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, December 31, 2012


Nudgemy One Little Word for 2012.  Nudge and be nudged.  How did this One Little Word nudge its way into my life in 2012?  Let me count the ways . . .

1.  I got more intentional about nudging students forward in their reading and writing lives by using a new conference-record-keeping tool designed by my mom for the FileMaker Go app on my iPad.

2.  I responded to my husband’s nudge to speak up about my Voices Strong class at a school board meeting.  As a result, I was invited to nudge other teachers to step out of their comfort zones and take on the Voices Strong challenge.

3.  In response to the gift of an iPod shuffle engraved with my One Little Word, I nudged my behind out of bed to run nearly every day over the summer and into the start of the school year.

4.  I started a Staff Writing Group at my school to nudge myself and others to spend more time writing playfully.

5.  I responded to nudges at the Anderson’s Young Adult Literature Conference by helping to form a Literary Team that works together make author visits more meaningful at our school.  Part of my work on that team has been to nudge staff members to read more young adult literature by “booking” them with random copies of some of the best books I’ve read and instructions to sign their names on the inside of the cover after reading, before passing the book on in an effort to nudge another lucky staff member to read it.

6.  I responded to Ruth’s nudges and attended the All-Write Summer Conference for the first time.  There I experienced two days worth of nudges that inspired me to continue seeking revitalizing professional development opportunities.

7. I nudged a colleague of mine to take a risk in her professional life by taking a curriculum coordinator position where I knew she would make a positive impact on our entire district by nudging the right people to make the right decisions.

8.  I responded to nudges, again from Ruth, to become a Twitter user.  More recently, I nudged my husband to sign-up.  What an amazing use of technology to expand our worlds by bringing us closer!

9.  I respond almost daily to my mother’s nudges to live up to the wonderful person she sees in me.  I never feel judged by her, but I want to be as good as she believes I am.  And I try to return the favor by nudging her to continue to find joy in the things she loves most, like sewing and her world of Apple computer expertise. 

10.  My husband and I made the decision to nudge the universe a bit and attempt to have a baby through unconventional means (since the conventional means are not an option for us).  Although each of the attempts was unsuccessful as far as producing a baby, our decision to open ourselves up to the possibilities and the process of trying to create a family has nudged us to grow as individuals and as a couple.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



This week I am dog-sitting at my mom’s house.  My husband has fierce allergies to dogs, which makes it easier to bring my hypo-allergenic poodle-mixed mutts to Mom’s house to hang out with her hyper-allergenic coonhound mutt than it would be to bring her dog over to our house.

Although my mom no longer lives in a house that was ever home to me, there are traces of my childhood tucked into corners, resting on shelves, lingering in the air. 

Mom crouches down and lugs the heavy accordion case out of the crawlspace and into the wide-open space of the rec room.  I stand at the crawlspace door, too afraid to venture into the musty darkness, trying to stay out of the way while remaining part of the action. 

Rebecca and I giggle in anticipation.  We are waiting for the accordion to be lifted from its case.  Black and white keys shine with a slick elegance.  Mom’s name marches down the front—each letter outlined in glittery jewels.  We hold ourselves back, watching while her fingers find the strap and wiggle their way into place, while her shoulders adjust to its weight, while she fusses through pages of sheet music to find the right song to awaken the proud instrument from its sleep.

Within seconds our giggles turn into belly laughs.  There is something about the jovial sound of the bellows, the peppiness of the polka tune, that urges our laughter to bubble over.  

We are not exactly laughing AT Mom, nor are we laughing WITH her.  We gently tease, enjoying the sound while mocking its oblivious gleefulness. 

Mostly, though, we are concentrating on holding ourselves back long enough to feign an interest in the instrument, while our true cause for celebration lies in wait: the empty accordion case.

The case is just the right size for rolling myself up and tucking myself inside.  The lining is just soft enough to tickle my cheek when I brush against it, just fluffy enough to tuft up when I gently pull it through my fingers, just musty enough to fill my nostrils up with the crawlspace scents of Christmas decorations and forgotten toys.  The cover flap fits over me like a snug little blanket.  I could spend hours tucked inside the bottom half of the case, squealing in pretend fear when Rebecca teases me by threatening to close the lid. 

When she loses interest in this game, I beg her to really close me inside the accordion case, really latch it up, really tip it on its side. This is enough to keep her interested.  When the case is laid back down and reopened, I peek over at Mom to make sure we haven’t disturbed her from her accordion-fueled escape.  Her eyes focus on reading the music.  Her right hand struggles to remember its way across the keys.   Her left fingers strain to find chords as her arm extends and retracts.  And all the while, the accordion chugs out its happiness in funny bursts, singing the spunky tune of our family, of being together.