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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, June 21, 2015

CELEBRATE 6.21.15



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

CELEBRATION 5.24.15


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

CELEBRATION 5.17.15

 
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

CELEBRATION 4.26.15


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. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

30 DAY WRITING CHALLENGE day nine

4.9.15 | nothing


If there is one thing I have learned as a teacher of writers over the past 15 years it is this:
I have nothing to write about is never the truth.

I have nothing to write about is always code for something else.

Sometimes it means I don't feel like doing the hard work of thinking right now.
Sometimes it means I don't believe my thoughts, my ideas, my story is worth sharing.
Sometimes it means what I have to write is too painful to write about.
Sometimes it means I have compared myself to others and the monster voice in my head is overpowering the writerly voice.
Sometimes it means I have made a habit out of avoiding work this way.
Sometimes it means I am afraid to try and end up disappointing you.
Sometimes it means I have so many ideas I am overwhelmed.
Sometimes it means I will write tomorrow.    

Always it means writing is hard work.


30 DAY WRITING CHALLENGE day eight

4.8.15 | shoes


My mother-in-law had impeccable taste.  Even in pajamas she looked well-put together.  Shopping was more than just her way of life; it was like an art form for her--her means of self-expression.  I got an up close glimpse of her passion for shopping one day at the outlet mall.

My sister-in-law, her mother, my mother, and I had planned to spend the day shopping together in an attempt to bond early on in my relationship with Mark.  After several attempts at shopping for clothes that resulted in a clear division of style and taste, we decided to try a shoe store.  We each headed in separate directions to browse.

I have freakishly small feet, making it nearly impossible to find stylish shoes that fit.  I usually try to force myself to search for my size before even looking at the shoes to avoid falling in love with shoes that will not work for me.  However, these bright green flats caught my eye despite my focus on numbers.  They were quirky and lovely and I wanted them even though the smallest they came in was a size 6, which was a half-size too big for me.  The pragmatic side of me wondered how many outfits I could even make work with bright-summer-grass-green shoes.  The impulsive side of me wanted to ignore the looseness in the heel and run straight to the counter with the shoes.  

It was my mother-in-law who ended my internal dilemma.  She approached me with a smile on her face.  "You should get those shoes," she urged.  I started to explain that I wasn't sure the fit was quite right.  I began to reason that I didn't have many outfits with which they would work.  Then I noticed this sparkle in her eye as she smiled down at the shoes.  It was the only sign I had ever gotten of her acceptance.  It turned out to be a rare sparkle of approval--a feeling I experienced only a few times since.  

I bought the shoes.  It turned out that with a little non-slip heel insert, they fit perfectly.  I know, however, that the comfort of these shoes does not lie in the fit, but rather in the memory they hold.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

30 DAY WRITING CHALLENGE day seven

4.7.15 | very loud


10 things that are very loud
1| music in my car
2| the television during dinner
3| my dogs barking
4| my red dress that appears to be straight out of the 70s
5| the tardy bell when I was in 7th grade
6| papers waiting to be graded
7| my heartbeat every time I hear live music
8| the distance between my sister and me
9| the dishwasher
10| kind words