Saturday, July 19

Home

Note: this is an extended/revised version of my previous piece.  My apologies if this seems redundant or unappealing, but also...as blog owner, it's my prerogative to post junk I feel like posting.  And with that, I give you, "Home."


And there she stood, basked in the light of half-truths and mistrust.  She squinted at him, yearning connection, fearing it more.  She stared at his dirty baseball hat, his loose shirt, his messy hair, and then she was staring past him, her eyes set, face expressionless.  
“You don’t mean that,” sounded too much like, “I can’t love you anymore.”
“It’s all fine,” sounded too much like, “I can’t afford to care.”
“So what now?” meant, “This is the end.”
She continued to stare past him, past her now, waiting for a new life, a cleansing rain, to drench her.

It rained two days later, loud splinters of water covering the trees, the sidewalk, bouncing off benches and umbrellas.  It filled sidewalk cracks and forced worms out of hiding. It poured, it scoured, it enveloped.  And she stood, arms spread, staring up.  Water poured down her pained face, tears and rain blending in their downward journey, her jaw clenched and shaking.  And then her mouth opened and she drank the sky.  

It was a Wednesday night when her phone lit up, reading, "Dad" but meaning, "Stranger."  The air stilled as she stared at the screen. 
And then she answered with practiced indifference.
She sat, biting her lip and pulling at the carpet, as her dad spoke.  Rushed words about things she tried to forget. 
And then he promised to come see her soon.
She exhaled.   And then hung up.
Tossing the phone against her dresser, she let out a shaky cry and whispered he's supposed to love me.
And then she lay on the carpet, fists balled, and wept.  Hours later pre-dawn light gently cradled her awake and told her to move.

Three days later she stood by her favorite tree and let the wind rustle her messy hair.  She turned slowly in a circle, gazing at the sky, the baseball field, the grass.  And then she grabbed the lower tree branches and climbed.  Panting slightly, she swung her body up, until she reached the sitting branch.  The branch that had hugged her softly when her dad left, the branch that had given her a home when nowhere else felt right, the branch that had made her feel less alone.  And now it was the branch that held her while she wondered whether he could be different from her dad.  She sat on the branch, her head resting against the trunk, and tried to smile.
But her smile shook and soon she was crying. 
Between bursts of tears, she choked, "I'm broken."

On a Tuesday morning she weaved through tables at Bailey's Cafe to sit in a corner booth.   She curled her legs under and tried to make herself small.  When her coffee arrived, she ripped sugar packets and swirled the brown liquid, methodically tapping the sides of the cup.  The hot glass warmed her thin fingers and she sighed.
Soon voices, shrill and scoffing, floated to her table.  She looked up and saw a couple, both with white shocks of hair and patterned sweaters, spitting words. 
She watched the exchange desperately, searching for answers, for confirmation. 
One, "If you would just listen to me-"
The other, "All I do is listen!"
And she heard love doesn't work.
She nodded to herself and turned back to her coffee.

She opened the door, weeks later, and smelled lilac.  She gulped in the scent and wondered if this was what healing smelled like.  She walked, barefoot, to the lilac bush pushing through her neighbor’s fence and sat in the damp grass to smell, and feel, and see.  She curled her toes in the grass and dirt and reached an arm forward to touch a protruding leaf, to pinch it between her fingers.  She looked at the different greens on the leaf and thought how they looked like veins.  She placed her palm and outstretched fingers against the fence, pressing damp splinters.  She forced herself to breath.  In, out.  In.  Out.  She closed her eyes.  
And then she said, quietly, “I’m still here.”

It was the next day, as she wandered the farmer's market, picking up cucumbers and weighing fruit, that she saw the couple from Bailey's cafe.  Their hair was still white and their sweaters still patterned, but they were not the same.  The girl set down her nectarine, nervously pushed loose hair behind her ears, and watched. 
As the couple slowly walked through aisles of fruit, the man rested his hand on the small of her back.  The woman smiled and whispered something.  The man laughed, a big laugh, and tipped his head back. 
And the girl stood still, staring.

She walked aimlessly through July, stopping at snow shacks and public parks on her way to nowhere.  She sat on a hot metal bench and let a trail of ants climb over her fingers.  She watched young children in mismatched clothes run and laugh and cry.  She gazed with interest at a small boy with tufts of curly brown hair as he bent to the ground, his hand outstretched.  And the corners of her mouth turned up as she watched him bring a fistful of dirt to his chin.  She let out a single huh when the mom slapped the dirt down.
And then she looked right.  
Two benches away sat a young mother in boxer shorts and a stained gray t-shirt.   She had bags under her eyes and her hair was unkempt.  But her eyes were happy, an extension of her slight smile.  The girl followed the woman’s gaze to a small child, pulling at some grass.  The girl watched the woman watch the child and the smile never faded.
That must be love, she thought.

It was on a Sunday, as the girl was walking barefoot along the hot cement, when she heard him.

He said, “Where have you been?” and it sounded like-
                                                                                    I missed you.
She said, “I’ve been here,” and it sounded like-
                                                                                    I’ve been finding myself.
He said, “I see you, you know,” and it sounded like-
                                                                                    I can love you.
And she said, “I think I see you, too,” and it meant-
                                                                                                Home.


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Wednesday, July 16

Head On Over

Today I'm guest blogging over at Brooke and Jane.  I'll be flaunting my pseudo-domesticity by teaching you how to make Soda Cracker Toffee.  It's a deceivingly simple dessert that tastes better than anything in this world should be allowed to taste.  So head on over and enjoy.



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Tuesday, June 10

Home



And there she stood, basked in the light of half-truths and mistrust.  She squinted at him, yearning connection, fearing it more.  She stared at his dirty baseball hat, his loose shirt, his messy hair, and then she was staring past him, her eyes set, face expressionless.  
“You don’t mean that,” sounded too much like, “I can’t love you anymore.”
“It’s all fine,” sounded too much like, “I can’t afford to care.”
“So what now?” meant, “This is the end.”
She continued to stare past him, past her now, waiting for a new life, a cleansing rain, to drench her.  

It rained two days later, loud splinters of water covering the trees, the sidewalk, bouncing off benches and umbrellas.  It filled sidewalk cracks and forced worms out of hiding. It poured, it scoured, it enveloped.  And she stood, arms spread, staring up.  Water poured down her pained face, tears and rain blending in their downward journey, her jaw clenched and shaking.  And then her mouth opened and she drank the sky.  

She opened the door, weeks later, and smelled lilac.  She gulped in the scent and wondered if this was what healing smelled like.  She walked, barefoot, to the lilac bush pushing through her neighbor’s fence and sat in the damp grass to smell, and feel, and see.  She curled her toes in the grass and dirt and reached an arm forward to touch a protruding leaf, to pinch it between her fingers.  She looked at the different greens on the leaf and thought how they looked like veins.  Could leafs bleed?  She placed her palm and outstretched fingers against the fence, pressing damp splinters.  She forced herself to breath.  In, out.  In.  Out.  She closed her eyes.  
And then she said, quietly, “I’m still here.”

She walked aimlessly through July, stopping at snow shacks and public parks on her way to nowhere.  She sat on a hot metal bench and let a trail of ants climb over her fingers.  She watched young children in mismatched clothes run and laugh and cry.  She gazed with interest at a small boy with tufts of curly brown hair as he bent to the ground, his hand outstretched.  And the corners of her mouth turned up as she watched him bring a fistfull of dirt to his chin.  She let out a single huh when the mom slapped the dirt down.
And then she looked right.  
Two benches away sat a young mother in boxer shorts and a stained gray t-shirt.   She had bags under her eyes and her hair was unkempt.  But her eyes were happy, an extension of her slight smile.  The girl followed the woman’s gaze to a small child, pulling at some grass.  The girl watched the woman watch the child and the smile never faded.
That must be love, she thought.

It was on a Sunday, as the girl was walking barefoot along the hot cement, when she heard him.

He said, “Where have you been?” and it sounded like-
I missed you.
She said, “I’ve been here,” and it sounded like-
I’ve been finding myself.
He said, “I see you, you know,” and it sounded like-
I can love you.
And she said, “I think I see you, too,” and it sounded like-
Home.

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Thursday, May 1

"Don't Interrupt Us!"


Teaching is deeply personal.  To say it is my career seems dry and, frankly, misrepresentative.  I can leave my classroom, but I very rarely feel, "clocked out," as teaching has forced me to view, and feel, the world a little differently.  

And I think one of the best gifts you can receive is a chance to look at the world through a new lens.  It's one of the reasons I love writing and reading literature- when I step away, life is cast in a new light.  Things shift and become whole [er], though the gaps were unapparent before.  

Teaching provokes a range of emotions, from elation to devastation, and everything in between.  And the emotional scale tips back and forth, back and forth all day.  I mourn the students that give up, that dismiss their education, that focus more on negativity than positivity, that mistreat other students, that feel alone.  But I rejoice with the students that realize they're good learners, that reach out to those who are alone, that challenge themselves, that take risks, that smile because they feel that life is good.  

I constantly second-guess myself and often feel wildly inadequate, because the truth is: I will never work a day perfectly in my life.  

But that will be the beautiful challenge of my existence.  And if I can witness more moments like the following, it will have been worth it.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Yesterday I did some power writing with my students.  I gave the class topics loosely related to their book and they wrote as much as they could, as fast as they could, as well as they could for two-minute spurts.  

When my famously loud fourth period began, I was awestruck.  The only sound filling my classroom was the wild scratching of pencils and pens.  [No small miracle, I assure you.]

After my students completed a few rounds, they selected one of their entries to revise.  They then shared their work with their tables.  I heard echoes of, "Whoa…that was really good!" and, "Read that last part again, I want to remember it."  When their voices dwindled, I asked whether anyone wanted to nominate a reader from their group.  Several eager hands shot into the air.  

The first nominee was a shy, sweetly quiet student.  I asked whether he'd be willing to share, and, to my delight, he nodded.

He cleared his throat and smoothed his sheet of paper.  Then, softly, he began reading.  The class sat in quiet rapture- had anyone spoke, the boy's voice would have been enveloped.  Striking, unexpected words spilled out and I watched awe register on his peer's faces.  

But then, only a few lines in, the intercom blared.  Mrs. Gull?  Can you please send Rachel to the-

That's when one of my students bellowed, "DO NOT INTERRUPT US!  WE WERE LISTENING TO A MASTERPIECE!"

…and while I feel deeply sorry for the blameless, unsuspecting secretary, I will forever cherish that moment because the subtle grin on my shy writer's face was the most beautifully endearing thing.

When the intercom quieted, the student finished his reading, and the class erupted: they clapped, snapped their fingers, and whooped in unanimous support of his words.

And I think in that moment he realized something: his words were powerful.  

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Thursday, April 17

In Teacherland


My students made that card for my husband's birthday.  Witty, no?  And while this next comment will probably detract from your overall enjoyment of the card, please note the correct usage of it's and your.  Double win!

And now, for other news.  [Be forewarned, I am foregoing segues]:

:: We hosted a ninth grade night a couple weeks ago.  We set up booths and made flyers describing the various classes and extracurricular activities sophomores could choose.  I manned the Honors English and basketball booth (that way I could tell students they could only be in Honors if they also tried out for basketball.  Some say coercion, I say adept teaching pedagogy) .  Honors students had to pick up their summer homework packets, so I had a constant herd of nervous ninth graders stopping by with their parents.  More often than not, the following exchange occurred:

Parents: "Is honors hard?  Did you take it this year?"
Me: "I...taught it this year?"

And then the parents would apologize profusely, while I reassured them that all was well.  I'd rather look young than unduly old, so no harm done.

:: My students asked me when my birthday was.  I replied vaguely that it was in summer.

One student: "Well, what's your address?"
Me: "I'm not giving you my address."
Student: "Well how else are we going to drop off your birthday cake?"

Ah, bless them.  [Though my address must absolutely remain secret because, frankly, you never know what they'll do.  And I tend to incite over-the-top pranking.]

:: My students are doing literature circles for fourth term [I give them six or so thematic book options and they choose the most appealing and read it in groups].  In their groups, I have them discuss consequences for those who don't read; most choose something treat-related.  However.  One group decided on the following consequence: those who don't read must twerk in front of the class for one minute.

So basically I have to stifle their creative ambitions, or possibly lose my job.  Choices, choices.  I'll let you know what I decide.

:: I cut my hair over spring break- just a few inches, nothing dramatic [regardless, I'm mourning the lost length].  Anyway, one of my students commented on the haircut.  Another student jumped in:

"You cut your hair?  Where?!  How?"  This outburst was accompanied by wild gesticulations at my head.

One of my basketball players responded, "She cut her hair at the bottom.  The bottom part of the hair was cut, duh."

:: One of my students ran into my room the other day and yelled, "Someone thought I was you, I love my life!" and then ran out.  Ego stroking at its best.  [But seriously.  Some of my students are so nice to me I would be obnoxiously self-confident if it weren't for the students, in equal number, who are so whiny to me.  Teacher balance, you know.]

:: Some of my students called me over the other day to get help with an activity.  I crouched next to their desks and pointed at various parts of the assignment, talking them through the steps.  I asked if that helped and they nodded, smiling.  I returned to my desk.  Thirty seconds later they start cracking up and call me back over.

"Sorry about this, but we were pretty distracted by your wedding ring when you came over.  We were basically just staring at your ring and not listening to anything you said.  Can you go over this again?"

:: One of my most adorable, eccentric students finished his standardized test early and picked up his copy of The Help.  He then proceeded to belly-laugh sporadically at the book.  It was such a joy to watch.  He was just bubbling over, absolutely loving the story.  At the end of class, he had 100 pages to go.  Later that day, between classes, he sprinted into my room.  "Did that just really happen?  That ending!  That just really happened?!" I started to respond but he interjected, "Sorry, we don't have time to adequately discuss.  I'll come in tomorrow during lunch.  Bye!"

:: My juniors just finished 1984 and we've been playing what I deemed The Great Game [self-aggrandizing title, so what].  They have to create societies, publish propaganda, take other groups to war, and build world wonders.  I wasn't sure whether they'd really buy in, but my fears were unfounded as they have gotten so into the game that whole societies now loath one another.  Some of the students have gotten downright vicious.  It's kind of like watching video gamers argue about tactics and insult other players' methods.  Battle of the nerds, if you will.  It's both lovely and horrifying to watch.  I'll have to do some love one another activities next to repair student relationships.

And...this turned into a novel, so I'll stop rambling here.  The moral of this post: teaching is a lovely, exhausting, confusing, funny gig. 

Monday, April 14

Spring Break


Despite the fact my knees look extra fleshy in the above photo, that picture is everything that was lovely about my spring break.  Reading, basketball socks, and sunshine. 

However, I know that summative picture is not enough to quench your what did Regan do during spring break? thirst, and so I present to you a list of my many and varied accomplishments last week:

:: I ate whole cartons of strawberries in single porch-reading sessions. 
:: I drove to the grocery store multiple times to buy single items, because I had time.
:: I went to the gym (sometimes twice a day) and listened to delightful audiobooks whilst on the stairmaster.  I thought it was time to supplement my workouts with something other than Kanye West's Blackskin.
:: I finished five books: Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?, I am the Messenger, Galveston, The Handmaid's Tale, and Warriors Don't Cry.  These were not the books I should have read for educational purposes, which made them all the more delightful.
:: I played a lot of basketball.  We held open gym over the break and a total of two coaches (me and one other) and two athletes showed up.  So we indulged in two-on-two. 
:: I seriously considered getting my car washed and detailed, and then didn't.  I mention it because the mental preparation required for a car wash extravaganza is enough to warrant recognition. 
:: I graded a handful of papers and then decided that it was my moral obligation to mentally recover, and stopped doing all things teacherly.  (And, dramatically enough, I started to taste bile every time I thought about grading, which was warning enough for me).
:: I made our bed everyday. 
:: I kept our house immaculate, and then sighed theatrically in delight at its cleanliness. 
:: I went to the nearby park and swung by myself, solidifying my neighbors' fears that they live amongst a pedophile.  [I'm not, guys.  I just like to swing and don't think that should be taken off the table simply because I'm 23].

I hope my unabashed declaration of accomplishments didn't make you feel inadequate.  Not everyone can eat strawberries and look pedophilac- it's my special gift.  I'm sure you have one, too.

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Thursday, April 10


I have letters in my head, waiting for instruction.  I picture them there, like alphabet soup.  I hope they can arrange themselves because I have been positively inebriated with writer's block for months (that was hyperbolic- it's been days only).

I am going to publish this (whatever it is) even if it is directionless piece of drivel.  As author Sherman Alexie eloquently stated on twitter, "Write a lot of shit today, pray for less shit tomorrow."

And now I begin:

I wish I had a transcript of all the thoughts in my head two minutes prior to falling asleep.  As the conscious and unconscious meet, stretching out their hands, I have slippery thoughts that feel, somehow, big.

It's quite possible that these thoughts feel significant only because I'm in a state akin to a anesthesia.  Maybe I'm thinking popcorn sounds good, and my addled consciousness doesn't know what to do but applaud and pretend the thought is deeply revolutionary.  Maybe my fleeting thoughts are more desperate.  Someone needs to tell LeBron not to wear a Pharrell hat.  Someone needs to tell Pharrell not to wear a Pharrell hat.  And why don't people eat pizza for breakfast?

But what if I really figure things out in those fading minutes?  What if I am a genius writer, but only in two minute spurts, and right before sleep?

Whatever happens in my head before sleep, it's replaced when I wake up with checklists.

I am adding to my checklist: be less checklist-y.

It's spring break and even now I create unnecessary lists in my head.  Gym, protein, nap (I schedule these, in my head!), dishes, grading, reading, basketball.

On Tuesday I even scheduled: eat strawberries and read on the porch at five.  I did it, too, and it was lovely.  But shouldn't that be something one does on a whim?

I'm sure it's obvious, but this post has gotten away from me.  It was away from me within the first line.

What was it Sherman said?  Pray for less shit tomorrow?  Amen to that.

Maybe I'll break routine and spontaneously write tomorrow.  Around ten(ish)?  Scheduled spontaneity may be as good as it gets with me.


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