Yoga with Goats

Slice of Life2The article in the Philadelphia Inquirer caught my attention – “Yoga with Goats: All the Kids Are Doing It.” I didn’t get the play on words immediately and thought at first it was just for children. But the more I read, the more intrigued I became, and after discovering that this was an actual new “thing” across the country, I decided I had to try it out.

On Sunday I drove a little more than an hour to Mountain Pride Farm. It was a beautiful morning – low humidity, blue skies, light breeze. I joined other yoga enthusiasts, including about half a dozen or so baby goats, in a large enclosure where there was room enough for everyone. Since I’m used to dim lighting and a soundtrack of soft background sounds in my yoga classes, this experience was quite different. It seemed fitting to engage in sun salutations while feeling the sun’s warmth on my skin. My music was provided by a woodpecker rat-a-tat-tatting in the distance, punctuated by a rooster’s crow and the bleats from the baby goats. It actually was very relaxing – very zen.

I’m still not entirely clear on the “why” of yoga with goats. At one point I stepped off my mat to get better footing for a balance pose. When I turned back, one of the goats was nibbling some hay scattered on my mat. I just couldn’t help smiling and grabbing the chance for a quick petting before he bounded off. Did that bring me more out of the moment or into it?

All in all, it was a fun experience. There may even be a picture book in there somewhere. “The Three Yoga Goats?” or maybe “The Three Billy Goats’ Mantra?”


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Authors Are My Rock Stars Part 2

Slice of Life2

Last week I traveled to Shenandoah University in Virginia to attend two days of their week-long Children’s Literature Conference. Every day three authors or illustrators make whole group presentations, sign books, and then meet with attendees in small groups. You may remember my post from a few weeks ago about authors being my rock stars, so yes, this was right up my alley.

I’m almost afraid to admit this, but up until last week I wasn’t a huge Mac Barnett fan. I read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole more than once, trying to figure it out. And after I heard several colleagues rave about it, I read it again. But I have to admit, I just didn’t get it. Then there is his new book Night Noise. Not sure I truly got that one, either, on the first read.  That is, until I heard Mac Barnett speak at the conference, heard him read his work, and listened to him talk about the important collaboration between author and illustrator, how books hold surprises, and how he strives to create stories for young readers that leave them thinking Huh?, inviting a re-read. Mac was engaging, captivating, creative…and I think I finally get him.

I love to listen to authors talk about their process and hear the back story of how their books are created. I think it is important for our young readers to hear this, also. How wonderful it is to bring authors to schools or engage with them via Skype. And how sad it is that much of this important work is being cut from schools because of time or money.

Without a doubt, authors are my rock stars.

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Authors Are My Rock Stars

Slice of Life2

The Highlights Foundation, nestled in Pennsylvania’s Pocono mountains, is a special place where writers and illustrators of all shapes and sizes and experience levels come together to learn, share, and be inspired. When you turn into the driveway and make your way to The Barn, you can feel the energy. It’s almost magical.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a workshop at Highlights. Most of the guests are housed in individual cabins, but this time my room was in the Lodge – a larger building with its own unique charm. There is a great room with comfortable couches, a kitchen area, and writing desks that opens up to a wide porch with rocking chairs. There are about ten guest rooms, and it is the custom of the staff to attach a sign to the door of the cabin or room announcing the name of the guest. After locating my room, I continued down the hall to see who else was there. I think my heart literally skipped a beat when I got to the last two doors. On one side of the hall – Rebecca Stead; on the other – Wendy Mass. Suddenly, I was once again sitting with a group of fifth graders reading When you Reach Me and 11 Birthdays. Instinctively, I put my hand on each door, willing that the creative spirit and talent of these two wonderful authors could somehow transfer to me.

Rebecca and Wendy were not part of my workshop (which, by the way, had its own lineup of superstars). They had come to spend time on their writing and be inspired, just like the rest of us. I did have the opportunity to speak briefly with Wendy later in the evening, but I only got a glimpse of Rebecca at breakfast before they both headed home.

Authors are my rock stars, and that’s the way it is at The Barn – you never know who you might run into.

Highlights Lodge

The Lodge at the Highlights Foundation

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Slice of Life2

I entered the darkened studio with some hesitancy. Although I had practiced Yoga before, this was a new place, and I had concerns. Where should I place my mat? If I put it here in the back is that someone’s regular spot? Can I use another mat as a cushion? What if I can’t keep up? The studio filled up quickly, the instructor entered, and soon I could hear soft music and a reassuring voice. For the next hour I did my best, making adjustments as needed…

 One of my goals when I retired a few years ago was to get my body back in shape. Although I walk daily and play golf occasionally, I knew I needed something more to stay healthy and active. So began a variety of classes and strength training until I finally settled into Yoga. It seemed to fit me well – stretching, balance, flexibility – everything I needed. Then came a back injury, followed by two setbacks, and yoga was relegated to the back burner. A health scare a few months ago and a stern talking-to from my doctor convinced me that I needed to get back to doing something in addition to walking.

I started by downloading a short Yoga routine on my iPad, and after two sessions I was hungry for more. Now I’m back to yoga two or three times a week at a local gym. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, that I wouldn’t be able to do all the poses. And I’m not able to do everything. But that doesn’t matter. In Yoga there is no competition, everyone practices at his or her own level, and that is always acceptable. I think there are parallels here with what we want for our students in reading and writing workshops – no competition, let me meet you where you are, I will accept your best effort and guide you to move forward.

For the next hour I did my best, making adjustments as needed…and that made all the difference.


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Miss or Ma’am?

Slice of Life2The other day while checking out at the grocery store, the young cashier (probably somewhere in the vicinity of 16) kept addressing me as “miss” in a steady barrage of questions.

Do you want your gallon in a bag, miss?

Do you want your meat in plastic, miss?

Do you mind how heavy I make the bags, miss?

The age difference alone indicates that I’m clearly not a miss. For some reason the “miss” thing bothered me, and I’m not sure why. I know he was just trying to be polite, but I think if cashier training involves what questions to ask the shopper, it should also involve how to address the shopper.

This encounter made me think of a time when my daughter was about eight and we were in a restaurant on a family vacation. The waitress addressed her as “ma’am” and Ann wasn’t sure who she was talking to so at first she didn’t say anything. In the waitress’s defense, we were in the south, so addressing all females as “ma’am” was probably just part of her southern charm. To this day that incident remains part of our family’s “inside jokes.”

I guess the important thing to remember is that the person speaking is trying to be polite. Sir, Ma’am, Miss, etc. are all correct in some context. But it’s also important to keep in mind that we should address people (students, supervisors, friends) in a way that makes them, and us, feel comfortable. My former superintendent always refers to himself by his first name when communicating with me by phone or email. And while he probably prefers a first name basis, and while most people do use his first name, to me he is still “Dr.” It’s what I’m comfortable with.

The best thing I can say about the whole encounter with the cashier is that at least he didn’t call me “hon.” That might have been a problem.

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Yes! We Did It!

Slice of Life2

The email came yesterday in the early afternoon. I was at my computer catching up on a few things when I saw the alert: ILA Distinguished Award Notification.

Yes! We did it!

I’ve been part of the Keystone State Reading Association’s Board of Directors for a few years now. We’ve participated in the International Literacy Association’s Council Achievement awards for the past two years. One winner is selected in each of three categories – teacher empowerment, community engagement, and public awareness – with an additional overall winner selected on excellence in all three categories. KSRA has won in the individual categories, but this year we had our sights set on the overall Distinguished Council Award, the most prestigious of them all. The application involves submitting a narrative and a video, and this year the job of writing the narrative fell to me.

I can do that! No problem!

At least that’s what I thought until I sat down to write. In three hundred words or less I had to find a way to showcase KSRA’s accomplishments in the three categories and how these accomplishments work to help fight illiteracy in our state. And did I mention that documented measures of success and any press coverage should be part of that narrative? A tall order indeed, but I wrote, revised, shared, revised…and came up with something that worked. I think I can honestly say that writing my slices for TWT was instrumental in the success of that narrative.  Three to four hundred words is what I aim for in my slices (less if I’m writing poetry). Keeping that number in mind helps me narrow my focus, decide on my point, and write concisely. So thank you, TWT community, for giving me a forum and helping me become a better writer.

Yes! We did it!

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High Fidelity

Slice of Life2    For riding in the car, I’ve almost always been a music person. Most of the time my choice is classic rock, but I’ve also listened to my share of kid songs, morning DJs, classical CDs, movie and show soundtracks, even campy Christmas music during the season. I used to complain about having to listen to sports talk whenever Allan drove, and lately I fear I am turning into him. Not sports talk exactly, but talk. More and more I find myself changing the station to NPR for “All Things Considered” or podcasts of Serial and S-Town.

And then there’s the audio books. I’ve become a regular Overdrive customer, and often add the Whispersync feature to books I buy for Kindle. I appreciate it when I can listen to a sample before I purchase or borrow, because the voice does make a difference. What a pleasure it was to listen to Claire Danes’ voice as the narrator of The Handmaid’s Tale, a book I reintroduced myself to in light of these troublesome political times. Several years ago I was listening to The Shoemaker’s Daughter read by an actress with a beautiful Italian accent and lyrical voice. I was halfway through when the narration changed to the author. While she wrote beautiful words, her voice just didn’t do them justice, and it changed my whole experience.

I listen while walking the dog, running errands, and of course on those longer car rides. During the last two weeks I did so much traveling that I was able to finish Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.  My audio books have become so important to me that I get a little nervous if I don’t have one waiting in the wings. Like now. I am on the wait list to borrow the audio versions of The Sun Is Also a Star and The Hate U Give (thank you Clare and Tammy), two YA novels I am looking forward to “reading.”

I know listening to books is not for everyone, but for me it greatly increases the titles I get through. I read lots of print books, too, but there are so many books and never enough time, so why not capitalize on every minute you can steal to read…or listen.

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