Archive | March, 2020

The glories of a grilled cheese

11 Mar


Until grade seven, I was able to walk home for lunch. It usually consisted of simple food like chicken noodle soup with bread strips or a grilled cheese.

Ah, grilled cheese. It is still comfort food.

In my first few years of teaching, when I lived near Huntsville, Ontario, we used to drive south on Highway 11 to the Pine Valley restaurant where we would order grilled cheese for dinner and apple crisp for dessert. It was the first time I had a grilled cheese on anything but store-bought white bread.

A few years ago, I was on the Sibert committee. One of the Honor Books we chose was Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix.  Because of this book, I started watching The Chef Show on Netflix, which stars Chef Roy Choi. In one episode, he makes a grilled cheese. His version was nothing like the ones I had grown up with or made myself. He used different cheeses and sourdough bread. It was a revelation – especially the sourdough bread. So, now, I make my grilled cheese exclusively with sourdough bread. If you don’t, you should give it a try.

P.S. You can see Chef Roy’s recipe here.





Breaking a leg

10 Mar

Many theater folks cling to the idea that a bad dress rehearsal is a good omen for a successful opening night. If that is true, my OBOB team will do really well at our regional tournament on Saturday.

They straggled in Monday morning, a little out of it because it was Monday, of a full moon, after the time change. Only three of the four team members showed up. One was sick – the only girl on the team

“In which  book….,” I said, starting the process.

Their answer was wrong. So was the next and most of the ones that followed. The boys were starting to doubt themselves.

“Hey, let’s huddle in,” said one of the boys. Suddenly, they started doing better.

“We need to do this on Saturday,” the same boy said. “Getting our heads close together makes us more powerful.”

Let’s hope his words have power and they do well on Saturday.




Stealth packing

9 Mar

Lucy has issues. She is a worrier and starts trembling the moment she realizes we are on the way to the vet. She gets especially trembly when the suitcase comes out, so, to the best of my ability, I try to pack without her knowing.

Usually, I drop her off where she’ll be staying the night before a trip, and pack once I am home alone. That isn’t always possible, like this week. I leave Tuesday morning for four days at Outdoor School. I will drop her off at Sniff Dog Hotel on my way to work. But that means that I have to get the suitcase out while she is still home. What’s a dog-mom to do?

Sunday morning, I decided that there would be too much to manage Tuesday morning. I would pack Sunday and bring my bag to school on Monday. That way, all I’d have to wrangle Tuesday morning was Lucy’s bag, my “carry-on” (we are travelling by school bus, not plane), and Lucy herself, who will be a nervous wreck.

Adrienne, you are a genius, but how will you get your bag packed and to the car?  I asked myself.

Lucy presented me with the answer.


At almost 14, Lucy sleeps very deeply. While she was sleeping on the living room sofa, I went to my bedroom and packed. She was still sleeping when I carried the bag to the car, carefully closing the back door so she wouldn’t wake up and realize what I was doing.  When she finally woke up, I was sitting, pretending nothing had happened while she slept.

When I get her in the car Tuesday morning, she will know something bad is about to happen and the trembling will begin. until then, though, she will live her happy life, oblivious to the terror the future holds.


Rose City Yarn Crawl 2020

8 Mar

Despite my self-imposed yarn moratorium, I happily spent a day out and about for the Rose City Yarn Crawl (RCYC). It’s a four day event to explore the local yarn shops in and around Portland, Oregon – but I was only devoting one day to it this year.

I knew from the start I wouldn’t get to all ten shops, but I had a plan in which I could visit six. I mapped out a route that included stops for groceries, dog food and library books and set off.

As always, the shops were full of beautiful yarn and projects.

I was (mostly) faithful to the yarn moratorium. I bought two complimentary skeins from a dyer I really like and one from the yarn shop closest to my house. It will be closing its brick and mortar store soon and becoming an exclusively online shop so I got their last RCYC colorway. Instead of yarn, I bought two knitting books, some candles, and a tote bag.

What struck me about this year was how much joy I got from talking with the people who created the items I bought. I had ordered something from the tote bag maker a few weeks ago. As I was telling her my story of the day I ordered – how I had the kids reading silently as my sister and I messaged each other waiting for the orders to open – she asked me, “Is your last name Gillespie?”. Small makers pay attention to their clients.

I had a great conversation with the dyer I love. She is a former English teacher and has yarns based on Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Clearly, we have similar tastes in literature.

I was exhausted by the time I got home, but I was also happy. The shops had been full of people – coronavirus wasn’t keeping the knitters away. And I was glad for those moments of connection. Knitting, like writing, can be a solitary pursuit, so it is joyous when we can connect with others.





Fear itself

7 Mar

“Is Outdoor School going to be cancelled?” asked several students when they arrived to school on Monday. The sixth grade teachers at my school have been reassuring them all week. The administrators and office staff have been reassuring their parents. A letter has gone home to parents from the Outdoor School coordinators And yet, a few students have decided they won’t attend Outdoor School next week.Oregon only has 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19. This are far more serious in Seattle, only three hours away, but we are holding steady. So, there really shouldn’t be anything to panic about. I’d heard about people loading up, preparing to hunker down in the face of a global pandemic. Stories of face masks, toilet paper,  and hand sanitizer disappearing from shelves are rife in the news and in the rumor mill. I was down to my last roll of toilet paper, so stopped to get some today. I was gobsmacked when I went to the bathroom tissue aisle.

I guess it’s not just 6th graders who are worried.I bought the amount of toilet paper I normally buy. I am washing my hands frequently. I am planning on attending Outdoor School next week. I believe cornoavirus is terrible, but I think, we will be OK.  I am washing my hands frequently and  living by Roosevelt’s idea that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  

Another mountain to conquer

6 Mar

Every year, my teaching partner and I think we have assignments perfectly timed out.

We never do.

You think we’d learn, but we don’t.  A few weeks ago, we were laughing and celebrating the freedom we felt because our grading was caught up and we could just concentrate on being good teachers. We complimented ourselves on the schedule we’d created and how well spread out assignments were.

We were fools.

Here’s what I brought home tonight so I can start chipping away at it.

IMG_0002 (1)



73  Teen activist books

73 Book reports

73 tests

You know what I’ll be up to for the next little while.





Off Key

5 Mar

As I packed my bag last night, I realized that, yet again, I had left my keys at school. This has happened more this year than any other because we’ve had some changes to how our school is run since last year’s lockdown.

No longer does the custodian unlock the front doors when he arrives.No longer is there a secretary in the office at 7:15 who can open the door for those of us who forgot our keys. This year we all got a key card and a single key for our classroom door. Mine hangs on a lanyard that I hate to wear, and that is my real dilemma.

Because I hate wearing my lanyard, I frequently leave the keys on my desk or a table in the classroom. If I don’t remember to pay attention when I pack my bag to go home, they stay there. And so, this morning, I drove to school, keyless once more. As I drove into the back  parking lot, I saw another teacher had arrived. He was busy opening and closing all of his cars doors. Must be organizing the things he needs for the day, I thought.

“Good morning!” I said, greeting him cheerily before making the ask. “How are you today?”

” Fine, but I seem to have lost my bank card and I am looking through the car for it.” he replied.

“Man, that’s not good. When did you last see it?” I asked and we chatted for a few moments about his situation before I asked for help.

We walked together to the door chatting about various things. He’s not a teacher I know well, so It was nice to make that connection. When I got in my classroom, I made a change. I left my classroom key on the lanyard but transferred the keycard to a different lanyard that stays attached to my schoolbag. It contains the business cards os subs who frequent our building. I have it looped around the handle of my schoolbag so I don’t lose those cards. Now, I shouldn’t lose track of that key card, either.


Tech Queen of the Day

4 Mar

“Who feels as though they’d be a good resource for others?” I asked the class yesterday. A number of students raised their hands.

“You know I am the least tech-savvy person in the room so look around. Ask all of these people before you come to me for help,” I told them, laughing at my own ignorance.

Last week the class turned in the Teen Activism books. This week they are reformatting their work into a website. Not my forte.

And yet, today, I solved several students’ dilemmas.

Scenario 1

Student: Ms. Gillespie, I can’t get my pictures into my website.

Me: Remember, you have to download them into a file before you can add them.

Scenario 2

Student: Ms. Gillespie, I saved my website yesterday, but can’t find it today.

Me: Click here on “New Sites”.

Scenario 3

Student: Ms. Gillespie, I can’t create a new page.

Me (poking screen a few times): There you go.


Maybe I know a little more than I think I do.


Yes, we have no bananas

3 Mar

Every Monday morning, I stop at the grocery store nearest my school and buy a week’s worth of bananas.

My team has first period plan every day and one of my teaching partners and I sit down every day at 9:30 for second breakfast. For her, this is a bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit. For me, it is tea and a banana.

Yesterday morning, as is my norm, I stopped for my weekly banana run. Well, imagine my surprise when the banana section was empty. Not just lightly populated – completely empty. Both the regular and organic sections. How could this be, I wondered.

A produce department guy was working unperturbedly, restocking some citrus. I could have asked him about the dearth of bananas, but I chose not to. I have my morning stops timed pretty well and I didn’t really have time for an explanation, or for him to go find just the right shade of green banana I prefer.  Instead, I popped over to the dairy section and got some yogurt.

Second breakfast will be a little this week.



People in my neighborhood – The Recyclers

2 Mar

I held the back door open and set one foot on the top step. As Lucy hopped down, I heard rustling behind me. Someone was going through our recycling bins.

As Lucy took a moment to sniff – the air, the dirt, the rose bushes – I looked to see who it was.

“Good morning,” the female voice called to me. “How are you?”

“Great,” I replied. “And glad it isn’t raining.”

She laughed as Lucy and I walked past her. She was familiar to us. I don’t know her name but she is one of a number of regulars who collect cans from recycling bins in the neighborhood. She, like several others, come around with shopping carts, laden with can filled bags. There is a fellow who used to come around with a cart, but has since purchased an old, brown Ford Econoline van. He is not as chatty as this recycler. He is not as quiet as the elderly gentleman who comes around on his bicycle, bags hanging from every possible place. He never says a word, but I can tell by the look in his eye that he is terrified of dogs – even Lucy.

As Lucy and I walk past the recycler and descend the back steps to the street, I see the cart.

“Sorry about the cart,” the recycler says.

“No problem,” I reply, “Lucy is small and can get around anything!”

We walked South down the street. As Lucy stood staring off into space – something she does more and more lately – I heard the wheels of the shopping cart head North.


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Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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