Thursday, March 23, 2017

3.23.17 #sol17 Hamilton

I missed blogging yesterday. I would feel bad about it, but I was crossing something off my bucket list. I was in Chicago at Hamilton.

My 40th birthday, the morning I received
Hamilton tickets. Best. Present. Ever.
Greg surprised me with tickets for my 40th birthday, which was back in December. For the last 3 months I've been counting down until this moment.

And last night was the night. We arrived in Chicago late yesterday morning. We checked into our hotel, the Silversmith, which was charming and perfect (there was a window seat! I've always loved window seats!) . Our dentist had recommended trying Lou Malnati's pizza while we were in town, so we headed eight blocks for some deep dish (I gave us dispensation for our Lenten sacrifice of pizza. I mean, c'mon. We were in Chicago. Jesus gets it.)

We meandered back to the hotel where I took a nap. If you read my earlier blog post about naps, you know that this was a perfect way to spend my holiday.

Then we headed back out. We had dinner and drinks and then headed to the theater. It was a packed house and the excitement thrummed. As the lights went down, I squeezed Greg's leg. With the first note, I choked up. It was perfect.

And I didn't stop feeling enthralled and joyful and captivated for the entirety of the show. You know how sometimes you're so excited for something, and you build it up in your mind and then when you actually go through it, it's never as great as you imagined? This was the opposite. This experience exceeded every expectation.

Like so many people, I've been listening to the cast recording for more than a year and know all the words. My kids have a favorite ("My Shot"). I watched the PBS Special. I devour every little clip of Lin-Manuel. Going into this show, I felt like I knew it. But seeing the stage, and the role of the lighting (the lighting felt like a cast member!) and seeing the actor's expressions all elevated the experience. It was holy.

And of course, all I can think is how lucky I am to be alive right now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3.21.17 #sol17

Today I try out an "Around" writing about my sister Katie. It's a style that I was introduced to at the Ohio Writing Project's 4-week Writing class. It was always one of our most favorite ways to write. 

Around 1986, a blue-eyed beauty, Kathryn Norine, rounded out the Wolford girls.

She was calm and clear-eyed. She loved her sisters and her parents, and smiled all the time. Because her sisters were 10 and 7 years older than her, she got lots of snuggles and hugs. She was a real life Cabbage Patch doll.

Around 1990, Katie carried her Teddy everywhere and loved playing Barbies.

Katie has keeps us all young. She brings light and life into every room. My friends loved to come to our house and play with her because it allowed all of us to recapture a little slice of our childhood, which was still visible in our rearview mirrors. Even when she was six, she could play with anyone -- the neighbor kids, her sisters, her cousins. She has always been the great unifier.

Around 1994, Katie sat the top of the stairs, through she was supposed to be in bed, listening to all the fun she thought she was missing.

As the youngest, Katie always felt like she was missing out on the action. She usually was. Though she also got to experience things with our parents that we didn't. She went to play with mom, watched baseball with dad. She knew too much too soon; how could you not when you have two teenage sisters? She was the first in her friend group to find out lots of secrets and would often educate her girlfriends. Katie heard the refrain, "Do NOT repeat this at school" pretty often.

Around 2007 Katie became an Aunt Katie.

This was a role Katie was born for. She's a tree climber, a book reader, a song singer, an Uno player. She loves her niece and nephews and  shows them how to be good people. She has sleepovers in the basement, plays games when everyone else is sick of it, and makes them follow the rules.

Around 2009 Katie wandered off the path.

These things happen. And they're often the events that make us stronger and that has been true for Katie. That's her story to tell, not mine, but I have watched her with worry, with trepidation, with frustration and now with pride as she has found her map and righted her course in the last few years.

Around 2017, Katie will cross a stage, take her diploma and enter into a legacy of teachers. She will be amazing.

Katie was a born teacher. Kids are drawn to her. She looks them in the eye, holds them to high standards, and really listens to them. Her future classroom will be a place of light and love and learning.

My sister Katie is one of the most beautiful people I know. She lights up a room and makes everyone feel happier for being around her. She's funny and kind. She completes our family and makes us all better people. And she's so much fun to be around.

Monday, March 20, 2017

3.20.17 #sol17 Writer's Group

I should be at my writer's group right now. My friends Holly, Megan, Jill, Val and I are in a writer's group. Unfortunately Greg had a meeting tonight, so I had to miss. And I'm missing them so much. So I thought I'd write about them.

Our writing group has met exactly once. We didn't write at all. We laughed and shared. We caught up and talked about writing (a little bit anyway). We ate and drank. We communed.

And that community has been so powerful. It motivated me to actually start this blog challenge. Holly has been slicing for a few years now, and I always read her posts. An experience that Megan had earlier this year had me thinking on my drive home about a piece she should write; I was so excited I texted her as soon as I got home. And getting to spend time facilitating professional development with Jill, Val and Holly had me thinking about all kinds of smart writing.

So you see, though we didn't officially share writing during our group, we did the work of building a community. We're doing the work of writers -- thinking, sharing, collaborating, rehearsing. And writing.

This blog challenge has offered the same for me. It has been amazing to be part of a community of writers. Getting comments on posts is wonderful, but even without those comments, I'm feeling so empowered by seeing everyone else's posts. I'm loving the generative power of reading each other's works.

An unexpected surprise has been the feedback from folks outside the challenge. Friends have sent me messages about their own experiences that relate to something they read in my blog. Or family members reach out to affirm something I've written. My mom even texted me the other day because she thought of some topics.

Knowing that there are actual people reading my writing has reminded me how important it is to participate in a community. To be held accountable. To have a real purpose. To engage in our own learning.

In my work, I spend time with lots of different kinds of students: teachers in graduate school, undegraduates as well as young students. I want to find ways to create the same space for student writers. I want to do more than just school writing. I want to help them find a community.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

3.19.17 #sol17 Justin's Snuggles

"Mama, can you snuggle?" My 7 year-old hardly ever calls me Mama anymore, so even though I'm tired, and even though I still have work to do tonight, and even though I am done mom-ing for today, I take a deep breath and I snuggle.

I lie next to his little body in his narrow twin bed. He's surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals. There's Puppy H. and Ghostie, Piggie and Froggy. The newest addition to the collection, Pikachu, is nestled in his arms. His most beloved Wormy is never too far. Wormy's still the one we find in his arms in the middle of the night.

He turns on his side, eye to eye with me. I wrap my arm around his body, feeling his belly rise and fall with his breath. He tangles his feet around my legs. I love the smell of him. It's a mixture of boy and outside and toothpaste (sometimes). Who knows what we talk about it those moments: dogs, school, Pokemon, his brother, Disney. Sometimes we barely talk at all (although anyone who knows Justin knows that's not typical. This kid can talk).

After a few minutes, I tell him, "Okay, Mister, I love you." He usually says "One more minute." I relent. Of course. After half a minute, I wrap it up.

Our newest routine:
"I love you the most," Justin tells me, kneeling on his mattress and wrapping his arms tightly around my neck.

"I love you most-er."

"I love you the most-est, most-est, most-est." He laughs at the silliness. And I pretend to groan, outdone in the superlative game. Every night it's the same dance.

I leave his room, head downstairs and go about my evening.

Justin is my third child, the baby of our family. I used to complain about how my youngest sister got away with more, or was treated differently. Now I realize that with your youngest, you just hang on a little tighter.

He won't always be our baby. And honestly, he's not my baby anymore. He's transforming into this boy, this big kid right before my eyes. But someday soon he'll be too big to snuggle. He won't want me to lie next to him anymore. He won't place his chubby hands on my cheeks. He won't make up silly games to keep me next to him for just one more minute.

And since I am not the mother in that ridiculous Love You Forever book (I know this book evokes strong opinions in people, but seriously, c'mon. She carries a ladder to his house? If my mother-in-law did that, we'd have a real problem.), I know that there will be a moment when I have to just let him go.

But, while I can, I'll take a breath, I'll snuggle. I'll try to slow down the moment.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

3.18.17 #sol17 Currently

Inspired by Jen I thought I'd try the "Currently" structure today too. I thought about what I'm currently doing literally as well as things that are happening in my life right now.
Watching:  Greg and Jacob watch Jurassic Park together for the first time; Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime; Goldbergs with my kiddos (they're finally at an age where I feel like we can watch sitcoms together). Survivor; this is one of the few shows Greg will actually sit down and watch with me. 
Listening:  to the Missing Richard Simmons podcasts; Emma and her friend making musically videos in the basement; Jacob making his little tic sound that is driving me totally nuts.
Appreciating: that I was able to sleep until 9:45 this morning (that hasn't happened in YEARS!); that Greg's spring break started today; that I have a husband who likes to grocery shop; in-laws who will drive 5 hours to come stay with our kids; that I can take Emma shopping and buy her new clothes, even if she hates shopping.
Loving: connecting with my girlfriends over coffee, or lunch, or a beer, or at exercise class. And that I got to do all of those things this week - finally; lazy days; baseball season; soccer season; Justin in his karate uniform.
Eating:  too much. trying to eat more greens and less sugar. Why can't vegetable taste as good as sugar does?
Drinking:  Dt. Pepsi. Miller Light. Water. In that order. I'm working on reversing the order. 
Wishing:  I didn't have to try on bathing suits tomorrow. That I still had my 30 year old self's metabolism; that I could be more comfortable in the skin I'm in now.
Planning:  to see Hamilton this week; to go to Florida soon; where our extended family will go for our annual Father's Day trip; how to lose 20 lbs by the time we get to Florida on Friday (making chocolate chip cookies tonight is probably the first step in all the diet books, right?). 
Reading:  texts from my sisters and mom; slice blog posts, Velva Jean Learns to Drive; getting ready to read The Hate U Give; tweets, mostly about teaching and Trump.

Friday, March 17, 2017

3.17.17 #sol17 Pool Sneaking

"Mom! We are going to get ARRESTED!" I hissed from the shadows.

"Oh, c'mon, Ang. Just get in here," my mom whisper-laughed.

I was eight. My mom was 28. It was a warm summer night in Florida and we were swimming in a pool, one of my favorite things to do. There was just one catch.

It wasn't our pool.

My mom, a fearless free-spirit, would pair up with her best friend Lola and lead us on so many adventures. I, the oldest, rule-following daughter, hated these adventures. They made me nervous and reckless.

I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Lola and my mom were young moms together in Ft. Myers, FL, before it became the place where everybody's grandparents spend the winter. Between the two of them, they had four daughters, me the oldest. Both of their husbands worked hard, long hours and so these two young women were left to figure out how to entertain us all in a place not yet reached by cable tv.

Neither family had much money at the time, and my mom reminisces that there were plenty of days when she and Lola were digging for change in their couch cushions to wrangle enough gas money to make it to the beach for the day.

Some evenings we'd go to the beach, watch the sunset, then sneak into hotel pools at night, sliding into the pools from the corners, from the shadows. These were the days when pools on the beach were fenced in and it was just a matter of opening a gate to get in. So Lola and my mom, bold as brass, would head on in. I don't think they were ever told to leave. Really, who cares about two women and their gaggle of kids?

But I didn't know that at the time. I remember never allowing myself the satisfaction of full submersion. I'd hide off in the shadows with only my feet in the water. I would watch my sister and my mom splashing quietly around, laughing. I'd feel simultaneously jealous and judgmental of their recklessness.

Other times we'd cruise the neighborhood looking for model homes that had a pool in the backyard. On those evenings, Lola would park her car (in the driveway? on a side street?) and we'd head out back. On these visits we had to be so quiet. The risk level just about sent me over the edge. We'd take a quick dip, just long enough to cool off, before we'd race back to the car and head home.

At the time I thought I had the craziest mom in the world. She exasperated me. Now, though, while I still think I had the craziest mom in the world, I find myself trying to recreate her sense of adventure with my own kids. While we never do anything as daring as sneaking into pools, I do try to instill a sense of wonder in our lives. That feel of magic and adventure defines my childhood and is one of the best gifts my mom gave us.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

3.16.17 #sol17 Podcasts

I spent a LOT of time in my car going from meeting to meeting today (I think I drove close to 120 miles today). And I listened to lots of podcasts. I really love podcasts. With my work, I end up spending a good bit of time in my car, so podcasts are a perfect way to make the time go quicker. In fact, I look forward to my commute so I can catch up on podcasts.

What's on my list now?

This American Life: I have loved this program since I was 23 years old when I first heard it on a drive back from Athens, OH. It was a piece by David Sedaris about trying to speak French and I laughed so hard I was crying.

You Made It Weird: Pete Holmes is one of my favorite comedians. His podcast is epically long and meandering and I love it. He interviews all kinds of people, but my favorites are when he interviews other comedians. He can be a little talk-y on these, but I enjoy him. Today's podcast with Phoebe Robinson was one of the best in a while.

Nerdist: Chris Hardwick is a great interviewer. Sometimes the people he interviews are boring, so I skip those, but sometimes they're great. And those I like.

Fresh Air: Terry Gross is amazing. She's the best interviewer of all time. Marc Maron's interview of her was amazing.

WTF: Marc Maron is also a great interviewer (okay, yes, there's a theme here. I like comedy and interviews. I love interviews about comedy). I skip him riffing and playing music and just listen to the interviews.

Pod Save America: These guys are former Obama staffers and twice a week they break down the craziness that's going on in the world. They're a little bro-y for me, so I haven't decided if I'm going to subscribe or just listen when I feel like it.

I know there are so many other amazing podcasts. And I realize that I need to add some women and diversity to my list! I did just subscribe to Two Dope Queens today and can't wait to get caught up on their hilarious take on being a woman.

I also want to love teaching podcasts (Penny Kittle's Book Love podcast was a gift to all educators). But I listen while I drive, so I can't take notes.

What do you listen to?