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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, February 23, 2014

31 THINGS day thirty-one {in which I CELEBRATE finding joy}

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

 
created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day thirty-one | joy

Every Saturday, Ruth Ayres invites the world to notice, record, and share celebrations from throughout the week. 

Sharing these favorite bits from throughout the week is a writing challenge as well as a sort of life challenge.  Knowing I am gathering fodder for a Saturday (or Sunday in some cases) celebration post, I move through my week with my eyes wide open.  Reasons to celebrate, sometimes difficult to spot, are tucked into everyday life.  Just the kind of life details this 31 Things challenge has been about. 

So, although I have many BIG things to be joyful about, here are some of the more ordinary bits of my life that brought me joy this week.

the message celebration saves and the kind words that came along with it

comments on my blog posts

thank you notesjust because

dogs climbing into my lap to snuggle

smiles on the faces of students (especially one in particular whose smiles have been rare lately)

sticking to my exercise routine

trying a new restaurant with Mark

phone calls and texts and giggles with Mom

writing with friends

reading an entire book in one sitting

Saturday, February 22, 2014

31 THINGS day thirty

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

 
created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day thirty | 3:35pm

who | I am with my husband and two colleagues

what | we are having our usual Friday Write Club meeting, consisting of me sharing a text for us all to use as a springboard into a quick write

where | we are in my classroom, sitting at student desks that serve as a table when pushed together like this

when | from after school until whenever we manage to wrap up the conversation that spills over after sharing our work; today this means

why | because we are all writers who welcome ways to make more time in our lives for writing | because time spent writing, sharing, bonding, laughing, crying with colleagues friends is time well spent | because writing, like celebration, saves

Friday, February 21, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty-nine

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.


created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty-nine | smell

We never walk in the front door.  We park along the curb, taking the sidewalk to a narrow path that runs alongside the house, around to the back.  Francesca with a bright red bandana that Grandma calls babushka is peering out the window.  I wonder if she is ever allowed outside because every time we see her, it is through this window.  Always a flash of red covering her braided hair, as if she is from an earlier time—perhaps a leftover playmate from Mom’s childhood.

Along the narrow walk between Grandma’s house and Francesca’s window, tomato plants grow tall enough to look me in the eye.  I barely pay them any attention.  The delicate tangle of leafy stems vining amongst wire support frames cannot compete with the mystery next door.

We round the corner behind the house, climb the wooden porch steps and head into Grandma’s kitchen.  As soon as I step foot inside, I steal a peek behind the open wooden door, hoping to see the little birdie I am often told lives there—the one who tells Grandma my secrets and reminds her about special events, like birthdays.  I have a vague sense I am being teased when Grandma talks about her little birdie, but I can’t stop my eyes from sneaking behind the door to be sure.

All it takes is the smell of a tomatoespecially a tomato freshly pulled from a vineto take me back to Grandma’s house. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty-eight


I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty-eight | drink

I don’t drink.  Not only do I not consume alcohol (I’ve never had more than a few sips), but I often forget to drink liquids at all.  I have been to the emergency room only to find out the sole reason for my visit was my own dehydration.  Remedy: drink two glasses of water before leaving hospital. 

As a result, I am not really picky about the quality of the beverages I consume.  I figure whatever it takes to get me to drink enough in a day to stay hydrated is worth it.

 Mostly, I am embarrassed to admit, I drink Diet Sunkist orange pop.  Yes, I realize it is loaded with chemicals.  Yes, I realize it is not the most effective way (or even close to it) to keep myself hydrated.  I drink it anyway. 

When it gets warm out, I transition to drinking light lemonade and water with ice in it.  I take better care of myself in the summer, in general. 

Recently, I renewed my love of cherry Kool-Aid when I discovered the combination of Kool-Aid liquid flavor drops and seltzer water (or, in a pinch, diet ginger ale).  I especially love drinking cherry Kool-Aid with popcorn.  I actually dip popcorn into the Kool-Aid.  It is one of those things I have done since I was a kid.  Kind of like eating fries with a milkshake.

For breakfast, I have been drinking frozen Jamba Juice smoothie mixes.  This is my attempt to replace the void that Caribou Coffee’s strawberry-banana smoothies left in my life when all the Caribous near me closed down.  If I had to choose one drink to consume for the rest of my life, this would be it—my mouth waters just thinking about it. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty-seven

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

 
created with Photoshop and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty-seven | hobby

hob·by (noun) an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure

my hobbies:
reading
painting (canvas, furniture, walls)
cleaning
collecting and altering antiques
card making
blogging
walking
grading papers
biking
decorating/organizing my home
writing
digital scrapbooking
grocery shopping
photography
cooking
sewing

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty-six

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty-six | covet

Mark’s birthday is one week away.  I still have no idea what to get him.  He has yet to drop any hints or (per our usual arrangement) give me his wishlist.  He is the kind of guy, who when asked, will tell you he does not want for anything.

I am the type of girl who is content with what I have, too.  But there is always something on my wishlist. 

I covet things like books.  Lots of books.  And baskets.  Especially wire baskets.  I have no pressing need for it, but I always love a new roll of washi tape.  And brand new notebooks. 

Most of all, I covet time.  I have found that in order to fit in all of the things I want to squeeze into an evening, I have to hit the ground the running as soon as I leave school.  I would love to live a more relaxed existence.  That would take time. 

I would use time to slow down and eat dinner by candlelight more often.  I would use time to create more art.  I would use time to put more words on paper or tap more words onto a screen.  I would use time not just to talk to my closest friends and family, but to listen—really listen.

I would use time to read, take notes, and study the pile of professional books begging me to pick them up.  I would use time to walk longer distances.  I would use time to reflect on my one little word. 

I would use time.  It is number one on my wishlist.  I covet time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

in which I explain why I did not CELEBRATE this week


I hate to miss a CELEBRATION link-up. 

I know that the whole point is no matter what, if we look hard enough, we will see the reasons to celebrate. 

I know the reasons to celebrate are there.  I do, believe me, I do.

But it just doesn't feel right this weekend.

Although I am full of gratitude, my heart is not light. 

This Thursday morning, just a few minutes after I had arrived at school (about a half hour before the official start of our school day), we were told by the local police department to go into a soft lockdown (indicating we had to stay put, but not take cover).  We had students arriving to school.  Buses picking kids up at stops.  Although we have very specific instructions for lockdown procedures, we had never practiced a lockdown during such a transitional time of the day.

Our administrators were calm, collected, and directive.  We were told exactly what to do.  We gathered students in safe locations based on grade levels.  Students were escorted from vehicles and sidewalks into the building by school personnel and/or law enforcement officials.  We got word that buses would not be dropping students off.  They, too, were on lockdown.

There had been a shooting in the community and the suspect was still at large. 

Calls had gone out from the Sheriff's department, alerting citizens not to answer their doors and to remain indoors.  We were going to be on lockdown indefinitely. 

Buses had to be emptied, so that elementary school students who might be waiting at bus stops could be taken to safety.  Our bus riders were taken to the village recreation center to clear the buses.  Other district staff pitched in to supervise. 

After only a couple hours, we were given the all clear.  The news was not reporting that the suspect had been apprehended.  We weren't sure why we had been cleared.  However, I conveyed with complete honesty to my students that I felt nothing but confidence that we were in good hands.  The people making decisions knew what they were doing; I was sure of it.  Later, it turned out that the police did, in fact, have the suspect in custody, but they were not announcing it (perhaps due to the nature of the investigation or due to charges not being ready to file).  They were only announcing that people of interest had been brought in for questioning.  I trust their process.  I trust they had reasons for releasing information the way they did. 

Students were sent back to class.  We had a constant stream of all-calls for students whose parents had come to school to get them--to see their faces, to hug them, to know they were safe.  We awaited the arrival of bus riders who had been relocated to the rec center. 


As the day went on, I processed how lucky we were. 

The community incident did not directly impact our building.  One of the victims attended our high school and a family member attends another district school. Although this may seem like a selfish thing to be thankful for, I mean it more out of respect and understanding that the people in the buildings directly affected by the incident will experience this differently than the people in our building who are once removed. 

The police communicated with our school district and put supports in place immediately to keep our students safe.

The police caught the suspect so quickly that we were even able to return to class in time to still provide breakfast to our students and deliver lunch on our regular schedule.  This seems petty in the grand scheme of things, but in the moment, I knew that food delivery played an important role in making the day feel normal for our students.

Our students were incredibly respectful and calm throughout the lockdown and the rest of the day.

Our administration recognized the benefit of allowing students to use cell phones to keep in contact with friends and family members throughout the lockdown and for a while afterward.

There was not a single moment when I didn't have complete confidence that the people in charge were making decisions in the best interest of our students.  I knew our kids were as safe as the circumstances allowed them to be.  

All in all, a horrible situation uncovered a lot of reasons to be thankful. 

But somehow, that is not the feeling I am left with.  Something about living through this still has me a bit shaken.  I feel so small all of a sudden.  It is easy to get wrapped up in guilt about feeling lucky when there are victims whose family has been ripped apart. 

However, I am even more overwhelmed by nagging thoughts about the suspect.  What causes a person to do such a thing?  Somebody was this guy's 8th grade teacher.  What can I do to prevent my students from becoming this guy?  How can I make a difference, a real difference in the lives I touch? 

This is on my mind tonight.  Sure, I am thinking about lesson plans; I am thinking about common core standards, parent-teacher conferences, and updating grades.  But I am also thinking about whether an hour and a half a day in my classroom has the potential to reach into a student’s heart, make a connection, change a trajectory.  I am thinking about how to make my teaching matter. 

I am thinking about a lives lost and lives yet to be saved.

31 THINGS day twenty-five


I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty-five | outside

Outside?  I don’t even want to talk about outside.

Mark and I just came in from blowing and shoveling what seemed like another foot of snow. 

It did feel good to be outdoors, but I am itching to be outside at a time when I am not knee-deep in snow. 

I am longing for the days when we get to put the table Dad made us to good use.  I want to sit out back, listening to leaves flutter in the wind.  I imagine being so warm that I take comfort in the cool offered by the umbrella’s shade. 

I have big plans for warm weather.  I have books to read, and a book to write.  I have dogs to exercise.  I have legs to tan.

When I was younger, I spent hours outside.  Alone.  So much, in fact, that my sister used to wrinkle her nose and tell me, “You stink like outside,” when I came back into the house.  I spent hours on a giant pile of dirt pretending rocks were dinosaur bones.  I sat still with a handful of dried corn for as long as it took to coax a chipmunk into getting close enough to eat out of my hand.  I walked barefoot on moss because I liked the way it felt against my feet—even though it meant enduring my sister’s relentless teasing.

Outside?  I am ready to be outside. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty-four

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards
 
day twenty-four | relationship

One of my earliest gifts from Mark was a framed paper that held these handwritten words:

“This frame needs no pictures as its space holds all of our memories made and yet to be made.  And my love everlasting, Mark”

It still makes me smile.

We have known each other for fourteen years, have been together for almost thirteen of those years, and have been married for the past eight (and a half) years. 

I fell in love with Mark one night at a colleague’s Christmas party.  We discovered that we had both vacationed to the same spot in the Northwoods of Wisconsin all our lives (my family even lived there for a few years).  When he talked about Wisconsin, he got the same sparkle in his eyes that I feel in my heart anytime I think about my old home. 

Lately, my favorite moments are those in which we are laughing together.  Because we work together, so much of our talk is serious school business.  If we are not talking school, we are likely to be talking nonsense to the dogs or making dinner plans.  I savor the few moments in which we are able to laugh together. 

We laugh together.  We take care of each other.  We make memories together. 

31 THINGS day twenty-three


 I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards
day twenty-three | write

random facts about me + writing

My day begins with 22 voices reciting, “We write unapologetically to mark our time and mark our lives…”

I remember learning to write from my sister and my mother more than any teacher. 

Last year I started a staff quick write group at work.  We call ourselves Write Club.  I miss Write Club on Fridays we have to skip.

I write to know myself.

I think reading someone else’s written words is as intimate as crawling inside someone’s mind with a flashlight to have a look around. 

I enjoy having completed a piece of writing more than I enjoy writing it. 

I mostly write while sitting on my couch, laptop in my lap. If I am going to draft a piece of writing on paper, it is usually on a legal pad. 

I believe there is no greater gift you can give a person than the gift of sharing your writing.

I remember what I read better if I write about it immediately after reading.  This is why I take notes when I read professional books. 

The first thing my husband ever wrote to me began like this, “I know a guy who…”

31 THINGS day twenty-two

I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things. Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge. In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included. I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

 
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day twenty-two | spot

This one has had me stumped:  What is my favorite spot?

Generally, I am one of those people who will find the best in any spot. Although, I am also a creature of habit, so I often find myself returning to the same places. 

I have a favorite spot on the couch, a favorite spot at the kitchen table, a favorite spot to sit in the yard, a favorite spot for reading, a favorite spot for crafting, a favorite spot for running, a favorite vacation spot, a favorite spot just for sitting. How to choose a single spot to describe?

What makes a favorite spot? My favorite spots at home are places where I can be alone, but still feel connected. The family room is great for this because it is in the center of the house. A spot is especially good if there is room for my dogs to snuggle near me.  When they are settled, it is easier for me to feel settled.

My favorite spots in nature involve trees.  It is nice to be near water, but trees are more important. 

My favorite spots to visit are those places that make me feel like me, only amplified. There are places I have visited while on vacation, or in the city, that make my heart beat just a little bit faster. They are places that cause a visceral reaction. Even looking at pictures of those places can bring back the same emotions. It is the kind of reaction that can’t be explained. One either gets it or not. Generally, the people who really know me are the ones who get it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty-one


I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

 
created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty-one | think

Be on their side. One of my professors in college gave this advice to a classroom filled with future teachers. He was referring specifically to students, but this phrase has been on my mind lately in a more universal sense.

Just four simple words: Be on their side. It seems so obvious.  I truly AM on the same side as students, administrators, colleagues, my family, my community, Mark.  So, why is it that sometimes my emotions tempt me to speak and/or act against people?

I find that lately people are quick to jump to the negative. I am not sure that social media is what causes this attitude, but it certainly gives people a convenient forum for venting.  I also experience a lot of automatically negative attitudes while working with middle school students.  I wonder sometimes if these attitudes are just typical adolescent angst or if they are a reflection of what the world is giving to this generation.  Just one look at Facebook and I can find people complaining about inadequate snow removal, inadequate schools, inadequate police action, the list goes on and on. 

I don’t want to contribute to the ugliness in the world.

I don’t want to be one of those people.

So, I have been making a conscious effort lately to be on their side, no matter who they are, no matter where I am. Whether it is on Facebook or face to face. 

Just four simple words: Be on their side.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

31 THINGS day twenty


I am participating in a class with Ali Edwards through Big Picture Classes called 31 Things.  Every day includes a word, writing prompts, dig deeper prompts, a writing tip, Ali's example, and a photo challenge.  In addition to the prompts, templates for a physical album and/or digital album are included.  I am creating a digital album and plan to share the results here over 31 days.

 
created with Photoshop Elements 9 and tools from 31 Things with Ali Edwards

day twenty | carry

I like to carry a purse that is more likely to be called a bag than a purse. I generally get excited when a bag I am using gets worn out because it means I get to move on to the next bag. Sometimes, I switch bags just because. I always keep my old purses, in case I might use them again.  Though I rarely {never} do.

 I am the kind of person who likes to be prepared for anything. So, even though I would love to travel lightly, my purse always contains things like:
·      tissues (travel packs selected by the design on the package)
·      lip balm (I am hooked on Burt’s Bees even though I am a lifelong Blistex user)
·      my phone (safely tucked away in a case, stowed in an outer pocket for easy access)
·      keys (for car, home, and school)
·      headache medicine (probably a larger bottle of this than needed)
·      sunglasses (stored in a cloth pouch to prevent scratching…even though they are cheap sunglasses)
·      wallet (currently silver metallic)
·      a brush and hair rubberbands (you never know when you might need a ponytail)

Generally, I try to avoid keeping change in my purse.  I am not a fan of loose change.  I prefer to gather my change up in jars, bring it to the bank, and treat it like found money by spending it on something completely frivolous.

In addition to my purse bag, to school I carry my lunch bag and backpack. Investing in a North Face backpack was the smartest school supply decision I made in preparation for this year. I had received a North Face backpack for my high school graduation that lasted me through college. Eventually, I passed it down to one of the kids I babysat. So, I knew the quality would make it worth the money.  This backpack has a padded pouch inside to slide my laptop into.  The security the pouch provides and its sheer convenience have made it possible for me to carry my laptop back and forth from school to home and back each day.  Wow, what a difference that simple move has made for me in terms of planning and instruction.  I have every document, every link, every idea at my fingertips whether I am at school or home.