Slice of Life: Day 21 Fact or Fiction?

“You are so ugly!”  Michelle said right in my face.

Those powerful words.

Those powerful, meaningless words made my heart sink and my knees rattle.  Didn’t she know that “God don’t make no junk?”  Perhaps her mother hadn’t told her.  Or, perhaps she was like every other kid in 6th grade who wanted to pick a fight.  Those overtly aggressive kids would offer up a direct insult.  They would discharge that insult like a beach ball being punched up in your direction.  Once it came your way, you would either have to punch it back or let it fall to the ground.  If you let it fall…you lost.  It was always curious to me that certain people had to move through these experiences of fighting and conquering weaker people, progressing, in their minds, up the pecking order.  As the timid one, I always let the ball plunge to the earth, never punching it back.  Until now!  This time was different.  “You are ugly” just griped me.  I was tired of being the weak one, tired of being insulted, and tired of getting no respect.  So, I decided then and there I would respond.

“I am not ugly! You are ugly!” I retorted.

Michelle was no beauty pageant runner up. She had coarse, mousy brown hair and her overall appearance was greasy, as if she’d been lingering around  a Waffle House griddle.  Her clothes were easily five years out of date. She wore dreadfully thick glasses that were smudged and opaque.  With pale, bumpy arms and a stocky figure, Michelle was easily a head taller than I.  Her family lived about 1/2 mile down the road in a smoky-blue cinder block house.

Bam!  She hit me on the side of the head.

Where did that come from?

“Ow! ” I yelled.  I remember unleashing a most unladylike expression at that moment.  There were no words too irreverent on that bus; our foul mouths rivaled any sailor getting off the ship in nearby Mayport.

About the time she slapped me, I looked back and noticed the bus driver.  She was cheering and, to my surprise, gesturing excitedly for me to slap her back.  What was this, gladiator time?  At that moment, reality sunk in.  I was stuck in this mess and there was no way out.  A fight was going to happen and the bus driver was certainly aiming to see one.  I guess her boring job could use a little excitement, even if it was only couple of prepubescent girls clawing at each other’s faces.  I would have to defend myself or die trying.  Void of responsible adults, this bus was full of vicious, narrow minded people who were bored and looking for cheap entertainment.

Slam!  In an instant, she fired another shot directly on my ear.  My face grew hot with anger and embarrassment and pain.  I reached for her face, ripping at it with my nails. Michelle, in turn, grabbed and yanked hard on my thin, pale hair.  She kept yanking and slapping at me.  Groveling, I pulled and scratched whatever fleshy parts I could seize.

I stepped back and surveyed the situation for a minute while two emotions welled up inside me:  anger and pity.  I was angry that she was hurting me and pitied her for living such a rude, sad life.

I  blurted out, “You are so rude!”  Tears were streaming down my face now, salty tears that overflowed onto my hot, red skin.

At that exact moment, in my teary, angry haze I remembered something my mother told me as a young child.  It was a defensive trick:  “If someone is attacking you, hit them square on the nose and the pain will back them off.”   Gazing at Michelle, through her nasty glasses, I knew what I had to do. I suddenly felt I had the strength of “ten Grinches, plus two!”  I leaned in and banged her right on the bridge of her glasses.   She cringed in pain.  Then, I did it again.  This time, she crinkled down to the dirty floor of the bus.  I stood there, shocked that it had actually worked.   Then, I backed up three steps and looked out the window to realize my stop was just ahead.  Quickly, while every kid on that bus was starring straight at me, I gathered my lousy books and papers and moved into the aisle as the bus came to an abrupt stop, pssssssst.  Utter silence prevailed.

As I jumped down the steps, I heard Michelle hurl a word out from her clump on the floor of the bus. That word started with a b and rhymed with ditch.  When I heard it, I ran as fast as I could from the bottom step, in front of the bus and across the street to my sandy, overgrown driveway.  Oh!  I was so grateful to be off that God-forsaken bus.  I could breathe again!  My heart was pounding, my ears hot and stinging.

I gazed ahead at my trailer-home.  Then I looked back at the big yellow bus lurching forward.  Strangely, I felt like I had accomplished something.  But, what?  Self-dignity?  Respect?  Confidence?  Yet, I didn’t feel all that victorious  inside.  I felt ashamed, exploited and cheap.   As I approached the door, I saw my mother in the kitchen.

“How was your day, little honey?” she asked, looking  at something in the sink.  She hadn’t seen me yet.

My red faced altered.  “Mom, do you think I’m ugly?  I asked sheepishly.

She glanced at me as I finished.  “Oh honey!  Of course not!  What happened?  Come here.”

I went straight to her arms, a blubbering mess, and so thankful to be finished with that horrible ordeal.

Michelle never said another mean word to me again.  And, although I failed at turning the other cheek, I let her know that she needed to move on to another target.   Years later, we became friends.



Slice of Life: Day 19

Slice of Life: Day 19

Some Questions About Relevance

Right now, I’m preoccupied with the idea of relevance. Everybody wants to be appurtenant or congruent in their various situations.  My son begs to hold a cell phone, like his peers, so that he will look cool.  We bloggers want our readers to think our words are pertinent and weighty.  I avoid wearing what my daughter calls “mom jeans,” so my kids don’t laugh at me. All this so that we can carve a place in this world.  We want to fit in and possibly get more likes or have more friends,

So, what if I’m not relevant?  I ponder this as I sit at my local coffee shop.

Wearing my 5 year old t-shirt and reading glasses, two bottles of nail polish sitting next to me, I look up to see all the relevant people around me on their laptops.  Some are meeting and discussing business.  A 20-something with face shaved to his chin, dons a trimmed, narrow beard. He looks relevant.  Another middle-aged man reads his tattered real estate manual. He was here last week in the same spot, a few more pages finished in his reading.  Two women sit in the corner, each on their phones.   Are these people relevant?  And why do I find myself juxtaposing myself with these around me.  Probably because I’m seeking confirmation of  my own relevance.  I look for it in the most unlikely places, coffee shops, social events, even church.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was unemployable because I had no experience. In my 30’s and 40’s, I was inapplicable because I had too many kids.  In my 50’s, I figure I’m unsuitable because I’m too old.

So, who then is relevant?  Maybe none of us, at least in the way we want to be.  Looking around is no good either, because the people I see are either self-contained and not worried about relevance or looking at me to see if I’m relevant, a vicious cycle!

The conclusion I’ve come to in this place, and I’m sure somebody could’ve just told me this, is that I have to be fine with my own relevance or irrelevance, as the case may be.  How do I do this?  I’m not sure.  Coffee shops are good places to contemplate such hefty issues, especially with a hot cup of Matcha  and when you are procrastinating because you have a pile of papers to grade.

Slice of Life: Day 18

Slice of Life: Day 18


Radiant, joyful, beautiful!  One’s baptism day is very special indeed!   Today, we had a  baby’s baptism during our morning service which has me thinking about this very important sacrament. According to the Orthodox faith, baptism marks the entry of a person into the church and begins their walk toward salvation in Christ.  Traditionally, in the earliest days, a child was baptized on or near the 40th day.

Here are a few general observations about baptisms in our church…

First of all, the waters must be prepared.  Babies do not appreciate being cold so making sure the baptismal waters are comfortable is of vital importance.  Currently, we have a rather large metal tub that we use for the ceremony.  However, I’ve seen baptisms take place in copper, concrete and plastic vessels.

As the service begins, the godparents hold the child and prayers are read to renounce the devil.  This may sound odd, but it is a good thing!  The godparents renounce Satan and literally spit at him while they stand in the narthex.  Then, the Creed is read three times.

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Now, after this part of the service, the godparents bring the child to the baptismal waters.  All gathered witness the prayers of the priest asking for the cleansing and blessing of these holy waters.  Children and adults gather closely to observe.  Grandparents and cousins are often in the congregation as well. Sometimes the baby is quite content with all the attention.  Other times, not so much.



Once the waters are blessed, the child goes in with great joy and excitement from all the people present.  Each priest has a different technique in holding the baby and placing him or her gently into the water. One priest may set the child into the water, another may glide the child under.  All very young babies are baptized in the buff!  Older children and adults wear suitable clothing.  Once the baptism takes place, the choir sings and more prayers are read and all are glad at the entrance of a new soul into the church.


Traditionally, the newly baptized will wear a white robe symbolic of a soul, pure and clean.  Baptisms are glorious events to witness because they renew in each parishioner his or her commitment to serve and follow Christ.  If you ever have an opportunity to witness an Orthodox baptism, you will not regret the experience.

Children love baptisms

Orthodox practice invites children and all parishioners to get close and participate.

Slice of Life: Day 17

Slice of Life: Day 17

Not growing up in high school band culture, I wasn’t quite sure what a morning at my ninth grade son’s band evaluation would entail.  This morning was the annual band festival or LGPE (large group performance evaluation).  A great deal of  dedication goes into preparing a band like this to perform and reach a top score at LGPE, the band equivalent of a city-wide soccer tournament or a regional mock trial competition.  LGPE is big stuff in the band world.  My son tells me that a high school concert band strives to score a # 1 or # 2  in the evaluation, with one being the highest.  Attending the LGPE was a real eye opener for me and I’m going to share some amazing highlights.


First of all, these band competitions get going early.  I was up at 6:15  this morning and fairly dysfunctional until I had a gas station cup of coffee at 6:50 am.  By 7:05, having only taken three sips,  I dropped my young trombonist at the school where a bus was waiting to transport 60 + band members across town to a concert hall.

An hour and a half later, the musicians were warming up on stage.  I’d finished my coffee by now so I remembered my camera, but forgot my glasses. The band members, decked in formal black tie attire, looked the part of a professional symphony orchestra, only slightly younger!  The sound was checked and a last minute kid came on stage with a chair.  “He overslept the alarm,” I heard someone say. Once rehearsed and situated, they played three impressive pieces: “America Forever,” Alligator Alley,” and “Dies Irae” by Verdi.

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Standing Ovation!

Now, as soon as the formal competition was complete, the musicians fled the stage, hauling their heavy instruments and percussion pieces across the school yard to a smaller choral room.  This room was the location of the Sight Reading Competition.  I was able to snap a quick photo of this very brief transition from stage to choral classroom.  No one took a bathroom break and not much conversation occurred in the interim.  These students were laser focused on their next task.  All were attentive as folders were passed and placed on each music stand.


A judge came to the front of the room.

“Once you open your folder, you will see a new piece of music, one that you have never played and which you will be required to sight read and perform in exactly 6 minutes.  Your director will prepare you and you are not allowed to play your instruments until the starting time,” the judge stated.

At that, the director, Mr. Flood immediately began to prepare the students: “Now clarinets, look out for the change in key signatures and trombones, watch out for the technical eighth notes at measure 25.”  He gave more instructions to the percussion, the low brass and the flutes.  Then, the judge said, “30 seconds.”  And the band did a soundless rehearsal, or a “sizzle” where they blew the notes and time into their instruments without making a single sound.  It was riveting.

“Time,” said the judge.

With that… they began.  The song was called, Chronicles of … I didn’t have enough coffee to take in that second word.  But, the band was amazing.  They had never seen or played the piece before and it sounded absolutely perfect.

Lots of parent applause!

When the applause was finished, the judge came back to the front of the room and said, “That was outstanding.  You have quite a balanced ensemble.”

A couple of announcements were made and everyone jumped up and went out the door.  I was able to take a couple of group shots outside and then the bus whisked them all away to breakfast.  And all of this before 9:45 am!

This was truly and eye opening experience.

























































































Slice of Life: Day 16

Slice of Life: Day 16

Word Hoard for Daily Slicers

laundry in the washer

laundry on the floor

dishes in the sink

dishes at the door

papers ungraded

dinner’s not bought

but the slicing keeps on going

written well or written squat

kids are talking ’round me

someone’s ringing the bell

but, I’m clicking at my laptop

come high water or come knell

there’s places to go

and people to see

but at table and keyboard

is where I’ll be

commenting and liking

and posting oft too late

I’m growing as a writer

and developing my traits

I’m meeting other bloggers

and noting all their skills

I’m reading all announcements

and charging up the hill

slicing and dicing and responding

dusk to dawn

I greet my sleeping husband

each night with weary yawn

it’s is a daily grind

heavy wedges on my plate

but I’m doing SOL March challenge

and I’m doing it first rate

Slice of Life: Day 15

Slice of Life: Day 15

This is Day 16, but I’m still on Day 15!   I’m still plugging along.  Life happens and I’m rolling with it.

For the last year, I’ve been obsessed with photographing in the golden hour.  Having just discovered that the sun’s special angle and projection at this hour is truly breathtaking, I feel like I’ve been let in on a tremendous secret.  In November, you can get as much as 3 hours of golden, if you plan it just right.

On a recent late November day, I ventured out with my daughter for a photo walk.  On these ambles, we talk, laugh, visit some beautiful place and I fool around with my camera.   It is nice to have a daughter who is a willing participant in my photography adventures!

Here is a poem I wrote in response to what I captured that day with my lens and my heart.


Eyes like pools of glass,


A smile, like gently blowing stalks of wheat,


Hair like rays from that self-luminous body

which gives us warmth,


Prone to laughter and contemplation

as the moon tracks the earth,


You are the golden hour,


I watch and breathe and admire your light.

Slice of Life: Day 14

Slice of Life: Day 14

These students are ardently writing about Animal Farm, a political satire written as a cautionary tale against the evils of totalitarianism.  For a writing teacher, this is a beautiful sight:  sixteen energetic students writing and typing with confidence, using transitions, making connections between the text and the outside world, and working heartily right up to the bell.  They have opinions and they aren’t afraid to share them.

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They came to class with their books all marked up and tabbed.  They brought in stacks of paper and laptops.  They had outlines and graphic organizers ready to attack the topic.  When we started the essay, they jumped right to it with a few questions, but plenty of confidence. You could hear pencils and pens scratching and keyboards clicking.  It was a joyous sound.

To prepare for this day, we read the novel, held a Socratic-style debate about the nature of leaders, tracked the characters and their role in the allegory, and closely read for propaganda and irony.  They marked their books as they found catchy slogans, repetitive messages and spin.

Once we finished the book, I gave the students their topic for the in-class writing assignment.  They had a week to organize their thoughts into a graphic organizer, gather evidence and ponder more on the topic.  Because they had been marking their books all along, they were armed with all kinds of evidence to support their opinions.  They were ready and I could tell.

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When they finished, they turned in some weighty essays, nice and thick, double spaced.  No one seemed to be at a loss for written words, another bonus!

What a wonderful writing teacher kind of day!

Now I have 16 hefty essays to grade!  I’ll need to inspect these to see if they are as good as they look… to see if the proof is in the pudding.  Better get right to bed.  I’ll need some rest to tackle these.