a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Sunday, November 2, 2014


October was a month of abundance in terms of inspiration: Anderson’s Young Adult Literature Conference, Illinois Reading Council Conference, and Digital Literacy k-8 Workshop; plus individual author events with Rick Yancey and R.J. Palacio. 

I walked away from each event with thoughts swirling in my mind.  I had so many ideas; it seemed nearly impossible to tether a single thought down long enough to write about it.  I didn’t have enough time to process one event before the next one popped up.

All of that busy, even though it was the kind that filled me up rather than sucked me dry, meant that I wasn’t writing, moving, or eating smart. 

All of that busy broke my routine.

So, instead of beating myself up over all the ways I failed—all the things I didn’t get to in October—I am going to look ahead.  I am going to open myself up to November and all the possibility it holds.  I am not going to make a to do list—I am going to make a menu of options. 

Hello, November!

This month I might…
re-finish a piece of old furniture

begin working on homemade Christmas gifts

get my footing in regards to unit planning

catch up on giving feedback

try cooking something new

really clean the house

spend more time on people I love

get started on homemade Christmas cards

find a new blogging routine

write for me

This month I am definitely going to:
co-host another Twitter chat with Ruth

Tonight is another Teach and Celebrate Writers Twitter chat (#TandCwriters) with Ruth and as many friends as can join us!  We will be talking about teachers who write. 

Hello, November!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

in which I CELEBRATE the planet of humans and dogs

one | dogs
These two buddies make me smile.  They keep me company every moment I am home.  Even if I am mowing the lawn, they are running from window to window to keep up with me as I walk the mower back and forth. 

two | books
I finished this book this weekend:

Andrew Smith is brilliant.  I have a huge crush on his words.

And this stack of books is waiting for me.  Every one of these books is by an author I admire.  I love when I have books to read that I already know are going to blow me away. 

three | inspiration
I made time to finish this painting and get it to my dad in time for him to bring it to Jane on her birthday:

There is something really renewing about taking time to paint on a school night.  I might have to do this more often. 

four | writing
I met with my writing group for the first time since school started.  Although none of us had any writing to share, it was good to get together.  We inspire one another, hold each other accountable, and celebrate!  I have a list of ideas and a sense of urgency to get my pen moving.

five | jeans
Sometimes wearing jeans to work is enough to make my day.  Of course, it helps if I have cute shoes and a fun necklace.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

in which I CELEBRATE friends, slaw, routines, art, and WRITERS

celebrate with Ruth Ayres and friends on Saturdays
one | Although I have been less active here at my blog lately, I have been connecting directly with some of my blogging friends.  These connections fuel me. I cannot thank Ruth enough for the community of people with whom she has connected me.   

two | I am beginning to build routines in my professional and personal life that have me feeling far less crazy at the start of this school year.  It feels good to not be suffering from Sunday-night Syndrome, but I am not used to the feeling of calm. 

three | One of my weekly routines has been born out of the idea of slaw.  I love watching cooking shows, but I am a pretty terrible cook.  I noticed that every time chefs on tv present a dish, it is some sort of protein accompanied by a crunchy mix of some sort of veggies.  They often call this a slaw.  It is the part of the dish that really makes it look appealing.  I started taking notice of what was in these slaws and thought about how I could make them at home.  So, on Sundays, I have been chopping veggies for a week’s worth of slaws.  This way, when we go to make dinner, we are simply choosing a starch, choosing a protein, and throwing together an already chopped slaw to go with it. 

four | I am sponsoring the Art Club at my school this year.  Due to a required reading and math intervention class, our building shares an art teacher with another building in our district.  Therefore, art is only offered every other year.  This is the year our art teacher is at the other building, leaving the art club position open.  I have big ideas, now I just have to recruit student artists!

five |  Tonight is our second monthly Teach & Celebrate Writers Twitter Chat!  I am looking forward to connecting with others about Believing in Writers.  It is exciting to see that a buzz of excitement is already brewing amongst like-minded Tweeps!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

in which I CELEBRATE unpredictability

celebrate with Ruth Ayres and friends on Saturdays
one | bulletin boards

My creative process, no matter the end product, always includes drafting in my head.  Sometimes my vision is manifested in the final creation.  Other times, there is a bit more problem solving needed along the way. 

Each of the display cases below began with a mental picture and some sketches (one of them began with a literal vision when I found this idea on Pinterest).  All of them required unexpected problem solving and ended up looking much different than my original plans. 

Nonetheless, I am choosing to celebrate how wonderful these look in comparison to the dusty displays that had been there for the past three years rather than dwell on how different they are from my initial vision.

two | weather

Mark and I intentionally planned a trip to see my dad and Jane one last time right before school starts.  In the days leading up to our trip, the weather forecast predicted four days of straight rain during our five-day visit.  Instead we had four days of beautiful lakeside-worthy weather. 

three |  a special delivery

The puppy in this picture has fleas.  She also has worms.  That might have been enough to make some people pass her by, but not my dad.  This week he rescued this pup from a local shelter (giving more than the required adoption fee). 

I was lucky enough to help out by driving the pup from here (a Chicago suburb where Dad works during the week, near my house) to Indiana where Jane was home to take care of her.  My friend Michelle joined me for the journey.  Her company was an added gift.

four | sale

Mark and I started our own Etsy store this summer.  We work at the same school (in fact my classroom is directly above his) and wanted to work together on something completely unrelated to school.  It has been a learning experience to work on our products and set up a mini-business.  Since we are really doing this more as a hobby than anything else, we were surprised to get our very first order already!

five | archiving

When Ruth invited me to co-host a Twitter chat with her, I didn’t even consider declining.  I really had no idea what it would mean and how much or how little work might be involved, but whenever Ruth opens a door of opportunity, I am willing to charge through with bright eyes. 

I did my homework ahead of time and learned everything I could about moderating a chat and archiving.  I felt prepared.  I felt confident.  Then the chat arrived. 

I tweeted without the hashtag.  Everything I knew about archiving backfired.  And yet, I am celebrating how much I learned—from everyone who participated (especially our experienced guest host Katherine Sokolowski) and about how these chats work behind the scenes.  I am celebrating all this experience has taught me about Twitter and taking risks. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

in which I limit my CELEBRATIONS to five

CELEBRATE on Saturdays with Ruth Ayres (and friends)
one | I am a WRITER!

I may not be keeping up with my blogs lately, but I have been writing.  I am celebrating the evidence that it’s true—my first article for Choice Literacy has been published in today’s Big Fresh!  What a kick it is to see my name in digital print as a paid writer! 

two | Writing begets writing.

I thought that perhaps since I was busy writing for other purposes, I might lost sight of other writing projects.  However, that hasn’t been the case.  It turns out the more I write, the more I am motivated to write more.  There is something to be said for this sort of momentum.  I want to think more about how to provide this for my student writers.

three | Ruth Ayres is awesome.

I just cannot say enough good about this woman.  Not only did she become my friend (and after years of friendship, I am no less starstruck), but this summer she has introduced me to Brenda Power of Choice Literacy AND invited me to co-host a monthly Twitter chat: Teach & Celebrate Writers.  I think so highly of Ruth that knowing she thinks enough of me to send these opportunities my way is humbling and confidence-boosting all at once.  Please join us for our first chat on Sunday, August 3rd.  The fabulous Katherine Sokolowski will be our guest host to chat about routines and procedures for writing workshop. 

four | I have been painting.

Today is the 4th birthday party for the daughter of a friend who I’ve known since second grade.  One of my first couple paintings as a result of the Kelly Rae Roberts e-course Hello Soul, Hello Mixed Media Mantras was for her.  It contains scraps of my mom’s old sewing patterns and lace from my grandma’s sewing kit.  I think there is something special about capturing the essence of powerful women in art.

This other painting is for a friend who has a tendency to want to control things.  This summer she took a giant leap of faith and it ended up working out in her favor (and mine too, since we will once again be working in the same building). 

five | Connections matter.

Did you know that Deb, elsie, Linda, and Kim are just a tweet away?  After having met these incredible women via blogging and now in person, I am tickled by the idea that we can continue our conversations by simply tapping on a keyboard.  I can even run into Terje in Estonia during Twitter chats!  What wisdom and support at my fingertips! 

I feel like I could go on and on with celebrations this week—no grit needed! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

in which I CELEBRATE every day

celebrate with Ruth Ayres and friends on Saturdays (or Sundays)
Sunday | I got to spend a day at the lake with my husband, my dad, his partner Jane, and her mom Dulce.

Monday | I had the surreal experience of participating in a Choice Literacy writing retreat.  I was completely out of my comfort zone and felt like I was growing for the first time in years.

me, tucked away to get some writing done
Tuesday | Mark discovered a restaurant near the lake that we hadn’t tried.  We were able to convince Jane and Dulce to go out with us and indulge for a night of fun and great food.

Jane and Dulce
Wednesday | Mark and I agreed to stay at the lake and watch over the house, the dog, and Dulce while Jane visited her friends in the city.  I was a bit nervous about the responsibility, but I was confident Jane’s mom would not give us a hard time the way she does Jane.  I was wrong.  This is a day for gritty celebration.  Although Dulce was more than a handful because of her attitude and condition, I was able to spend some moments enjoying stories from her childhood in Cuba. 

Donii, Jane and Dad's adorable dog
Thursday | The trying experience of caring for Dulce allowed me to share some insight with Jane and my dad.  This is sparking improved conversations about the care she needs, and will ultimately lead to a better situation for all of them.

Friday | My friend Kate’s mom passed away.  She was suffering from COPD and her health suddenly declined.  My heart aches for Kate, who lost her dad within the last year as well.  This weekend I will join Kate in celebrating the life of her mom—a life for which I am deeply grateful.  Kate’s mom has made her who she is and made it possible for Kate to be such a positive force in my life.  Kate’s experience is also a reminder to celebrate the health and lives of all those I love.

Kate with our friend Kathie
Saturday | This morning I got to take my niece to see The Fault in Our Stars movie.  Usually, our nieces and their friends come to the lake with us each summer.  This summer, because of Dulce’s condition, it is not going to be possible.  Because I won’t be giving them swag bags containing books (and other goodies) to pass time at the lake, Kadie recently requested some summer reading suggestions.  As soon as she finished reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Kadie texted me.  We made plans to see the movie together when I got back from the lake if she hadn’t already gone with friends.  I was thrilled when she texted me to say she wanted me to take her.  Even better than the shared experience of the movie, was the conversation in the car. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

In which I CELEBRATE people

celebrate on Saturdays with Ruth Ayres and friends
This Tuesday I met with my new writing group.  We started meeting as soon as school got out with the purpose of holding each other accountable and giving each other feedback on longer, more substantial writing projects.  We get so much more out of these meetings than we originally intended.  So, this week I celebrate each of my writing group members

I celebrate Mark (my husband, a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher) for knowing when to provide comic relief and when to give serious feedback, for working hard at writing, for being brave enough and determined enough to share his writing first.

I celebrate Jessica (6th grade language arts teacher) for expert advice that is thorough and portable, for her loyal use of legal pads and fountain-nib pens, for responding straight from her writer’s heart to ours, for keeping us on track with meeting invites and agendas.

I celebrate David (8th grade social studies teacher) for his unmatched collection and use of meaningful quotations in his writing, for knowing each member of our group as individuals enough to seek glimpses of our selves in our writing, for his ridiculous optimism.

I celebrate Kristen (6th grade language arts teacher) for sending me feedback this week even though a sick child prevented her from attending our meeting, for her bold determination to quiet the monster voice in her head and listen to the writerly voice instead (reference to this post by Ruth Ayres—one of the Two Writing Teachers who created the blog where it can be found), for starting a blog of her own this year.

This week I also attended the All-Write Summer Institute!  Today I celebrate all the amazing people who came together to learn, to teach, to speak, to listen, to grow.  Here are many highlights that still don’t begin to cover everyone:

I celebrate Ruth for coordinating the Wednesday night dinner (and many other special meals), for being gritty enough and talented enough to deliver a keynote so personal and meaningful and that the audience barely breathed while she spoke for fear of missing a beat, for a million little moments where I witnessed the truth of The Other Ruth’s words: [Ruth Ayres] is real.

I celebrate Mary Helen for bravely presenting to a room spilling over with people, for breaking down the process of finding mini-lessons so clearly, for smiling every single time I saw her.

I celebrate Tammy for being simply the BEST storyteller ever—especially when it comes to raising chickens, hunting bees, fly fishing, and caring for ducks.

I celebrate elsie for her talent in jewelry design and construction, for her incredible kindness in sharing that talent—in the form of two beautiful bracelets, for making me feel special by knowing my one little word, for being an inquisitive scholar of Twitter.

I celebrate Linda for her dedication to helping others grow, for driving me around—providing the incredibly special treat of having her all to myself, for sharing stories of family and school life that remind me how much better I am for knowing her.

I celebrate Kim for immediately being the kind of person I can run down while browsing books, for laughing at the things I find funny, for Pepper Jack.

I celebrate Jen for sharing my love of all things Kelly Gallagher—so much so that we bonded over shared dread for the end of his sessions, for making me guess her age and proving I am not as old as I feel, for starting a blog since coming to All-Write last year.

I celebrate Becca for having written one of the most genuine thank you notes I’ve ever received, for reaching out by sending me friendly texts that make me hopeful we will continue to correspond throughout the coming school year, for sharing my vision of what kids need.

I celebrate Leigh Anne for attending All-Write with her daughter—reminding me how much I love to spend time with my mom, for joining me during Kelly Gallagher’s morning session (everything is more fun with a friend)