Thursday, February 25, 2010


I guess I'm getting a new car! But it won't be a prize. Or a rental.

I'm going to have to buy it. The price is not more than I can afford.

I'd love to take you for a ride in it. As long as you don't mind traveling mapless.

My old, trusted auto no longer drives like it used to, and all the tinkering in the world won't help.

The only thing it is good for now is scrap metal.

I like scrap metal.

Now I just need a blow torch.

Monday, February 22, 2010

interpretations welcome

I enter the large room and sit. Across a large, dark, antique-feeling desk, he sits: the man who denied my leave of absence application, and who I must convince to change his mind. This is my only chance.

I thought it would be only us, yet I am not surprised to see so many. On my right sit members of the Board. I glance at Keith, who gives me a small, knowing nod, and a barely perceptible grin. I know, if he could, he'd be flashing me the "thumbs up" sign. I smile back. I look further over to the right, for Rick, but do not see him. Not so much disappointment as wonderment. Where is he? On my left sit at least a dozen other people; I'm not sure who they are, but know they are part of the administration. I feel supported by their presence nonetheless.

I begin to state my case, which is full of all kinds of things I did while teaching sixth grade at Carmel. I mention the Student Council created from nothing, and the school store built by students. The Egyptian Museum. Comer facilitating. It's all irrelevant, but I feel the need to convey a sense of history, and to somehow make him know that I have given my heart and soul to this district for fourteen years and deserve to be treated better than this.

I find myself at the part where I want to bring up cancer, the role it plays in my decision, and its transformational power over my life. I realize that, against all recommendations, I'm going to get emotional. I sit up taller, look right and left, and suddenly realize that I can share the story objectively, without tears, and so I do. I'm not sure what I say; I only know that I am confident and self-assured when I say it.

Finally, it is the end of our time together. We both stand, and shake hands across the table. The others gather round and begin to discuss the situation. I await the verdict. It's unclear. Do I get the leave of absence? Or not? Everybody's talking, but no one seems to know the answer. I am confused, but happy. It's like not winning a medal at the Olympics, but knowing you skated your best.

I am ushered outside, and there, before my eyes, parked on the street, sits a white convertible. Just like the '67 Datsun Fairlady I had my eye on at Concourse Auto for awhile. They're giving it to me as a prize! I'm not sure what I've done to win it, but I assume it means that I have been granted my sabbatical. I admire the well-worn leather interior, reach in and touch the steering wheel, marvel at the old dials, and wonder what it will be like to drive it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


thicker than rain-drops on November thorn,
fleshy tongue meets pink petal.
roundabout rose gardens 'round here
remind us to yield with
absent umbrellas
step lightly over the well-tended grass.
ensconced in the long-abandoned
rotten wood will conceal our stolen
kiss while the circus
passes by

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Today, as we stepped out of the car at about 2:45 pm, the air smelled of rain. Not just any rain, but the rain after a long, long dry spell. It was magnificent. But what came out of my 10-year-old's mouth was even more magnificent.

Me: You know what? There's actually a word for this smell.... I don't remember what it is though. I heard about it on NPR from that guy who read the OED.

Grant: Really? Well, it's not really a smell.... it's an emotion we take in through our nose.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

what is new is old

If you have a reader in your family between the ages of about seven and eleven, then you will certainly have heard of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The story's the same as always: young outcast finds out he is the chosen one. It's been called a rip off by so many; there is no need to add my voice to the critics.

What matters to me is this: Percy Jackson and the Olympians-The Lightning Thief is the first novel (besides the graphic novels of classics he reads at school) that my 9-year-old son finished on his own. In anticipation of the movie release on Feb. 12th, I began reading it to him. About 3/4 of the way through, I realized we would never finish in time--if he wanted to see the film, he would have to finish the book on his own. He wasn't happy about this. And yet, inspired by his friends Ursen and Albert, he persisted.

Today, Bennett proudly proclaimed to me that he is on chapter 4 in the next book in the series (there are five). It will most likely be the first book he will have read from cover to cover. I knew his time would come.

Because of Percy Jackson, my older son's knowledge of Greek mythology is far superior to mine. Recently, while admiring a painting with me in a local gallery (it's number 4), he had the opportunity to fill in my knowledge gaps on the subject of Morpheus. Nothing like being lectured to by a 10-year-old in front of a group of strangers!

Last Friday, a group of us took the afternoon off from school in order to be the first ones to see the film. The boys made their own Camp Half-Blood t-shirts and beaded necklaces. Suzanne found her inner Medusa, and I had no problem being "the fury hiding inside the teacher". Together, our geeky fun-loving clan took up an entire row of the theater!

The movie, quite frankly, was pretty mediocre. Enough has been written about that as well. But I have found you can pretty much enjoy anything, as long as you lower your expectations, and smuggle chocolate into the show! After the movie, over bagels and cream cheese, the kids and grown ups discussed the differences between the book and the movie. (Far too many to even begin!)

There will be time enough to become serious critics of literature and film. Until then, we will continue to be inspired and entertained by the same old story. Inspired to dress up, to make believe, and to dream our lives into bigger possibilities.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

here we go

Sorry, blogspot, I've been away for awhile. Don't take it personally, it's just that I've learned pretty much everything you have to teach me for now, and it seemed time to move on and explore strange new worlds. There are so many. Edublogs is where I've been working and playing lately; please don't be jealous.

Feeling challenged and excited, I click on words and icons, follow drop down menus
to wherever they might lead, and just, you know, try stuff. I am obsessed with learning, with unlocking the mystery. When failure comes, I try something else.
It is this kind of curiosity and courage, more than anything else, that needs to be developed in young students.

On the corner of Lancaster Drive and Hayesville Avenue, there was a little store. It must have had a name, but I don’t remember it. All I remember is that we called it “The Little Store”. It was where my friends and I bought Charleston Chews and candy cigarettes with the cash we would get in exchange for the cans and bottles we had collected from our neighbors. It was the place where, a day or two before payday when the cupboards were bare, my single mother would purchase hot dogs and buns on credit. Mr. Frey always knew she’d be back in a day or two, when she would pay off her bill and buy a few more items. And he knew where we lived. And I still remember his name.

And so, in memory of The Little Store, I have named my project The Little School. Because community matters. Because smaller is better. Because "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." (Albert Einstein) Because I can.

Because I have to.

The Little School Project: Tava Mountain Middle School

coming soon to a neighborhood near you

Monday, February 1, 2010



The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

Joyce Sutphen