Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A patio set



I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!


My Dad, 90 years old next week, was recently moved into a nursing home, due to complications from Parkinson's. My Mom died last October. This summer, we finished emptying my Dad and Mom's house, and then we drove a U-haul filled with treasured belongings from their house in Maine to my home in Maryland. This poem is about one of those treasures, a patio set, that now resides at my house.


A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
a place for them to be,
a gift of love just a few years back,
to welcome them
to their new home in Maine.

A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
easing them into
a small home with caregivers, after
the abrupt end of their life in the south, 
in a coastal paradise. 

A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
meant to help them adjust
to less independence,
a place for them to be,
in hopes of helping them feel more at home,
to remind them of the beach and the sea.

A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
we hoped they'd spend years
sitting, enjoying the birds and the trees,
surrounded by their
cherished photos,
familiar trinkets,
loving family.

Not to be, not to be.

A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
is now my place to be.
Although not an an heirloom or antique,
instead, purchased for them
recently,
it is lush with meaning.

A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
reminds in the midst of birds and trees,
of strong and fragile,
of living, breathing, loving,
of all that is possible and might not,
of how things change.

A patio set,
wicker, soft, and blue,
new to me, meant to be.





Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Too much awake



I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!


A poem, written in the middle of the night, about being awake in the middle of the night. 


These days,
too much new and unusual exercise -
a long run,
a particularly hilly bike ride,
a novel and strenuous aerobics class,
and I am awake
in the middle of the night,
alert,
aware,
attuned.

These days,
too much drink -
whether wine,
or tea,
or simply water,
and I am awake
in the middle of the night,
nagged,
knotted,
noticing.

These days,
too much conversation -
old friends, laughing and recalling,
new folks, meeting and learning,
colleagues, sharing and debating,
and I am awake
in the middle of the night,
reliving,
replaying,
remembering.

These days,
too much food -
whether savory and spicy,
or chocolate and rich,
or copious,
and I am awake
in the middle of the night,
pained,
polluted,
promising to never again.

These days,
too much noise -
a sudden bump,
a clap of thunder,
an ambulance going by,
and I am awake
in the middle of the night,
tense,
twisted.
transfixed.

These days,
it doesn't take much,
and I am awake
in the middle of the night,
waiting,
wondering,
writing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Trust women




I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.


A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect!!

I've been frustrated by the ugliness and extremism of the abortion fight in recent months - especially the repressive laws that are now being passed. Abortion is never an easy choice for women. It is heart-wrenching and personal, and it should be safe and private. I've been trying to think of pithy retorts...though I lack the quickness that is so essential in this rapid-fire, catchy sound bite, tweet-driven world we live in. I wanted to reduce my thinking to two-word phrases - and what emerges is almost a poem:


Love babies
Trust women
Support families
Whole lives
Healthy communities
Think deeply
Encourage caring
Trust women
Respect doctors
Promote research
Improve medicine
Tolerate gray
Eliminate absolutes
Trust women
Stop polarization
Listen lovingly
Engage others
Consider perspectives
Prayerfully contemplate
Trust women
Thoughtful decisions
Allow privacy
Compassionate laws
Abortion rights
Love babies
Trust women










Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Walking along the jetty




I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.


A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect!!

On our most recent trip to Saco, Maine, after spending the day with my father in the nursing home, my son (age 23) and I decided to take a break and walk the beach for a bit. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-60s, and the sun shining brightly. Once on the beach, we decided to investigate the long jetty. At the outset, we easily traversed the large, flat-surfaced rocks. We impulsively decided - hey, let's walk the whole way! It seemed like such a reasonable idea, right then.

About a third of the way down the jetty, those flat-surfaced rocks became more rare, replaced with rough and sharp-edged boulders, requiring us to slow down and focus. Our determination increased, too, in direct correlation to this tricky footing: we must get to the end of the jetty. The breezes were so beautiful, the setting picturesque, we both felt strong and healthy - yes, we must get to the end of the jetty!

As I continued, the walk became much more challenging. Truly, it was no longer a walk or a hike, but sheer scrambling on the rocks. Could I do this? What was I thinking? I let my son go on ahead of me, calling out to him every now and again, but I honed in on my own work. I really had to watch my footing. I was no longer taking in the scenery but completely obsessed with where my very next step should be placed. At one point, I stubbed my big toe on my left foot so hard - and, whoa, the pain was piercing. But I was almost to the end of the jetty! I couldn't give up then! 

I kept thinking about the parallels to life, how those rougher periods require you to narrow your focus for a bit, to let other things go while you take care of what needs doing. I also thought about how easy it is to stop pursuing some goals once things get challenging - sometimes, if the process seems too long, daunting, or slow, I want to give up. It's important to keep on.

As we made our way down the jetty, sections of rocks were increasingly covered with slick green slime, ratcheting up the difficulty of moving forward. The 'walk' turned into a seemingly endless series of tripping, stumbling, sitting, reaching, stretching, slipping, twisting, balancing, and HOPING my feet STUCK as I stepped.

It's funny to think about my many moods on this adventure - 
First, without even stepping a foot on the jetty, I was thinking "Ooh, let's walk that! It looks so pretty!"
Then, with all those flat rocks early on, the decision is made, "Hey, let's go to the end!
Half-way down, "Dang, this is harder than I thought...but it will be fun to do with others, when we visit again in the future." 
Just a little shy of the jetty's end, pure gritty determination set in: "Oh, I am DEFINITELY not turning around, but I WILL NEVER WALK THIS JETTY AGAIN IN MY LIFE!"

Finally, we made it as far as we could possibly go. Here's where we turned around:





Isn't it beautiful? We took festive, celebratory photos and turned back to see the shore, only to realize: oh, no - the sun was setting!! There was to be no basking in this accomplishment. 

We had to hustle back before dark.

UNBELIEVABLE! 

What were we thinking? 

Our supposed half-hour jaunt had taken more than an hour already...and we were technically at the mid-point. We had just as much rock to cover on the way back. 


Here I am, making my way down the jetty.

Wouldn't you think the way back would be easier? Ha! I thought it was much, much harder. We were so worn out. Plus, while we were walking, someone flipped all the rocks so that their most jagged and slippery edges were the only surfaces that we could climb on. (Or so it seemed.) 

Moving a little too quickly due to that setting sun, I did an unexpected faceplant; one moment I was vertical and next, I was horizontal. Did one foot touch a slippery surface while the other foot was still in motion? I have no idea what happened. It was one amazing fall. I landed softly on my belly, with only the tiniest knick to my knee, that I didn't even realize I had until I undressed later, safe at home. (Spoiler alert: yes, I made it safely home.) 

I lay there on the rocks thinking - "Oh my goodness, Maureen, you silly, silly woman. What if you had hit your head? Twisted your ankle? Broken your arm? Imagine that you were stranded here on this jetty! Why in the world did you think this was a good idea?" My son said he was pretty shook, because he heard me moan and looked back to see me lying down. He says he called out to me and I didn't answer right away. He thought - Oh no! We're in a fine mess now. In fact, I lay there feeling grateful about the sheer luck and beauty of my fall, and thinking about how important it was to focus, and to move slowly and steadily as I continued. 

Yes, another life lesson: maybe the next time I feel as if I am not accomplishing my goals, I should think of it as 'laying on the rocks,' a momentary stuck, a chance to regroup and then, go on - one foot in front of the other. Keep on, keeping on.

Back on my feet, I coached myself: one foot on a rock, steady, before lifting the other foot. Slow. Purposeful. Cautious. Be the tortoise, not the hare. 

And so we did, finally, return to shore. We were both SO THRILLED TO FINISH!! It was a full two and a half hours after we had started out. Plus, the sun had set. Yes, we made it down the last part of the jetty in the light of dusk.

Oh, what fools we were! Giddy fools, now that we were done.

We met a fisherman, a local, back on shore, and he noted that the slick rocks of the jetty were where the water completely covered the jetty during high tides. If we had gone out as the tides changed, we wouldn't have been able to cross back at all. Oh my goodness! We are sea illiterates! I never even thought about tides!

What an adventure, a beautiful adventure!



Sunset in Saco, view from the jetty. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

SOL: Redbuds in spring















            The redbud is one of my favorite trees. I first noticed it when hiking in the Shenandoah mountains many, many years ago, in the early spring. In the mountains, these are little wisps of trees, perhaps grown from seeds dropped indiscriminately by birds or carried by the wind, slipping in-between and alongside evergreens and oaks, dotting the trails as you climb. They almost jump out at you, bursting with bright purple-pink color, as they move from their winter dormancy. I have never really seen anything red about them...I think they should be called 'purple bud,' but, of course, I was not consulted.

             About five years ago, having decided a small, flowering shade tree is exactly what we lacked, we planted a redbud in our front yard. From our living room window, I get the delight of watching it bloom and grow, throughout the seasons. Its early spring show, with its pop of color, blows away all the other seasons, in my opinion. I soon realized a downside of the redbud: that pop of color is very brief, with the bright blooms changing quickly to leaves. Walking by flowering redbuds on a hike, I never thought about that; they were simply beautiful to behold. Watching the redbud from my window these past few years, I've been more aware the bright purple-pink season is actually very short and I pay close attention.

              About ten days ago, my redbud began its gorgeous spring blooming - sweet blossoms emerging along every branch, dotting these in tiny petals. Then, we went away for spring break. We drove down to Georgia from our home in Maryland, along I-81, and I again marveled at the redbuds dotting the landscape, all along this mountainous route. Beautiful! Once in Georgia, I didn't notice the redbuds...out of sight, out of mind. Here, the dogwoods were in full glory. Ah, spring!

               First thing Easter morning, back in Maryland, my spring break over, I immediately noticed that my dear redbud's fabulous spring blossoms were fading quickly - oh no! I was not here for their full glory!

               I stood for a long while underneath the tree branches, noticing and devouring.

               Emerging from the end of each of the branches were small, heart-shaped leaves. These leaves do not simply replace blossoms, but seem to grow in addition, alongside, stretching new from the tree. As the blossoms wilt and fall away, more and more leaves will arrive. Looking closely at those blossoms one more time, I notice their small purple core, with two to three tender pink petals growing out of this. I notice those new heart-shaped leaves are pretty, too, bright and shiny, deep red in color.

                This same week of spring break, my granddaughter, "Frog," who is nearly six months old, outgrew the bassinet in her parents' bedroom and moved to her own crib, in her own bedroom. Do you know she also started to sit up? Babies, wow, how quickly they change. Somehow in the midst of the hike of parenting my own children, the changes didn't seem so fast as they do now, with Frog. She is stretching and growing, just like those blossoms and leaves, letting some things fall away, opening up to so much new. I get the delight of watching Frog bloom and grow.



Tuesday, April 9, 2019

SOL: Parkinson's



I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.

A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect!!



Seeing my Dad this past weekend was, once again, really hard. He is 89 and lives in a nursing home in Maine. He suffers from Parkinson's, and his decline continues with abandon.

I think about how I work with preschoolers to accomplish some small skill - say, printing the letters of their name, or zippering up their coat, or cleaning up their toys. Often, with practice, I see marked improvement very quickly, as they work on these skills. For Dad, with Parkinson's, his daily work is the mirror opposite - not skill-building, but trying to delay skill-disappearing. He works very, very hard to not regress in his skills. He wants to hold on to that which he can do - and, honestly, these past few months, it seems to be to no avail. Over time - over much too short time - he is losing his ability to do absolutely everything. As hard as it is for me, his child, to watch this, I know it has to be eviscerating for him to live it out.

An example:
Just three weeks ago, he needed my help a little bit to get out of his bed or chair, and then he walked with a walker. Today, I cannot coach him by myself; I need the assistance of a caregiver to get him up. I watched/assisted as she gave him step-by-step directions - "hold this," "reach here," "step here." It was clear to me that Dad could not follow her slow and clear words. Also, just three weeks from when I last saw him, he is no longer able to walk with a walker and now uses a wheelchair. Together, the caregiver and I lifted and moved him into the wheelchair, with little or no help from Dad, little or no ability from Dad. This decline is stunning.

My brother has done a lot of reading about Parkinson's (I probably should, as well!) and he says that the progression of this disease is uneven. Although there are specific stages of decline, these are achieved in irregular patterns - sometimes moving slowly and other times deteriorating very quickly. There is rarely any "bounce back," but a progression towards immobility. Since Mom's death in October, Dad's decline is like an elevator, dropping down rapidly. Grief coupled with Parkinson's, that's how I describe his condition.

This poem is my reflection on this new chapter in Dad's/my life.


How can it be that
yesterday he could,
today he can't?

Sliding
      down a slippery slope,
                      surrendering to
                                         silence.
                                             

How can it be that
yesterday he could,
today he can't?

Moving backwards
mind muddled,                           
 a mask of oneself,                                           
miserable.                                                                


How can it be that
yesterday he could,
today he can't?

Forgetting,
 falling,
 frail,
   forever gone.

Parkinson's
means
progressive
powerlessness.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

SOL: It's 9pm



I am participating in the
 Slice of Life  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.

A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect!!

It's 9pm 
on a Tuesday.
It's 9pm 
on the Tuesday after the March Slice of Life Challenge.
It's 9pm 
and I have not written a slice of life.
It's 9pm 
and I have not even drafted a slice of life.
It's 9pm
and I wonder how it can be so challenging to write one slice of life, when I wrote one every day for 31 days without much difficulty at all?
It's 9pm
and I have 
babysat my granddaughter for one hour before school, 
because of a very unusual scheduling hiccup,
carried a bureau into my own classroom for the dramatic play corner,
because it sat there screaming "I'm free!!" from the curb in front of a house as I drove by,
launched a whole new professional inquiry project about restorative practice,
because of an excellent workshop last week,
taught a full day of preschool with paint, blocks, dress-ups, books, more,
because that's what I do,
worked closely with a very challenging preschooler,
because he bit a classmate once again and I can't figure out how he's ever going to stop,
entered edits on report cards during my lunch break,
because my principal got them back to me late and they were due last Friday,
ate too many pizza rolls leftover from children's lunches 
because I couldn't believe they wouldn't even taste them,
wrote a long note to families,
because we are going to do many exciting things in the weeks to come,
ran at break-neck speed around my school neighborhood with other colleagues,
because a first grader was missing and, thankfully, soon found safe and sound,
returned to see my granddaughter a little more after school,
because we gather there on Tuesdays for dinner,
showered and readied myself for bed,
because I am exhausted.
It's 9pm
and this is my slice of life.