Remember the Days of the Old School Yard

building-48624_1280

Even though I’m not returning, as a student or a teacher, a flood of emotions still overcomes me. Readying a classroom or getting new school clothes and supplies represented a fresh start, a new outlook.

A lot of young adult books take place in school. I wanted to break free of that in Waiting for Dusk but found I had to have some scenes take place there. Makes sense because of the age of the characters, but it’s also a place everyone’s been and can identify with—good or bad.

I had parents tell me they were nervous to come back to school even as adults and some would comment it still smells like school. Funny, I always thought that, too. School has a scent! Can’t describe it, but it does.

If I go way back, my fondest memory takes place in the school yard. While waiting for the bell to ring, I would trade baseball cards with the boys. Yep, back then, it was pretty much a boy’s club.

I loved baseball for as long as I can remember. My mom told me when I was just three or four, I’d ask her to throw the ball with me. I would tell her “You be Larry Doby, Mommy.”, my favorite player on the Cleveland Indians…may be dating myself a bit!

When I was older, I started buying my own baseball cards—wish I still had them.  Roger Maris, Rocky Colavito, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle to name just a few.

I was smart out in the old schoolyard. Trades were made fast and furious and someone would try to get the best of me. My first rule was to trade my doubles, then get a 2-for-1. Lessons were learned out there just as much as inside those school walls where we stood to make our deals.

I could go on and on about favorite teachers and what inspired me to choose that profession. I’ll save that for another time. This time of year is about nostalgia, a quick trip down memory lane. I hope you have a story tucked away in yours, maybe one that has nothing to do with “reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic”, but one that taught you a great lesson. One you’ve taken on your journey through life and remember fondly. Maybe it even happened back in the old schoolyard.

Remember the days of the old school yard

We used to laugh a lot.

Oh, don’t you remember the days of the old school yard.

-Cat Stevens

Advertisements

Edits…Editing…Where does it all end?

snoopy

 

I’m in the middle of edits for my second book. Since I don’t drink coffee or smoke cigarettes I can’t paint you a picture of my desk filled with those things. No coffee rings or a collection of half-filled mugs surround me. A cup of tea is more my style.

Writing is a lonely job, but when I start edits, it feels like someone else is now involved in my story. First instinct is to say, “How dare you?”  After careful consideration some suggestions make sense.

Writing is subjective. What one person loves, another may not. I recently had an author friend get a not-so-great review. She sent me an email to cry on my shoulder. She was hurt. We, authors, are sensitive souls and want everyone to love our work.

I read the review, and because it wasn’t about my book, I tried to find the positives…like in editing. There were a few comments that could be turned around into constructive criticism but I came to the conclusion the book wasn’t for this particular reader. It wasn’t her cup of tea. The author’s book has 20 other good reviews, so again, it’s subjective.

Editing has a place in all our lives. Sometimes we need someone to point out mistakes and we need to fix them. Sometimes, not. I think it’s how we go about it that makes the difference.

Funny how doing a simple thing like editing can make you start thinking about life in general. How you treat people. Is it okay to edit them? Sure, as long as we accept some editing in our own lives. It’s just how you go about it.

The next time you want to write an unkind review or critique a friend’s choices or give an opinion, you may want to edit that comment before it gets put out there in the world. It’s all in the way you say it. Look for the positive. You may make someone’s day.

Butterflies are Free

beautiful-160154_1280

They start off in caterpillar form and are juicy dinner for birds, lizards and even small mammals. It’s amazing they make it to the next stage, forming a cocoon. They’re in that stage for about two weeks but have the ability to stay that way throughout the winter. The butterfly emerges as an entirely different creature than its caterpillar form.

When I taught third grade, we learned about the four stages of a butterfly as part of the science curriculum. My colleague and I worked as a team so we came up with the not-so-creative idea of folding a white sheet of paper into four parts and have the children label and draw in each square. Those would proudly be displayed on the wall outside our classrooms.

One day after school, she was hanging those designs titled Four Stages of a Butterfly so they would be ready for Open House the next night. I admired the works of art as I went along the hallway. Imagine my surprise when I came across one that said Four Stages of a Buttfly. We had a good laugh and she thanked me profusely for catching the mistake.

Butterflies have always been a part of my life, whether chasing them as a child or teaching about them at school. It’s not surprising they are now important in another way. I like to include them in my books because they’ve taken on a whole new meaning.

A Monarch visits almost every August on my birthday. I’ve come to believe it’s my dad stopping by with good wishes. A few times it didn’t come and that’s okay. It’s all in my mind anyway, right? How could something like that be true?

One year, after my birthday and no sighting, imagine my surprise when one flew right at my car’s windshield so I couldn’t miss seeing it. It was as if Dad was saying, “See, I didn’t forget.”

As a writer, I like to tuck things away in my books that others may discover and wonder if there’s a little significance to their find. Butterflies are one of those wonders. And now you know why.

Are Those Teeth?

dentist-158225_1280There’s a character in my book that needs to get put in his place. He’s handsome, popular and good at sports…feels entitled. You know the type. Something needs to be done to put him in his place. I’ll have to talk to the author.

I have my fair share of “getting put in your place” stories but I think you’ll enjoy the one I’m about to share, especially with “Back to School” right around the corner. It happened in my second grade classroom.

Being a young teacher, I was full of ideas. I liked to think I had the best lessons planned for the day and the children would always be captivated. It’s exciting when you see many hands in the air, asking questions and participating.

After one great lesson, in my opinion, a few hands shot in the air. I called on some of the children but noticed one in particular. The dark-haired little girl’s hand wiggled wildly and her eyes sparkled with excitement. I told myself that she really got something out of the lesson and couldn’t wait to hear her question.

When I called on her imagine my surprise when she asked, “Are those teeth?” She pointed to the long necklace dangling from my neck. In my defense, wearing a long string of beads was popular back then. They were a pale yellow of smooth, unusual shapes.

I looked down at the necklace and back up at her. Was she fixated on those the entire time? Did she hear any of the great lesson I just taught?

Oh. My. Gosh. I was just put in my place. And I had to laugh. We all began to laugh that day because it was funny. Did she get anything out of the lesson? Probably not.  Maybe getting put in your place once in awhile causes one to do a maintenance check. It was a great reminder. Sometimes we need to be put in our place.

I never wore those beads to school again. Every time I opened the drawer where I placed them, they seemed to be smiling up at me, winking as a reminder.

So what did I learn that day at school?

The first was a life lesson. Don’t ever get too full of yourself.

The second was a school lesson. Don’t ever think a lesson was absorbed into children’s minds in just one great lesson. It might take a lot of smaller, review sessions to  break through or finally sink in.

And last but not least the third and final lesson. Don’t take life too seriously because you may just miss the humor of it.

I learned a lot that day. Sometimes it’s okay to be put in your place. Plus it’s never too late to learn a valuable lesson, no matter how old you are.