Attention span issues

I blame curiosity for my attention deficit disorder. The thirst of knowledge causes abrupt distractions.
Just a few minutes ago I was reading an article, the name of which escapes me, but the first sentence threw me a curve ball.
Actually, it wasn’t an article but a novel by Ron Base. Haven’t heard of him? Neither had I. There is a dog drawn on the cover of this e-book that some how landed in my collection of free books.
And it wasn’t the first sentence but one of the first few paragraphs.
In the story, a Canadian museum was broken in and they described the building as:
“…two-story 1912 Beaux-Arts building.”
There are so many real estate agents in my family, I think that there must be a gene. Most readers would probably make a slight note or perhaps not even notice. Not me.  I have to know what Beaux-Arts is. My two years of junior high French support my knowledge that Beaux is a French word. But what kind of beautiful house is this and is the year 1912 vital? Does the style happen in 1922, the year of my parents’ birth?
Of course I looked at Wikipedia:
Beaux-Arts architecture (; French: [bozaʁ]) expresses the academic neoclassical architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.”
I  am the master of tangents and also realize that one rabbit hole leads to many more.  So, if not finishing the first page of the book I am reading for the second or third time,  a book whose title just abandoned me as I ponder words like Beaux and neoclassical, isn’t a big deal than I say dig on. If, and I am leaning in this direction, finishing Mr. Ron Bases book is my main goal, plowing ahead is my philosophy. Does anyone have any horse-blinders I can borrow?

Filtering thoughts

social-media-faux-pas-online-mistakes-respondingI work hard to filter thoughts, preventing as many foot-in-mouth moments as possible, but they do slip out. I know from previous experiences that if I am tired or sick my internal editor isn’t always on the job.

c63ced88d784dd7236f7554a0bc6d92fJust recently I asked a young woman when her baby was due. She had been pregnant in the past. Three years ago. I believe I’ve only made this mistake once before. I was so confident and was merely making conversation. Not my strong suit.

At least in writing, I have a chance to review and edit. There have been more times than not that I have sworn off talking to people, which is a sure-fire verbal faux pas prevention philosophy. Unfortunately, I really like talking to people.

Last year while working as a long-term sub I met Sawyer, a first or second grader. Most of the time he looked as if he had just crawled out of bed. Disheveled hair. At times, brilliant conversations caused me to think he was older than he really was. If the school had a Talented and Gifted program, he’d be signed up right away. On the other hand, some conversations would affirm his Individual Education Plan and confirm his Spectrum Status, though I often think we are all on that spectrum.

Sawyer reminds me of me. Don’t you love that when that happens? It’s like having a mirror; in this case, looking at Sawyer was like looking at me in the past. The past when I blurted out things I wasn’t supposed to say. For example, there was a Christmas when my Aunt sent me once again, a Danskin shirt. I don’t remember if that’s the name, but I don’t care that much to spend the time looking it up. This was the standard gift from her; maybe it was her attempt to feminize me. Maybe if I merely tucked my shirts in, I could have prevented this constant gift. But a polyester shirt that buttons at the crotch was probably the worst gift ever put in my hands, and the last one one was so unbearable that I uttered the words, “I don’t want this” or something like that. I was too young and immature to take in the embarrassment, but old enough to remember.

I haven’t seen Sawyer in a year, so I don’t know if he tells people that he hates them and wants them to die. In his mind, there is nothing wrong in speaking his mind. To him, stating that his favorite color is brown is a parallel thought.

My lesson plans changed depending on where on the spectrum Sawyer was residing. There were some days that I would put away the hockey sticks and the dodge balls, opting for free choice days, preventing Sawyer from inflicting harm upon another student.

The best day I had with Sawyer was one of those free choice days. Ten-ring circus and then some. Sometimes Sawyer would ask me to play a game with him or sometimes he would agree when asked. We were playing catch, though I think in his mind he was doing his best to hit me with a ball rather than throw it so I could catch it. I had been searching for topics that he would be willing to discuss in a friendly and amicable manner. Cats. Oh, the love of his cat just radiated off his entire body. I had never seen Sawyer smile like a Cheshire cat. Everything he said about his cat was positive and upbeat; no, he didn’t care that I had four cats of my own, but not caring about me wasn’t an issue. Just the notion that he cared about something was a huge breaks through.

I may never see Sawyer again, but I will always remember him. I will always think of him when I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I will hope that as he grows up, he’ll surround himself with cats and other things that he loves and gets distracted from the hate and the dislike.

I hope that since I have learned how to edit my thoughts that at some point Sawyer will learn to keep his mind in check and that the people around him can keep on polishing his brilliant intelligence and enhance the gift he’s been given.


Problem Solving

I was working with a small reading group of first or second graders the other day and we were reading a picture book of a boy and a salmon. He had been wanting to catch a salmon, but for all the hours he spent trying, he never caught a salmon.

And then, as things just happen to help the plot, a bald eagle dropped a salmon. Slipped out of its talons and just happened to land in the boy’s hole where he was digging for clams,  which had a little bit of water, but not much.

While I  read the story, I  asked my small group whether they had gone clamming before. One  student was able to describe his experience in vidid detail. I talked about my experience clamming on the East Coast and the difference between Razor clams and the one’s I dug for. Most of the kids didn’t have a clue what we were talking about and couldn’t imagine. Some had never been to the coast and had never seen the ocean.

Well, the boy realized that the fish was in trouble, and even though he had intended on catching a salmon and eating it, watching the salmon start to drown without water was unbearable. He had a shovel, but the ocean was quite a bit a way.

I like to ask kids to problem solve while reading. What would you do, I asked these first or second graders what they would do to get the salmon into the ocean. A few said to just pick it up and carry it to the ocean. I tried to explain the difficulty of picking up a large thrashing fish that has a whip of a tail. To top it all off, the salmon is  in some water, so is still slippery. The kids in my small reading group couldn’t imagine this. Most, perhaps all, had never touched a fish or tried to carry a live one. Even little trout are slippery as heck; might as well be trying to grab a bar of wet soap. Most, if not all, of these kids probably have never seen a bar of soap now that disinfecting soap comes in squirts from a bottle. Greased pig metaphor did little to help create understanding.

Anyway, in the book the boy, the boy digs a channel from his clamming hole to the ocean and  water is starting to come in to help the salmon swim back to the ocean. And then one of the students must have been reading my mind because he said, “why not take the shovel and dig the fish up into the shovel and run to the ocean?” I thought this kiddo was brilliant.

Earlier in the school year, I was working with fourth or fifth graders; they were working on a crossword puzzle, though it was more like one person would get the answer and give it to the rest in the group, which is not my definition of helping. There was one answer that was just throwing them a curveball. None of them could figure it out. The kids were expecting that the answer be identical to the text, but the text mentioned the word gas, but the crossword puzzle was looking for the word gasoline; the kids couldn’t figure out that gas and gasoline is the same thing.

How do we teach better problem solving abilities?


Reading is one of those activities that I can’t imagine life without. Last month or so when I scratched the cornea of my left eye, my only functioning eye, I was reminded of this precious gift.

For a day, I couldn’t see; I was legally blind. I tried to listen to an book audio. I love being read to and I love reading aloud, but my mind wanders when I listen to a book.

Maybe it’s because it’s harder to go back. When I read, I go back a lot, especially when I’m working with text that is above my comprehension. Many things from The New Yorker are in that stratosphere. I can read a paragraph and even though I know every word, after reading the paragraph I have no new ideas. I couldn’t describe what I had just read.

I don’t remember when I first learned to read, but it was a mystery that I had to figure out. When Curious George fell into my hands, I was compelled to learn cursive writing. I was one of the first in my class to earn the privilege of writing in ink, though also the first to loose it and forced to use those stupid fat red pencils that my little hands struggled to hold onto. My handwriting is either really, really messy that no one can read it, or it’s beautiful, all depending on my mood.

I love to read. Getting my reading endorsement for my Oregon License for all grades, K-12 was an easy thing for me to attain. An excuse to read was welcomed after spending the last five years struggling at the Willamette Leadership Academy. I worked hard and my final award was to be fired, but in reality the reward was being able to return back to Pacific University to learn how to teach reading or at least get that first layer of understanding on how to do teach reading. There’s so much that I don’t understand about reading.

Even though I absolutely adore reading. Curling up around a book, such as Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes, was a treasured experience. I gave myself two days to finish the book. It was as if I were wearing horse blinders. When I wasn’t teaching, I was reading.

It’s not often that I allow myself to focus on just one thing. Usually I am going in too many directions to really delve into one thing. It takes me a long time to finish a book since I tend to be reading a lot of books at the same time or the newspaper or Newt mind  Yorker or Sports news. I spend a lot of time reading Facebook.

The New Yorker article that I’m reading, “Names in the Ivy League” by Joshua Rothman quickly reminded me how hard I have to work with some things I read. It’s not rare that after reading a paragraph or two I realize that nothing that I have read has stuck with me. Instead of little fuzzy balls of ideas getting stuck on velcro, my ideas are more like raw eggs getting thrown at a cold cement wall. Eventually the egg and the yolk will slide off.

I’ve always struggled with having a sieve of brain. Memory from day one has not been my strong suite. Keen hand-eye coordination, as well as having a healthy appetite, have been my strong suits. But even my muscle memory skills only come from the ability to work hard at something.

I don’t mind having to work at reading. The first time I read something, like that yolk against the hard wall, I hope that I can re-read with the hopes of extrapolating something that I can pin to a concept that I understand, to create a scaffolding to build my knowledge base. A place to hang my hat so to speak.

“The Foro Italico is a large sports complex in Rome that was built between 1928 and 1938 at the behest of Benito Mussolini. Originally, it was called the Foro Mussolini, and, at its entrance, a towering obelisk bears the inscription “MUSSOLINI DUX.” Nearby, a stone timeline commemorates great moments in Fascist history. Statues of nude, muscled male athletes line the track; the central piazza features a vast mosaic celebrating various Fascist triumphs, including Italy’s 1936 invasion of Ethiopia.”

I have heard of Mussolini and Facism, but I don’t know much about this time in history. My scaffolding is weak and needs to be shored up. I can’t help to think about teaching and wonder how much we teach that has no place in the brain to latch onto.

yesterday I was working with the cutest little first graders at one of my favorite Springfield elementary schools. We were reviewing sight words. One of the words was shall. I asked them what this word meant, and not a soul could tell me what the word meant.

I get so frustrated with myself when I can read something, and Ii understand every word written. In the above example, even the word behest doesn’t really throw up a road block to comprehension, but when I can’t  turn around and write in my own words what I just read, the invisible roadblock is there. What do I have to do to get over, under, around, that intrusive element between the text and my brain.

One of the biggest challenge as a teacher is to convince kids to re-read and to read slowly for understanding. Tasks are to be started and to be finished to move on to the next thing. Retrieving understanding and knowledge is not the goal for most people.

Most curriculum comes out in nice little chunks of stand-alone lessons. Kids all around the United States have been learning about Thanksgiving, but they don’t learn the entire truths. I would be hard pressed to find a student who realizes that half of the Pilgrim population died in that first winter before the infamous feast of natives and colonists. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mayflower was haunted due to the massive deaths that took aboard the ship.

The biggest gap is that we don’t teach how things relate to another. Christmas and winter subjects will be taught, but again in cute little cookie-cutter islands of their own.

Time to return to the article. It will probably take me all day to get through the article if I want to process it in such a way that I walk away with some understanding. Understanding of what is the mystery.

Wilms Kidney Cancer

Every so often I run into the wall called Reality.

In 1988 I was diagnosed with Wilm’s Kidney Cancer. Sacred Heart Medical Center had never seen an adult with this kind of cancer. I’m lousy with numbers, but I’ve got this vague recollection that there had been only 500 cases of adults with Wilm’s Kidney Cancer. Of course, the number changes  to correlate my need to be extra special.

During my fifteen months and seven weeks of radiation, I heard over and over how rare I was.

I wasn’t feeling very special as I lost pounds and red blood cells or was that white? I had to get sicker to get better.

I was twenty-eight years-old and that was almost twenty-eight years  ago. Time has a way of whitewashing reality. Health has a way of covering over the memories of praying to porcelain or being so weak that picking a weed was an enormous accomplishment.

About six months ago, I was at an infusion center getting a shot for my osteoporosis. Cancer causes curiosity. People want to know what kind of cancer and are somewhat relieved that it didn’t involve sexual organs. People don’t whisper when they say Kidney.

Turns out one of the doctor’s at the infusion center was dealing with Wilm’s Kidney Cancer. I survived a cancer that is generally considered treatable, but the doctor’s son was a good reminder that eighty percent is not a hundred.

In an interaction that lasted less than fifteen minutes, reality slapped me across the face. The could’s haves and might have’s reverberates to my core and I acknowledge that I’m one of the lucky ones.

Wilm’s Kidney Cancer doesn’t make the news. There are no special races devoted to the Adrenal gland. But today the ripple effect has occurred again as I read about the Patriot’s left tackle, Nate Solder’s story of his infant son Hudson. Currently four-month-old Hudson Solder is undergoing chemotherapy for his Wilm’s Cancer at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

My prayers go out to the Solder family and anyone currently dealing with cancer of any kind and I pray that I never take life too seriously and for granted.


A Day In the

Life of a woman. More like some moments. Brief moments.

I was trying to write emails, but Abby The Labby Number Nine was very close at hand. A whisker from my left elbow. She hadn’t been there long. I looked into her chocolate eyes. Please was all that she had to say.

Yesterday’s non walking day wasn’t about to happen again, and least not in the near future. Who knows it might have been too cold for the dogs and that’s how I got away with it. Dog on lap while watching the rest of a movie would work for Veteran’s day was how I really got away with it.

I made the extra trips up and down stairs to find my large Canon camera. I tend to think highly of my observation skills, which is probably why I adore taking pictures.

I tend to let the dogs choose which direction we walk. Upon asking, their answers were obvious. Typically, I am a creature of habits and most of the walks around the property have a script thatwhich way111215 I don’t always pay mind to. Today wasn’t one of those days, but I remember thinking that with all of the changes between Summer and Fall, every day walking the same path always provides me with new pictures. New colors. I celebrate the color green; lack of rain and snow from last year made it seem as I would be surrounded in browns for the rest of my life.

Abby111215It wasn’t that long for Abby to give me a look that said let’s get the show on the road. You did mention walk, right? You didn’t say car? The dogs aren’t always very patient when I want to stare at something and waste time, which is what photography is to dogs. What, another mushroom? You’ve got to be kidding. This is the way my dogs treat me.

I shouldn’t complain. They do allow me to stay in bed way past their breakfast time, and they did give me yesterday off from walking. The day before I was so cold, I actually broke out the long johns. Tops and bottoms. Good thing I hadn’t gotten rid of any, though this would be the time to do such a good deed.

When it comes to colors, I tend to not like red and green together. But the colors really contrast each other.November122015 Anybody know of a good use for Hawthorn Berries? I have to watch Ricky closely while going through this area. He barely gave the wild plums much attention, unlike the girls, but he’s taken to these bright red haws. They are listed on edible berries, but I think I’ll stay paranoid..mushroom111215

And then I almost stepped on my first toadstool gathering. If I were ever to create a toad character, he or she would have to sit on a mushroom. Maybe by then I’ll know some fungi names. Or maybe not.

fern111215Speaking of Green, I have been pleased to see the Ferns making their way back from the summer. The summer was hard for them, but they seem to be taking it in stride.

clouds111215One of the things I most admire about my camera is that it reminds me to look up once in a while. Actually, it was probably the cry of a Kestrel that got my attention. I didn’t think I was going to be able to spot the bird.

There are some days where Lucy no longer joins us for a stroll or she’ll take a short cut and meet toward the end of the walk, but today she had taken the lead. I try to not think about it, but I wonder how many Falls does Lucy have left in her loveliness?Lucy111215

Split persona

While reflecting on yesterday’s bowling tournament, I’m just realizing what a wide range of bowling personalities I have. Split personalities. No, the pun wasn’t on purpose at first. A tad bit on the dorky side, but that’s just one of the persona I carry.

This is the fourth year for my Friday night social bowler who doesn’t really try or worry about the score or the victory, though I do like to win in the poker game on the side, and since I have to get marks to get a card, that turns up the heat on performance.

The just bowl for the sake of bowling and have fun is a foreign concept to me, so it’s taken all four years to get there. Sometimes when I bowl, I’m not really there. I take my turn, but in between turns I’m reading or writing or doing something other than pay attention to bowling.

It wasn’t that long ago that I spent my life bowling. My life changed according to my bowling schedule. As I bowler, I studied the pins I left and the adjustments. Sometimes two different balls for the pair of lanes and sometimes a drastically different place to put the ball; the path to the pocket. Without writing all of this down, I wouldn’t remember.

The thing that I have enjoyed about bowling is that it provides a place of balance between the mental game and the physical game. Thinking is the last thing I want to do when I am bowling. I want to trust my body to know exactly how to do something. If I have a glimpse of a thought while converting a ten pin, I will miss it with no doubt in my mind. I knew before I even let go of the ball.

When I am not bowling, that’s when I really put my head down and study. i look at what other bowlers are doing on lanes that I’ll soon be on to give me an idea as to what kind of bowling ball to try. A lot of studying the sciences of bowling. The math.

I’ve always understood the concept of mass and gravity. I know that the impact of a fifteen pound ball will be much harder than a thirteen pounder. I’ve been t dying to convince myself to let go of a couple of pounds. The fifteen pounds represent a lot of work as I convinced Ray Anderson that I could throw something heavier than twelve pounds. A lot of work.

I’ve always had a tenacious persona that comes out when I have a glimpse of an idea that I could be good at something. My resistance to failure boosted my stature to cover up for my short status. I played the angles when thought was necessary. I took the physical route if need be.

Saturday night while riding a school bus shuttle back to my car, i flashed back to have constant skinned knees and various skin abrasions from diving along the ground. Some grounds are more forgiving. Mud was probably my most favorite field condition. I think my main reason to play goalie was to have permission to get dirty. Being really dirty was almost as good as winning, though being dirty and having lost isn’t a place of happy memories, especially those close matches between rivals.

Because I have such an array of bowling personalities, I never really know which one is going to trump, though I’ve not seen the tenacious and confident bowler in quite a while. Even without that higher average bowler, my team went on a record of cashing in the last five tournaments. Statistics were not in our favor.

I don’t pay attention enough to know why I’m not the only one to struggle at Firs Bowl; it used to be the easiest place to bowl. Three hundreds weren’t uncommon. Hell, if I could have two of them, that does demonstrate the level of easiness.

I’m only slightly slamming myself. I have never been a natural bowler. I was horrible when I first began, though without any experience, I shouldn’t have had a bench mark from which to gauge good or bad.

It wasn’t long before the teeth of the tenacious competitor set to work and bit down hard. Give me a sport where I can working as hard as I want and not have to depend on other people to push me, and I’m bound to succeed.The tenancies part has the grip of a crocodile. I think that’s the one that has a hard time opening it’s jaws once clamped down on something.

Yesterday I had moments of that veracity. After the first game, I really didn’t think it was going to be possible. I just drew a frowny face in the place of a high score would be written down.

After the horrendous first game and my team coming away with zero points, I retreated to my car and hauled out some different equipment. I’d like to think that when I put a ball that’s not working away, it hears me scolding it and favoring a different one.

In the good old days I would compare my pin leaves to the layout of a ball to give me a guess as to what it might do on the lanes. Yesterday as I randomly grabbed a bag of different bowling balls, I never looked at the pin placement. Color. Memories. The way it fit on my thumb was the criteria of choice. I haven’t used such and such a ball in a long time is my favorite use justification.

After the horrendous first game, I employed that philosophy on picking out a red Hammer Wheel. It my have been years. And we did well together for a few games. Now granted that there were only four women in the high game pot, I did win three out of four for the high game. It took me all three games to get my money back from putting into the puddle of a pool.

I no longer study the game, which just makes me work that much harder when the competitive side of me kicked in. I was trying all sorts of things as we collectively struggled against the lanes. In one game I had three of these little splits. I don’t think it was the two and the three, though four and five standing doesn’t seem to be the right angle. I’ve got the pins burned into my memory since this is a leave I hardly ever leave. I picked it up the first time. I guess right as to to what ball speed and at what direction I had to use as the ball slips in-between the pins. Overall, I think I left that pair six times and managed to convert it to a spare twice.

When I shift into my get down and dirty persona, I’m focusing on having a balance and deep knee bend as that’s where all of my power is. Having a strong follow through helps. When I miss my target with the focus of having ball speed, there is no room to miss, though I did have more lucky breaks than the many around me. It was rather comical.

Being able to bowl on hard conditions is all tied around that bowling persona. I’m the only one that knows that I’m trying all sorts of different things. Changing bowling balls is noticeable, but where I’m standing, where my target is, and what ball velocity are the main things I change, but sometimes just a curl of my little finger or the angle of my wrist will change things up.

Unfortunately bowling personas don’t change just one game at a time. Sometimes the persona that can’t hit the broad side of a barn steps in for a frame or two. There was one game that I missed three easy spares in a row; instead of having a turkey with three strikes, I had a buzzard with three opens. And then the lucky breaks started to happen. I must have turned the ball at just the exact required angle to get the appropriate spin and curve.

If you are a non bowler, I’d just skip all of that stuff, the technical stuff that’s laced with bowling lingo. I’d rather have you skip over it rather than my having to go back and edit it out.

I am glad that my higher average bowling persona showed up as often as she could yesterday; it was a nice change.Unfortunately, now I’m paying the piper. Digging in with deeper knee bends and stronger follow throughs tax my body, especially my back. It wasn’t happy with me before the tournament even started, but  my War Horse persona stepped in. My teammates were struggling. It happens. Bad bowling is like being in quicksand. The more you twist and fight, the quicker the slip.

I knew that before Sunday ended, I was weighing heavily on taking Monday off. More days of being engulfed in the flames of work and commitments had consumed my time and the fires burned hot and quickly.

The key to balancing the hot fires and the cool down periods is keeping the embers warm enough to ignite if need be, but not too warm to burn. Today’s my day of slowly breathing on the embers. If I am lucky I might get a couple of these days in a  row and by the time I work again, the fire will be stoked and ready to burn for a while.

This Weekend Was Not

one of Rest and Relaxation. There wasn’t much R & R time to recharge my battery. If the opportunity presents itself, I just may take tomorrow off from subbing. Earlier this evening, I bowed out gracefully from accepting a guest-teaching assignment for a high school German class. I may have taken up to ten seconds to make that decision.

Four schools and four elementary grades in five days. Even during lunch, I felt as if the accelerator was maxed out every second I worked with the kids.

Sometimes I run into former students when I least expect it. Saturday night had me backed into a corner selling Kettle Korn at the University of Oregon football game. Not only didn’t I get to see any of the game against the California Golden Bears, but I was cold and tired and wanted to go home almost the second Ii got there. If I weren’t committed to this job that pays for my bowling, I wouldn’t have gone. Not in a heart beat, but it’s not even a choice.

This week has felt like a marathon and I’ve only been training for a mile at a time. I’m a bit winded. Instead of taking this past weekend to refresh and restart or reboot my systems, physically demanding activities clogged the hours. Friday night league bowling. I don’t think I bowled very well. Saturday, instead of sleeping late as par for the course, I was up and at ’em to participate in an all day choir retreat. We’re on the final push  before our first concert in December. I was a tad bit worried when my throat started to complain and we were just finished with the warmups. Part of the problem was not being able to stay awake..

The choir retreat is only a once in a great moon kind of event, so for it to be followed up with a University of Oregon football game where I sell Kettle Korn doesn’t happen that often. I was gone from my house, give or take an hour or so from nine in the morning to midnight.

My throat wasn’t the only thing that complained threatening to take my case to mis labor or something. My back was especially grouchy. Now that I’ve been planted in my green comfy chair for the past three hours, my back is grumbling.

Top the entire enchilada with eight games at Firs Bowl. Each game was long. Hard fought battle. I was trying to back off and line up in a fashion where I could not have to throw the ball so hard, but the only thing that kept me out of so many more disasters was my spinning ball. Slow ball speed and lack of rotation was a guaranteed disaster.

I do believe I have just convinced myself to take some down time tomorrow to recuperate.