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, 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. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015


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.


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


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


4.6.15 | aftermath
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

I quickly grab for the next book in the stack.  Knowing it will never measure up to Bone Gap, I pull one from the middle of the stack.  A sure thing.  But it doesn't matter how sure the next book is; I just can't shake the images in my head, the words in my heart.  

This is the aftermath of living deeply inside of a story.  It lingers.  It calls me back to its pages again and again.  It does not let go.  I do not let go.

I find myself at the bookstore.  Three copies of Bone Gap cradled in my arms.  I know people who need this story, says the voice in my head.  I must not keep this one to myself.  I have become a Bone Gap zealot.

At the counter, three copies of the same book evoke the question, "What is it about?"  

"So much," I breathe in response.  I am still not entirely sure, I think to myself.  I realize I am missing an opportunity to share my enthusiasm for Bone Gap.  So I gather my thoughts and gush, "It is about a kid in a small town who witnesses the disappearance of a woman, but nobody believes him."  Then, realizing this is nowhere near sufficient an explanation, I rush to add, "The writing in this book exists on a literary plane all its own.  It is classic, but brand new.  It has all the best traits of great Southern American fiction and it takes place here in Illinois."  

The man nods as if weighing his own interest.  He smiles and hands the loaded bag across the counter--a victim left in the wake of the aftermath.  

Monday, April 6, 2015


4.5.15 | this road
Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
I walked this road
more times than I could count.

Several times a week 
for four years
I emerged from Grant Park underground parking
to a sidewalk filled with feet 
covering the same stretch of city
as my own black Converse.

That was before Millenium Park. 
Before the greenery 
divided this road
when the lions could watch over me
as I headed to class
their view unobstructed
from the east side of the street.

I walked this road
more times than I could count.
For four years I emerged
from university classes 
in an aging high rise
to a sidewalk filled with energy
that would sweep me back to my car.

That was before the real world.
Before graduation
pulled me away from this road
when my parents watched over me 
as I built my future 
one step at a time
up and down 
this road.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

30 DAY WRITING CHALLENGE day four | mirror 
tough choice, but still my favorite of all of Linda Urban's books

When Linda Urban visited our school, she revealed that she has a magic mirror at her house.  It has been years since her visit, but I believe her story went something like this.
One day, Urban wrote words on a slip of paper that she desperately wanted to come true: I am a writer.  Then she tucked that paper behind her mirror to keep it close by, but also hidden.  Knowing those words were there, when Urban looked in the mirror each morning she would think to herself: I am a writer.  Her heart would beat just a bit faster at the thought.  

Day after day she repeated the mantra in her head while her heart listened deeply.  Over time, the words took root and began to grow into actions.  Urban began making choices about how to spend her time--as a writer.  She began living the words she had tucked away.  And they became her truth.

The best part of her visit is that she ended by telling us she suspects we all have magic mirrors in our homes.  I think she's right.

Friday, April 3, 2015


4.3.15 | faces in the street

In a Station of the Metro  by Ezra Pound
The apparition       of these faces       in the crowd   
Petals      on a wet, black    bough   .

Today's prompt immediately brought Ezra Pound's poem to mind.  The imagery is so strong.  I am not sure I can capture the power of his imagery, but I am going to try to emulate his structure in my own poem today.

In a Hallway of the Middle School
The manifestation         of these faces           passing
Stories     wrapped in hooded        sweatshirts.



4.2.15 | an open door

I recently came across these words:
"We've all heard the famous line from rebellious educators: 'I just shut my door and do what's right.'  As I look at what I consider to be a perilously downward spiral in the arena of education at present, I am forced to wonder if maybe it isn't time to open our doors and do what's right--loud and long--until everybody, everywhere, hears us."

from "The Simple Things: Sometimes, even in education, that's what its' all about." by Steven L. Layne from Reading Today, March/April 2015, Volume 32, Number 5
 Layne's call to action caused me to pause.

I am guilty of closing the door to my classroom, of doing my own thing as a teacher, and of keeping what I am doing to myself.  Yet, I agree with Layne.  Closing our doors to "do what's right" is not necessarily the right thing to do.  

It takes courage to do what's right.  If I open the door to my classroom that means I share lots of work of which I am proud, but it also means I share the moments when I get it wrong.  An open door means sharing my beliefs about education, but it also means justifying my choices. 

An open door means an open mind, an open heart, and a world of possibilities.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


I blame revisiting those vintage slices.  Or perhaps it is the tug of National Poetry Month.  Whatever the cause, I was itching for a writing challenge to invigorate my writing life.  So, I searched the past challenges at 30/30 for ideas.  This afternoon I shared the following challenge (a patchwork of other challenge ideas) with my students:

I explained that this challenge was not required, nor would it be graded.  This evening, my email has been overflowing with notifications that students have posted in the classroom.  I plan to post here every day in addition to my participation in the google classroom community with my students.

4.1.15 | things we carry

“You would be a great mom,” an eighth grader once told me when I was acting as an assistant coach to the girls’ soccer team.  What had I done to earn such accolades?  I coached with a safety pin attached to my sneaker, just in case.  In this case, I had used the safety pin as a tool to tug the drawstring back through the waistline of her shorts.

I carry lots of items just in case. Kleenex, lip balm, inhaler, headache medicine, cash, credit card, ID, cell phone, hair band, house key, gum.  I carry more than I need to carry back and forth to work every day.  Laptop, calendar, planning notebook, professional articles, books, pencil case, flash drives.

I also carry words: You would be a great mom.  A compliment as great as any I can imagine.  And a reminder of someone I will never be.