Thursday, May 11, 2017

Grandma Wolford

Marge and Justin
My Grandma Wolford passed away this morning. She was 92, and lived a wonderful life, so it's an odd mixture of sadness and pain for my dad, but relief for Grandma that I feel this morning.

She was a force of nature, that Marge. She had lots of opinions and wasn't quiet about them. She was also quite charming and loved to meet new people.

Marge loved to sing and would hum the tune of anything, even the pop songs on the radio. She loved my Grandpa Justin for her whole life. Their picture still hangs on the wall of her room at the Judson Palmer home and that is how they'll look in my memory for the rest of my life. When they were young Grandma loved to go dancing and I have always loved those pictures of them cutting a rug.

Grandma Marge, Uncle Arthur, Aunt Patty
Grandma grew up in the country with her Norwegian mom, farmer dad and her two sisters and brother. When the surviving siblings and all of their off-spring are in a room together, the memories of life on a farm flow. It was a different time and it always reminds me how important it is to preserve those memories.

My favorite memories of Grandma involve swimming at her house. She and my grandpa had an awesome pool, screened in, with a slide and a volleyball net. We spent most of our early childhood swimming at that house. I learned how to swim there when my dad threw me in the deep end. Emily lost a tooth in the shallow end. We'd watch Uncle Kevin and his friends in awe as they played volleyball and were just cool.

Grandma was never a very good gift-giver (one year I got shoelaces. Another Bible stories on VHS...even though we didn't have a VCR yet). But when our baby sister Katie was born, she took Emily and I to the mall and let us pick out Cabbage Patch dolls. She also let us get our ears pierced and it was one of the most special days of my 10-year-old life.

Grandma always had a collection of books for us to read (both my grandmothers were awesome at this). She ordered the Sweet Pickles series to keep at her house and we wore those books out. There was a wooden bookshelf in the guest room and that was always the first place I would go when we visited.

Grandma also loved to read, the steamier the romance novel, the better. I remember driving to Florida with her one year when I was 12 and she had a huge bag of books in the backseat. I began to pilfer her stash and I think I might have become a woman on that trip. I definitely learned some things about heaving bosoms and ripping bodices from Grandma's stash of books.

My Aunt Tari was with Grandma when it happened. My hometown's hospital plays a lullaby chime every time a baby is born and within a few minutes of Marge slipping away, Tari heard the lullaby: a reminder of the cycle of life, in all its pain and beauty and fullness. 

I can picture Marge right now, humming that lullaby and finally dancing with Grandpa Justin.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Taking a Walk With a Sea Lion

A sea lion followed me this morning.
Or maybe I followed him.
We traveled parallel paths,
him playing in the waves,
me dipping my toes in the surf.
We moved together for half a mile,
maybe more.

I first saw him lying in the sand,
ahead of me,
as if maybe he was waiting.
As I got closer,
he scooched back into the ocean,
where he belonged.

I'm also scooching home,
back where I belong.

But, first, I'll take a walk with a sea lion.

Friday, March 31, 2017

3.31.17 #sol17

No rooms at the inns,
Still miles to go.
How did we not make a reservation?

We stock up on Mt. Dew,
Put the kids to bed in the van.
We decide to drive through the night.

We'll end the trip how we started,
At 3 am.
Yawning, cramped necks, but grateful.

So I blog on my phone (it's the last day! I can't miss!)
Then I'll get some sleep,
Readying for my shift in the drivers seat.

And tomorrow, maybe, I'll write about the adventure.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

3.30.17 #sol17 Six Word Memoirs: Vacation

Tonight is the last night of our week vacation in Florida. We head home tomorrow and while I'm so sad, I'm ready to be home (now if only we could skip the 15 hour drive...). In reflecting on our trip, I decided to write about our time using the six word memoir, one of my favorite types of writing. 

Six Word Memoirs About Florida 2017: 

Lazy mornings. Full days. Tired feet.

Siblings bond, fight, make up. Repeat.

Take a video! No. Make memories.

Marveling at good fortune. Blessings abound.

Wrestling with conscience about Sea World.

First half: delicious. Second half: fast.

Restored, recharged, reconnected. Ready for home.

Trying to create candids; best spontaneous.

See the wonder in their eyes.

So very tired. So much laundry.

Letters in sky sum it up.

Today at the pool someone had hired a sky writer to write Thank U.
Captures how I'm feeling tonight. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

3.29.17 #sol17 To the Guys at the Table Next to Us...

Dear Guys at the Table Next to Us,

I saw your face as you watched the women walk past. I noticed the ladies too. I know. They were fat. Like, really fat.

They were fat, and their shorts were short. They were showing a lot of flesh, overflowing their waistlines, their shirtsleeves.

I tried not to judge their bodies -- I know they probably do enough of that on their own (or maybe not, and that would be freaking awesome). I reminded myself how hard it is to be overweight in this world. To wear shorts. To wear a bathing suit in public. I'm a little overweight and I dread having to wear a bathing suit. They were a lot overweight, and so I presumed (maybe incorrectly) that it's just freaking hard.

And then I saw your faces. Your rude, disgusting faces. You, the goateed one, saw them first. You grimaced and then nudged your buddy. "Look at that," you said, just like you probably do when you see a hot girl, but the sneer on your face made your connotation clear.

Your buddy turned around, noticed them walking away, and he shook his head. Like he had the right to judge these women and their bodies. Shook his head as if to say, "what are they doing here?"

I felt white hot anger. I felt protective of these women, even though I couldn't pick them out of a crowd. How dare you?

And then I noticed: your daughters sitting next to you. Young women. Tiny bodies, not yet formed. They chattered away, seemingly impervious to what just happened, but I know they soaked it in, because that's what our kids do. They are watching us always. Is this the world you want for your daughters? A world where men feel entitled to comment on their bodies?

Stop doing that.

Stop telling women how they should look in order to make you happy.

Stop it.
Right now.


That curvy chick at the table next shooting you daggers whose husband didn't want her to start a fight


I wanted to march my curvy ass over there and say something. But what? What could I have said that would have made a difference? And if I'm being honest, I felt self-conscious. What would they say about my body? But, I've been thinking about it all day long. I wish I had stood up for those women, for all of us.

I'm tired of being silent to be polite. I'm tired of watching men make judgements about our bodies, about our clothes, about our beings. And I'm tired of us doing it to each other too, if I'm being honest.


We must stand up and speak.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

3.28.17 #sol17 Where I'm From: Florida edition

From the age of 3-11, my family lived in Ft. Myers, FL until we moved back to Ohio. I hadn't been back to Florida until the last few years when my own family began vacationing in Orlando. I am always amazed at how much comes back to me each time we're here.  So tonight I wrote one of my favorite kind of poems, inspired by George Ella Lyon, with that childhood Florida lens in mind. 

Where I'm From...

I am from chlorine and swimming pools.
From sunsets on the beach and coquina shells,
shades of orange, yellow and purple
color my memory.

I am from screened-in porches, a lanai, if you please.
From Deep Dark Daring Woods and forts in the palmetto leaves.
I am from wild fires and shuttle launches,
PE outside,
the San Carlos Gators.

I am from alligator safety in school
and manatee awareness pep rallies.
From summers spent inside in air conditioning
and winters spent at the beach.

I am from french braids and rented VCRs,
all in a house on stilts.
I am from long driveways where
walking catfish and garter snakes made an appearance.

I am from golf courses
where Emily would collect stray balls,
and alligators would invade the lakes.
I am from tree houses,
and club houses,
and hideouts in the woods.

I am from these moments,
ones that feel like another life.
Until I'm back,
and see the flowers and the shrubs,
hear the music of the water,
feel the warmth of the sun,

and know I'm home.

Monday, March 27, 2017

3.27.17 #sol17 Swimming in Books

For anyone who worries that people don't read anymore, I encourage you to spend some time at a pool. I was shocked and inspired to realize that there are books everywhere. I saw people of every age reading. From Louis L'amour to Hillbilly Elegy to Liane Moriarity to steamy romance novels: there were books in every corner. There were books from the library, from the book exchange table, and from home. There were tattered copies and new copies.

It felt like everyone was reading.

That made my teacher heart so happy. I wanted to take pictures. But, I didn't want to be creepy, so I took mental pictures instead.

My favorite moment was when my son and a friend sat at our chairs and instead of swimming, had a spirited discussion about characters from a series they're both reading: Warriors by Erin Hunter. They had so much to say about these books; they had a smart, genuine conversation that was basically what every teacher wants students to do when analyzing characters. And later this afternoon, when Jacob shared with his friend that he only had 20 pages left, she cheered.

What is this beautiful world we live in?

And how do we figure out a way to create this for students? What is it that has all these people reading?

It goes back to the elements that anchor my teaching: time and choice.

At the pool, we all have time to read. And we get to make choices about what we we want to read, whether it's People magazine or the amazing Matt de la Pena book The Living that I devoured in one day.

And so I want our classrooms to be more like the pool. It's true that we have responsibilities and duties and other things to accomplish, but I want our students to swim in words the way people do at the pool.