I am Still Alive.

Sweet Jesus, I’ve been gone from this blogsite so long my wordpress account looks entirely different, and I can’t…I don’t…how in the hell do I even put cutsie tootsie little frames around my pictures?  For the love of all things holy, how fast this world does move.

I am writing because I lost a friend recently and if I don’t write it all down I don’t know if I’ll forgive myself, because while I’ve been standing still in the 28.75 (UPDATE: longer now) hours since I heard of her death, the world keeps right on turning.  It could be another few months before I sit and think about Bonnie.  It could be years.  That’s the way things go for us humans now.  We have come to need a startling death to make us take a deep breath in – though all the while, everything else rushes by.

Bonnie died quickly of a particularly aggressive cancer.  I will be forever grateful that she called me at home to tell me about it, that she sought me out several times after that to give me updates, that, bald-headed and beautiful, she let me take a photograph with her in June.  I have that photograph in an email given to me by a student, but I can’t get the picture to save anywhere else.  It breaks my heart, and yet I can’t help but feel maybe Bonnie wouldn’t want that picture on this blogsite and I don’t have one in which she was healthy and vibrant – which is how I will always remember her.)(UPDATE:  I got one from the newspaper.  Here it is.)

Bonnie worked in the room next door to me at Troy Howard Middle School. She was an exceptionally hard worker, in the constant motions of planning, teaching, correcting, grading – all while raising her own family, staying in touch with her extended family in other parts of the country, and running marathons – you know, for fun.  She was an avid Patriots fan, and went to more games in Foxboro than I can count – and she never missed a day of work that I remember.  More than that:  she did it with a smile, and when I say smile, I mean the kind that disarmed everyone around her, and that bolstered everybody’s mood, day in and day out.

She saw me through the years in which I had two boy toddlers and a tiny little baby girl who was in daycare and who wouldn’t take a bottle…which kept me on the verge of tears for days.  She saw me through my first 10K – a race in Camden sponsored by Peter Ott’s.  That was the one in which I was beaten by a woman pushing a stroller.  But Bonnie, after having done a 2 mile warm-up run, her own 10K and another mile cool down, ran back up the dreaded hill that ends the race (going down, thankfully) and led me to the finish line.  That’s the kind of friend she was.  Closer still:  that’s the kind of person she was.  She would have done that for anyone who needed it.

Last year, I had the honor of teaching Bonnie’s daughter Meghan in my 8th grade Language Arts class.  All of my life I will be grateful for that twist of fate, as it allowed me to see my friend more often than I had in the years since I left THMS.  The very last time I saw her was when she told me that the chemotherapy hadn’t done it’s job.

There was no trace of anger.  Not an ounce of self pity.  Bonnie smiled that signature smile and said “yeah, well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.” I remember thinking I don’t like the way it goes sometimes.  Sometimes the way it goes makes me want to punch God in the face.  But not her.

There are some people who make an impression on our lives.  Bonnie Cahill Gallagher made a soft, but clear and distinctive impression on mine and I wanted to say so here, where somewhere in the vast nothingeverythingness of the internet, they will live on.  I love you Bonnie and you are missed.  Thank you for your presence here.

That’s Three. Have a Seat.

Strike one.  95-100 language arts 8th grade students will be mine this year.  That’s a lot (TOO MANY) essays to grade, comments to write, relationships to manage, parents to keep in the loop,  and IEPs to attend.  Each student deserves my full attention and, to the best of my ability, will get it.

Strike two.  There’s a young man named Son Phan on his way from Vietnam to live with us for the school year.  He will be discombobulated.  He will need parenting.  He will need a family.  He will need my full attention, at times, and to the best of my ability, he will get it.

Strike three.  Graduate school demands between 20-30 hours per week of my time and effort. For the next two years.  There are things inside me that need to be written, and I need help in writing them.  They need my attention, and, when possible, will get it.

Therefore, this blog will not.  Get my attention that is.

For these reasons I will not be writing very much (as if I do now), if at all, until further notice.  I’m guessing I’ll pop on if there’s something I feel I must record here for some reason.  Otherwise, I’m hanging it up.  I’m not shutting it down.  I’ll use it to let you all know where my writing is headed, and whether there’s anything to get excited about.  Thank you all for your support in this endeavor, for reading and commenting and letting me know you care. XO  -v

Different Year, Different Girl


Maeve and Natalie with Oley.

DSC_0517 DSC_0519 DSC_0522 DSC_0553 DSC_0554Natalie decided to try horseback riding camp again this year, at the stunning Tabasco Stables in Belmont, Maine. It only took a modicum of convincing, which surprised and delighted me.

Her instructor, Megan Winchester Boerner, was the original lure.  Natalie admires Megan, who is kind, firm, calm – because she gives Natalie the impression, and in turn the confidence, that she can trust the horses, and herself around them. She expects Natalie to jump in and do the work, doesn’t question her potential or falter in her assurances.  In essence, Natalie rises to meet the bar Megan sets.  Never one to need coddling, Natalie finds that Megan’s style is a perfect fit.

This year, Natalie was paired with Oley, a majestic, strong horse with a white patch of hair on his forehead between his eyes. He quickly became the second lure.  Natalie greeted and groomed Oley daily, and worked to learn how to direct him while walking and trotting. Every day, Natalie talked about ‘her’ horse, whether he responded well to her, or she felt he was stubborn;  if she felt he was tired, or worried about his friend who is set to have a colt this fall.  She said her favorite was just being near him.

Nat also had a friend attend camp this year – third lure – a sweet girl named Maeve, who was a great model for Natalie for her grace and surety in being around the horses.  She showed Natalie how to best be near them.  That is to say – with poise and self-reliance.

I can’t say enough how happy I am to watch Natalie bloom with something she enjoys.  And I can’t repeat enough how wonderful I think Tabasco Stables (and Megan!) is.  It is a haven not even 8 minutes from our house.  I am grateful for the experience Natalie is gaining – and for the spirit of the stables.  Being there instills in Natalie a bit of aplomb, I must say.  And they seem to be luring Natalie back…already…

Camp ended 2 weeks ago, but Natalie has asked if we can go say hello to the horses and bring them carrots and apples.  This is a huge development in her comfort level at the stables.  We are in Island Falls, now, but I’ll give Megan a call when we get back to town – see if there’s a stall that needs cleaning or a horse that needs a little Natalie love.


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