Coca-cola

I’m thinking about touchstones. When I was little, I loved Easter, and still do. It’s my favorite holiday, honestly. I know most people prefer Christmas or Halloween. For me, though, there is something about giant, silent rabbits and a story about a really good guy being tortured and killed just for being a really good guy that is a little…well, scary. And yet, there is a feeling that as scary as it id, something beautiful is right around the corner.

The giant bunny was spooky, but he turned out to be playful. He hid eggs. He left baskets with awesome little toys and candy.

The ground was muddy and dead, but lilacs were peeking out. And daffodils.

Crucifixion is horrifying, but resurrection is miraculous and awe-inspiring.

Easter, more than any holiday, has those touchstones. In a chaotic world where we have no control, there is always that giant mechanism behind the curtain, cranking slowly and making sure that the cycle continues. What dies in winter will come back in spring.

One personal touchstone for me was that my grandma always made this lamb-shaped pound cake. It had coconut shavings on the frosting to look like wool, and black jellybeans for the eyes and nose. No matter what else the year had brought, when spring arrived, we would always have Grandma and her lamb cake.

My mom’s memories of that cake are different. She says that each year, my gram, her mom, would ruin the ears. My mom and she would giggle in the kitchen as they repaired the damage the best they could with toothpicks and generous lumps of frosting. I honestly don’t remember ever seeing any problems with the ears, so their workmanship must have been quite good.

I miss my grandma this time of year. I think my mom misses her, too.

We have a new baby in the family who was just born March 5, and I’m thinking I should learn how to make that lamb cake. I want baby Evie to know that in a chaotic world of change, we will be a touchstone for her. I want her to have a sense of cycles and returns and family.

I wanted to write about Coca-cola. I was thinking about how it is a touchstone for me. It is good to know it will be the same no matter where I travel. When I was homesick traveling in Venezuela, or during my foreign study in Japan, I knew I could buy a Coke, and I would be transported home.

I wanted to write about that. But my mind wandered, and I guess a different kind of homesickness brought me to this post.

Happy Easter, everyone. And happy spring and the start of a new season of new life. May the cycles keep turning.

Thank you

This writing experience has been wonderful. I have not even come close to my goal of writing every day to develop a strong daily habit. However, I am not disappointed.

I have thought in new ways and stretched my comfort for sharing, specifically with strangers. I have been introduced to, inspired by, and engaged with other writing teachers and thinkers. From their incredible posts I have learned much about what my writing lacks, and I will continue to follow these writers to learn from their examples.

I have once more been amazed by educators from around the country who are driven to improve themselves and their craft, to show their students a growth mindset model in action.

Thank you, friends, for reading and writing.

Five Minutes at Walmart

Long story short, I lost my dog’s collar, and yesterday, I went to Walmart to pick up a new one. I had purchased a really cute one from Amazon, but I had underestimated the tininess of my pup.

As I was checking out, the woman asked, “What kind of dog do you have?” A simple question, but my dog is a rescue and a mixed breed, so I showed her a pic. We laughed. She then told me about her dogs. She had grown up around big dogs, but then she met a little Shih Tzu and fell in love. She eventually had to have him euthanized at 18-years-old, a moment all pet owners dread. Her second dog had coronary failure and died in his sleep. She now has a 4-month-old puppy.

We talked about having dogs and not having children. We talked about grief. We talked about a lot of things.

A few minutes later, I was back in my car with a good feeling in my heart. It occurred to me that I had just connected with this woman with whom I probably have very little in common. But she had reached out. It very easily could have been a ten-second encounter of false pleasantries, but this woman took that moment of risk to look for commonalities.

She inspired me. I am going to look for those small signs of connection with others. I know it will be hard, and I know I will need to be vigilant. But I am making a vow to myself to try.

If we all can do that, imagine how hard it will be to judge. Imagine how much easier it will be to walk in other people’s shoes.

“My heart is sick of woe.” -Anne Bronte

Getting older. It’s been interesting. My metabolism has decreased. It’s harder to multitask and to remember my to-do’s without a list. I can’t eat what I used to, and I don’t feel as strong. But the greatest change has been unexpected.

I realized just this week that age has made me kind of…weary. I used to have a sense, an innate intuition that people were good, and most people want to do what’s right. I used to firmly believe that when people were unkind or selfish, it was out of fear or ignorance or insecurity. I thought if I could understand people, for the most part, I could see their goodness.

I still believe this often. However,…

Every once in a while, I encounter a person who is just not good. He might enjoy one-upping others. She might find it funny when others are suffering simply because she’s not.

These people throw me off my game. I can’t anticipate their next move. I can’t empathize with them because I can’t think the way they do. I don’t even want to. But I see them win and pummel good people in their way, and it makes me angry. And weary.

I knew that aging would mean gray hair and flabby arms. But I did not anticipate this sadness at the ugly side of humanity.

I look at my parents. They are in their 80’s and are so zen about life. They live in the now, and they see the ugliness, but they get past it, and they don’t let it get to them.

I look forward to that next stage.

Mind Pa…

In the BBC show Sherlock, the title character talks about his mind palace, which is a space he creates in his mind in order to “put things away” and find them later. I am fascinated with this concept.

My problem is follow through. I know I am not alone with this issue. Many people have great ideas that never get beyond that initial stage precisely because they cannot seem to move from thought to action.

Like this mind palace thing. I bought a book on it. It seems like something I could do if I could simply set aside maybe 15 minutes a day.

And this very writing task I’m doing. I have already missed a few days. Why? My follow through is awful.

I think part of my problem is that I want to do a lot. It’s a matter, once more, of sacrificing good for great. Instead of scheduling a little here and there, I think to myself, I should wait until summer or break or some other to start so I can do this right.

So just as I am writing here when I can (and not writing any masterpieces, I might add), I will try my hand at building a mind tiny house instead of a mind palace. I can always add a second floor later.

Chickens

The agriculture department has baby chicks and baby bunnies. Is there anything more Easter than that?

I am a native Chicagoan, and when I first moved out here, one family from my homeroom would invite me to their farm once a week for dinner. They had horses we rode, a pack of dogs, some barn cats, and chickens.

My old dog Emily was about the chillest dog around. She was so laid back that my friends and family called her the Buddha dog. But there was something about chickens that really appealed to her. She would chase them for about ten minutes and then lay down and pant. She’d get up again and repeat. She sure loved going out to the farm, and she would sleep like a rock after we had been there.

I remember trying to help with chores once. I tried to help collect eggs, and I have to admit, I had no idea what to do or how to do it. After several minutes of laughing at me as I tried to approach the chickens, saying, “Hey, chicas! Is it okay if I come in here and snake your eggs from ya? I’m cool, girls,” my friend decided that perhaps she would get the eggs herself, and I could just carry the bucket. To give you an idea of how much of a city girl I was back then, I was wearing flip flops.

Those eggs were the best. The shells were a gorgeous, oaky, tan-brown color. And the yolks were a rich mustardy gold. And they tasted different. Fresh.

I see these chicks now and wonder, if I kept one as a pet, in Freeport, would she give me some fine eggs? I’m pretty sure it’s against our city ordinances, but a girl can dream.

Gratitude II

1. Taking time off to see my brother in the hospital and getting notes via Remind from my students asking me if both I and he are okay

2. Coming back to a note from the substitute telling me that she had an awesome day

3. Accidentally sleeping through my alarm this morning (let’s blame Daylight Saving Time) and having a boss who laughs when I call in “late”

4. My sick dog grabbing a toy, ready to play again

5. Remembering that THIS is the week we start reading Beowulf

6. Being able to introduce my older brother to a band that is new to him

7. Having lunch with my parents

8. Getting an email from a student wishing me a happy International Woman’s Day

9. Remembering that this weekend is the 2nd Annual Pours-for-Paws wine tasting fundraiser at the shelter where I volunteer

10. David Bowie