Do you reread?

My son has read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series multiple times. And I mean multiple multiple times. It’s like comfort-food reading for him. Familiar and warm. (Kind of odd to put King in the ‘comfort’ category, isn’t it?!)

Me, not so much. I have never been one to turn back to a novel after I’ve enjoyed it on the first read-through, not even my favorites. Maybe that’s because the last book I read is usually my “favorite”–until I open the next. (I seem to have pretty good radar for books–or I’m incredibly indiscriminent–so for a moment my read-of-the-week is the best book ever.)

Our shelves house hundreds upon hundreds of books because I like need to own my books and once they’re mine I can’t bear to part with them. It’s something akin to a mother’s love, I think–they become my offspring. Now it would save me a bundle of money if I did reread and I have this wild and crazy plan that when I retire, I’ll start at the top left hand shelf of the first bookcase and go right through to the end, rereading every last one of those lil’ darlings.

We’ll see how that goes.

I will confess, though, that there are two books I’ve read more than once–maybe three times or four? One is my favorite classic of all times, Jane Eyre. I read her first time around in high school when I was hungry for gothic romance. And what sixteen-year-old isn’t? Truthfully I think I have a little bit of Jane in me, so reading her comes as naturally as living–except that, no, my husband doesn’t have a crazy woman hidden in the attic. I don’t think. (I always skip the part where she lives at Marsh End, though–too much wholesome living and not enough romance for my tastes.) miss pickthorn and mr. hareBut Jane Eyre, classic that she is, seems like pretty standard rereading material.

My other reread is a lot more obscure: May Sarton’s Miss Pickthorn and Mr. Hare. A family friend gifted me the novel when I was in high school. It’s a rather odd choice for a teenage girl, I think, but I loved it then as I love it forty years later. Miss Pickthorn, retired Latin teacher, lives a solitary life in her tidy little cottage with its neat little woodpile and warm stove and letter writing in the afternoon. Mr. Trumbull Hare is a hobo who has taken up residence in the henhouse across the road–a ne’er-do-well who needs to be taken in hand. And so begins a sweet fable of friendship found and lost.

So I guess I do reread after all … I think it helps me remember who I was when.

Short and sweet: Six Word Memoirs

IMG_2413 IMG_2412 Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s shortest short story ever—For Sale: baby shoes, never worn—Six Word Memoirs were born nearly ten years ago.  Publisher Larry Smith is their papa. Since then, Smith Magazine and media from The Colbert Report to NPR to The New Yorker to O! have published the little gems. Everyone, it seems, wants to tell their story in a mere six words. Steven Colbert’s? (Well, I thought it was funny.) Writer Amy Tan’s? (Former boss: writing’s your worst skill) There’s even an app and you can find them everywhere.

IMG_2416Even on the wall in my classroom.IMG_2415

This year I decided that each week we’ll devote one entire hour to reading (“You mean we read for the whole hour?!) and one day to writing. So the first week of school, SWMs seemed like a good place to start. I gave a short explanation of the process, shared with the kids one I wrote (It wasn’t always happily ever after), and let them loose. They drafted, shared their memoirs with classmates, and then chose their favorite to post anonymously on the wall.

The memoirs cover everything from the prosaic to the sublime. The kids wrote about their family, their pain, their dreams … and they just might be my favorite student writing of all time.

Try writing yours.

Autumn gifts & graces

blazin’hot & drippin’ humid ♥ damp morning dew ♥ cool streak ♥ one yellow leaf ♥ stuffed peppers october♥ reach out sad soul ♥ prayers ♥ happy times, framed ♥ moving closer ♥ lector ♥ fall candles ♥ this list ♥ coffee & ice ♥ jeans & tennies ♥ Buddy & Trixie ♥ my heart ♥ my time ♥ a working toilet ♥

gifts & graces
Ann Vos @

clean towels ♥ Bud’s nose ♥ email talks ♥ Recovery ♥ PBS News Hour ♥ my sad little Jeep ♥ independence ♥ morning dark ♥ peek-a-boo babe behind the chair ♥ grading essays ♥ blog–caught up ♥ newsletter ♥ farmer’s market ♥ books, books, books ♥ plenty of craftiness ♥ essential oils ♥ one last turtle sundae ♥ neighborhood sidewalks ♥ church on Sunday ♥ arm party ♥ fresh-washed floors ♥ pumpkin fun ♥ butternut squash soup ♥ little yellow locust leaves ♥ tears ♥ kale & squash & cider ♥ Jane Eyre ♥ Miss Pickthorn & Mr. Hare ♥ sizzling bacon ♥ simmering chili ♥ space heater

Cheers to 80 years!

My mom turned 80 last week.

mom's bash
The gang’s all here
Team Elaine
Pedal Power

Her life’s story is hers to tell, but trust me when I say it hasn’t been all sweet tea and cupcakes. Growing up in miserable poverty in Cleveland, she scraped and saved and fought for the life she has now–one, I’m guessing, she never thought she’d realize. Especially since halfway through her life she found herself needing to start all over again after a devastating loss. Mom is generous to a fault and has never stopped giving, even when she had nothing to give. She is the proverbial church lady (and I mean that in a good way) and her faith touches everything she does.

Mom and friend Sue outside our bar stop. Every 80-year-old loves a good wall o' skulls, right?!
Mom and friend Sue outside our bar stop. Every 80-year-old loves a good wall o’ skulls, right?!

So my brother and I decided to celebrate the big 8-0 in style. We got all of the grands and signficant others together for a pedal around town on the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser. No, we didn’t bar hop–took the “easy route” (a bit of a euphemism for those of us over fifty!) that stopped only once for a libation and then another stop for shopping at our city’s beautiful Downtown Market.

Mom was decked out in style from her birthday tiara to her sash and beads. Perched on the back no-pedal bench, this Queen for the Day perfected her Miss America wave as cars honked and waved back. Music blasting over the sound system, we sang along. You are my sunshine. Roll out the barrel. Sweet Caroline.

Team Elainemom's bash2At our first bar stop, Mom played the arcade video game Street Fighter with her oldest grandson and apparently disemboweled his character. She played pool with the boys and my niece–and made a pretty sweet shot or two. The two little great-grands joined us for dinner at a restaurant we love. She laughed, smiled, beamed, and got hugs from total strangers.

I often think about what’s ahead for me as I age, especially when, after I turned 50, I realized my time here is over halfway spent. I worry and fret about money, mistakes I’ve made, dreams that are dashed. On each of my birthdays now, Mom tells me I’m “catching up”.

I should be so lucky.

What teachers do in August


We’re at T-minus 40 hours and counting–and then the rocket ride that is the school year begins. The last few weeks before school is especially intense (I get scatterbrained and distracted and sometimes find myself staring at Pinterest for a lost hour–or two), so I just might be a tad off on my Monday/Thursday blog schedule. If you wonder what your kid’s teacher did in last weeks of summer, read on.

Before I can get to lesson plans and makin’ copies, I need to unpack my room which involves putting away my supply order, weeding out files, organizing my cupboards, putting up new bulletin boards and all manner of fussy housekeeping tasks. (I also washed my desks and white boards because the custodial firm we contracted doesn’t pass my muster.) All that is under control and now I’m tackling lesson plans and long-term planning. I like to start with an outline, at least, for the first month of school. More detailed plans I do weekly, so I can incorporate new strategies and activities, coordinating it all with my teaching partner. I’m set for the first week, at least: copies made, desks arranged, class lists printed.

I’m starting to revise and re-formate most of my yearbook materials so the kids will have a sort of textbook. Schools (even fairly stable ones like mine) –don’t can’t buy new materials very often. (My literature books are over 30 years old and our social studies teachers don’t even have a textbook. At over a hundred bucks a pop, we often try to make do without because money needs to be stretched as far as possible.) That will be a pretty big task, but I’m starting on it today and, hopefully, it will be done this week sometime. In the past I’ve made do with assorted handouts and notes for teaching yearbook style, but the kids need materials to reference for the entire year that are all in one place.

My house is pretty much in order. I’ve cleaned, straightened, frozen some quick meals, and I’ve got a couple boxes ready for Goodwill pick up next week. In four days it will be a disaster, I’m sure, because the first week I come home from school and I’m imobilized by exhaustion. My hubby is taking over grocery shopping this year, so I’ll have that off my plate. Wish me luck–it’s incredibly difficult to give up control of something I’ve done for forty years of my adult life–but I welcome the help. My plan is to make the shopping list together, so that should alleviate at least some of my panic.

All this might make it seem as though a teacher is something of a control freak who is consumed with a bunch of nitpicky tasks. (Just look at the classroom re-dos on Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean!) But there’s a reason for that. We need to take care of whatever little bits we have in our control–like new trim for bulletin boards and storage bins for markers and cute labels for folders–because there is so very much that isn’t. Like did he only eat potato chips yesterday? Or could she resist cutting last night? Or was Mom out partying over the weekend and didn’t come home? Or did he miss transportation from the homeless shelter? Or did she miss her period?

Kids’ lives are tough sometimes and we don’t cut them a lot of slack. We call them lazy or disrespectful or irresponsible, not hungry or depressed or tired.

So I have new posters laminated and new sharpies–always sharpies!–at the ready, trying to steady my heart and mind–so that hopefully the 55 minutes in my classroom is a time of order and calm, and, yes, maybe even something of a refuge, for at least a few of my kids.

I don’t always do it perfectly, but I try. And along the way, you can be sure we’ll get a whole lot of learning done, too.