Seventh Day!

Time for my mom’s proud moment!

i got an email from her a few days ago (Which is a little bit of a proud moment itself: she is stubbornly technophobic. But nonetheless she has learned to handle email and texts and her smartphone, and is starting to get into webinars and such.).

The subject line read: My knitting goes worldwide.

My mother knits. Constantly. She’s knitted me hats, scarves, sweaters, and a Harry Potter cape. But this? This is when she hit the big time.


That’s right. My mom made those giant blue-footed Booby feet. And she hit the big time.

This Sixth Day

I am not enamored of babies.

Never have been. Never had one, I am not an uncle  (nor an aunt); my friends have kids but I generally wasn’t around them when they were babies –my friends’ kids, that is, I certainly wasn’t around my friends when they were babies, if they ever were. (I mean, I can’t be sure, right? I wasn’t around. Sure, they say they were babies… though hang on, I’m not even sure they ever said it… This bears looking into.) When I have been around my friends’ babies, I have generally been a little intimidated: I worry that they’re too fragile, that I shouldn’t touch them or pick them up in case I drop them. It is weird that they are tiny things that will grow up into complete humans. I can’t really grasp it.

But I do not feel that way about animal babies. I absolutely adore puppies and kittens and tadpoles and chicks. I think they’re amazing, and though they are often very fragile, I still want to pick them up and cuddle them and kiss them on their awkwardly big heads.

So I’m learning to be more fond of human puppies. I guess. Still kinda weird, those little things. Though they do generally have nice eyes. And cute toe-beans.

One thing I know for sure: new babies, new life, is magical and precious, and heartening, in a time like this. I have a friend, a former student, who just had a beautiful healthy daughter this last Friday; her first. Alexandria. Everybody’s fine. My friend is going to be a good mom. I don’t want to share pictures, because it’s not my story to celebrate; but it is news worthy of celebrating, so here it is.

And here’s another birth worth celebrating, which I can share:


Congratulations, everybody.

Did you know I’m from Boston?

Or, well, Newton, which is a suburb of Boston. And I’m not from there in the sense that I was born there; I moved there when I was 8. But it is the place I have the strongest memories of, the strongest ties to as a childhood home, so I call it the place that I am from.

Home of Crystal Lake (Not that one).

Namesake of the Fig Newton.

Place of Heartbreak Hill, the mile-long uphill climb that comes at Mile 20 of the Boston Marathon.

Former residence of an ABSURD Wikipedia list of famous people. (I’m sure some of these are true. I’m equally sure that not all of them are true. Newton is a very old city and it is right next to Boston, so many of these people may have lived there for a short time — but this list is ridiculous. Needs additional citations for verification, indeed.)

List  of Famous People From Newton, Massachusetts


And because I grew up in Newton, I am proud to say that I can hear this sign out loud.

Kodak🔜 FWA (@tigerdotexe) | Twitter

Also, while I am social distancing as well as I  can, I did have a two-hour videoconference call with two of my best teacher-friends today (And my wife, though that was  more so she could talk to them than so she could talk to me — she was in the other room on her phone. I could hear the bird screaming with echo effect.), and it reminded me, as much of an introvert as I am, and as important (WICKED important, mush) as it is to quarantine to slow the spread and flatten the curve, we need to stay in touch with those we love  and care about. We need to interact. We need to see and speak to other people.

Just do it safely.

Thanks to everyone for everything you are sacrificing for society, and particularly to help those in need, and those who are sacrificing to help all of us. I hope I can give  you a smile. Since I can’t give you a hug.

This Third Day Is Harder

I’m having a tougher time finding the positive space today. I didn’t sleep well last night, had a rough hour with one of my online classes today; and of course, the universe dropped this on us:

I tried to think of something I could share today that would be happy; but honestly, I’ve just been singing Bill Withers songs in my head all day. I won’t say I grew up listening to him (I kind of did, though, because “Lean On Me” is an anthem for me. First song I learned to play on the piano, back when I was still going to Sunday School. And that was a looooong time ago.) but the last few years I’ve come to appreciate his genius: once I found out just how many beautiful songs he wrote that I already knew. My favorite thing that I found out today, listening to his Best Of… album, was that one of my favorite R&B hooks was taken from Mr. Withers.

You just need to hear the first ten seconds — though of course, if you want to hear the whole song, it’s worth it. And it’s only two minutes.

And here it is again, from 1996:


But thinking about this is sad. So I can’t write about this.

At the same time, though, I can’t pretend even on my happiest day that the world isn’t caving in under the weight of sadness and fear and pain — I want to add “right now” at the end of that sentence, but it’s always like that for some of us, at least some days: every day is sad. Every day there is death and loss and sorrow and grief. And while I don’t want to dwell on that, I want to bring some joy even to people who are grieving right now — and any time — I don’t want to ignore it, either, don’t want to pretend that the pain isn’t real.

So while I will grieve for Mr. Withers’s passing, I will remember this, from another of my very favorite artists:

“Listen,” said Granger, taking his arm, and walking with him, holding aside the bushes to let him pass. “When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with hishands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the back yard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think, what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands. He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.”

Granger stood looking back with Montag. “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I’m sure I’ve posted this before, but this is the passage that sticks with me. This is what I think of when I think of death, and when I think of memory, and of legacy. I don’t know if I believe in a soul, but I certainly know two things: the world has been bankrupted of uncountable fine actions, now that Mr. Withers has passed on; and, whenever we hear things like this, things that he shaped and touched, he will be there. His soul will live on in this.


And here, of course, is where Bill Withers’s soul will touch all of us: because Mr. Withers told us how we handle the unbearable weight of the world. With the help of others.

Thank you, sir. Rest well.

This Second Day

(By the way, did anyone notice that my last post was my 400th on this blog? Me neither.)

I’m still not ready to share my sad post. Here’s this, instead.

I started a podcast. 

I know this is now a joke, a cliché; I read a whole post about how people should NOT take this time in quarantine to start a podcast. But this is not supposed to be an ego trip, or a special way to share my hot takes or expand my brand: my intent here was to create content that homeschoolers and distance-learning teachers could utilize. I do also want to share my love for literature, of course; and inasmuch as that’s my brand, and these interpretations of these pieces are my hot takes, I suppose this is exactly the cliché podcast.

I don’t care.

I am very proud of this. I have gotten compliments from people ranging from seventh-graders to septuagenarians; from complete strangers, to my wife, who was genuinely impressed at how good I am at literary analysis, and how well I read and speak about literature. And any compliment that comes from my wife makes me inordinately proud.

So this is my positive post for the day: I made a podcast. If you haven’t listened to it, check it out: this is today’s brand new episode — on what is not, sadly, a happy story; but it is an utterly perfect story.

The Story of an Hour

(If you want positive literature to listen to, go for “since feeling is first” or “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”)

This Day

Yesterday was a bad day.

There have been a lot of bad days, lately. For all of us. And when put in comparison with all of us, my bad day yesterday was not so much of a much: I had to do a thing for work that I didn’t want to do, and it made me feel — hopeless.

It wasn’t so much what I had to do. It was that it’s easy to feel hopeless.

It’s so easy, right now, to focus on the negatives. Sometimes we have to: because sometimes the negatives overwhelm everything else, and must be confronted, conquered or adapted to.

But other times, even in these times, it’s not good to focus on the negatives too often, or to focus on them too hard, to the exclusion of all else. I did that yesterday, and when my wife tried to hug me to make me feel better, I didn’t even hug her back. I was too low. And I was wallowing.

I wrote a blog yesterday, in the depths of my sadness. It didn’t make me feel better, but I wrote it. And honestly, I think it’s accurate, and it’s something I want to say, so I want to share it.

But not now. Not yet. Not today.

Today I want to share this. Even though I’ve shared it many times before. I think today, this is something worth focusing on.

These are my dogs, Roxie and Samwise. Also my birb, Duncan. Roxie is the tall angular one, who particularly likes soft things — that’s her favorite chair, the purple one; also her favorite blanket, under which my wife tucks her pretty much every morning; the bottom one is her on what we call the “poofy nest,” a mattress topper that the dogs lie on because the concrete floor is too hard and cold for them, sometimes. Duncan is the one with the crown of yellow feathers, moving so quick he’s a blur. I had videos of our tortoise, Neo, but I couldn’t upload them.

Maybe I’ll focus on that, tomorrow.

I’m going to try to find something worth focusing on, worth sharing, every day. At some point, I’ll decide it’s a good day to share my very sad post.

But not today.