Sunday, April 16, 2017


Wisconsin has evolved from white to grey to muddy brown and at last it turned green and yellow all around--daffodils, forsythia, grass and spikes of tulip bulbs shoot forth. Ducks, geese, robins and cranes are chirping and whooping it up from the tree branches and the wetlands. I lay on the lawn after wrestling out the wasted peony stalks from last season and watched the clouds drift by. A hawk sailed past. Then a bald eagle slowly circled overhead. A huge toad jumped past my feet when I opened the gate to the vegetable garden. I moved out of its way and admired the clump of rhubarb coming back to life. I scowled at the mess in the asparagus bed and decided to save that chore for another day.
obligatory show-off shot of one healthy clump of daffodils.

The countdown for the seniors in Room 212 has begun. The weeks that remain will be regularly interrupted with Advanced Placement testing, the class trip to Great America, the local fire chief's annual safety talk and various concerts and sporting events. How this year sped past--the class of 2017 is one of my favorites to date and of course time flies when it's a good year. My "spring break" (the quotes indicate that it's a couple days off, not a full week as most folks enjoy) gave me the opportunity to catch up with all the grading (a temporary state) and track down black thread for the Vietnam simulation activity coming up in two weeks. English 12 exits the stage after a unit of war literature, which everyone enjoys and one boy told me, "Fallen Angels is a great book. I just wish you'd teach it earlier in the year when we're all more into it."  I agree, but what to replace a high-interest unit with when Senioritis kicks in? Shakespeare? Research writing? So we end on the sobering note of wars fought and lives destroyed, but in these times history lessons should guide us as our misguided and ignorant leaders rattle their sabres and point proudly to their weapons caches. Bear this unit in mind next election, the one where you all can finally vote.

And the AP kids kick and squeal about Walden, but gradually come to comprehend the lessons it offers them before they take the leap to college life. Carpe diem! Simplify! Live deliberately and swim upstream if you must! Follow your own path! Go to the woods!  My one regret with them this year is that I didn't make copies of their first writing assignment so they could see how much they've improved. Next year.

Speaking of improvements, we had a brand new toilet installed upstairs. That wasn't on my wish list (neither was a new starter for the truck the previous week), but last weekend I noticed a discolored circle on the kitchen ceiling. By Monday morning we had a small puddle of water on the kitchen floor, dripping coming from the upstairs bathroom. The hero of the week, our plumber Andy, had the whole problem diagnosed and treated by the time I made it home from work. When I count the reasons I feel grateful, I am always listing "I have a guy for ..."  Plus the new toilet is sparkling white and not encrusted with a decade's worth of missed shots. You also need to know, dear reader, that I sprinted upstairs after school that day and beat Mr. G to be the first person to use it. I almost never use that upstairs bathroom--it's boy territory, fraught with issues. 

New toilet, new blooms, new energy. And a new book and author festival that yours truly is participating in at the end of the month. I gave a reading yesterday at a kickoff event (okay, reading is a generous word--I really blushed and stammered my way through chapter two of Across the River) and will teach a craft workshop on injecting humor into writing. I'm also cajoling and wheedling some of my Write Club kids to get on the stage and share their work to a broader audience that weekend. Can you believe Margaret Atwood will be there? And Wendy McClure! And Michael Perry, Sherman Alexie and A.S. King (who is my new favorite author)! If you're in the area, you have to check out UntitledTown.

Two nights ago I drove through town to drop off my son at his buddy's house. I glanced as one does through the windows of someone's lit-up house and saw a man and a woman move suddenly toward one another in an intimate way that suggested kissing or attacking would happen next. On my way back home I craned my neck to see inside that house--my curiosity had spiked--and there they were--waltzing!  The couple's clasped hands were raised to shoulder height and they moved back and forth in this terrific circle, I could practically hear Brahms, their bodies were so rhythmically dancing. Just when I think there are no surprises left in this place.  It was such a small moment to observe, but the idea that in this small town where nothing new ever happens something new and unusual was happening made my heart beat with more optimism than it has in months.

And then the daffodils bloomed a day later.


  1. I had just been thinking that it's been so a since I have seen a post from you -- trying to remind myself to check and see what I've missed -- and then I saw this on FB, and reading you and about your class and toilets and daffodils and waltzing is the best possible thing I could do before turning off the light tonight.

  2. I love peeping in windows as I walk or drive past - what a good story you found.

  3. New toilet! How exciting!
    I have a friend that I walk with occasionally - we prefer going in the evenings as dusk falls, through the neighborhood of big houses near ours, just so we can take little peeks in the windows.
    Isn't spring glorious?

  4. I hope so much that you put that waltzing scene in one of your books.

    That class trip - I have been waiting for America to be Great again. I'm glad the class has found Great America.

    Okay, what the heck is Great America?

    1. Six Flags Great America--a theme park with mostly roller coasters just north of Chicago

  5. I agree with Carolyn -- I hope you put that waltzing scene into your next book! Would you believe your daffodils are up before mine? We've had a rain-soaked spring after a long, cold winter but the rhubarb is coming back, the green tight heads of tulips show great promise, and two shoots of asparagus are up!
    Boys and toilets... so glad you got the first use!

  6. Oh! You are lovely and amazing. And I agree with the chorus here - that waltzing scene needs to be in your next book!

  7. I love getting new toilets! Seriously! My husband has been wanting a big toilet (yes, there are two sizes) so when something broke inside the old one I suggested he use this opportunity to upgrade. He is really happy. Me, now my feet dangle. But luckily there are other small toilets in the house.

    Love the waltzing!

  8. Aww!!!! I love that! Seeing the couple dancing would have lifted my spirits too. And then flowers the next day. Lovely.

  9. I love those random peeks into others' lives.

    Sometimes I'm tempted to replace our perfectly functioning toilets just to get rid of all the ick that collects on them, despite scrubbing.

  10. I'm so jealous of your plumber. One of my friends has an awesome plumber and I keep wanting him to come work on our upstairs toilet but he says we are too far for him. We're only thirty minutes. :-(


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