It's Gonna Be May

I started feeling it last week, but today it hit.

Something in the air. The way the sun isn't fully coming out.

The end of the school year is close, but it's not tomorrow. Or next week. Or the week after that. Or the next day.

It's like approaching the 11 mile-marker in a half marathon. Where your brain can't think about anything but your sad knees and how dying wouldn't be that bad, but still you know you're going to make it, so you have to keep going.

And when you have the least bit left, you need to somehow muster up more strength than usual.

This is always an unsuspecting and tricky part of the year for me. I never see it coming, and it always kicks my butt.

But it seems like it shouldn't.

I'm on the other side of the year's most monstrous work periods.
Never coasting, but my head is above water.

My students are still curious and caring.
My colleagues are like family.
The literature is a constant source of light.

I think I'm just tired.
And I think most people around me are, too.

The students. The staff. The families.

We're all at mile 11.

It's the spot the ones who love you most will choose to line the sidewalks as spectators. It's where the biggest cheer section is needed. With witty posters and vuvuzelas.

In May you might see your best student put her head down.
Or look at the time more than twice.
Or stare longingly out the window.

A colleague you adore might give a short response. Or not respond.
Or drop the ball on the thing.

A new task might fall onto your plate. Even if it's something you're genuinely into, you might just stare at it resentfully for a second like, "Hi. What gives."

Mile 11 is where everyone hits a collective wall.

The best thing to do is to look around. To see everyone else in the same space.

In the classroom, it's up to me to triple the energy output when students are falling into the meh. To remain excited about the learning. To bring my A game when it feels like a C minus day, for them or for me.

To expect them to meet me halfway, and to make it worthwhile when they do.

To continue to care, and to show it more intentionally than usual.

Be the cheer section. Generate the energy.

I started to use a full marathon as the metaphor, but didn't have the brain capacity to even imagine that many miles right now.

Painting by Martin Wehmer

Misplaced NYC

In this project by photographer Anton Repponin and writer Jon Earle, New York City landmarks have been misplaced to unknown locations for unknown reasons. Check out Misplaced New York.

The Guggenheim // The Metropolitan Opera // The Standard Hotel

Rule To Live By // 04

This week I got hit pretty hard with a sinus infection and spent a few days in bed with all of the tissue boxes. My head did not literally explode from the pressure, though I was sure it might and then someone would have to tell the children.

I tried to do all of the things, but now am having to accept that my body will shut this mother down when my brain goes overboard. The get-it-girl's age-old power struggle.

Self-care, people. I need to work on that.

I doodled a phrase my friend Lili always uses. She's full of useful mantras, that one.

Take care of your square. Every dang day.

While deathlike and in bed, I enjoyed some solid Internetting. I also devoured Lemonade like 8 times and then read about 18 thinkpieces about it.

The Manologue // explaining mansplaining

The Tampon Tax //  file under: unacceptable

Missy Elliott's Instagram // pure joy and talent

A Blind Mind's Eye // brains are so neat

Who's 'They'? // because pronouns matter, binaries don't, and it's hard to sum a person up in one word

On Prince, Blackness, and Sexuality // a purple reign

Shawn Huckins Be Like

This morning I discovered Shawn Huckins. I love his Paint Chips series the most, but I died over The American Revolution Revolution and The American ____tier.  

File under: 1.) SH, be my friend. 2.) Fantasy classroom posters. 3.) Fantasy English class project for high schoolers.

Road Trip // Fallingwater

Part of my adulthood reality is that I don't get to see my closest friends as often as I'd like.

And since I no longer live a few blocks away in Harlem, Kristin and I now have to make real plans to see each other, and when we do we tend toward the ambitious.

Most recently, we decided to take a road trip to Fallingwater, the Kaufman family's vacation home, masterfully built by Frank Lloyd Wright into a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania. We decided it would be no problem to do this in a single day, so we logged over 450 miles between waking up and going back to sleep.


It turns out that the mountains of Pennsylvania are a world away from Philadelphia. It was snowing and blustery and we joked that we were definitely North of The Wall.

My favorite part? We spent the following morning lamenting over all the things we still didn't even get to talking about during the 10 hours we spent alone in the car.

That's Tier One friendship.

I would like to recommend a field trip to Fallingwater to everyone with a soul and an appreciation for human creation. It is truly brilliant, from the grand scope of its very idea down to the tiniest details inside the house.

It's these details I'm still hung up on.

image courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Some ideas that continue lingering in my brain:

  1. Wealthy adults in 1935 were down with twin beds, low-ish ceilings, and a regular-house number of rooms.
  2. A perfect living room has multiple zones so people can be flexible with their interactions. You can be social over here, or social over there, or antisocial over there, without leaving the room.
  3. Hinges are magical. An enormous soup kettle swings in and out of the fireplace. Bathroom towels are hung on a series of racks that extend out of the wall. A bedside book lays open on what looks like a music stand, attached by a hinge to the wall, and can hover over you as you read in bed, and be pushed away when it's lights out. Why doesn't every bedroom have that?
  4. Stools are underrated pieces of furniture. There are lots of styles and possibilities, and they can be easily moved around and repurposed for different occasions.
  5. Great style never goes out of style. The architect's furnishings, fabrics, colors, and lines are timeless. He was ahead of his time then, and somehow remains so now.

We ended our road trip with a rural diner stop, followed by an extended adventure closing down a suburban Target. Really, I can think of no happier way to spend a Saturday night.

Spring Fake

The first day of Spring Break this year was revoked. Because we missed an unanticipated number of school days in September when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia, it was determined that we would have to make up for the lost instructional time now.

And so, off we all went to school for a one-day week.

You can imagine the feelings around this. Attendance would be poor, everyone would be grouchy, productivity would be nil.

I will admit: my own expectations for the day were quite low. Furthermore, it was 30ish degrees on the second day of Spring, so I was already set up for disappointed.

Following a brisk bike ride with my two sets of gloves on, I bought the biggest coffee and walked into the building.

My first human interaction was with a 12th grader in my Reel Reading class (which is like an Englishy-film studies elective for second semester seniors). Before I put my bag down he was in the room showing me his outfit, which was inspired by Benjamin Braddock, the main character played by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate (one of our recent films).

There I was, all geared up to have a grumpy morning, and he disarmed me completely. What are you supposed to do when your course content inspires teenagers' wardrobe choices? And they think it important enough to share it with you as soon as possible?

And then.

Less than an hour later, my 9th graders were presenting the video trailers they made for their book club novels. A student who typically prefers not to say anything out loud stood up to introduce his group's project. When his group mates silently indicated that he would start it off, he gave a big sigh and began, "Well, let me just tell you everything I love about this book." And he rambled excitedly for a while, and the rest of the class listened eagerly, and my heart absolutely melted.

They showed their trailer, and it was tremendous. They'd spent days filming it all over the city, capturing the biggest ideas and the tiniest nuances of the characters and themes, and selling the rest of the class on their book because they genuinely just loved it so much.

I really wanted to write about Monday. I mean, it wasn't life-changing. It wasn't the most magical day of my career or anything like that.

It was a day that was supposed to pretty much stink, but it didn't at all. I went into it begrudgingly, probably along with nearly everyone else, and it turned out to be full of little moments of joy.

Even a silly day like that, with the bar set so low, can't not remind me. I have it pretty dang good. The big picture is right. And I really, truly love this gig.