Tuesday, October 11, 2016

As the Crow Flies

A crow, power line clenched in his talons,
memorizes my face
as I walk below.
His black eye
takes in the set of my jaw
the downward turn of my mouth
my stiffened shoulders
my red, red eyes.
"I will remember you,"
he caws,
his voice hoarse with promise.
"I will single you out.
I will know you next time."
The crow
who can count to six
who turns on his brethren
for no good reason
who picks his breakfast from
cracks in the blacktop
and waits until cars are dangerously close
before flapping his wings
in a lazy hop...
He blinks
recording my sad, ordinary self
imprinting my sorrow on his mind's eye.
Then he spreads his extraordinary wings
and leaves the power line trembling.
He swoops overhead
without so much as a good-bye.
We will meet again
I know.
He will remember the sad core of me
and bob his head in recognition.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Words welled up in my eyes,
clotted my throat,
stood on the front lines of my heart
ready to fight, defend...
"Retreat words," I ordered.

I was not ready to send them forth,
armed as they were.
Instead, they bunched behind my knuckles.
My fists clenched with thoughts.
They lay in wait...
whole sentences
crouched silently,
held at bay by my command...
a war within.

Other words,
well trained,
shuffled their combat boots.
They marched in rows,
across my mind,
over my lips.

"Retreat words," I whispered,
my voice quieter than crickets,
lost in the steady drumbeat of battle.
My rebel words
breached enemy lines,
fighting for my cause,
disobeying orders.
My words,
a rag-tag militia,
led a revolution.
Rogue words with soldiers' hearts,
armored in truth,
too brave to surrender.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One Meeting Too Many

The coffee pot,
Humbly splattered,
On the wheeled cart in the library
Bears witness to the harried start of the day.
The plastic prong,
On one side of the lid,
Has come unhinged.
We empathize;
But no one takes time to fix it.
We are quick to take seats
at the back tables
Wrapping cold hands
around warm mugs
In air conditioning that works too well today
And not at all tomorrow,
Scrabbling for a loose pen
in the bottom of a book bag,
Pretending to take notes
While making to do lists:
-Turn in lunch forms
- Order electric sharpener
- Put in work order for locker #17...
The only sweet thing
About a mandated morning meeting
Robbing precious minutes
Reviewing old news
We know by heart
Is the jelly donut
Sawed in half
With a plastic knife
That wasn't really cut out for the job
Or even up to the challenge
But showed up anyway
A flimsy plastic miracle.
Proving once again,
The littlest things can make a difference.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Seeing Stones (Part Two)

Last week, I shared a photo of some seeing stones I collected from the banks of Elkhorn Creek.
I was fascinated with the perfect, tidy holes bored through solid rocks. What made the holes?
After quite a bit of research, I discovered the holes were made by piddocks. A piddock is a type of mussel who lives inside angelwing shells. The tiny clam rotates the sharp edges of his shell in order to carve out a tunnel for himself. Safe inside his chiseled burrow, he reaches out to gather all the nutrients he needs. When he abandons his stone house, he leaves it behind for rock hounds or curious teachers!
Although I have not yet caught a glimpse of a magical world or supernatural creature while looking through my seeing stones, I have learned about a world and a creature I never knew existed. That is its own kind of magic!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Seeing Stones (Part One)

A couple weeks ago, my husband, sons, and I rented two kayaks and a canoe and ventured down Elkhorn Creek. I wasn't brave enough to tackle any white water rapids, so we opted for the three-hour "Fun Float." After a 15-minute orientation video, our guide herded us onto an old school bus and drove us a few miles to the access point where we chose our boats, oars, and life jackets and set off downstream.
We took turns paddling the kayaks and canoe; and, although we didn't encounter white water, we did navigate some challenging "riffles" that tipped my younger son right out of his kayak and caused my husband and I to ram the bow of the canoe into a rocky outcropping.
Despite those mishaps, we were having fun on our "Fun Float."
Halfway through the trip, we docked our boats on a pebbly beach, unloaded our small cooler, and sat down to drink some water and eat a few snacks.
An unusual rock caught my eye. It was a chunk of limestone with a neat hole bored right through it. I picked up the rock and showed it off to my husband and sons.
"It's a seeing stone!" I exclaimed. I knocked a clod of dirt off the edge of the rock and held the hole in front of my eye."These are supposed to help you see into magical realms!"
I looked the exact opposite of magical...soaked shorts, frizzled hair, mismatched bathing suit, bulky life vest (still fastened even though I was on shore), and a sunburned nose.
Joey and the boys were too kind to take a picture of me; but I'm sure I looked half crazy wandering around the beach, staring through my new limestone monocle.
"I guess this is caused by moving water," I speculated, still scavenging around on the beach. By now, I was mainly talking to myself since my husband and sons were repacking the cooler and clambering back onto the boats.
"I hope it's okay if I take it as a souvenir," I said to no one in particular. "I mean...my seventh graders will love this. It's like in the Arthur trilogy or Spiderwick Chronicles! I can put it on the bookshelf; and the kids can look through it like I am right now and...ohmygosh!"
I interrupted my own enthusiastic rambling when, through the seeing stone, I saw two more rocks with perfect holes.
"This is awesome!" I shrieked, scooping up my two new seeing stones. Now I was really beginning to wonder if I had stumbled into a magical realm. I glanced nervously over my shoulder to make sure my family was still there. They were there alright, waiting impatiently for me to get into the canoe so we could finish our trip.
"Can you believe this?!" I asked, awkwardly climbing into the canoe, my three rocks clutched to my life jacket.
"They are cool looking," one of my sons conceded.
"Yes!" I said. "They are really cool looking; but why are there so many? I don't think these could all be caused by running water..."
I tucked the rocks into the bottom of the cooler, grabbed an oar, and helped paddle down to the take-out point. For the rest of our journey, I wondered about my seeing stones.
Back home, I booted up the laptop and set to work, determined to learn something about my new collection. Hours of research later, I realized the science behind the strange rocks was more magical than I could have imagined...
(Stop by Galley Street next Tuesday to find out what made the holes in the seeing stones!)

Two of my three seeing stones. I lost the third; but I found it a few days after taking the picture.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Upcoming Coronation

I'm getting a crown in a few weeks.
Unfortunately I'm not getting a crown because I'm queen for a day; and I didn't win a beauty contest.
I'm getting a crown on my tooth. Ouch.
One of my molars has a fracture. When my femur was fractured in fourth grade, I didn't get a crown; I got a cast. The crown on my tooth is like a cast that stays on forever.
My dentist said she just went to a conference where they discussed the fact that more and more people are living to be 100 years old; so we need to be even more diligent in caring for our aging teeth. I'm only 46; and already one of my teeth is going into a permanent cast.
The dentist explained to me, while I was still lying on the examining chair with my head tilted too far back, that if I don't get the crown, I may have to get a root canal. That sounds like a punishment.
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you can't have dessert."
"If you continue to sass your mother, you will be sent to your room."
"If you're not home by curfew, you will be grounded."
"If you don't get this crown, you will get a root canal!"
I decided to get the crown. I'm a rule follower; and with my dental anxiety, I don't think I can endure the root canal. It's bad enough that my mouth, which I assume has always been a democracy, will now be under the rule of a monarch. The unruly molar with the crown will definitely demand the lion's share of attention. The other teeth are going to have to adjust to the change.
I don't want to mess with the geography in there by digging a canal which might eventually lead to a bridge. No thanks...unless the newly crowned royal tooth decrees there must be a canal. In that case, I guess I won't have much of a choice. My mouth is not my own. Hopefully I'll live to 100 so my royal tooth can enjoy a long and successful reign.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Beach Bummed

My family knows I prefer indoor activities unless I am on vacation. For ten days a year, I live like a person on a Nike commercial. If not on the beach, I'd rather be on my couch. In fact, I sometimes blame my inactive lifestyle on the fact that we do not live ocean side. If we lived near the ocean, I would be a dog-walking, running, biking, paddle-boarding, bird-watching, zip-lining fool. I would slather myself with sunscreen and insist on eating a healthy, grilled, seafood dinner on the patio every single evening. 
Unfortunately for my waistline, we live 10 hours from the ocean. We do not have an enclosed patio, so we are forced to carry all the patio furniture cushions in and out whenever we decide to sit outside. We have so many cushions, that I am completely exhausted by the time I have the cushions in place. From the moment I sit down outside, I begin to dread putting all the cushions back in the garage. 
If we lived at the beach, we could leave the cushions in place. The intense sun would dry the damp cushions in record time, fashionably leaching them of their color, leaving them tastefully faded. Worn out things look classy at the beach. Worn out things look worn out in my backyard.
On muggy days, like today, I seriously consider sitting on the cushions inside the garage. It's cool in there. It's so humid outside that my hair stays in a frizzled cloud around my face. No matter how long I spend blow-drying and straightening it, it takes about five minutes for it to recoil from the hot, wet air. My hair recoils first; then I recoil and retreat back into my air-conditioned lair. If we were at the ocean, my hair would be sun-streaked and windblown.
At the beach, grit on the hardwood floors is expected...sand carried in on flip flops and bare feet. I'm not sure why I have grit on my hardwood floors here in central Kentucky; so I choose to ignore it and pretend I'm at the beach.
The freshest seafood we can get here comes from Kroger's seafood department. If it smells fishy, I steer my cart right on to the red meat section. The ocean is good for my cholesterol.
At the beach, I feel relaxed. At home, I feel harried. At the beach, I don't set cell phone alerts or check my calendar. At home, I misplace the dog groomer's reminder card and end up missing the dog's grooming appointment. At the beach, fresh strawberries seem like dessert. At home, fresh strawberries seem like dessert only if they are on top of chewy chocolate brownies and a scoop of French vanilla ice cream.
I need to move to the beach.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I Love a Parade

Our neighborhood parade was canceled yesterday because of rain. One little boy puttered down the street in his battery-operated jeep anyway. His dad walked behind, shoulders hunched against the drizzle. Someone had fastened white vinyl stars to the little red jeep. The pint-sized driver waved shyly as he soldiered on, grand master of the parade that wasn't.
* * *
The neighborhood parade is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Kids march by, carrying hand-lettered signs, "Happy 4th!," "Stars and Stripes Forever!" Red and blue paper streamers trail off bikes and big wheels. A couple kids skateboard around the edge of the crowd. They wear faded patriotic t-shirts, and their skateboard wheels whiz on the concrete. Dogs, with star-spangled bandannas tied 'round their collars, lope at the end of red leashes.
We drag our camping chairs out to the sidewalk along the parade route and clap and cheer as the kids wave and skate and pedal by. The route ends at the tennis court, where the neighborhood association president hands out freeze pops.
* * *
This year, I cheered for the lone little patriotic driver. I wondered if his dad did not get the cancellation email or if the little boy insisted on  driving the route anyway. Regardless, I am inspired. A red jeep, white stars, and a proud little rain-wet, smiling face...the brightest spot on a dark day, too stormy even for fireworks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fresh Fudge

My sister was running late.
She called my son's cell phone to say she was stuck on the two-lane part of the trip, driving behind a mowing crew.
"She says we have plenty of time to get a burger or something," my son, Jack, says after hanging up and slipping his phone in his pocket.
We have been making this trip for years, meeting my sister or parents at the state park rest area halfway between our house in the city and their house in the woods. It's a little over an hour drive each way.
Since the boys were very small, we have met at this same spot. When they were little, it was a longer hand-off, transferring car seats, then booster seats from our car to theirs. This year, Jack complained that he could have driven the entire way himself, now that he has his license. He could have saved Aunt Sissy the trip, he says, if only we would break down and buy a new car.
"I know. I know," I say; but secretly, I am happy for the hour's drive with Jack. Next time, he probably will drive the whole way himself. He is spending the week with my parents. His younger brother will have a turn later in the summer. My mother will fix their favorite foods, my sister will play cards with them, and my dad will make jokes and ride around with them in his four-wheel drive mule. Each boy will have another summer week to remember.
We drive down the curvy road that leads away from the rest area and the interstate and back toward the park area.
"Look," Jack says, pointing to a wood-framed souvenir shop on the side of the road, "fresh fudge. When I'm a grown-up, I'm going to eat fudge everyday."
I was still feeling a little fuzzy from the pancakes and syrup we had for breakfast.
"We do NOT need fudge," I say. "Besides...it's not really fresh in these little shops. I'm sure they ship it in from somewhere." I actually have no idea; but it seems unlikely that someone is in there making fudge.
We stop anyway.
Jack nearly laughs out loud when we walk in and see an elderly woman making fresh fudge; but before he can say, 'told you so,' the two of us are captivated by the store's inventory. The entire store is decorated with dozens of tiny Christmas villages. It's as if Jack, and I, and the little woman making fudge are giants in this tiny world of mitten-clad miniature figurines. Most of the people who populate the village scenes are only as tall as my pinky finger. Some are poised to throw snowballs, others are walking on icy streets made of glass, some diminutive children decorate a Christmas tree, a pink-cheeked couple sits on an elfin bench beneath the glow of a miniature working street light.
Each separate village boasts dozens of figurines and porcelain cars and intricately detailed houses and churches and shops. We tiptoe, trying to quiet the shuffling of our giant feet, past Dickens Village, A Christmas Story Village, Christmas in the City, Alpine Village, Holiday in the Woods, New England Village, Winter's Frost, Original Snow Village, the North Pole...
Each village's name is typed on a yellowed piece of card stock, propped in the frayed cotton snow in front of each scene.
It's mesmerizing and magical...the squeak of our shoes against the thickly-waxed wood floors, the hum of the air conditioning, the buttery smell of fudge, and these tiny scenes set up with such meticulous care.
After circling the entire shop, I feel as if I am losing track of time. My sister will be waiting, I think; but I can't help revisiting some of my favorite villages for one last peek. We exchange a few friendly words with the shopkeeper who talks to us while swirling a spatula over the thick rectangle of fudge she has poured on a block of marble.
She asks where we are from; and we tell her, but strangely we don't ask her the same question.
She says the store is open year-round, except for January and February. Her eyes twinkle from behind round, wire-rimmed glasses.
We leave the store, and trudge silently back into the heat of summer.
"I feel like we just passed up some excellent fudge," Jack says, once we are both in the car. I start to give in and go back to buy the fudge; but some part of me is afraid if I open that heavy wooden door again, we will find a typical souvenir shop...t-shirts and mugs and key chains; but no fudge, no Christmas village, no jolly Mrs. Claus.
I decide to drive away, preserving that magical place, choosing to remember my son and me, careful giants allowed a glimpse into the magical worlds of someone else's dreams.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


We returned home from our beach vacation yesterday. Today, our house, cleaned so carefully for the dog sitter a week ago, is cluttered with half-emptied luggage, assorted piles of laundry, souvenir t-shirts, and a crumpled rainbow of beach towels.
I shake out shorts and bathing suit cover-ups, leaving a fine layer of sand in front of the washing machine. The dog sniffs the dirty clothes bag. She does not recognize the smell of the sea.
Sand followed us home, clinging to the mesh in the pockets of my husband's swim trunks, wedged in the soles of my flip flops, caked inside broken fragments of pearly shells tossed into the beach bag, swirled in a thin, muddy paste in the bottom of the cooler.
I don't mind the sand; but I wish, along with it, I could have carried home the calming shush of waves, scalloping against the shore. I wish I could unpack the warmth of the Florida sun and drape it, like a shawl, around my shoulders. I wish we were closer than a long-day's drive...close enough to make temporary footprints on our morning walks and catch glimpses of dolphins, dancing just past the sandbar.  
I miss the beach.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wherever Little Boys Go

The dog interrupts my writing.
She needs to go outside.
We stand at the top of the hill,
behind our house,
overlooking Cave Creek.

A little boy runs along the opposite bank,
a net in his hand,
his eyes downcast,
following the minnows
that dart, and weave, and tease.

I remember my son, now 15,
years ago on his birthday,
a net in one hand, a bucket in the other.
New rubber boots calf deep in clear water,
creating a detour for Cave Creek's minnows.

A crow brags from the tree behind me,
interrupting my remembering.
Some shiny treasure in his beak glitters in the sun.
The dog barks, and I turn back.
The boy is gone, already around the bend...

or lost; wherever little boys go
when they outgrow their fishing nets
and rubber boots.
When splashing through the silver ripples
is no longer their favorite way to spend a summer day.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lunch at Don's

Don's Restaurant was always dark and cool and noisy. Sometimes, in the summer, my mom and sister and I would meet Grandpa at Don's for lunch. Grandpa had been retired from the coal mines for a while; so he spent his days visiting with his friends on Main Street.
Back then, Main Street had a movie theater that showed Jaws and Star Wars and Kramer vs. Kramer. It also had a Baptist church, a bank, a clothing store called Watson's, two dime stores (T,G, & Y and Newberry's), a soda fountain called Rexall's, a jewelry store called Stiles's, and, of course, the Courthouse. Grandpa and his friends gathered to talk and chew gum in front of the Courthouse. Some of them smoked cigarettes or chewed tobacco, but not Grandpa. Grandpa chewed cinnamon Dentyne and would only give me "half a cake" if I asked for a piece.
Because he never learned to drive, he took a taxi downtown every morning. When I asked my mom what Grandpa did all day downtown, she said he "loafed around." Sometimes, he took care of business at the bank. Sometimes he sat at the counter in Don's Restaurant and talked with whomever sat at the stool beside him. I wondered what they talked about.
On days we met Grandpa at Don's, he was already there, holding a table for us. It was usually a corner booth, the vinyl seat cold against the backs of my legs. Don's was so noisy, with clattering silverware and clinking ceramic plates. We could barely hear each other talk. Grandpa didn't talk much anyway.
He ordered Cokes all around, while I took my time looking over the menu. Chicken fried steak, macaroni and cheese, breakfast served all day, tuna salad... I thoroughly read the neatly typed descriptions of each entree; but I always ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of steak fries. The plates were white with a green ribbon of paint circling the rim. I squirted a pool of vinegary ketchup between my fries and sandwich, scooting the pickles out of the way to save them for last. I savored the perfectly grilled sandwich, thick with melted cheese; and I ate every last one of my fat, flat fries. Grandpa cleaned his plate, too; and my sister used a waxy red crayon to trace letters on the paper kids' menu. We never said much. Mom ate her tuna salad with a fork in one hand and a Saltine cracker in the other. Her packages from Newberry's leaned against her hip on one side. Her wicker purse stood open on the seat beside her; but she didn't need to pay. Grandpa always took care of the check.
I wish we'd taken a picture there, something to look at and remember. Three generations gathered around a wobbly Formica table in a dimly-lit diner, Grandpa wiped the corners of his mouth with his paper napkin, mom asked about his day, my sister sat on her knees, and I made a face when I bit into a sour pickle.
My Grandpa died when I was in my early 20s. By that time, Don's Restaurant had been closed for years. Most of downtown died store by store before Grandpa passed away; but he still took a cab downtown everyday as long as he was able.
I wish I had a picture to remember us at Don's Restaurant just exactly like it was, just exactly as we were...a moment in time that seemed so ordinary then and so memorable today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What If

My head felt empty. For several hours yesterday, I had forced every question right out of it. I, who love knowing things, mentally took each "what if" captive and wrestled it somewhere below my brain stem. I could not afford to stop and think. I had to act and act fast.
We thought it was food poisoning...when my 17-year-old began to feel ill Sunday night. He and his dad and grandmother had been to a soccer tournament in Indianapolis. Prior to his game, they ate a mother's day brunch at a local restaurant. Jack had sausage gravy and biscuits.
When he got home, he said, "I don't feel so good."
"It must be the brunch," he said. "My stomach hurts. I took some Rolaids; but it didn't help."
By 9:00 PM, he was sitting on the floor, hunched over the toilet in his downstairs bathroom.
"Where does your stomach hurt?" I asked. He said it hurt right in the middle, around his navel.
He couldn't stop throwing up. I sat up with him all night. He would doze for an hour and then be up again, nauseated, vomiting. I kept checking his temp...not high at all; but he felt clammy.
The next morning, I went to work for half a day. The vomiting had slowed down; and he was sleeping. My mother-in-law said she would stay with him.
It was our first day of state assessment. I decided to administer the test and then leave my students with a sub for the afternoon. I could barely concentrate, handing out test booklets, reading the instructions, sharpening pencils, monitoring students. When my sub arrived, I hit the door running. Something nagged at the back of my mind. "What if..." I shut it down. The appointment with our family physician was at 1:00. I made my way across town. My son, still nauseated, sat in the passenger seat, a plastic garbage can between his knees.
The doctor also suspected food poisoning. He ordered a shot to help with the nausea. He pressed Jack's stomach. He didn't like Jack's reaction.
"I think we should do a CT scan," he said.
Insurance didn't agree.
I said, "Do it anyway." The what ifs were scratching at my brain, clawing their way in.
Jack drank the contrast; and we waited. The radiology tech performed the scan.
"Do you live near the hospital?" she asked.
The what ifs were screaming in my ears.
I did not need the tech to explain. I knew she could tell me very little until the doctor read the scan. I made eye contact with her. She held out a piece of paper and asked me to write my cell phone number down...again.
Jack and I got into the car.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"To the hospital," I said.
"But the doctor hasn't called yet," he said.
"Just to be safe," I said. The what ifs were so loud, my voice sounded muffled in my own ears.
The doctor called as I was pulling into the hospital parking lot.
"It's a hot appendix," he said. "They're waiting for him in surgery."
The what ifs drowned out the directions the registrar gave me.
"Can you just walk us there?" I asked. I must have looked desperate. I could see her mouth moving, telling me how to get around the hospital; but I could not understand.
She walked us to surgery.
Hours and prayers later, we are home again...just released from the hospital. The emergency appendectomy was a success. The surgeon removed Jack's appendix before it ruptured. Jack feels so much better. He says he feels like he could take off running...
"Not for three weeks," the doctor says.
I thank God for the power of prayer and the power to stifle those crippling what ifs. I thank God my son is okay.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Snow Cones

Everyone gets one snow cone.
They choose the flavor.
We pay.
"Don't we get to play?"
Michael asks.
He has a football
tucked under his arm.
"Just snow cones today,"
I say.
He grumbles
under his breath.
He forgets
that I have teacher ears.
"Be grateful,"
I remind him.
My eyebrows
make an exclamation point.
My face is
an emoji with gritted teeth.
I'm tired.
It's been a long week.
110 seventh graders
make a loud, crooked line.
The snow cone truck
is parked behind the football field.
Two college students
scoop the ice.
"No seconds," I say.
Funds are limited.
The girls order mango.
The boys, blueberry.
One girl orders lemon.
"I thought it would be yellow,"
she complains.
It's clear instead.
And sour.
Someone nudges Luke's elbow.
His cherry snow cone stains the grass.
My face
is an emoji
with a sideways frown.
Luke twists his mouth,
His elbows bow out,
He holds his empty spoon
in one hand.
His empty cone
in the other.
He glances at me
over the top of his thick glasses.
A heavy sigh
freezes in the roof of my mouth.
"Get back in line,"
I say.
I motion to him.
I nod encouragingly.
My face
is a smiling emoji
with red cheeks.
I remember.
Today is supposed to be fun.
"Add one more to the purchase order," I say.
Funds aren't that limited.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Doctor's Orders

I sit very still on the examination table. The sound of the crinkly paper under my thighs is distracting. I want to listen, very carefully, to the doctor's advice.
"Anxiety is the body's natural response to danger," he says. "Many years ago, if a person was being chased by a bear, for instance, the person would experience anxiety. It's called the fight or flight instinct. The person's blood pressure would rise; and the person would be ready to run from the bear. Now, not too many people find themselves up against a bear; but the human body is still hard-wired for fight or flight. You seem to be experiencing fight or flight in situations that don't require fight or flight. Something stressful happens. Your blood pressure rises; and then something else stressful happens, and it goes up again."
"What should I do?" I ask. "I do feel stressed."
"Do you like to do anything that relaxes you?" he asks.
I think about it. I really don't like massages or running or napping or manicures.
"I like to soak in the tub and read books," I say. I would shrug; but I remember the crinkly paper. I raise my eyebrows like question marks instead.
"Do that," he tells me. "Soak for hours if that's what it takes. Read lots of books."
Doctor's orders.
And so, when I feel like fighting or fleeing, I turn on the faucet in my little tub. I don't have a fancy soaking tub. I pour bubble bath that smells like pomegranate or lemon or lavender vanilla. I pour the bubble bath directly under the hot water that streams from the faucet. I swirl my hand under the surface and lean back in the bubbles. I wear a claw clip to keep my hair dry.
I dry my hands on a towel so I don't get the pages of the book wet.
I soak until my skin is as wrinkled as the skin of a prune.
I soak until a little jagged piece of my toenail polish peels off and floats like a miniature pink island.
I soak until I read to page 100; then I read at least two more chapters.
* * *
"The good news," the doctor says, on the day he gives me a prescription for bubble bath, "is that your ancestors were probably very good at running from bears. The calm people were eaten."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Mother Dreams of Houses

My mother dreams of houses
She dreams of our old house
the yellow house on Pear Street
the house where my sister and I
were children
the house where my mother
sat with us in the front yard
and taught us how to weave clover crowns
the house where my mother
filled the golden tub with bubbles
the house where my mother
helped us cut paper dolls
and hosted sleepovers
the house where she made blueberry pancakes
on Saturday morning

My  mother dreams of houses.
She dreams of our old house
the brick house on the hill
the house where my sister and I
were teenagers
the house where my mother
made fruit pizza and lasagna
the house where my mother
planned surprise parties
and helped with science projects
the house where my mother
waited up until we came home
the house where she signed report cards
and mailed college applications

My mother dreams she is in her old room
in our old house
She dreams she has broken a hole
through the hard wood floor
My mother dreams she is using a trowel
to dig in the ground under the floor
My mother dreams she is planting two strong trees
"What crazy dreams," my mother says
My mother dreams of houses
My mother dreams of trees
My mother dreams...of my sister and me

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Long Good-bye

My elementary school
was organized
with grades 2nd through 4th
on the main floor;
5th through 8th upstairs.
First grade tucked into the side wing.

Moving upstairs
was tough for me;
and I imagined,
it was tough
for my old teachers, too.
So every day,
during my fifth grade year,
I made the long pilgrimage...
from class to class,
after the bell.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Quillen," I said
to my 4th grade teacher.
She always looked surprised,
her eyes wide behind her glasses.
"Have a nice afternoon, Mrs. Carter,"
I called, lingering at her door,
hoping she might ask me
to help tidy the bookshelves
or organize the maps.

"How was your day?"
I asked Miss Davidson.
She was my dad's
2nd grade teacher, too;
and he told me
about the wooden paddle
named "Dr. Pepper"
that lived in her bottom desk drawer.
By the time I was in 2nd grade,
Miss Davidson was still teaching;
but Dr. Pepper had retired.

Finally, skipping a little,
(so I wouldn't miss her),
I made my way
down the long hall
to the first grade wing.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Shackleford,"
I said.
She drew me in
to a one-armed hug,
her heavy book bag
dangling from the opposite shoulder.

"Good-bye, Sweet Pea!" she said,
seeming to shrink each week
until the last day of fifth grade,
before summer break,
I realized I was eye to eye
with my first grade teacher.

In sixth grade,
I settled for waving
from the other side of the playground
or in passing
as we left lunch...
hanging on by the thinnest thread
to teachers who knew me.
I was learning to move on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On the Loose

Two lanes
too busy
two hands
on the wheel
windows rolled down
cold breeze
races in
wreaks havoc

One loose paper
takes a chance
launches from the backseat
in a frenzy
over my shoulder
past my ear
out the window

I see her
in the rearview mirror
straight down the yellow line

Nowhere to pull over
I watch
as she grows smaller
a crumpled ball
dodging tires
free to roam the winds
from gutter
to lawn
to rooftop

Perhaps she'll meet
the same fate
as the plastic bag
I saw last week
trying to fly
but stuck
in the top of a leafless tree

I wonder
are all chances
worth taking?

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Mom said, "Wear something nice, and go down to Ms. Jerrell's. She won a cake at the cakewalk
last night at the fall festival; and she just called and asked if you could come share it with her."
"She won a cake?" I asked.
I walked three times the night before, handing over a ticket a walk, fifty cents a ticket. Tinny music played in my ears as I stepped carefully around the circle. Every time they called a number, I checked the paper feet I'd landed on...no luck.
Ms. Jerrell was a retired first grade teacher. She was my mom's first grade teacher, over at the same school where she'd won the cake. Mom said she had no idea Ms. Jerrell's age. Her last year in the classroom had been my mom's first. My mom remembered her fondly.
"She was a good teacher," Mom said.
Now, Ms. Jerrell lived alone at the other end of the street. I had walked past her house hundreds of times. If I saw her in the garden or on the little covered porch, I always called out a friendly hello; but I had never been inside.
I knocked on the door and waited. I'm not sure what I expected...bright colors, picture books, a rocking chair.
I heard Ms. Jerrell fumbling with the lock on the door. When she opened it, I realized she was barely a head taller than I was; and I was only 8-years-old.
"Come in. Come in," she said. She stepped aside and waved me over the threshold.
"Congratulations on your cake," I told her politely. "It's so nice of you to share with me."
"Oh. It's too much cake for one" she said.
She shuffled off to the kitchen. I surveyed Ms. Jerrell's parlor. Dolls and cross-stitched pillows covered every chair cushion. I sat down on the black bench in front of the old Baldwin piano.
"May I play a song, Ms. Jerrell?" I called after her.
"Oh yes. Please play a song for us," she said.
I played a song...maybe one I knew by heart; but more than likely, I fumbled through the wilted sheet music perched above the keys. I'm sure I missed a sharp or two. An audience of China dolls watched, wide-eyed, from the chintz-covered armchair. My dusty fingers itched to pick them up; but I dared not disturb them.
While I plunked around on the loose keys, Ms. Jerrell clinked about in the kitchen.
"Bravo!" She exclaimed, appearing suddenly in the arched doorway, shuffling a bit in her scuffs.
"The cake is ready," she said, smiling broadly.
I followed her through an unused dining room to a round table, wedged in a kitchen corner. I could see a tangle of bare rose bushes through the glass panes in the back door.
Ms. Jerrell sliced through layers of chocolate and, with a shaky hand, served me first. We ate our cake from china dessert plates. Ms. Jerrell forgot to fill my milk glass; but I wouldn't have mentioned it for the world. The cake was moist, anyway; so it didn't matter.
"You must be very lucky, Ms. Jerrell," I said. "This cake is delicious. It must have been the best one to win."
We talked about school; and I'm sure I told her about the maps we were making, using dried beans and rice and yarn. I'm sure we talked about Ramona Quimby and cursive writing.
I ate a whole slice; and seconds when she offered.
When it was time to go, I stood awkwardly under the covered porch.
"Thanks again, Ms. Jerrell," I said. "I had a lovely time." I sounded like a girl from a book, I thought. If Ms. Jerrell noticed, she didn't seem to mind.
"Thank you," she said, "for a lovely visit."
I turned to go. I was the lucky one. Ms. Jerrell had taught hundreds of children over the years; and yet I was the child she chose to celebrate her winning cake. I could still taste the rich, fudgy frosting. I was not sure why I felt so sad as I walked home.

The Slice of Life Writing Challenge has not a been a cakewalk; but without it, I may not have sorted through my memories for this slice about a winning cake. I may not have remembered this story about the teacher who taught my mom to read. 
No, this March challenge has not been a cakewalk. Some days, I found myself walking round and round, hoping to be lucky enough to come up with a decent idea. Sometimes, I worried that my slices were too dry or too plain. It has not been a cakewalk; but it has been something worth celebrating. I have loved offering slices to all the readers who have graciously visited Galley Street; and I have loved being invited to share a slice with all the writers whose blogs I've visited.
"Bravo!" I say.
It's so nice of you to share with me.
"Thank you...for a lovely visit."
I was the lucky one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Hare

This week is our spring break. I thought it would never arrive. I felt like the hare, from "The Tortoise and the Hare." I was going so fast; but I needed to "lie down by the wayside and rest." I was getting nowhere. We had three snow days in a row this year, in mid-February; but then we MADE UP the three snow days BEFORE our spring break, using those little built-in days off that would have made the long stretch from mid-February to the end of March more bearable. Teachers, kids, administrators...we were all WORN OUT by the time spring break finally arrived.
For weeks, I dreamed of this week. I built it up in my mind. It was going to be the BEST WEEK EVER.
Our family didn't have plans...so no frantic packing or traveling. The boys had no sporting events...so no uniforms to wash. We could just relax and enjoy our time off; we could actually enjoy a much-needed break this spring break.
Easter weekend was busy...with guests and Easter festivities; so I figured that spring break would start yesterday, on Tuesday.
I started the day yesterday by going car shopping with my husband (who is an administrator in our school district; and therefore also on spring break). Our older son, now a licensed driver, is ready to inherit my husband's faithful Honda Pilot. My husband is now on the lookout for a vehicle. I never know what to do in this situation. If I enthusiastically encourage my husband to buy a car, it could turn out to be a lemon. That's exactly what happened the last time I insisted on buying a certain type of car. It turned out to be a lemon. I realized that fact when I was driving to work and ALL the warning lights on the dash came on AT THE SAME TIME. That's how bad it was. Since then, I try to withhold most of my opinions about our family cars. My husband does a good job researching automobiles and finding good deals; but he is the tortoise. For hares like me, car shopping with him can become taxing. I want to run ahead, hopping from dealership to dealership; and when the going gets tough, I want to curl up in the warm car (that we already own) and read a book while he plods along slowly and steadily.
When we returned from a long morning of car shopping (without a car), my husband (who loves to work even on spring break) decided we should cut back the ornamental grasses in the landscaping in front of the house. Usually, he does not include me in these gardening jobs because I am TERRIBLE with any kind of plant. My older son was recuperating from strep throat, though, and my younger son had plans with a friend; so my husband needed an assistant.
I was a few minutes into my assignment when I became thoroughly convinced that the homeowners before us must have used a landscaping service. Otherwise, they would have done away with those ornamental grasses. I don't even know what they're called; but they are more trouble than they are worth. They grow in little mounds that have to be cut back every spring. There are exactly 115 (?!?) little mounds. In order to cut them back properly, I had to use these super-small gardening clippers, barely bigger than my teacher scissors. It was like cutting the hair of 115 chia pets. I unpacked my angry eyes about two chia pets into the job. I couldn't reach all the little mounds unless I crawled around in the mulch. After hours of crawling around, trimming that crazy grass, I was ready to go back to work.
When I FINALLY finished cutting back the mounds of grass, I decided I'd better finish off the day with an even more daunting task...finding our missing towels. I'm notorious for bagging up piles of dirty clothes and stowing them in the storage room temporarily (a very hare-like thing to do). I do this if we are having unexpected company and I don't want the company to see the dirty laundry spilling out of just about every room in the house. Apparently, I bagged up most of our towels a few unexpected visitors ago; and now I can't find the towels. We have been using beach towels.
I dug around in the storage room for a while...no sign of the towels.
Feeling defeated, I washed, dried, and folded all the beach towels.
I felt as if the BEST SPRING BREAK EVER was slipping right through my blistered fingers. If I didn't change things up soon, my spring break days would be as lost as our bath towels.
* * *
Today was a new day; and I was determined to enjoy it. My older son was feeling better; so he and my husband decided to play golf. My younger son decided to spend the day at the basketball court.
This is what I did (quick as a rabbit).
First, I spent $220. 98 at the local bookstore, using a purchase order that the librarian asked me to spend as a favor for her (more like the most wonderful gift for me). Although the books belong to our school library, I will get to read some of them before they are shelved.
Then, I met my best friend for lunch. After lunch, I helped her try on glasses. Unlike me, she has never had to wear glasses before; so she said she needed my opinion. We had a great time trying on different frames. I'm due for a new pair soon; so I got her opinion, too. The sales associate asked how the two of us knew each other. I said, "We've been friends forever!" The sales associate congratulated us. Congratulations are in order when you've been best friends for 28 years!
Finally, I ran in to Target to buy my favorite Make-a-Size paper towels. I ventured back to the clearance aisle, knowing I would find Easter candy. However, I convinced myself that I WOULD NOT buy any candy UNLESS they had my very favorite Cadbury white chocolate mini eggs...and they had ONE BAG LEFT.
Now I am home. I admit that I am the hare, high-strung, plunging head-long into work and life...then conking out before I reach the finish line. But today, on the second day of my spring break, I am on the couch, eating white chocolate Easter eggs; and I have been captured by Kathy Appelt's new novel Maybe a Fox.  I am finally taking a break on spring break, and it's everything I'd hopped (I mean hoped) it would be.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Chim Chim Cher-ee"

My mom grew up in a neighborhood called Orchard Heights, several houses perched around a hill. In winter, it was like living on a wedding cake. My grandparents' house sat on the middle tier. In spring, when the dogwoods were in bloom, it was a terraced garden; and I was a ladybug, climbing concrete steps and rolling down green slopes. Even the clothesline hung at an angle.
My grandma had a flowered umbrella.

I loved that umbrella; but I never dared use it in the rain. It was much too pretty, covered with blue and purple blossoms, a little gold chain dangling from the shiny black handle.
No, that umbrella was meant for more, I thought.
One spring day, I stood on the top stoop, outside Grandma's front door. Hands on my skinny hips, I surveyed the world beneath me. Aunt Marie, my Grandpa's sister, lived next door. A cinder block wall, crumbling in places, kept Grandma's yard from spilling onto Aunt Marie's. I skipped down the curving steps, stopping to jump flat-footed from the last step to the gravel driveway.
I turned and tested the breeze, holding my face up to the sky, eyes closed.
Today was the day.
I ran back up the steps and into the house, and I took that beautiful umbrella.
I was more cautious now, knowing my idea might not seem like a good one...to Grandma especially. She preferred I keep my feet on the ground and all my bones in one piece.
I made sure no one was watching from the picture window. What a picture that would have been! I unsnapped the umbrella's belt and released the handspring. The flowered umbrella bloomed in all its glory.

I wished I had a blue coat with white piping. I longed for a black hat with flowers pinned to the brim. If only Grandma had a sturdy carpetbag, I thought regretfully. I clutched the umbrella with my bare hand, pretending it was clad in a white cotton glove. I touched my throat and adjusted an invisible red bow tie. Then I stepped up, bravely, onto the highest point of the cinder block wall. The wall was pitched forward, toward Aunt Marie's; but I figured that would help with my launch.
I hummed "A Spoonful of Sugar;" because, in my excitement, it was the only song I could remember.
Then, in a Mary Poppins moment, I stepped right off the cinder block wall.
I hit the ground with my heels first; scraping up two long grooves of green grass. My behind hit next, pounding the hill so hard that the last of my breath leapt out my lungs, through my open mouth, and mingled with the breeze that had failed to lift me skyward. My crooked teeth, bottoms and tops, smacked together so hard, they felt bruised. I skidded a few feet, grabbing tufts of onion grass with my free hand. When gravity finally settled around me, I checked the ribs of the umbrella first, and then my own. Nothing broken. I did my best to wipe the grass stains off my jeans; and I used my shaking fingers to spread the clumps of dirt and grass back into the raw places I had furrowed out of Aunt Marie's yard.
Satisfied that I'd done my best to cover my tracks, I pressed in the top spring of the umbrella and slid the runner back in place. I clapped mud from my palms and smoothed the flowered fabric so I could snap the umbrella belt.
Defeated, but still delighted, I trudged around the short end of the wall. Maybe I needed a windier day, I thought...or a better song even...or a carpetbag. Yes, any one of those might have made the difference.
"Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
chim chim cher-ee
a sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be."
(lyrics from Chim Chim Cher-ee, composed by Robert and Richard Sherman)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hearts of Stone

I taught fifth graders for seven years. Fifth grade teachers monitored recess. Twenty-five minutes a day, as long as the temperature was above freezing and the weather was dry, we watched kids be kids.
Most students loved recess, but some did not.
All the running and chasing and choosing teams did not appeal to some of my fifth graders. Some of them would rather sit quietly than run. Some did not run fast enough to give chase; and some knew that when teams were chosen, they would be chosen last...or not at all.
The last year I taught fifth grade, the year before we moved to a new town, the year before I moved to a new school where I would teach seventh graders, I had several students who did not enjoy recess.
I watched and worried as they staked out various obscure spots on the playground.
If she was lucky enough, she'd make it out first to the swing set and claim a swing where she would drag her feet and study the ground. If he thought he'd go unnoticed, he'd sit under the covered archway, near the cafeteria doors, and scratch the pavement with a sharp stick.
One boy, though, lingered near the teachers' bench. We talked to him, tried to draw him in. Did he want our attention, to be included in our conversation? After a cursory word or two, he'd venture back out to the perimeter of our area. The teachers' bench was surrounded with landscaping stones; and this little boy would stand on the edge, dragging the toe of his shoe through the rocks.
Day after day, he stood and watched the other children play.
One day, watching him out of the corner of my eye, I decided to try something different.
"I collect heart-shaped rocks," I said, loud enough for him to hear. The second the words came out of my mouth, they were true. Suddenly, I was a collector of heart-shaped rocks.
"I'd love to have some for my collection," I said, "and I'll bet there are all kinds of heart-shaped rocks hidden in these stones."
The student edged closer. He was looking at the rocks carefully now, really seeing them.
After a few moments, I noticed him reach down. He walked over to me.
"What about this one, Mrs. Sheroan?" he asked, holding out a rock. If I turned my head just so, it looked a little bit like a heart.
"That will be perfect for my collection," I said. "Thank you!"
I carried the rock in after recess and set it on top of my computer.
The next day, he added a few more to my collection. Word spread. The day after that, the boy who usually sat under the archway joined him. The two didn't really talk to each other; but they talked to me. They found rocks shaped like dinosaurs, and rocks shaped like parallelograms, and rocks that kind of looked like crescent moons. They also found rocks shaped like hearts...lots and lots of heart-shaped rocks.
On days she couldn't get to the swings on time, the girl from the swing sets joined in. Before long, I had a cairn of heart-shaped rocks on my desk...my favorite, one with a shallow fissure down the middle...a broken heart for my collection.
By the end of the year, I had heart-shaped rocks as paper weights, and heart-shaped rocks lining the window sill, and several glass containers brimming with hearts of stone.
I remember thinking, as I cleaned out my classroom, preparing for the big move.
"What should I do with this collection?"
I remember asking myself that question, but I have no recollection of what I did.
I don't remember throwing the rocks away...surely I would not have thrown them away; but I don't remember boxing them up either. I had so many things to box and pack and move.
I like to think that I carried all those rocks back to the teachers' bench. I like to think that I scattered them there, a second chance for other kids, in years to come, who would not love recess. I like to think that I did not leave the rocks in a pile...a pile of discarded hearts; but the truth is, I don't remember.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Album

Yes, that's me.
Age 14 months,
sitting on Grandma's chenille bedspread,
smiling at my Easter basket,
holding a chocolate rabbit by the ears.

I'm the one in the yellow gingham dress.
Granny made it for me.
Yellow is my favorite color.
I was 6, wearing a carnation wrist corsage.
My dad bought it at the florist's on Saturday
and kept it in the fridge overnight...
so it wouldn't wilt.
My knee socks are startling white.
If you look close enough, you'll see
my fingertips...still rainbow colored
from dying eggs the day before.
See me, holding the handle of my basket
with two hands?
I wanted to run and find some eggs;
but I was worried about scuffing my new shoes.

No, I wasn't happy that day.
I was 13 in that one.
See the Easter dress, blue and white stripes,
thin red plastic belt?
It seemed fine when I tried it on;
but on Easter Sunday, I knew I looked
like I worked in a seafood restaurant.
I did not smile for the picture
even though Mom said,
"Don't look so mad."
I couldn't wait to get to Grandma's,
change into jeans and a sweatshirt,
eat ham and homemade rolls,
and stretch out on her living room carpet
to watch my sister and cousin play hundreds
of hands of UNO.

I'm right there, 16 years old,
sitting on the back bumper
of the white pick-up truck.
That's Papaw, standing beside me.
He and I worked for hours,
writing rhymes for clues.
Papaw wanted to have
a scavenger hunt for Easter.
He said I was the best at poems.
He hid a hundred dollar bill
in a plastic egg;
and then the grown-ups
ran down Galley Street,
trying to find it first.
My poems led them here and there,
while all us kids, and Papaw,
watched and laughed.

That's me - right there...
the one dressed like Mary Magdalene.
Age 19, home from college
for spring break.
My dad, the preacher, asked me
to get up before daylight
and help with sunrise service.
I didn't mind.
I loved sunrise service...
so peaceful, so solemn.
My sister's friend
volunteered to be Jesus.
It was so early he forgot his lines
and stood there for the longest time,
looking terrified.
I couldn't help myself.
I was overcome.
I laughed so hard my shoulders shook.
From a distance it looked like crying.
I felt awful;
but dad said not to worry,
no one noticed.
It all worked out fine in the end.

(A poem inspired by Gary Soto's "Ode to Family Photographs")

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Golden Egg

During college, I was a member of the Baptist Student Union. On weekends, we traveled to small churches in our state to help with their youth groups. Being a preacher's daughter, I knew sometimes youth ministers needed help motivating their middle school and high school students, coming up with fresh ideas that would keep their youth involved at church and out of trouble elsewhere.
I had fun, helping with weekend retreats, leading lock-ins, preparing Bible studies for small groups.
One spring weekend, my friends and I from the BSU carpooled to a small church in a neighboring county, each of us armed with an Easter basket filled with empty plastic eggs. We had more eggs in a shopping bag; and several more baskets stacked in the trunk.
The youth minister met us at the front door of the church and led us to the multipurpose room. We arrived early, before the youth group members, in order to hide the eggs. One egg was covered with golden glitter. I watched as our director, Amy, hid the golden egg. I knew it would be difficult to find.
No sooner had we hidden the last plastic egg, the middle school and high school kids began to arrive.
After a few get-to-know-you games, Amy announced that we were having an egg hunt. A few of the older youth group members groaned. One girl rolled her eyes. They thought they were too old for an egg hunt.
Amy explained that the eggs were empty...no candy inside. Now even more students seemed to disengage. Why would they try to find empty plastic eggs?
I felt a little nervous. We were losing our audience. Tough crowd.
Amy forged on. She was only 22; but she had a measure of confidence that could only have been Heaven sent.
Ignoring the teenagers' crossed arms and bored expressions, Amy instructed us to hand each participant a basket. Then she announced to the group, "In just a minute, I'm going to yell 'Go!' and you all are going to try to find as many eggs as you can in order to WIN THIS GAME. Each egg has a point value, which is written on this piece of paper I have folded in my hand. I won't reveal the points for each egg until AFTER the hunt. You need to know, there is ONLY ONE GOLDEN EGG!"
I'm not sure if it was her enthusiasm or the mention of a golden egg or the appeal to their competitive natures or an actual miracle, but most of the disinterested teenagers perked up a little.
By the time Amy shouted, "Go!," most of the kids were hurrying around the multipurpose room.
Some grabbed every egg they saw, piling their basket with a rainbow of plastic. Others were more selective, going after only certain colors...interesting strategy; but several kids ran right past colorful eggs that were in plain sight. At first, I thought maybe they had somehow missed the eggs; but then I realized, they were focused only on finding the golden egg. Their goal had become specific...win the game with the golden egg.
Of course, one youth group member did, eventually, find the golden egg, holding it high over his head triumphantly. The hunt continued for a few more minutes while other participants half-heartedly gathered the rest of the plastic eggs. After all, the coveted golden egg, had already been found. Amy gathered the youth group members back in a loose circle around her. Those of us from the BSU mingled in.
"Great job!" Amy said, enthusiastically. We all applauded.
"Take a look at your eggs while I read the points values," she said. She unfolded the paper in her hand.
"Pink eggs are worth two points!"
"Awwww!"  - this from one kid who had collected mostly pink eggs.
"Green eggs are worth five points!"
"Orange eggs - 10 points!" A couple of kids with orange eggs in their baskets high-fived each other.
"Blue eggs are worth 15 points!"
Amy continued to announce colors and point values. The kid with the golden egg looked smug. It was the only egg in his basket.
"And...finally...," Amy said, "Drumroll please..." We all slapped the tiled floor in an exaggerated drumroll, "the GOLDEN EGG is worth...NEGATIVE 500 POINTS!"
The kid who found the golden egg was holding the egg in his hand, a smile frozen on his face. Stunned silence filled the room.
This game had not turned out how anyone had planned. I was worried for Amy.
The kid with the golden egg didn't look stunned anymore; he looked angry.
Amy didn't miss a beat.
Other kids in the room were now recounting their eggs. A few asked Amy to read off the points again. Their yellow, and pink, and blue eggs now seemed worth counting.
The kid with the golden egg just stood there.
Amy walked over and gently took the golden egg. She stood beside the kid who found it. She held the egg in front of her.
"How many of you tried hard to find this egg?" Amy asked. Most of the kids raised their hands.
"I see that some of you only have a few eggs in your  basket even though there were plenty of eggs hidden in this room. Do you only have a few eggs because you mainly wanted this one - this golden egg?" More kids sheepishly conceded that yes, in fact, they thought that was the only egg worth finding.
The boy who had found the egg looked a little less upset.
"I bet most of you thought that the golden egg would be worth more points than any other egg. Is that correct?" the kids nodded.
"And someone found it...even though I thought I hid it pretty well." The kid who had found the egg was still standing beside her. She patted his shoulder. He stood taller. He was part of the lesson now.
"Of course you thought this egg would be worth more points than all the others. It was the only one of its kind - the golden egg," she paused for a moment.
"Life is like that," she continued. "We think certain things are of great value because everyone thinks those things are valuable; so we rush around, blind to other important, valuable things around us...searching for that golden egg that's just out of reach. Don't get tricked by the glitter," Amy advised. "Don't spend your lives looking frantically for wealth or fame or power...the fanciest car, the biggest house, the most money or glory or glitz. Don't spend all your time and energy going after those things that everyone else wants, that everyone else deems to be most valuable."
Everyone was quiet. Some of the kids were looking at Amy. Some were looking at the eggs in their baskets.
Amy's voice was quiet but clear, "Don't let that golden egg be the only thing in your basket when the game is over," she said. We finished the day with several other games, then loaded the eggs and baskets back into the trunk and headed back to campus.
Twenty-eight years later, I still remember Amy's words...the lesson about the golden egg. I stop and think, every now and then, especially when my basket feels empty. Am I running right past kindness and leaving joy and love hidden in plain sight? Am I overlooking important things around me while I look for the golden egg?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Listening to the Story

I have been reading Jennifer A. Nielsen's A Night Divided, a gripping tale of Gerta, a girl whose family is divided by the Berlin Wall. I became a Nielsen fan after reading The False Prince; and I was very excited when I realized our school librarian had ordered A Night Divided.
I have not been disappointed. Gerta's story has prompted me to read more about the Berlin Wall, the history behind it, what the people of East Berlin experienced, how the people in West Berlin were affected by it.
Great writing does that...prompts the reader to dig a little deeper, wonder more, ask questions that may or may not be answered.
I was several chapters into the book when I flipped to the back to read Nielsen's acknowledgments. I do that sometimes...well, all the time.
I read every word. I wanted to know exactly how many individuals and groups Nielsen credited with creating Gerta's story. Who did she thank? Who was in her corner? Who pulled Nielsen through when she felt stuck?
This is what I read:
"There was nothing logical about my decision to write this book. The timing was too tight, I was already contracted for a different trilogy, and, as was pointed out to me more than once, I wasn't a historical writer.
But Gerta was insistent, constantly interrupting my thoughts..."
I sat there for a moment; and then I reread Nielsen's words. Jennifer A. Nielsen, a published author, living the writer's life, still had to contend with that voice in her ear...pointing out that she wasn't that kind of writer. Really? I read it again.
And Gerta...her character, was in her corner, fighting for the story to be told. I was fascinated. I read the paragraph to my students. I share books with them often; but I don't always share with them a paragraph from the author's acknowledgments. Maybe I should do that more often...maybe always.
"Did you hear that?" I asked. "Did you notice how Ms. Nielsen had to NOT listen to the voices telling her she couldn't do this, that she was not a historical writer? What if she had given in...we wouldn't have this great book! We wouldn't know this character. Thank goodness Ms. Nielsen listened to the story...the story that needed to be told!"
* * *
I can't tune the negativity out sometimes. Those voices...
"Other work is more important."
"You don't really have time for this."
"You'll never get anything published."
"The market's too saturated."
"Who would want to read that?"
Sometimes, I'm ashamed to admit, I listen. I don't write.
But this month, I tried extra hard to listen to the story...and then the next story...and the next. I listened to the stories; and I wrote them. Some days, I had to hold my ears to shut out the words that would stop me. Some days, I could barely hear the story whispering; but sometimes, those stories roared!

Thursday, March 24, 2016


I was eight years old.
I sat on a salvaged park bench
behind Winston's house.
The bench was broken
and leaned to the left.
The paint was chipped.
Maroon flakes stuck to my jeans.
I had a notebook
on my lap.
Blank pages grew damp
in the dewy air.
I clutched my pencil
and watched
and listened.
My membership card,
paid for with birthday money,
was a laminated square
in my back pocket.
Winston said,
if I sat long enough,
I might see a deer
or a raccoon
or, at the very least,
a nervous squirrel
scrabbling up a tree trunk.
Winston said
it was practically a nature preserve.
a good place for writers,
I thought.
Winston said:
members only, though;
so I handed over my birthday money.
Winston was in eighth grade.
Next day,
he gave me my card.
My name was typed.
The lamination still warm.
I waited and waited
on that bench,
straining my eyes into the underbrush
for any sign of nature...
a ladybug
an ant
an earthworm.
My expectations diminished...
My birthday money a memory...
when the smell
of Kentucky Fried Chicken
from the restaurant over the hill
grew too strong to bear
I headed home.
No words to describe
just an empty notebook,
a growling stomach,
and a lifelong membership
to a broken park bench
in Winston's backyard.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lori's Lighthouse

Galley Street was a place where things were made.
Great Granny made chicken and dumplings.
Papaw Ance made a garden grow.
Aunt Nina made Christmas decorations.
Papaw Hillard made doll-sized cradles and high chairs for me and my sister and cousin.
Uncle Bill made picture frames.
To borrow a modern term, it was a maker's space, alright. That street fairly buzzed with busy hands. On any given day you might see someone sewing or baking or harvesting or hammering.
I was a maker on Galley Street.
I made plans.
Galley Street, perched on the river bank, was shaded by the mountains.
I made plans to live in full sun.
I planned to write stories one day...far away from Galley Street. After all, I reasoned, writers needed to learn new things; and I knew everything there was to know about Galley Street.
I knew where to find the apple picker Papaw Ance used to grab the green apples from high up in the limbs of his favorite trees. I knew where the calico cat hid her kittens behind the cinder blocks in Great Granny's cellar. I knew how to shut the screen door just right to keep the blue tailed lizards out of the house.
I made myself a promise on Galley Street, a promise that I would write stories one day, not overlooking the river with the mountains peering over my shoulder. I made plans to live in a lighthouse and look out the highest window at the waves rolling in.
I told Granny Faye about my plans.
She never said, "Don't leave us."
She never said, "Why not stay?"
She never said, "All your best stories will come from Galley Street."
Instead, Granny made something.
She made a quilt that told a story about a brown-haired girl from the mountains who moved to the ocean and lived in a lighthouse. She made me hopeful. She made me happy.
Galley Street was a place where things were made.
This is the quilt that Granny made for me.

This is the message she stitched on the back.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fish Tale

I bought two goldfish
at a dime store
They lived
in a glass bowl
on my dresser...
for a while.
I set them free.
We lived on Spring Street.
The spring,
in my backyard,
did not bubble.
It seeped...
from underground,
into the pool
of mossy stones
someone built
long before I was born.
The goldfish were tired,
I guessed,
of swimming in dizzy circles.
They needed
fall leaves floating
like little boats
above them,
and lightning bugs
blinking overhead.
They needed
to be serenaded
by a bullfrog quartet.
They needed
to feel ripples caused
by dragonfly wings...
and see raindrops
make dimples
in the water.
I knew this;
so I knelt on the stone wall
and tilted their bowl...
careful, careful...
and they slipped over the lip
into the spring
where they grew
and grew...
twice as long
as the length of my hand.
I visited,
putting my face
near the surface.
Their orange tails
waved lazily.
suited them
just fine.

Monday, March 21, 2016

So Close, and Yet So Far

I ran errands for Granny. Sometimes she needed me to take a bowl of her green beans, covered in foil, to my Uncle Ronnie next door; or she might even ask if I cared to run a roll of masking tape to Aunt Nina two houses down.
I never minded running errands during daylight hours; but when dusk opened its fist and stretched its long gray fingers across Galley Street, my heart stuck in my throat. I had to call up the bravest part of myself in order to make the trip.
I didn't want Granny to know I was too scared to be helpful; so I said sure I could do it.
"I'll do whatever you need, Granny!"
She handed over whatever knick knack I was supposed to deliver.
"Could you watch me from the door?" I asked.
"Of course I can!" she said.
I had my suspicions that Granny went on about her business inside once I'd waded out of the yellow porch light that puddled up just past the concrete driveway. I had a long way to go alone, darkness gathering as fast as dust in the corners.
Once I hit the road, I trained my eyes on the tracks that Papaw's backhoe had made years ago when they first laid the blacktop. In the dim light of early evening, I imagined the parallel imprints were slats on a bridge...a swinging bridge. Clutching my prize in hand tight enough to still my nerves but not tight enough to ruin it, I made my way, one foot in front of the other.
I was in the bayou now...no longer a mountain girl. If I squinted my eyes just so, I could almost make out the olive hump of an alligator's head, swimming in the swamp I imagined I was crossing.
Right in front of Uncle Ronnie's porch, I leapt off the bridge, right before it snapped, the ropes crushed in the jaws of the angry gator. I landed, both feet flat on the cool summer grass and ran headlong down the hill to my uncle's door. I was breathless when Aunt Betty answered.
* * *
I took the back way to Granny's, jumping the drainage ditch like a hurdler and practically flew up the steps that led to Granny's driveway.
There she stood, just inside the screen door, silhouetted by light from the front hall.
I caught a deep breath. Maybe she had waited, while I acted out yet another death-defying adventure. Regardless, she was there now, watching from the door...just like she promised.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Last week, we asked questions...all kinds of questions. We've been collecting Snapple caps this year; and finally we had a chance to use them. Every student grabbed a cap, read the fact on the inside, and brainstormed a list of questions. Then we partnered with our shoulder buddies, swapped caps, and asked more questions. We declared our class a "No Answer Zone" for the day and simply enjoyed asking questions that led to more questions and better questions and more intriguing questions.
We were swallowing questions whole and chewing them up and rolling them around in our heads like marbles in a maze; and then we were laughing about some of our questions and honoring some questions with total silence...awed by the power of the question itself. We felt free...not pressured to answer, just prompted to wonder.
Then, someone read Snapple "Real Fact, #98."
"When the moon is directly overhead, you weigh slightly less."

Someone asked, "How can that be true?"
Someone else said, "Can you feel the difference?"
And then, a hand raised, "Can I answer?" he said, hesitantly.
He is moving this weekend...back to Chicago. He's only been at our school a couple of weeks, so bright, so friendly. He has not been with us long enough for us to get to know him, just long enough for us to welcome him. At home, he speaks Spanish; at school, English. In Chicago, he says they have family and friends. They came here, he said, to find work.
"But it was worse...for work, I mean," he had explained to me earlier in the day when the guidance office called to tell me he was withdrawing. "We have to go back...for work."
"I understand," I told him.
Now, with all eyes on him, in a No Answer Zone, he waits to share what he knows.
"Of course!" I said. "Answer. Please answer!"
"It's gravity...it's all about gravity," he said. His eyes were shining. "When you are standing exactly under the moon, it lifts you...ummm," he searched for the word he was looking for. "It lifts you...slightly."
That night, I walked outside and down the street to the corner. I looked up. The moon was directly overhead. I lifted my heels a little. I lifted my arms a little. I hoped the neighbors were not watching. I stood there, staring at the moon for a long time.
I thought about my new student...moving back to Chicago after such a short time with us. I thought what a heavy burden he carries...the only one in his family who speaks English, moving often, trying hard at every school, reaching out, trying to understand, trying to be understood, listening, sharing, making friends, leaving them.
I thought about him, standing directly under the moon...back home, where his teachers know him, where he is near friends and family again.
I felt lighter, slightly lighter.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spirit Wear Coordinator

I am the spirit wear coordinator for my sons' high school soccer team.
My husband volunteered me for the position. He said he did it because he knew I had experience. I have coordinated spirit wear in the past for my younger son's middle school lacrosse team. I'm pretty sure he volunteered me as spirit wear coordinator because I did not go with him to the meeting when parent volunteers were signing up; and the expectation was that at least one parent of each player was expected to step up in a big way. He stepped me up...in a big way.
Hundreds of sweat shirts, t-shirts, shorts, caps, and boonie hats later, I am still coordinating spirit wear. It's a very difficult position to abandon. Can I quit a volunteer job?
In order to coordinate spirit wear, I am required to work with a screen printing company to come up with new designs each year for the players and the fans. It's not as easy as it sounds.
I am now working with my third (!?!) screen printing company. I try to buy locally; so I forged an early loyalty to a fairly large company in the neighboring county. Then, after two years of providing the company with more than $5,000 in business, they charged me a $13 shipping charge for a $35 golf shirt. I thought it was a billing error. It wasn't. At first I was surprised; then I was offended. Then, after a few email correspondences, I decided not to do business with them anymore. I had been loyal; but they were not. It really hurt my feelings.
"Are you in a fight with the t-shirt guy?" my husband asked, obviously worried. Heaven forbid I step down from spirit wear coordinator. My husband might have to take my place. I knew what he was thinking.
"I'm not in a fight," I explained. "The fight's over. I'm moving on."
Next, I turned to a screen printing company located on our state university campus...just down the road from our high school. The manager was a college student. He had a laid back approach to business. He was very "chill." I'm not very chill. Spirit wear coordinators have deadlines, you know.
I hoped his calm demeanor would rub off on me. When 68 shirts were delivered for the end-of-the-year banquet with "record to appear here" printed on the back of the shirt where THE RECORD was supposed to appear, I realized his chill approach had not rubbed off. Fortunately, the too-cool manager simply put in an overnight order to redo the shirts. I now have 68 messed up long-sleeved tees in a storage box in my garage. We parted ways on good terms at least. He asked me, in a casual way, what I planned to do with the ruined shirts. I told him I was going to buy a t-shirt cannon and blast them at the fans to encourage school spirit. Maybe kids would be too hyped up over the cannon to notice the mistake on the back of the shirts.
"Yeah...," he said. "That's a plan."
So far, my current screen printer has successfully filled an order of t-shirts for my middle school student council members; and he is working on a shirt for my middle school book club. The text says, "I'd rather be reading," and features an open book with a heart on the page. I'm pretty excited about this new partnership; but I dare not get too excited.
Coordinating spirit wear is not for the faint of heart...nor is it for the pushover. Nor is it, apparently, for any other parent but me...
I will be coordinating spirit wear for at least three more years. My younger son is a freshman. While he plays JV soccer, he also plays lacrosse. A senior's parent coordinates spirit wear for high school lacrosse. I have a feeling I might be filling her shoes after this year...especially if my husband goes to the volunteer sign up meeting.

Friday, March 18, 2016

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman!

When my younger son, Will, was in 1st grade, his teacher stopped by my 5th grade classroom one day after school.
"Will's been complaining about his vision," she said. "He asked if he could sit closer to the board."
"Really?" I asked, dumbfounded. "The pediatrician checked his vision at his annual check-up; and he was able to read the eye chart perfectly."
"Hmmm...I just don't know what to think," his teacher said. "Something seems a little off about it; but I thought I'd tell you. What do you want me to do?"
"Keep his seat near the front of the room for now; and I'll talk to the school nurse on Monday. I think she has an eye chart in her office."
That evening, I asked my husband if he had noticed Will squinting at the television set. He hadn't. I told my husband what Will's teacher had said. We asked Will.
"Why did you ask Mrs. Warner to move you to the front of the room?" my husband asked.
"I can't see the words on the board," he said. "I need glasses."
"Do you have trouble seeing anything else?" I asked, "Like the words in the book you're reading or the TV set?"
"Yes," he said. "I need glasses."
On Monday, I shared our concerns with the school nurse.
"I'll be shocked if he needs glasses," I said. "The doctor just checked his eyes at the beginning of the school year; but I have had glasses since third grade...so maybe I missed something. I'll feel terrible if he needs glasses and I had no idea."
The nurse said not to worry, that she would call Will down to her office and see if he was able to read the eye chart.
"Can he read well enough to identify all the letters?" she asked.
"Oh yes," I said. "That shouldn't be a problem at all."
That afternoon, she reported to my husband (who was the assistant principal at our school), that Will had failed his vision test.
"She said he failed it 'extravagantly.' He missed every single letter," my husband said. "Then, the nurse said she pulled out the eye chart with pictures on it; and he failed that, too. He couldn't recognize one single picture. She said she had never had someone fail it so completely. She said it was almost like he was faking it..."
Faking it!?! I did not think my baby boy would fake nearsightedness...would he? In the back of my mind, I was aware that he and his brother had been watching Superman recently. Superman was Will's hero. Clark Kent wore glasses. Would Will fake nearsightedness in order to look more like Clark Kent? This was the child who had asked for super powers the previous Christmas.
The next day, I called my eye doctor and set up an appointment for Will.
I was so worried.
On the day of his appointment, I explained to the optometrist my concerns about Will's eyes; and I told her about his fascination with Superman.
"I know just what to do," she assured me.
She helped Will hop up onto the examination chair; and then she projected the vision chart on the opposite wall.
I watched as Will called an E an F, a B a P, a V a W, an M an N... He would pause and quirk his mouth to the side a little and tilt his head. Was he struggling to see? He never squinted. Then it dawned on me...Will was not pausing to try to see the letter, he was pausing to think of a letter that looked similar to the letter he was seeing!
"Hmmm..." the optometrist said. "Let me try something."
She stepped out of the room and returned with a pair of child-sized glasses. She slipped them onto Will's face. His eyes lit up.
"Can you read the eye chart now, Will?" she asked.
"Yes I can!" he said, enthusiastically, and he proceeded to read every letter perfectly.
"Well, Will," the doctor said, "you may need glasses one day; but you don't need them right now."
She patiently removed the glasses with the prescriptionless lenses from Will's eyes.
I was mortified.
"Thanks for your help," I said. "I'm so sorry we wasted your time."
"No problem," she smiled sympathetically and insisted that I not even stop at the receptionist's desk. She was not going to charge me for the eye exam.
Will and I headed to the car. He stopped and crossed his arms over his chest. He was confused.
"I saw better with the glasses on," he said, adamently. "I'm not leaving until I get some glasses like Clark Kent." There it was.
"You are most definitely leaving...without the glasses," I said.
"I am very upset with you," I told him, once he was buckled into his car seat. "You told a lie to Mrs. Warner, and to me, and to Daddy, and to the school nurse, and now to the eye doctor. You lied about your eyesight!"
I could see him in the rearview mirror. He looked very sad. I hoped it was because he realized how dishonest he had been; but I was pretty it was because he was so disappointed about leaving without his glasses. He was still trying to figure out how the doctor had outsmarted him. I felt a twinge of sorrow for him. He had not gotten super powers from Santa; and now all his careful plans for Clark Kent glasses had been foiled.
It wasn't until years later, Halloween of his 8th grade year, that Will, still with 20/20 vision had a chance to be Clark Kent. He looked just like him.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Love, With a Side of Tomato Soup

When I was 11,
my mom helped in the church nursery;
so she knew all the pre-school kids and babies.
When a little guy showed up on the church bus
one Sunday night,
all by himself,
wearing a Superman t-shirt
but no coat in January,
my mom made some phone calls.

A couple days later,
my sister and I made room
for a brown-eyed three-year-old
(who loved matchbox cars)
and a blue-eyed 2nd grader
(his big sister).

Their dad was on active duty,
and their mom walked out.
Their aunt, who had her own kids to feed,
had squeezed them into her place;
but with no money to spare,
everyone felt crowded and hungry.

Mom to the rescue...
dad agreed.
If we could help, it was the least we could do.
We weren't rich;
but we had room.

Mom said,
"I have an idea.
Why don't you girls walk home for lunch...
for a few days at least?"
Our school was a block away.
We walked home for lunch every day...
for three months;
until the kids' dad came home from the army.

I didn't think about how much money
mom saved
by fixing lunch at home.
I just remember walking into our kitchen,
at noon
on a school day.
It felt strange.
No kids yelling.
No trays clanking...
just my mom, and someone else's little boy,
waiting for us...
with a hot lunch on the kitchen counter.

Each of us pulled up a bar stool...
my sister, his sister, and me.
For three months, for lunch,
we ate love...
shaped like grilled cheese sandwiches.

(Thank you, Mom, and happy birthday!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I remember our Boys versus Girls War during 2nd grade. One of my best friends was a boy, Ray, leader of the boys' troops in fact; so I agreed to be a spy for the enemy...infiltrating the girls' side easily because of my reputation as a trustworthy rule follower. After school, I would relay the girls' attack plans to my friend on the guys' side. I felt bad about it; but Ray and I had been friends since kindergarten. I couldn't turn my back on him; and yet, because I was a girl, I was drafted into the female troops, like it or not.
I justified my role as a traitor because Laura, leader of the girl warriors, was brutal. She'd stomp the boys' feet with her cowboy boots. She was fast and merciless, her thick ponytail swinging as she raced from boy to boy, mashing their toes with a crunch of her heel. I trailed after the girls, at the back of the pack, cringing inwardly as Laura vanquished the enemy, one foot at a time...leaving boys hopping in her wake.
As much as I disapproved of her battle tactics, she was an impressive leader. Sometimes, she pretended to ride a wild mustang bareback into the fray. She was so convincing, bending slightly at the waist, wind whipping her ponytail behind her, using one hand to smack the horse's invisible flank. She gave a war whoop; and, shrugging at one another, the rest of us galloped awkwardly after her.
The boys parted and scattered.
No matter how carefully I relayed the girls' plans for the next day's attack, the boys could never best Laura. Save for her, we were a sorry troop. None of the rest of us could really stomach all the foot stomping; and most of us wore canvas Keds, anyway,...not cowboy boots.
Eventually, the girls won the war despite my role as turncoat. The boys surrendered, tired of bruised toes. They needed us in order to have two full kickball teams.
As fierce as she was in battle, Laura was surprisingly ready to concede. I guess she'd grown tired of all the easy victories. Laura never found out that I was the mole; and for that I was grateful. Though my loyalties, obviously, were with my good friend Ray, I couldn't help admiring Laura's bold and brassy ways. I did not want to stomp and shove and run and glare; but I wouldn't have minded feeling a fraction as powerful as she looked, dashing fearlessly toward her enemy on the back of a horse only she could see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Know the Signs

Last week, I passed a radar sign trailer...one of those large digital display boards posted on a two-wheeled trailer, set up on the shoulder of the road. Usually, these radar sign trailers are set up to provide information about upcoming road closures, road work ahead, or even to clock the speed of oncoming cars. Not this sign. This sign read: "Are you ready for severe weather?"
It was alarming.
I always try to be ready for severe weather.
When I was a kid, I was terrified of tornadoes. As soon as the local TV weatherman issued a tornado watch, meaning that "conditions are favorable" for a tornado, I went downstairs to the tornado shelter I had constructed. I could not convince my parents to join me.
"It'll be fine," dad said. "It's just a watch, not a warning."
"But, dad, conditions are favorable. FAVORABLE!" How could my dad not understand that "favorable" meant the atmosphere itself wanted a twister.
I used scare tactics to make my little sister join me.
In the tiny hall outside the downstairs bath, I had stashed all my tornado shelter supplies...radio, blankets, pillows (to sleep on, but also to cover our heads with if needed), 'Nilla Wafers, flashlights with extra batteries, a big stack of books, and some stuffed animals.
During most tornado watches, we stayed there for the better part of an hour...or until my sister got bored and dared to go back upstairs.
At school, I was the best at duck and cover. I could curl my usually inflexible little bones into the tightest ball, covering my head protectively with my arms. During the drill, I was so still and quiet that I barely breathed. I felt stiff afterward. I liked to think that I looked like a tiny, weather-aware statue...a textbook example of exactly what to do in a weather emergency.
I felt as if my teachers did not take the drill seriously enough; and I worried unreasonably about the possibility of a tornado touching down on our playground during recess. I remember actually coming up with a tornado plan for outside and convincing one of my friends to practice the drill with me.
"You have to be aware of the signs," I told her, scanning the blue sky overhead. "The sky will look kind of greenish; and we may hear a sound like a locomotive."
Looking back, it was a horrible plan that involved my friend and me shaking the foundations of all the playground equipment until we found the sturdiest. In the event of a tornado, we would grab hold of the base of the jungle gym and hang on for dear life.
Last week, I was so exhausted, that I slept through a storm...for the first time in my life.
I did not stay awake like I usually do, the ghostly glow of the TV filling the bedroom, sound on mute as I strain to see the counties in the watch area scrolling across the bottom of the screen. I did not hear the emergency broadcast warning on my phone. I did not hear the thunder rumbling, the wind roaring, or the rain pelting the window. I slept through a storm.
When I woke up the next morning, I actually felt guilty about it.
A couple days later, I drove past the radar sign trailer.
"Are you ready for severe weather?" it seemed to be asking me...personally.
I wondered if I should circle around and read the sign again. I had never seen one of those signs with that type of message. Maybe it was a message just for me. I was losing my edge, clearly, in the area of tornado-preparedness. I decided against circling back. If the sign really did say, "Are you ready for severe weather?," then I would have wasted several precious minutes in a busy day. If it didn't say that, well then...
Let's just say, I will be back to my usual hyper-aware weather vigilance next time there's a storm in the area. After all, I know it's important to be aware of the signs...er, well...the sign, that is.