Archive | Slice of Life RSS feed for this section

Kitchen drama

20 Jul

With a plethora of blueberries in the fridge, I decided to bake lemon blueberry bread. Now, I am an intermittent baker, and don’t like to turn the stove on in the summer, but a cool morning and the presence of all the necessary ingredients turned my idea into a reality.

Following the recipe, I first mixed the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, and salt – and set them aside. I put the butter in the microwave to melt as I moved on to the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, I combined the melted butter with sugar, then went to the fridge for the two eggs required. The shell of the first egg made a satisfactory crack as I hit it on the rim of the bowl. I pulled the shell halves apart and let the egg drop into the bowl.

I gagged almost immediately.

An overpowering odor rose from the greenish goo that sat atop the golden liquid in the bowl. I gagged again. And again. I gagged as I sloughed to offensive goo into a compost bag. I gagged as I carried the bag outside to the compost bin.

By the time I returned to the kitchen, I was back in control, but only just. And I had a big decision to make: toss it all, or start over? I’d already been thinking about biting into a slice of sweetbread, so I bravely picked up the egg carton, determined to start again. Uh, oh, I thought when I saw the expiration date on the egg carton. These eggs expired on December 28, 2020.

I pulled out a bowl and tentatively took another egg from the carton. It’s cracking refilled the kitchen with putridness and gagging. I tossed the remaining egg into another compost bag. As I took that bag to the compost bin, I tossed the carton into the recycling bin, gagging all the way.

Back in control once more, I pulled open the fridge door. I still had a full carton of eggs in the fridge, the legacy of my last baking binge. It’s expiration date was in early May. I paused for a moment, then pulled out the carton, and cautiously cracking an egg into a bowl. No odor emerged, but, twice bitten, I was wary. The color of this egg’s yolk didn’t seem quite right. Was that real or did I just imagine it? I decided to try another. If this egg seemed at all dodgy, I resolved to abandon my baking project.

Fortunately, that egg, and the one that followed were fine. I finished the mixing and as the bread baked, I cleaned the kitchen. That process included putting all the remaining eggs into a compost bag and disposing of them. Who knew when the baking bug would bite again. I did not want a repeat of the egg incident.

An hour later, I had a delicious treat to accompany my tea.

The Doctor is in

18 May

“Hey Ms. Gillespie,” an in-person student called to me one day last week. “What did you want to be when you were our age?”

I thought for a moment before replying,”I don’t remember exactly, but I know that before I went to university, I wanted to be a doctor, a journalist, a politician, a UN interpreter, and a spy.” I chuckled to myself and thought As a teacher, I am really all of those things!

A few days later, I found myself playing doctor.

Richard’s allergy test revealed that he was allergic to a wide range of things, including every tree in the neighborhood, most of the plants, and the yeast he develops on his own skin when he has an allergy flare-up. Based on these results, his serum was whipped up in a lab and the day had finally arrived for me to learn how to administer the shots.

The vet and I talked over his health history, how reactive he is, and decided that once a week, rather than twice a week was the way to go. She gave me a spreadsheet where I was to track each shot. We talked about reactions and I learned that dogs don’t have anaphylactic reactions. They get hives and their faces can swell, but it is extremely rare for a dog’s throat to swell. There’s be no need for an epi-pen but made a plan in case there were hives and swelling.

And then she pulled out the hardware: serum, syringes, and a needle clipper. She explained that we’d practice today with a saline solution, so I could learn how to be gentle, but effective.

I grabbed the massive cowl of flesh that is the nape of Richard’s neck – his basset physique made it easy.

“The needle will go in easily,” the vet explained as I filled the syringe with saline. “TV has given people a false impression. Sometimes they think they have to stab it in, but it is a slips in gently.”

She was right.

Richard didn’t seem to have noticed.He didn’t notice the first shot he had this morning either. As soon as it was over, he made himself comfy on the sofa and did what he does best.

Best laid plans

2 Feb

After a year at home, everyday feels the same. I get up at the same time, and follow the same schedule. I live, teach, and relax in my living room. I take Richard to the park at the same time everyday. That’s why any change to the schedule feels almost celebratory.

Despite the sameness of every, I use my school planner religiously. I was thrilled last week to see “10:00 Library pick-up” written in Friday’s planner cell. I looked forward to it all week. Because I only go out when necessary, I try to consolidate trips out. I added to Friday’s to do list:

mail packages @ USPS
get groceries
pick-up library holds

I left home and ticked off the first two items without at hitch. I timed everything perfectly and arrived at the library a few minutes before it opened. A few people were in line, and by the time I arrived to join them, standing on the designated spots, the doors had opened. As always, the line moved quickly and soon, I was at the doors.

“Last name is Gillespie,” I said, smiling behind my mask.

Behind the table in the lobby, the librarian scanned her clipboard. She flipped to the next page. And the next.

“Did you say Gillespie?” she asked. I don’t see it here.

Suddenly, doubt stabbed my heart. The appointment was in my planner, but had I actually made it, I wondered. It’s amazing how many thoughts can pass through you mind in an instant. I remember thinking about making the appointment, weighing the pros and cons of each option, wondering if I should wait until more books were ready for pick-up. Had I written it in my planner, but not made the appointment?

“It’s not a problem,” continued the librarian. “We can check those out to you today. I’ll be back in a moment.”

I stepped out of line for the next person to give their name, and raked through my memories again. Beofre long, the librarian was back with my stack.

“I’m so sorry,” I said as she placed my book on the tray used to pass the books from librarian to patron. ” I guess I thought about making the appointment, but didn’t actually schedule it.

“We’d rather the books were going out instead of just sitting there,” she replied with a cheery smile in her eyes.

I thanked her and left, still wondering about my error.

Yesterday, I received a holds notice from the library. I scanned the appointment options, considering the most convenient time. I scheduled a pick-up time, and recorded it in my planner. I also saved the email message confirming my appointment.

Stories are Light

15 Dec

“Do you guys do the Wednesday Advisory PowerPoint?” a colleague asked at a recent 6th grade Humanities teacher meeting.

An awkward silence followed.

The PowerPoints are created by our counselors. We meet with out homerooms daily for Advisory. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, we meet for 20 minutes and the presentations are interactive: announcements, games, study skills strategies, community building. On Wednesdays, we meet for 30 minutes. The PowerPoints feel like lectures. I feel like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

AS the awkward silence stretched, someone chimed in with a “Yes, but”, and we all felt we could confess.

The thing is, the info is good and helpful – teaching kids about mindfulness, growth mindset, and mental health issues. Sticking to the script is dull, though. So I chimed in with my confession.

“I do them, but I punctuate them with personal stories,” I confessed.

A former colleague used to call me Rise, after a character in one of her favorite TV shows, the Golden Girls. Rose had a story for everything, and, apparently, so did I. When she first started calling me this, I was embarrassed. Sometimes, I checked myself and held my story back. But, then I remembered the words of Gregory the Jailer in The Tale of Despereaux, “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”. I embraced my penchant for storytelling.

It is serving me well as I present the PowerPoints. By telling my stories, I hope I am bringing some light to my students.

Interesting

17 Nov

The man was sitting on the low brick wall that curved into the park from the entrance. I saw him from a distance, my homeless person senses tingling. There are a number of tents and car-homes on permanent deployment near the park and the residents spend a lot of time in the park. For the most part, they are friendly, as this gentleman was.

Wearing a hat and face mask, my hearing is sometimes impaired. I clearly heard him say, “Do you have five,” but the ending was cut off. I assumed his last word was dollars, and I smiled with my eyes as Richard and I began to walk past silently.

“Just five minutes,” he continued. “I am doing sketches and you are interesting to me.” Well, flattery gets you many places, so I stopped.

“Well, I haven’t felt interesting for a while,” I laughed from a safe distance away.

“That’s a basset hound, right?” he continued. “We had a basset growing up.His name was McGee. We gave him that name thinking we were getting an Irish Setter, but we got hom. He was a good dog.”

“This is Richard,” I said as I watched him sketch, looking from Richard and I back to his sketchbook, his hand moving all the while. I gave him a little bit of Richard’s story and he shared some stories about McGee. He wasn’t wearing a mask, and, from the way he spoke, I got a sense that he’d had a hard life, or had some developmental issues. He wore no mask and I still had no clue as to whether he was an occupant of the encampment around the park. He was just a friendly guy.

“I’m done,” he announced suddenly, holding his notebook up for me to see. There were several sketches of Richard, from different angles. We wished each other a good day and Richard trotted forward – he’s a fast walker – as I heard the man ask someone else if they had five minutes. I heard the ending clearly that time.

Somedays I’m good, others, not so much

29 Sep

Good teachers plan ahead. So, like a good teacher, I previewed the slide deck we’d been sent for our daily 20 minute Advisory class. Wednesday’s lesson included two short videos about mindfulness. I looked at the clock and thought It’s close, but I have time to preview bits of each before class begins.

And thank goodness I did. In the second video, a cartoon character says “I’m pissed”. Now, many people might not be troubled by that phrase. I admit, I have used naughtier language than that. But there was no way in heck, I was showing that video to my sixth graders. I didn’t want the parent fallout. A quick search – following a “heads up” email to my 6th grade colleagues – found an equally effective video without questionable language.

Good teachers pivot. Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing that despite the truth of it. In the olden days we said “monitor and adjust”. So, like a good teacher, as I was presenting my lesson on Friday, I made a quick decision to model using the iPad I had not yet set up. I was feeling really good about online teacher after a successful first week and wanted to stretch myself.

In no time, I was good to go. Except that may writing was backwards. Kids offered suggestions. I went back to my chart paper. I pivoted a lot. It wasn’t comfortable. I chart papered my way through the next two classes, all the while wondering what I had done wrong. As kids worked, I sneakily Googled a solution to my problem. None was to be found.

After my last class, I realized my error, and, simply turned the iPad over. Voilà! My iPad now functioned as a document camera. Today, I will use it, but I will be sure to have a test run before my first class begins.

Three Strikes

18 Aug

Had I’d left the store without paying?

This thought gnawed at me as I sat at my desk to balance my checkbook after doing groceries.  I had no receipt and my bank account showed no pending transactions. I closed my eyes and tried to visualize myself paying, but nothing came. I grabbed my keys and wallet and headed back to the store.

To be fair, it had already been a trying morning. I left the house before eight with three goals in mind: mail two bills, make a deposit in the credit union, and get groceries. It should have been quick and easy.

But, when I stopped at a nearby mailbox, I encountered this:

EfoNtcnUwAAzYKR

I was disappointed – and quite angry about the politics behind this situation  – but I knew there was an actual post office not too far from the credit union.

As I approached the credit union, I was surprised to see that the ATMs had been removed. Driving past the front entrance, I  wondered when this branch had been closed and remembered that I’d seen another one opening in a location that used to house a Pier One store. I drove to the post office, where I managed to drop the bills, and on to the former Pier One location, where new ATMs let me do my business.

At the grocery store, I got what I needed quickly and opted to use the self check out. Portland has a plastic bag ban, but my local supermarket has been having trouble getting paper bags. If I went through the regular lines, I had to take plastic because grocery checkers aren’t allowed to pack bags brought from home. At that time in the morning, not many checkout stands were open. I figured the self serve line might be faster.

I had one large item that required a scan by the associate working the self check area.  I called her back a few minutes later, to scan my coupons. Once done, I drove home, prepared to spend the rest of the day in typical COVID fashion.

But, after unpacking the groceries and taking a shower, I realized I hadn’t paid for the groceries.

“I didn’t pay, did I?” I asked when I returned to the self check area, my heart still pounding.

“No, you didn’t,” said the same associate, who waved off my apology.

“It happens more than you’d think. But you came back,”was all she said.

She called her manager, who had to hand enter my order from the receipt the associate had printed when I’d absconded with my groceries. As I paid, I felt my heart rate return to normal.

 

11 Aug

For several years, in the days between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, my sister and I would ask, “When is Children’s Day?”

Every year, my mother would reply, “Every day is Children’s Day.” She was old school that way.

Apparently, Sunday, August 9th was National Book Lovers’ Day. I missed it, but can’t help channeling my mother because I believe that every day is book lovers’ day.

The pandemic has caused me to lose a bit of my reading mojo. I have lost the desire to read fiction – in print or as an audiobook. I seem to only have a desire for nonfiction, and not just the nonfiction books I have to read for the committee I am on.

I have always been able to lose myself in a fictional world. You would think that, homebound for the most part, I would easily escape to some fictional place, an armchair traveller. But, for some strange reason, I long to escape to real places: under the sea with whales and octopus, to Colombia and Washington, into politics and philosophy.

I know several people who have completely lost their reading mojo. So to lose interest in fiction isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just a thing.

screen-shot-2017-12-02-at-6-09-23-am

What should not be forgotten

4 Aug

download-1

The sticky handrail
touched by the hands of
1500 middle schoolers

The rhythmic chime
of keys on a lanyard
as a colleague approaches

Second breakfast
with its mug of tea, a banana,
and a colleague with
her bowl of fruit and yogurt

The musty smell
of the locker room
as 120 sixth graders
leave for the day

The flow of students
up and down the staircase
at the beginning and end
of the day

The beep and buzz
of the lock
as you swipe your ID card
before the sun comes up

They joy in your heart
as you stand, before school,
in front of the building,
greeting families,
and one of your current,
or former students,
arrives

 

Faith

28 Jul

Lucas Cuartas was in one of my fourth grade classes in Medellín, Colombia. I think it was in 1992-93 school year, because Pablo Escobar was still on the run and times were crazy.  There were police searches, car bombs and assassinations by vigilantes, and paramilitaries on all sides.

Lucas Cuartas was absent one day. The Columbus School was a private school for wealthy families, and kids were rarely absent, so Lucas’ absence was notable. It wasn’t until someone official arrived – the counselor, our principal, I don’t remember who – arrived at our door that I knew his absence was extraordinary. Miss Vicky, the religion teacher, might have been there too.

My small class of 20ish students sat silently as they were told that Lucas and his family had gone out for pizza the night before. As they drove past a police roundabout, a bomb went off, blowing the roundabout to bits. The car was sent rolling. Lucas had a broken arm, but his mom was in very serious condition.

When I was in teacher’s college, no one prepared us to share this sort of tragic news with our class. Maybe they do now, but in Medellín, Colombia, though it was not an everyday experience, few families or classes had been untouched by the violence of that city and country in that particular period. In the class next door, a girl disappeared from one day to the next after her father had been found, assassinated and dumped in a hole by right wing vigilantes who felt they had proof that he worked for Pablo Escobar. Rumor had it that the girl’s mother had taken the remainder of her family and fled to Argentina.

But there were my fourth graders, facing their own tragedy that touched on our classroom family. I think there was a call for questions, I don’t really remember. I do remember, though that a sweet girl named veronica raised her hand.

“Can we pray for Lucas and his family?” was her simple question.

Chairs scraped on linoleum as every kid in my class, including the one Jewish student we had in a room full of Catholics, knelt on the floor to pray.

A few days later, I went with my principal to a mass for Lucas’ mom, who wasn’t doing well. She recovered some weeks later. Lucas returned to school in a cast, but my class felt so much closer than we had before.

I think often about the contrast between the formality of the mass and the simplicity of the prayers of my class. I don’t know if one had more impact on the outcome of the Cuartas family’s tragedy than the other. But I am still awed by the power I felt in that classroom as my students prayed. There is a verse from Hebrew that says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That classroom was filled with faith, hope and love for others. If we all had the conviction of those fourth graders and followed the guidelines and safety protocols public health officials keep repeating to keep ourselves and others safe, we will be able to go back to normal, sooner, rather than later. I have faith in that.

screen-shot-2017-12-02-at-6-09-23-am

 

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

The Fat Squirrel Speaks

Knitting, spinning, and assorted awesomeness.

Global Yell Blog

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Jone Rush MacCulloch

Deo Writer: Musings to Spark the Spirit

Klickitat St. Readers

Just another WordPress.com site

Readerbuzz

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

PLUMDOG BLOG

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Gail Carriger

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Kate Messner

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Cybils Awards

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Someday My Printz Will Come

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

Tundra Books

Home of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers and Friends

andrea gillespie

Inquiring My Way Forward

Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The Horn Book

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The History Girls

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

%d bloggers like this: