Month: March 2014 (page 1 of 3)

Shared Memories

Tomorrow my grandpa turns 89. In honor of his birthday, we had a family celebration with cake and presents. At the end of the event, he and I were standing in the kitchen saying our goodbyes. During a lull in the conversation he pointed out some photos on the fridge of himself. In one he was copilot on an old plane. The other photo showed him at a war memorial commemorating the last bullet fired in World War II. He was part of that infantry. The picture showed him standing at the memorial. I could tell he was proud of this moment.

I had never heard either story of his recent flight or of the war. What other untold stories have I not heard before? In that moment I felt happy for t11454297503_e27946e4ff_hhe moments we spent together and hopeful to spend many more with him.


Have you ever noticed how yawns are contagious? Why is it that you yawn and other people yawn too? People don’t sneeze when you sneeze or cough when you cough. Researchers investigated this topic and found out more about who copies yawns. Family members are most likely to copy a yawn. When someone yawns in a group of friends, however, less people copy the yawner. In a workplace, even less people mimic the yawn. This means that the more close you are to the yawner, the more likely you are to copy their yawn. The time gap between yawn one and yawn two is significant. If your partner begins to returns your yawns less quickly each time, this might indicate a lack of closeness between the two of you. According to the article, that might mean trouble.

I told this information to my roommate on the way to dinner followed up by the comment that she didn’t copy my yawn when we were at home earlier.

“It guess it’s not meant to be,” (meaning our friendship).

“It’s sad that it has to end this way.”


Later she yawned and then I yawned five minutes later.

“That’s it! You waited too long to return my yawn. You might as well pack your bags.”

“Yep. I need a new roommate. Things are definitely going downhill.”

Joy Is…

Joy is

watching students cheer and dance on a rainy Tuesday

Joy is

a student greeting me every morning

Joy is

a warm coffee and a hot scone

Joy is

a student’s excitement about a book

Joy is in the little moments.

I am so glad to have so many little moments.

The Art of Losing

There is a special art to losing. I know. I am an expert.

My soccer team has been losing, for two seasons, almost every week, almost every game.

Why you ask, am I on a losing team? It is a number of factors: Some players are new to the game; others have never played indoor soccer. Some weeks our roster is overflowing with players and other weeks we barely have four to start the game. Why keep playing? I like the exercise and my friends are on the team. We didn’t always lose all the time.

This week there was no art in losing. We were down 6-0. The other team decided to play a man down to “help us out”.  When on offense, they would often stop when coming near the ball and wait. Just wait. That is pretty insulting when the other team just stops mid play and watches you. On top of that, the other team booted the ball off the field on purpose because they thought the ball was too hard.

Apparently our coach forgot about the art of losing because he called the game right there. In the middle of the second half with 15 minutes to go, he quit, threw in the towel. Many walked off the team complaining about the other team. Today we lost our composure; we didn’t act with dignity. There was no art in this game.


A List of Bad Ideas

Bad Idea #1:

Using baking soda instead of cornstarch when making stir fry.

Bad Idea #2:

Practicing for the three legged race by tying shoe laces together. The knots are really hard to undo!

Bad Idea #3:

Baking while unfocused-the result: three cakes instead of one.

Bad Idea #4:

Tasting pipping hot cake batter. The result: a burnt mouth.

Bad Idea #5:

Drinking coffee after 5 p.m.-no sleep for me!


2 Accidental Cakes and One on Purpose

Today I made three cakes, but not on purpose. I know what your thinking. How can anyone make a cake accidentally? Let me back up and tell this story from the beginning. My family gets together for birthdays.   Traditionally the person having the birthday is the person who chooses the cake.  Two years ago, when it was my brother-in-law birthday, he requested a guava cake. My brother-in-law is a huge fan of everything Hawaii. I had never heard of a guava cake but decided to give it a try.  It became an instant family hit. Now every birthday, the cake of choice is guava cake. I’ve tried bringing other cakes to the family birthdays but they didn’t pass the taste test. Guava cake is the one and only request.

In honor of the March birthdays (my dad, my sister and me) I made a guava cake. Well, at least I tried. Instead of using water, this recipe uses Kern’s juice. Unfortunately, the first thing I did was to pour in the water and then remembered I had to use the juice instead!

Luckily I had another yellow cake mix. I poured that cake into a pan, set it aside and started again. On the second cake batter recipe, I poured in water instead of juice, again! Where was my head?

I looked in the cupboard and realized I had another yellow cake mix. In order to not make the same mistake three times in a row, I poured the juice into the bowl first so I wouldn’t forget.

One person’s mistake is another’s good luck. Class, today we are eating cake!



Am I Done Yet?

“How do you know when you are finished?”

I listened to an interview today with a famous dubstep artist. The interviewer asked, “how do you know when you are finished?” relating to the musician’s process. How does anyone know when they are done? In writing class students often ask me if they are finished. In reality, writers have to judge for themselves when their work is complete. I have been hearing a lot about the idea of iteration. Webster’s dictionary defines iteration as  “a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result.”  Iterations are time consuming, and yet so meaningful. The creative thought process gets at the heart of picking the perfect word or phrase. Many forms of writing rely on specificity: the ability to pick the right word or phrase, the selection of the perfect image in advertising or public service announcements. It is about grabbing your audience and pulling them in.

This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, an event in which people blog every day for the month of March. Through this process I have learned that my writing is often an ongoing work in progress. I challenged myself to post every day but often I don’t have as much time as I want to blog. As a result, I  put my work out there but then keep rewriting and revising, often in my head or out loud. I don’t revise most pieces more than once, but some posts grab more of my attention. They demand my attention. Asking me to revise, reword.

There are many levels of revision: revising for content, audience, message, tone, focus. Then there is editing, just to make sure it makes sense. All of these processes need time, time to take risks, to make mistakes. Without this time, the writing is not as developed. How do you know when you are finished? It depends. The only way to get there, though, is to practice, to spend time with the writing.


Positive Feedback Please!

This is the sluggish time of year in which teachers and students feel run down and overwhelmed, counting down the days until Spring Break. But before a much needed vacation, there is so much to do: report cards, staff meetings, conferences. I went to my writing meeting last night feeling very stressed out.

I have been participating in an Advanced Writing Institute for the San Diego Area Writing Project. Over the course of three meetings, we learned how to be better presenters and designed a writing presentation.  Last night we were asked to work on a powerpoint to demonstrate something that we hadn’t taught to other teachers before-something we had done in our classroom that we cared about. Writing colleagues were there to help encourage, brainstorm or just listen. At the end of the meeting, all the teachers shared out what they had crafted. Hearing everyone’s ideas validated our work and reaffirmed pride in my job.

It hardly every happens that teachers have time to work on individual projects that they care about and get feedback and support from their peers. This reminded me of the value of feedback. Humans crave feedback. We want to know we are doing the right thing, that we are on the right track. Specific constructive feedback encourages individuals to work harder towards their goal.

This month I began blogging seriously for the first time. I have several blogs out there in cyberspace but never moved past a few posts. This month I started the Slice of Life Challenge and so did my class. At the halfway point I asked students to write down how they were feeling about blogging. I received an almost unanimous support for blogging. For some it acted as a diary to document their day. For others it was a way to learn about their classmates. Some loved to be creative and write about the world in different ways.

I read my work aloud to the class daily. Today we slowed it down and looked for specific golden lines. All the students posted comments on my work. It spurred a conversation about the word skittering. The shared writing is working. They are copying one another’s work and giving great feedback. The feeling in the room is one of a tight-knit community. We are building upon our support network of writers, readers and editors day after day, post after post.


Mentor Sentences

Our class just finished reading Call it Courage. I was intrigued by the beautiful language and complex sentence structure of the book. The author, Armstrong Sperry, often uses opposite phrases.

“There were six black canoes, paddles flashing, now gaining, now losing.”

“Moonlight shone on half a hundred wet paddles as they dipped and rose to the rhythm of the chant.”

He also uses repetition. ex: “homeward, homeward…” “Closer, closer the canoes advanced.”

And sometimes both techniques together: “Only the sea and the sky, the sea and the sky.”

Then I was reminded of the rhythmic language of Hoops by Walter Dean Myers.

I decided to pick some event in my day that had a dualistic  or repetitive aspect. I just went back to playing soccer last night. I play on an indoor team with a great group of women. We have good seasons, so so seasons and awful seasons. This is an awful season. Last night we lost, again.

 The Dance on the Field

The back and forth rhythm

of the ball,





b  O u N c I n G

F  L   Y  I  N   G

through the air- two players attack it,

Looking to posses it,

to own it.

The crash of knees, shinguards, cleats,

Possession by the home team

a chance to score

Feet skittering in a cat-like





quick movements ready to pounce,

Eyes watching, mouths shouting, hands clapping

“I’m open”

“Linea, linea”


A glance, a pass….

too far

A run down field to…

a sea of opposing players

Possession lost

Players retreating towards the goal

hunkering down to defend






rolling, touching cleats

Player and ball dancing down field

towards the goal

defenders standing their ground

focusing not on the feet

focusing only on the ball

the forward winding up and




Players in motion

Blurs of light and sound

Moving to the rhythm of the game.




For My Niece

One day, I hope that you will speak

Find your voice that sounds so much like you

Doctors and scientists dangle a promise

the hope to resynthesize your voice

with computers, artificial technology to make you sound like you

Maybe then we can talk on the phone

In the future we can talk with ease, no longer straining to hear your voice

No sacrifice in the long pauses and strained words

Technology will fix it, this thing that you were born with

Down the road, you will communicate with others in a way that makes it easier, more fluid


We wait for the change that will make life easier

We hope

We pray

But what do you want?

How do you feel about today?

The here and now?

The promise of “fixing” you must sting, those words harsh, cold

You are more than a voice, broken by birth

You are more than a limp and low muscle tone

You are more than a label, a disability

You are my niece and I love you.






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