Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Stories That Start with a Kitten

"Sometimes stories start with a bang, and sometimes stories start with a whisper, and sometimes stories start with a car chase or a fist fight or someone being born or someone dying. Sometimes stories start with a kitten. I mean, the funny thing about stories is that they don't really start or stop at all...It's just the telling that starts or stops."


This is the opening paragraph in the new book, Coyote Lost and Found, by Dan Gemeinhart, which is due out March 5th. I feel this is not only a great opening paragraph, but it also describes my relationship with slicing. 

As I get ready to jump into the March challenge in just a few weeks, I realize another year has gone by, and I have let my practice of slicing fall away. I always make a goal to continue slicing after I turn the page on my calendar, but for several years, I have fallen short.

But do my stories really start on March 1st and end on March 31st? If Coyote is right, then my stories haven't stopped...only my telling of them has.

My life right now is full of stories, but stories that are hard to share, and honestly, are quite depressing. I need to find those stories that "start with a kitten," that start with a little happiness.

It's time to find those stories hiding in my ordinary; it's time to start slicing again.

 

 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories.

Friday, January 19, 2024

I Missed It Reading Challenge

A few years ago, I participated in a #MustRead book challenge. We created a list of books that we missed reading the previous year and wanted to read in the new year. I loved this challenge because it was fun to read and see everyone's list plus it inspired me to pull those books from my endless TBR pile.

I recently stumbled upon a similar reading challenge from The Book Girls" Guide. It is called the In Case You Missed It:  Backlist Reading Challenge. Each month the reader chooses a book that they missed reading the year it was published starting with 2013. I thought about this challenge because I hardly read adult books, but then I realized I have many middle grade books that I have also missed reading.

I decided to create my own middle grade #IMissedIt reading list challenge. My only requirement was that I have to currently own the book (not difficult to do!). I began making list by looking at my "Want to Read" list on Goodreads and the past Nerdy Book Club's Middle Grade Fiction Nerdies Award. (All of the books starting in 2018 came from that list.)


January
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013)


February
Dash by Kirby Larson (2014)


March
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier (2015)


April
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (2016)


May
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017)


June

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly (2018)


July
Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2019)


August
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (2020)


September
Pony by R.J. Palacio (2021)


October
Two Degrees by Alan Gratz (2022)


November
The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass (2023)

December
To be determined!

I have no idea how successful I will be, but it is always fun to create reading lists! I invite you to create your own backlist reading challenge and share with me here in the comments or on social media. If you are like me, I am sure you have books you have missed too!

Monday, January 15, 2024

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/15/24

 

Thank you to Unleashing Readers for continuing to promote reading and great book titles and especially for letting us wayward readers find our way back here.

What I Read Last Week



Coyote Lost and Found by Dan Gemeinhart is the sequel to The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise. I don't often say this, but as much I loved the first book, I liked the second one much better.

I know my love for this book is based on my current life experiences. In the first book Coyote and her father take a cross-country road trip to run away from accepting the death of Coyote's mother and sisters. In this second book, Coyote is finally ready to say goodbye after finding her mother's ashes in a hidden box. Another road trip to scatter her ashes leads Coyote, and me, to discover some hidden truths about the way we let go of those we love and an appreciation for the life we have.

This book is due out in Early March, and I highly recommend it...along with a box of tissues!



I am slow reading All It Takes Is a Goal for a Teach Write book club. We have read and discussed the first section, which is about making a Best Moments List. Acuff states that instead of looking forward to plotting our future such as vision boards, we need to look back at the best moments of our life. A best moment is when our vision and our reality overlap; it's "when you hoped life could be actually matches how life is" (p. 54).

This list becomes a snapshot of who we really are, and four categories emerge from studying the list:  experiences, accomplishments, relationships, and objects. He states that when we understand these categories, "your list transforms from a task about the past into a tool for the future. It's like finally seeing the individual ingredients for your favorite meal and realizing you can cook it again and again" (p. 48). 

I am not sure where he is going with the list as we move into the next part, but I did learn a lot about myself from doing this activity. It brought gratitude to the forefront and made me look at what is really important to me. I find myself keeping a running list of my best moments in my notebook. Even if you don't read this book, creating your own list just might surprise you about what you find in your own categories.

Currently Reading

I am vicariously participating in the "In Case You Missed It Book Challenge." In this challenge, I choose a book that I missed reading the year it was published, starting with 2012 and ending with 2023. I chose A Man Called Ove, which I know was a favorite among many of reading friends, BUT I missed reading it.


After being named Indiana Rural Teacher of the Year for 2023, I am trying to be more cognizant of rurality in my reading life and in my classroom, so I hope to finish this collection of voices from rural America.



Reading more in '24!

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Will we get snow?

 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories.

We began hearing whispers of potential snow a few days ago. My husband has been glued to the weather app and sends us updates regularly...many more than we need. I think sending them helps him to believe that we really might get some. He is just like a kid anticipating that first big snow of the year.

"Looks like some snow next weekend."

"1-3" Monday and dropping to around 10 degrees that night."

"Maybe 1-3 on Sunday too."

"Now they are calling for up to 8 inches."

"Now it's all rain."

"Negative 4 on Tuesday morning now."

"1-3 back in play Friday night winds up to 40mph." 

"Who knows...apparently they don't."

I think I will just wait and wake up and let my own eyes be my weather forecaster while my husband dreams of a snow like the one we had a few years ago!


Sunday, January 7, 2024

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/8/24

 

Thank you to Unleashing Readers for continuing to promote reading and great book titles and especially for letting us wayward readers find our way back here.

One of my goals this year is to "read more in "24." I know technically, this is not a goal because it is not measurable, but I like the way it sounds!

This week I completed one book and started several others.


Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Running Out of Time was first published 30 years ago but now has a new cover! I grabbed it because of its cover appeal and because it takes place in Indiana, my home state. It is a dystopian story about a group of people who have chosen to live in a history museum. The children think it is 1840, but it is really 1996. When diphtheria makes its way into the compound, Jessie is sent out to the future to bring back a modern vaccine, but she is running out of time. It is what we would expect from Margaret Peterson Haddix. If your students read and enjoyed Among the Hidden by her or Masterminds by Gordon Korman, then they would love this one!


Currently Reading


I am reading All It Takes Is a Goal for a Teach Write book club.



I can't wait to continue Coyote's adventure.

Reading more in '24!

Thursday, January 4, 2024

One Little Word 2024: Spiritual Journey Thursday


I consider myself lucky to live in an area of our country where I get to experience the four seasons. Although I have my favorite seasons of the year, I am typically happy to move on to the next one and to the beauty that each one brings.

Seasons are a constant reminder of change. But sometimes I don't like change. I find comfort in the familiar. I know that we find rest in the winter, rebirth in the spring, growth in the summer, and transformation in the fall. There is comfort in that continuous cycle of seasons. 

In a few weeks, I will celebrate my 60th birthday and be gifted with a brand-new season. If I said I wasn't a little anxious about this one, I would be lying.

I am now one of the oldest teachers in my building, and I struggle with being labeled by students.

The word retirement has been coming up in conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, and the question is being asked more and more. 

Just last week, we placed my mother in a memory care facility. This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.

I feel like I am being bombarded with new seasons. 

I know that each new season brings many moments of joy: winter landscapes of frosted windows and snow-laden tree branches; flowers in pinks and purples popping up, and tree filled with new life buds; the orange glow of summer sunsets; and the warm palette of fall leaves. I find joy in each new day.

For this new year, I need to find the joy in my own seasons of life. The purpose of my life is changing just like the seasons do, yet I struggle to find comfort in them right now. 

I know I must embrace them with my whole heart because God tells us...

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1


I am delighted to once again be joining other bloggers for Spiritual Journey Thursday. Today's journey is hosted by Margaret Simon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The Plan

We had the perfect plan. All our Ts were crossed and Is were dotted. My sister took Mom and her caregiver out for lunch while my brother, husband, daughter, and I quickly packed. We had very little time to move Mom's things to the memory care unit before she unknowingly arrived.

The men loaded the love seat and tables, while Megan and I packed pictures and a few personal items. Her clothes were already moved the day before. In under 30 minutes we were packed and ready. The plan was on schedule.

As I looked back before shutting the door, I saw the opened can of diet coke and the honey bun wrapper from the morning's breakfast still sitting on the counter.

And then it hit me. The realization that she was never coming back home.

I wasn't quite ready for that part of the plan.

 

 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories.

Monday, January 1, 2024

2023: The Year of the Reading Slump #IMWAYR


Thank you to Unleashing Readers for continuing to promote reading and great book titles and especially for letting us wayward readers find our way back here.

The year 2023 has been my year of the reading slump. I did not meet my Goodreads goal:  49/60. For whatever reason, I could not find a rhythm to my reading life. This not only affected my personal life but also my teaching life. 

I feel my students have also not been reading as much as they have in the past. Upon reflection, I feel my reading life, of a lack thereof, has bled into theirs. I know when I bless a book, the likelihood of my students picking it up and reading it increases. When I am excited about a book, they become excited about a book.

I know how this works!

But that just hasn't happened this year. Which is why I am posting here today. I am hoping that being a regular part of this community will help to motivate me and reignite my passion for middle grade books.

I have included my top 10 reads for 2023 and what I have learned from reading them.

When Stars Are Scattered was my last book read in 2023 and made me realize how lucky I am to have the freedoms that I do.

Wand had just enough fantasy to keep me going and left me appreciating the fact that "The more people you love, the bigger your heart gets."

Slacker taught me that even gamers have big hearts, and that when we open them, we never know what we might get in return.

The One and Only Ruby showed me that family, no matter what it looks like, is important.

A Work in Progress...well, we all really are a work in progress.

The Do More Club opened my eyes to what it is like to be Jewish in our country and we should all strive do "more good" in our world.

Dust shows the importance of when you see something, say something.

Finding Perfect shows that people may not always be what they seem on the outside and taught me even more about people with anxiety. 

Rivals reinforces my belief that there is more to being athlete than winning and losing.

City Spies is an espionage/thriller series that lets me get wrapped up in great adventures and helps me appreciate that it is ok to lean on others to help us work through our problems.


        

      

  

Looking forward to reading more in 2024!

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Writing Reflection

As the year makes its way to the home stretch, I took some time to reflect on my writing habit. Or maybe I should say my lack of a writing habit.

I am almost to the end of a notebook, which has taken me much too long to fill. Running my fingers over the slight indentation of the ink on the pages, I reread some entries tonight. The poems, reflections, and memories came flooding back, and I realized how much I miss regular writing in my notebook. I have written a lot this year, but it has been more professional writing. But writing in a notebook is just...well it's just different.

I made a list of what kept me from writing this year. Three things bubbled up:  my phone, not creating a habit, and making excuses. These are three areas I intend to improve on in the coming year, and I know these will be the catalyst for my writing goals for 2024. 

My next decision:  Do I abandon a notebook that has taken too long to fill, or do I plug away and finish it before starting a new one in 2024. This is hard for me, as I am one who likes "fresh beginnings." 

What about you? Do you like new notebooks at the beginning of the year? Or are you a start-to-finish kind of notebooker?

Here's to writing in 2024! May my words return and find a home on the page.

 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Why I Refuse to Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater

 

I wasn't always a teacher. In my first career, I was in retail management. I managed two mall stores and eventually became a district manager, overseeing 14 stores in central Illinois and eventually moving back home to the southwestern Indiana area. 

I loved my job, especially at Christmas time. Our "early-bird" hours started at 8:00, and I loved working that Friday after Thanksgiving with the all the hustle and bustle. 

It was during this time, the 1980s, that I fell in love with Christmas sweaters. Beautifully hand-knitted 100% cotton, button-down sweaters and vests with appliqued Santas and snowmen. These sweaters were an endearing symbol of holiday cheer. 

Then the 1990s hit, and these sweaters lost their appeal because only "old people" wore them. They were being tossed out to secondhand stores like sunflower seeds to birds. Somewhere in the 2000s, people began shopping in the secondhand stores, and these Christmas sweaters experienced a rebirth.

Only this time, it wasn't an endearing symbol of holiday cheer. It was a mockery of something I adored. We began seeing these sweaters worn at company Christmas parties and in the workplace. And yes, I still thought they were beautiful.

The appeal of Christmas sweaters has snowballed in recent years and the mockery has hit an all-time high. Now, manufactures are intentionally creating "ugly Christmas sweaters" in 100% itchy acrylic, and people of all ages are holding "Ugly Christmas Sweater" Days. 

Call me old or literally "old-fashioned," but I refused to participate in Ugly Christmas Sweater Days. I think back to those retail days when life and shopping and Christmas sweater designs were beautifully simple, and I just. Can't. Do. It!


 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Haunted Haiku

My writing life has taken a dip, and I really needed a spark. So, this past weekend, Teach Write had a game night, and I participated. We played with Paint Chip Poetry cards and what fun we had! I have had this in my Amazon cart for quite a while, but for some reason, I have never bought it.

After playing it with writerly friends, I think it has to become mine!

We each chose 12 paint colors from a random color generator, and then used the prompt cards from the game.

In my first poem I used the following colors:  forward fushia, gory movie, and spicy red. The prompt card was "heartbreak." I chose to write a haunted haiku with it.


Forward Fushia

with spicy red lips
leaves trails of blood kisses like
a gory movie


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Changing Seasons

Change is coming. I can feel it. 

Sitting on the porch as the late summer sun begins to slide down the back side of the day, a crispness wraps around me. The humidity of the morning rain has been chased away by the cool air. Just over the hill, the leaves on the trees bask in the yellow-tinted twilight. The locusts serenade me with their loud chorus, reminding me that change is coming.

I can feel it. And I welcome it.

 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Tea Party

 A little girl sits at her table with her "friends." The table is set with four little white plates with delicate pink flowers and a yellow butterfly, four cups and saucers, and a tea pot complete with a sugar bowl and cream pitcher.

The little girl slowly pours the Hi-C or Koolaid from the pot, carefully holding the lid tightly so it doesn't fall and break. She places a Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookie on each plate, and the tea party begins.

Fifty-five years or so ago, that little girl was me. I received this toy China tea set when I was around four or five years old, and it is one of the things I still have from my childhood.

There was a time when I had the tea set on a shelf on my bedroom wall. My little brother was jumping on my bed, hit the shelf, and broke one of the plates. I was devastated! 

Over the holiday weekend, I was telling this story to my brother and sisters. He, of course, remembered none of it. He asked me to send him a picture of it because "he didn't remember what it looked like."

Today, I received a big surprise.

With some sleuthing from my daughter, my brother searched Ebay until he found another one of these exact tea sets. My set is now complete!

Would anyone like to have to tea with me?


 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories. 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Far Away

Today I wrote to a Teach Write Academy prompt--"far away." Mom continues to slip farther away, much like this rowboat on the water. I chose to write a skinny poem.




Wednesday, July 5, 2023

A Simple Melody

My mother has dementia. As more of her memory fades with each passing day, we come closer and closer to making tough decisions. Lately she has mentioned how she just wants to go home. She still lives at home, so we are assuming that she is remembering her childhood home, as driving through that area of town seems to bring her joy.

It seems the childhood memories are the ones she keeps tucked away in a safe place.

Music also seems to bring her joy. When she listens to Dean Martin or Elvis Presley, it's like I have my mother back. This is when I wish time could stand still. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

A Stinky Surprise

I have written many slices from my front and back porches, and my time there continues to fill me with stories. 

Even stinky ones.

A few days ago, I was sitting on the back porch watching the Facebook live video with Kate and Maggie. Earlier that day, I had been watching a little bunny romp around the backyard nibbling on clover. 

As I was watching the video, I was zoned in when I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye. Thinking the bunny had returned, I continued watching the video, not paying much attention to it.

All of a sudden, I noticed that what I thought was the bunny had come very close to the porch. Like about ten feet close. 

When I looked up, my heart stopped, and I quietly sucked in a breath. Moving very cautiously, I grabbed my phone and computer and quietly went in the house.

"There are skunks in the back yard! One mamma and four or five little babies. They came right up to me!" I was a little freaked out to say the least, as that was the closest I had ever been to a skunk--let alone five of them!

My husband and daughter ran to the back door to see what I was panicking about. We watched them mosey around the backyard and eventually into a drainpipe that runs under our street. 

This weekend I have sat on the porch every night and waited for them to come out. Every once in a while, when the wind was just right, I detected a faint scent. They hadn't sprayed, but I knew they were near.

About 9:00 pm, one by one they crawl out of the hole with their little bushy black and white tails waving in the air and nuzzling the ground searching for bugs to eat.

We live in town, not the country, and skunks are not what we want right outside our back door. But I have to say, those babies are adorable!

We obviously don't want five skunks in the neighborhood, but we do not have a plan yet to remedy this problem.

So, until then, I will continue to sit on my porch and watch them come out and play...from a safe distance, of course!


 Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating a space to share our stories. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Solace & Connection {8}

    


Welcome to this week's nature-inspired invitation to write and connect. Each week, I will post a round-up, and you just need to write your blog post and link up at the bottom of my post. I leave a little inspiration each week, but you are free to write about nature:  prose, poetry, images, or anything else you would like to share. 

This week's inspiration doesn't come from a source, but a time of year. The summer solstice is on Wednesday, June 21st. What inspiration can your draw from this "longest day of the year?"

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Today, I leave you with pictures I took this weekend from my front porch, my favorite place in my home. Many stories come from my porch AND from these pictures. But I will wait on those for slices of life on Tuesday.










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