Tag Archives: #sol16

My ridiculousness

31 Mar


Like most mornings, I arrived at school early. I was so on top of things today! I got the papers organized for the quiz the kids would take. I took special care with the papers for the five new students I got in February. They would do a modified test. I marked the questions they didn’t have to do, put a name on each paper and set them in a safe place, where I could access them easily. I sat back down at my desk and started grading the mountain of final drafts I had somehow managed to neglect over Spring Break. I was humming with productivity!

When test time rolled around for the first class, I was a wreck, scrambling to find those papers I had so carefully prepared. Not on the front table. Not on my desk either. I was so sure I’d sent them on the table at the front of the room and yet, they were not there.

Suddenly Marvin’s voice piped up, “Ms. Gillespie, could it be the papers clipped to the front board?” Ah, he knows me well. I nodded and smiled as the class erupted in laughter.

At the end of the day, I was excited because I got an email saying my Powell’s order was ready. It is a perk of living in Portland that Powell’s gives us a 20% discount for anything we buy for school. We just have to pick it up. No problem, the store is only 10 minutes from school and more or less on my way home. I knew we had a big order and I worried about carrying multiple bags out to the car so I planned ahead. I had some boxes I’d saved from a Scholastic book fair and grabbed two, knowing I had a foldable luggage cart in the trunk of my car to carry everything. I was ready.

I walked towards the stairs that lead from my second floor classroom to the main entrance swinging the boxes. It was sunny and I was bound for Powell’s; life was good! I nodded and smiled at the substitute who arrived at the stairs just before me. She was about half way down when she turned and asked if I needed help with the boxes. She’d noticed I had my left arm over the rail, wrist resting there, holding a box.

“Thanks, but they’re empty,” I replied to her kind offer.

“I thought so because I saw you swinging them,” she said. “But you are supporting that one so I thought I might be wrong.”

I blushed and confessed that, because it was sunny, I had packed my coat in my bag. Now, I am a woman of a certain age and I always go down the steep steps, holding the hand rail, but, I don’t actually like to touch it for fear of germs. I usually pull my jacket sleeve over my hand to hold on, but, without a jacket, this was my next best plan to avoid the germ handrail. She laughed, agreeing that she, too likes to hold the handrail on the way down, but had never thought about the germs before. We exited the building together smiling at the sunshine that met us.

When I finally arrived at Powell’s, I loaded the empty boxes on the cart and, since no one was at the School & Library desk, I went to the main counter for help. I told the kind woman there how prepared I was as she walked me over. She  looked on the shelves but couldn’t see anything for Stoller Middle School. And then we both saw it. The large hand truck stacked to the top with 4 huge boxes. Our eyes met and we laughed.

“Let me run my cart to my car and I’ll be back to take this one,” I offered.

“I can’t leave the counter area, but I can wheel it to the door for you,” she replied, smiling.

I was back in a flash and managed to get the very heavy hand truck to my car, load the boxes in the trunk and return the cart. The gentleman at the info desk told me I could just leave the cart with him. I waved at the woman at the counter and went out to my car, ready for a delightful drive home on a sunny March afternoon.

Some cold humor

30 Mar


Last week I was in the pink,

Today I am coming down with something.

Last week, I was right as rain,

Today, I am under the weather.

Last week I was as fit as a fiddle,

Today I am as pale as a ghost.

Last week I was the picture of health,

Today I am at death’s door.

Last week I was alive and kicking,

Today I am running a fever.

Last week I was on top of the world,

Today I have one foot in the grave.

This week I took a turn for the worse,

Next week, I hope I am over the worst.

From the passenger seat

29 Mar


As a single person, I am rarely in the passenger seat. When it happens, it is a real treat and today, I got to enjoy the show.

My car was in need of a little TLC so I scheduled an appointment for today. Driving in to the Toyota dealership where it would be serviced, I passed police activity which involved an ambulance just before I crossed over Portland’s Burnside Bridge. Coming out of the tunnel leading to Beaverton, traffic slowed. Flashing lights let me know something serious had happened and, as we crawled past the rollover accident, I said a little prayer for anyone involved.

The dealership opened at 7:00 and I rolled up to the short line in front of the bay windows a few minutes early so I could check in a get my name on theist for the shuttle service that would take me to work.

After less than 15 minutes of waiting Burt called my name and we walked out to the Toyota Odyssey that would take me to work. Burt told me this was his retirement job and that he knew my school because his granddaughter attends it. We chatted about how over-crowded we are, the number of new houses going up and the high cost of buying and renting a house in the metro Portland area. All the while my eyes were off the road. I looked at Burt, like a good conversationalist should, and I looked around at the traffic, the sky, the interior of the Odyssey, anywhere but on the road for the 15 minute drive.

At 3;45 this afternoon, I got a call from Burt, letting me know he was on the way. I walked out to the front of the school where a warmish sun was shining. Sheltered by the school, I took of my raincoat and sat on the bench at the front, normally reserved for students awaiting parents, but empty today because it was a PD day. Burt arrived a few minutes later and we got to talking about why each of us moved to Portland. He blamed it on the winter of 1978 and we swapped blizzard stories.

The ride was over quickly. I paid my bill and picked up my car and began my commute home. I didn’t mind being the driver because I’d had a chance twice today to enjoy being in the passenger seat.

Saturday Night circa 1980

27 Mar

Growing up, we had a visitor every Saturday Night. He was a jolly fellow who arrived after dinner and brought his friends along. His name was Elwy Yost and he hosted a local program on TVOntario called Saturday Night at the Movies. The show, which  featured two classic movies, opened with a surprisingly interesting and enthusiastic intro.

The two films were separated by an intermission that, over time, grew to include interviews with actors and directors as the show became more popular.

My mom would curl up in her La-Z-Boy. Dad and I would sit on the sofa. There would often be peanuts; my dad had a passion for Spanish peanuts from Picard’s Peanuts.  It was from Elwy Yost that I learned about all sorts of classic films, actors and directors, and to love black and white movies. I became a particular fan of Powell & Pressburger films, my two favorites being A Matter of Life & Death (known in the US as Stairway to Heaven) and I Know Where I’m Going. 


As I got older, and found myself babysitting in a Saturday Night, I often found myself watching movies with Elwy on my own. I remember one night, during a David Lean marathon, the parents came home  20 minutes before the end of  Lawrence of Arabia,  It was a few years before I got to see the end.

In these days of DVD, Blu-Ray and on demand, we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. I sort of miss the day when Elwy Yost came to visit.



Tradition and Superstition

26 Mar

See a penny, pick it up

All the day you’ll have good luck.

I got out of the car and saw it on the road between the curb and the rear tire. A penny! I chanted the ditty in my head as I picked it up. Then, I paused. There was something odd about this penny.


It was made of plastic, the kind of penny  you see in a classroom math set. Did that mean the deal promised by the poem is off? Did it mean no luck? Bad luck? I mulled it over and laughed as I did so. I didn’t really believe picking up the penny meant good luck, I just liked the tradition and it got me thinking about some of the other superstitious traditions I’ve inherited, mostly from my mother.

My mother would always spoon up bubbles in her tea. Drinking the bubbles that way meant she’d get money. I simply drink the bubbles, so maybe that’s why I’ve never benefitted from them.

You know those shivers you get for no reason? Mom always said they meant that someone just stepped on the spot that will be your grave.

She taught some lessons, I still follow. Giving a knife as a gift, though practical for bridal showers can be a source of bad luck that might sever the relationship. To combat this evil, you give  a penny with the knife, which the recipient returns to you as a “payment”, saving the friendship. If giving someone a wallet or purse, you need to put a silver coin inside, to ensure that it will never be empty. Silly, but I can’t help myself.

Weather obsessive that I am, I still recite Red sky at night/ Sailor’s delight./ Red sky in the morning/Sailors take warning when I see a red sky. Sometimes it is accurate, sometimes not, but I keep on doing it.

Living in the big city, I don’t often get crickets in the house, but we seemed to get them frequently when I was a kid. Although she would hunt down all other insects, my mother always left crickets alone because they symbolized good luck. She told us not to kill spiders because doing so would cause rain. I carry spiders outside to safety and say “Spiders are our grade friends” because that is what I say and do in my classroom, but my mom’s warning always runs through my brain.

I grew up knowing that breaking a mirror brought you seven years bad luck, as did opening an umbrella in the house and walking under a ladder.  I still toss salt over my left shoulder when I spill some, not because I believe it will prevent bad luck, but just in case it might.

We pulled wishbones at Thanksgiving for good luck and were warned not to cry on our birthdays because doing so would mean we would cry all year.

And we never, ever stepped on crack!

Happy birthday Kate DiCamillo!

25 Mar


I was born at the tail end of 1964.

On that same day, December 23, 1964, Eddie Vedder, lead singer of   Pearl Jam was born. Although I have never met Eddie, I like to think of him as my other twin, since I already have a twin sister.

I learned recently that Kate DiCamillo was born on March 25, 1964. Happy birthday Kate DiCamillo! The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane are two of the books I would take with me to a desert island.

That got me wondering if there other writers were born in 1964. So ex-librarian that I am, I did a little digging to see which of my favorite children’s and YA authors turn 52 this year, like Kate, Eddie and I.

Libba Bray turns 52 on March 11. I read Lair of Dreams  recently, but my favorite book remains Beauty Queens.

 On April 9th, Margaret Peterson Haddix turns 52. My sister gave me Running Out of Time when it came out in 1995 and I have been a fan ever since.

Frances O’Roark Dowell’s birthday is on May 30th. hough I’ve read fewer of her books, my favorite is Shooting the Moon.

On June 5th, we will celebrate Rick Riordan’s 52nd birthday. One of the best book clubs I ever ran was a small pull out group reading  The Lightning Thief. I snapped up that series and even skipped lunch one day in 2008 to make a Powell’s to pick up a just released copy of The Battle of the Labyrinth.

And finally, on October 2nd, Elizabeth Wein, the author of one of my heart books, Code Name Verity,  turns 52.

A year later, in 1965, Frank Sinatra recorded this song.


23 Mar


On Sunday, Donalyn Miller wrote a post entitled Touchstones, that talked about reading experiences and books that have been meaningful to people at different points in their lives. I think everyone who read that post has been thinking about their touchstone books. I certainly have and inspired by Donalyn and by another slicer named Beverly,  here are a few of mine.

First and foremost, comes The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.


Originally published in 1936, this was the first book I read where I made an intimate connection to a charter. I was a quirky little kid, big-eyed and diffident. Like Ferdinand, I often felt out of step with everyone around me. But here was a book that showed me that I was not alone in my solitude. I can still get weepy talking about Ferdinand, almost 50 years after I first picked it up.

In grade two or three, our library-less  school got a school library. the first book I checked out was Charles Dickens’  A Tale Of Two Cities. I’d heard of it and knew it was a classic, so what the heck. I got called the classroom door the next day and interrogated about checking out the book. I felt like I had done something bad and was embarrassed about using the school library after that. As an adult, I vowed to never make a child feel that way about any book.

My most important touchstone during elementary & middle school was not a book, but a librarian. Lynn Leu was the children’s librarian at my local library. She was the first person who really talked to me about books.

One of the touchstone books of my teen years was Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.


I read this multiple times while I was a teen and never tired of the story. It appealed to my sense of wanderlust and showed me a young woman who defied convention and  did not shy away from working to attain what she wanted.

More recently The One and Only Ivan has become a touchstone. Aside from the fact that it is a beautiful book, it came just as I lost the library job I loved so much. I connected with Ivan in a way I never expected and I actually burst into tears when it was announced that Ivan had won the Newbery Award.


22 Mar


“They put hair on your chest,” my hairy-chested father told my sister and I when we were tiny. We squealed and turned our noses up at his offering.

“They taste like candy,” he told my  red-headed niece waving a slice of beet at her.

“You like candy?’ she asked. Then added,  “I don’t like candy.”

All this unfolded in my mind several years ago as I watched happy shoppers leave the farmer’s market, their bags overflowing with beets with their greens attached. What do they know that I don’t, I wondered, and I walked boldly up to a vendor and bought my first bunch of beets, greens attached.

It has been many years since I discovered the earthy glory of the humble beet. I don’t eat them often but when I do, I really enjoy them. Those first beets were traditional red beets that I boiled, then peeled wearing rubber gloves. Today, I dropped at the grocery store and picked a nice bunch of golden beets, my new favorites.


They taste earthier than candy and have yet to put hair on my chest, but they bring back memories my dad and the way he teased us while eating beets.

A Memory Poem

21 Mar

Something I saw this weekend brought back a memory from my childhood and inspired a poem.


The green Mustang

that screamed around the corner

brought back memories of my brother’s

green CCM bicycle

with the two-toned seat.


Even though he was told not to

he gave us rides on the handlebars

his little sisters

we took turns laughing

with wind in our faces.



Down the road,

to the Gothicky Anglican Church

that made us think it was haunted,

that no one we knew attended,

then back to our house.



Our church was more modest

a simple wooden church painted white

walkable, near the center of town

where our older sister would be married

in just a few days.



I saw the green mustang again

stopped by police on the corner

a few blocks away

they stood and talked for a while

then they let them go.



I recalled my brother’s bike again

and my sister’s foot

caught in the spikes

ruining the new shoes

she was to wear to the wedding.


The green mustang will disappear

from my memory

but the green bicycle has become

a family legend

along with my sister’s foot.

Spring Break Rendezvous

20 Mar


We’re coming to Portland for part of Spring Break again. My kids fell madly, deeply in love last time. We are there from March 15 – 19 and we’d love to see you.

I read the message and smiled. It was from a high school friend, Heather.

I changed high schools for grade thirteen, after spending 1982-83 as an exchange student in Denmark. At my new school, I fell in with a fun group of like-minded friends, but as we all went of to different colleges and universities, we lost touch. Heather was one of them, as was her husband, Wilson. He and I worked together at our local pool. They didn’t start dating until after high school and we had lost touch long before they married. A few years ago, we reconnected on Facebook and I discovered they’d moved to Vancouver B.C. Funny how we’d all ended up on the West Coast. They were in Portland in 2013 for Spring Break and  we saw each other for the first time since 1984.

Today, we met up at Portland Saturday Market and, despite rain in the forecast, it was a perfect Spring day. We started as a large group, then wandered around the market for a while in smaller groups. Heather and I wandered looking at the various artisan booths, sharing stories of being 50-year-old women looking for jobs and books we love. We regrouped after wandering and purchasing what needed to be purchased, then walked to Karam’s, a Lebanese/Syrian restaurant. In true Portland fashion, they offered gluten free pita, but we didn’t order it.

After lunch, I was ready for a nap so I returned home and they went on to explore more of Portland. All in all, it was a great start to Spring Break.


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