Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Way To Say Goodbye

Slice of Life Challenge #31 - March 31, 2011

Wow! Can't believe I managed the whole month. What a wonderful time!

Most of you who have read my posts perhaps have realized that I like poetry, a lot! I am excited that April is almost here, and I am writing and creating some ideas to do with students and for other teachers to do during poetry month when we return to school after break.

One of the things that I will miss this school year because I’m not in my own classroom anymore is finding and preparing a goodbye poem for my class. I collect poems with a ‘goodbye’ theme. Most of the time I have used them for the end of the year, but I also just collect them in my journals. For class, I have typed them, copied them onto colored tag, and laminated them to give on the last day of school. It’s part of the traditional closure activities that all of us do in one form or another. I realize that some students may not keep them, but students through the years return and ask if I am still handing out poems, and that she or he still had them.

So many of you have been kind and gracious enough to read and reply to what I’ve written that I am thrilled, grateful, and more than a little sad that the month is over. I have loved reading all of your posts, learning new ways to say things, learning that to dig deeply into feelings may be much of what writing is all about. It’s a wonderful trip that Two Writing Teachers has taken us on, and I appreciate it all.

I have written a goodbye poem to you all, to send you on your way back to your lives, wherever your paths take you. Best of my wishes to you.


They say it is a passing

of one condition, form, stage, activity, etc.

to another.

They say—for grace—

to show kindness, flexibility,

and again and again,

to be civil.

Yet movement

of any kind



that I resist


when saying goodbye.

In this exertion

I find myself

weak, flabby and uncoordinated.

I stumble, sigh

and finally cry.

Forgive me.

Here also are a few goodbye poems from others I have collected – some are found in anthologies, but I was unable to find a link on the Internet.

“Thoughts That Were Put Into Words” - Karla Kuskin

found in Paul Janeczko’s The Place My Words Are Looking For

“Goodbye” – quote from Dr. Seuss

“Sometimes Goodbye” Mandie McDougal

“You Reading This, Be Ready” William Stafford

“The Gift” Gregory Denman

When You've Made it Your Own... Teaching Poetry to Young People

“On The Other Side of The Door” Jeff Moss from the book by the same name

“Leaving” Judith W. Steinbergh

Paul Janeczko’s Looking for Your Name : A Collection of Contemporary Poems

“Gather Ye Rosebuds’ Dorothy K. Fletcher

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life's changes are not always good

Slice of Life Challenge #30 - March 30, 2011

This is the first time I’ve written about this, and it’s not easy to put into words. In January, my son, daughter-in-law, and 9-year-old grandson moved out of state. I still feel tender about the move, wanting so much to be supportive of my son and his need to find the next opportunity of his career, but still missing them so much. Because they were selling their home, my grandson and his mom stayed here from September when my son left, and I picked my grandson up from school three days a week. He has stayed with us often from babyhood, so it was an easy transition, just more regular than usual.

I loved the time, and there were even some whole weekends with him. I love his easiness to be with, his enthusiasm for nearly everything we proposed, and the crazy fun things we did, like getting ice cream at Baskin Robbins on Fridays, then walking around the parking lot while eating, looking for dropped coins and interesting rocks in the landscaped areas. We played endless games of a silly card game called Ruckus, and ate quite a bit of apple pie. I took lots of photos, mainly of funny faces, sometimes with his grandpa, and sometimes of him throwing the football, which he loves to do. One is in this post. I’ve actually learned to pass pretty well myself during the hours we’ve spent together.

My grandson has always been in my life, and now he isn’t. We are e-mailing and calling, keeping in touch, but it isn’t easy with a young boy-can’t pass a football across the miles. We will go on our annual summer trip together and visit as often as possible. I hope our new kind of relationship will be strong, and fun, long distance. But I do miss him very much.

So-from another source, my newest inspiration: “If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.” I am working hard to learn from this, especially because of today’s story. Life isn’t so easy some of the time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A new look at writing what you know

Slice of Life Challenge #29 - March 29, 2011

In preparation for poetry month, I’m still trying to write some different styles of poetry in order to show students the possibilities. Here’s a follow up to writing what you know a little differently. All of us, students included, grow up hearing different ‘wise old sayings’ from family (and even teachers) to help guide our lives. So, to take one of those and imagine what might be the origin is the idea. It can be as serious or as humorous as wished.

Mythology Hurts

It’s ever interesting

to contemplate

the crack

on the sidewalk,

to guess what

kind of person could

possibly believe that

even a faint touch

could harm someone.

Who created this myth

that utters threats to


to beware of their


to check all their


to mind what they’re


It has to have been

someone’s mother,

wise in her discipline

or wicked, or just

plain tricky.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The beauty of sunrise that greets me

Slice of Life Challenge #28 March 28, 2011

I was up early this morning, & the sun, per usual was arising. It was so beautiful that I just grabbed the camera & took some photos. Here’s one of the good ones. Don’t we have a wonderful view from the back of our home? I had hoped to post this earlier, but several phone calls from friends kept me talking instead of writing.

More to get ready for poetry month:

Poems written upon awakening at dawn are called aubades.

dawn awakens hope

sun’s circle takes me into

good slices of life

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Carrying the important things

Slice of Life Challenge - March 27, 2011

We are keeping our "almost" two year old granddaughter this weekend, and among all the words she knows how to say, and all the things she likes to do, I am struck by how happy she is. No matter what we set out to do, she is delighted to do it. There are many reasons why this is, but one of them is that her parents ensure that she has what is important to her 'with' her. She has brought a little bag of her cars, from the movie Cars, which she adores. She has brought a stuffed cat, buffalo, horse, and dog along with a pile of favorite books. At our house, when she naps or goes to sleep at night, she piles in the favorites: all the animals, a couple of the books, and then asks for the blankies- which live here. One is a tiny baby blanket, blue & white checked, and the other is a small afghan, made by a great aunt for her mother when she was a baby. Once gathered, my granddaughter smiles, says 'nighty-night' and settles in for sleep.
I wonder, if we could choose a few things to carry with us, what we would choose to make us happy and content, like my granddaughter?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Poetry month is almost here!

Slice of Life # 26 - March 26, 2011

I'm on spring break, poetry month is coming, and we might have a little snow. I’m wondering if even during spring break I’ll be able to do some gardening. It’s been a strange winter, hardly any moisture at all, and now, in the first weeks of spring, winter returns. I tell my students to write about the little things, and sometimes the big things, but about themselves personally. So here is a little thing really, considering the lives of so many in peril, but still…


I’ve already washed the shorts,

retrieved the summer shirts,

and now I must burrow back

to the farthest parts of the closet

where sweaters reside—

previously so satisfyingly warm,

now scratchy and heavy.

I reach high to pull out the boots

from the top shelf,

find the wool socks,

and go to shovel the sidewalk.

Spring promises such freedom;

no more minutes spent with layers.

I don’t have to warm the car.

I can touch the grass with my toes.

Is Spring always just around the corner?

Why won’t Winter go

and make a hasty exit

instead of lingering until

each snowflake has its dance?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Watching Dancing With The Stars

Slice of Life Challenge # 25 - March 25, 2011

I wonder if anyone has ever thought of the difference between the quickstep and the waltz in dancing, and applied it to their students? The quickstep seems to rise above the music, hardly landing before it moves on to the next place. Yet it is enthusiastic, pulling people along into its vacuum of action like a tornado. It moves and grabs, moves and grabs.

The waltz, conversely, takes its time and allows one to savor the sound, be intentional in the movement, and drift deeper into the meaning of the music. I enjoy both dances, having watched them often enough on Dancing With the Stars, and don't want to choose a favorite. They both possess unique attributes. I work hard to have my appreciation for different kinds of students be applied in the same way. Each has his or her own lovely ways about them.

Additionally, thinking of my conversations with students as I evaluate their work, for some very odd reason, when Dancing With The Stars started a new season this week, I began to hear the judges’ words in a different way. This time, because it was the first performance, I heard them be cautious with their assessment, trying to offer at least a little credence to the dancers’ efforts. The judges wanted to help motivate the dancers to improve, certainly not to give up hope after only the first program! (It’s not economically advisable.) I thought for the most part that they were sensitive, supportive, and motivating—how I’d like to be as a teacher.

I rarely look at the differences in order to judge who might be the better learner, only to see how someone learns better. This is a bit awkwardly put, but I really mean that as everyone is different, each teacher has to use the personal ways students learn, and learn to teach that way. Some students might have more challenges at first than others, in order to meet some criteria, but really, we all don't have to get to the same destination by the same path ever. As I watch the dancing week by week, I see those who may have been struggling mightily at first actually present lovely dances in later performances. As our students are all so different, I wonder about us teachers as we ask them to do the same thing, and excel the same way; and I continue to wonder and question why. And I wonder if it’s economically advisable?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New skills learned, or maybe not

Slice of Life # 24 - March 24, 2011

Since I moved out of the classroom & into a support role as Literacy Coach this year, I have rather meandered my way down the path, learning as I traveled. At first I thought talking to colleagues, both individually & in groups (small & large) would not be the same as talking to my students. I think I was wrong.
There are some basics that remain no matter whom you are working with: I believe in community building, finding good ways to connect personally. In conversations, I listen more than talk, nudge more than shove, show interest & support in what they are doing more than what I believe should be done. I show appreciation for all that is accomplished, whether baby steps, or giant ones. And, I try to be a resource when asked, rather than an expert who knows all. Do I take the wrong path once in a while? Of course. But the most important thing I've learned this year is that the same philosophy for helping others learn holds for everyone-from birth on. It's been a wonderful, new kind of year for me, but I guess I can say that I love my 'colleagues' just as much as I loved my students last year, & will look forward to learning beside them again next year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sharing Means Everything!

Slice of Life 23, March 23, 2011

“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” Vance Havner

In the past month, I’ve been writing in a 5th/6th grade classroom, holding a workshop with students in non-fiction writing, specifically personal essays and memoir. I’ve written and shared and taught and evaluated.

It’s a wonderful class of students, eager to try new ideas, welcoming me in every way. I loved every minute of the time with them! In the final session, I held a final conversation with the group, asking several questions, the answers which we recorded on a chart: What parts of the workshop did you like, what parts were most helpful, what parts were challenging, and what have you found that you do best in writing? Most were forthright in saying that writing several drafts and finding new ways to say things was difficult. They ‘loved’ their words so it was hard to find new ways to say things.

They also said they enjoyed the lessons where we worked in specific areas (new kinds of leads, looking at beginnings of sentences, etc.). However, what I believe so strongly, and what they said often was how much they loved the peer response/review times. They liked the talk about their writing, hearing compliments about what others liked, hearing ideas for revision. Although it is so often difficult to find the time, I have worked very hard through the years to allow students to read others’ work and to respond-mostly orally, but also with sticky notes. Students listen to their peers in many ways, sometimes negatively, so it makes sense to take advantage of their influence and use it in positive ways.

My beliefs that peer influence in writing and other student work is strong, and has been supported over and over during these days of the Slice of Life challenge. Working to write my best for all of you and reading your comments gives me such motivation that I wake up every morning already trying to choose the topic of the day. I have tried to read as many posts as possible-starting early, ending late-hoping that some of my words give a boost. Sharing parts of my life in writing is scary, and I have learned that too, and will remember when I want students to share to give them safety in the sharing, as the comments you have made do for me.

Thank you everyone!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Some things I know I'll never give away!

Slice of Life # 22 - March 22, 2011

Books and articles can be found often today about cleaning out the clutter. The web site e-how contains tip after tip for getting rid of “stuff”: tips to reduce, organize, feng shui, clear, and clean your clutter. So do, and a myriad of other help sites on the Internet. There are lists of books on that offer the same kind of help, even more detailed, entering the psychological motivation of saving stuff. And if you still haven’t been convinced to engage in a battle with your belongings, just watch the TV show Hoarders, a true-life lesson in what may happen if you don’t start the fight now!

My husband and I have lived in our current home since the 1970’s. We both accumulate things and like lots of stuff, but we are organized and are not over the top yet. We take items to second-hand stores, I routinely give away books to my colleagues at school, and we have given quite a few things to our children. Yet, we have so much more to do. We are finding homes for things we no longer find useful or needed. My husband did a lot of beadwork earlier in his life, but he hasn’t for years, and he would like to find a person who would use and enjoy the materials. And-my mother was a knitter. I have saved her knitting basket, with yarn and needles, hoping that someday I would learn to knit. I don’t think it’s going to happen. When I spend time sitting, I’m always going to be reading or writing.

This is quite a long introduction to my point. Although we have a goal of cleaning out the clutter, keeping only those things that are meaningful to us, I want to emphasize that we are never going to give away the LL Bean, ragg wool cardigan that hangs in the back hall. It’s old, has holes in the elbows, but it still zips and is very very warm. Everyone in the family, as well as guests, has worn it at one time or another. Sometimes people fight over it. My grandson has grown old enough to wear it. There are things that mean something because they’re valuable in dollars, and there are things that are valuable because they create a thread of memory. My children come for a visit, say “there’s the sweater” and somehow feel comforted that although there are new cabinets in the kitchen, the house is a different color, and a new car is in the driveway, the sweater remains—a comforting and ‘warm’ memory of their past.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More About the Moon

Slice of Life # 21 - March 21, 2011

Several times through the years I have facilitated a moon journaling unit in my class, with the help of a wonderful professional book, Moon Journals: Writing, Art, and Inquiry Through Focused Nature Study, by Joni Chancer and Gina Rester-Zodrow. Other books with moon themes like Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, Many Moons by James Thurber, along with native American tales of the moon, enhanced our study. We journaled every night for five weeks, at first waiting for, and then observing our wonderful earth's moon. We wrote, sketched, questioned, watched with family and friends, and concluded with a full moon walk.
Since that time, I have continued to be so aware of the moon in its cycles and its beauty. I am lucky enough to have a marvelous view at the back of my house, hence the photo posted yesterday of the special, 'super' moon. I collect poems and quotes about the moon, and have written quite a few poems through the years, especially during the moon journaling time. Here is the latest one, written on Sunday, a response to our 'super' moon on Saturday night. According to the Farmer's Almanac, it can be known as the full worm moon, the full crow moon or the full crust moon-all connected to the end of winter, beginning of spring.

The breeze blew the moon
into the branches
of a tree last night.
It was a rose petal gone astray—
no cheese at all!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oops! Time Passing

Last night - full moon
March 20, 2011 Slice of Life # 20

There was a moment yesterday when I paused to capture the afternoon in my mind. A group of photos wouldn’t have been enough. My husband & I were visiting our daughter, son-in-law & granddaughter because they were re-staining their fence & needed help.

The sun shone, it was the day before spring, we talked & laughed. Painting along, amid words of “oops, I’m dripping all over my shoes”, & “how are you getting between the cracks?”, my daughter & I talked, about her work & the new baby coming, along with important although small decisions like how they might arrange the baby’s bed in the same room as the older sister.

My daughter mentioned that the baby was moving, it was almost halfway to the birth, & we both said “oops”. It may seem like an odd response, but it is thought-filled, of time passing so fast. It is difficult to believe that they already have an almost two year old-walking & talking & climbing, are about to celebrate their ten year wedding anniversary. The cliché, seems like just yesterday, holds true again. I am reminded of the poem, “Little Girl Grown”, by Arlene Mandell. Oops.

Our granddaughter woke up from her nap; we walked all over the yard, looking for tiny green things poking up. She says, ‘green’ & ‘flowers’. I say, ‘let’s look some more’. We meandered, my daughter joined us, & her daughter showed her ‘flowers’, ‘green’. An afternoon of work & visiting ended with talk of how good the fence looked, plates of pizza & bottles of beer. Tired we were, time had passed again, but in a beautiful way. Oops!

Happy spring everyone!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Day Before The First Day of Spring

March 19, 2011 19th Slice of Life

As I have been writing with a poetry group of middle school students, I have an audience that is supportive & that I want to please, but also it's important to model different areas of poetry. Students have personal choice in this group, & try on different poetry 'hats' to seek one they love to wear & that they feel they are good at. I copy the poems so that we can see the poem while the author reads it, & so each of us, at the end of the group, have quite a lot of poems to re-read, to savor, & these are by their classmates! We also share poems by published writers where I am often amazed at the breadth & depth of what they find to bring to the group, & at what they like. It's a lovely experience each year. However, this year I do not have my own classroom anymore, & another teacher has shared some of his students so that I can have a group again. I am grateful! This week we have been examining the rhythm of poetry.

My poem for the Monday meeting:

The Day Before The First Day of Spring

I want

I want

More warmth than a hot bath

gives me

More color than seed catalogs

show me

More light than Edison invented

for me

I want Spring!

I want

I want

Fewer clothes than Winter

allows me

Fewer curtains closing the outdoors

from me

Fewer colds requiring tissues

around me

I want Spring!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A book spine poem

a book spine poem
March 18th-Slice of Life # 18 I also read some of the blogs that celebrate poetry Friday, & this week 100 Scope Notes is featuring book spine poems-leading up to April poetry month. I thought I'd try one. I have so many books & they are all over the house, so am amused thinking of putting 'poems' on various shelves to see who might notice them. As I dust the shelves, I will now be looking for lines of poetry along with my usual thoughts about my favorite books, books I haven't read, books that people have given us--certainly loads of nice memories.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trying to be happy

March 17th, Slice of LIfe # 17

I’m trying to be Happy

Even though I’m not Irish, when St. Patrick’s Day comes along, it is a day for celebration. Blessings are all around us, and the color of green is more than a sign of spring. We have corned beef & cabbage, soda bread, & cookies with green sprinkles. Then I read the newspaper, & try not to worry too much, but I do anyway. So-I make a poem. It helps.







However, the second verse lightens me up, gives hope. I am glad for my newspaper that looks for more than disaster.







Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Broccoli is as important as pie

Slice of Life Challenge - # 16

I wonder if there can be a life lesson from our grandmothers for quality teaching that all could follow, something like ‘don’t count your chickens. . .’ or ‘a bird in the hand. . .’ and ‘a stitch in time. . .’? It is difficult to believe I could gather all the words that might mean something to everyone, yet a friend recently told me to remember that ‘broccoli is as important as pie’, and it struck me that it approaches an idea that works beautifully when identifying the quality teaching needed in classrooms. Students who improve consistently in their classes have teachers who cook and serve the broccoli well. I could also call this ‘healthy meal planning’, what good cooks do often. The teachers are passionate about learning, for themselves as well as for their work; know their subject matter well, add to the set curriculum, and often break into new areas when the need is evident. They ‘serve’ the broccoli in a variety of ways, teaching what students need but satifying ‘tastebuds’ too. And then there is the pie. These same teachers who satisfy requirements for the healthy aspects of broccoli also manage at the same time to serve sumptuous pies in their classrooms. Here students are able to choose from a variety of tastes when teachers offer a wide array of possibilities for learning. The teachers sweeten the learning by respecting that their students will make wise choices again and again, especially when they have been taught the background experiences to make informed decisions.
Just thinking. . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Looking for the good stuff!

March 15th, #15 in the Slice of Life Challenge, And the Ides of March

I really love that commercial, I think it's for State Farm Insurance, where different 'good deeds' are done because things occur, & someone steps up to do what is needed. If possible, I know I would like to watch even more examples if State Farm decided to lengthen the ad. However, it has inspired me to do something to & from work: to look for 'good deeds' along the way. It's my belief that looking for the positive in life is helpful to the way I feel, & I try to pass on some of my observations whenever it seems appropriate, along with doing a few random acts of kindness when I see a need, too.
This also touches me in that if we were helping in Japan right now, I'm sure we would observe so many kindnesses. Some do see the media differently, but I have seem some news people actually brought to tears by the tragedy there, & the things they have observed in the debris: photo albums, toys, a teapot, etc. I hope that we can all help with some kindness to those in need, but also in our every day encounters with others.

This morning I saw:
--two cars stopped on a road near a highway, both adults clearly dressed for work, but trying very hard to catch a stray dog, to save it from what might have been a tragedy.
--one young man standing back at a bus stop, gesturing & allowing another fellow passenger to climb on the bus first.
--several cars at different intersections pausing to allow another car the right of way, when they really didn't have to.
--three different students greeted me in the hallway, making time to ask how I was, what might be happening to me on spring break; i.e., having a good conversation even in their hurry to classes.
--and finally, when I arrived at my office, a book I had asked to borrow from a student was on my desk--a note saying: "here you are, Linda. Enjoy."

After these observations, I conclude that I am going to have quite a wonderful day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday PLanning - a new poem

It's Monday, March 14th, the 14th entry of the Slice of Life Challenge and PI day!
This is the 'planning' day, the day that demands I know what I'm supposed to be doing during the week. In honor of the planning, I've written a poem to guide me. Do any of you ever think like this? It's crazy the things we do sometimes in order to stay organized.

List of things to do today:

1. Make a list of things to do today.

2. Make a list of things I have done.

3. Make a list of things I must do.

4. Make a list of things I will do.

5. Make a list of things I want to do.

6. Make a list of things I don’t want to do.

7. Make a list of things I really need to do.

8. Make a list of things I don’t need to do.

9. Make a list of future lists to make.

10. List things I have not listed.

11. List things I shouldn’t need to list.

12. Begin.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lovely Sundays

March 13, 2011 Slice of Life Thirteen

I spoke of missing a quiet Saturday yesterday by helping with practice interviews with new teachers. Today, I have a bit of a restful weekend back, and wanted to capture it in a poem. I also needed to write a poem to be ready for poetry group on Monday, so have an extra motivation for writing.







I can even tell the details of my dreams.

House ghosts cry for teddy bear pancakes

cinnamon sugar syrup,


My husband reads to me – a gallery opening,

David Brooks’ column,

the latest news for March madness.

Hums, rustles, yawns.

I warm my hands around the coffee mug and look out

at the feeder.

Squirrels scurry for corn;

finches titter and nudge for seeds.

I wish for spring.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New Teachers Inspire

March 12, 2011 The 12th day of slice of life challenge - WOW!

Instead of being lazy on a Saturday morning, sipping my coffee while reading the paper & greeting a day full of hours to spend on my own pleasurable projects, I spent this morning doing mock interviews with prospective teachers. They have finished two-thirds of an alternative licensing program in which I participate as an advisor to a teacher & the intern assigned to him or her. This morning, along with all their own obligations, most in the program also gave up their Saturday mornings to practice one of the important aspects of job-hunting, the interview. Each one spent 20 minutes with me, answering my questions, then asking their own, & discussing what I know of the expectations of an interview from a school's point of view. We then reviewed their resumes, looking for ways to be noticed within the many resumes sent to schools, looking for ways to 'grab' someone's attention.
When I read that we are losing the best & the brightest of this new generation to other careers, I stew about the coming years in schools-public or private, worry about my grandchildren's education, & mull over the state of teaching as a career itself. This morning I had some of my concerns blown away.
The new teachers I spoke to inspired me. The things they said showed me that good hands are coming to take on the difficult tasks of education. These teachers clearly are already inspired to work hard to do well for their students, & as they are interns (read 'student teachers'), the inspiration comes as a shared responsibility. Their mentor teachers are the ones who are the teachers in charge; the interns have limited power in the groups. Even so, they still demonstrated care & concern for students, for the achievements they aided & for the relationships that were being made, even if only for a little while. I was impressed by their broad knowledge & ability to articulate some of the "why's" & "how's" of teaching lessons.
By the end of the morning, I was happy to have given up the Saturday leisure. It will be a memory to hold me when I read of all the controversies that are lately occurring in education. I will know a new force of educators is on the way, who will carry on the tasks of what is important - to teach children, to foster learning, to love the job no matter what.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Earthquake Touches My Memories


I had another topic to write, but the Japan earthquake trumps all. Lately, I’m thinking about so many things in my life that might be good for a ‘slice’ of writing that the topics whirling through are those I don’t ordinarily focus on, life’s experiences that touch on events today much of the time. Hence, the news of this earthquake in Japan carried me back to an early memory of a tornado tragically striking my neighborhood, but not my house.

I grew up in a place where springtime, while often beautiful, often meant tornadoes. Also, I am old enough to remember that in my early years, there were no tornado sirens, even special TV news alerts. We watched the sky, knowing when it turned a strange greenish color and the clouds seemed to be boiling, we’d better head for the basement. At the end of one of my middle school years, I think the last week, a terrible tornado ground its way through our city. My family was one of the few in the neighborhood that had a basement. There were twelve people crowded into that southwest corner (tornadoes moved northeast), and I can still hear my father calling out, “oh, my god, here it comes”. A neighbor joined us with her children and was crying. My aunt, who lived across the street, but also had no basement, had her eyes squeezed shut so tightly. Her children, my cousins, and my brother, seemed unaffected. So was I. It seemed silly even to crowd us into such a small space. It never occurred to me that anything bad would actually happen, so typical of the untouched adolescent.

There was a large wood behind our house, about a couple of blocks away, which had a deep ravine leading down to a creek. We kids played there often. As my father shouted, ‘here it comes’ I peeked out the window, and saw the funnel, big, dark and making the noise just as people say they do, like a freight train. The funnel hit the dip of the ravine, and headed south, missing us and the block behind our house. It moved on, tearing up other people’s houses, and a little later, my school.

All the adults spent plenty of time hugging us, saying their ‘thank gods’, and ‘we are so luckys’. We went out into the outside, saw our trees stripped of leaves, lawn chairs blown across the yard. I remember that sirens had taken the place of the freight train sound. Later that day we went to look at the destruction; my mother made sandwiches, offered other help to those who were now homeless. And of course, this went on for days. People stayed with us, we gave them things, or loaned them. My father helped with the clean up.

The funnel had cut a large swath in its travels of over a mile. There was much gathering together to help, and even more complaints that there had to be better communication of danger. That is when the alerts began to be more reliable on the radio and TV: thunderstorm warning, thunderstorm watch, tornado warning, tornado watch, etc. But it really didn’t help always; the biggest problem was no shelter, no basements. The aftermath was horrendous for many. Loss of lives and homes was devastating, and we had a big path cut through the woods that lasted for years, like what happens in avalanches in the mountains. As for me, in early adolescence, I liked the excitement and the fact that the school year had ended early. Hurrah summer. I also became an even more avid watcher of adult behavior, inwardly choosing how I might want to behave when I grew up. Those thoughts I remember so well, thinking things like “I would never do that, especially in front of my children. I would be braver.” Of course, also as an adolescent, I didn’t understand the import or possibility of disaster, and the future implications.

I am in sympathy with those at this awful time in Japan. My heart goes out to them in their loss and terrible circumstances today.