Library Love When I worked weekend shifts at school, I promoted a Saturday trip to visit local libraries and called it “LOL: Love Our Libraries.” It’s helpful if staff secure at least six students for their activities and double that if you co-lead a trip. Jeff and I got two kids to sign up, so I led the trip by myself and poor Jeff had to offer something else a little more enticing that weekend. The reading culture at NCS is quite huge and always has been, but that particular weekend my trip was a flop. The two boarding students who came along just wanted to avoid hiking all day on Adirondack trails. They were most interested in listening to music in the van as we traveled around to each little library. LOL.
I started Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Notes on Grief this summer. I read the first two chapters and set it aside. I couldn’t do it. Not yet. Soon. The grief books are piling up. That’s a good thing. The landscape for talking—embracing—the topics of death, grief, loss has certainly shifted in the last thirty years. I am grateful. What I needed was a break from grief and loss, a break from kid lit for lesson planning. I needed comedy. Adult comedy. The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher fit the bill. Payne University! The blue, buck-toothed mascot! This review by Washington Post critic Ron Charles does the book justice and includes some comments from the author: Campus Comedy – Shakespeare Requirement The whole thing is hilarious—every single page. Laugh on.
An octopus has trailed me this summer. Let me explain. 1. Lately, I’ve been inundated with an image of what it’s like to miss something so enormous, like your son’s mental health struggles in the aftermath of suicide. That image just happens to be an octopus cowboy riding an elephant. A purple octopus, no less. A lot of crisis counselors say this to survivors: “You did the best you could with the information you had at the time.” I despise this line. It was used on me several times. The statement grates on me because it’s both accurate and annoying. Terrible and true. With time and distance, I have the ability to see my younger son’s last two years of life with much more clarity. It feels like I missed the octopus galloping and yee-hawing in the front yard. It was right there. I have to forgive myself. And the professionals and educators in the tragic circle. Maybe that’s why the octopus took off the chaps, put aside the lasso, and stashed the cowboy hat to emerge in later weeks, in different iterations, for me to see. 2. When school let out, I picked up a box of 100 postcards of animals by 10 different artists at my local thrift store. I have a trusty pen pal (Bren!!) and have made an effort to write regularly to a student involved in a bike crash earlier in the summer. That student loves dogs (mainly the family dog, but still) and there…
Although there’s still some summer left, I am turning my attention to the classroom. That means lesson planning. I’m in the middle of an online class with the Stern Center for Language and Learning. With that course (When Writing is Hard), the mini-workshops with Julia Torres in the spring, and the curriculum maps I worked on during the school year, things are in pretty decent shape for September. I won’t lie. I’m slowly filling in the template I created with my plans for activities and projects. Slowly is the operative word. I get sidetracked, especially when there’s so much to read. Last year’s class loved The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm. I was so pleased that her follow-up, The Third Mushroom, expands on the grief theme that only got a passing mention in Goldfish. I’m slowly building a lesson plan around this book, as well as WINK. I’m waiting to pick up Michelle Cuevas’s Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jaques Papier and The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson at my local library.