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

Monday, July 20, 2015


There is something about taking a road trip in the Midwest that makes me feel, well, more like me. 

Perhaps it has to do with my family having lived in the Chicago suburbs with a lake house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin beginning when I was in 5th grade.  The lake house became our permanent residence for a few of my middle/high school years, but even then, we made regular trips of the 7-hour drive to visit family and friends.  Let’s just say I am familiar with the route.

Although our lake house is long gone, I haven’t seen the Northwoods for years now, and I was headed to Minnesota instead of Wisconsin, the simple act of getting behind the wheel of a packed car awakened my inner road tripper.

Driving the 8 hours (the first 4 hours of which repeat the path to our old lake house) to visit my dearest high school friend and her family brought back memories I didn’t know I had.  As a result I felt grounded, centered.

Having expected a dreary, rainy journey, my eyes were thirsty for the sunshine, blue skies, and brilliant greenery I experienced instead.  I drank in patchworks of farm fields, rolling hills, and distant farmhouses.  I soaked up stacks of sedimentary rock layers, towering evergreens, and humble wildflowers.  I even snapped a photo of windmills in the distance because they reminded me of my friend Kim’s poem comparing them to fireflies at night.  Sights that used to blend into the background of routine travels became new to me.

I was surprised to encounter slowed traffic only to discover the cause was an army convoy.  I had forgotten how commonplace it used to be to pass a convoy of camouflaged vehicles carrying supplies and uniformed soldiers.  I recalled the thrill it used to trigger in my youth and was struck by the depth of emotion the convoy summoned from my current heart.

However, even though some things have changed, one constant was the comfort of being with a friend who really knows me.  Since her husband was headed out of town for a business trip, Dena and I were able to stay up late each night chatting at her kitchen table.  Those quiet moments, extended time to allow moments to just breathe, were just what I didn’t know I needed. 

In her fabulous hostess fashion, Dena packed my few days with fun-filled outings.  No matter how many times I tried to convince her that I considered driving her son to piano lessons and swim practice to be fun-filled outings, she wouldn’t leave it at that.  She got front-row tickets at a play of Charlotte’s Web.  The costumes were completely designed out of materials found on a farm—burlap heads and funnel beaks for the geese, a grain scoop face for the sheep, and a metal bucket snout for the pig.  How fun!

The food was incredible!  Dena took such care in selecting restaurants that would suit my taste—both culinary and aesthetic.  Look at that beautiful wood tabletop—and we ordered our food on an iPad!

treats from the General Store in Minnetonka

gourmet lunch at Lunds & Byerlys Kitchen

a Caribou Coffee smoothie--my favorite (Caribou Coffee is becoming extinct in the Chicago suburbs)

a fun sandwich shop based on characters from stories a father told his children at bedtime

On top of all that, Dena even made sure we had time to fit in a visit to my two favorite spots in Minneapolis (pay attention if you are headed to NCTE in November—these two should be added to your list of must-sees) Wild Rumpus and Hunt & Gather.

Wild Rumpus is a bookstore that specializes in children’s books.  The book collection is so wisely curated that I am always able to find true treasures amidst the shelves.  In addition to books, the store is home to several animal friends.  The welfare of the animals was a big concern of mine, but having visited several times, I am convinced the staff goes out of their way to educate visitors about proper interaction and to provide relief for animals that are tired of attention.

a beautiful window display read: let books be our mirrors and windows

one of the cats greeted us at the door

a window cat


a chicken roams the store freely

a tarantula named Thomas Jefferson

Hunt & Gather is an antique and gift shop filled (and when I say filled, I mean FILLED) with fun finds.  I could spend hours wandering through the two floors of goodies.  We had a blast sifting through the many collections to find the gems we wanted.  I even went back to the store on my way out of town because I couldn’t bear to leave some treasures behind.  My car was sure FILLED for my trip home!

the treasures spill out of the shop

lockers on display
lockers being transported to their new home
a fun chair in on display
the chair being transported to its new home
My car wasn’t all that was full at the end of this road trip.  I headed home with a full heart and a fuller sense of who I am and who I want to be.  Now that’s what I call a road trip!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Every year I walk away from the All-Write Summer Institute with my brain on fire, filled with new ideas and new paths of thinking.  Though that is most certainly cause for celebration and fodder for writing, today’s celebration is about another benefit of attending All-Write—connecting face to face with women I have grown to admire through reading their words.

These women push me to achieve feats I think are well beyond me.  They reassure me when I doubt myself.  Their casual conversation swirls around and wraps me in comfort, reminding me who I am and who I want to be.  Their thoughtfulness, wisdom, and insight push me to grow.  What a precious gift it is to call these women friends.

Here are a few moments that will surely live in my heart far beyond this weekend:

1 | When Kylene Beers and Bob Probst were unable to make it to the conference due to weather and flooding, presenters were needed to cover their sessions.  Ruth and Becca believed in me so much that they convinced me I would be capable of taking one of the spots.  Their unwavering faith in me reminded me of the power simply believing in someone can have.  It was their support, combined with the support of the rest of this crew, that lifted me up and allowed me to pull off a presentation with less than 24 hours to prepare.  Ruth even introduced me!  The only downside was missing out on Mary Helen's presentations.

2 | At dinner one night elsie claimed that she is not a real writer because she doesn’t keep a writer’s notebook.  A moment later, she pulled this notebook out of her purse and referred to some beautiful lines of writing she had captured.  Kim and I were tickled to catch her contradicting herself because we just can’t get enough of teasing elsie (whose no-nonsense demeanor inspired us to give her the title: She Who Must Be Obeyed).  I was able to snap this photo as proof (because we know she would never trust us without hard evidence) that she is indeed a REAL writer.

3 | I got a glimpse of Linda’s playful side, too.  She convinced Ramona to wait outside the bathroom when they caught me making a mad dash immediately before I presented.  They stood there like paparazzi and took these ridiculous photos.  There was such ease in the teasing and laughter.  As much as I grumbled, I have to admit their attention helped calm my nerves right when I needed it most. 

4 | We were invited to dinner at Ruth’s house.  I am not sure I can put into words what a special treat it was to be literally welcomed into Ruth’s home, to sit amongst her family, after having been allowed to be part of her world for so long through her words.  It was an incredible manifestation of how genuine and giving Ruth and Andy are. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015


There are seven days of school left this year.  I am not usually one to count down the days, but there it is: seven more days. 

However, this is a celebration post.  So, instead of focusing on the reasons behind my countdown or all the ways in which I like a failure of a teacher this year, I am choosing to spend my energy focusing on something that has inspired me this school year: ART CLUB. 

Inspired by Keri Smith's Guerilla Art Kit, I was determined to lead my student artists to create art that could be shared.  Students had become accustomed to showing up for art club, working on a project, and taking it home.  I wanted to do something BIGGER.  

So, we started with life-sized packing tape sculptures that turned into a modern art installment when we discovered how many sessions we would need to complete entire humans:

We contributed a gallery of self-portraits to display at our school's Barnes and Noble fundraiser event:

Just before our first round of PARCC testing, we decided to yarn bomb the stairwells with positive messages made from my grandma's old yarn collection:

We have also made pipe cleaner sculptures, a giant paper flower garden, and watercolor resists, but I failed to snap photos of these projects.

Our final project this school year is putting the knowledge from my Kelly Rae Roberts Hello Soul, Hello Mixed Media Mantras class to work.  After seeing our other projects, our principal offered to purchase the necessary supplies to create mixed media art that will be permanently installed in our hallways.  These paintings are still in progress, but here is a sneak peek of an earlier layer of our paintings (I promise to post the final products soon):

Sunday, May 17, 2015


I spent a few weeks struggling against an inner and outer ear infection, and I am finally able to think clearly and move with energy.  

Although I am not completely out of my funk, I do have enough clarity to look around and notice that when I am feeling weighed down (and when I am not) I am surrounded by people who reach out to me, brighten my day, and validate my struggle.

This week I found a surprise package from California waiting for me when I checked the mail (usually Mark's job, but since he is now under the weather, I took over).  A dear friend sent me a reminder that my words are worth coaxing out and even sent a handmade reminder that I am an author.  She sent me the messages my heart needed to hear.

Another friend, in Missouri, reached out to me through a text that included the words: "Teaching makes me insecure and crazy at times."  What a relief to know I am not the only one feeling this way! 

At school this week, when I was nearing a full-on meltdown, a supportive colleague, who had every reason to look at me like I was crazy given my irrationality, smiled and told me, "I have been there.  I have had days like that."  And just like that, I could feel the tension drain from my shoulders.

This weekend I have been able to reflect and acknowledge how I am feeling, but I am still struggling to work my way through it. 

In the meantime, I have been catching up on my latest Ali Edwards class, Type, hopeful that creating will at least keep me moving forward.  Here are some of my latest projects:

Sunday, April 26, 2015


one | I am taking a new class with Ali Edwards called Type. I am completely in love with learning all that Ali has to offer.  She is feeding the wannabe-graphic-designer in me. 

two | I started this 30-day writing challenge with my students...and they completely took it over!  You might have noticed I started writing daily and then quickly petered off.  This time, it was less a case of me getting distracted and more a case of me learning to step back when my students are ready to lead themselves.  One student even shared the challenge with the friends at her old school and started a Google Community for both her new and old classmates to join together to complete the challenge.  It got to the point where my participation was almost an interference.  I am kind of in love with that.  

three | This weekend Mark and I had dinner with a friend I have had since second grade and her family.  There is something special about time spent with friends who make you feel like yourself, especially after a loooong week at school.

four | This week included the stressful meeting where job assignments and re-assignments were revealed for next school year.  I am celebrating a new opportunity at work next year. 

five | Wednesday night our school hosted a Family Reading Night.  I was worried about low attendance.  When I shared my concerns with Mark (who teaches social studies in the classroom directly beneath mine), he decided to grill hot dogs for all of the attendees.  We teamed up with our principal and language arts leader to make a plan two days before the event.  Mark ended up doing all of the shopping (I helped a little bit) and grilling to provide dinner for our school community.  I love that he enjoys giving.
Mark's Grill on Family Reading Night

Blackout Poetry for our Poetree from Family Reading Night

Some Book Spine Poetry from Family Reading Night

six | Friday night Mark and I helped out with a school dance.  Mark DJs all of our school dances for free.  When he learned how much money the school was spending on a DJ for every dance, he purchased the equipment himself and pledged to volunteer his time and talents to DJ all school events for free. Mark's actions frequently remind me why he is worth celebrating, but this week provided an abundance of reminders!

seven | Saturday morning, Mark and I had the opportunity to volunteer at our local food pantry.  It is always a rewarding experience that leaves me with a full heart and lots to celebrate.