BETSY DEVOS? NEED A PENCIL? TAKE A NOTE: We do not teach and learn wisely and well if certain sturdy stances aren’t in our repertoire. This is a Listening-Conversing-Questioning-Routine from “my” high poverty-high achieving school.

Mrs. M: You’re going to write about your grandmother’s kitchen table, Milo?

Milo, his notebook closed, nods.

What’s the memory attached to the table?  (The 5th graders are writing stories connected to important objects in their lives.)

Milo shrugs. Don’t know. He slaps the notebook open and riffles through pages tagged with post-its.

Wow. You’ve marked all your notebook entries that relate to the table. You’ve got a lot!

Milo and Mrs. M go head-to-head and read the entries silently. Mrs. M learns that Milo lives with his Granny and Mom, how the light plays on the table from the window in the kitchen door, about the honey tones of the wood surface, and how Milo always sits at the same spot at the table.

You always sit at the same place?

Yup. He points to another flagged entry. I like how the sun comes in the door window and warms my back.

Cozy. What else?

I watch my Granny cook oatmeal every morning from my seat. Milo looks at his teacher and smiles. Earlier he’d read an entry to the class about how when he was little he could hardly wait for his Granny to finish stirring brown sugar and golden raisins into the thick, bumpy oatmeal. Once he was so excited he’d knocked his chair over.

Are you going to write about the time the chair tipped over with you in it?

Milo shakes his head.

Mrs. M waits.

I sit at the gash.

The gash?

Milo sits straight and points to the pencil groove on the desk. It’s about this long but deeper.

Is it an inlay table–you know with decorative carving on it?

It’s not a design. It’s from the knife.

It’s like Milo has dropped a fishing line into a memory lagoon and snagged onto something he’d forgotten.

It’s from a knife?

The carving knife.

A carving knife?

My Dad had it.

Was he carving the turkey, and it slipped?

Nah. He wasn’t carving no turkey!

What was he doing?

Fighting with my Mom. I was hiding.

Where were you hiding?

Behind the door. It was wide open. I could feel the cold on my feet.

What happened?

He’d burst into the kitchen and grabbed the knife. It was in that wooden knife holding thing on the counter.

Then what?

He chases Mom around the table.

With the knife?

He’s waving it. Mom’s screaming. Milo pauses. Then he sees me.

Behind the door?

I’m peeking. Through the window. On my tiptoes.

And he…?

He stabs the knife into the table. And runs out the door.

So the gash you always sit at…?

Milo nods. I sort of forgot how it got there ‘til now. He picks up his pencil.  I never saw him again. He turns to a clean notebook page. I put my pencils in it now. He makes a margin on the left side of the page. When I was little I stood my Lego men in it.


Note from PATTY:I wrote this in 10/14/12 and feel it would be helpful for the new education czar to learn what it looks like in schools where, despite high-poverty, the students are high-achievers, where the teachers have finely tuned their skills at listening and questioning. You can’t teach a child until you know what he’s bringing to school with him besides his trapper keeper and empty lunch box. Teaching memoir as a genre is one way of helping kids get a handle on who they are and what they’ve got going for them to value and develop. 

No, Mr. Pence don’t move the Israeli embassy and Trump gets in his 13th golf course visit since, well, you know the rest. But I’m still kicking back. A 420 character 9-liner inspired by our Fox Sparrow

I kick through the litter of news-ideas-actions

and send up a spray of calls-letters-cards-conversation,

imitating the Fox Sparrow out there under the loaded bird feeders

scratch-back-scratch-backing with his sturdy legs

in search of fallen seed;

better off than his Pleistocene ancestor

who did the same action in the La Brea Tar Pits.*

It’s tricky, this search for what will nourish and sustain us.

But still I kick.*


*She must have thought it safe to land and start her search for food. I hope it was a quick death. At least 11,000 years later she was honored by such as us discovering her fossilized bones.

**Recent kicks were aimed at: not repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and not messing with the EPA

No, Mr. Pence don’t move the Israeli embassy and Trump gets in his 13th golf course visit since, well, you know the rest. But I’m still kicking back. A 420 character 9-liner inspired by our Fox Sparrow

IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE #weekendcoffeeshare

Hey, Let’s have a cuppa and Just, you know, make fun of stuff.

If we were having coffee, I’d spill the beans. I’d fess up to voraciously consuming this sitcom about four misanthropes and their zany views of everything and everyone, even themselves.


Recently I added Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee to my queue.


And then I noticed WordPress posts beginning with the line “If we were having coffee….”

It seems that bloggers publish posts about what they’d say to their readers if they were sitting down together over a cup of coffee. *Waves* to this buoying bunch, happy to meet y’all.

Mostly I live in Connecticut but am mad for the eternal sunshine of Florida. Aside from spending hours with books, I get a kick out of insane yoga poses, any film with Al Pacino in it, world travel, making things grow, 85% organic dark chocolate, and a succulent Barolo.  I don’t like pepperoni, loud noises, and grey skies.

I know every word to Desperado (no shame) and have a Netflix subscription, which is pretty much the best thing ever.

Currently I’m listening to this and this, and reading this.

And I’m itching to hit the road.

Last weekend I got a wicked bite from an insect/spider(?). I moved off the pavement to avoid a truck and stepped into a mulchy-scrub area. I felt an excruciating ‘sting’ – curses! –  swatted the nasty nuisance away and kept going. But whatever took that chunk out of me set off a walloping allergic reaction.

Rash, itch, pain,ugh. Blotches and welts and red marks spread over both arms and legs. So I got a shot.

And a prednisone pack and topical cream from my dermatologist, a one pound jar?!?! that looks like it’s enough for a water buffalo. I hope to see the back end of this mishap sooner than later. It’s ugly, unpleasant, and annoying. There won’t be any five-milers for a while but I find that driving to breakfast/lunch/dinner soothes the cranky self.

So I’ve had lots of couch time to focus on the dull and necessary dross of life.

During my little crisis (ahem), I put my long ( aka big girl) pants on, checked emails, and listened to stultifying politicians and wall streeters.  The To-Do List? Done.  Another coffee? Why not. I have a latte on my mind.

Oh, and there was plenty of time for binge-watching. Seinfeld is my now-and-forever-feel-good show but I stumbled onto the Aussie series Offspring.

It’s the story of the impossible loves of a 30-something obstetrician, Nina Proudman, and her messy family. It’s warm and comforting and complicated. Can you tell I’m hooked?


The dermatologist is calm.  She says let’s watch and wait. Until Monday.

I’m doing my best not to be a difficult patient.


Thanks for stopping by for a cuppa.

Wanna espresso yourself? Tag your post #weekendcoffeeshare.  And take life one cup at time.

Toni 3/26/17


Michelle W. says this week is all about color. Specifically green, like my harvest of joy.

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But green isn’t just a color anymore.


Published over forty years ago, The Greening of America received a cosmically massive reception.

The New Yorker ran an excerpt in their September issue and it got more letters than any other article. Ever. The book was No.1 on bestsellers lists and sold skadoodles of copies, knocking reality for a loop. Leagues of media types discussed, praised, and criticized it.


Have you read The Greening of America?  Confucianist wisdom, it is not.  Charles Reich says his book is very straightforward about what’s the matter with us. He says we’re using up material resources at an unacceptable rate. And so, he advocates a less materialistic way of life.

Authority, schedules, time, accepted customs, are all forms which must be questioned. Accepted patterns of thought must be broken; what is considered ‘rational thought’ must be opposed by ‘nonrational thought’—drug-thought, mysticism, impulses.

The questions he poses ~ What’s happening to the individual in America? Is the individual going the way of the environment, being destroyed? ~ struck a chord with readers. The interesting angle?  Reich was no overgrown hippie, but a former Supreme Court clerk, a forty-two-year-old Ivy League professor, a seemingly serious person.

Annie Leibovitz photo of Charles Reich with Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead and Jann Wenner, 1971

Reich was a fan of the hippies and radical students on campus, the dropouts and rock ‘n’ rollers.  He felt they were pointing the way, not only with a refusal to join the power structure, but with their flower power, patchouli, and love beads.

Bell bottoms have to be worn to be understood. They express the body, as jeans do, but they say much more. They give the ankles a special freedom as if to invite dancing right on the street. . . . A touch football game, if the players are wearing bell bottoms, is like a folk dance or a ballet. . . . The new clothes demonstrate a significant new relationship between man and technology.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines greening as “becoming more mature and less naive, esp. in one’s understanding of social and political forces.”  (Entry note: Word origin of ‘greening’
after The Greening of America (1970), book by C. Reich.)

Might Reich’s countercultural (some might say flaky) concepts, like listening to the Grateful Dead and using marijuana, fix what’s the matter with us?

“Green” was a broader term to Reich than it is to us today. It was not just about environmentalism, but the whole package ~ feminism, gay rights, racial equality, military conflict, rampant consumerism, corporate power ~ issues that are still front-page.

It’s not likely that our society will undergo a total about-face of cultural and political institutions.  But we can look at the clouds from both sides, can’t we?


 Toni 3/23/17