Posts Tagged ‘Slice of Life’

I am so proud to be the teacher of the Louisiana Regional Student of the Year. I am privileged to teach gifted students. This means that once a student is identified as gifted, I pull them out for services each year throughout elementary school. I have had Kaylie in my class now for 2 1/2 years. We have gotten very close. On Tuesday, she found out she had won the Regional Student of the Year. First she was nominated by her school, then she competed at the parish level, then the regional level. Now she will be in competition for the State Student of the Year. This is a pretty amazing accomplishment for an 11 year old girl. She is amazing, though.

On Wednesday, Kaylie came early to class. We sat quietly absorbing the news. She told me she gets two free nights’ stay in Baton Rouge and a savings bond. She looked at me and gently said, “It’s because of you that I got this.”

I gave her a hug and said, “I don’t believe that for one minute.” But she went on to explain. She said she was not a writer when she came to my classroom. I made her a writer. That statement has been my lifelong goal.

Once at a turning point in my teaching career, my husband asked me point blank, “What do you want to do?”
I responded, “I want to teach writing. One day I want to hear an author on NPR thank me.”

Kaylie isn’t on NPR…yet. But this moment made my heart swell. I opened the door. She has stepped in royally. Writing is a major component of the Student of the Year competition. At each level, she has to write an essay on a prompt in a given amount of time. Obviously, she does not give in to the pressure. What a gifted writer she is!

Kaylie has won a number of writing contests. The most memorable for me was the LA Writes! state youth writing contest. She won first place with a poem she wrote in my class. We were celebrating National Poetry Month and the daily challenge was to write a bad poem. I used Billy Collins’ poem Litany as inspiration. Kaylie went to the computer and composed this brilliant first place poem:

Perfect Nonsense

*after Billy Collins’ Litany

You can be the watering pail in the pine tree.

You can be the left shoe on the roof.

You can even be-somehow-just-maybe the buttered slice of burnt toast on a Sunday morning.

You are NOT the billowing clouds.

You are DEFINITELY NOT the sandy aftertaste when a wave knocks you down.

And you are most DEFINITELY CERTAINLY ABSOLUTELY TRULY NOT the pancake swimming in syrup on the hottest day of the year.

Whereas I, I am the dandelion that gently blows away.

I am your mamma’s ruby red lipstick for dinner at her best friend’s house on Thursday night.

And, as you know, I am the spit-on microphone that sits lazily in the studio.

I am me.

You are you.

We are US.

A link to Kaylie’s Slices of Life.

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Chicago Bound

Read other Slice of Life writers at The Two Writing Teachers

Our youngest daughter, Martha, will graduate from college in May with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  This year has been all about selecting a graduate school.  Her goal is to get a Masters in Social Work.  She researched and found that Chicago has the top program.  So she applied.  When she was filling out the application in December, I never imagined that she would get in, and we would have the difficult job of telling her she couldn’t go.

So, you guessed it, she got in.  And she was given a scholarship; however, the scholarship would only cover close to one third of the total cost.  Our answer was no.  Too much money for a degree in a field that doesn’t make much money.  And loans were out of the question.

Weeks went by as Martha waited to hear from other schools.  She received an acceptance from University of Texas and was turned down by University of Washington.  We were rooting for the UT option.  After all, my husband is a former Longhorn.  But Martha had other plans, or rather, other dreams.

Chicago came through with a work-study program that made a small difference in the cost.  She talked to her father.  She is the baby of the family, after all.  That was not the only thing going for her.  She knows what she wants and why she wants it.   We decided to meet the amount Chicago was offering and allow her to borrow the rest.

Now I have to get used to it.  Not an easy task.  It’s really not about the money.  My paycheck has been paying tuition for a long time.  What’s two more years?  So why am I having so much trouble with the idea?  Do I think she’s not old enough to go to a big city like Chicago?  Is it the harsh winter weather that scares me?

I think part of me is just plain jealous.  She is getting to live her dream.  I never would have had the opportunity, nor did I even think about it.  I’ve never dreamed that big.  I both envy and admire her for being so strong-willed to think Chicago was a possibility and to make it all happen.   I am proud of her beyond belief.  And to be completely honest, I’ll miss her terribly.  To quote God’s message to me when I was sending my first off to the big city of New Orleans, “She is not leaving you.”

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Read other Slice of Life writers at The Two Writing Teachers

Ten things I want to do instead of write:

Stay in bed.

Read a good book.

Cuddle with my schnoodle.

Drink coffee.

Eat chocolate.

Chat with a friend.

Sweep the floor. (Oak pollen season)

Check Facebook.

Read other blogs.

Exercise, and I hate to exercise!

On this final Monday of the Slice of Life Challenge, I am tired.  I don’t want to write.  Will you make me?

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My dream of publishing for young readers is getting closer to reality.  The book cover is ready.  The manuscript is at the printers.  I am anxiously awaiting the proof.  What a great new adventure!  In anticipation of the book release, I decided to introduce you to Blessen.  Here is Chapter One: Blue.

Blue is cackling something awful this morning. That’s how she tells me she laid an egg. I flip-flop down the concrete steps from the trailer backdoor jingling the matching gold bracelets, full set of three that I got yesterday at the Family Dollar.

I’m sure Blue can hear me coming, and I call out to her, “Blue! Bluey!” My voice rises up to a high pitch. She knows it’s me.

“Bock, bbb bock!” She starts her cackling again.

Momma says she cackles when she’s cursing. She says if laying eggs is anything like giving birth, then Blue is cursing out loud. I say she is rejoicing.

I walk toward the coop. I’m still small enough to be able to walk in and stand. I push the straw under my big feathery hen, and sure enough, I find a small tan egg under her thick breast. I hold the egg up to her close, so she can see the fruit of her labor. She smiles at me her chicken smile, cocks her head, and gurgles proud.

Blue has been my chicken ever since the New Iberia Sugarcane Festival last fall. She was my first place prize for 4th and 5th grade division 4-H. I grew the sweetest sugarcane right in my own backyard. The judges told me my new hen was called Blue Cochin, but I just call her Blue for short. It was love at first sight, I must say. She knows my heart. She knows when I’m happy and when I’m sad. I know she’s wise ‘cause she’s what they call a thoroughbred hen.

“Momma’s in a foul mood today,” I tell Blue in confidence. “She told me I had no business wearing this tiny t. She says I out-grew it last summer. Why was I keepin’ it around? I told her it was my favorite, and it is, even though it shows my belly button. I kinda like bein’ able to see my belly button. It’s a fine belly, don’t you think?” Blue just nods her head at me, agreeing.

“Blessen? You come back in and finish this mess of a breakfast you made. What you thinkin’ puttin’ sugar all over your buttered toast? You made a mess in here. Your teeth are gonna rot out for sure.” Momma calls out from the back window.

I pull Blue out of her roosting spot, cuddle her close like I’m holding a precious baby, and smile into her beady black eyes.

“How do my teeth look to you?” I show all my pure white teeth in a wide grin. “I don’t think Momma knows what she’s yappin’ about.”

Blessen is the name Momma gave me when I was born. It’s not a nickname like some people think. It’s from the Bible, Genesis:

 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.

Momma changed the spelling because I am special. Blessen LaFleur, that’s me.

I don’t know who my father is. Momma says he was the fertilizer. I imagine a knight in shining armor on a white horse lowering his golden sword over my momma’s belly and poof! I was created. Some people say he must’ve been an African American man ‘cause my skin’s so dark compared to my momma who is pure white like the Gardenia she is named for. My hair is thick and curly-brown while hers is fine and blond. The last time I asked Momma why my skin was so dark, she said, “That’s how God made you, Blessen.” I don’t ask her anymore.

I have a dream that a man comes to the door, standing tall, but silhouetted. All I see is a wide bright smile. Momma turns and runs into his arms.

Momma says we are enough, the three of us, but I can’t help but wonder who my daddy is and why he left me.

We live on True Friend Road in St. Martinville, Louisiana. My Pawpee’s old house faces the street. He built that house with his own two hands. Momma says it’s falling to ruin. The last hurricane sent a water oak through the roof. With the FEMA money, Momma got a trailer. That’s where we all live now—me, Momma, and Pawpee.

From where I stand next to the chicken coop, I can see Pawpee’s old house and the two rows of crape myrtles in full bloom lining the gravel driveway. Pawpee still trims those trees every fall with a cherry picker from his wheelchair. He says he’s topping the trees to make the blossoms fan out like a fiery bouquet. Pawpee’s quite proud of his trimming skills.

I chase Blue a little around the chicken yard, give her a little hug, and then flip-flop back to the trailer to meet the disapproval of my momma.

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Read other Slice of Life writers at The Two Writing Teachers

This Slice of Life Challenge has been like an online class, writing community, support group all in one neat package.  The inspirations I have gotten, along with teaching ideas and life lessons, have been invaluable to me.  Another slicer did a book spine poem.  See Teacher Dance.  Like the villanelle, this was a new one for me.  I can’t wait to try it with my students and watch them pull books off the shelf.  A creative use of the classroom library.  Will the librarian allow us to do it in the school library?

Creating my own book spine poem, I stacked some of my books about writing.  We writers collect books that give us advice.  Some of my books are about my own personal writing, some for teaching writing.  I sculpted the stack to try to make the titles work together, but I still wanted to insert text.  Reminds me of working with paste pot poetry or magnetic poetry.

For more information on the book spine cento challenge, check out this blog:  100 Scope Notes.

Word weaving
into one writer's beginnings
awakening the heart and my
wild mind.
The muses among us inspire
the right to write.
Now I am writing brave & free.
Everything is illuminated!

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Read other Slice of Life writers at The Two Writing Teachers

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
 —Lewis Carroll
Six impossible things I believed before breakfast:
1. That the storm would pass us by.
2. That passionate teaching overrules political propaganda.
3. That every child will be treated fairly.
4. That my students will always love learning.
5. That standardized testing will not suck all creativity out of the curriculum.
6. That my writing may inspire.
This blog post was inspired by T. Blauvelt.

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Windy Day Villanelle

Walking through the wind today,
companion to my wandering mind
I circle back to the place we play.

As the horsehair mosses sway,
I follow the scent of air I find
walking with the wind today.

Welcoming warmth from the bright sun’s ray,
empty rope swings spin, rewind,
I circle back to the place they play.

Thrashing branches block the way
while harmonic chimes are kind
listening to the wind today.

Fresh green cypress trees display
colors chameleon changes blind
while I circle back to the place we play.

The dog runs fast hoping we’ll stay
suspending the time we left behind
walking through the wind today,
I circle back to the place we play.

The villanelle challenge was inspired by fellow Slicers, Maya and Paul.

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Wisteria Welcome

This wisteria vine grows outside my bedroom window and blossoms each spring.  It never ceases to surprise and inspire me.  My husband hates the vine for its invasiveness.  In the summer, it sends out tendrils that cover the walkway and the crepe myrtle next to it.  Nevertheless, I beg its forgiveness and continue to save its life.  The beauty is sacred to me and food for the bees.  I wrote a little haiku.

wisteria wakes

a scented hello to bees

whispers welcome spring

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Taking the country road
where the sky goes on
white pillow puff clouds
overhead, and
sugarcane fields
sprouting fresh green shoots.

Sometimes, I take this country road,
long and meandering.
Meadows of miniature ponies,
weathered barns,
and banks of goldenrod
draw my weary mind
to a peaceful place.

Today, I think I’ll take the country road.

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The Love of Little Things: Another little slice of life (#15)

Teeny tiny tree frog
surprised me on the door frame,

Made me think about
the little things,
the not so noticed, everyday things
that matter only to me

The little folk art man–
a gift from a friend for a time
when I needed
a little man to watch over me.

The little blossoms on the grapefruit tree,
a bountiful blossoming
we’ll have fruit to give away
next winter.

The smallest of all,
confetti, hand-colored scraps of paper
folded up intentionally
in a love letter from a first grader
wrapped with a hug.

Tiny treasures
symbols of simple

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