Slice Of Life: Counting Down

Slice of life is hosted by two writing teachers. Make time to check out other writers' posts. It's worth it.

22 school days
    till the year is over
22 school days
    till my gig as teacher librarian is done
22 school days
    till my career as an educator is finished
22 working days
    till I retire

And I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

People ask me what my plans are.
I'm not sure what to say.

Previously my plan was to help my mother die with dignity and grace, but then she decided she didn’t want to wait that long.

Now there is emptiness in my future that I can’t quite figure out how to fill. And my everyday life is already pocketed with holes.

Busyness helps.
Finishing up projects with students
Finding time to teach one last unit
Getting the library under control to pass it on
If all else fails, there's housework.

I can almost pretend that the emptiness isn't there.


It’s only in meetings when I have to slow down and listen that I realize how weary and unfocused I really am. Well, that, and I'm having trouble reading too.

Grief is much heavier and harder than I remember it to be.

And now I'm getting ready to say goodbye again.

Goodbyes are always difficult for me. These days, shadows of all the bits and pieces I'm leaving exacerbate the underlying vacancy.

It’s been a year of last times.
Earlier on relief and joy predominated since they were mostly connected to the tedium and irritation of those kinds of 'here we go again' meetings. I am happy to say goodbye to those.

But now I'm getting to the end of the good stuff.
Celebrations: book clubs, volunteer ice cream treats, completion and sharing of student work.

Work I love: ordering and unpacking boxes of new books, conversations with students of all ages about what they are reading, overseeing readers as they move from simple texts into chapter books and become hard core novel and information readers, and all those aha moments as students begin to understand and figure out keywords.

It's starting to sink in.
I'm really leaving.
It'll be hard, but I know I'm ready.
I'll get through this.

I'm looking forward.

To just be.

22 more days.

I'll probably not bother growing up.

#IMWAYR May 30, 2016

Alwyn is another one of my fabulous library monitors who I have watched grow from a kindergartener to a young adult in grade seven. I love to talk books with her since we have similar tastes in literature (except for the Twilight series). Alwyn guest posted on my blog this week writing about Where You'll find Me by Natasha Friend. 

It's Monday and time for #IMWAYR. Thanks to Jen at Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting this weekly event where kid lit aficionados share what they have been reading.

I am happy to be back.

It's been three weeks since my last post. First there was the funeral for my mother. Then last weekend I was away with women friends. Although the cabin on the ocean now has internet, I had no time to write an entire blog post about books. We were too busy talking about them and catching up on each other's lives.

Here is what I've been reading in the past 3 weeks. I'm not going to write about all of them even if they were mostly fabulous reads!


5 stars
Thunder Boy by Sherman Alexie

I loved this book more than I expected to, and I expected to love it a lot. (What can I say, I'm a Sherman Alexie fan and can hardly wait to see him at Kidsbooks in June) I only hope that librarians, teachers and others outside the aboriginal community read Debbie Reese's blog posts about this book.

5 stars
The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Heartbroken and in love all at the same time is how I feel at the end of this series. What I know for certain is these books will continue to inspire and nurture readers for generations to come. Thank You Mo Willems!

Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman & Zachariah Ohora

5 stars
There is so much in this book. Ohora's bold illustrations are both humorous and poignant. A young girl overreacts to her kite being mistakenly broken by a sleeping bear. The story follows the consequences of this and along the way teaches readers about empathy and forgiveness. I love this illustration near the end of the book that shows us just what bear reads (mostly information)

I Don't Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt Illustrations)

5 stars
In this lovely communication between a father and son, the child wants to be something other than a frog. He would rather be a cat, a pig, a rabbit, or an owl. He learns to accept who he is with the help of his father and a wolf. (Do they really not eat frogs?) If there is one good reason for not wanting to be a frog, the diet just might be it.

Pom Pom Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

3 stars
I know very few people who have not had one of those days where everything is irritating. Henn's illustrations of a young panda going through one of these are lovely. I especially appreciate how emotions are portrayed on Pom Pom and the other characters.

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig (A Hush and a Shush and A Munch and a Crunch) by Emma J. Virjan (3 stars)

These will be great for readers who are fans of Elephant and Piggie as they are humourous and are relatively simple reads.

4 stars

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde (The Princess in Black #3) by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, LeUyen Pham (Illustrations)

I liked this one better than the second in the series, but I am mostly happy how popular these books are with my readers!


3.5 stars
Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas

This book begins with a story that I think is supposed to represent a computer program, but that aspect didn't make sense at first. The second half of the book is comprised of activities that connect to the story. These introduce readers to programming language and logical thinking. They sort of work. I had a lot of trouble with the selection section on page 92 because the examples read from right to left. At least I think they do - I could be more lost than I think. Chunks of this book took me back to my first experiences with computers when we had to punch holes in cards to get the machine to do what we wanted it to.

I brought this book to school hoping to finish it (insert hysterical laughter here) and one of my library monitors picked it up. According to him, it is a really good book, so what do I know?

4 stars
Shh! Bears Sleeping by by David Martin, Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher (Illustrations)

This is written in rhyming poetry and it mostly works. The illustrations are gorgeous. There is additional information at the end of the poem. It is a great addition, but I wish it was organized better.

5 stars

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices by Lisa Charleyboy (editor)

This consists of a collection of writings by different individuals, although there are also visual works. It is a powerful book that portrays the diverse experiences of indigenous people from across North America.


Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald

4 stars
There is so much to admire about this book. The illustrations are gorgeous. Meags Fitzgerald's memoir deals with growing up in the 1990's and coming out as bisexual. She had strong loving parents who accepted and supported her. They introduced her to Dungeons and Dragons. (How cool is that!) The book references all kinds of powerful women from Queen Elizabeth 1 to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An interesting component is Fitzgerald's examination of celibacy. This book will be a good addition to our grade 7 shelf.


Frognapped and Vampire Brat (Araminta Spookie # 3 & 4) by Angie Sage & Katherine Kellgren (Narrator)
4 stars

Katherine Kellgren's narration keeps me coming back for more of this series, but it is a lot of fun to listen to the adventures of Araminta and her best friend Wanda and the mischief they get up to. I'm just not sure that readers will appreciate the humour as much as I do.
4 stars

Birdie by Tracy Lindberg
This isn't an easy read, but it is worth the investment in time and emotional energy. It was one of the Canada Reads Finalists. It is about much more than the transformation of an individual person. It's about the power we have within us and our connections with others to heal and recover from traumatic experiences. I really appreciated the author's notes at the end of the book.

5 stars

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The conclusion to the The Raven Boys quartet was a satisfying read to a series I have adored.

3 stars

The Interrupted Tale (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #4) by Maryrose Wood & Katherine Kellgren (Narrator)

This wasn't my favourite of the series, but it was still enjoyable.

4 stars

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and numerous narrators

I enjoyed listening to this retelling of Gaiman's merging of two fairy tales, imagining what would happen if Snow White and Sleeping Beauty should meet. It was a delightful surprise. I will have to find a hard copy of the book to explore the images and see what I have missed.


I'm listening to These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly narrated by Kim Bubbs. I've started Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty and am going to have to read like crazy since it will be returned from my device in two days!


I have The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Foster and I'll Be There: A Novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan out from the library so I will have to get to those.

Where You'll Find Me by Natasha Friend

Today's review is written by Alwyn in grade 7. We are both hard core Natasha Friend fans. 

Where you'll find me is an incredible book!

Natasha Friend writes books about hard topics. Where You'll find me is no exception. Because this book deals with divorce, mental illness, suicide, and  loneliness, I recommend no one under the age of ten read it.

All families have issues. Some families have more issues and 
Anna's family is one of these. It is hard for her to cope with them all. Anna is struggling ever since discovering her mother near death after an attempt at suicide. She is starting eighth grade friendless, since her best friend dropped her. As if that isn't enough, Anna has to move in with her dad and his new wife and baby. People won't tell her anything about how her mom is doing. 

But there might be hope in Anna's life with new friends and getting to understand her father's wife better. 

Slice of Life: Ode to a Yellow Succulent

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers who host Slice of Life, and the entire supportive SOL community. 

For over thirty years I have met with a group of women friends on the long weekend in May. For the last couple of decades we have been meeting at a three bedroom cabin overlooking the ocean. On Saturday we went meandering along a path circumnavigating a small peninsula that divides the ocean from a secluded bay. At the very tip we discovered sedum blooming. I fell in love. Later I returned by myself with my camera and these darlings wouldn't let go of me. I sat there perched on lichen painted rock, admiring them while this poem wrote itself.

Ode to a Yellow Succulent

Look at you,
glorious, brave and hardy,
daring to thrive at the edge of no man's land

Look at you,
staking your claim in time and space
here at the perimeter of sphagnum moss
where gatekeepers of the land,
black basalt sentinels,
rounded and potted from conflict with ancient seas,
mark time in millennium

Look at you,
standing stalwart at rigid attention
serene in the face of gale and salt spray
radiant in hues of green, pink, blue, and red
flaunting your yellow crown
proudly proclaiming,
I am here,
Look at me!

Slice of Life: Endings

The Slice of Life community, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, is a weekly event where writers, and wannabe maybe writers like myself, link up and share a bit of what they have written in the past week. I try to get to as many posts as I can because they all fill me with inspiration and awe. Do yourself a favour and take a bit of time to read some of the posts. 

Last weekend we celebrated my mother's life. There was the Catholic funeral mass in the morning, the interment of her ashes and the following reception at the church. In the evening we hosted a potluck barbeque in our backyard for about ninety family and friends. It was a day abundant with joy and love, just how Mom would have wanted it. 

With that phase of the grieving process is over, I feel a need to let go of these poems I wrote and worked on in the time before now. Today I'm releasing these last two pieces into digital space. 

the d word

I can almost say it.

There was a time
I didn't understand the use of euphemisms.

passing away
crossing over
gone to a better place
at peace
resting in heaven
visiting those who went before
shuffled off the mortal coil
joined the great poker game in the sky

Now these
transition words
carry me across the space

from before

                         to after

My mother died.
She is dead.
In this moment, 
for now at least,
I can say it.

Maybe this means I know it is real.


My mother left in the spring,

the air fresh, fragrant, and sweet
with earth's giddiness,

A bacchanalia of new life.

I swear, 
the old gods were welcoming her home.

Slice of Life: Her Name is Grief

I'm working on writing these days, partly because it is a way to deal with the stuff going on in the backdrop of my life, and partly because I just want to see if I can do it. I am so thankful to the SOL community for letting me read your work, and for your kind support of mine. I especially appreciate Two Writing Teachers for hosting this weekly event.
The beginning words for this poem scrabbled their way out of me on one of my car rides home from visiting Mom in palliative care. Grief comes and goes whenever it feels like it. My everyday life is loaded with emotional landmines. Grief sucker punches me when I least expect it, and can overwhelm me even when I do. On Saturday we had a memorial service for Mom at the assisted living home where she spent her last few years. Mother's Day brought it's own trauma. Now I'm in the midst of preparing for the Catholic funeral and internment next weekend in our home town. It feels like a fitting time to share this one, even if I'm not sure it, or I am ready.

Her Name is Grief

My mistress brings me gifts,
holds me in her arms,
murmurs into my ear,
you belong to me.

I have no claim on her.
Her infidelity is legion.
Countless others 
play the role of her concubine,
yet she is a jealous lover.

Escape is impossible
Respite merely an illusion

My duplicitous stalker  
interrupts sleep,
carries a knife.
Her caresses leave open wounds and
scrape off scabs from our earlier encounters.

A mean trade off
for a few moments of peace.