Monday Morning

A Story and a Prompt for You!

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It’s Monday. It’s summer. There is a laid back feeling even in the times of the Corona virus.

Yesterday was filled with writing, running, a coach session, and great conversations. It was also a reminder that I am too hard on myself and I am impatient.

One of the takeaways from my coaching session yesterday was that I light up when I talk about the workshops that I teach and the adventures with my kids. I will be sharing more about those two areas of my life in my newsletter and this blog in the coming weeks.

If you still need to sign up for my newsletter, you can click here!

This week we are taking the kids canoeing on the Wisconsin River. We have tried to go before but have run into obstacles like a too high river in Indiana. Hopefully, no issues this time.

One of the best parts of the adventures with the kids are the crazy things they say that I write down. Every Christmas, we make a photo album of the year’s adventures. These are not always trips either. We play games and create things inside the house as well. The book is also filled with fun things everyone has said. Often you will hear someone say, “Put that in the notes!”

While in the car last week my youngest said randomly from the backseat, “It illegal to die in some places.” Which, of course, was met with, “WHAT?” In fact, this is true, and he learned it on YouTube. Someplace they were running out of graves and made it illegal to die, at least on the books. Then he called the graves, “grave houses.” This comment led to a discussion of how in New Orleans they bury people above ground.

I have a writing prompt for you today.

I have a book I ordered during the lockdown called Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises From Today’s Best Writers and Teachers. I finally cracked it open last night and dove into an exercise. Every couple of pages there is a new prompt. I did one pertaining to surrealism by Laurie Foos. It is noted you can do this exercise with a group, or alone.

If you do the prompt on your own, you are not allowed to look ahead!

Choose a verb that ends in -ing, then a body part, and an inanimate object.

Go ahead…I’ll wait. Now write them down before you read on!

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Now, put your words into this sentence: After a long day of verbing, he/she discovered that his/her body part had grown insert inanimate object.

I had fun with mine and after a long day of transcribing my character had a mirror that had grown out of his arm. It led to a weird little story about being to infinitely able to see into illusions and dreams.

I have published my book on Amazon. You can check that out here.

IWSG July

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade? 

The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox!

What comes to mind when I read the question above for this month’s IWSG post is the changes associated with the mindset about indie publishing and traditional. I had a writing conversation about what is next for me yesterday. I am participating in a 4 month writing program starting at the end of August. My outcome is to be a much better writer by the time December gets here. One of my goals for 2020 is to finally get my e-book onto Amazon. I had mentioned yesterday to put it off until after the workshop is over. Learning how to do it now would still be valuable however.

Several years ago the idea of publishing my own book of short stories would have not been possible – at least not as easily as it is now. I publish on Medium and here on this blog, but it isn’t the same.

There is still magic and status in my mind that comes along with traditional publishing. If a publisher came to me about any of my writing I wouldn’t tell them no. There is still validation in someone saying they see you and want to spread the joy of your writing.

There is no telling what reading and writing will look like in the next 10 years. I am sure the technology will make it even easier. With so many people at home now due to the new sheltering protocols I bet it will move even faster.

What changes do you anticipate?

Leave It To A Teacher #SOL20

An Innovative Way to Make Readable Text

My superpower is teaching students to read. It doesn’t matter how old they are. I can hear nuances in their process and am able to fill in the cracks so they can make quick progress. 

I also pay attention to what they are interested in and what they need.

When I was teaching first grade way back in 1996 I needed books for my kids with decodable and familiar text for them to practice with accuracy. There was no Teachers Pay Teacher or Pinterest back then. I had to find an easy solution.

That solution was using PowerPoint for bookmaking.

When I was a novice teacher, I took risks constantly with my students. I found the ideas that worked in my classroom were based on research I found later. Dr. Richard Allington and Marie Clay were huge influencers to me. I just continued using them because they worked.

I teach kindergarten now and even with the internet resources available, I still have the need to make books for my students.

I have given books to students and said, “I saw this and thought of you.” then watch as they read it whenever they can. I have also said, “I created this just for you.” It yields the same result: Reading.

I started teaching teachers my technique when I was nurtured by the Tech Trio. These were three technology education teachers employed by my first corporation. They also encouraged me to write a proposal to share my techniques at the Indiana Computer Educators conference. This conference would be the first of many I presented at over the course of my career.

The solution for me was to take a presentation program and turn it into a bookmaking program.

The design was simple. The text would be at the top of the page with a picture to help the student read. 

The first book I needed was an environmental print book. The first day of class I have students read me the book. Then they get a sticker . I tell them someone asks them what the sticker is for they are to tell them they read a book!

The idea that my students are readers the first day solidifies this identity for them. There is no arguments. There are no limiting beliefs that they are too young. They just did what they thought was impossible.

We add to class books as the year goes on, highlighting the uniqueness of that class. One year we had to have a hot Cheeto page. 

I created books with their spelling words, their sight words, the vocabulary words for the reading focus that week, favorite class words. 

It created the environment for them to be authors.  I didn’t have to tell them to do it, it was a regular practice. Soon they learned to make their own books.

PowerPoint and Google Slides allows you to print the pages so you can run it through the copier and staple into the books immediately. If you duplicate the page and print 2 to a page then you just have to cut them in half. There is no sorting that way and saves you tons of time.

Creating books contributed to my outcome of nurturing readers and writers. What a reading community it is!

Summer Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

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It is the weekend again! Summer is moving along. We have been engrossed in it for a week now. Have you done anything fun?

I am having black coffee today since I am fasting. I have some creamer and some other flavors. Would you like ice water today? It has been hot here. I do love these mugs though. I bought some after I had coffee in them at a coffee shop back in Indiana.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we went to a water park for Father’s Day. Because of corona and the ripple effect, there were only about 6 rides open. It was a beautiful sunny 80-degree day. Because of my Back to Zero program, I was not embarrassed to be in a swimsuit. By the time we go camping at the end of July, I will be back to the weight and look want to be. We rode the slides until we didn’t feel like it anymore. We ate in the park because the meal deals came with our tickets. Then we of course stopped for ice cream. I am going to have to call this the ICE CREAM Share by the time summer is over.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am taking a writing class this week and couldn’t be more thrilled. After I read the first story on Monday morning I was blown away with how wonderful all the writing is from the other participants. There was one It was one flash piece that stuck with me all day and I kept going back to reread it. The exercises are ones that I can come back to again and again. The instructor has at least 5 example stories for each day, most of which were new to me. I also appreciated the mini video explanations that she included this time as well. It was so worth the money but her classes always are.

If we were having coffee I would tell you my story was published in a book! Here is the link to purchase. I am super excited to have a story and an essay now in a real book. I loved this story too called APP WORLD and had fun writing it.

If we were having coffee I would tell you a poem was published this week. You can read it here.It is called Window of Time.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I published an article about closing gaps in Teachers on Fire magazine. Even if you aren’t a teacher, summer is a time to learn something new or take an action to become more of the person you want to be. You can click and read that here.

If we were having coffee I would tell you we went to the beach this week. We played in the water, jumped off the pier, and enjoyed the beautiful day. Of course, there was ice cream involved before we set back home.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you a friend through Unleashing Her Power Within just launched her website. Her first post is up and it is amazing! Check that out here.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the kids and I went to a fun tourist attraction called the TOP SECRET Upside Down House. The kids’ reactions were the best. There was a photo op before we went in of course. They each got little secret agent cards. Then we went to lunch. It was an adventure.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you a writing friend and I have decided to check in with each other more often. We have been giving feedback to each other’s writing the last couple of weeks and I am glad to welcome her to my inner circle of writing! I was thrilled she reached out.

What is new with you this week? What decisions have you made to move forward?

I would love to hear. Til next week’s coffee time!

Birthday Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

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It’s the weekend again! Let’s go sit out on the porch and have our coffee. It is such a nice day. It has been a busy week for me and we have lots to talk about today! I have black coffee as always, but we bought some creamer that is delightful if you like something sweet today.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I went to the dentist this week. It was a risk for me. A power move, if you will. Due to COVID-19 and precautions I was not able to have the full visit that I needed, but there are appointments scheduled for what is needed. I did need a crown. Apparently, I do not grind my teeth but I press them together so hard I broke two teeth. These two are in addition to one I already cracked that was previously fixed.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my Back to Zero plan is on track. I am moving every day, fasting, and have a clear vision of where I want to go! Clothes are starting to fit that have not in a long time.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am excited to announce the podcast went up on time this week. Continuing the birthday theme, I talked about the birthday tarot card reading I did. If you want to listen you can go here. Hopefully soon the podcast will be on Spotify.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I began my video series on my blog called “5 Minute Coach”. Here I am sharing a teaching tip or activity from my education life. You can check out the first one about my story auctions here.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I was inspired by Liara Tamani and her podcast interview on Fierce Womxn Writing. She talked about The Book Of Delights by Ross Gay. I started writing about my own daily delights. If you want to get a flavor of how I write about this check out this piece I wrote about Sundays. Liara and I are birthday twins too so that is exciting.Sunday DelightA Reflection of Daily Delightsmedium.com

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have been doodling in my notebooks again and I love it. The new pens my youngest son bought me for my birthday are perfect for adding a bit of color too. It makes writing time even more special. I am thankful for doodle accounts I follow on Instagram and Pinterest to keep the ideas brewing.

If we were having coffee I would tell you one of my delights this week was driving. I was able to listen to my podcasts and think about writing. Kathy Fish sponsors a reunion for the alumni of her classes and that is this weekend. It is nice to see familiar names. I am also starting a new writing class on Monday which I am thrilled about.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I continue my streak of writing every day. I have been transcribing my Selecky prompt into the forum and have been getting some nice comments. There is a group that seems to be forming there.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this week was full of input and learning. I am examining the areas of my life where I need more knowledge and taking lots of action to close that gap.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you Saturday is the summer solstice. How will you take advantage of the most sunlight? Delight in the rays and warmth my friend!

I would love to hear about your week!

One Word Six Month Check In!

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2020 is my year of MORE.


I started choosing a word for the year several years ago. It works better for me to have this mantra rather than resolutions. I always have goals, but they are more specific to seven areas of my life including health, emotions, career, contribution, and wealth. A word is easier to come back to and keep in the forefront of my mind.

At the six month mark of the year, I like to revisit my list from January and check in with how my life is progressing.

More Time — I have had more time allowed to me or at least the illusion of it. January, February, and March were stressful and full of change before the pandemic even hit. During quarantine, I was able to do some projects. I transcribed some of my notebooks into the computer. I was able to write. I took advantage of the free classes and prompts that were offered by teachers I love and follow. I learned some interesting practices with my kindergarten team on how to conduct distance learning with 5-year-olds.

I was granted more time with my husband while teaching from home because of the sheltering in place this spring. This isn’t at all how I envisioned it to happen, but I was excited that the universe granted it to me anyway.

More Money — I changed jobs in January and am finally being paid what I am worth. I had used all the avenues I had for my former job and came to a dead-end every time. The sad reality was that I was never going to get the money that I desired, even though they were paying my colleagues upwards of $25,000 more than me for the same job. Changing jobs became my only option.

More Time Saying Yes to the Right Things — I have started to say no to things that do not align with my beliefs and values. This covers activities and people. From the outside, I suppose this seems harsh. Some relationships, I have tried to repair in an adult manner and have come to a dead end. I am taking Maya Angelou’s advice and recognizing that when people show me who they are, believe them the first time.

More Writing — I wasn’t sure this was possible, but I am writing every day and have several challenges going at the same time. Through the learning I have immersed myself in this year, my pieces are better and I am thankful. I was able to do my 100 rejections project and share some of my learnings from it as well.

More Fun — I am focusing on the positive and bringing more of it to my life simply by paying attention. When I feel joy and things are going well I revel in it! I enjoyed the time at home, time with my husband, time with my kids. I enjoyed the learning. I loved the time with friends and in classes online. I had fun with my students. In recent weeks, the family has been horseback riding, boating on the Wisconsin River, ziplining, playing games at home, and laughing.

More Walks — I have changed my exercise and health routine (I am on day 28 of my back to zero plan). Walks are a daily practice now — rain or shine.

More Sun and Moons — I have been out in the sun more and have the tan to prove it. I pay attention to the moon cycles and this has brought me joy and insight.

More Movies — With the sheltering in place, I have never been more thankful for streaming. Netflix and Amazon are our friends.

More of What Matters. This has been an area of hyperfocus for me. If an action does not align with my beliefs and values then I delete it. I have refocused my social media and communities with this in mind. The books I keep and the way I spend my time as well.

More Hikes Near Trees — This one is more difficult since I moved. My daily walking route has trees along the path, but there is mostly open space and hills. The hills are great for fitness and toning while you walk and run!

More Time to be Who I Am — I am in the middleof my coaching program and am coming back into my power. I am a force of nature and needed to stop pretending that I am not. I am a leader, but I get irritated when groups don’t go the way I would facilitate them. Recognizing these reactions, and then changing my actions has been helping.

More Words that Matter — I have been paying attention to the sentence level of my writing. My 100-day project has been helping with this considerably. My project is to write a random sentence every day for 100 days. At the end of the 100 days I will gather all the sentences, read them aloud to myself, and find the plot within. Then I will edit and revise the sentences into an amazing short story.

I also write every morning. There is a combination of Janning ( a combo of journaling and planning), fiction, and morning pages.

More of the Stories that Need to be Told — This one I am still struggling with. I use my tarot cards to get out of my own way to trick my brain to stop putting up walls. I am trying to write more of my wounds and what that has generated in my life. There is learning, loss, betrayal, and growth.

More Writing in Bed — My bed is my desk. Part of my morning routine is to write with my coffee. I do have a desk, but it is in the boys’ room. I need a better chair.

More Reading by the Fireplace — This one is more of a visualization, for now. I put the fireplace on my computer screen. I have no fireplace in the apartment. This is more when I move to my forever house. There will also be a small fireplace in my writing shed when I get there too!

More Connections with People who make me Grow and Feel Supported — This is one of the four main goals I am working on now. I am nurturing my female friendships and am being more intentional about them. I am reaching out to some writer friends to get to know them better. I am also looking for a real-life group of writers to meet with and made a power move to start a teacher group this fall.

Overall, I am living a life as close to my ideal life that I have since….EVER. I am thankful for the changes that I have made and continue to grow. I am excited to see where my word takes me for the rest of the year!!!

Chocolate Read Alouds #SOL

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When was the last time you read aloud to someone?

When was the last time someone read aloud to you?

My commute used to be two hours per day. (Now it is 10 minutes! That is an upgrade). I become reliant on podcasts to try to satisfy my insatiable quest for knowledge. It also seemed like a reasonable activity to pass the time with.

I struggle with audiobooks. There are few books I can tolerate the whole text on audio. I find this odd. I also have an internal fight with myself about whether audiobooks “count” as reading. I have seen the research that the brain doesn’t know the difference, but my reading mind has a different opinion.

The Overdrive app from the library is the way I choose to sample audiobooks. I keep trying. The one book I have listened to with success is The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern.  If you have not read it, and you like magic and adventure I highly recommend it. The Starless Sea is also a treasure.

I made the connection that audiobooks and podcasts are simply me being read aloud to. Something that is a cornerstone of my classroom, and probably yours as well. There is nothing that inspires and sparks conversation and writing like a good piece of text.

There is an art to reading aloud. There is a pizazz that is needed. It should not be tortured or boring or “just something that needs to happen.” The magic of reading comes through your voice and expression and is a good read aloud. I think this is what I search for in a podcast as well. The voice matters.

Reading and writing are so connected aren’t they? I tell students all the time to please write how they talk because I do not want to read the same pice of writing from my class. Anything can be boring if you have to read it 20 times!

When I was a reading specialist I was honored to know a woman who would read aloud in a meeting and transport us into the book. She was a wise reading specialist and full of experience that I learned from every time I spoke with her.

Lester Laminack can also read aloud to me any time and I am transfixed! His book, Saturdays and Teacakes is a wonderful picture book memoir.

There is a quote that reading aloud should be like chocolate, not vitamins – or maybe I just made that up. Read alouds should be treats, and sometimes just done for fun. Yes, as teachers we are always looking for the craft lesson. Fun is a lesson too.

We cannot encourage reading for fun if we never model it.

I like to think that I listen to podcasts as a substitute for being read aloud to. It makes my heart happy and my soul too.

The magic of read aloud is a talent that many teachers possess and is key to exciting children to read. I hope that I continue to find audio books that are worth the time. Any suggestions in the comments are welcome!

This Spring, reading aloud looked different for my students. Many links to authors reading their books and Bitmoji classrooms with themed read alouds were used. I also read aloud on Screencastify which was a whole new experience. I never realized how many faces I make to emphasize the sentences!

However you read today may it be fun! You never know though – you might get inspired along the way.

If you need something new to listen to my podcast on Friday will be all about education. Pop on over to Soundcloud and take a listen. The Accidental Inspirationalist is always less than 10 minutes! Listen Here!

Identity

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I have been thinking a lot this past week about identity. Who I am and how I portray that to the world.

I wear many hats in my life. I thought this was wrong for the longest time. Wasn’t that being fake?

Lately, I have come to understand that I need many identities to get through the things that scare me and that I am not good at. I have to come back to reference points in my life where I have done something like not given up, or succeeded when something was hard, or making a phone call. You would not believe how hard the last one is for me.

One of my identities is teacher. I act a certain way to get children to buy into what I am teaching. Sometimes I am silly, sometimes serious. I try to be as entertaining as possible. Everything I can wrap up in the gift of reading and writing – I do it.

This is not the same identity as I am at a party with all adults! That person is quiet unless it is an inner circle group I am close with.

Another identity is coach. With this hat I am a leader and an authority. I struggle with this role. I like the power of this part of me but also balance it with learner. Everyone I work with I learn from. That goes for all my students actually. Sometimes I learn more from the 5 year old than anyone else.

Another identity is writer. Today my prompt is featured for Storyaday May. You can find that here: https://storyaday.org/2020-05-26-breitweiser/

I write everyday. I publish, I have writing friends and I love it. Does it make me a better teacher? Yes, no question in my mind. But I pushed the writing to the side and did not take it seriously for years. My life might have turned out differently if I had focused on the writing instead of education.

Many years ago I had to create an identity in order to present. to groups. I am a hard core introvert but if you met me at a conference you would have no idea. At a conference, I introduce myself to people, I ask questions, I invite myself into your group. I take on this part of myself I have created in order to function in this environment and succeed. Even though it is a part of me, it is not natural and takes me days to recover.

When I was a coach, there were weekends that I would sleep almost the entire two days in order to recharge. I would have no energy to do anything trying to recover from all the “peopling” I did throughout the five day work week. On days I would present workshops throughout the day I would be spent. I loved it but it was so draining.

Over the next 8 weeks I will be analyzing my identities and what I use for what. I have no idea how many of them are in there! I plan to find out!

Relentless

Efficient and Relentless | John Hembree

I have learned to pay attention to words my intuition pings at me. Today it is RELENTLESS. “Steady and relentless determination” is the phrase that stands out on the page that reminds me of when this word was used to describe me.

A coworker I respected used this word to describe my passion and drive for education. I had never seen anyone who had so many devices going at once: computer, iPad, two phones. He crunched numbers like his life depended on it. One of the first weekends I met him, he started to talk about data in connection to test scores and student achievement. I understood everything he said. He seemed surprised when I asked questions about stats he didn’t think I would understand.

I had been told by many in this organization that how I looked and what my resume read didn’t match to them. This was also the weekend where all my tattoos were visible. This aspect of. my appearance threw him off for days. It didn’t match to him.

Data man told me over and over how he appreciated my relentlessness for our organization to be the best. I had a desire and passion for all my students to achieve. I tried to set up a greenhouse effect for them to overcome whatever I could set up for them to pursue. I took it as a compliment at the time. It meant that I was hyper focused on achievement and the business like style of education. At that moment, it was serving me well.

One of the disadvantages of being relentless is that I have often been described as hard. As someone to be afraid of. Adults mostly feel this way, not kids. I have been called difficult, a bitch, hard to work with because I will not compromise my expectations. I like to know things and will relententlessly pursue knowledge. One of the things that people think I am is judgmental. Many feel that if they are not as dedicated to something as I am that I look down on them. Everyone has their own style of how they succeed. It has been one of the aspects I have had to brush aside knowing I cannot control other people and their reactions.

I learned that being relentless still makes you replaceable. If you do not teach reading through a computer like the CEO wants you to you are replaceable. Your days are numbered. Trite but true.

In the end, I am not sure that relentless was the best way to be. I thought if I was hard and driven then I would get more done. I think I scared people. But there was power in that I didn’t hate. People don’t question you if they are afraid. If you have an agenda placed before you in an unrealistic time frame this is a temporary solution.

There was a time that I thought all the time spent at school would help my students achieve more. I am not sure that is the case now. If I have nothing to give my students then I will burn out. 

I still think about school and my students almost all the time.

I am trying to learn to be persistent but a little more flexible.

I have made the decision to do so but will keep you posted.

Ideal in 115 Words

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It has been 100 days since I changed my life. Sold all my things and took off for the coast full of books and seawater. There are hills here for walking and fish for throwing. There is coffee for drinking and more reading than I can achieve. Words will be written out here too in a tiny loft apartment full of brick and warmth. I told the city I would return. I uttered my intention in the stacks of Powell’s among the smell of paper years ago. Now I sneak into tiny alcoves to meet other writers to whisper about the privilege to live in this place of input. This is my kind of success.