Bike Love

February is a special month for me because not too many Februaries ago, my own little heart got a big fix.  And that big fix allows me to celebrate love in its purest form.  The purest form of love being bike love, of course.

This February I’m sending you a big bouquet of Valentine wishes.

I hope you find love in unexpected places.  I think you’ll be surprised where you find it if you take a moment to look.

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I hope you find a warm embrace in the arms of a loved one.  And that you take the time to hug them just a second or two longer than usual.

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I hope you’ll be bold enough to let down your guard, to wear your heart on your sleeve.

I hope you write and receive many, many love notes.

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And that each day you find something new to love.

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I hope you find comfort in love that has been around the block once or twice, love that has lasted, love that has lost a little of its sheen, love that has lost all the sharp edges, love that’s your soft place to fall.

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Whether you spend this Valentine’s Day with a few thousand of your closest friends

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Or in your own good company

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Know this, I’m thankful you’re a part of my life.  I think this necklace best expresses my feelings for you.

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Happy February!  Now, go out and show your bike some love.

Thankful Thursday #9

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the roses Terry brought to my classroom on Friday.  I love “just because” flowers and the man who brings them to me.
  • lemongrass soap.
  • these tips on revision that make me feel like my wordslugging is worth it.
  • when the thermometer hit 70.  A little taste of spring in January has me pining for more.
  • skirts and dresses because they’re so much more fun to wear than pants.
  • reading in the bathroom.
  • the bumper sticker I saw that read “Wag more, bark less”.
  • this awesome LEGO cycling gorilla:
from the brilliant site A LEGO A Day

Lucky Number Seven

I got a new little boy in class a few days ago.  Correction, I got my seventh new little boy a few days ago.

First grade boys can sometimes be rubber bands of energy and they don’t always know the appropriate way to release all that energy.  So, seven new boys this year is a lot.  But to my surprise, the first six settled in nicely, fairly easily in fact.  Sure there were a few minor hiccups here and there, but overall they’re pretty great little guys.

So when I found out my seventh new boy was coming, I crossed my fingers and said a prayer.  After all, how long could my string of sweet little guys hold out?  Surely, I’d pressed my luck and was due for a tough one.

On his first day in our class, my new little boy walked into the room with his mother, his siblings and an interpreter.  His mother is deaf and my lucky number seven’s primary language is American Sign Language, followed closely by English.  The interpreter and I talked with the mother, the mother patiently put up with my finger spelling and minimal signs.  And then it was time for the mother to say goodbye to her son.

Let me tell you, my heart stopped watching that mother and son sign “I love you” to each other.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I love words.  I love learning new words.  I love finding the perfect word to express a particular sentiment.  I love the way words feel in my mouth.  I love discovering unusual pairings of words.  I love the way people string words together to create a stunning turn of phrase.

In my teaching career, I’ve had two other little boys who signed.  And when they’d sign, a rush of love filled my heart as they opened their hands and released their words into our classroom.

And when Lucky Number Seven signed goodbye to his mom, I knew, I just knew, that I’d somehow managed to get another great little boy.

What I did not know is that my little ones would feel the same way, that they would be completely smitten with sign language.  Sure, we sing and sign every day.  Songs about the days of the week, the months of the year, and counting.  Rudimentary signs, at best.

But now we had an expert in our midst and at one point on his first day in our class, a crowd of children clustered around Lucky Seven’s desk.  I walked over fully expecting to have to “deal with something”, but when I got closer I heard my little ones talking to Lucky Seven saying things like, “My name is ______.  Can you teach me to sign my name?” and “How do I sign ‘brother’?  I want to say ‘I love you, brother.’  Can you show me?”

Later when we gathered on the carpet to sing and sign, all eyes were on Lucky Seven as he gracefully signed with hands blistered from too many trips across the monkey bars.  My little ones were rapt.  Their mouths hung open.  Their brows furrowed.  And to my delight, their hands mimicked his.  My little ones filled up the spaces between us with their signs.  Their words floated unseen in the very air we breathed.

In that moment, I stood still in my tracks, not wanting to miss a motion, not wanting to miss a single one of their words.

Lucky Seven thinks that I know how to sign.  My fumbling signs have fooled him enough that when we are across the room from each other, he signs to me.  Sometimes I can understand, but most of the time I have to ask him to sign more slowly or ask him to speak aloud and sign at the same time.

He’s patient and I’m learning.

I’m learning to savor the silent beauty of passing our words back and forth.  I’m learning to sign things like, “I’m glad to see you.” and “I’m proud of you.”

I imagine I’ll always think of him as my Lucky Seven, but each day he’s in our class I’m learning that I’m truly the lucky one.

Fangirl Moment

Tuesday night, at Pitch-a-palooza, I had a major Fangirl Moment.  As I waited for the evening to begin, and got down to the very important business of fidgeting in my seat, I spotted Susan G. Wooldridge.

She was all ethereal, wearing an understated black outfit and a turquoise scarf.  She floated around the room hugging friends and saying only deep and meaningful things, I’m sure.

I leaned over to the woman on my right and whispered “There’s Susan Wooldridge!”.

The woman on my right moved one seat down.

So I leaned over to the woman on my left and tried again.  “There’s Susan Wooldridge.  The author of Poemcrazy.  She’s, like, right there.  Can you even believe it???”

“Who’s Susan Wooldridge?”

“She’s a terrific poet and author.  If you haven’t read Poemcrazy, you should.  Like now.”

“What’s her name again?”

“Susan Wooldridge.  Wooldridge with a ‘d’.  Here I’ll show you her latest book.”  I whipped Fools Gold out of my purse.

“You have her book in your purse?”

“Yeah, I was sorta hoping she’d be here tonight.  I’m going to ask for her autograph afterwards.”

The nice woman just blinked at me.

“I swear, I’m not a stalker.  I’m really a very normal person.”

“I’m sure she appreciates enthusiastic fans like you.”  The woman patted my leg.  Then she turned and talked to her husband.

At the end of the event, I scanned the room for Susan.  I walked around all casual, cool even.  Okay, not really.  But when I spotted her, I held all my nerdy Fangirlness to a minimum.

“Excuse me, aren’t you Susan Wooldridge?”  I held up her book.

“Yes, I am.” she smiled

“If you have a second, would you mind signing my book?”  I held out the book and a pen.

“I’d be happy to.”  She sat and I sat near her, resisting the urge to read what she was writing over her shoulder.

“I met you at the Redding Writers Forum.  I loved Poemcrazy.”

“Oh, that’s where I know you from.”  She handed the book back to me.

“Thanks so much for signing my book and indulging my inner Fangirl.”

“My pleasure.  It never gets old, sweetheart.”  And then Susan G. Wooldridge put her hand on my cheek and told me to keep writing.

Someday when I have a book of my own.  I hope to put my hand on someone’s cheek and call them sweetheart and tell them to keep writing.

For now, I am entirely content to be Susan G. Wooldridge’s #1 Fangirl.

Thankful Thursday #8

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the pink sunset reflecting off the white cap of Mt. Lassen
  • bedhead so terrible that I actually jumped at the shadow it cast on the wall.  No joke.  Then I woke Terry with it and scared the pants off of him, too.
  • magazines in the mailbox
  • walking to church Sunday mornings
  • Monday holidays
  • Donald Miller’s take on gratitude
  • when Terry puts gas in my car
  • raspberry apple flavored water

Big Girl Pants

Last night I put on my Big Girl Pants, as in summoned my courage and put on my brave face.

Pitch-a-Palooza was in Chico last night.


Pitch-a-palooza.  An event sort of like American Idol for books.  Here’s how it works.  Writers step up to the mic and give a 60 second pitch about their book to a panel of qualified and highly knowledgeable professionals.  The panelists critique the pitch, pointing out what you did well and giving gentle suggestions on what to add or take away from your pitch to make it really sing.  At the end of the night a winner is declared and the winner gets a face to face meeting with an agent.

As I drove to Chico, I considered several things to pitch and narrowed it down to a novel.  Or a collection of poems.  Or a children’s book.  No, a novel, definitely a novel.  Maybe.  I rehearsed my pitch over and over again, talking to myself like a crazy person all alone in my car.  I shaved off words and cut out blather until I had it down to a succinct 40 seconds.

I felt confident that I had a good shot at the prize. In fact, I was sure I’d be declared the winner.  I was sure that after hearing my brilliant pitch Nicholas Sparks and Marisa de los Santos would suddenly burst out of the audience and fight over me, each of them begging to introduce me to their agents right that second.  (Don’t ask me why Nicholas Sparks was in my reverie.  I don’t usually read his books.  But apparently in my delusions, his opinion is very important.)

I pulled up to the venue half an hour before the start and it was already filling up.  I signed up to pitch and climbed over a row of people, accidentally sticking my tush in some poor man’s face before I plopped down in one of the only empty seats.  Around me people chattered nervously about their pitches.  Some clutched excerpts in their hands.  Others awkwardly edged through the crowd with complete storyboards.

I sat with nothing in my hands, just my words nervously knocking around in my head.

And then the event began.  There were too many people signed up.  So, 20 names would be chosen at random to pitch.  Person after person stood up to pitch.  Some were great, some were awful, all were applauded for being brave enough to put their idea out there.  I listened and learned and made tweaks to my pitch based on the panelists suggestions.

After nineteen people, the panel announced they would hear one final pitch.  My heart pounded in my ears.  I knit my sweaty fingers together.  They called the last name.

It wasn’t mine.

How were Nicholas Sparks and Marisa de los Santos supposed to fight over me now?

I was disappointed, but strangely rejuvenated.  I’d learned a ton about the book industry, learned about how to make my pitches better.  And I’d sat in a room full of fellow writers.  In the grand scheme of things, it was quite a night.

Back at home, I changed into my pajamas and sat down for a minute.  I was proud that I’d tossed my hat in the ring, content that I’d been brave enough to sign up.  And when I woke up this morning, I decided that I’m going to wear my Big Girl Pants more often.

Thankful Thursday #7

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the beautiful notebook a friend made for me.
  • the little boy in my classroom who was so excited about a card I’d put in his mailbox that he hugged my leg extra tight
  • Ruby Bridges for inspiring my kids to be brave
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. for giving me goosebumps every time I hear his speech
  • sheets fresh from the dryer
  • cold Saturday mornings perfect for writing in bed
  • my Words With Friends friends
  • frigid bike rides followed by scalding hot showers
  • one of my little girls, who on finding out we were getting yet another new student, said “We are the luckiest class-we always get new friends!”,  I’ve welcomed three new kids into our class within a week.  I’m going to try hard to have the same perspective as the little girl and think about how lucky I am to spend time with these new little ones.
  • the little girl in my class who, after writing pages and pages of a story, proclaimed, “Mrs. McCauley, I wrote lots of Golden Lines.”  Yes you did, little one, yes you did.
  • Terry, always Terry.