Appreciating Teachers

Today I take time to remember the teachers who influenced me during my days as a student in elementary school and high school.

  • Sr. Therese Kathleen SSJ – this kind first-grade teacher was gentle even when my behavior was not.
  • Sr. Roseathea SSJ – this elementary music teacher first ignited my love of music.
  • Sr. Alice John SSJ – this 7th-grade teacher thought outside of the box and formed a jug band in class, teaching me that school could be fun in unexpected ways.
  • Sr. Clare Andrew OSF – this HS English teacher helped me find the writer within.
  • Sr. Clair Immaculate OSF – this Senior English teacher first published my writing.
  • Mr. Eligio Rossi – my first and best string bass teacher pushed me to be better at each and every lesson
  • Dr. Michael Giamo – the conductor of the Philadelphia All-City Orchestra gave me an opportunity to perform with the best on stage at the Academy of Music and fueled my passion for strings.

This June will be 50 years since I graduated from Resurrection of Our Lord grade school in Northeast Philadelphia (YIKES!). Then I spent four years at St. Hubert Catholic High School in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. These years certainly had their ups and downs, successes and failures, friends and foes, but in all those instances there were teachers who helped me navigate my childhood and adolescence and shepherd me towards young adulthood. I am sure if I spent enough time on it, many more would come to mind, but right now these are the ones my 60+ brain can easily remember. I appreciate them all.

I am also thinking about the teachers who have been my colleagues over the years. I don’t want to start listing them because I will undoubtedly miss a few. This is my 36th year teaching, and I never stop learning from the teachers with whom I work. Some started out as colleagues and ended up as life-long friends. Know that I appreciate each of you.

Last by not least are the younger teachers who are struggling in the trenches right now. I see you. I understand. Hang in there if you can. You matter! Someday after your career is long over, one of your students will be writing a list of the teachers who impacted their life, and you will probably be on that list. You make a difference! I appreciate that your chose this profession.

A Twisted Story

On this day in 2003, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, (former Mayor of Philadelphia) declared April 26th to be “National Pretzel Day” to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state’s history and economy.

Pennsylvania has a rich history of pretzel making beginning in 1710 when Germans brought them to the area. Julius Sturgis made the first “intentionally” hard pretzel and would later own the first commercial bakery in Lititz, PA in the heart of Lancaster County. 80% of the pretzels sold nationwide are still made in Pennsylvania. Being Philadelphia born and raised, soft pretzels are one of my favorite snacks especially when they are paired with a “wooder” (water) ice!

Reportedly, Italian monks created these delectable treats as  pretiola or “little rewards” to give to children when they learned their prayers, thus the shape of the pretzel looks like crossed arms in prayer. But if you live anywhere in the Philadelphia vicinty, the pretzel of choice is a tight figure 8 shape – no large loops!

Philadelphia (Philly) Soft Pretzel
Traditional Soft Pretzel

If you would like to learn more about “National Preztel Day” check out the video below. But I want to leave you with a couple of fun facts about pretzels. In 1861, pretzel making was the second highest paying job next to tobacco. The average American eats about two pounds of pretzels a year; Philadelphians eat twelve times as many as anybody else in America – some say they average twenty pounds a year! I know I do my share to pad those statistics.

Surprise Packages

The Amazon Prime van usually stops in my cul-de-sac as least once a day. Since Christmas the number of packages arriving at my house has gone down to a trickle, so I don’t pay much attention to what direction the delivery person goes after exiting the vehicle. One day last week, my husband carried in a package on his way in from work. I looked at Alexa for a notification and started trying to remember if I had ordered anything because I really am on a spending moratorium; plus my husband does not shop online. Much to my surprise it was a gift from my sister. She sent me a copy of a book she told me about a while back. She was going to lend me hers when she was finished but decided I needed my own copy. She gifted me Storycatchers by Christina Baldwin. As I started reading the Preface, I knew this was a special book – one I would be savoring again and again.

These are some of the nuggets I have pulled from what I have read so far.

  • Story is the narrative thread of our experience – not what literally happens, but what we make out of what happens, what we tell each other and what we remember.”
  • “Yet the question remains, what stories will we save? And the question arises, what stories might save us?”-
  • “The self-story is the narrative voice in the stream of consciousness that runs babbling along the edge of our awareness. Minute by minute this narrative defines who we are and what we are capable, or not capable, of doing.” 

Each chapter includes memoir examples, writing quotes, and prompts. I could be lost in this book for a long time!

So as if one surprise wasn’t enough, yesterday another package arrived via Amazon. This time it was a lovely little book called A Book of Delights by Ross Gay. It was a wonderful gift from my daughter who heard about it on a podcast and thought I would like it. I do! The book is a collection of the daily delights that Ross Gay found and wrote about everyday for a year. I have decided that this will be my “upstairs” book and live on my night table, so I can be delighted in the morning as well as before I go to bed. It’s not a book I want to read straight through in one or two sittings. I want to enjoy and think about my own daily delights.

I am so thankful to have both a sister and a daughter who know me so well and are so generous. Those two acts of kindness made my Easter break even more special. I hope to pay my good fortune forward in the future.

Comfort Food

Making a sandwich of bread and cheese does not take much forethought, but deciding to grill the sandwich until the cheese melts within is the stuff of dreams.

Unknown

As many of you may already know, I am married to a chef. Thank goodness, because my culinary skills are minimal. I like to think that is because I never needed to develop those skills given my fortunate circumstances. However, I am the master of french toast and grilled cheese sandwiches!

Today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day as opposed to National Grilled Cheese Day which is celebrated on September 3rd. So in honor of this most delicious holiday, I decided to do a little grilled cheese research.

The grilled cheese sandwich is one of America’s top comfort foods. Its humble beginnings reach back to the Great Depression when it would be eaten open-faced. Eventually, people began putting a top slice of bread because it was cheap and filling and helped sustain workers.

Two men had a huge impact on the grilled cheese sandwich – Otto Frederick Rohwedder and James L. Kraft. Any guesses why? Well, Rohwedder, of Davenport, Iowa, invented the sliced bread machine in 1927, and by 1933 sliced bread became more popular than unsliced. Kraft obtained a patent in 1916 to make processed cheese which became known as “American Cheese.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Although the term, “grilled cheese sandwich” did not start appearing on menus until the 1960s before that it was known as “toasted cheese.”

Are you a purist or do you have a favorite twist on the grilled cheese sandwich? My favorite is swiss cheese and bacon on rye, but I haven’t met a grilled cheese sandwich I didn’t like yet! Add a bowl of creamy tomato soup, and I am in heaven! Feel free to leave your recipe ideas in the comments!

Bon Appetit!

Lost Latte

I am working on my poetry muscles this month by joining #verselove at ethicalela.com. Today’s model was a Cherita, a poem that tells a story or tale. The form consists of three stanzas- one line in the first, two in the second, and three in the third. I had been thinking about a topic all morning when after lunch it just hit me – figuratively and literally!

Latte – A Little or A Lot?

I was bemoaning the fact that I had nothing to write about.

Fortunately or unfortunately a little story found me. I was looking forward to a chai latte after lunch on this bleak and rainy day.

I loaded up my Keurig and anticipated the warm beverage. So much so that I fumbled the cup and spilled most of it on the counter and onto the floor. Should I be satisfied with the three mouthfuls I saved or brew another cup?

A Pain in the Rain

Rainy days make me feel old because I let them shift my focus from what I can do to what I can’t do. My joints throb; my muscles ache – the rain just announcing its arrival. My knees sing “click, crackle, crunch.” A finger bends and has trouble bending back – it gently cries, “Oil can.” Walking around is made more difficult by this weather event causing me to be even more reliant on my “gait aid device” aka cane. I can let water flow from my eyes in despair, or I can look forward to the rainbow.

Today’s poem is a 4×4 Poem inspired by Denise Krebs and the directions and format can be found at ethicalela.com #verselove

It Won’t Get Me!

Arthritis stinks
Predicts the rain
It slows me down
But I don’t stop

Rest when needed
Arthritis stinks
Medicine helps
Exercise too

Can sit all day
Or push myself
Arthritis stinks
Get up and walk

Aging is hard
But life is good
Movement is sweet
Arthritis stinks.

I’ll do my best to keep looking for the rainbows, but there are two more days of rain trying to shake my resolve. Break out the relaxing teabags!

HOPE

Across the sky,
it writes its name
in the darkness.
HOPE

In the stars
I see sparks
of my dreams.
HOPE

In the stars
I see smiles
Of my lost loved ones
HOPE

In the stars
I see bright eyes
Of future generations
HOPE

In the stars
I see flashes
Of peace
HOPE

Celebrating Poetry

Fresh off the March Slice of Life Story Challenge, I am jumping into VerseLove, a 30 day poetry writing experience to celebrate National Poetry Month. I cannot convincingly say I will be successful in writing a poem a day, but I will give it a try.

April is also Jazz Appreciation Month which I think is very fitting. To me, poetry gives writers more creative leeway in format and word choices just the way Jazz allows musicians to improvise and branch out of more formal structures.

Today’s poem.

Poems bring me joy
Opening my heart and soul
Evoking memories – happy and sad
Taking me deeper – inside to
Reflect, retrace, renew
Yielding to the call for quiet

I DID IT!

I DID IT!

  • With uncertainty
  • With trepidation
  • With determination
  • With bouts of writer’s block
  • With migraines (boo!)
  • With inspiration from the slices of others
  • With encouragement of fellow writers
  • With enjoyment while reading others’ posts
  • With satisfaction

I DID IT!

Thank you to all of my fellow writers for helping me complete the Slice of Life Story Challenge this year with your inspiration and encouragement. Thank you to those of you who read my slices, liked a slice, or commented on a slice. Thank you to all of you who shared so openly; I enjoyed reading your posts. I look forward to reading more “slices” each Tuesday throughout the rest of the year.

Happy National Pencil Day!

Today is National Pencil Day. It commemorates the day in 1858 when Hymen Lipman patented the ‘modern pencil.’ It was a wooden graphite pencil with a rubber eraser attached.

How do you feel about pencils? I love them! From the scritch-scratch sounds they make as they move across the page to the forgiving eraser conveniently placed on top, pencils are special friends. I don’t write with them as much as a would like to because sometimes I worry about smudging the page or wonder if my notes will fade over time, but I think I will resurrect my pencil usage in honor of the day. After all, it was a pencil that first sparked my love of writing, and it is much easier to control than the pen.

I can be a pencil snob. I prefer Ticonderoga yellow pencils or Staedtler black pencils. When it comes to colored pencils, Crayola it is! Obviously, my pencils need to be sharp, and I usually have a handy-dandy pencil sharpener close by for when I can’t get to my electric sharpener. In my classroom, I have one pencil sharpener for graphite and one for colored pencils because as much as I love colored pencils, their wax or oil-based interiors can wreak havoc on a sharpener.

Fun Facts About Pencils – link below

  • One pencil can draw a line up to 45 miles long.
  • Pencils can write underwater and in zero gravity too.
  • One pencil can write up to 45,000 words.
  • Almost 14 billion pencils are produced in a year.
  • Pencils in the U.S are painted yellow to indicate the best quality pencils.
  • Roald Dahl used exactly six sharpened pencils with yellow casings from the beginning of the day; only once all six became unusable would he resharpen them.
  • John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” reportedly took more than 300 pencils to write; Steinbeck was also said to be an obsessive pencil user, writing many of his masterpieces in pencil.

I will definitely try to remember the three lessons you can learn from a pencil. I am not fond of the first one; I worry about the second one, but I love the last one!