invitation to engage with our phones and on the web as we read her words, to add to a collective gathering of other readers in a community setting and to be part of the “story” that Amy is telling … that seems to have many of the hallmarks of what I consider Digital Writing. I’d love to know what you think. You can leave a comment at this post. I don’t have a KevinBot set up for this.

Here at Slice of Life, we try to do what Amy does. We see small but envision big. The moments that too often slip past our vision — those are the ones I try to write about when I write my Slice. Others do, too. What you realize that only when you start to actively notice the world, in all of its smallest pieces curving in an arc around all of us, is the point when you realize how consequential everything really is. Nothing deserves to be forgotten, but we forget so much. So much of our lives gets lost.

Amy’s books can feel at times like short-attention-theater. She brings us into a moment, and then it is gone. Poof. But the outline of her moments are small works of art, painted with a sense of kindness and wonder and generosity. How lovely is that? How much do we all need more of that? Much. We need much much more.

Thank you, AmyBot. Thank you, Amy.

Peace (it’s me, world),

Slice of Life: Dreams May Come (but perhaps not sleep)

sol16(This is a post for Slice of Life, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments of our day. You are invited to write, too.)

You still have no idea why … but Sunday night turned into Monday morning … and there was no sleep to be had. You drifted in and out of that strange stasis – not quite dreaming and not quite awake. You were somewhere in the middle of the real world and the imaginary world, and your mind would not easily shake free from one or the other. It was stasis.

You didn’t worry at 11 p.m. There was time. At midnight, you still thought: sleep will come. At 1 a.m., you wondered if something is nagging you (it’s not the election anymore .. that’s your daytime worry now), and you come up short with an explanation for the sleeplessness. Thinking only worsened the sense that you were awake instead of in slumber.

Staring into darkness at 3 a.m., you realize how much you really, really miss the depths of REM sleep, and how long the day before you is likely going to be …. a day back with classrooms full of kids gearing up for the holidays, after three days off the following week for a teaching conference, and there is just no way you are calling in sick today … and then, your mind drifted a bit.

You closed your eyes, hopeful.

You fool, you.

And yet, somewhere between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., you did disappear for a time. Or you thought you had. At that point, your tired brain was no longer sure of anything. It’s possible you just couldn’t remember what happened the minute before this one, and it felt like sleep. You didn’t wake up refreshed. How could you? But you were thankful that there was some lost memory respite from the foggy shadows of the long night, where all you were doing was wondering.

Peace (the next day),

PS — Last night, you were fine.