Memorial Day, 2023

I’m renewing my AARP membership—

asked to “Select Your Membership Term”


  • 5 years
  • 3 years
  • 1 year (auto renewal)
  • 1 year

Each boasts a percentage saved.

What to choose?

Five years seems flaunting fate, despite

best savings, but do the math.

Many have not reached 


One year, auto renewal 

holds promise, optimistic realism, practical

accepts uncertainty

allows  adjustment,


One year alone—no savings benefit

but will June 30th 

come again

for me?

Yesterday before school, I listened to a voicemail I’d saved, forgotten—not its substance, but my thinking… ahead—my friend Michele’s voice calling from last June 2nd, a last-minute invitation to an end-of-school year pizza get-together. Her voice, my smile, those tears…again:

“Love you lots,” how it ends.

I choose 

  • 3 years/ $30 (am I asking too much?)

Save 37%


cross my fingers,

my heart.

Look Up

“…that transcendent experiences arise from the raw material of human biology…” These words come from a review I read this morning of Alan Lightman’s latest book, The Transcendent Brain: Spirituality in the Age of Science.

“Yes,” I nod, “that’s exactly right.”

When I awoke—again—and for the last time on Saturday morning, I knew it would be a day of challenges. It was Earth Day and the “Celebration of Life” (even now I balk at those words) for my dear friend Michele about whom I’ve written often and who died on March 12th. The event capped a week of intermittent tears, anxiety, and preparation. In the days leading up to this, a small, earnest group had worked out the glitches, staged, and rehearsed, so all would go well.

I opened my email inbox and headed straight for the poetry. Usually it’s Poem-a-Day, but that day I began with Knopf. It offered “Class Picture” by Cynthia Zarin.

Cynthia Zarin, why does that name seem so familiar? As I read the poem, that thought niggled. My eyes traveled up to the poems I have affixed to the wall before me, fixed moments of wonder, of reflection. There I found her, her name handwritten at the bottom of a poem, a column of beauty in syllables, titled, “Flowers.”

When I first read that poem, Michele had received her diagnosis and time’s passing became palpable. “Flowers” begins:

“This morning I was walking upstairs/from the kitchen, carrying your/beautiful flowers, the flowers you/brought me last night, lilies…”

Michele had shared the bounty of her spell-binding garden with so many of us, those who love her. September always brought the lilies, wild, redolent, flamboyant friend-reminders:

September’s bounty

I will mark this moment as a “transcendent experience,” the raw material of my being. Cynthia Zarin is not a poet whose books I have, not one I know well, but on this morning when I truly need…something…there it is. All I had to do was lift my eyes.

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.)

Warming Words

When she tells me she’s getting married, I am not surprised. This decision has been a decade in the making. The date, the place, and what awaited determination, small stories of her journey, these emerged in our conversations throughout that five days in Anaheim—and her request that I read a poem at the ceremony.

This will be the fourth time I have been so honored, fifth if I count the time that a poem I gave to the bride-to-be at her shower was read by her maid of honor at the ceremony—”Much Like an Arch This Marriage,” by John Ciardi. Poetry marks these milestones for me.

It is a serious responsibility and perhaps that is why I am asked, that and my familiars know my love of this art form. I have written about my first time, searching for just the right words to wrap around the couple, my commitment to memorizing Robert Frost’s “Master Speed.” Thank goodness. I carried my copy of the poem but had forgotten my glasses. The bride’s father called me the next morning to thank me, stunned that I had memorized and recited for his beloved daughter.

My son asked me to read for him and my wonderful daughter-in-law at their wedding. That unleashed a different level of search. I waffled between two until I settled on ee cummings gem that begins, “love is more thicker than forget…” On their special day nestled in the towering redwoods, those words warmed my world, fit the puzzle of building a life, “mad and moonly/…sane and sunly,” together, pandemic and all, perfectly.

The third opportunity came with an invitation from a former student. She, too, has been a subject here before. When she asked, there was no wondering why. We had lived through an eighth grade language arts class together and continued our relationship beyond those 184 days—and still. (We still find a reason to recite “Nothing Gold Can Stay” occasionally.) Jane Hirschfield’s “A Blessing for a Wedding” called to me. For the obvious reason, yes, but more for its connection to the natural world and the community of all living things.

Now I had to pick another for this wedding of my dear friend and colleague—just the right words, no generic choice would do. I was down to four when Suleika Jouad and her “Isolation Journals” newsletter shared Donika Kelly’s “Love Poem,” from her book Renunciations.

“Let this be the moment of remembering.” Just the right words…

Following the Leader

I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail. (Muriel Strode)

I understand the lofty message here, but when someone (me) has the great fortune to be following a trustworthy leader, often the path is the right one. And think about the person moving to the front, decisions will arise, the path will certainly offer alternatives. Eventually whomever takes the lead must determine new directions. This is the onus, and the challenge to the person in front.

I am slated to become the new President of the Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE) on July 1, 2023. It has caused me some restive nights, but I have had more than two years following our current president. She is the leader I’d follow anywhere. It is not for nothing that this is her second term as president of an organization that was founded more than 70 years ago.

The commitment is long: two years as President-Elect (and Programs Chair), then two more as President—overseer of all. And the pandemic tipped wind from our sails. It is slow righting the boat once again. On the horizon, however, is great possibility: Our Fall Conference will feature Penny Kittle as keynote speaker (talk about leadership…).

We have two other professional organizations partnering with us, the possibilities multiply, so last night our committee met to sketch an agenda for our first full-team planning on Zoom. Our president—who will act as past president for another two years—was, as usual, filling us (me) in on how joint conferences work, filling in the notes document on her shared screen, and gently inserting suggestions.

I have a notebook and folder filled with her words of wisdom already. I was not surprised when she said, “Maybe when you’ve got the meeting date set, you can ask everyone (there are seven of us at the core) to come prepared with a theme suggestion and a rationale.” Presto! we’ll emerge with a THEME, our first essential creative collaborative success.

As a practical way to unify and galvanize the team, does the idea seem obvious to you?

It didn’t occur to me; I immediately added it to the list of things I’ve learned following the leader!

(Thanks—again—Laurie! My theme suggestion? “Building Better Together,” the rationale? What do you think?)

To the Top

(Stacey has encouraged us to visit new—and new-ish— bloggers this weekend. Yesterday I visited The Life of a Junior High Teacher whose post, “Vertical Climbing” inspired mine today. Thanks, Robin, this is one reason why I love the Two Writing Teachers Challenge !)

Retirement. Had. Come. My classroom door closed behind me, eighth grade graduation and the end-of-year celebration both lingered in the rearview. We had put our house in New Jersey on the market, and it had sold in two weeks. Oregon beckoned, the future.

But before my departure, my truest teacher friends, “the lunch bunch,” wanted to have a special party for me. Vanessa, a model of capable, get-it-done, fun-in-a-dynamo-fashion and my first-and-best asked me what I wanted to do.

“The Gravity Vault,” I replied without hesitation. She shook her head.

“Are you sure? I mean we could go into the NYC for a day (already in our collective memory bank) or Philly to, well, go anywhere you wanted.”

No…The Gravity Vault, an indoor climbing gym, had become a foothold in the rock wall of my imagination ever since a student had mentioned having gone there for the weekend. She said I’d love it.

My students knew that my local gym had a small climbing wall on a conveyor-belt-thing with adjustable foot holds. The pitch could also be adjusted. It wasn’t used by members very often, but it became my favorite. I’d turn on the music and climb to my heart’s content, until my muscles burned, without stopping. I loved it, became strong, became stronger. Spinning and climbing claimed me.

The Gravity Vault provided the perfect party site, and my friends made it happen. About a week before we were to move, the seven of us carpooled to Middletown, signed release waivers, and hooked up—for climbing!

Obviously I’m the oldest by a decade or more; I was the retiree, after all, but that day, I was the climbing-est. The kids who worked at the Vault soon realized that, despite my age, I was the one who wanted to go higher, climb longer. I was the reason we were there.

Eventually the group was sitting on the floor at the base of the steepest wall while I tackled it, even the phys ed teacher in our crew, looking up and cheering as I rose.

My friends did that for me—put me on top of the world!

Getting to Know You

I almost didn’t show. Friday night after a full day of NCTE, one inspiring workshop after another, the reality of meeting fellow slicers percolated, as I stepped out into the deepening Anaheim night. My colleague and I had discussed it as we were mapping the day.

She and I remain friends and colleagues despite the country that lies between us now. I have made the short trip from Oregon, she from New Jersey, and NCTE Anaheim is our opportunity to connect, face-to-face. There is nothing like that hug that accompanies a reunion, is there?

Since my move west, destinations and events have become the magnets for friendship. And when I tell her that I have a couple of want-to-dos on my list, she’s game. The planned “Slicer Meet-Up” is one of them. From the start, though, it is our being together again that has taken center stage.

“This is an amazingly supportive community I’ve been blogging with since March 2018. Remember the post I wrote about you during the first March Blogging Challenge?” She nods. She says she’ll go along and check it out. An email chain has let me know who might make it for drinks and possibly dinner. It all feels very casual, manageable…I only know these people through their posts after all. But I do know the power of that shared writing.

“Truly, I’m actually doing this,” I confess as we head to the designated restaurant, “because you’re here with me. If I were alone, I’d probably spend the night reviewing the day and reading. You give me courage.”She understands. I’ve told her so much about this effort to commit to public writing, to publish and work on craft.

“]ust understand, Trish, that I might bail if I feel like it.” She’s actually echoing my thoughts. Then we’re through the door, scanning the room, and finding a long table with some gift bags in the center. “That’s them,” I say and we head over.

Right away she wants to leave, and despite my urging, she does. I absolutely get it. She doesn’t know these folks, and there is community here; she feels like an outsider despite my invitation. I am tentative myself, but the warmth in the smiles and the chatter floating freely from friendly faces convince me to stay.

Melanie has arranged this get-together. Now I am meeting one of the Two Writing Teachers—for real! She invites us to introduce ourselves, tell a bit about our blogging adventure, our lives, whatever we wish. It is affirming to match faces and voices with written lives, snapshots of being.

As the time passes, many of the group leave for other commitments, but I’m hungry—and I truly like these people—so when the dinner option is laid on the table, I take it.

Five diehards remain. We move to a smaller, more secluded round table. And we share. We commiserate. We tell stories. We laugh. It is magical for me. The four people with me are my people!

Thanks, Melanie, and all the Slicers who showed up. I am so glad that I did.

Inner Journeys

Have you ever been in a book club? I hadn’t been a member until I retired and even then, I have only been a member for a year. My calendar bears titles as well as the familiar.

When I was invited to join, I debated. The reading would be no problem; I’m a reader, but I only knew a couple people in the group and book clubs are as varied as the personalities in them. I had heard stories of clubs where books took a backseat to wine-drinking and local gossip. Not my thing.

This one, however, has been running more than 20 years, with one of the founding members still going strong. It meets at 8:30 a.m. every fourth Monday, so I figured wine-drinking wouldn’t be a problem. Even though the first year was a Zoom one, and I felt somewhat disconnected from the closeness that the other 10 members shared, I hung in there. And I’m so glad I did.

Last Monday we met in person, as we have been able to do since the weather beckoned us outside and hesitation to gather abated. Despite the stormy morning, the five of us who could attend were all smiles. We discussed our last year’s final title, Cloud Cuckoo Land, yet another masterpiece by Anthony Doerr, and began our selection process for the upcoming year.

My reading sisters have been through some tough times lately. One had to step away to take care of a mom on hospice, another because of family difficulty, another because of job pressure. One of us is enduring treatment for lung cancer. One was MIA on this day because of Covid. Nonetheless, the Inner Journeys crew persists.

Our reading year begins this November, now also known as Open Water month! We set off together with this title, and a raft of others follow, all sure to take us places we have never been.

Can You Leave Butter on the Counter?

The Star-Keeper

The wonder of the internet with this tantalizing tagline strikes me this morning. AllRecipes promises an answer, and I think of my mother. My mother who passed her culinary bent to all of her six children, albeit in differing degrees of devotion.

Butter always sat on our counter—when it was being used—a stick of yellow resting on a simple saucer that was tucked away on the bottom cupboard shelf safely behind closed doors when it wasn’t. No fancy dome or  butter bell

These were the days of butter-rich recipes from the initial Joy of Cooking edition, the days when butter was the only fat worth featuring. Butter was a star! And while the article I read this morning assures me that indeed, my mother’s habit is (and was) safe, it recommends a two-week time limit.

No stick of butter ever lasted two weeks in our house. Butter was a serious staple. Softened butter spread smoothly over toast, my mother’s homemade bread right out of the over, and atop a dome of fluffy, already-buttery mashed potatoes.

When I returned to Oregon, several close friends from New Jersey followed right behind, joining me for the total solar eclipse. The Oregon Coast delivered on August 21, 2017, a sublime welcome-home and a joy for my guests. As a thank-you, they bought me a lovely butter-keeper from a shop on the bay front here.

Funny—how such a gift keeps giving, my friends and family present on my counter, whenever I lift its lid.