Slice of Life: August a.k.a the Sunday of Summer

minion A friend shared this meme today and it reflects how I have been feeling since August 1st.  August feels like the Sunday of summer when my time is my own but I have work I should be doing and time is running out.  I dread this time of year when “Back to School” supplies are on display.  They serve as a reminder to all the good intentions I started the summer with…

Exercise more…

Write more…

Professional reading plans…

House organization and clean out projects…

Classroom organization and clean out projects…

With the exception of classroom organization I have whittled away a bit at the other items on my to-do list.  Of course, not as much as I had hoped.  On the last day of school I said good-bye to my principal and said I would be in on rainy days to putter around in my room.

The trouble is this has been a summer of few rainy days so trips out to school just didn’t happen.  My days have been filled with kayaking, horseback riding, walking, camping, meeting friends for lunch, and reading on the deck.  I even had a few days of doing nothing I can actually account for. I have been away the last two weeks and the days are slipping by even more quickly.  I am filled with guilt for not getting in sooner and dread the job ahead.

I designated this week to be the week and today to be the day.  I planned for my ace helper, my daughter Erin, to help me this week before she starts double sessions of field hockey workouts next week.  When I checked my email yesterday I discovered my room is getting painted tomorrow… great news except it puts off my big plans.

I decided to buck up and go into school on my own to clean out shelves that should be emptied before the painting crew comes in.  Erin can’t really help me with cleaning out because I am the one to make big decisions of toss or keep.  So I went alone mourning the loss of summer days filled with choice activities and knowing the insane schedule of the school year will start in just a few weeks.  Appropriately it actually rained today so weather matched my mood.

I entered my room and every single item in my room was piled into the center in a jumble waiting for the paint crew to arrive.  I sighed, put on some music and started at the top of the shelf in the corner.  Folders and notebooks sorted through and mostly pitched.  I am about to start my 20th year of teaching so there was quite a collection of outdated materials, old curricula and policies. I even found some materials from my first four years of teaching when I was a special education teacher.  Somehow when I made the switch to the classroom I thought I might use them. IMG_1451 I continued down the shelf through teaching resources that I forgot I had purchased or had inherited from a retiring teacher.  Some books were tossed… Gasp!  If I hadn’t used them in the last five years (or ever!)I didn’t need them.  Some were treasures I forgot I had. Book piles formed based on content.

Gradually I began to feel lighter and I began looking ahead and seeing possibilities.  Ideas began to form on new ways to work vocabulary and poetry into our day.  All of my Responsive Classroom materials ended up together so I can easily come up with ideas to perk up my morning meetings and work more energizers into my day. Three filled recycling bags and a sizable pile of  reusable notebooks/folders  later I was done.

Just cleaning this small corner of the room made me excited about the possibilities of a new school year and a new class of students.

I may not BE actually ready but I am ready for a new school year.


Slice of Life: Characters at the Farmers’ Market

This morning I settled into a comfy chair out on the deck with a cup of coffee enjoying the quiet of morning ready to check in on what was happening at Teachers Write Summer Writing Camp.

I read through the prompt for today from author Phil Bildner. The prompt today was to find a fresh place to write and people watch. Use these observation to develop characters. Hmmm… there I was all set up to write on the deck but I was all alone. Sure I could have written about the birds and other critters around me or thought about a place where I had seen some different people and write about that. But, I wanted my writing to be authentic. I did a mental review of my schedule for the day, remembered it was market day and decided to go on a writing field trip to the Farmers’ Market.


The Farmers Market in our town is on the town green and creates quite a traffic tangle. I found a parking spot and made my way to the market. My routine is to make a lap through to see what each vendor is selling, check out prices and see what jumps out at me. I try to support different farmers and purchase from multiple stands. Once my canvas bag was full of fresh greens I sought out a spot to settle down with my notebook and start writing.


Prior to my arrival at the market I predicted the patterns of people I would see:

Summer Residents: Obviously well to do in their fine crisp clothes, collars turned up on their oxford shirts or golf shirts, pressed jeans and bare feet in loafers or deck shoes.

Earth Mommas: Pushing young children around in strollers wearing earth toned baggy clothes in search of organic produce.

Locals: Regular people just looking to get their fresh produce for the week.

When I sat down and looked closely there were more interesting people who didn’t fit in with the usual groups.

First, I zoomed in on Can Man. I have seen him riding up and down a mile stretch of Maine Street on his bright yellow tricycle with large plastic bins stacked high on the back. He has a simple yellow sign that says bottles and cans. This is the first time I have seen him so close.

Can Man sits on the park bench near hot dog stand eating a hot dog. I think he has strategically placed himself near the hot dog stand to get the cans and bottles from the lunch time crowd. He doesn’t smile. He has a scowl on his face as he smokes a cigarette. When someone leaves a can in the bin he barely acknowledges them. I can see his lips moving silently as if he is totaling up his profits for the day.

A man in a plaid shirt approaches and asks, “Have you got room for one more in there Dave?”

Now I know his name is Dave and he barely nods as the man drops the can into the bin.

I shift my attention across the way to a man playing the accordion. He is wearing a plaid shirt, dark pants, a baseball cap and dark sunglasses. At first, I wonder is he blind… but realize he isn’t when he nods at a young boy slipping a couple of ones into his case.


One song rolls into the next… Billy Joel’s “She’s always a woman to me”… “Edelweiss”… “Do-Re-Mi”… “Roll out the Barrel”…

At one point he interrupts his song to greet a woman passing by and then picks right back up where he left off as she left.

Another couple approaches and leave a few dollars in his case. He picks up a tattered cardboard with his playlist written on it in black sharpie and hands it to her to choose a tune. People walk by quickly. Others pause and spend a few moments listening.

Pausing to write in this fresh new place helped me to see what I miss when I am plowing through my regular routine. So many people and so many stories. It was hard to leave but I needed to move on with my day.

Strawberry Season

We are in the midst of prime strawberry picking season here in Maine. I wish I could say I make it out to pick strawberries every year but I don’t. We get busy, the weather is poor and before I know it I miss the small window when I can pick berries.

Yesterday I was determined to gather some of those natural rubies of sweetness. It is no fun to go alone so I invited my teenage daughter to join me. She was reluctant but I sweetened the deal by offering to pick up an ice coffee on the way… she was in.

We made our way down the country roads that lead to the farm on banks of the Kennebec River. As we got closer the road narrowed and turned to dirt. We enjoyed views of Merrymeeting Bay with the water sparkling and bright blue sky.

We arrived at the field and began to dig in. It is hard to get comfortable… Do we sit, squat, bend over??? Which shade of red is just right… Bright red? Deep red? Don’t pick the ones with white on them. We had to get into the swing of strawberry picking.


We settled in and we were making good progress down our row. I was able to listen in to snatches of conversation:

“Mommy I’m done,” stated a blond three year old girl.

“We’ve only just started,” her mom replied.

“Well I have enough for my strawberry shortcake,” the little girl insisted.

“We need to get enough for everyone’s shortcake and jam,” her mom reminded her.

Two older women were on the other side of us analyzing the quality of the berries in their thick Maine accents:

“The berries are much smaller this year than last,” stated the first lady.

“Ayuh,” the second lady replied, “But they are still sweet!”

I looked over at my daughter and realized she was lagging behind. I noticed she was comfortably sitting on her side of the row eating the berries. “It’s a good thing they don’t weigh you before and after our time in the field.” I teased, “I don’t think I could afford the extra berries.” She smiled. I have said this to her before in past years. Age doesn’t matter… It is hard to resist the sweet berries.



After about an hour we filled our containers and headed home. We feasted on strawberry shortcake with our fresh strawberries for dessert. The only thing sweeter was the time spent with my daughter.

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