100 days and counting

May 31st.  That was our 100 days.  Since our house burned down my husband and I have both turned 40 and celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  While our family trip to the Frio River over Memorial Day weekend was wonderful, I had inklings of cooking up something really wonderful for us– Then our house burned down.

A picture of a bag of cotton rounds with 5 remaining.

Only 5 left.

What makes passage of time real is, as always, the little things.  I’m about out of the cotton rounds that I use for my face stuff.  The package held 100.  The toothpaste is getting down there too.  And the hand lotion.  Replacing these things is a signal of how long we’ve been gone.

We removed the 1970s era fridge from the kitchen when it started leaking rusty something down the back.  And in moving the fridge from the tiny house into this house, we also moved the grill.  That’s been wonderful as I use the grill as an oven through the summer.  Even frozen pizza is pretty wonderful dressed up with some toppings and cooked on a pizza stone on the grill.  Purchasing of the America’s Test Kitchen Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook has been a real boost for my grilling ego because German pancakes/Dutch babies, cheesy pizza dip, and shepherd’s pie.  So that’s been good.

And we’re probably moving again.  Mentally I’m imagining us not home by Christmas and we can’t stay in this house for another 6 months.  Something expensive is going to break and then I’d feel guilty.  So we’re house/apartment/condo hunting, but thankfully there’s a company that does that work for us.

As often happens, as I was walking a phrase came to mind that encapsulates where we’re at:

Housed, but homeless.

Yes, we have a roof over our head, plumbing that works surprisingly well for how old it is, a lovely little backyard with a great patio and trees– really, many things to be thankful for.  And, I’m deeply grateful for the generous neighbor who offered the house before she was ready to rent it, and an insurance company that shows up and writes checks.

But we’re not at home.  We’re not in the space we had worked hard to try and make our own.  We don’t have our things.  And the things I wish I had are things like the wall of my grandfather’s sketches that I saw every time I walked down the hall, or the just-right casserole dish to make apple crisp for breakfast (it’s delicious and you should totally try it), or the marimba which my husband or youngest would play while we got dinner on the table.  Or our dog, who has been spoiled to pieces at my cousins and is happy as all get-out, but isn’t with her family who misses her.

Three boys facing away from the camera, standing on the rocky bank of a river, looking at the river. Green trees are in the background across the river.

Frio River

But we go onward because that’s the choice before us, with the help of friends and family.  And the kids are totally pulling for an apartment with a pool when we move.  Or a house super-close to school.

Writing things

As the end of the semester blew by I was buried in many wonderful manuscripts and things.  They were quite effective at distracting me from grading.  Usually I enjoy grading final projects.  I mean, I’ve designed all the final projects, so they’re things I’d be interested in reading (a lot about collecting different kinds of texts to read), but with the house and things, I was finding much less joy in said grading.  So, I wrote a lot.

An article about reading instruction that my colleague-friend Katrina Jansky and I wrote will hit the presses shortly in the summer edition of English in Texas. We developed this from our presentation at the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts Annual Conference in January.

Abstract: It’s an era of uncertainty: new TEKS, changes to STAAR, school finance… What’s a teacher to do?  How can teachers avoid reinventing the reading curriculum every time a change rolls around?  Reflecting on the foundations of reading instruction–time, choice, relevance, talk, and rituals and routines–offers a way to answer these challenging questions.  This article connects each of these touchstones to theory and research, as well as discusses brief strategies that support each principle.  The article also offers teacher commentary on each principle.  Finally, the article argues that the heart of reading instruction doesn’t change, it is readers falling in love with books.

For another manuscript, and building on our work about writing on the walls, Anna Consalvo and I finished up a manuscript about post-it notes.  It’s under review, so send some happy thought bubbles in to the universe if you’ve some to spare.

I also had the great privilege to present for a Heart of Texas Writing Project Saturday workshop focused on advocacy.  I even wrote a blog about it and NCTE published it.  While the rhetoric around education today is almost entirely economic–go to school to get a job.  There is a long tradition of culture and citizenship being the driving force behind education.  I think–as does the Texas Educator Code of Ethics–that it’s high time to return to that citizenship piece.  There is also a long tradition of educators raising their voices to support students, schools, and public education.  Now is also the time for such voices to be persistent.