Big Love

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for encouraging all of us, each of us, to write— and providing the space, the support to make it happen.

Tomorrow is April 1, 2023, no foolin’, the start of National Poetry Month. I have yet to try my hand at poetry during #SOL23—though reading it has gotten me through some rough days.

An article in The Verge , “Bring Back Personal Blogging,” gave me the raw material for this found poem.

And yesterday’s post teasers gave me this one:

Payment Due

I put my federal tax payment in the mail yesterday; I had sent my dues to the state a couple of weeks before. Yes, I know I could authorize an online transfer of funds (Boomer!), but writing the check, going through the steps from desk to USPS, makes this act mindful.

I am happy to pay what I owe. I willingly submit to this second certainty—of death and taxes, I’ll take taxes every time. I didn’t always feel this way. When we were carefully managing our two salaries to provide for ourselves and our son and tax time rolled around, I cast my lot with a tax preparation professional who worked every angle, (and earned a fee I didn’t mind paying because it was offset by the refund).

I am also aware that so many people are struggling, that my attitude arises from a privileged position, that I am lucky, and that, by most standards, even though our household is not a wealthy one, I feel rich. I am also cognizant that our situation is subject to change; AARP magazine arrives every month.

What do my taxes do—federal first:

There are many legitimate complaints lodged against government spending—not debating that here (don’t ask me about defense spending and our deplorable persistence in human conflict)—but I accept the bill, my part of paying it.

State taxes go to similar causes:

(I still recall the bumper stickers cautioning, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”)

I could wind up in the weeds here very quickly. My trust in government, despite what I see and hear, endures. I don’t know why exactly. Naiveté probably and optimism that we will inch our way to better. I teach for that; I always have. I vote for what I think that looks like, aware that others cast opposing ballots.

I vote. And I pay my taxes.

Remembering You

When I should be writing, but don’t want to, but can’t…yet, I procrastinate. Have you watched the amazing Tim Urban’s TED talk about procrastination—in fact about his procrastination in preparing his TED talk? If not, do yourself a favor, unless you don’t have time because you’ve got something else to do right now. (Oh, come on, now is the perfect time to watch a video, isn’t it?) Over sixty-six million people have…I wonder what might they have been putting off?

I awakened at 3:30 this morning with things to say, but I’m not ready to say them. I desperately want to; my heart and head are near-bursting.


I clean the kitchen floor. I learned this trick from my good friend in Miami where we taught first grade together. While we were fast cementing our friendship, her marriage was crumbling and the nights were long. Decisions loomed, to make them or not—and what exactly should they be? The mother of two young children, her nights were worry-filled. She told me she’d grab bucket, sundry scrubbers, get on her hands and knees and go to it; cleaning the floor bore results, gave satisfaction. The decisions could wait—until she was ready.

I do laundry. Why do people hate laundry? I love it! Again: results and satisfaction. Success even if a few stains remain. Tangible evidence exists that I can accomplish something despite that nagging “what I should be doing” voice. The white noise, the steady cycling, sloshing and tumbling, consoles, as it used to lull me to sleep in those must-nap-now moments of earliest motherhood.

I read. Today it is poetry (it’s usually poetry). I start with the next one from Pádraig O´Tuama’s collection, Poetry Unbound 50 Poems to Open Your World. I savor his brief anecdotal introduction, turn the page to the poem, “A Portable Paradise” by Roger Robinson, and reside in that, “little bit of home carried in sound.”In the essay that follows, I try to summon Pádraig’s lilting Irish cadence as I let his reflections carry me.

I succumb to the lure of my ever-present email, still not able to write what I must, deleting dispassionately, until I open the daily poem from with the subject line:”let the process of shedding/be joyous in its eternity.”Words to inspire a procrastinator like me. Poetry again. The email reveals this:

I am undone by a poem by Marie Howe, “What the Living Do,”and its final lines:

“But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,/ say the window of a corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep/for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:/I am living. I remember you.”

I am done procrastinating. Remembering you moves me forward.

for Michele, July 4, 1954-March 12, 2023

In the Cards

How do you feel about greeting cards? I keep my eyes open for cards whenever I am in a store that features them—even though I am all too aware of how infrequently I send them anymore.

Knowing that my good friend is celebrating her birthday on April 7th had me on high alert. I was primarily searching for an unbreakable container to house the caramels I plan to make; the discovery of an awesome array of cards was a bonus!

In a world of vibrant, saturated options, these cards grabbed my attention with their subdued color palate, the sepia tones of old photographs, the brown shades of envelopes and fonts. Then I began reading them. The first one featured a couple from maybe the fifties (hats a giveaway). The text, all in caps but an understated brown read:



I burst out laughing, and immediately picked it up. (This same friend will be getting married in September, so…)

I proceeded to read almost every card there, the slowly revolving rack revealing surprise after clever surprise. I remembered my newly-minted independent-ride-the-downtown-bus-with-my-sister adventures when she and I were in high school. We’d visit the local drugstore, and read greeting cards together—aloud—the funny ones. We would laugh so hard, unabashedly, and blissfully oblivious to anyone else who might have been around. We were in our happy place, sharing those cards.

Were they funny, or was it just part of being together on our own that made us giddy? Who can recall, but the contagion of face-and-belly busting chuckles gone wild, our sister-synergy? Yesterday’s card search took me back there, my joy doubled.

I found the perfect card, too, a satisfied smile lingering as I paid.

(The back of the card says, “Thanks to my family and friends for allowing me to share old memories.” As I said—the perfect card.)

Do You Hear What I Hear?

art from ReSound

Hearing aids. He’s going to get them. The decision has been years in the making. And with the cost of these sophisticated devices that will actually improve his quality of life, his lengthy consideration is warranted.

I am going to the appointment at the hearing center with him. I want to understand the benefits and limitations. I am curious and know so little. People who eschew hearing help cite the amplification of ambient noise in crowds, in restaurants, say that they expected more and are disappointed, the purchase was a bust.

He has had the necessary testing from his ENT and the doctor recommended this particular office, so we travel the distance, spend the time, because hearing is worth it, isn’t it? The representative inspires confidence; he is not in the business of selling high expectations that won’t be met.

My husband listens attentively as his questions are answered. No, this will probably not be useful to you when you are playing a music gig. Yes, there is fine tuning you can do. You need to commit to between three and four hours a day wearing the devices; you are retraining your brain. It may take up to six months to maximize the device’s effectiveness.Everyone’s experience is different. We work together to make them work expressly for you—that means monthly appointments.

These are personal communication enablers.

And at the heart of it, that is what he wants: to be a part of social, personal, important interactions, with our son and daughter-in-law, particularly. He does not want a miracle. He wants to be fully included.

Then the technician turns to me, handing me a piece of paper, “Communication with People with Hearing Loss,” and says, “Here’s what you need to know.” Among the list of seven strategies “most recommended to succeed in the communication process” are these three:

  • Face the hearing impaired person directly.
  • Avoid talking from another room.
  • Get the person’s attention first before speaking.

I read, then reread them. They are basic, aren’t they, to any conversation?! All seven of reiterate caveats provided when working with students and underscore why pandemic teaching with masks compounded instructional difficulty.

The second one snaps my husband to attention. He says, “I was worried that I was supposed to be hearing that!” The explanation that follows humbles me, reassures my husband, and ends with, “That’s often why people return them. They want the hearing aids to do what they aren’t meant to do.” And he looks at me (or do I just feel his stare?).

Those annoying “What”s in response to my comments from another room, my frustration? That’s on me. It’s the science of sound; it’s not about my husband’s hearing loss.

I will do better; I get the message loud and clear.

No Knife Required

Buying the Yedi bread machine was a decision not taken lightly. Anymore, as weird as this may be, I consider household purchases, from furniture to appliances, in light of whether of not my son and daughter-in-law will get some use out of them after I’m gone. (I grant my husband the right of first refusal—that’s a given.)

“The kids,” Alex and Sam, are minimalists, and I dearly love that about them. They do not want to mindlessly accumulate. They spend money on a few high-quality items: sports gear that embraces their passion for the outdoors from mountains to seas, home renovation—not with stuff, mind you, but with walls dismantled, floors replaced, and places and people—experiences rather than things.

So when Oprah’s Christmas List 2021 hit my inbox, and the Yedi was featured (on a Oprah-promo sale!), I was intrigued. I debated, weighed, researched, discussed it with my husband, let the thought rest, then purchased. It was my gift to myself with the back-of-my-mind consolation that, after my demise if the thing lived up to its reputation, Alex and Sam could easily make use of it.

To my credit, I have used the machine enough to justify its purchase in loaves of bread. And when I take it out, despite my love of Mark Bittman’s no-knead 18-hour dough and fascination with his sourdough recipes, I know we’ll have a tasty, crusty, fresh-baked option in a few hours. When the kids are here, they cavil not.

We never know what’s up ahead, plan as we may, but if I’m lucky, in about two hours, a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, warm and sweetly redolent, will emerge. I’ll be able to share it with my family. And for now, I have a Slice of Life—#SOL23—to offer my fellow bloggers!

March Madness

By Devinmlea – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Ribbons of mist thread through the hills of the Oregon Coast range in the early morning. In the highest places, snow covers the forested ground. The weather report has warned of possible snow at elevations of 1000 feet, but on this stretch of US Highway 20 from its intersection in Newport with 101, then reaching east to Corvallis and beyond, 800 feet is as high as it gets.

The rise is gentle, almost imperceptible, as we travel and the descent the same as we roll into Corvallis, the closest city. We will be retracing our journey very soon with our grand dog panting in the back. It will be midday, Oregon weather on full display.

Our journey home begins, the car cushioned in gray, few others in sight. As we climb to the top of the first hill, the cloud cover breaks apart revealing blue and white, pops of sunlight, but not for long. Up ahead the sky deepens, a sooty mass mounting, and as we pass beneath, the clouds open and release. First rain, then an assault of hail, pummeling the windshield. We slow our progress deferring to the elements, wiper blades at full-throttle. Hail abates; rain mixed with blotchy snow follows, spatters, smears.

We move forward into another blue and white sun-split umbrella arcing overhead. What a performance—every kind of weather in under 10 minutes, a meteorological marvel, a sky symphony.

A Pickle by Any Name:

A 90-Year-Old Tortoise Named Mr. Pickles Is a New Dad of Three

The radiated tortoise is the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo. He has been with his partner, Mrs. Pickles, since she arrived in 1996. The mom and hatchlings are doing fine. (from the New York Times, March 23, 2023)

photo from

If you want to feel good today, read this joyous birth announcement, and meet babies Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño resplendent in their first baby pictures. The birth of these Radiated Tortoises,(the name has nothing to do with the treatment they’ve received, but merely identifies this type of tortoise unique to Madagascar), is “an astounding feat.” That Mr. Pickles, the proud father, is 90, and Mrs. Pickles, 53—is rare enough, but as endangered species producing offspring in captivity they become an even greater marvel.

My husband shared this story with me over morning coffee yesterday probably because, since the pandemic, we have become a pickle-loving family, (and we’ve always been fans of clever writing). In that lockdown period when many turned to baking, we turned to cucumbers—well, my husband did.

He has never liked the vinegar-based pickles, but he does love those crunchy, petite Persian Baby Cukes that have sprung up in produce aisles. Like everyone, we were shopping less frequently, planning trips carefully, and wanting what we bought to last the ten-or-so days between trips.

Cucumbers are finicky, delicate vegetables, their bumpy shell belies innate fragility. When my husband found the pickle recipe, switching salt and spices for the vinegar, he decided to try it on the bags of cukes we’d bought, crispy and fresh but quickly heading for their expiration date.

A passion was born, and a devotee: ME! I knew of their benefits, the juice for hydration, but the texture, the soggy center where the seeds rested in a bed of mushiness, I had never truly loved. Not so now. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t enjoy a pickle—or two. They remain crunchy, probably because they don’t last long, and they are flavorful; without the bossy vinegar to overshadow the array of spices—mustard seed, coriander seed, dill seed, dill weed, peppercorns, salt and GARLIC—flavor sings and brings pickle power to the palate.

As the four quart jars diminish to one, cucumbers by the bagful populate the shopping list. The chopping, grinding, mortal-and-pestle machinations are soon to follow. And then after a four-day gestation, new pickles are born.

This is just to say, “Thank you, Houston Pickles, and congratulations! You are an inspiration and among friends.”

Dear Jane,

I am writing you to thank you for sending yet another perfect poem to my inbox. I wanted to let you know, as the energizer bunny of daily poetry, your well-crafted words land and stay with me throughout the days. I am so very grateful that I discovered your mailchimp missive.

I remember writing to you during March, 2019 on the heels of reading another of your poems; I wanted to excerpt a few lines to use in a blog post for that year’s Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge, but I needed to ask your permission.

In your prompt reply, you assured me it would be fine and thanked me. Today I am writing again with gratitude for your poem,”My Son on His Small Island,” and for these lines particularly:

“There the sun shines, the waves

break only themselves on the shore.”

What is it about the perfect lines that do as Emily Dickinson said,“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Your lines did that for me when I read them—do that for me as I read them now.

Your poem came on the heels of my finishing Amy Sarig King’s middle-grade novel,  Attack of the Black Rectangles, an exploration of the right to read, with you as its standard-bearing champion in its powerful climactic moment. The middle-school rebels are standing up for themselves, confronting the elimination of “offensive” language in your stunning novel, The Devil’s Arithmetic, the book their class has been reading in book clubs…with black rectangles added by the well-meaning(?) teacher.

In the scene at the public board meeting where the censorship is being hotly discussed, and it seems as if the passionate arguments of the sixth graders are being dismissed, you show up and sit in the audience. Your support is silent, but your presence means everything to these young activists campaigning for readers’ autonomy.

In her afterword, Amy Sarig King gives you, Jane Yolen, credit for your trailblazing, your steadfast example, your honest-and-true self. I am sure you communicated with her as she completed this wonderful novel; you are a hero.

And those lines:

“There the sun shines, the waves

break only themselves on the shore.”

They endure.

Sincerely, Trish


(I have been motivated by so many writers during the Challenge. Today, in the spirit of rich lists, I used flagged emails still lingering in my inbox to get me going. Thanks, Everyone.)

Your package has shipped: What I’m awaiting: college paraphernalia—my first ever college sweatshirt. I figure it’s my 50th year as an alum; I may not get another chance.

A most amazing graphic novel, Little Monarchs, by genius-on-the-page Oregon Coast writer/illustrator Jonathan Case. It is a gift for my great-nephews-in-law to be hand delivered this weekend if the USPS is timely in this first leg.

Your package has arrived: It was a big delivery day yesterday. The dog’s auto-shipment of Chewy hit the doorstep. (Have you seen the ads? They are not exaggerating…much.)

Lush bar shampoo, an extravagance? Maybe, but I have yet to find any equal for my chlorine-zapped hair, and in my rural community, options are limited.

Snyders Sourdough Pretzels, six boxes. See above. What is it with the lack of chunky pretzels in this town? I bought a case of six boxes. (They will last awhile.)

Rethinking Traditional Grading: Susan Barber’s Sunday emails usually get the flag. I am hardly ever ready to parse all the great thoughts she sparks at the time I read it. I hate to stash it in a folder, so I “Keep as New” and return often. By the time another Sunday rolls around, I’m ready to file under “Barber Gems,” and move on to her next iteration of inspiration.

“I Can Buy Myself Flowers”: Do you know Wendy Mac (MacNaughton)? I subscribe to her Grown-Ups Table (GUT) substack, found her by sheer accident during the pandemic, and encourage anyone who wants practical drawing tips—this is a dream for me, not a practice…yet to check her out. She has just opened up a FREE social emotional learning set of videos and resources for educators. Check them out here. She has done, and continues to do, engaging work for kids—and the kid in each of us!

What Compels Us: I’ve written about Pádraig Ó Tuama and his poetry podcast Poetry Unbound (if you’re hankering for a soft and sweet poetry meet…), but subscribing to his free substack to carry me through until the next season begins has added a layer of mindfulness and joy to my weekend. He, too, sits flagged in my inbox until the next wisdom arrives.

Global Read-Aloud Choices: Pernille Ripp has unveiled this year’s Global Read-Aloud options with a lovely explanation of her rationale, the responsibility she feels as its originator and coordinator, this mammoth enterprise that is a game-changer and saved me during the opening weeks of my online pandemic teaching.

I’m sure today will bring a few more flags. What’s in your inbox?