The Gift of the Sky

Today as I was leaving school, the Sky was the glorious clear blue of a sunny afternoon… dotted with the brightest, fluffiest clouds- a perfect contrast to the rainy morning. It was like a special delivery just to make me happy.

Later, as I walked out of the grocery, the Sky was on the border of evening and night, a deepening blue over the rose colored sunset spreading across the horizon. Another gift from the hand of God.

(I must also mention in addition to boring groceries, I scored some great school supplies- I’m talking Crayola crayons, markers, and colored pencils, Ink Joy gel pens, mini-journals, and the cutest “little llama” lunch accessories, for 70% off!)

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What a Whirlwind

Back to School. Three little words. But what a stir they cause! Excitement and gladness, to be sure. Eagerness to see your colleagues and students. Stepping back into a familiar (or new, for many) building and room. Getting ready.

The first day arrives, and you are swept up in a whirlwind of tasks and paperwork that no other job could produce. Staying up late and waking up early, trying to add hours to the day- it seems things will never calm down.

Eventually, though, the routine will take hold. The days will still have plenty to do, but the wild wind will settle. The hours in the classroom will bring small satisfying moments, and, at times, amazing, memorable flashes of brilliance.

I’ve been in the whirlwind. I’m ready for gentle breezes.

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The Vacationer

In the morning rush of drivers
heading toward work
She alone appeared carefree
Rolling along in her convertible

Top down,music blaring,
long hair blowing in the wind,
a huge smile on her face

A vacationer
heading toward fun

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Summer Storms

The rain drops fall,
huge and heavy,
pelting the trees and bushes
and flowers

The clouds seemed
to empty themselves
of all the water they held
and yet

More gray clouds
fill the sky,
ready, just waiting for the
right moment

As a soft breeze
stirs the air,
birds chirp and chatter
and fly

Tiny globes of water
cling to leaves
then let go, dripping down
to the ground

A patch of blue
breaks through
but thunder softly rolls,
rain returns…

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A Story I Didn’t Know

Two years ago, my friend passed away, a victor in the war against ovarian cancer. In her first battle, she fought to remission, winning more time with family and friends and her beloved horse. When remission was lost, she battled on, hoping to contribute to the body of knowledge that will benefit other warriors, while still treasuring moments with family and friends. She so wanted to make it to see the birth of her first grandson, but it was not to be. She was the only one her son and daughter-in-law shared the baby’s name with before his birth. Through it all, her faith never wavered. Her victory is in Jesus. This is the story of my friend that I already knew.

Saturday I was at her daughter’s wedding, thinking all the while how very much my friend would have loved it. She would have loved the out in the country setting and cherished how lovely her daughter looked in her gown and veil and the smiling groom who could not contain his happiness and love, grinning and dancing with excitement as he watched his bride coming up the aisle on her dad’s arm.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the bride and her father lit a red candle in her mother’s memory. And she shared a story we didn’t know. During her mother’s last stay in the hospital, when her parents were focused on treatments and pain, she had a bright moment of good news. She confided to her mom that she was pretty sure the new guy she was dating was the one, and someday they would marry.

Saturday they did. And her mom was watching from heaven. Though there were some tears, that little story was one of many bright moments in the wedding. More than sadness, there was love.

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Words I’ve Heard This Summer

Maddie’s on the move
(accompanied by a photo of my great-niece in her car seat, finally going home from the NICU after 3 months)

Everybody gets one!
(Oprah… I mean Kristina, at the Smekens Literacy Retreat… announcing a resource we were all going to receive… ranging from a book of infographics to a conferring stool to a T-shirt to wear when presenting booktalks… fun!)

We just landed
(as I sat in the cell phone lot at the airport waiting to pick up my son)

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Last week I shared an end of the year writing activity with sixth graders who will “graduate” from our school soon and move on to middle school. The mentor text was Ralph Fletcher’s poem “The Good Old Days.” We wrote about “Good Old School Days.” They created a collection of poems ranging from sentimental to funny to a little sad. On the day we wrote, our newcomer ELL, from El Salvador, was absent. I had the opportunity to work with one to one when she came back. She read the poem independently and circled words and phrases she wasn’t sure of. Going back and forth in English and Spanish, we talked about the poem until she understood it. Then I gave her a writing frame to help her write her own poem. She chose to write about her first at our school. English was mostly forgotten as she told her story. She said that first day she wanted to sneak away from her desk, open the window, and run away. All she could think was “What does that mean?” She said she felt “raro”- rare, odd, strange- so different from everyone. For me, that time shared with her was “raro”- extraordinary, exceptional, privileged- moments I will always remember and treasure.

Here is her poem…

The First Day of School

Sometimes I remember
My first day at Ernie Pyle Elementary School

I felt so confused
I wanted to open the window and escape

And never come back
But go home to El Salvador

I was always thinking
“What does that mean?”

I felt so different from my classmates but
Now I don’t want to escape from the window any more

Then I could not imagine
How the future would be

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