Shopping: Slice of Life #25

Shopping: Slice of Life #25

I spent much of the day shopping with my daughter. We went with things we needed in mind and came back with none of it. Ironically, we celebrated how well we did. Part of me celebrated that it was over.

I love the idea of shopping much more than the actual experience of it. The usual outcome: less money, tired feet and uncertainty about a bunch of things I will not care about in a day. Doesn’t seem worth it. Perhaps this is age.

I find I am usually only attracted to the colour and pattern of new styles hanging in windows. The styles themselves? Much less often. I like greens I wouldn’t wear. Florals on black. Rusty colours I could give amazing names to – burnt something or other, sienna, cactus flower. I’m not sure what any of those might be but I like to imagine. Again, the idea of all of this is quite wonderful. Much more wonderful than the doing of it: the traipsing from store to store, choosing things, trying things on, standing in lines.

The actual styles often confuse me. How can one hem on a pair of jeans be so popular this season when nobody thought twice about it in another? This no shoulder thing? Oh my. Wrapped skirts, wrapped shirts, wrapped this and wrapped that look all too confusing. And the silhouette of boxy cropped shirts. Yeah. Well.

This is me. Old, I remind you. Can’t keep up. Can’t be bothered to.

Not to say I don’t like fashion. I do. But my fashion sense seems to be summed up by this rule: find something that works and hit repeat. When I shop, I gravitate towards the same things over and over in slightly different variations.

Really long sweaters. Huge scarves. Sleeveless tunics. Dresses I would never wear with bare legs. I like linen. Jersey. Cotton. Never wool. Wrinkles that should be there. Too much grey. Natural colours – muted, nothing bright. Anything printed in serious moderation and ideally, amusing. Ravens on scarves. Giraffes on a silk sleeveless blouse I found at the consignment shop. A blue dress with tiny white stars that can be mistaken as dots. The perfect black everything: summer dress, silky T-shirt, slouchy cardigan. All of this worn over skinny jeans. Ideally soft and worn in. I am constantly searching for the army green jacket that will be my favourite. I have some that come kind of close. I buy too many sandals and not enough closed toed shoes even though it rains here for half the year or more. I have too many over sized bags. No small purses. But I do own the perfect tiger eye ring I have been wearing for decades.

My favourite things have come with me through years and have stories. I keep coming up with new reasons and ways to wear them so that they remain my favourites. Other things that don’t seem to fit my style, I am happy to give up after a season, wondering why I ever liked it to begin with.

My purchases today? Another pair of skinny jeans – soft and grey. A blue linen like dress perfect to wear over pants. Something black and sleeveless – you might call it a dress. I call it a tunic. Sandals for my daughter. Even though today was all about rain. So we also bought her a summer dress. And shorts.

Of course.

How well we did!

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

So far: Slice of Life #24

So far: Slice of Life #24

A spring trip to an island. A month of writing. Staring at the sea. Mornings full of words. Walks for the sake of wandering. Somewhere between now and years from now and long ago.

This March feels so like last March.

Yet it is so very far away.

I have come from held together with faith and fear and wishes. I walked months and months being sure sometimes of just the next step. In other moments I was certain about years worth of knowing. Both things pulled me through. Walking forward and pure conviction. I was wise and true and right.

This would carry me.

And it did.

Despite all of the future ambiguity, I knew what I knew. And it was something.

I eventually packed boxes and boxes of books and a few other things.

Plants. Special rocks. A wooden boat that was sailing me out.

I brought along the knowledge that had carried me. I spent last March writing about it all. Collecting it in one place. Giving it titles. Exploring its depths and how far it stretched. Unravelling it on the page, I could sift through and pick up the shiny bits.

Hold them up to all kinds of light. Dim. Fading. Bright and true.

I was calmed. Delighted. Constantly sad. Full of grief. Restless as hell.

I made certain that other things didn’t accompany me. Particular things. I turned literally in circles looking down and brushing off to make sure nothing attached like a sticky burr full of wayward seeds ready to find new growing ground.

Nothing was going to cling unannounced to make me stuck going forward. Or make me stall when I needed to flee. If I could have made some things tangible, I would have boxed them in crates. Wrapped them in twine. Stuck on labels: “To stay” “Not wanted” “Discard”

My words from a year ago speak to me in so many different ways. I remember the secrets they were trying not to keep. I am struck by their searching. I smile at their joy. Over and over and over again they celebrated all that I loved about the children I taught for two incredible decades.

So far.

One year is so far away.

Now that I can mark time like this, I can use it to make travel back and forth be a safe journey.

There is there and there is here.

I can wander back and return all in one piece.

Wandering through a month of writing. Brings me so far.

Between now and not so long ago.


Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Rain: Slice of Life #23

My family and I are tourists in another city. We spent the morning wandering. Down near the water. Through alleys and main streets. In and out of stores and shops. Drawn in by something in the window, the smell of fresh baked bread and one dappled Great Dane pup that charmed us all. We didn’t buy much. Coffee. Then lunch. That bread for our dinner. Books of course. Always books. One perfect chocolate each in the chocolate shop. Raspberry. Ginger. Butter Cream.

In the bookstore, I read Rain by Sam Usher. This is one gorgeous book. The pages seem slightly drowned. The images feel like they are full of puddles. Torrential rain that can’t be escaped has never looked quite so beautiful. The weather today called for rain and I was reminded that we had been spared. Our walk was pleasant. The weather mild. The sun made in and out appearances from behind the clouds. We had our second cup of coffee with sweets sitting outside on a back alley patio admiring planters and wondering where stairs led and what was behind each door. No rain today.

After lunch, we dropped bread and books back at the hotel and set out to walk for hours in the nearby park.

Within minutes it was drizzling. We come from rain. Drizzle is nothing. Most things we wear are meant to endure some water. This is the Pacific Northwest. Wet. Damp. Misty. Clean. We know rain. This was a meek attempt. We barely hesitated. Truth be told, we marched boldly over hills we didn’t know drawn by quacking ducks and a daffodil path all in bloom.

The drizzle picked up.

We raised hoods and quickened our step. There is always the shelter of trees.

A family was feeding the ducks. Which you aren’t supposed to do. But wow, those ducks. Mallard iridescent greens. Fifty ducks toddling across the grass is a sight to see.

A deluge replaced the drizzle. Huge drops. Soaked through in minutes, we ran to a structure where we could stand under a roof to escape. The wind picked up. There was no warm.

The next ten minutes was a back and forth between our fourteen-year-old son and us.

“We’ll just wait here until it lets up.”

“Oh my God. Let’s just go back now.”

“It won’t stay this steady.”

“Like we aren’t always in the rain.”

One duck waddled about in a nearby bush. Unbothered.

We got colder.

Eventually, the seeped in wet was too much and we stepped back into the downpour. Lessening now, because it does let up.

We know rain.

The cold and soaked feeling is familiar. As is the brighter green. The sweet smell of wet soil. The sound of rain splatter in the streets.

A warm room and dry clothes fix everything.

A view of a misty city.

Full of puddles.

The aftermath of rain that can’t be escaped.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Quiet Things: Slice of Life #22

I like quiet

Dreamy books whose words are soft and slow and sure

Spring flowers that calmly reveal themselves

The pale pink of the cherry blossoms

Falling on the sidewalk like pink snow when the wind picks up

Covering the mud and the cracks and the everyday gray

For those few magical hours

Willing everyone who walks there to be slower


I like quiet

White clouds that drift across the sky line

Not bothered that it is the slivers of blue that are celebrated

Branches that sway to a noiseless rhythm

Laundry on the line

A stack of books

A pile of leaves

One yellow slug at the beginning of the path


Long scarves that wrap up like a blanket

Music that is a barely there blur

Rings that don’t clink but twist and turn

In habitual circles

Noticed or not



Expressive eyebrows

Knowing smiles


Quiet like warm coffee that is drunk not slurped

An empty room before everyone shows up




Thoughts that lead you away and within

A watchful crow

Silent instead of squawking

Morning light that wakes the world

The smell just before it rains

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Chapter book Challenges: Slice of Life #21

This year, teaching a Grade 4 and 5 class for the first time ever has allowed me to observe readers at a new stage. In September, I had some children already comfortably reading chapter books but I had many who had never read a novel independently. There were many reasons for this.

A big one? They didn’t believe that they could.

Another? There had been little support to try.

Other things I noticed?

  • Many students didn’t know many authors or series and so they didn’t know where to begin with chapter books. The choices were overwhelming.
  • They didn’t know that they wanted to begin. Either they defined themselves as non-readers or they didn’t know that chapter books were now a possibility for them at their reading and interest level.
  • Students often made poor choices and then not surprisingly, didn’t like the books they chose. I began to get suspicious when the sixth child in a row told me that they loved adventure novels and then looked quite bored when I showed them some adventure titles. Turns out that we needed immediate instruction on genre. As soon as we spent some time learning about various genres, students could describe their reading interests with more accuracy. I have a class of mystery lovers, students who love suspense and many who are big into fantasy. As the year has progressed, many students have also realized they love historical and realistic fiction. Adventure fans? Not many.

There were also some very specific skills that many students needed to develop and practice. These included:

  • Developing reading stamina. We needed to work up to reading for 20 to 30 minutes at a time so that we could read at least a chapter in one independent reading session.
  • Enhancing visualization skills. Many students still relied heavily on visual clues as they had a healthy diet of graphic novels and early illustrated chapter books. They were strong readers that now had to be able to create their own images from descriptions provided by the author.
  • Making it through the first chapter. First chapters are hard. There can be multiple characters, confusing narration, elaborate setting details and hints at plot points that will later be developed. This is a lot to keep track of and often requires support.

What strategies do I need to support and teach?

  •  Most importantly of course, I needed to provide a wide selection of titles to choose from. Knowing many books across various genres is the way I have supported my students most of all.
  • I had to let students abandon books because they were learning so much about what kinds of books most appealed to them and many of their choices were not a  fit. But, I would first try to rescue the relationship between book and reader. Was this a true “not a match” or was this a comprehension issue that I might be able to support? Asking students to read at least 20 pages made a difference. So did ensuring that the story line and vocabulary were not too complex. Readers do need to know when a book is not for them whatever the reason so that their early experiences with reading chapter books is pleasurable.
  • When possible, I spent time going back through the first chapter with a reader. This wasn’t a word for word reread but a skim and scan for key plot points and to discuss characters, setting and narrator. I always reminded students that I reread the most during the first chapter as I get myself ready for the whole book.
  • Through whole class and small group book talks and mini-lessons, I teach students about different narrators, how the author sets the scene and story techniques like flash-backs. Students need a lot of support here.
  • Some of my students made character book marks. Quite simply this was a sticky note attached to their book mark where they kept a running list of characters with a key word or two like Kate’s brother or next door neighbour. This helped focus attention on characters as they began the story.
  • I encouraged reading breaks. Students benefitted from breaking up the independent reading period into chunks and taking a break from their novel to read a picture book or a section from a nonfiction text. At the same time, I encouraged students to have some longer periods of time to really develop flow and read a large chunk from their novel. Some books are easy to pick up and put down. With others, it is more difficult. This is also part of the learning.

I am still learning as my students are learning. I would love to hear from more experienced teachers at the Grade 4 and 5 level. What are the ways you support your students with chapter book reading?

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Writing cheats: Slice of Life #20

Writing cheats: Slice of Life #20

So any day now my writing “thing” is going to return.

Now, I need to cheat. Because all of the usual nudges are nudging me nowhere.

Scroll through photos for something that says something connected to something I have been thinking something about.

This actually works. But right now typing it, I just confused myself.

Move backwards and forwards through the day and stop when there is something to peel away or poke at.

Not happening.

Today was a day of procrastination cleaning, long drawn out packing, nagging children, wasting time.

I drifted through this day and never settled. Reorganizing the fridge, folding sheets, eating fruit so that it won’t spoil. These things offer me nothing.

I think I did it sort of purposely. If I am going to confess. Pushed myself to late night deadlines with nothing on the page. Just to see what I would pull out. Knowing it would be nothing.

This is now my blank slate. My nowhere place to walk from.

I can’t really cheat. I have to just write this.

This blah nowhere limbo.

It doesn’t even deserve a word. More just a sound. A kind of sigh. Half hearted and under-impressive.

Now there is only one way to go. Away from this and towards a story to tell.

Tomorrow I will stare at the ocean.

I will walk through a different city.

I will shake out my head.

Something will come.

I have no more words for nothing.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Missing words: Slice of Life #19

Missing words: Slice of Life #19

In this month of writing, there comes a point where strangely, I begin to miss words.

Writing requires the active arrangement of words on the page. We must come at it thoughtfully. There is no vague. It is about precise. Even in vague images there needs to be an exactness about directions the reader might go. There isn’t much room for breathing. We offer space between the words but we can’t take any of that space for our own. Breathe quick and find the next word. Lay it down. Carefully. Make a path. Lure the reader down it.

I am so tired of my words. I am bored by them. I am lost in them. It’s not calming. It’s irksome. It itches. It irritates. I want to pull a large blanket over my head and hide. I want to hear nothing from me.

I need to go read. Pages and pages of words that I don’t need to organize. Words that I can ignore or scrutinize. Words that can lead me away. Or lead me within. Or take me around and around and around and it’s okay if I end up nowhere and have only had the journey.

I am missing words. From other people’s stories. I want the time to step into another life. To turn around and look at it from multiple perspectives.  I want to be able to notice the amazing of word choice that makes a moment. I want the chance to not be conscious at all. To not be aware of why I was knocked over by a section of text that held me and spun me and whirled me around. I want to stagger away and be transformed.

Through words, I want to feel. To be moved. To become tangled up and not need to weave the way out.

I need time to be reading.

To be changed by a story.

The chance to forget to breathe. And then to cry. To feel everything inside someone else’s head.

I want to examine another life and know how little and how much I know.

I am missing words.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.