Right Turn Ahead…{Slice of Life}

right turn arrow on road
photo credit: Phillie Casablanca


Funny how a summer can put things in perspective.

Paradigm shift.


Bells ring. Students arrive.

Nine weeks come and go.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen.

Biding my time.

Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen.

Biding my time.


Then ….

email icon
photo credit: Houston Chronicle


Don’t get excited, but….




Too late.



Even for Maybe.


Right turn ahead?



Emptying cabinets.

Sorting supplies.

Boxing books.


Am ready.


Mixed feelings about leaving mid-year.

But… not mixed feelings about leaving.


Am ready.





If not now,

Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers



Please Don’t Come to My School When You’re Bald, Mommy: Helping Wee Ones Understand Cancer {Slice of Life}

I have two sisters. I am the oldest. And the bossiest, they would tell you. Whatever.  I adore them. More than they will ever know. I adore their children even more. Their respective other halves are pretty awesome, too, but this post isn’t about the adults.  Mostly.

It’s about wee ones. And cancer. And understanding. And strength.

Here goes…..


Recently, just two weeks into #BabySister’s chemotherapy, she sent me a text message that broke my heart. To be clear, there have been many since this journey began, but this one was particularly difficult:


Yes, our sister is a fighter. Her strength is her shield.  She’ll tell you, “She’s Got This” ~ loud.and.clear.  Let there be no doubt.  But sometimes, I believe, being vulnerable is your strength.

As for our niece, she is feisty, indeed. Just.like.her.mother.  But… she is five. It’s hard for wee ones to understand.

It’s also hard for us to hear our baby sister’s fear and anger, because we want to protect her. She IS the baby. Even at 34.   Fortunately, she turns fear and anger on their ear and takes back her strength, her determination and… her sense of humor.   Immediately.

In response to her message, I suggested, “We need to get that child a bald Barbie!”

Sister:   lol … They make those?

Me:   Yes!  Aunt Robin will find her one!

So, with a little research, I learned that Mattel didn’t make bald Barbie until a couple of moms took up the cause back in 2012.  Read more {here}.  But, those dolls are only given to cancer patients in hospitals, Mattel stating they “…. don’t want to make any profit from them.”

Noble. {insert sarcasm here} How about giving customers the option to purchase them for little girls whose mommies are going through treatment? What a customer-centric business decision that could be!  Mattel, are you listening??

Turns out, someone else was!  Here’s what who I found instead:

Moxie Doll, Avery
Meet, True Hope Avery!

Perfect!  I promptly had Avery shipped to our niece, and waited….

Before True Hope Avery arrived, mommy had to shave her head. Day 20 of #BabySister’s treatment:

Woman getting her head shaved due to chemo

As you can see, she was channeling all that strength to make this a positive experience … for everyone.  Wee one sat close by, along with her brothers.  There were many pictures taken that night. They are priceless, ones I’ll cherish as long as I live.

Wee one had a few days to adjust to mommy’s new look… apparently.

Avery arrived on their doorstep a few days later. #BabySister videotaped the introduction.  Worried that I had overstepped my boundaries, mommy reassured me it was okay, and showed me wee one’s candid reaction. It is the cutest thing you could imagine seeing. I cry every time I watch it.  And I’m amazed.

I ripped the audio so I could share it, while protecting wee one.  I invite you to click play, close your eyes, and listen to wee one’s response when her mommy asks her what she notices different about Avery….. 

What’s missing from this list of attributes?

We were stunned!  Not a word about Avery’s beautiful (and very obvious) bald head.

#BabySister:    Is she pretty?

Wee one:    Yea! I love her eyes!

Yes, our niece is five. But she gets it. Beauty is more than hair.

I’m told it was a few hours later when she finally asked, “Hey! Where’s her hair??”

So I ask you, who’s helping whom to understand????

Oh, and as for mommy…. she’s all over town, sporting her new bald noggin… and she is, I’m sure our niece would agree, the most beautiful person ever!!!  I’m pretty sure she’ll turn up at school soon… You’ll recognize mommy and wee one. They’ll be the ones with the super-cute matching hats, scarves…. or, just earrings.  No hat required.   😉

Tuesday Slice of Life logo
Tuesday SOL hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join us and share a slice of your life.

When Dads Walk Away…. {Slice of Life}


Slice of Life hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.

What happens when dads walk away?

As a ‘dad-less’ daughter, I know kids are left behind to wonder why. Why did he go? Why didn’t he want me? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t he want to be around? What could I have done differently to make him stay?

Or, worse yet, kids left behind think mom pushed dad away, and surely, if mom had done things differently, then dad would’ve stayed. It’s her fault.

As a teacher, I see the fall-out, too. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes blatant. Always painful.

Last month, I asked my juniors and seniors to develop a written piece for National Day On Writing (#NDOW).  I provided three photos and asked students to choose one (or more) and write about it/them. The piece could be fiction or nonfiction, personal or not, metaphorical or literal.  As always, my kiddos did not disappoint!  Heads dropped. Pens and pencils began moving. The room was silent. The feeling, intense.

They wrote with focused purpose until the bell rang. They came back the next day and insisted we continue without interruption. We revised and edited (this was tougher to get them to do, but required).

By day three, we shared at our own comfort level. If a piece was too personal, a student did not have to share the content, but everyone had to discuss the process with his/her partners.  What an amazing three days!

Students DiscussingNDOW_Discussions2

During the writing process, emotions were raw for several students.

One young man, an accomplished football player and struggling student, was stuck during the first day of writing. When I asked him how I could help, he was speechless. I ventured carefully, asking which photo he chose. The dark, stormy one. I wasn’t surprised, based on his expression. Then I suggested he create a bubble map to organize his thoughts. Several students were creating their own that day:


Graphic Organizer


Tears began to fill his dark eyes. He hastily brushed them away. I backed off.

A few minutes later, when I came back around, I noticed a few words on his paper:  dad, confused, success, failure. He looked up, met my eyes, and said nothing. I quietly moved on and left him to reflect and write.

By the third day (sharing day), my student had written a brief piece and discussed the process with his partners. His content was his.  His process, he was ready to discuss … mostly.

Fast-forward a month, to this past week. 

My students have been honing their ability to identify and interpret figurative language and author’s tone in print and non-print text, and assess the impact of each on a reader/viewer.   As I worked with small groups, various students had interesting, funny, and thoughtful ideas, examples, and questions to share. Then came the group with the young writer.

As we finished our small-group discussion and began to clean up before the bell, my young football player-turned-writer said, “Mrs. Kyle, I want to show you something,” as he took out his phone. I get a kick out of this line from students, because I never know what I’m about to see! 😉

As he swiped through his phone and found what he wanted to share with me, he mentioned Will Smith, and said, “I have this video clip that you just reminded me of, when we were talking about tone.  Watch all of the emotions Will Smith goes through and how his tone changes.”  With that, he hit play. The video clip was in his SAVED YouTube list.

As we watched the clip together, leaned in over his phone at the conference table in our classroom – his back to his classmates – I could feel other students looking on, but no one interrupted. My young writer watched my face for reaction as we watched the clip together. Tears filled my eyes. I looked up and saw they filled his, too.


As the clip ended, he said softly, “This makes me cry every time I watch it.”

I replied quietly, “It made me cry, too. My dad left when I was very little. I always wondered why. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

He nodded and the bell rang.

29 Years Ago: Slice of Life


 Slice of Life hosted at the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.
Slice of Life hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.

I can’t believe it’s been 29 years.

The fear is still palpable, a lifetime later.

Board the bus. Board the plane. Sit quietly, nervously.

Waiting. Short flight ~ Miami to Orlando.

Plane lands. Board the bus.

Recruit Training Center, Orlando. 

Source:  http://usscanopus.homestead.com/rtc1.html No longer in existence, RTC housed thousands of recruits 1968 - 1994.
Source: http://usscanopus.homestead.com/rtc1.html
No longer in existence, RTC housed thousands of recruits 1968 – 1994.

My new life begins.

Uniform issue, hair cut, shots, ushered to barracks. Midnight? 1:00 AM? The air was cool that November. The night was still and quiet, punctuated by the barking orders coming from left and right. Didn’t matter how cool it was.  I was sweating.  Teeth chattered. Scared out of my mind.

Eyes straight, recruit!
Heels to toes, recruit!
No talking, recruit!
No crying, recruit!
You belong to Uncle Sam, now.  There’s no crying here!

A fact that fell on deaf ears as we solemnly moved along the concrete paths that led to the place we’d call home for the next nine weeks… if we made it through training.  Many did not.

What had I gotten myself into?
Short hair and shots… welcome to Boot Camp, recruit!


Four months before, June 1985, right out of high school, not ready to go to college, though prepped for it,  a post-graduation trip to Disney would be the SHARP left turn my life would soon take.

The air was hot and humid that June day. The recruiter’s office offered respite … and promise … for the next chapter in my life.



c. 1985

Mom was devastated.

Turns out, the loss of one of her brothers in Vietnam was too much to bear.

Knowing her daughter enlisted broke her heart.  She did not understand why I did it.

I didn’t understand either.

Fifteen years after her beloved brother’s death, it was my turn to serve our country, an honor carried on by my maternal grandfather, my twin uncles, and now me.

Little did I know then, the impact my decision would have on the rest of my life.

God Bless the men and women who came before me and continue to serve long after me.  Thank you for your service, and for many, like my Uncle Larry, the ultimate sacrifice.

Cpl James Larry Walden "Uncle Larry"
Cpl James Larry Walden “Uncle Larry” 1947 – 1970, twin brother of Cpl James Garry Walden


Thank you to the families and friends who keep memories strong.