Monday, March 31, 2014

Earworms of the Musical and Overactive Brain Varieties

Link up or join me at
for the Tuesday Slice of LIfe
Earworm: A song that sticks in your mind, and will not leave no matter how much you try. - From

There are two serious earworms in my head right now. The first is the entire soundtrack to the musical Frog and Toad which we bought from iTunes after seeing the production at my school. The songs are wonderful and my daughter loves them, so we've heard them A LOT! It seems the only way the song about eating cookies moves on is when it is replaced by the one about being almost Christmas. Having just typed those two phrases, they are competing for my brain so I've had to fire up some music on my computer for brain redirection.

The second earworm is an issue I'm having with some people in my life. The details are unimportant for this post, but it's been very frustrating, and actually makes my heart beat hard enough it seems to pound in my ears whenever I think of it. While it does not totally encompass my mind, it seems to pop up several times an hour and I'm pretty tired of it.  All I can think about is an upcoming meeting, going through various scenarios and what my actions could or should be. I hope that the decisions I have made, and will make, will be the right ones. This situation has really made me question myself professionally and personally about the type of person I am. 

I have some high expectations about myself, who I think I am, and how to take actions that help me be who I want to be. Like everyone, I have plenty of failures I dwell on and successes I worry I over-exaggerate to show myself in the best light possible. Self doubt is a tough emotion to deal with and it's been creeping into my mind a little deeper than I wish it would lately. 

But tonight, I was reminded of a success I have forgotten about. A classmate from college posted about me on an alumni Facebook page, on a thread related to people they had lost contact with from college. I remember her, and how we were always friends, even if we didn't hang out much. Here is what she posted.

"#ILoveYouMan Max, you are still my hero for making sure I was ok that night our freshman year. #knightinshiningarmor"

To be honest, I don't remember the specific incident she is referring to. I have a vague image in my memory of helping her with something, but my freshman year of college was actually twenty years ago and I don't know what it was. I have some ideas of what it could be and I'm sure if I asked she would tell me. But part of me wants to leave it a mystery. It doesn't really matter if I know or not. What matters is it made my day, that someone remembers a kind or even "heroic" action from twenty years ago. 

I like to think there are lots of heroic moments in my past, where because I was there, someone's world, or at least moment, was better. It gives me the strength to move forward and trust in myself. If I took the right actions, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, that still matter to someone twenty years later, I can trust myself to do what is right in this situation. That is the slice of my life I needed today.

This is not me :)
By the way, if you have an earworm (the musical variety) stuck in your head, the website might be able to help. The below is cut-and-pasted from the website:

We created this site for those of you that have a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out no matter what you do. Using the latest in reverse-auditory-melodic-unstickification technology, we've been able to allow our users to “unhear” songs by hearing equally catchy songs. So really all we're doing is making you forget your old song by replacing it with another one... sorry.

photo credit: <a href="">Cayusa</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SOLSC 31 of 31 - The End or just the Beginning?

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

Go to Yesterday's Slice
Copy the top
"New Post"

The keys tap quietly as I type, with mostly five of six fingers. The Space Bar makes slightly louder noises as I push it down with more confidence because it's bigger and easier to find. The delete key is a rapid staccato as I erase whole words, or even lines to edit, spellcheck or change. A pause in the sounds as the cursor moves via arrow keys or mouse to reach above. Tapity-tap to change something, and then another pause, as the cursor returns back to where it was before. 

For the past month, a slice of each day has been to sit down and write  I've written to you while I have been happy, tired, mad, thoughtful, nostalgic, or whatever my "normal" state of mind is. Slices have been composed at school, Starbucks, the bathroom floor during my daughter's bath (like this one), the couch (especially when I was not sleeping), and most often at the dining room table.

Some days the words flowed easily from my fingers to the keys. Other days it's been a struggle, inspiration absent, and I cringed when I hit the orange "Publish" button, knowing that others would read it. To protect my ego in those moments, I've continually repeated to myself that this blog is like a writer's notebook. I need to write a lot to find a few gems and it's likely that 90% of what I write is the equivalent of manure; a natural and necessary excrement of living and growth, but not worth spending much thought about. 

Just as a garden does well with fertilizer, my writing confidence has grown with each post, even the manure ones. I have several posts I'm very proud of and even excited to expand. While I usually pride myself in sensory description and scene setting, I have been willing to share poetry, memoirs, and I am realizing that I others find my writing humorous when I mean them to. 

I can not say enough about how much each comment from you has meant to me. I wish I had commented more for other people, although I did have some good marathon days of catching up. So thanks if you gave me feedback or support, online or in person.

I was lucky to have so many people near me slicing away each day. Linda, Kam, Suparna, Katie, and my wife Susan were there for support and inspiration. But my other secret helpers were a sticker chart and a class of twenty-two students slicing along with me. Doing the Classroom SOLSC has been amazing for me as a teacher and truly inspirational as a writer. Daily, I have been astounded by my students' writing. They are so brave, real, and their voices shine out from their blogs! I not only have a better idea of how to help them as students and writers, but I know them better as people. And I have to say, having my name on the bottom of the sticker chart in the classroom was pretty helpful as well. I'm okay if they are better writers than I am, as some of them are, but I don't want to be out-hustled.

As I reflect on what it means to me, to write each day, I am excited by the possibilities. I want to write, and while I don't quite know how to share it beyond this blog, I expect that I will. Without a sticker chart, or a place to post each day, I probably will not write each day once this challenge is over. But just as I know I can climb a mountain, or survive a long school year, because I've done it before, I know I can do this too. My mental stamina for writing is stronger than it has ever been and since I believe in it, it exists, and this is only the beginning for me as a writer.

Notebook photo credit: <a href="">Theryn Fleming</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Pen photo credit: <a href="">kfergos</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

SOLSC 30 of 31 - PUNishing my students

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

I read the news today and found that corduroy pillowcases were making headlines. Actually, I have had a draft on my blog for a while that says "this will be my post about puns," because I love wordplay, puns and silliness. I have quite the repertoire of puns and can go on for extended periods about cows, trees and other subjects. Some puns I use over and over, and some come to me in flashes of inspiration during the day. I'm worried that my students will be going through pun withdrawal so here's a post where I PUNish my students so they know I'm still thinking of them during break. I use first or last names because otherwise, I think this might be impossible.

Okay class, you are all on spring break and now is a good time for me to be Aaron some things out. I know Abby a little harsh at times, but it's stressful work when teaching is how I Briahn home the bacon. Often after I get done lecturing you about something, I'm like, "Sorry Charlie, I feel like I'm trapped in an Eddie, circling back to the same point over and over." Wyatt do I do it? Because you don't look like you're listening as you chew on your Etti-shirts and Rolls around on the carpet.

Enough remembering last week. Let me tell you about my break. I spent Hanaurer-Hunter(ing) for my cook book because I wanted to Russell up a cake for you all when we get back. But I dropped it on my toe and became a one-legged-Hopper, Jason my daughter, trying to cover her ears so I could curse. The pain was horrible and it felt like I'd been struck with an Aro.

Julia know that I think I might lose the toe nail? I Kam hopeful that I will still be able to walk well enough to see the opening of the new musical downtown. I hear it's a Barbie musical and the Kendals blow the Lydia off the place because they voice it to the Max! I'm am worried that I'll be Nate and miss the show, which will make me Brody about it until I consider Rowan across the ocean to see it open in London. Deep breath. Deep Breath. Time to be Sloan down. I'm sure it will be alright in Theo end.

Here are two video clips. The first is from Master and Commander. The best part is what the doctor says after the pun. The second is from Punoff 2012 a real competition each year in Texas. Both clips are clean and fun, unless puns leave a bad taste in your mouth. Thanks to Linda for showing me how to embed videos.

Baie for now!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SOLSC 29 of 31 - Wiped Out

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

In the fall of 1998, it was my first year teaching in Olathe, Colorado. I taught two classes of chemistry and six classes of physical science, was the freshman basketball coach, assistant baseball coach, and National Honor Society sponsor. You might say I was kind of busy. One thing I learned was that the sunsets in western Colorado rival sunsets anywhere in the world for their beauty and consistency. The windows in my classroom faced west and I usually watched three or four a week from there while I tried to figure out what I was doing as a first year teacher. However, I usually never saw sunsets on Friday nights because when I wasn't at a sporting event, I left as soon as possible after the kids were gone.

You might guess what a twenty-three year-old man would do on a Friday night, but for me you'd likely be wrong. No matter what I had planned, I usually ended up asleep on my $5 love seat in front of the TV by 5:30. Somewhere in there, I would make a bachelor's dinner of mac 'n cheese, or hamburger helper, or frozen pizza, but mostly I crashed hard and early Friday nights. Teaching took so much time and energy my body could not keep up and it just hit shut-down mode.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SOLSC 28 of 31 - First Albums with My Own Money

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

I was twelve, my brother was eleven, and we were ready for some of our own music. While we did have a collection of music we shared, most of it was mix tapes our dad had made, or a few pop music cassettes our mom had. We were listening to the radio more, and realizing that there were stations other than NPR, classical music, 50s/60s Oldies and Jazz. One problem was, music was really expensive. Another problem was, we didn't really want our music to be judged by our parents before we bought it.

But Patti, our new stepmom, was willing to take us shopping at the Media Play in the mall. We raided our money stashes, pocketing crumpled bills and figured we could probably afford three tapes. We brainstormed cool bands we thought we had heard of, but to be honest, we were pretty clueless.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SOLSC 27 of 31 - No Alarm Clock Needed

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

Beep! Beep! Beep!
I reach over and hit the snooze button. 5:45am. In my fuzzy brain I think, "I'll get up at the next one in nine minutes."  How wrong I was.

This morning, Clara was already awake, and hearing my alarm, decided to come in. Her door opened and then clicked closed, her footfalls down the carpeted hallway loud in the silence, even as she tried to be quiet.

"Dad..." her voice started as she pushed our door open. Then, any thoughts of snoozing were blasted out the window by the next five seconds.

"Ewwwwwww! I stepped in cat puke!" she screamed. "Help me Dad!" The light on the fan, right above our bed blazed on with 120 Watts of blinding brightness, as Clara found the switch next to the door.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SOLSC - 26 of 31 - Mad

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

Definition of Insanity
Same meeting
Different day
Nothing left 
    but to 

I leave
Mind Replay

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SOLSC 25 of 31 - Dance Parties and Fairy Dances

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

"Let's dance dad!" Clara exclaims as I get dressed for the day. She's wearing her kitty, footy pajamas and already pushing the buttons my my clock radio. After skipping past several stations with morning DJs talk, she lands on that start of AC/DC's Highway to Hell. 

Since anything with a fast beat counts as dance party music to her (which leads to more Justin Bieber than I'd care to admit I listen to), we start boogieing down. She jumps, dips and spins with the music with occasional one-fotted poses for balance like a ballerina. I finish buttoning my shirt and groove with her. Our favorite place to dance is in in front of the full length mirror so we can see ourselves and the smiles on the other's face. 

Of course, to really get us smiling, she runs up and holds my hands and we start jumping in circles. Each jump I lift her a little higher until she is ming truly spectacular leaps, zooming around in a circle, until she is flung onto our bed in a bundle of squeals and giggles.  We do this a couple more times and then when the song ends, she negotiates a piggy-back ride downstairs to the breakfast table.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SOLSC 24 of 31 - What I Want to Write

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My 6-8th grade students are also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.

"I don't know what to write," I lament to my wife, who is also participating in the SOLSC.

But that's not really true. I know what I want to write. I've been teaching writing to my students for almost seven years and all that time of working to inspire others and trying to write alongside them has given me the following list:

A children's book, perhaps using poetry and doing my own illustrations. Even more fun, writing children's books each year with my students and having them illustrate them.

Educational articles on the teaching methods at my school, The Logan School for Creative Learning. Articles about independent units, a culture of respect, gifted education, traveling with students, experiential education, real choice and freedom, conferences instead of grades, and plenty of other stuff. Articles that reference and are referenced. Articles that could be developed into presentations to spread the word, to free the teachers, and their students, from the current system that does not honor the profession or the child. *Note* I said "the system" because I have never been to a school without seeing the amazing passion and hard work of the staff and the incredible potential of the students there.

Poems, Poems, Poems.
I want to cut descriptions to the bone
Play with rhythm, rhyme and tone
Haikus, Odes and Irish curses
As my pages fill with verses.

An article for the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) magazine about running a tournament for women. I don't run the great women's tournament that happens here in Colorado, but someone should write about it with full page glossy pictures and player interviews.

A book of memoirs. I don't know if I'm brave enough to really write the honesty about the things in my life, including the people in them, but I'd like to think I could. All the "good stuff" is very personal and I struggle to not put a positive spin on everything that's so close to my heart.

There is a book about education to write but I don't know what it is. I thought I did once but it could be being written right now at my school. Maybe related to the articles from above. Maybe I need to experience more within education? Maybe I need to start a school, have it succeed or fail, before I can really do it well?

A well conceived and received blog, almost ranting about an issue close to me that "goes viral" and helps convince people of the correct viewpoint; mine of course.

A business plan for a new business or non-profit organization I start.

A song...or the words to a song and someone else can come up with the tune, since that's not a skill in my bag of tricks yet.

There is a great short story to be written by me. Maybe more. I'm too uneducated as a "real writer" to do it, but perhaps inspiration or perspiration will strike just right, along with the right editor. I love fly fishing and the fly fishing magazine I subscribe to has a yearly fiction contest. I should enter one day...

I don't know how to write all these things, much less get them published. But writing and sharing my blog these past nine months has brought this variety of ideas full term.

I want to write...

photo credit: <a href="">JF Sebastian</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

SOLSC 23 of 31 - It's Too Nice to Work!

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

Typical Colorado. Yesterday we awoke, expecting snow and found blue sky.  By noon, the clouds rolled down from the mountains and the first flakes began to fall. It snowed sideways, the wind piling up an inch of wet snow on all north-facing surfaces and in waves upon the ground. It got cold last night and it was a chilly morning taking my daughter to her first gymnastics class ever. But when we came out, the sun had melted the snow not hiding in the shadows, and the air smelled of spring and an outdoor excursion.

But, it's Sunday time. And the blue sky, bright sun and promise of spring are calling to me. I don't want to work all afternoon to be ready for next week.
"Stay and work in the garden,"  the yard calls.
"I have lessons to write," I explained as I backed out of the driveway, waving at Clara and Susan.

Actually me, draining a nice putt

"Play some disc golf," the course at the park yells as I approach it.
"I have rubrics to finish and some projects to research," I reply as I zoom by. "Maybe on my way home if I have time."
"Yeah right," the course mocks.

"Grab your harmonica and come walk along the wetlands behind the school. We can harmonize!" the first red-winged blackbirds of spring trill.
Sigh. I shoulder my bag and trudge inside. 

But I do have my harmonica
The disc golf bag is in the back of the car
And I'm done with my Slice

Garden photo credit: <a href="">Raizes Y Rayos</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Blackbird photo credit: <a href="">corvidaceous</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SOLSC 22 of 31 - The Impossible Pull-up

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

The bar was a cold metallic silver, taunting me, because I knew I could not do a pull-up on it. I don't know how I knew, but I knew. I had played on this bar before. I remember looping a rope over it tying one end around me, and pulling myself to the top. It was part of the end zone for our recess Nerf football games, and everyone had smacked the vertical poles, hard, at least once while reaching for a ball. Maybe I even tried pulling myself up on it when I was much younger and had failed. But now, it taunted me with the impossible.

 As part of the Presidential Fitness Test my PE teacher was making us all do in 5th grade, we had to do a sprint, standing broad jump, pushups, sit-ups, probably some sort of distance run, and pull-ups. I wasn't the fastest kid in my class, that was Heather (who could also do seven back handsprings in a row!), but I was pretty fast. I was near the top in most categories, excelling in sit-ups. Eventually, I could do fifty-seven in sixty seconds. I practiced all month, making my parents or my brother hold my feet while I torqued my elbows to my knees and then slammed my body down to start again. But my brain told me pull-ups were impossible for me. 

This is a chin-up
I had started, like the other boys in my class, practicing chin-ups, with my fingernails facing my body on the bar. I could barely get one the first day and wanted to give up. Actually, that was more than some, and no one got more than three. My best friend Nathan, couldn't do one. He was safely athletic in the class. He could play well enough with us, and even have good plays, but never ever came close to being at the top at anything. I liked Nathan for lots of reasons, but one was that while he was good competition for me, I almost always beat him in physical activities. He thought he was the next coming of Danny White (the Dallas Cowboys quarterback at the time) and had the ten-year-old ego and confidence to try and back it up. Beating him was always satisfying, even though our friendship was deeper then just recess activities.

Then Laura, our PE teacher, realized that pull-ups were with the hands facing away from the body. We all tried it and found it was much harder and I realized that it was impossible.  Each day when we had PE, and we practiced for the test we were to take the next month, I would not try. I either avoided, faked an injury, or just said I couldn't. Nathan tried every day. He even practiced at recess, some days instead of playing football! 

The week of the testing came. I sprinted and jumped with glee. I did sit-ups and push-ups with confidence. Then it came to the pull-ups. I actually tried...sort of. I knew I couldn't and after a few moments of what looked like effort, I dropped to the ground without even getting one. I was ashamed, frustrated, and near tears.  Other kids usually got three or more, including one who managed ten! We were in awe. It was Nathan's turn. I helped to boost him up and he started. I knew he would do well because he had been practicing. I'd even seen him do six last week. He hit seven, eight, and after some serious struggle, NINE! My own frustration and jealousy didn't allow me to really congratulate him like he deserved. I hope I wasn't petty.

We got a graph of showing our percentile on the y-axis and the different skills on the x-axis. The dots my lines were connected to were mostly between the 50th and the 98th (for sit-ups) percentiles. But there was a dramatic, dip in the middle, down to "0" on the pull-ups section.

Why didn't I practice like I did for sit-ups? Was it just hard and I didn't believe I could do it? Did I only want to try the things that were easy? Now I consider it a missed opportunity. I still don't like pull-ups and while I have proven that I can do them, I have never worked at them and am pretty sure I've never done nine-in-a-row, like Nathan did, almost thirty years ago.

I think about that "zero" in pull-ups often and it's one of those things that just seems to pop in my head when I try and fail quickly at something. I also watch my students have similar issues with failure, knowing that they can't do something, or don't like it before they have even really tried it or practiced it. I try to use all the strategies I can think of to help them get past the mental hurdles that these issues really are. I am sometimes successful, and sometimes not. But I hope they at least try enough that they don't feel ashamed years later about their failures, like I do about my pull-ups.

photo credit: <a href="">stevendepolo</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, March 21, 2014

SOLSC 21 of 31 - My Silly Dad

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

My Silly Dad!

I remember being little
Could not crawl
Your smile hung over me
While I was small.
It disappeared 
Behind hands?
I had no clue.
Laughter erupted!

When I'm tired
Grumpy or sad
You make me laugh,
My silly dad

Then the tickle monster
Came to town
"Massaging" my armpits
Whenever I frowned.
I'd laugh and squirm
And wriggle away
Peals of laughter
Made my day.

When I'm tired
Grumpy or sad
You make me laugh,
My silly dad

Now I'm older,
When I'm angry, crying 
....Or bad.
It's much harder 
To make me laugh.

Go ahead and try it!
I'll scream, 
And yell, 
And fall apart..
Until you make
My stuffed animals

When I'm tired
Grumpy or sad
You make me laugh,

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SOLSC 20 of 31 - Student Evaluation/Conferences

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

Before I start, a couple of things. First, I found my coffee mug that I wrote about in Slice #16. It was in the back of the car under my disc golf stuff and winter jackets. Second, I teach a class of twenty-three middle school students grade 6-8. This is relevant to today's slice.

Today was a long, tiring and wonderful day. Tomorrow should be the same. I had conferences with half the families in my class as students showed off their portfolios from this past trimester. Each conference is led by the student, hopefully with wise observations from their teachers and their parents. Not only do we discuss the work they have done, but their thinking about projects, what they have learned about themselves, strengths, weaknesses and goals for the rest of the year. We have no grades at our K-8 school, but this process really allows everyone to know the child as a person and student. The conference are scheduled for 30-minutes each with 15-minute breaks between each one. We usually are only able to usher families out the door right when the next conference starts. Below is a list of what my students have included in their portfolios this trimester.

1) A Behavior Rubric: They evaluate themselves on: work ethic, time management, ownership of behavior, group participation, treatment of others, risk-taking, and dependability.
2) TWIMC (To Whom It May Concern) Letter where they discuss their trimester: best parts, hardest parts, lessons learned, academic and social improvements,their unit Expo (presentation), goals for the rest of the year and anything else they want to.
3) Three "Best Work" pieces from the trimester including a paragraph about each.
4) One "Improve" piece where they discuss what could have been done better on the assignment.
5) Reading Record - They are required to read a book a week. Plus a paragraph about their most influential read and a To Be Read list.
6) Writing Record of all the things they have written.
7) Their favorite SOL so far this March Challenge and a paragraph explaining why.
8) A Unit list of the projects for their unit and explanations of what they learned about the subject and about themselves as a student.
9) Anything else they feel is relevant.

It's an impressive process with amazing results, even if they get a little tired of making three portfolios a year. The rest of my class will be tomorrow and I'm booked solid from 8:00-5:00 with 45 minutes for lunch. I'm looking forward to it

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SOLSC 19 of 31 - Slices of Baseball

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

In Arizona and Florida, where green grass is being freshly cut, the air is filled with infield chatter, the smack of horsehide on leather, and the crack of the bat of a new hero. It's been seventeen years since I started my final spring training as a baseball player during my senior year in college. I was by no means a great player, but I had some perfect baseball moments I can still see with the detail of the stitches on the ball of a hanging change-up.

Five years old playing first base on my YMCA T-ball team. Our uniforms were an ugly beige but we had a 1-2-3 inning in the days before the entire team got to bat, no matter what. Two weak grounders to the pitcher, two throws to me at first base. Then a lefty hit a hard grounder to me that I scooped and raced to the bag. The adult in charge of the league told my coach to move me to another position for the rest of the game. 

Senior year in high school on a sunny day in Eagle, Colorado. 1-0 count. Before the next pitch, I waited in the box and SAW the next pitch coming in my mind; the swing, the contact, the perfect moment. It was deja vu when the pitcher actually went into his windup and let go of the ball. My first and only home run in high school was a no doubter as it soared over the right field fence, silhouetted against a perfect blue sky. 

Junior year of college against the toughest lefty I've ever faced. The first two fastballs thunked the catcher's mitt and I never even saw them, much less thought about swinging. As a lefty batter, it felt like the pitches were coming from behind my head. Then the gift. He tried to snap a slow curve off, that started at my head and was supposed to drop into the strike zone while I ducked out of the way. Instead, it just slowly floated and spun at my chin. I was swinging for a fastball, made an in-swing adjustment and made perfect, one-handed contact while bailing out of the way. As I stumbled out of the box, I saw the ball on a majestic arc down the right field line, my teammates rising in disbelief at the sound of unexpected solid contact. As the ball hit off the chain-link fence, I tripped over first base and sprawled on the ground. Scrambling to my feet, I blundered towards second, flopped on the base a split second before the tag was applied, turning a sure triple into the most awkward double ever. For my second at-bat, I dragged a perfect bunt down the first base line on the first pitch that caught everyone off guard. I ended up two-for-two against that scary lefty even though I was thoroughly overmatched.

Other vivid memories include:
The diving catch on left-center field to start the game against Knox College at home.
Getting a line drive single over the second baseman on a slider in my first college at-bat.
My only college home run against Knox College my junior year.
The hardest ball I ever hit. It was so low over the infield that the pitcher reached for it and yet it went over the center fielder's head and I strode into third with an easy triple (plus I didn't trip going around first base).
Warming up for a double-header during a partial eclipse and how odd the light was. We used the holes in the webbing of our gloves to cast shadows on the lineup card that showed the moon's bite out of the sun.

No other sport eases into it's season in such a way, and these slices of my baseball life well up in my brain every year at this time.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SOLSC 18 of 31 - Why do we laugh together and cry alone?

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

Why is it that we never laugh alone and try to never cry in a crowd? Someone laughs, and we all want to join in, drawn towards the sound like a moth to flame. Someone cries, and we look away, uncomfortable. Perhaps worried that we too would become sad or teary. The deeper emotions that cause laughter and tears seem to be closer in reality than the outside actions would suggest.

In A Stranger in a Strage Land, by Robert Heinlein, Mike says, "I've found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts...because it's the only thing that'll make it stop hurting." 

I've wondered at this many times. As I think of the jokes I've heard and told, the "funny cat videos" I've watched, and other things that have caused me to laugh, the impetus is often something that could be considered sad or even cruel. Do we laugh because deep down we're thinking, "Hey! At least it wasn't me?"

I'm going to be more observant of why I laugh, and why others laugh. Laugher is healing, it is joyful, and it is only really happens when shared with others. Is that part of why humans are social animals?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

SOLSC 17 of 31 - Does Time Out Work? A Battle of Wills

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

"You need to clean up the cottage cheese please."
"NO! I don't want to!"
Deep breath. "That's what we do when we spill things Honey. Even if it's an accident." I hold out a paper towel. "I'll finish cleaning if you start."
"You spilled it," she proclaims, eyes searching my face to see how I will react to this blatant untruth. Is that a smirk on her face or am I imagining it? 

Am I willing to be drawn into a battle of wills, one I'm not sure that "winning" will be worth. We're about to head out to a get-together of our college alums and their children. If we leave right now, we will be on time, but my wife is changing clothes and this cottage cheese incident could take a while if I allow it to escalate. But what if I don't stand my ground? I know my wife is listening upstairs as she contemplates her outfit. What is she thinking?

Well, I know what I'm thinking. Nothing gets me to seeing red faster than defiance in my child or my students. I'm better these days at holding my emotions in check and being more diplomatic but defiance is always part of my teacher dreams/nightmares.

"If you don't clean this up, you have time out."
"No! I won't clean it," her face in a scowl that is half-real and half-testing me.
"Alright," I say in a matter of fact voice that hopefully covers my frustration and fears of going this route. "On the couch for three minutes." We go with the 'one minute per year of age' philosophy. I set the timer, remove the toys from her immediate area and sit down to ignore her as best I can, while staying near enough the cottage cheese to keep the cat from eating, and subsequently puking, it up later.

First Minute - Clara hides her face in her knees, but doesn't cry, real or fake tears, like she often does.
Second Minute - She starts rolling around and looking for something to play with. I remove the cat bed once she starts curling up in it and pretending to be a kitty.
Third Minute - She starts talking to me and trying to negotiate. "I'll talk to you when the timer beeps. Timeout is almost over."

Not my daughter but an important reminder about
forgiving petulant children...and adults.

"Okay Honey. Timeout is over. Do you want a hug? I love you even though you had timeout." After moment hesitation she comes over for a hug. While sitting on my lap, "If we clean up right now, I'll help you and then we can go to the party and play with the kids!" My mind is pleading with her to take the deal, to give me any kind of sign so I can end this and move on.

Still a little more defiance to go. "No!"

I pick up the paper towel again. "Come and look at it. It's not very much and We always clean up Our messes. Or We can have timeout again. What do you want?"


She snatches the paper towel from my hand and rips it in half. Giving me the bigger piece with a knowing smile, years beyond her, and actually starts wiping at the spilled curds. I gently direct her to pick some up she only swiped at and then to throw her towel away. I finish the rest, tell her thanks and give her a hug.

As I fit her sneakers onto her feet, we're all smiles and normal again. Susan comes downstairs, giving me a smile so I know she WAS listening, and we head off only a little late.

How did I win that? Sometimes I do everything right...perfectly even, and it doesn't work out. Other times I know I'm making a mistake with voice or body language or choices given or knee-jerk reactions and it works out. I think I did it right this time, but if she had stayed defiant, I don't know what would be next. I'll take the win, but know my wife and I will do a play-by-play later to try and figure out what worked and why. Luckily, she's just as skilled and clueless as I am in these matters with a similar success ratio and similar frustrations.

I hope I never completely figure out how to manage my daughter's behavior (and I think that's assured), because the successes would not be so sweet. I also hope my interactions will models good ways to dealing with others during the various conflicts that will arise in her life.

photo credit: <a href="">symphony of love</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

SOLSC 16 of 31 - Where is my Coffee Mug?

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

I can't find my coffee mug. It's a dark metal Starbucks travel mug that holds a grande drink, with flip-lip and handle. I usually drink with my left hand, so my right can do important things like steer or change the radio station or grade papers. I actually lose it quite frequently, setting it down somewhere during the school day to do the various teacher-type things I do.  Then, a little portion of my brain is busy trying to find it or remember where I put it. It always finds its way back to me, usually long after the coffee has gone cold. Those guilty sips of cold coffee are sometimes the best.

Bu I know I lost it last week when I wasn't at school. I had jury duty so my routine was mixed up. I also got sick during that week and my weekend was a haze of tissue, late night TV and a cough. I remember taking the mug to the courthouse the first two days and then deciding not to since I didn't want to lose it. Did I leave it there, under my juror seat or the Jury Assembly Room?

Not my mug but kinda close. 
I have other mugs at home, although I rarely drink hot beverages there. Mostly tea and I use smaller mugs for that. Ceramic ones that I can use to heat up my hands or warm my fingers before typing another slice or flipping the channel on the remote.

My LARGE "Olathe Pirates" mug, a hold over from my last teaching job, has been my school coffee mug this past week. It is shorter but wider, holds the same amount of coffee but fits better in the coffee maker at school. While harder to knock over than my missing mug, it slops more readily during fast or unsteady maneuvering through the school day.  Also, with the number of soft projectiles I send out into the classroom, that eventually come flying back, a mug with a tight lid is necessary.

It's likely under a seat in my car, or among the things I hear sliding and mixing gently in the back as I bank around corners and brake at stoplights. I've sort of looked, but usually in the dimness that is my garage before I head out or after I've pulled in. To be honest, I bet I could find it with five minutes of good effort. But for now, the mystery of it's location is collection of fleeting moments each day, as I use a mug different than I'm used to or just think, "I should really find that mug."

photo credit: <a href="">Jonathan D. Blundell</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Saturday, March 15, 2014

SOLSC 15 of 31 - Driving Songs of my Life

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

I am not an audiophile, but I do appreciate music. Ask me the name or artist of the song that's playing, and I will likely have no idea, even if I'm singing along to the music. I always listen to music while in a car so there are a lot of songs connected with driving somewhere. Here are some slices of my life associated with songs I've listened to in cars over the years.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning from the musical Oklahoma. I have a strong memory of riding in my mom's old Subaru wagon, driving across the country and singing this with her and my brother.

Just the Two of Us by Grover Washington Jr. My dad would play this song, along with many others by Jimmy Buffett and Santana, while we drove to the ski areas.  I remember him, my little brother and I, sitting along the bench seat of the Toyota pickup and singing Just the Three of us. If we were lucky, we were also munching on blueberry donuts from the donut shop in Idaho Springs.

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. In high school, my best friend Jon and I would drive around listening to a lot of music, in his car or mine. In Your Eyes was the pivotal song in Say Anything and Jon and I spent much time discussing the romantic things we would do for our future girlfriends, when we somehow got out of the "Friend Zone" with all the girls we wanted to date. Another thing I'll always remember is how we had a case of mix tapes and Jon, who was always in charge of the music, would FF or RW the tapes to find the perfect song for the moment.  Usually by the time he found the song, the moment had passed and he'd be off on a search for the next perfect song and we'd be filling the silence with our talking and laughing. If there was ever someone who needed an iPod before it was invented, it was Jon.

If I had a Boat by Lyle Lovett. This was the first song on the first mix tape my wife gave me, titled Love 38.  We had been dating for a couple of months and my brother and I were going to visit our grandma for three weeks in Australia. I memorized each song on that tape, including more country than I'd ever listened to willingly, during that trip.

Steal my Heart Away by Van Morrison. Actually, Van Morrison songs make up a significant portion of the soundtrack in my life. Into the Mystic was the class song for my high school class. Moondance is "our song" for my wife and I and was the 'first dance' at our wedding.  We've probably never danced as well as those four-and-a-half minutes. But this slice is about car songs.  Steal my Heart Away was the song I remember most when I left my job as a science teacher at Olathe High School and moved back to the Denver area seven years ago. I taught at OHS for nine years and there is something special about small towns and the community that surrounds and supports the schools. I was excited for the upcoming transition, but I was very sad to leave what I knew was a special place and the special people there. I remember driving by the school with things packed in my truck. Steal my Heart Away came on and tears dripped down my face. It's a sad and wonderful song to me.

I get to go on extended trips with my class at The Logan School and there is often one song that becomes "The Trip Song." It's rarely a song I brought, but we end up singing it a lot, and playing it in the classroom the rest of the year will lead to extra energy, distraction and smiles (and usually some groans). These songs include: Paper Planes, Eye of the Tiger, Bulbous Bouffont,and Disco Pogo.

Now my car songs include the ones my daughter requests the most often. Bippity Boppity Boo probably leads the list of Disney songs we listen to the most. I'm looking forward to her taste in music maturing, since she would listen to it on repeat if we let her. But I also know I'll miss her requesting it as we drive down the road of life and I hope the magic of the song stays with her, like the magic of the above songs have stayed with me.

Mix Tape
photo credit: <a href="">newrambler</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, March 14, 2014

SOLSC 14 of 31 - Farewell

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

Today is a hard day. A student in my class had her last day with us, and is moving on. I will miss her and there is nothing else to say but the few words below.

Hooded cape
Elvish smirk
Unabashed laugh
Grunt and jump
Fantasy reader
Story writer
On the brink
of Amazing!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

SOLSC 13 of 31 - Frog and Toad and Blood

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

Opening night of the middle school play is always a special night at my school. This year, A Year with Frog and Toad opened and my daughter and I were there early. Clara paid for the tickets, we read a Frog and Toad book while we waited for the doors to open, and sat entranced as the students acted, danced and sang their way into the audience's heart. 

After the standing ovations were over and a few high-fives given to the cast and crew, we ran along the edge of the building to our car. I unlocked the doors with my keychain and Clara opened the door while standing on the curb. Those extra few inches would end up being important.

I was saying good night to a colleague and his daughter, when, from behind me, I heard the quiet *thunk* of the door stopping against flesh. Then the screaming started. I rushed around to Clara as she cried in with the wide-eyed shock of unexpected pain that is so true to the moment of preschoolers. It was a high enough scream that I knew she was more hurt than usual and I scanned her face, trying to see where the bump was.

A challenge of having an independent child, is she does NOT want to show where it hurts and usually covers up injuries. After a few moments of trying to inspect her teeth, lips, forehead and chin, in the dim parking lot lights, through her masking hands and cries of, "NO! Don't look!" I saw the blood welling on her left eyebrow.

Head wounds bleed a lot, and they seem to always look scarier than they are. Clara was already smearing the red stickiness across her face with her hands and it was then I noticed she was wearing her white sweater. Not that ruining the sweater was a big deal, but it was a nice distraction for me to try and worry about since she was not letting me put the napkin/bandage I had found on her cut. 

So there I was, sitting on the curb, holding my screaming daughter, unable to staunch the bleeding, trying to calm her down, hoping the cut was superficial but having the, "Do I need to go to get stitches?" conversation in my head, trying to keep blood off her sweater, assuring my colleague and his daughter that she should be fine, and wondering how to get enough light to actually look at it and make some informed choices. Talk about living in the moment!

So...we sat in the passenger seat, turned on the interior lights, cleaned her bloody hands with the wet napkin and found a toy to look at. She still would NOT let me touch it, but her hands had wiped away the initial surge of blood and I could see it was superficial and didn't even really need pressure since the bleeding had already stopped. We rocked, played for a few minutes, agreed on a song to listen to, I put her into the car seat and we headed home.  She cried for a few more minutes, but was obviously winding down. 

"Sometimes I need to cry Dada," she said. "Then I can feel better."

"Yes honey. That is so true."

Note - She IS fine but she really put up a good fight trying to clean it at home before bed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SOLSC 12 of 31 - 3AM Musings

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

Some people wake up in the middle of the night, and can not go back to sleep. Perhaps it's their worries, stress, dreams, a noise they think they heard.  That has never been my problem. I am a night owl, prone to staying up late but sleeping hard once I fall asleep. If I wake in the middle of the night to: adjust covers, go to the bathroom or from a dream, it usually only takes a roll onto my side and I'm out again instantly. In fact, for 99.999% of my adult life, the typical slice between 3:00-4:00AM could be summed like this:

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ  - Perhaps with some snoring if my wife is correct.

Yes, there were a few late nights for all the right (and wrong) reasons through the years, especially in my early adulthood. When my daughter was born, there was a lot of interrupted sleep, although we figured out I don't wake up for much between 3-6AM so I got the 10pm-2:59am shift. 

But since last Friday, I've been wakened in the early morning hours but a tickle of a cough almost every night. So tonight, I sit, again, on my couch, hoping my wife is now able to sleep, and wishing I could slumber too. My only company: a snoring cat, Kleenex, cough drops, tea.

I'm not actually that sick! I'm fine during the day. A little tissue, yes. Maybe a cough or two an hour, yes. Sleepiness from the might before, yes.  Feeling healthy and relatively normal during the typical waking hours, yes.

But at night, a few hours after I go to sleep...the tickle is deep in my throat and feels like a droplet of water hanging to an icicle. For the longest time, it clings there, nothing but potential. Suddenly, it's energy is released, and I cough. Maybe one, unfulfilling cough, or several, until I can lay silent, feeling the incessant droplet reforming. There is just enough time between coughing spells to almost fall asleep. But then I'm coughing again and eventually I decide I'm awake and it's time for the couch.

Here few things I did notice tonight post-3AM awake time:
- I left the dining room light on at the lowest dimmer setting, as if I expected I would be up. It was actually welcoming as I stumbled downstairs.
Not the Monet painting, but a surprisingly similar composition.
- I realized the moon is almost full because the house casts a moon shadow in the backyard, at the same place the sun does.
- The snow, under the moonlight looks blue and reminds me of the The Magpie by Monet,  that I saw in the Musee d-Orsay in Paris.
- The snow, under the harsh street lights of the front yard, looks white.
- My cat is sleeping on the blue fleece blanket I was hoping to cover myself with. I don't want to disturb another creature's slumber so I will use the slightly scratchy wool blanket instead.
- Sleep is hard to come by again tonight.

Lion photo credit:<ahref="">Martin_Heigan</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Magpie photo credit: <a href="">diffendale</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SOLSC 11 of 31 - Snowy Recess

Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at  My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.  

"Did you get hit in the back of the head with a snowball?" the front office secretary asked as I walked in from recess today.

My right hand reached up and felt the mass of wet sticky flakes attached to my hair. I wiped my hair a couple of times, the flakes almost instantly transforming to water droplets as I answered, "Maybe we should have had indoor recess today."

The rule at our school is below twenty degrees or in blizzard conditions, we do indoor recess, or as I like to call it, HELL. I would rather endure almost anything than the pain of getting the 150 students, ages 8-14 to take their shoes off, run around without causing injuries, deal with the racket, and finally getting shoes back on to go to class.  It takes so much energy and voice and herding of cats to make it feel like anything close to recess happened.

So today, while I monitored the lunchroom, and watched the snow fly sideways in the twenty mile-per-hour wind, and plaster itself to everything in it's path, I thought, "It's not below twenty.  We are going outside."  As students came to ask me where recess would be, I said with assurance that we could handle fifteen minutes in the elements and, "You should be dressed for it anyway."

Fifteen seconds after exiting the building and walking into the wind, my blue fleece was completely white. My sunglasses were a mass of wet, and three-quarters of the students were walking backwards towards the playground and field. Another teacher on duty ran to his car to get his snowboarding jacket. A student tripped over a shrub she didn't see while walking backwards. Students created huddle piles. The football game never advanced past the midfield mark due to the wind. Mammoths lumbered across the frozen tundra and glaciers formed in the packing lot. 

No one threw a snowball, but perhaps I would have gotten the message sooner if they had. 

Playground photo credit: <a href="">Benson Kua</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Snowball fight photo credit: <ahref="">thethingsitdoes</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>