Celebrating Survival

Thursday night I got this text from my son in Bonsall, CA…

Really bad fire near us. We might be evacuated.

Friday morning I woke up to find this…

We’re running…fire is a block away.

Then nothing until nearly ten…

Roommate and all the critters went to their families and I’m
at a shelter.

I’ve never been so thankful for a text message.

No matter what is the outcome of their house and belongings left behind, we are celebrating survival.

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December Morning

December morning
Frost on the grass
Velvety dark sky
A few bright stars
Still shining

Ribbons of light
On the freeway
Bright red and white
City buildings
Beginning to wake

Exit to city streets
Look in rear-view mirror
At just the right moment
To see holiday lights
Glowing

The monument in the center
Of our Circle City adorned
With strands of lights
A festive tree
Welcoming all

Stopped at a light
Look up to see
A jeep with a wreath
On the spare tire
Twinkling merrily

Into the neighborhood
Around the school
Houses decorated
For the season
Ready for celebrating

December morning
So many sights
To stir the holiday spirit
I start my day
Smiling

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Celebrating Collaboration

In October, a group of ESL teachers attended the WIDA Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida. This week it was time for us to share what we learned with our colleagues here at home in Indy. During a day of Professional Development, we shared in three rounds of workshops, offering six choices for participants.

My partner and I presented the topic of translanguaging. At WIDA we had attended the session given by Dr. Liz Mahon of the University of Colorado, Denver. To plan our own presentation, my colleague created a Google doc, and we both added our contributions. We consulted face-to-face at our team meeting where we also got some input from others. Most of the work was done through the Google doc, though- a new experience for me. Luckily, my younger colleague is much more tech-savvy than I am and solved the few glitches that came up. The final product was good, and the presentation went well, with lots of interaction from our participants.

By the way, translanguaging is using more than one language to express yourself, using your entire language repertoire- not being confined to the boundaries of a single language. Authors use translanguaging in writing to show the way bilinguals really talk and tell their stories, to play with both languages, and show cultural pride. Our major point is that our students’ home language is an asset, not a deficit (as in the lament “they don’t speak any English at home”). Our “emerging bilinguals” will be empowered by playing with both languages in creative expression.

My colleague and I shared mentor texts we have used with students and the positive experiences we have had. Gracias, Thanks by Pat Mora is the book I used in third grade classes recently to create class books. My friend is working on an immigration unit and included the book Abuela by Arthur Dorros. We also had a large collection of books with translanguaging for teachers to browse- really, we could have just put the books out on the table and the workshop would have conducted itself. The teachers were crazy about the books! A teacher in one of our sessions shared that after using a bilingual book in one of her lessons and allowing the students to use Spanish words in their writing, she got a thank you note from a student!

(You can find many ideas for Latino mentor texts in Ruth Culhams’s book, Dream Wakers from Stenhouse Publishers and look for other languages at Lee & Low publishers.)

After the workshop, my friend and I exchanged emails. We agreed about how much we had enjoyed working together. We felt so appreciated by each other, and we learned from each other. (We also both were moved to order a new book!)

Today I am celebrating collaboration!

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Celebrating through a Week

Sunday- our Bible study group welcomes three visitors and has an inspiring discussion on prayer

Monday- driving to school, I start a poem in my head, repeating the phrases over and over until I get to my computer to type

Tuesday- last day of school this week

Wednesday- spend the day cleaning, shopping, and cooking, getting ready for the big dinner tomorrow

Thursday- enjoy cooking Thanksgiving dinner myself for the first time in many years, then enjoy sharing all our family favorite dishes with my sister and a visit from my daughter and son-in-law later

Friday- a quiet day at home- no rushing or fighting Black Friday shopping crowds

Saturday- meet second sister for lunch and a movie- Wonder- wonderful!

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Stark Beauty

Light from the
watercolor wash
of pinks and blues
of the early morning
eastern sky

Seeps through the
dark bare branches
of the trees

Offering stark beauty

Love pierces
the emptiness
of the sorrow
and sadness of
a grieving heart

Glimmers through
the dark night
of the soul

Bringing stark beauty

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Andre’s Christmas

Andre was a little black poodle with curly hair and a poofy tail. He lived with a family of four children named Di, Sue, Doug, and Paul and their parents in a little house. He had a red and green plaid dog bed in the girls’ bedroom. He carried all his toys into the boys’ room. He was a smart dog. He watched everything going on around the little house and tried to get in on it all.

In December, he watched the family decorating the house for Christmas. He loved it- the tall tree, the shiny ornaments, the bright lights. He wanted to help, and one day he got the perfect idea. He waited until the family was gone shopping to carry it out so he could surprise them.

He went into the smallest room of the house. He pawed at the roll of white paper until it began to unroll. He grabbed the end, carefully at first, and started out toward the living room where the tree stood. He started getting more and more excited, jumping up on the furniture and running all around the room draping the lovely white streamer everywhere.

The family came back in carrying their shopping bags. They dropped them on the floor in surprise.”Look” Paul squealed, “Andre put up his Christmas decorations!”

“Oh, no!” groaned Mom and Dad at the same time, “It’s toilet paper!”

“It’s OK, Andre,” said Diane, reaching into her shopping bag. “Look what we got for you!” She pulled out a shiny Christmas ornament. It was shaped like a dog just like Andre with a wreath around its neck. Andre’s name was engraved on it.

Doug asked, “Can I put it on the tree?” He hung it right on the front, down low where Andre could see it.

Sue said, “Just a minute!” She ran off to her bedroom and came back with Andre’s plaid dog bed and placed it under the tree by Andre’s ornament. Andre hopped right in. It looked like he was smiling.

Later that evening, the kids all brought their pillows and covers into the living room and lined them up around the tree and Andre. Everyone settled in together. Mom and Dad came in, too, and Dad plugged in the lights. Everyone laughed and talked, then drifted off to sleep with dreams of Christmas.

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Spaghetti and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I put some out of the ordinary things in the car as I got ready for school- a grocery bag with a loaf of garlic bread, a bag of salad mix, a bottle of Thousand Island dressing, Parmesan cheese, and a pound box of spaghetti, a big box with a Crock Pot filled with homemade spaghetti sauce (Mom’s recipe), and another box with two gallon-size zip-lock bags packed with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. No, we were not having a potluck at school- I was leaving right after school for my brother’s house. Last week, he had hip replacement surgery. So I was taking him his favorite comfort foods. (Except for the salad- he opted for a second helping of spaghetti instead- I should have known!)

I was glad to see with my own eyes that his recovery is going well. He introduced me to “Aunt Edna,” his walker. His sense of humor is intact. My sister-in-law has been a great nurse. She will be the patient, soon, though. She has knee replacement surgery coming up later this month. Thankfully, their grown daughters and high school son are great helpers, too.

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