Happy Christmas Eve!

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A Christmas Reflection

It is Christmas Eve.

When I was little the anticipation was for today at 6 pm. That time marked the ceremonial beginning of Christmas at my German grandmother’s. The record would play with the church bells ringing and Santa would arrive. We would hear his bells before we saw him. I vowed every year to remember to ask about Rudolph.

At Oma’s the feast was always the same: ham, her unique potato salad, vienna bread, lime sherbet punch, deviled eggs and a relish tray.

As we got older we couldn’t wait to leave the house to get there. I have no idea how slowly my dad drove to stall on the way there. Even as an adult there was magic for Christmas Eve and we always began at 6 p.m.

After she died in 2000 the holiday was never the same for me. It was not as magical. My mother did not have the ability to recreate the atmosphere nor did she want to. She changed the time, the menu and the schedule.

I thought I would never feel that magic again until a couple years ago I came home to the house decorated for the holiday, the fire roaring, food and drink made and I was transported back again thanks to my husband.

Sadly, the house we are in now does not yield the same hygge feeling. The people are the same but there is no fireplace. There is a different energy here. I do have my memories.

New Ways

The more I read about Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland I feel I would be comfortable there. A lifestyle of being outside in the snow, saunas, reading, and great coffee sounds perfect to me.

Next year I must remember to begin the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokafiod — the Christmas Book Flood. It is a tradition of giving books and chocolate to friends and family and to spend the day reading. The perfect way to spend the day in my opinion.

Today it is 51 degrees and there is no snow. There is no traditional menu tonight but I have books given to me by friends. I think a day of reading is the perfect way to spend today. Maybe I will take the kids to the used bookstore later to pick out a book or two to begin anew.

What book would you give this Christmas Eve?

5 Books to Read in the Forest

Writers Write posted this prompt today and I had an immediate reaction to this graphic.

Here are my choices for appropriate titles:

Image result for one in a million boy
Image result for walking in the woods julia cameron

Which books would you take to the woods?

An Education Opportunity – A Mastermind Connection

An Opportunity for Connection

I wrote this morning about my #oneword and how important this process has been to me. This year’s word was connection and it has made a huge difference in my writing community.

I have another community – my education community. I connect with other educators through the Twowritingteachers blog and Teachers on Fire podcast and Medium publication.

But I want MORE.

I want to have some real life discussions about things that matter to us.

I want us to share the sparkle and sprinkles of the day and the things that didn’t go so great and what we learned.

As a coach, I get to have conversations with teachers every day. I want to extend my reach and nurture some deeper connections before the end of the year.

Let’s Connect and a Do A Challenge

I love a challenge. We are looking at the last couple of weeks and we have influence on children before the end of the decade – let’s go out with a bang!

Sign up here for a 2 week reflection and sharing challenge. I will send you an email every day during the time frame of December 4-18th.

Each day I will ask you to record

-one energizing and impactful thing for students no matter how small

-one thing that didn’t go well that day

-something you learned about yourself, your teaching, or your students.

Three sentences – that is all!

You can share it on your own blog, email me, or join the Slack channel to share with other educators.

Click here and sign up!

I cannot wait to get to know some of you better!

Weekend Coffee Share

Join me for a cup of coffee and a conversation!

Happy Sunday to you all! I am so glad to be back home after 4 days of being out of the state this week. I am also thrilled you have joined me for coffee today. We have a lot to catch up on and I cannot wait to hear from you.

I am going to have a pumpkin latte today — it is the season for it! I always think it has too many calories but it is a special seasonal item and I feel it is part of the celebration of the time of year. What would you like today?

If we were having coffee I would tell you I flew to Atlanta for an education conference on Tuesday. For air travel it was on the smooth side. I haven’t ridden in a plane for over 5 years. The automation has changed in the airport — let me tell you. You now can tag your own checked baggage and an attendant just double checks it. It actually was quite fast and efficient. Southwest Airlines has always done a nice job with customer service in my experience. I just always wonder about how many people lost their jobs when they put another kiosk in the airport for self service.

How do you feel about flying?

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had great food in Atlanta. The restaurant in the hotel was excellent and we had lunch there a couple times. A memorable place we went was Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint. I had crab cakes and catfish fingers here and fantastic mac and cheese. There was live music which was great but really loud.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had sweet tea only on Friday. I could not leave Georgia without having it at least once though!

I would love to hear about favorite food you had while you have traveled.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I learned a lot from the conference. There is a lot to process and I am still synthesizing how I am going to present some of the information. The approach to education for the organization that hosted the conference is student centered. The belief is that talk is instrumental for the learning to happen as well. A lot of this approach is how I have taught for years, so I felt like I found my place without knowing I was looking for it. To be in the presence of others educators that truly believe ALL students can learn was energizing in the most wonderful way.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I made several connections to my own writing to the concepts presented at my sessions. I attended a double session on writing by the wonderful ladies who are part of the Vermont Writing Collaborative but the real connections were in a session about feedback. I am working on a specific article about this that will be coming out this week.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I still wrote every day. My sleep schedule craziness continued while I was away so I took advantage of the early morning wake up and wrote. I was still able to write and publish a couple pieces in spite of being separated from my regular routine.

If we were having coffee I would tell you it was awesome to have my husband and kids pick me up from the airport. It was great to see them after time apart and my littlest one spied my bag off the carousel first and even rolled it to the car!

If we were having coffee I would tell you we celebrated my oldest’s 17th birthday this weekend with final soccer games with drama, special birthday dinner, cake, and a new game of balloon volleyball!

I cannot wait to hear about your week!

Currently…

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Currently I Am…

Reading: Twyla Tharp – The Creative Habit Learn it and Use It for Life and The Artist’s Way

Listening to: Stop Writing Alone Podcast

Watching: The computer screen

Eating: nothing til 1 pm! Intermittent fasting is awesome

drinking: water

loving: writing and Medium and The Artist’s Way

hating: dreams of feeling trapped and confused

waiting for: Minnesota

daydreaming about: Minnesota

researching: high priority standards

#FMF Success

success

Kate posts a new word every Friday to use as the topic of a 5 minute freewrite. Set the timer and WRITE!

I have been successful my entire life in the traditional sense. I set goals and achieve them. Until I was 40 this seemed like a cut and dry process. In my mind, the traditional route of study-graduate-college-graduate-marry-job-family was made clear to me.

Success was notches on a time line.

My definition of success is different now. A successful day is time to write and connect with my writing communities. It is sharing a morning coffee ritual with my husband. It is life giving conversations in the context of my coaching work and life. It is great food and laughter. It is learning.

Lately the idea of healing has come up for me mostly through the ppportunity to be part of an Artist’s Way community. If you are unaware, The Artist’s Way is a book and program created by Julia Cameron for creative recovery. There are two main parts of this program: morning pages and the artist date. You can read more about my first 6 weeks here.The Truth About Creative RecoveryMy first 6 weeks with the Artist’s Waymedium.com

Part of the program is affirmation work. I do not like affirmations because I feel they are inauthentic. I have tried to work with them before and made a good effort but it never felt right. With an accountability group I have not allowed myself to pick and choose pieces of the weekly tasks which means some hard emotional stuff has come up for me, especially about my childhood. (The visualization of a terrible therapist asking me about how I feel about my childhood pops up often!) I do have mantras I repeat to myself however. But then something changed. I read Sam Kimberle’s post about her work with affirmations and decided to try an experiment.

This week I have been working with the affirmation, I allow myself to heal. I was reminded I used to have an intention I would write over and over. Whatever you call them, the truth was being brought to the forefront like a fire licking my brain.

The takeaway here? It came to me during this freewrite that the reason The Artist’s Way is successful for me this time is because the real recovery I needed from AW was healing. Healing from my childhood, healing from toxic relationships, healing from doubts and imposter syndrome, healing from me getting in my own way.

The bottom line is I am a paid writer. I will be a paid author once I get my books published. (REVISION OCTOBER) I share my writing and interact with readers. That is success.

I have an abundance of love in my life. That is success.

My new definition is more a content feeling and determination to grow rather than ticks on a timeline and I must say, I am a hell of a lot happier.

Sam is hosting more book clubs if you want to be part of the process.

2020 Book Club AnnouncementAn invitation to join my Book Club, starting in January 2020medium.com

Here is Sam’s post on affirmationsHow I Use AffirmationsAnd some suggestions if you would like to try, too.medium.com

You Can Read This Post and Support Me on Medium Here

How to Cultivate Writers


Yesterday I followed up on a coaching conversation from last week. A teacher had expressed concern about a student who has ability but does not produce much work product in class.

My intent was to watch her interact within the culture of the classroom to see if I could spot some strengths and possible insights to her reluctance before talking to her. Unfortunately, the teacher loudly announced my presence as I walked in.

I stood to the side for a bit waiting for the teacher to finish directions of reading material curated for them in connection to this week’s learning targets. Then he asked them to take out their writing and move to the floor.

I took this opportunity to have a quieter conversation with the little one. She brought her 2 books and her notebook. We talked about her day as we walked to my office. I assured her she wasn’t in trouble and that I just wanted to talk reading and writing with her.

This little one has a soft spoken voice and spoke like she is often interrupted – Heavy breaths lay in between her thoughts.

Her notebook didn’t have much writing. A sentence or two on some pages. Some only the date at the top with the label “Quickwrite”.

We talked about ways to make quickwrites easier for her. Then I wrote with her.

As we readied ourselves to write together she expressed a piece she had worked on earlier that she wanted to add to. PERFECT. I had her reread what she had written. I reread mine as well since I said I was adding to something I had started already.

I set a pretty hourglass timer on my phone in the middle of the table and we wrote.

Sometimes we need each other to do the thing – no matter what is.

Other ways to cultivate writing:

+Have them talk before they write.

+Use materials and resources that real writers would use – not just teaching resources.

+Writing as an experience –treat them like real writers and not just children. Acknowledge they have something to say.

+Teaching them to honor their feelings and imagination when they are in the younger grades can help them to not lose the spark that is their voice when they get older.

+Writing is not about having a formula and plugging words into it.  Don’t treat it or teach it this way.

+Write with them.

+Give them freedom and trust. They will produce amazing pieces that are heart felt and honorable. A group of fourth graders I worked with in 2006 had such great writers they sometimes moved me to tears with their insight and it was from ALL the students not just the ones you “expect” to be good writers.

+Performance is a true part of the writing process. Let your students shine that have this ability.

+Remember writing is hard and fun! Support them in both areas.

Happy Writing today!

My First 6 Weeks with the Artist’s Way…again

Here in my truth about creative recovery –

What is It?

The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron which came from a creative recovery class she was teaching. It is a 12 week program divided into weeks with tasks and two main tools with the purpose to find and fuel your creativity. It is not just for writers, it is for anyone. There are two main tools in addition to the weekly exercises.

Tool 1: Morning Pages

This is the heart of the program and is likely a word you have heard or read around writers and other creative people. Morning pages are simply three pages of longhand writing done in the morning that are a brain drain. You write whatever comes to mind. They are not supposed to be smart but they can be. Many times it is complaining or what you need to remember for the day.

Julia Cameron says: There is no wrong way to do the morning pages.

Yet, there is much conversation around what is the “right” way to do them. Our inner critic makes us perfectionists and many of us are hard wired to want to do things right.

Why do we do morning pages when they aren’t considered real writing? To get to the other side — of the censor, of our own obstacles — they help us get out of our own way.

For me, the morning pages lift the fog and I reach clarity. My relationship with them are different because this is the fourth long term relationship I have engaged in with the tool. It is more about what happens after the morning pages for me. All my other writing is more clear and focused when I use this tool. My MP’s tend to be list like and weird streams of thoughts. There are reflections and random memories as well.

Tool 2: Artist Dates

The artist date is a weekly date you take solo.

Read the entire article here.

Weekend Coffee Share

Join me for coffee and conversation!

It is Sunday again and the temps are a little cooler here. There is supposed to be a heat wave this week here in the Midwest later this week. I hope it stays away.

If we were having coffee I would tell you this weekend is the anniversary of me moving into the house I am living in now. It is not my forever home and I feel it. The birds do great us every morning as do the bunnies and the baby squirrels. There is lots of green which I adore.

If we were having coffee I would tell you it was a productive and busy week at work. Lots of conversation and planning which was positive.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am in week 5 of the Artist’s Way program. I am doing my morning pages every day which are three handwritten pages of whatever comes to mind. It clears the way for the creative juice to flow. On Thursday night the ideas kept coming for articles and stories and I really wish I could have taken a writing day ALL DAY Friday to massage and nurture those words into pieces but alas the day job and other responsibilities called.

If we were having coffee I would tell you Storyaday is going strong. I have been writing to the prompts everyday and it has been going well. I enjoy the challenge and use it to try different techniques to foster my writing skills. I tried a new genre this week — cyberpunk. It was out of my comfort zone but a fun experiment. I wrote a 100ish word story and still do not like them! hahaha I have met some new writers through the group as well and that has been interesting. The Zoom call was Tuesday night. We did a lot of writing sprints — where we set the time and write all together — but there was some talking. I write in the morning on my own so I show up more for the conversation then the word count. It does get me some extra words. This week I worked on nonfiction during the call.

You can read the whole post here.