One Little Word for 2017

Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve been choosing One Little Word as a guide for a few years now, thanks to being introduced to this movement on Two Writing Teachers. Until last week I wasn’t sure what my OLW would be. Then one day I opened up the Highlights Foundation website anSlice of Life2d saw a picture of the stones garden. Front and center was the stone with the word ”create,” and I knew my OLW had found me.

In the past I have used Reflect, Listen, Re-imagine, Balance. All of those words had meaning and served me for a while, but I have to admit that I soon forgot about them. Why? I wondered. Then after reading Beth Moore’s  post this morning, I realized that maybe it was because I didn’t have a plan. I so admired the way Beth did some research about her word, then devised a plan where she could incorporate the concept into different areas of her life with meaningful actions. I needed to have a plan.

I started by copying the word into my notebook and brainstorming – ideas, words, connections, anything that struck me about what, how, why, and where I could create. I’m still working on it, but I know I want to step into creating stories for children, I want to help teachers create a passion for writing for themselves and their students, I want to create gardens that attract butterflies and birds in my backyard, I want to create a better understanding of world events within myself.

create

I think we all engage in creating things every day, but maybe we just aren’t conscious of it. This year I hope to raise my awareness of how I can contribute to creating something meaningful every day. I’m working on a plan.

 

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Taking the Best Part of Us

At NCTE this year I attended a session on “Writing What Matters” with Tom Romano, Emily GeSlice of Life2tz, Mariana Romano, and Linda Reif. Linda shared a poem and asked us to consider a line, a thought, an idea that it sparked and write from it. I started slowly, then picked up speed. I soon realized that my random thoughts were taking me down a different path, so I left room in my notebook to explore that path.

Over the course of my kids’ growing years I revealed things about myself to them – my childhood memories,  my time as a young adult, the time before them.  Not everything came from me initially, though. Some things they discovered on their own. Maybe from the picture of me in a faded army jacket and blue paisley headband, long blonde hair hanging straight beyond my shoulders, my arms around two boys (one a friend, one more than a friend, and neither one their father), the Washington monument looming behind us. Maybe from the pins in my old jewelry box – McGovern for President, Childbirth Education Association, my mother’s silver violin with the strings you could almost pluck. Maybe from catching a look passed between Allan and me when one of them would do or say something that we recognized as us.

I remember Ann sitting at the computer shortly after she graduated from college, searching interesting cities where she might like to live. “Wait! You can’t just pick a city and decide to go live there!” I cautioned her. “Why not?” she replied. “That’s what you did.” It wasn’t long after that I stood in the early morning light waving goodbye to her in her tightly-packed car as she began the drive to the west coast.

 We teach our children through our words and actions, our past and present, our successes and failures. And, hopefully, they take the best part of us.

 

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Why Do I Love Fall?

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Towards the end of summer a friend mentioned that she hated fall because that meant winter was coming. I replied that fall is probably my favorite season. She seemed surprised, so I tried to explain it as best I could, but it wasn’t until I was actually in the midst of the season that it all made sense. Since I’ve spent a lot of time outside this fall (especially since last Tuesday) trying to take long walks to clear my head, think things through, and just appreciate the world, I thought I’d share some of the reasons I love fall.  Here are ten (in no particular order):

  • The colors – a quilt of red and yellow and orange and brown dotting the hillside under a clear blue sky
  • The feel of the air, cool and crisp, on my cheeks
  • The smoky, pungent odor of a crackling bonfire
  • Everything pumpkin –

pumpkin donuts

pumpkin bread

pumpkin lattes

pumpkin spice

pumpkin soup

-Pumpkin everything

  • Warm afternoons, cool evenings
  • The moon – a harvest glow, big and round and oh-so-close
  • Halloween fun!
  • That first day it’s cool enough to pull out your favorite grey wool sweater (that little hole in the sleeve won’t matter)
  • Honking geese
  • Dog vs. squirrel –

Crunch!

Crunch!

Scamper!

Scamper!

…Gone!

Hope you have a perfect fall day!

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The Art of Leaf Rubbing

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Would you like to do a leaf rubbing?

Some look at me tentatively, others are encouraged by their mom (Remember, you did that in preschool!), others step right up, eager to try. Leaf rubbing is one of the fall activities in the Longwood Children’s Garden where I volunteer.

The leaves are housed in page protectors that keep them flat and allow for many rubbings. Each child picks a favorite leaf (the larger ones are the most popular), then a fat crayon (pink and purple are popular among the girls). After placing a plain white paper over the leaf, we are ready to begin. I show them how to use their thumb and forefinger like pinchers, lay the crayon on its side, and move it back and forth in a steady rhythm. Some need help applying just the right amount of pressure. As they work, we talk about the veins of the leaf and the job they do, compare leaf veins to the veins in our hands, and think about the colors of fall and what that means. If there is no one waiting, a second color can be added, maybe even a third. Conversations are filled with praise and wonder and delight.

I remember doing leaf rubbings with my own kids when they were little, then again as a classroom teacher. They would be carefully cut out and become decorations for the windows, walls, or table. But, until a few weeks ago, it was to me a lost art. I’ve had so much fun with my little Longwood visitors that I decided it was the perfect fall activity to awaken my inner child. So yesterday I collected some leaves as I walked along the trail, then came home and created a few rubbings. And, just as always, it felt magical.

Sometimes you just need to be a kid again.

leaf-rub

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The Cyclical Nature of Things

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Old notebooks. They line a shelf on my desk holding ideas, thoughts, seeds of a story. They wait patiently for me to open their pages and find a word or phrase that will spark something new. Sometimes there are surprises, like the other day when I was searching for an entry I could use in a demonstration lesson. I opened the notebook that has been a source of inspiration in the past, the one with the blue suede cover, and out fell a newspaper clipping from October of 2002. It was an article from the food section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I remember being so impressed by the beautiful language of the author that I was compelled to save it. Here are the lines that grabbed me back in 2002 and once again last week:

It is an awkward, conflicted moment – football’s thunder drowning the final gasp of professional baseball – when backyard tomatoes seem to have overstayed their welcome, elbowed by the rush of early pumpkins, and beets, and a new crop of apples.

-Rick Nichols, Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

It’s a beautiful description of fall and got me thinking of how difficult it is, sometimes, to transition to a new season, especially summer to fall. It’s been unseasonably warm here in PA, but last week the temperatures dropped just enough that I felt compelled to exchange my shorts and tees for warm sweaters and boots. I made soup. I bought a cookbook of pumpkin recipes, because of course everything is pumpkin in the fall. On the trail I began to notice the subtle changes – the yellows of goldenrod taking over the purple forget-me-nots, the glistening spider webs just out of touch, the furry caterpillars making their way across the path.

The weather has been making up its mind. Mornings are edged with chill. Afternoons can be sagging and sticky, then brilliant, crystalline…

 Yesterday was that kind of day – the kind of day that reminds me that change is in the air. Soon the leaves will go from green to gold and red and orange, the chrysanthemums will take over the garden, and it will be fall. And someday, I will reread this entry in an old notebook (or folder on my computer), and it will spark another idea. It’s the cyclical nature of things.

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Sometimes Things Don’t Go As Planned

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Last night I went through the usual tasks to get dinner ready. I gathered the ingredients I would need to assemble the meatloaf, then went to the garden for the last few tomatoes and a sprig of fresh basil. Back in the kitchen I mixed the meatloaf and set it on the counter while the oven finished warming. Then I prepared the fresh tomato and onion salad, set the table and the timer, and busied myself with other things. After about a half hour or so (yes, it took that long!), I started to wonder why delicious smells weren’t tantalizing my taste buds. I soon discovered that…I forgot to put the meat in the oven!

Why Dinner Will Be Late

I remembered to

chop the vegetables,

mince the garlic,

heat the olive oil.

I remembered to

mix in the bread crumbs,

separate the egg white,

add a touch of Dijon.

I remembered to

gather the tomatoes,

break off the basil,

blend the oil and vinegar.

Why weren’t delicious smells…

tantalizing my taste buds,

waking my salivary glands,

building my anticipation?

I forgot to

put the meat in the oven!!!

Honey

open the wine,

grab some appetizers,

dinner will be late tonight!

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What Are You Reading?

Slice of Life2

Last week I was sitting in the waiting area at my hair salon with a young girl and her mother. The girl had a book with her and I was straining to see the title. Before I could invade their space completely, a conversation started.

Me:                  Sorry, but I’m interested in knowing what you are reading.

Girl:                 Walk Two Moons.

Me:                  Oh, Sharon Creech! I love her work.

Mother:           I’m reading it, too, so we can discuss it before she goes back to school.

What are you reading?

Me:                  Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde.

I could tell by their expressions that they were surprised I was reading a middle grade novel when I probably didn’t have to unless I was a teacher or the mother of a middle grader (that was a long time ago!). But the truth is, that while I do read lots of middle grade and YA titles to review, I really enjoy them! There is so much good writing going on in books for kids and tweens and teens that I don’t want to miss any of it. You can see that by the picture of my TBR pile.

TBR Pile

I actually just finished Barbara O’Connor’s Wish (wonderful characters and a great mentor text for craft) and last night I sunk my teeth into Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. During the summer I got to know Charlie from Kate Messner’s The Seventh Wish and Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale (sigh!) among others – characters that will stay with me for some time.

A few years ago I wrote about the variety in how I read, switching off between print and electronic and audio. Thinking about what I read is just as varied. I read fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade novels, YA, realistic adult novels (sweeping family sagas always pull me in), some adult nonfiction, mysteries, fantasy, professional books… I guess it’s safe to say that I love books!

What are you reading?

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