Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Comfort of Music

The beauty of music touches the soul like nothing else can. Lilting, laughing, mournful, wistful, curious and comedic, you can find it all in the guise of a melody. And I know no one else who can create a more beautiful tune than my father. No one else who appreciates it more than my mother. 

My father's music comforts me like nothing else can. A master of the piano, he has played everything from Liszt, to Gershwin, to Prokofiev. As a child, he composed melodies for me to play. These melodies effortlessly flowed through his fingers and his creativity fascinated me. As an adult I have read much about the creative genius in all of us, but having witnessed creativity being born, I have my doubts that anyone will ever find a "recipe" that works for everyone. 

Visiting my parents this weekend, I was struck again by the power of his music. You see, my mother has had Parkinson's for some time, and it had not been the best day for her. We had driven up for the afternoon, and just finished dinner, doing our best to cheer her up. As I sat with my mom, I was struggling with my inner demon that was screaming at the injustice of this disease, striking out at a woman who has been nothing but kind and gentle all her life. Why? Then, the sounds of music suddenly filled the house. 

There is simply no way to describe the beauty that wrapped us up, comforting us with it's richness. I wanted to hug it close, capture it inside me and not let go.  The notes hung sweetly in the air, wistful for days gone by, accepting things that can't be changed,  and thankful for the gift of togetherness. They conveyed the potency of love. Listening, my mother's face broke into a huge, beautiful smile. "Your father is playing my song!" 

My father's music had touched the flame that yet burns in my mother's soul.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Little Effort to Pay it Forward

     Sometimes it's not so easy to pay it forward, even when you try to give away something for free. Every year, my daughter and I look forward to the NY State Fair. The Fair is a turning point for us, as it signals the end of summer and the beginning of school.  And although I look forward to the beginning of school, it's also mixed with a twinge of regret that yet another summer has flown by. To save a few bucks, we purchase our tickets ahead of time.
     This year I purchased four tickets. One each for my son, husband, daughter, and myself. However, my husband was not able to go, so we had one extra ticket.  Since we weren't going to use it, I figured I'd give it away.
     We arrived in the morning around 9:30, hungry for breakfast. It was raining steadily, and we had both brought umbrellas. Stepping around the puddles, I noticed a family stepping out of their SUV.  Smiling, I made eye contact with the mom, and asked if she needed a ticket.
     "Really?" she said. "That's really nice of you, but we already have tickets. Thank you, though."
     "Ok, enjoy the fair!"
     The next people I approached looked at me like I was a little looney when I repeated my question. They mumbled that they already had some. As I looked around for someone else, my daughter tugged  on my arm. "Come on, Mom. I'm hungry. Besides, there's no one else around. Let's just go in." ( I think she felt some teenage angst that her mom would just go around talking to people. After all, she's been told  NOT to talk to strangers all her life.)
     Realizing my ticket giveaway was dead in the water at the moment, I temporarily gave up.  It continued to rain, and to my rumbling stomach, the tantalizing smells of breakfast managed to cut through the air. Tucking the extra ticket into my pocket, I followed my daughter to the gate and we went inside.  Despite the rain, or maybe because of it, we had a really nice time. After admiring the sand sculpture, ambling through the Center of Progress, buying milk in the Dairy Building, enjoying the paintings and sculptures in Arts and Crafts, we knew it was time to leave.
      As we left the gate, I suddenly remembered the extra ticket.  "Wait, honey. I need to get rid of this ticket." The first few people I asked did not need one. Seems like everyone had bought theirs ahead of time, just like us.  Something I had thought would be really easy, wasn't! Spotting another couple walking towards the gate, I asked once more. "Do you need a ticket?"
    " Really?" she said, "To get in?"
     "Yes," I replied.
     "A free ticket?" she said, suspiciously.
     "Yup," I cheerfully grinned.
     "Well, sure!" she said.  With their eyes wide, like they couldn't believe it was their lucky day, they accepted the ticket.
     "You see, mom," my daughter said, "all you had to do was look for someone getting money out of their wallet. That's who you should have asked in the first place. " Oh, to have the wisdom of teenagers!
     Laughing, I agreed. While I don't think giving away a free ticket is going to get me admitted onto heaven, even when it took a little effort, it felt good to pay it forward.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On My First Comment Ever - The Power of the Positive

     If confession is the name of the game, then game on, right here.  It took me all summer to finally post a "Slice of Life" story, and it was with much trepidation that I hit the post.  You see I GET the message that good writing teachers should model writing for their students. I've done this before, but probably not the the extent I could have. NEVER on-line. But, perhaps like many, I have not always thought my writing good enough to publish. Especially after I read what others have written.  Such eloquence and poise in the printed word! This, I thought, was beyond me. So, I wallowed in self doubt, creating beautiful tomes in my head, especially when I was in the shower!   But, gee, to put it out there? That was a whole other ballgame.

     After hitting post, I was exhausted. It was rather late, and I had become stressed that I wouldn't be able to figure it all out before 12am! You see, not only did I have to post, but I had to put the finishing touches on my blog. Looking at others' blogs, I wondered how they got them to  look so pretty, while mine was devoid of interest and color. Not only did I have to post, I had to figure out all the other aesthetic aspects of the blog as well. So I explored the settings and templates, figuring out background colors, all the while keeping an eye on the clock. I finally got the basics completed, figuring at least it was colorful! There are still other things I'd like to include, (for example, the Slice of Life logo) but that's where it stands at this point in time. Anyway, while I continue to play around with the setting, templates, etc. expanding my learning curve, the blog will stand and I will keep on writing.

     People write for all sorts of reasons and purposes. I am writing to grow. If I write, my students will write. Experiencing all the trials and tribulations, doubt, fears, along with the exhilaration, and satisfaction of a finished piece makes me more sensitive to what my students experience. Funny thing though, as I have been noting all these small moments that might make for some entertaining or thought provoking writing, I realize I am also writing for enjoyment. Real personal narratives.

     But while I was writing with purpose, I was still leery about putting it out there. And this is why I chose SOL. With SOL, the one request is that you not only post, but that you respond to at least three other postings. I knew that even if I received a challenge to my thinking, or a suggestion about my writing, it would not be laced in negativity.

     And when you put something real out there, even if it's not controversial, you are making yourself vulnerable. Which brings me to the  point of this post. This morning, one of the first things I did was to check for comments. I knew it might be doubtful there would be any, since I posted late. However, lo and behold, there it was: 1 comment!  Just one. But that one sincere comment, by @CathyMere made all the difference to me. Thank you, Cathy! It made the difference between moving forward or being stagnant. How powerful is that? And if that's how I feel as an adult, how much more meaningful is it to our students, who are most likely way more sensitive than we are? We CAN make a difference in our students' budding writing lives. I intend to make it a positive one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MRI Thoughts

What do YOU Think of When you Have an MRI? My Small Moment Story

If you've ever had an MRI you know it can be quite stressful. Today I had my third one ever, the first two being about six years ago. So, I knew what I was in for. Noise, endless noise. Trying to be still despite distracting twitches and itches. While my foot was being bombarded by magnetic pulses, I strove to  keep my mind occupied.

To do this I decided to imagine how I wanted my classroom to look when my students returned in the fall. And a funny thing happened! I was able to block everything out and just let my imagination run wild. The endless jack hammering and forte staccato beat of  the MRI not only blocked out the other sounds in the room, but the other whirling thoughts in my brain which normally intrude, and are an impediment to clear thought.

Since I've been involved with @Twitter a lot, I've been learning about different ways to connect classrooms. As I will be teaching writing to three sections of 5th grade, I imagined what I want my connected, writing classroom to look like. In my new room, the back of my wall will have more board space than I am used to. This is a good thing.

It's a good thing because I am planning to put up a column in the back that looks like a twitter feed. I will have a couple of tweets posted as models, and then I plan to let the kids post their thoughts. Maybe we'll have discussions about interesting, engaging tweets from other classrooms and post them, too. Of course, we'll have a real classroom twitter page running, but the one in the back will keep it in the forefront of everyone's mind.

I also want a blog board. We'll look for exemplar writing from around the world, and display it along with a few of our comments. We'll also display our own writing. It will say something like, "Great Writing From Around the World and In Our Own Back Yard!"

As we connect with others we'll keep track of our virtual travel on a map. We'll have a weekly Wordle of writing vocabulary or terms - hey a Wordle could be an assessment... There will be a special board for our GRA (Global Read Aloud) book along with students' thoughts/questions and comments.

While I calculated whether I  would have enough space to implement all my ideas, the MRI droned on, stopping and starting without any coherent pattern I could recognize. I knew the technician was keeping me informed of how much time remained, but I could hardly hear her over the noise and my earplugs. Finally, the cacophony ended, and I felt the sterile slab I was lying on begin to ease out of the Star Trek-like cylinder the lower half of my body had been encased in.

The technician removed the brace holding my foot in place, and told me I was free to go.  Amazingly, I had felt not one twitch, not one itch, nor an urge to move around. As I sat up, I actually felt relaxed and like I had accomplished something!  While I am not ready to make noisy MRI's part of my daily diet, I think I WILL try listening to some classical music the next time I feel the urge to block everything out and be creative.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

For My Rockin' Students

To My Rockin' Students,

Today I am creating a blog so I can model how you can think of writing ideas over the summer.  The act of blogging like this is new to me, so you will probably see many
changes throughout the summer. (Yes, we did Kidblog, but this is just a little different.)

This is my version of the personal notebooks you were given to write down your thoughts. So hang on tight, while I begin this exciting journey, and remember, you can too. 

Don't be afraid to tell your story!