Saturday, August 8, 2015

College Roommates

     Besides falling in love with my adorable and amazing husband, one of the best things that came out of my four years at Boston College was meeting eight incredible women. All of these years later (many more than I care to admit), we remain ever present in each other's lives. Oddly, we regularly refer to ourselves as the "roomies". The term works itself into all of our conversations. Ironically, we never all lived together in one location during those college days. Different variations of the eight of us have shared dorm rooms and apartments, yet we consider ourselves "roomies" for life.
     We have been through the many ups and downs of life together. And by together, I don't necessarily mean "physically" since we are scattered across six different states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia) making true reunions difficult to plan and generally limited to once a year, sometimes once every few years. 
     Still, these women are as much a part of my life as those I see on a daily basis. It is nearly impossible to describe the level of communication that transpires between all of us via text and email. Rarely does an entire week go by without some form of communication from one of the roomies, updating the rest of us on a random facet of her life. Sometimes, when life is at its busiest, a few respond while the others attempt to catch up at a later date. In those moments, we quickly check in and then move on, caught in the tide, the ebb and flow of our individual lives. More often, one text sets off a chain of texts, each of us contributing randomly to the conversation which has literally gone on for hours, days, sometimes weeks. 
     For those late to the text string, it is often overwhelming to catch up on the news, particularly since the topics change as quickly as the thought has entered one of our minds. Adding to the confusion is the fact that we never edit the "re" line so you begin reading about the topic referenced and slowly find yourself exposed to a wide variety of comments that have absolutely no connection to the original topic. In an effort to make the process easier for those who have missed the original text string, one of the roomies has recently resorted to sending a summary email, highlighting the important points in the original text. This was a brilliant update to the system!
     This method of communication has worked for us for so many years, it's become an integral part of our relationships with each other. Those emails and texts have provided me with many moments of comfort and peace during times of crisis. It feels as though we are sharing our morning coffees, or our afternoon snacks, or our evening glasses of wine together. As a result, the conversation flows as only it can with true friends. I regularly find myself laughing out loud, all alone in a room as I make my way through the string of texts. My family and friends have come to understand that there are times when I'm lost to them, fully immersed in the roomie conversation, smiling, chuckling, and sometimes, crying my way through the discussion.
     Today, I celebrate this group of women: strong, smart, sexy, sarcastic, sympathetic, and sensational (I had to go with the alliteration once I got started). I'm so glad that technology has allowed us to stay connected even though life has led us down so many different paths. Keep the messages coming, girls!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August Anxiety - Slice of Life Challenge #3

Someone posted a quote on Facebook recently that said it best: "The month of August feels like a Sunday evening for teachers." Although the relaxed routines of summer still exist, there is also a realization that the start of a new school year is quickly approaching. Each morning, I open my eyes and remind myself to do something enjoyable, more specifically, to do something that I won't indulge in once the first day of school is upon us. I consider reading a book for a few hours, going for a long walk with the dogs, cooking a new recipe for dinner, watching a movie with the kids, working on the photo books, or connecting with an old friend. Even with the best laid plans to embrace summer, I inevitably find myself organizing closets, paying bills, cleaning out the pantry, working on my plans for the 1st Quarter, creating binders and folders for the school year, or possibly, trolling Pinterest, at first for new recipes, inspiring home decor, or stylish new outfits, but always ending with a search for new classroom organization and decoration tips, potential ideas for stimulating lessons, and links to educational videos.

I confess to being one of those moms who absolutely loves spending time with my family. My husband infuses laughter into each and every family activity which keeps the kids coming back for more. I've never felt "ready" for them to go back to school. This has become particularly true since my oldest will be returning to college in a few weeks. There is no amount of mental or emotional preparation that can make that moment of good-bye any easier for me. I remind myself of the importance of this chapter in her life and what a gift it is that she is genuinely happy and settled in this new place she calls home. Still, the tears flow when I allow myself to even think about the impending drop-off. I can't begin to imagine next summer when there will be two drop-offs and only one left at home. God knew what He was doing when he gave us the gift of our youngest so many years after the first two.

Although this post is one day late for the Tuesday Slice of Life, it is a great way to start my day. I've allowed myself to get lost in my own thoughts and to focus on a new approach to these final weeks of summer. Today, I commit to a change of mindset, to embrace a philosphy of carpe diem. I will focus on spending quality time with the family and engaging in enjoyable free-time activities, with only a sliver of time reserved for endless planning and preparing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Unexpected Adventure - Slice of Life Challenge #2

My husband has recently developed an obsession with an app called Waze and uses it regularly to navigate the highways and byways, avoiding traffic delays along the way. It is a real-time navigation system that provides the fastest route from Point A to Point B taking into consideration recently received information about traffic delays. "Wazers" continually update information into the system which is then used to notify other "Wazers" of the current traffic conditions. Although the concept seems incredibly helpful, particularly for longer road trips, it is my opinion that you really need a co-pilot to properly input data, focus on updates, and drive safely.
This past weekend, on our way home from a family getaway, my son take on the role of co-pilot, a job he thoroughly enjoyed.  We had been on the road for a little over two hours when Waze informed us that there would be a significant delay on Route 81 and suggested an alternative route. Of course, my husband and son thought this was a great option and we exited Route 81 onto an unknown rural road.  After several turns left and right, we found ourselves driving parallel to the highway and my husband and son were both feeling quite proud of themselves. That was until they noticed that the cars ahead were slowing down.
It seems other drivers had received the same information from Waze and this alternative route now had its own traffic issues.  As we crawled along the two-lane road, my son announced that Waze was suggesting yet another alternative route and we would need to turn right ahead. I warned him that we should not blindly follow this suggestion when we didn't have a clue where we were or where it was taking us. My husband did not agree and jumped at the opportunity to follow blindly.  We found ourselves whipping along a dirt road, through farmland, up steep inclines, and around sharp corners. It seemed to be a one lane road, which proved not be the case when we narrowly avoided another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.  My three children and my husband thought this was quite an exciting adventure and were enjoying every moment.  I was not so convinced and tried to push my anxiety aside. I couldn't help but question our decision and warn my family that something didn't feel right. I made an attempt to focus on the cows, the beautiful mountains, and the rolling hills. Just as I started to relax, I noticed the approaching brake lights.
Ahead of us, approximately nine cars were stopped, sitting completely still. What made this curious sight more alarming was that the drivers and passengers were getting out of their cars and slowly making their way down the gravel road toward a lovely historic bridge spanning a large stream. Shockingly, an eighteen wheeler sat atop the bridge and a moving company employee was attempting to direct the driver as he attempted to back up and re-enter the bridge.  After several attempts, it was quite apparent that the truck was not getting over the bridge.
I could feel the frustration and anger start to rise as we watched this scene unfold before us. We were hopelessly stuck as car after car came up behind us and parked. The situation seemed dire and I made a conscious effort to avoid the words, "I told you so."
As I sat in silence watching the truck make yet another attempt to straighten out and cross the bridge, I noticed a friendly older woman come out onto the porch of a beautiful farmhouse sitting next to the river.  She was smiling and shaking her head. She made her way down the hill and exclaimed, "Well, we haven't had this much action in 20 years!  This is so exciting!  Listen, if you're all stuck here for awhile, don't worry, I've got plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers in the house as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There's also a set of lovely adirondeck chairs next to the water.  Feel free to go sit over there while you wait."
Her genuine hospitality and kind spirit shocked me.  She was so welcoming and peaceful and she made this difficult situation seem almost positive.  At this point, I also took the time to look around at the individuals gathered outside their cars. This was a group from such a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, and places. Groups of individuals started forming and conversations arose, people were sharing where they were coming from, and how they had followed the navigation system in an attempt to avoid traffic. Instead of anger and frustration, people were laughing and enjoying themselves on the side of a dirt road, somewhere in western Virginia.
That moment made me stop and realize it's all about your attitude during a tough situation. Life is much more enjoyable when we find the connections to others and take the time to immerse ourselves in our community. It shouldn't happen only when we are forced to stop moving so quickly through our lives.  This experience was "a slice of life" because it was short-lived, ending as quickly as it started. Within a few more minutes, the truck found a way to make just enough room to allow each and every car to pass over the bridge leaving our brief taste of fellowship and bonding in the rear view mirror.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My First Slice of Life

Two Writing Teachers

Although it's mid-July and I'm still focusing on decompressing from the school year, I find myself excited and motivated as I plan for the upcoming academic year by attending "Get Your Blog On" with Michelle Haseltine. I've threatened to start a blog for quite a few years now, but that desire never quite made it off the "To Do" list ... until now. This two day professional development has been inspiring, interesting, and informative. I'm officially ready to enter the blogging world and to make connections to other bloggers, particularly in the Middle School Language Arts world.
The most fascinating part of this experience has been to fully understand that blogging is simply an extension of my personal writing. Prior to this training, I categorized it as a "classroom only activity". I believed my role in the blog was to instruct and guide students, not to simply write. It never occurred to me that I could, and should, blog about topics of interest, blog on a weekly basis, and take the time to fully immerse myself in this experience before attempting to extend this practice into the classroom at some point in the future.
One more important piece of information is the knowledge that blogging is often described as "first draft writing" which allows me the freedom to simply write without fear of judgment about my grammar errors or incoherent thoughts. This is a completely new experience for me and one I'm ready to embrace.  Stay tuned for further updates on this journey.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Naming the Blog

As a novice blogger, I had to think long and hard about a catchy title for my newly-created blog. I tried a wide variety of creative and eye-catching titles only to settle on the best and simplest description of myself as a writer: the wordy teacher.  I am undeniably verbose, a quality that may prove challenging in the blogging world.
It is difficult, and sometimes utterly impossible, for me to say things succinctly.  I am drawn to detailed descriptions and intoxicating imagery. Family and friends accuse me of unnecessarily introducing each story before actually sharing it. My texts are generally paragraphs long and my emails are often longer.
Since I teach 8th grade English, I've decided blogging is an excellent method to inspire my students to write regularly, at least weekly, possibly daily. I'm slightly nervous and overwhelmed with the prospect of getting started with my own blog, particularly since one characteristic of all the blogs I've reviewed is that they get right to the point and move on. So, starting today, with this first post, I am setting a personal blogging goal which is to defy the title of my blog in a clever and inspirational, albeit concise, manner.  I'm not sure I'm off to a very good start ...