Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last Day (Slice #31 - Done)

I cannot believe it.  I keep staring at the title of this piece and it seems impossible.  Did I really just confess my true phobia of writing thirty slices ago?  Have I honestly committed a piece of my life and heart to paper every day for a month? 

I wish I could say that it got easier – that my phobia all but disappeared.  But that would be untrue.  This last slice is nearly as difficult for me as the first.  What I have learned, though, is that I can do it.  Writing, as with many challenges in life, may be scary and difficult, but with perseverance and determination it can be overcome. 

It is strange…a part of me is actually a little sad.  It feels like I have so many stories left untold, so many moments to share.  To me, the predictability of mathematics has always been beautiful, but I suppose there is beauty in writing as well.  The eternal preservation of a thought, feeling, or memory is something that mathematics cannot provide.   Writing allows us to express ourselves – freely, completely, and without judgment or consequence.  

I may write again tomorrow.  I may wait to write for another full year.  Maybe, it will even be longer from now than that.  My future as a writer is unsure; however, I do know, without a doubt, that I will never forget this experience and will forever view writing in a new light, with renewed respect.

Congrats, to all Slicers!  We did it!

Monday, March 30, 2015

1 More Day (Slice #30 - Mother)

I am turning into my mother.

Those are words that for a long time I never truly believed I would say.

I do not mean in the way that we look – although we practically look like sisters in old photographs.  We share the same blonde hair, same bright blue eyes, same face-consuming smile.

I do not mean in the way that we decorate – although we have virtually the same style.  We both have identical silverware, spa blue bathrooms, and very similar furniture.

I do not mean in the way that we love food – although we both have a passion for entertaining and enjoying quality meals.  We love recipes and sharing ideas for dinner parties or date night meals.

I do not mean in the way that we talk – although we are often quite opinionated and love to be right.  We sometimes butt heads because neither one of us can stand to lose an argument. 

I am turning into my mother because of the way that I teach. 

When I was young, my mother made everything into a “teachable moment.”  Every smell, every plant, every bug or other living creature, every sunset, every thunderstorm, every fire, every electrical outlet, every season, every star – everything was an opportunity for her to teach me science.  And when she was not teaching me about the world I lived in, she was teaching how to function in it with mathematics.  Each purchase, each sale, each cent of allowance, each birthday check, each estimation opportunity, each visit to the gas station, and each recipe provided the chance for her to improve my mathematics ability.

It made me crazy.  For the longest time, I begged for a day without a “teachable moment.”  As soon as she would begin, I often rolled my eyes in irritation.  But now, looking back, I realize all that I learned came from her.  My appreciation of nature and my infatuation with mathematics are the fruits of her ceaseless labor. 

And just the other day, when I was spending time with my precious three and seven year-old pretend children, I suddenly realized that I too filled every second I spent with them with a “teachable moment.”

I am turning into my mother – and I could not be more proud to say so. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

2 More Days (Slice #29 - Lake Girl)

Lake time – ah!  I cannot wait!  This weekend I tasted the smallest, juicy bite of the pleasure to come this summer.  The glistening water, the cheerful chirping of local birds, the scent of fresh burning fire pits and charcoal, and the comforting warmth of sun on my skin all beckoned to me, begging me to stay and savor them for just a moment longer. 

The weekend disappeared too fast.  The lake now lies several miles behind me as I travel back home, but I can still hear it calling.  It won’t be long now, though, before I head back to relish its many delights.  Soon, my school year persona of “Math Teacher” will fade away, replaced by my much more relaxed (and tan) alter ego of “Lake Girl!” 

Sunshine, hot dogs, hummingbirds, s’mores, swimming, boating, fishing, friends, and family – the best season of all is about to officially begin! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

3 More Days (Slice #28 - Ughh)

We are at the lake house, which is a wonderful thing of course, but the internet is out! Ughh! I typed my blog last night on my computer but then had to text the ENTIRE thing on my phone - not fun! So, to avoid that same painful experience tonight, I am going to keep it short and sweet. 

My 5 Most Favorite Foods:

5. Pizza

4. Anything made from potatoes

3. Filet mignon

2. Dark chocolate

1. SUSHI!!!

Ta da! Only 3 more slices to go! Pizza is coming my way!

Friday, March 27, 2015

4 More Days (Slice #27 - Today)

There is quite possibly nothing better than spending the entire day just "hanging out" with my little sister. Before the sun even thought about peaking over the horizon, Heather was snuggled in my bed, giving me kisses on the forehead and informing me that we needed to make waffles. So we did. 

After a mild waffle fiasco, in which waffles were stuck and burned to both top and bottom of the waffle maker, we finally sat together at the table and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Conversation consisted of nesting birds, "that crazy Emeril" on the cooking channel, and the plan for the day - an extremely important piece of information for my sister. 

Once we were dressed and ready, we left home for a day packed with adventure! To any other person, our day probably seemed typical, if not boring. But to us, it was full of excitement! We started with lunch at Cheddars - just to make Aaron jealous - and then embarked on a lengthy tour of SAM's Club. At SAM's, Heather purchased a four-pack of old school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and was elated with her newest acquisition. To be honest, I was too!

Next, we visited Target, where Heather got to print a picture of Maggie, one of the dog friends she played with for much of the week. This might have even been better for her than the movie purchase! After Target was Petland, at which we discovered the world's most adorable, cuddly, snuggly, kissing, loving little poodle mix. Had I had a spare $1500 (which I most certainly did not), Heathet would have been the proud owner of him too!

The rest of the afternoon included a trip to the library, the grocery store, two friends' houses, playtime with our own puppies, and more! We both are exhausted and yet our hearts are full. I just wish we could have days like today more often. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

5 More Days (Slice #26 - Tomorrow)

Tomorrow –

Empty of obligations,

Full of hope

And endless possibilities.

Sisters, best friends,

Crafting memories


Enjoying the freedom,

Filling moments with laugher,

Exploring and creating.



Today, every day

But especially tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

6 More Days (Slice #25 - Hair)

Earlier this year, we had a crazy hair day at school.  I spent the entire morning using my curler-crimper (plus LOTS of hairspray!) to add spirals and volume to my hair and even added a headband with little red tufts on top.  Everyone loved it.  They said things like, “Your hair doesn’t look crazy, I think it’s pretty that way!” or “You should wear your hair like that more often.” 

Today, I wanted to try something new.  Instead of flat-ironing my hair like I typically do, I quickly used the flatiron to add some waves to my standard style.  I thought it looked rather cute when I left the house.  Here are a few comments I received:

“Well it looks like someone didn’t have time to brush her hair this morning!”

“Wow, your hair sure looks…different.”

“It’s like you have hair from the future or something!”

When Aaron got home, I laughed as I told him about my unexpected crazy hair day.  I anticipated for him to affirm that, in fact, my hair looked as lovely as I thought it did.  Unfortunately, he just cocked his head to the side and smiled instead. 

Lesson learned:  Next time I want my hair to look extra nice, I will work as hard as possible to make it look like a mess! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

7 More Days (Slice #24 - Hercules)

Disney released Hercules in 1997, and soon after, it became one of my very favorite animated movies.  Hercules contained all of the right ingredients – catchy music, a dark and evil villain, gods and goddesses, a lovable sidekick, and a triumphant hero.  Yet, my fondness for the film runs much deeper than all of that. 

For many years, my mentally-handicapped little sister, Heather, would get into movie “kicks.”  She would fixate on one single film and then watch it over and over until either she literally ruined the videotape or we all were driven so nuts that we threatened to hide the movie and begged her to choose anything else!  One such film was Hercules.  The difference with this movie, however, was that not long after it was released, I received my driver’s license and started taking Heather to and from school each day. 

Day after day, month after month, I would ask her as soon as we got into the car what she wanted to listen to, and without hesitation she would reply, “Hercules!”  So, on our daily drive and anywhere else we went, the soundtrack from Hercules blared through my speakers.  It often made me crazy, but we always sang along.  I did silly voices and actions, and she smiled and laughed!

Tonight, we ate dinner a little early and afterwards were tired, but just not quite ready for bed.  From her room, Heather called for me to come “snuggle.”  We browsed Netflix and just so happened to find Hercules.   The second the music began, we fell right back into our parts – dancing, singing, and giggling – and for the next couple of hours, felt just like teenagers again.

Fifteen years ago, I probably would have cringed at the thought of having to listen to that music one more time; but this evening, there was nothing that could have made me happier.  I love Hercules, not for the normal reasons.  I love it because I share it with my sister.

Maybe we will even go for a drive tomorrow…

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”

-Zeus, from Hercules

Monday, March 23, 2015

8 More Days (Slice #23 - In a Nutshell)

Well…here is the moment it finally happens.  I am exhausted with absolutely no motivation to write.  My brain hurts.  My body is tired.  So in an effort to keep my word and complete this task, I am going to completely sellout tonight and write an acrostic poem.  Yup.  This just happened.  Sorry, mom and other regular readers.  I promise I will do better tomorrow!

Lover of life
Rational, most days
Irrational, on the others

Sincere and sympathetic
Math goddess of the universe (at least that’s what Siri calls me!)
Inadvertently nerdy
Thankful, in so many ways
Heather’s favorite sister

Sunday, March 22, 2015

9 More Days (Slice #22 - Home)

When Aaron and I decided to move to Joplin, I was devastated.  I knew the move was the right choice for us, but my entire adult life existed in Springfield and the idea of leaving every one and every thing I knew and loved behind was more painful than I could bear. 

At some point after the move, I remember asking someone with tears in my eyes, “Does the homesickness ever go away?”  I honestly cannot recall the answer I received, but in the moment, I know I truly believed it never would.

Today we took my little sister, Heather, to Springfield to eat at our very favorite sushi restaurant and visit the zoo.  It was strange – I missed the town, the people, all my favorite little places, and yet, for maybe the first time since the move, my heart did not break. 

I am not sure when or how it happened; it must have been the by the most minuscule, undetectable bit day after day.  Somehow, though, it did.  And as I sat on my patio tonight with my husband, enjoying the most beautiful sunset, I realized that I am finally home.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

10 More Days (Slice #21 - Guest Post)

Tonight is a guest post from one of my best friends, Danny:

"I remember the days of hanging out at the bike rack and watching kids load the buses and go off to their homes each day.

I went into 7th and 8th grade thinking my future was all about the moment.  For a while, it was.  After going through the walks of high school and dealing with normal high school scenarios, I realized that getting a job and looking to the future was important.

The people (kids) I was hanging out with didn’t seem to have the same goals as myself.  It was evident that our paths would not be parallel as they have in the past. 

Life throws a lot of things at you through the years.   I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in what you see today.  It’s life, and trust me, you will get through it and life will throw a lot of exciting things at you.  That’s the good thing about it.  I found friends that I thought were all about keeping friendship.  When it came down to it, it didn’t turn out that way.  Your life will take shape with your profession.   Follow your intuition, and maintain your integrity, and the rest will fall into place."

Friday, March 20, 2015

11 More Days (Slice #20 - Friends)

Old friends and new friends – both are so very important.  Both define our lives in such incredible ways.

I spent most of today with an old friend.  Ms. M, my former boss and “other mother,” drove down from Springfield this morning.  She, my sister, and I had the most wonderful time talking, painting pottery, eating lunch, and splurging on delicious brownies!  I am so fortunate to have such a special old friend.

This evening, I had dinner with a new friend – one whom I have only known for a little over a year, but feel like I have been friends with for much longer.  We laughed and shared stories for most of the evening and left with promises to see each other again soon.  I am so lucky to have such a wonderful new friend.

Old friends and new friends – life’s precious gifts.  I thank God I have been blessed with both!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

12 More Days (Slice #19 - Bird Lady)

Have you ever heard of a “crazy cat lady?”  You know, a little old lady that has a thousand cats and stays at home in her pajamas all day just to hang out and talk to them?  That’s me – except with birds.  No need to panic, I do not have a home full of birdcages and constant chirping.  I do, however, have several bird feeders in my back yard and can be found on any given day off watching (and even talking to) my little friends.

When we first moved into our home here in Joplin, I instantly fell in love with our back yard.  It is full of life – trees, critters, and lovely birds of all kinds.  We had not been here long before I insisted that we buy a bird feeder to cater to our feathered guests.  As Aaron usually does, he humored me and helped me pick out a small feeder on clearance at Lowe’s.  Soon after, we had bunches of new bird friends in the back yard and my crazy bird lady days began!

Now, only two years later, we have four bird feeders!  Two are relatively standard feeders to attract a variety of birds including cardinals, chickadees, finches, woodpeckers, and many others.  The one closest to the house is a hummingbird feeder, which hopefully will be visited in the very near future.  And, the newest addition to the group is a bright yellow Goldfinch feeder in the far back.  We bought this one three days ago, and it is already bringing more Goldfinches to the yard than I can count!

The birds have names, of course.  Some of them have generic names because they come in flocks or are too numerous to distinguish certain individuals.  For example, the Goldfinches are my “Goldies,” and the cute little winter visitors, called Juncos, are my “pink bills.”  Others are named individually.  Ralph is our resident Red-bellied Woodpecker, named after Wreck-It Ralph for the way he flies into the feeder like a wrecking-ball and makes a huge mess of all the seed.  We call our Red-winged Blackbird "Chief" because the red and yellow bars on his wings look like part of a Native American headdress.  Others include Robert (the Downy woodpecker), Big Red (the Cardinal), Momma (the lady Cardinal), and Little Blue (the Indigo Bunting), just to name a few.  We even have a squirrel named Scalpy, due to the fact that he has no fur on his tail!

Is this all crazy?  Yes, probably.  Do I care?  Nope – not in the least.  For me, there is simply nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than sitting at the kitchen table in my pajamas, warm coffee in hand, just watching the beauty of nature unfold in my own back yard.  Try it sometime!  You might just become a crazy bird lady too. 


Someone, ANYONE, please answer this math question for Miss Collins:

Which of the following is the least?

A.  30% of 90
B.  50% of 70
C.  60% of 60
D.  70% of 50

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

13 More Days (Slice #18 - Empty Pages)

I struggle.

I cannot find the words.

I agonize over thoughts and meaning to no avail.

Ideas do not appear.

My mind is an empty canvas, with no artist to fill the void.

I yearn for inspiration.

I pray for fault in my armor so that I may write the words that truly matter.

Yet my soul tightens.

My lips seal shut.

The pages remain blank.

And my heart reveals nothing.


Well, kids here you go..

A boutique buys a dress from the manufacturer for $30.  The boutique owner puts a mark-up of 20% on the price before selling it in her store.  However, it's sale time and she offers the dress for sale at a discount of 15% off the normal selling price.  How much will you pay for the dress in the sale?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

14 More Days (Slice #17 - Being Green)

Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not that easy being green.”  Well, why not?  There are so many fabulous green things in this world that I should think it would be great being green!  So, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the greenest day of the year, here are a few of my favorite green things…

Lori’s Top Ten Favorite Green Things:

10.  Sonic Limeades – I am not much of a soda drinker, but every now and then, especially in the heat of the summer, I get the biggest craving for a fizzy, zesty Sonic Limeade!  No cherries for me – just the original, delicious classic please.

9.  Salad – I absolutely love a good salad!  Some may call it “rabbit food,” but not me.  I believe salads are delicious and an important staple in a healthy diet!

8.  Money – While this is not my Number 1 favorite green thing and obviously should not be a priority in life, it certainly has to make the list.  Where would we all be without a little green cash in our pockets?

7.  House Plants – House plants used to terrify me.  I could kill a cactus just by looking at it – honestly!  But now I have developed a little bit of a green thumb and actually have five living plants in my home!  These plants not only are lovely to look at, but also help purify the air in the house as well. 

6.  Irish Spring Soap – I have tried every single soap brand that exists and the only one for me is Irish Springs!  Its bright, fresh scent wakes me up in the morning and leaves my skin extra soft.  No, this is not a paid advertisement – I just really like it!

5.  Fresh Cut Grass – Fresh cut grass reminds me of my childhood – playing outside in the summer, running the bases at the softball field, riding the lawnmower for the very first time.  No matter where I am, the moment that smell hits my nose, I can close my eyes and feel like a kid again.

4.  Vegetables – You name it, I love it!  Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, peas, zucchini, and peppers are just a few of my favorites.  If it is a green vegetable, I am guaranteed to enjoy it!
3.  Sea Turtles – Sea turtles are just plain awesome.  Enough said.

2.  Aaron’s Eyes – Sappy?  Yes, but it’s true.  My husband has the most captivating green eyes, and I could get lost in them for hours!  

1.  Kermit the Frog – Kermit has topped my list of favorite green things for as long as I can remember (sorry, Aaron).  I spent so much of my childhood watching Kermit on Sesame Street and in the Muppet movies.  He was always so full of dry humor and wisdom, and even as an adult, I still adore him to this day! 

So there you have it!  Wishing you a very happy and GREEN St. Patrick’s Day!


Miss Collins, I believe you are not holding up your end of this bargain.  So, to help you get back on track, here is the easiest math problem I can manage to give:

2 + 1 = _____

*Kiddos, please help remind Miss Collins that she promised to answer these questions every day!  :)  I'm sure she'll appreciate your encouragement!

Monday, March 16, 2015

15 More Days (Slice #16 - B-Day)

Today was a beautiful day!  My border collie, Bodi, woke me up at the break of dawn with billows of doggie breath in my face.  I enjoyed a balanced breakfast while watching the bright, bushy-tailed birds enjoy a bountiful birdseed buffet. 

After bubbly baths and teeth-brushing, my baby sister and I set out to blow some bucks!  Bed, Bath, and Beyond was bursting with bunches to buy!  We left with bags full of bed sheets and bath d├ęcor, and although we should have been done, Target beckoned!  There, the aisles were bustling with busy people, all begging to find the best bargain.  We barreled through the bunch and nearly broke the basket because we filled it to the brim! 

By the time we got back home, we were beat, so we took a break on the breezy back patio.  But just as soon as we began to relax, the bell rang.  It was the new bronze bar stools that Aaron bought me for my birthday!  Brilliant!  I was absolutely blissful!  I broke open the boxes and beamed. 

After what felt like a billion years, Aaron finally came bounding through the door.  He barely had time to set down his bag before I was begging him to build the stools.  He began, albeit begrudgingly, so I blew him a kiss and briskly bounced out to the backyard!  While Aaron busied himself with building, I barbequed some bacon burgers and baked beans.  We enjoyed the best meal atop our brand new seats. 

Basically, the day could not have been any better!

Unless, of course, I had made brownies for dessert…


Miss Collins, this is the easiest one I've given you so far...

How many B words did I use to write this slice???

Sunday, March 15, 2015

16 More Days (Slice #15 - Winter)

I hate the winter.  I mean, with a burning passion from Hades below, I H-A-T-E, hate the winter!  I hate the cold.  I hate the snow.  I hate the dark and dreary days.  I hate the absence of color.  I hate the silence.  I hate the feeling of sorrow and death everywhere.  I.  Hate.  Winter!

But…I appreciate the winter because it brings the spring!  And the spring brings brightness and warmth.  The spring brings colors and sounds.  The spring brings life! 

So while I will forever hate the winter, I will secretly love it deep down inside.  Without winter, without the difficult and dark times in life, we could never fully cherish the rest. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

17 More Days (Slice #14 - Pi Day)

Please be advised...

Today is Pi Day!  The greatest day of the entire year!  March 14 - or 3.14.  But today is not just any Pi Day.  Today is March 14, 2015 - or 3.1415.  And right now, in this very moment, it is March 14, 2015 @ 9:26 pm - or 3.1415926!  And in exactly 53 seconds, it will be 3.141592653.  This the best Pi Day you will ever experience, unless of course, you plan to live another 100 years and do this all over again in 2115.  


Friday, March 13, 2015

18 More Days (Slice #13 - John Denver)

I did it.  I finished the horrible test, I passed, and I did not die in the process.  Whew!  That was a close one.  While I am thankful for all of my family and friends who sent good luck wishes and said thoughtful prayers, I really have one special person to credit with my success today – John Denver.

Why John Denver?   First, John Denver is, well, John Denver – one of the greatest American singer-songwriters of all time – and that alone is worthy of my recognition.  But more importantly, he sang to me this morning.  True story.

My hands trembled on the steering wheel as I maneuvered the morning rush-hour traffic in drizzling rain.  I had just finished my pleading conversation with God and was on to deep breathing exercising when I heard John’s soft, calming voice peacefully float from the speakers.  Surprisingly, he did not sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Annie’s Song,” “Rocky Mountain High,” or any of his other classics I expected and love.  As if speaking directly to me, he counseled:

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be”

Somehow, this familiar song had new meaning.  It felt as though he was saying, “You’ve studied for this, Lori.  You’re ready.  Just put it in God’s hands and let go.”  So I did.  I took a few more deep breaths...forced my heart rate to calm.  I allowed myself to turn off my brain for a few moments and just enjoy listening to the soothing melody.  By the time I pulled into the testing center, I was ready and walked with confidence to the door.  

Hopefully in the future - in times of worry, stress, or struggle – I will hear his words of wisdom again and, although it may be difficult, remember to “Let it be.”


Ok Miss Collins, let's get serious:  Ellen earns $12.40 an hour for the first 8 hours that she works each day.  She earns time and a half for any time she works after 8 hours.  How much does she earn in a five-day week if she works an average of 9 hours a day?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

19 More Days (Slice #12 - Stress)

I am beyond stressed.  

My brain is a pile of mush.  

At sunrise tomorrow, I will be taking a four-hour testing consisting of 160 questions and covering an unreasonably broad span of content from English, science, social studies, and math.  While I have always been a confident test taker, I am finding myself at near panic levels in regards to this assessment.  Most of this material I have not studied for over ten years, and some of it was much, much longer ago than that - if ever!  

The support and encouragement I am receiving from my friends, colleagues, and students is sincerely appreciated; however, it has done little to calm my nerves.  By this time tomorrow, I will be relaxed and celebrating, or frustrated and studying again.  I am certainly hoping for the first option!   

Here I go...time to sharpen my pencil.


Miss Collins, if my test is four hours long and I have 160 questions to complete, approximately how long do I have to spend on each test question?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

20 More Days (Slice #11 - Throw Back)

When I first expressed to my parents the shear terror I felt about writing this blog, they simply laughed and said, “But you always loved writing!”  I tried to explain to them that this simply was not true, but they insisted.  In an effort to prove their point, they began sending writing samples they had saved of my work over the years.  One in particular made me smile because it was the exact same assignment that my own students had been tasked with this fall – an “I Am” poem. 

The “I Am” Poem, from little Lori (Cwayna) Smith:

I am Lori Cwayna

I am hopeful and playful
I wonder if I will get good grades
I hear a fish singing
I see a unicorn
I want a telephone in my room
I am hopeful and playful

I pretend that I am very rich
I feel sad when my dog runs away
I touch my cat
I worry about my Grandma’s back
I cry at sad movies
I am hopeful and playful

I understand why we have volcanoes
I say we should keep our country free
I dream I have a horse that turns into a unicorn
I try to make a goal at soccer
I hope that I get a hamster
I am hopeful and playful

Maybe I didn’t always fear writing after all...


Ok kiddos, and Miss Collins, if 10 miles equals 6.2 kilometers, how many kilometers are in 40 miles?