Poem: Do Not Touch the Water

DO NOT TOUCH THE WATER

 

Pixies swirl and twitter

Conjuring memories

I do not want to remember

Pixies disguised as trolls

Is what they really are.

 

Do not shatter my dreams

I scream

To no one

And everyone

I have ever known

At the same time.

 

They are precious

And mine.

Let me hide behind

What is really true

Do not fracture my illusion.

 

I am teased by the

Pixies empty promises.

Do not torment me

Leave me be

To my own fantasy

In the trees.

 

One ripple on the lake

Will remind me

Do not touch the water…

DO NOT touch the water.

 

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Being A Better Cook and Food Gossip

I can cook well but have been out the habit lately. I do have a few signature dishes which makes it appear like I am a better cook than I actually am. Some of my recipes are ones that I have graciously stolen from friends and then made them my own. Some are fancier than others but all are delicious. Otherwise, what would be the point?

There might not be a perfect meal, but there are perfect recipes.

When talking to others, if you mention an unusual ingredient you have cooked with like bok choy that not too many people are familiar with then your cooking street cred goes way up. Having a few signature dishes makes it appear as if you are a better chef than you actually are. My husband is really good at taking what’s in the refrigerator and producing a meal out of it or taking leftovers and making it look completely different. I have not honed that particular cooking skill myself.

What seems like another lifetime ago, I was a Pampered Chef consultant and worked my way through the cookbooks. The goal was to not only try new recipes but also practice cooking because I wanted to get better. I learned how different things went together to combine to have a new taste. I learned what lemon zest was used for and how baking needed to be exact. The first time I heard about working your way through a cookbook was when Calista Flockheart said in an interview she was working through a cookbook with her husband, Harrison Ford one recipe at a time. It sounded romantic and fun.

Honing my cooking skills was intrinsically rewarding. The people I lived with at the time were not so enthusiastic about my culinary adventures. He frequently did not eat the dishes I prepared not because it tasted bad but because it was the wrong mix of texture or used an ingredient that he didn’t like.

 

 

 

 

 

In my quest to be better at something I read. As with all my other obsessions, I have books that I refer to when thinking about any topic. Now I have expanded the digital repertoire to interesting websites as well. Michael Pollen is popular food writer In Defense of Food , and I enjoyed the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. It was a life experiment for her and she chose only 7 foods to eat for a period of time. Which of course made me think of the 7 foods I would choose.

 

There is an online magazine called Life & Thyme which has beautiful photography and articles about food. There was a whole issue about nostalgia and as I read I made notes of what food is nostalgic for me. Most of it is what my Oma used to make. I had forgotten so many dishes until I was reading someone elses writing. That often happens. Some ideas just seem to appear out of no where to me.

 

 

 

The food memoir MY BERLIN KITCHEN was written by a woman raised in Germany who had the knack to cook for her friends without a recipe. The idea of being able to make several things without a recipe that are more complicated than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich intrigues me. She writes about food she makes for her friends. I imagine a time when people would come over and I could just whip up something with items from the fridge. I made her recipe for chicken with tomatoes and wine and shallots and garlic. I should have put it over noodles.

When I was living by myself I would stop at the store and see what struck my fancy and then I would use what I had in the fridge. Whatever protein was on sale was what I made. I experimented. I made dinner for my parents. I tired new recipes on the weekend. Coconut bread, avocado taco salad, but nothing too crazy.

Food has become part of my family’s entertainment and it has been fun along the way! It is always fun to talk about food! Almost as much as book gossip! Is there food gossip?

#happyreading!

 

 

 

The Perfect Meal #SOL17

slice of life_individualIs there such a thing as a perfect meal?

I think there are perfect recipes.

There are favorite meals, memory meals, and the storied snack.

Favorite meals are the ones you eat because they are delicious. My husband makes his signature spaghetti that is requested on birthdays and special events. A book club friend always makes her food with so much love and care that we can taste it when she serves it. I have “stolen” several recipes from her including Birthday Pasta. A relatively simple meal that is so good it is requested on birthdays…hence the name. It is made with butter, cream, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. In my own version, I add chicken and spinach. Almost all her recipes have a story to go with them too.

Memory meals remind you of a specific event or remind you of someone or a certain time in your life. My brother dropped an entire plate full of spaghetti and sauce down the stairs in the house I grew up in which makes me laugh to think about it. My mother in law makes smoked butt and rutabagas because it reminds her of her childhood. Cabbage soup, scrambled egg sandwiches,  and crepes remind me of my Oma.

The storied snack is what you bring to someone and it has a story. In the Southern Living cookbook, there is a recipe for Praline Grahams that are always a hit and so simple to make.

The experience matters too. Creating hygge with candles, a fire, and the special people around you can add to the delight of a meal. I have made roasted lemon chicken with potatoes and carrots (Ina Garten recipe) with my son so many times at his request. We have eaten the whole dish just the two of us! It is about the food, the people, the lighting, the conversation, and the plates! I am a big believer is real plates for special occasions, even when there are 40 people in the house for dinner!

One of my new favorite recipes is the prosciutto wrapped chicken thighs with pesto cream sauce and asparagus. It will be the recipe of choice when we have dinner guests over. Last weekend, we made brown sugar balsamic pork loin that was a huge hit too.

What is your perfect meal? I am making myself hungry!

Ray Bradbury’s Writing Triggers #SOL17

screen-shot-2017-03-14-at-1-30-42-pm15The more I find out about Ray Bradbury, the more I love him.

As much reading about writing as I have done, I have never come across Ray Bradbury’s NOUN writing exercise. It is brilliant! I love lists and I love writing! It is perfect!

Here is the link to the Brain Pickings article outlining his unusual writing practice.

I started my own list and have been writing 100-200 word pieces using one noun from the list as a trigger. I am hoping this exercise is the key to unlock some of the stories that are hiding in my mind.

My First List of Nouns:

The night. The Dark. The empty. The foot. The drawer. The book. The manuscript. The eve. The house. The fireplace. The castle. The moors. The pool. The date auction. The class. The ring. The roller skates. The pen. The candle. The heart. The mirror. The run.

My Variation

I asked some friends over the weekend to text me a short list of nouns to use as springboards for writing. This variation is more in line with the random word prompt. The lists are not my own so the emotional story unlocking potential is not as prominent.

Here are opening lines of a story I wrote using this noun list: The Horse. The Banana. The Table. The Peanut Butter. The Glasses.

It was a rainy,  too warm October day when the horse dropped dead in the middle of the pasture. He didn’t know what to do with death. Peanut butter freed a six year old’s horses around the corner. The little one hid in a closet and wasn’t found for 2 days. A peanut butter and banana sandwich can be deadly in more ways than one. One bite taken out of the square white softness was enough to change a whole family, and the town they lived in.

Jack took his glasses off and set them on the table and rubbed the space between his eyes with the two fingers of his right hand. They were stained with dark black ink as they always were. They were calloused and rough. He could hold balls of fire without pain. Maybe they could even resist death. He hadn’t had the opportunity to experiment. Jack joked and told people that he could handle the heat because of all the evil his hands had done.They never knew if he was kidding.

My plan is to try this prompt with students as well to see what unlocks in their minds!

#happy writing

 

 

 

 

5 Favorites On Friday

     3. The Librarian Is In Podcast

The Librarian Is In Podcast

https://www.nypl.org/blog/2017/10/12-librarian-podcast-ep-60

 4. Reading Glasses Podcast

http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/reading-glasses

 

5. Pizza 

I love pizza! I could eat it everyday!

 

Thursday Randomness

  1. Books I recently finished:
    1. SIP by: Brian Allen Carr

 

Image result for sip carr

 

I liked this book for the idea of the story. The world in this book is constructed where people “drink” shadows as a drug. Halley’s comet is involved and an interesting cast of characters. The story has the hint of science fiction. The writing style was not as pleasing as I would have liked. I also wish the characters would have been more deeply developed. I enjoyed the book and the story, but it isn’t a favorite pick of the year.

 

2. The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Image result for the changeling

This book was recommended by Liberty from All The Books. It was about a bookseller and a fantasy story about witches. The story is slightly off center in a fantastic way. The ending took a weird turn for me that seemed off. I kept coming back to the book and wanted to finish it. It was worth the time for sure.

2. I really wanted pancakes yesterday…but didn’t get them.

3. I love to go to the library. I live in a town that is close to where I grew up and still have a card at the library I essentially “grew up in”. Yesterday I went to pick up books on hold. Even though the library has been remodeled and doesn’t look anything like I remember, there is always a sense of comfort walking through the doors. Sometimes I wonder if it is because it is the library and I am comforted by books in general,  or if it actually has to do with the fact that it is a familiar book and reading space.  It represents so much of my reading life through my elementary, middle, and high school years.

4. After listening to the Book Riot Annotated Podcast this morning on my run the question of: “How do you feel about the Oxford comma?” was injected into several conversations throughout the day. If you haven’t checked it out – it is completely worth your time!

 

 

 

Morning Routines

I have been listening to the audiobook Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book has been on my radar multiple times over the past several years, but it has never stuck with me in a meaningful way until now. Books have their way of coming into my life when I most need them. I feel like now is the time for this book to work its magic. I have checked it out of the library and skimmed it more than once, but listening to it seems to resonate better at this time in my life.

Writing rituals and routines are always something in my reading and thinking wheelhouse and a morning routine is part of the strategies talked about in Deep Work.  Two years ago I found the website My Morning Routine which is a site which interviews different people and asks them a series of questions about the success of morning routines. The basic question is, “What is your morning routine?” and “How long have you stuck with the routine?” There is research that links the idea of a solid routine to successful life. Tim Ferris has talked about this concept in his books and his podcast. With so much research I feel this is the time to intentionally create a routine and stick to it to better use my time.

My plan is to carve out time at the beginning of my work day to be able to establish a quality routine that involves some deep work. I am the type of person that needs to be able to have the daily time to focus my attention to deep work rather than shallow work. Some people can carve out a whole day once a week or certain times a month but I do not believe this practice would be effective for my learning style. I have allowed myself to become distracted more lately and need to train my brain to GO DEEP and am hoping this book and some of the strategies will help me be more successful.

I have experimented with different pieces of morning routines for as long as I can remember including exercise, meditation, reading, morning pages, etc. I will experiment with the new routine for 2 weeks and then modify if needed. I used to run every morning which allowed me to think and process the day but my new schedule and life do not allow for this anymore.

New Morning Routine:

  1. Set intention for the day
    1. I have been saying an intention to myself for years. It is how I remind myself what I am working on personally and professionally. It simply starts with “It is my intention….” Currently the words intentional, inspire, and create are contained within my intention.
  2. Check calendar for the day (which was set before leaving work the day before)
  3. Add any activity or meetings for the day.
  4. Write a few notes for what I intend to write for the day and block time in the day for when I will write.
  5. Read and annotate professional book including the connections I need to make to bring pertinent information to the teachers I work with..
  6. Get more coffee.
  7. Start the day with “Here we GO!”

Wish me luck!

 

 

Reading is My Binky

Reading is my comfort and much more than a hobby. It is part of an innate coping mechanism I seem to possess. As a runner training for a marathon or ultra you run many daily miles for months. When it comes to tapering before the race many runners get cranky, myself included. You get twitchy from so much time and less miles. You feel like you are someone else you don’t like. You have a an itch that has no scratch. Reading is my universal itch scratcher. When I don’t read, much like when I don’t run, I get twitchy and irritable. It is my automatic activity for pleasure, information, general happiness, and escape.

In college I took the most classes I could every semester except for one. That semester was remarkable and memorable to me because I a class was dropped at the last minute, and I decided to just let the universe guide my schedule and take the break of less hours. I realized quickly I had way too much time on my hands that was usually slated for studying and dictated by professors’ syllabus so I went to the library. I loved the library at my college and found the new releases shelf that semester. I had no idea it even existed before then. I read almost everything on the shelf. I wish I had the record. I remember reading a book about how Starbucks was started and how it was created to be a third place. In the back of my Franklin planner I used to keep a running list of the books I read. For some reason I decided to discard this list over a decade ago. I cannot recall why I did this – probably because I felt “I didn’t need it anymore.”

I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and was “caught” reading it in an undergrad linguistics class. I had a classmate come up to me randomly and ask what class I was reading it for. My answer was no class and I remember looking at her incredulously not fathoming why anyone would not read something that wasn’t assigned to them. I was irritated that she assumed I was reading it for a class and not on my own accord. I love that book still and refer to it often.

I am constantly searching for a book that changes me. I have read many books that I have not liked for one reason or another but have been compelled by the same book and find myself thinking about it later. One of these books is 1984. It took me a long time to read it but I enjoyed the story. I didn’t find it difficult to read but had a hard time. The Bone Clocks is another novel that I enjoyed for the concept. I thought it was too long but felt compelled to keep coming back to it. The Course of Love made me angry. I did not like the characters choices but was simultaneously fascinated by the concept of the characters actions being explained by philosophy.

When my life exploded into something I didn’t recognize a couple years ago I went to the library. I looked up the national book award long list and I read the books on that list. I was angry that the books were on the shelves. I figured these books are supposed to be so great why are more people not checking them out? I would leave for work in the morning from my apartment and think about all the activities I would participate in when I got home. I never did any of them. I would stop by the store and decide what to have for dinner based on what protein was on sale and then read. I would get to the point where I would feel like I had absorbed so many words that I needed to talk about the books with someone and then I would consider going to book club but then not go. Reading is a solitary activity for me most of the time.

In middle school I spent my lunch times in the library reading. I was often asked by people how I chose books. I didn’t really have an answer for them. I was picking books for me and the idea that anyone would be concerned with my choices was baffling. I enjoyed this time and it was a good break from the craziness of middle school for me.

Depending on my income determines how many books I buy. The invention of Google Library Extension makes it easy to check on availability and reserve books at the library. It is even easier than Amazon. For many periods I just bought all the books I wanted. I will never figure out how much money that was. The constant is books and reading. No matter where the books come from, I always find a way.

What I Learned from the 2016-2017 School Year

I joyfully started a new position this school year as a curriculum coach. The previous three years I was a teacher coach at a charter school and learned how to be effective through training, practice and coaching. Using that knowledge helped me begin the new school year with practices that served me and my new school well.

1. Relationships Are the Most Important

I intentionally focused on building relationships with my teachers from the moment I walked into the door. I made myself visible. I listened. I did not repeat anything anyone told me. I also made a point to not name drop, and this included with the principal. I was always open for meetings with teachers, and would do my best to meet with people when they needed me rather than what necessarily fit into my schedule. This sometimes meant forgoing lunch which was acceptable.

I tried my best to be positively frame every situation. I tried to solve problems that I could as quickly as possible. Just talking to people and engaging with them is part of the relationship building. I kept having to remind myself of this fact when I would feel like “I wasn’t working.” Thank you notes and genuine appreciation went a long way. Teachers do not get recognized enough for the great things they do everyday in the classroom and their individual strengths and I tried to highlight these behaviors whenever I could.

2. Don’t Show All Your Cards

I have a lot of skills and have had a variety of experiences from the last 21 years in education. I attempt to have my actions show my knowledge base rather than telling people. Lots of knowledge and experience in a variety of areas can alienate people rather than bring them closer, depending on the context. When topics arose I would reference a situation I had been in before and how I solved it as much as possible. I would sometimes use other teachers’ experience I had witnessed if I myself had not been in the situation. I would always answer questions about my experience when asked. I was not trying to be evasive,  but rather not to bombard people with too much information.  I have a variety of skills and experience but I do not know everything. I get obsessed with topics and then conduct my own research and then drop researchers names like we are friends!

3. Until you have to…

There were several points in the year that someone asked me a direct question and then I was very honest about how I handled a situation in the past. Sometimes this sharing was not in a light the teacher liked. During an RTI meeting I had to bring up that in a past corporation I was part of a group that reworked all the forms for our special education co-op. I know the law and how RTI intervention works and why. There is a difference between RTI intervention and intervention groups, which is a practice that good teachers should do anyway. One of the teachers figured out through the questions that I was asking that my experience was more in depth than I had indicated. I appreciated that she took me aside after the meeting to ask about it rather than calling me out in the meeting.

I also have had to be ready to stand my ground and defend research and practice from my own classroom. I use post it notes for kids to encourage academic behavior I desire which also builds the relationship with the student. Sometimes it is a simple, “Thank you for getting right to work.” or “Thank you for following directions perfectly.” Other times it is “You read so fluently!” or “I wish I would have written this sentence myself.” I had a teacher tell me that practice would work for a few days, but it wouldn’t work longer than that. I had to firmly tell her that it worked well for a solid 8 week period and then when I went back into the classroom throughout the year. I use this practice with all the students I have whether they are adults or children. It is motivating and effective.

4. Listen and observe

Listen to teacher and student needs. Really listen. Listen to the questions people ask or what they comment on. Then provide training or resources. Don’t push too hard and FOLLOW-UP! It can be a conversation in the hallway or an email. Paying attention to the little things can make a big difference. My Workshop Wednesdays were a big hit with my teachers because it addressed needs they had expressed to me.

5. Facts NOT Emotion

Use facts as much as possible. One of the conversations I had several times with teachers was about student evidence. As a teacher, we need to focus on high, medium, and low work not high, medium, and low kids. Using the work, teachers can determine many teaching behaviors that affect the student achievement and outcomes.

6. No One Can Take Knowledge Out of Your Brain

I have been through many trials and tribulations throughout my teaching career. There are some fundamental truths I believe :

  1. Reading is the gateway to learning.
  2. True modeling works.
  3. I won’t ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do or have already done myself. (I use this mantra with adults and students.)
  4. All the training you immerse in, the reading you do, and the products you create based on these areas cannot be taken away from you. It is part of who you are and makes you a better individual and educator.

I am looking forward to next year and building on the relationships with the teachers that are returning. The teachers and I are learning what skills we all have to be able to utilize all the experts in the building. Teachers will be more effective and students will achieve more! It will be an exciting year! Summer here we come!

You Want Me To Believe – A Poem

You want me to believe

There is no pain

Miles away

But I know better

to believe in something that seems

perfect as if it were true

No wrinkles to hide

No worry lines to erase with the

Pencil of solution

Do you think I am that naïve to think that you are peachy now like melting ice cream in       the hand of a babe on a hot summer day?

The days where it looks like the tracking is trying to adjust as if watching the scene on a       VCR.

No inspiration comes to me anymore

Without you in my life

Are you protecting me from something you don’t want me to see?

To shield me from helping you from afar.

No more talks into the night,

Into the day.

Tears into a glass filled with something that dulls the senses

You’ve been dulling yourself for years

Shine my friend

Shine like you swallowed a light bulb that won’t turn off.