You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

When Leo was a puppy, he needed to be taught how to do everything from coming when called, to relieving himself outside, to learning that if food was left on a table or counter that it was not an invitation for him to help himself!  At some point, he learned, or used his instincts to help him retrieve objects when thrown – tennis balls, sticks, you name it, he would chase the soaring item and sure enough, bring it right back to whoever initiated the “game.”

At nine years old, Leo, a beautiful Golden Retriever who prances when walking (perhaps due to his father’s famous show dog lineage) has shifted his approach to retrieving.  Yes, he will still occasionally be enthused by the stick throwing routine, but these days, Leo has his sights set on a much more creative approach to play.

Instead of waiting for an object to be thrown and then capturing it, Leo initiates a whole new approach to fun.  Most mornings, he can be found racing through the Swift River trails en route to a quieter open space where there is a sandy spot that has easy access to a slower moving part of the river.  Upon closer view, one will notice that Leo is actually surveying the shallow waters and then hand, or paw-selecting a river rock.

Sometimes the transaction is seamless, and he is able to secure the rock in his mouth before bringing it up to higher ground, proudly dropping it near our feet and going back for more.  Other times, Leo may choose a rock that is too big for his mouth span and he will relentlessly try to capture it, nudging it with his nose – usually heading in the wrong direction away from the shore – whining at it and if really frustrated, barking profusely.  I am in awe of the whole fascinating process!  The fruits of his labor have been collecting over these summer weeks and he now has garnered quite a river rock garden!

As I wonder at how amazing Leo’s new development has been to observe, I am reminded that an old dog can learn new tricks!  Taking a page out of Leo’s book, and with the guidance of many writing legends – past and present – I am creating this blog to have a place to share my life moments – immense or miniscule – of any size.  It is here that I am committing to living a writerly life so that I can be a more authentic teacher of writing for my fourth grade students.  Cheers to all teachers as we get closer to the new school year ahead on the horizon.



Loose Ends

The crate with the pup went in first
Duffels and food bags followed
Teens filed in to the middle row
Not enough space

Out came the crate (and the pup)
Duffels and food bags rearranged
Teens stayed put

Insert pup (minus the crate)
Loose ends arrive late to the party
Joined the puzzle that is packing

We're off

Minutes into departure
Panic set in

"Where is the chocolate pie?" 
Utter brain freeze
Shoulders shrug

"Stop the car!"
Mind traveled back to loose ends
Remembered resting pie on roof of car
Sneaked a peek when car came to rolling stop

Mystery of chocolate pie's whereabouts solved
Laughter abounds
Sets a sweet tone for the journey ahead

Happy Hour

It’s happy hour at the lake.

Adults balance a beverage of choice and their charges.

No lifeguard on duty invites boldness

In and out of the water.

A melange of floats is in attendance.




Even an arching rainbow complete with clouds.

Something for everyone.

A family of ducks shows up — lingers.

Salsa music whispers in the background as teens stage a photoshoot.

Did someone say, “Water snake?”

Families cluster together

Laughing, smiling, watching,

As the sun lowers in the sky.

Grills are on and pizza is on the way.

Tomorrow brings promises

Of better sunscreen application.

It’s happy hour at the lake.



How is it that they decide to be yours?

Sometimes a dream can be such a vivid picture. Other times, a fleeting blur of an image.

In the moment, I’m all in. As if I’m an active participant. My favorite kind are the ones that give me a warm and fuzzy, safe feeling.

Does my mind know when I need these to help comfort me, ground me?

Going to bed last night, I knew today was going to be the last day of the challenge. I can’t help but wonder if my dreams helped to inform me of my focus.

In a time when so much is out of our control, perhaps we can lean into our dreams.

Dream big, friends and have hope.

After all, isn’t life a dream?


Jackson is on daily dishwasher duty.

Early bird unfortunately gets the worm!

Abigail sets the table for dinner.

Caroline is the beloved Vacuum Queen!

They share the dreaded laundry responsibility.

Both girls bake sweet treats regularly.


Heading south, 24 is the route that leads me back to my hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island.

It’s also the route that guides me north toward Boston so that I can recharge in the White Mountains.

When school’s in session, Route 24 saves me some time in the morning when I travel on it for an exit or two.

June 24th is the date my parents said “I do.”

August 24th is a celebration of my mother and her grand entrance into this world.

24 was the very first jersey number that Jackson picked way back when he started playing ice hockey as a squirt. With a few exceptions, it’s been his number ever since.

Keeping it in the family, 24 is the number Caroline selected when she began her ice hockey career at the start of the winter season.

There are 24 hours in each day. I used to think that there weren’t enough hours in the day. Our current quarantine has afforded me the opportunity to bend my perspective a bit.



Uninvited Guest

I caught a glimpse of movement.

He popped his head out high.

I shrieked, jumped, and shouted, “Help!”

Time was running out for cleverness.

Stunned by spraying Method glass cleaner.

He was escorted out the door.


This 6 by 6 was inspired by fellow slicer, Chris Margocs, and her submission, “Need to Get a Grip.”

What’s for Breakfast?

Earlier this week, I invited students to write me a Friendly Letter describing a typical learning day at home.

Yesterday, C sent me her virtual letter and shared that every day, a different person in her family is responsible for making breakfast. Even her youngest sister is in charge of pancakes with her dad as a sous chef! She offered wonderful details, like her mom’s choice of preparing rice and beans being her favorite, making me feel like I was sitting in her kitchen waiting for a plate of the breakfast special! Opportunities for cooking. Priceless.

Reading C’s letter got me thinking. In our house, each person makes his own breakfast during weekdays as we are on different schedules and have varied preferences to start our days. All bets are off on weekends as we have the luxury of time in the morning and the desire to indulge a little. If we applied the same structure as C’s family, I started wondering what each person would make. What would be each signature dish?

Jackson is easy. He loves pancakes – plain with lots of syrup. He’d need help making them the first time, but after that would be on auto-pilot. If no help was allowed, he’d resort to making scrambled eggs and serve them with ham and cheese on toasted english muffins. He’d also make a mess. Look out clean-up crew!

Abigail craves sweet bread french toast. She definitely prefers to have them made for her and is sure to add syrup and powdered sugar. Recently, we discovered that sliced vienna bread is a close second to sweet bread! Left to her own devices, she’d probably make fruit-based smoothies for everyone.

Caroline enjoys making chocolate chip banana bread. Her last one was so moist and delicious! We have a few bananas that are perfect for mashing, so I expect her to make another loaf very soon! If asked what she would prefer for breakfast, it would be cinnamon rolls. While we’ve been experimenting with using yeast to make them from scratch, her favorite is still using the Jiffy mix and softened cream cheese!

Heading into the weekend, I’m now wondering what’s for breakfast?

Refrigerator Puzzle

On a good day, our side by side refrigerator mostly meets our needs.

Right now, said fridge is a little more than taxed.

I should add that over the summer, we disposed of our broken basement fridge during a dumpster purge and haven’t replaced that extra space.

Limited supermarket runs mean that when we do go, we are purchasing a greater volume each visit.

Baking and cooking experiments are filling parts of the day and end products are taking valuable, unusual space.

Cooking and ordering larger quantities means more leftovers in containers of varying shapes and sizes.

Fitting things in isn’t the problem, though, thanks to a clever husband with an engineering background.

It’s the fact that the items in the fridge are playing a game of musical chairs and the teenagers, especially the male one, are struggling to find the spot where the items land.

“Why can’t we just put things back where they belong?” he quips.

Pro-tip for those who are challenged by change – be flexible, be kind, and know that all will be well.

Even in the refrigerator puzzle.

Sugar Bowl

It’s funny how a memory moment for a character in a novel can conjure up memories in a reader’s past.

After taking the advice I so often give my student readers when seeking the next book on deck, I read the review of a favorite author and selected a new story to explore.

My character, Holly, is old beyond her years, feeling the pull of responsibility for her mother and the well-being of two young boys who live next door with their father, a widower. She struggles with feelings of inadequacy and lack of experience.

Holly recounts a vivid memory of attempting to pass the sugar bowl at the dinner table, failing miserably because her hands were wet. The sugar bowl, her mother’s prized possession, falls to the ground and the handle breaks off, scarring both Holly and her mother in more ways than one.

While my own memory isn’t as clear, I too, had a run in with a sugar bowl at an even younger age. I was helping my mother prepare for a house party where she and my father would be entertaining some friends. I am told that I was running to the table with the bowl and must have lost my footing. I fell and the sugar bowl came with me, forming a jagged edge and leaving a physical scar on my knee that lives with me to this day.