Final 2022 Post: A Mouse Tale

“A rat just ran across the floor”

“Are you sure it was a rat and not a mouse?”

“It was big, like a rat.” Brandon measured out the width of the creature he had just seen sprint from where he was sitting during homeroom to the bookcase on the other side of the room. I estimated the width between his hands to be about six inches. I doubt a rat, but still.

“I’m sure it was a mouse. I’ll report it to Ms. Torres, our head custodian.”

I have a complicated relationship with mice. 

I view them as having equal access to my classroom. I’m sure mice lived on these grounds well before any school had ever been built. But I also don’t want them eating food remnants or nesting in our classroom. My attitude has been, you stay out of sight when students are around, and I won’t report you to the “authorities.”

This agreement has worked out just fine until two days ago when I discovered a half eaten candy cane and some mouse poop in my storage cabinet behind my desk.

Damn, I thought. I forgot to throw out that old holiday candy, and now the message has gone out. Room 325 is a bastion of good eats.

I cleaned up the crumbs and wrappers then sanitized the shelves. I double checked my snack containers to make sure they were securely latched and hoped that would be the end of it.

But then this morning, Brandon had seen the mouse. A daytime interloper.

Homeroom ended without any other mice sightings.  

A short while later, as I sat at my desk in the middle of a virtual meeting there came a loud scritch-scratching from inside my cabinet, mere inches from where I was seated. 

The mouse’s boldness startled me, and I hastily announced that a mouse was in my cabinet to everyone on the call.

This set in motion a chain reaction that went like this: My principal called Ms. Torres; Ms. Torres came to my room armed with a broom and a sticky mouse trap; slightly horrified at the thought of watching  an epic custodian-mouse battle play out near my desk, I moved to a neighboring room to continue my meeting. 

To my surprise, Ms. Torres said she was unable to catch the mouse (Mouse 1, Custodian 0) but had left the mouse trap–the sticky pad– in my closet (Advantage Custodian). 

(A word about sticky pad mouse traps: I hate them! Once a mouse is stuck on one, it dies a slow, agonizing death, usually due to dehydration. I would choose the old fashioned, neck breaking, mouse traps over the sticky pads any day. Or how about a live mouse trap? Even better!)

My heart filled with remorse. Why did I announce the mouse’s presence in my room? A death sentence had been handed down on the little creature, and I was to blame. 

There was one option left, but time was running out. Saving the mouse from execution would mean getting to the sticky trap first and throwing the thing into the trash can, discreetly. I summoned my trusty comrade and co-worker, Ms. Sanderson, to assist with the rescue mission.

She immediately took charge of the situation. 

“I’ll look in your closet. You stay over there.”

Hopes of saving a mouse’s life were short lived. After taking a quick peek inside the wooden cabinet, Ms. Sanderson quickly shut door and declared.. “Oh! There is a mouse on the sticky pad. It looks dead.”

We were too late. The mouse was trapped, paralyzed by the  glue. Frozen. Death imminent.  

We called Ms. Torres back up to  room 325, and she promptly removed the body from my cabinet. If I’m not mistaken, I believe I saw her lips curl into a little smirk. She knew all along she would win this mouse battle. (Outcome: Ms. Torres for the win in a final death match.)

I returned to my desk, riddled with guilt and feeling glum. The mouse was gone. All that remained were the slivers of wood sprinkled on the carpet, a failed attempt to chew its way out of its entrapment. 

They’re Nodding, Up & Down

There is a song I’ve had stuck in my head for awhile now. Really it’s more of an image that is seared in my mind. I decided to craft a found poem to capture the scene. The song, The Outside, is by Twenty-one Pilots. I adapted a three-word story poem to craft a three-word lined poem.

Heads are nodding

up      and     down.

“You got it?”

Twenty-one seated students,

glassy-eyed, staring

back at me, 

like Bobbleheads nodding, 

up      and      down. 

“You got it?”

Their heads moving

up      and      down.

“You got it?”

It goes on 

like this for 

twenty-one minutes. 

Heads are nodding

up     and     down.

But I know

they’re already bored. 

I got it.

Kids can’t relate 

to my vibe.

It is prehistoric.

Heads are nodding

up     and     down.

“You got it?

Everyone is nodding

up     and     down.

“You got it?

On fumes, I 

am running, running,

running on the 

outside, looking in.

A Journey Home, 5:30-5:58 pm

(A version of the Right Now format inspired by Saisons de Vie and Read and Write with Sally.)

Now I am…

: : loading my backpack at the end of my day: two laptops, one planner, a clipboard, one spiral notebook, and a mostly full water bottle 😦

: : copying a set of menor text handouts for our craft analysis group work tomorrow. I might try silent collaboration. I need silent collaboration. 

: : exiting through the steel doors of our historic building. Despite the 45 degree temperature, the brilliant blue sky and afternoon angle of the sun give off a summer-is-on-its-way vibe.

: : stopping by the library on my drive home to pick up a book on hold, Craft in the Real World.

: : discovering the book is being held at another branch, one I’ve already passed. I will add it to my To-Do list for tomorrow’s drive home.

: : waiting. at. seven. consecutive. red. lights.

: : listening to the NYT’s podcast, The Daily, about one senator’s conflict of interest: an intersection of power and big industry and old money and corruption (sigh).

: : pulling into the narrow driveway behind our cozy cottage.

: : noticing an abundance of emerald spikes lining the edges of our fence. Irises and lilies have emerged from their winter slumber with gusto. (A metaphor I will arm myself with tomorrow.)

Quick-write #2 with My Students

“But somehow I am alone now, in a house where my family hasn’t been in a really long time.”

From Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Memories of my childhood bedroom.

I often think about my bedroom in our 510 N. Lapeer Street house. The one I lived in for ten years, longer than any other place I’ve resided. What does it look like now, forty years later? Would I recognize the angle of the roof, the window that almost reached the floor? There are many details I no longer remember but some memories remain quite vivid.

The goldenrod shag carpet spilled over from the hallway and into my room. Despite its high pile, the shag barely muffled the subfloor creaks. If stepped on just right, the crack of the floorboard would wake one of my parents and call them to the base of the steps. 

“Amy, are you in bed? It is after midnight!” 

To maintain my nocturnal freedom, I memorized a set of silent footpaths to my sister’s room, to the bathroom, and to various points around my bedroom.

On both windows hung ivory curtains handmade by my mom. Stitched along the inside edges was a gathered feminine ruffle. The curtains provided a filter from the afternoon sun.

I kept both my street facing window and side window open about six  inches to let in the spring and summer breezes. I still love falling asleep to the night sounds–the conversations of the older neighborhood kids walking by, the roar of a hotrod or motorcycle, the faint whistle of the train…

My full size bed was adorned with a pintuck quilt. Two pillows rested inside matching shams, their ruffles similar to those on my curtains. There were always a couple favorite stuffed bears propped up near the headboard. 

Mom and I picked out my bedroom ensemble as part of a Broyhill bedroom suite: Bed, dresser, and desk with hutch and chair. All matching pieces were cream with little pastel flower accents painted near the desk and dresser pulls and along the headboard and hutch.  

There were a few favorite items that lived on the floor. My portable record player, which looked like a big square orange suitcase, sat conveniently near a baseboard outlet. I jammed to singles by Andy Gibbs, The Bay City Rollers, and Michael Jackson–all purchased with babysitting money from the local record shop.  The sound it produced  was tinny and grainy. I played those early singles over and over again. I’m sure I wore extra deeper grooves into the vinyl.

Also on the floor near my door, my most prized possession: one of those old fashioned phones, like from the 1940s. It was a replica. Cream with gold accents. Not one single friend I knew had their own phone in their bedroom. I would sprawl out on the floor for hours and talk with friends in the privacy of my own room often until my mom or dad would hollar upstairs, or god forbid, pick up the line from downstairs, and tell me it was time to get off.

I have warm memories of my childhood bedroom. Some details have faded, but what remains is an identity closely tied to the colors, sounds and objects contained within those four walls.

Quick-writing with My Students

Directions: Take a word, phrase, or line from the poem and write to it.

“Justice” Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham & Charles Waters

Poisoned water in what we drink...
When are we gonna get justice!

This is the refrain repeated over and over again by many residents of Flint, Michigan.

I grew up just a few short miles outside of Flint. Most of my friends’ parents worked for General Motors, the largest employer in Flint. In its heyday, Flint was a very wealthy community because so much of the auto industry was located in the state’s largest cities, like Flint and Detroit. But after desegregation and the Civil Rights legislation passed in the 1960s, cities, like Flint, experienced a period of white flight: white families moved to the nearby suburbs as black families moved inside the city limits and closer to factory jobs. I lived in one of those white flight suburbs of Flint.

Because of the population migration out of the city, Flint’s population decreased significantly over the decades, from a high of 197,000 in 1960 to less than 90,000 today. The loss of tax revenue resulted in a reduction in spending. Services were cut or reduced, significantly affecting city schools and other city services. 

Then, in the 1980s, Flint took another financial hit. Due to deregulation and problems between the big car unions and management, many of the car companies began to build and outsource cheaper labor in the South and Mexico. Factories closed. Flint descended into an even deeper financial depression. 

Forty years later, Flint remains in crisis. Crime, poverty, abandoned homes, and crumbling infrastructure are just some of the challenges facing this once thriving and innovative city. 

What makes matters worse is the loss of their local governance. In 2013, the state of Michigan appointed an emergency manager, an outsider, to manage the city’s municipalities and resources, including the city water. Flint used to get their water from Detroit, about an hour south of the city; but in order to save money, the emergency manager decided Flint should begin using a closer water source, the Flint River.

For a few years, my family lived across the street from the Flint River. It was thick and dark and brown. No one dared fish from it or swim in it. Industry toxic waste flowed directly into the Flint River for generations. Now, I’m not a scientist, but it isn’t difficult for me to understand why using Flint’s river water as the source for the city’s drinking water eventually became the poison the citizens drank. Many of Flint’s citizens are black and poor. The state knowingly poisoned innocent people just to save a little money, and honestly, I don’t know if the motivation was merely a financial one.

5.4.3.2.1

5 Things That Made Me Smile

  1. Enthusiastic student book club discussions
  2. My daughter’s first job offer
  3. Happy hour with colleagues
  4. Dog videos on TikTok
  5. Inside jokes with my husband

4 Words to Describe My Week

  1. Blustery
  2. Anticipatory
  3. Out-of-balance
  4. Long

3 Plans for the Weekend

  1. Run & podcast (v) 
  2. Watch a youth ultimate Frisbee tournament
  3. Cheer for UNC men’s basketball team

2 Things I Learned This Week

  1. There is a disconnect between parent and teacher expectations.
  2. What I thought was Wednesday was really Tuesday.

1 Goal for the Weekend

*Relax, restore, rebalance. (The same goal I set every weekend.)

Thanks to Elisabeth Ellington for the mentor. Also credit to the bloggers from whom she borrowed the original format: Multifaceted Musing and A Day in the Life.

Muscle Memory

One of the hardest parts of growing older

is a body no longer primed to perform at  

optimal levels.

A gradual adjustment of expectations

is a prerequisite for aging gracefully:

add a +1 minute per mile

sprinting becomes striding

three miles are the new six

But-

What I wouldn’t give

to blast out of the starting blocks

one more time,

arms pumping, cleats digging 

rubber spraying;

to embody that

sun-kissed,

muscle-ripped,

endorphin-high

athlete

from my youth.

Meet Me at Our Spot

I’ve had this song on the top of my playlist on replay. I think what I like so much about the song is the importance of that special place we share with a friend, sister, lover, and self.

Meet Me at Our Spot

When I close my eyes

I‘m under the apple tree 

on my grandparents’ farm.

A patchwork quilt beneath me,

bubble clouds above.

Or,

I’m on the seventh hole,

moonlight drapes across

our outstretched legs,

my hand in yours.

We contemplate 

futures we’ll never share.


If I close my eyes

I see the cement steps 

of the Methodist church,

where fireflies are flickering,

where we plan fantasy worlds,

where we crack ourselves up 

for no apparent reason.

Or

I’m on the blacktop.

Boys and basketballs 

dot the sidelines.

I dribble, drive, defend…

You in your sweat soaked shirt 

and glistening skin-

I can run this court for hours.


When I close my eyes

we are seated at our 

usual table

ordering our usual items,

you: the fish and chips

me: the chowder.

It’s ritual but finite.

Or

I’m in our favorite diner

sitting shoulder to shoulder,

a booth for four

now accommodating six.

We whisper sacred secrets,

admit to our demons battles,

and laugh way too loudly.

We say we come for the flat whites 

which we cup between our hands, 

but really we come to stave off boredom 

and to remain relevant.