Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

Hope you enjoy this holiday season. I'll still be blogging about books during the next couple weeks, but I'll be on a break from this blog until after New Year's. See you again in a couple weeks!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Little Word 2012

For the last few years I have tried to find a word to focus on for the year. Some years I have really worked with my word and other years I couldn't even remember what my word was.

For 2011, I picked "choose" or "choice." This has been a theme that cropped up a lot, mostly in sentiments like "I get to choose how I respond to this crummy thing going on."

I'm already thinking about what my word might be for 2012. Here are some choices I'm toying with:

1) Create - I have not been very crafty the last few months. I haven't scrapbooked in years, but my supplies and pictures continue to pile up. I have cross stitch patterns overflowing file cabinets. I'd like to be more crafty and creative this year.

2) Finish - one of my favorite bloggers is Jon Acuff. He recently issued a challenge to focus on finishing in 2012. I am a good starter, but a poor finisher. I like the idea of making an effort to finish something in 2012.

3) Twelve - I am taking a scrapbooking class online in January called Twelve. I like the idea of planning some "twelves" for the new year - twelve projects to focus on, twelve books to read, etc. 


Will you choose a word for 2012? What word are you thinking about?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grateful

As a psychology student, I have always been fascinated by tools of self-discovery. I love reading about Myers-Briggs types (I'm an ENFJ). I read books that are supposed to help you figure out who you are. I have signed up for online and in-person conferences and classes designed to help participants assess their gifts and strengths. Many times I have gone to these things wondering what I should be doing with my life.


For the most part, I have been satisfied with my career choices. There were a couple jobs in recent years that I did as a means to an end rather than because I felt passionate about what I was doing. Even though I was content in most positions, I never felt like I had found the "right" thing. 


One of my favorite jobs so far was when I taught elementary school part time a few years ago. While I always thought, growing up, that I would some day be a teacher, I NEVER planned to teach at the elementary level. I was surprised at how much I loved it. I even loved subbing - I loved getting to know the students, seeing them weeks later when I was back at the school subbing for someone else. 


Even though I loved that, I couldn't picture myself going back to college to be a teacher. I struggled with the idea of pouring into a group of 25 kids for a year and then sending them off to someone else while I started fresh with another group. I know teachers have been doing that for ages and it works just fine, but I couldn't fathom letting go like that.


I am four months into a new job as an elementary school librarian. Four days a week, I get to walk into an elementary school and engage with 60 to 80 students in the library and 240+ in the lunch room. Every day I get to be in relationship with these amazing kids. Every day I get to talk to them about books and reading and life and their birthdays and their families and their pets and their hobbies and all the things that are precious to them. While I'm not a librarian by education, my passion for my students and for reading and children's books is carrying me through.


The first couple months of the job felt like I was swimming against the tide. I was trying to get my feet under me, but the school year kept sweeping me along as there were lessons to plan and classes to lead and not nearly enough time to plan and organize my space and my systems like I wanted to. But somewhere this fall it stopped being work. I let go of the desire to make everything "right," figuring that's what summer break is for. I found a rhythm to the days and the weeks and found my teaching "voice." I found my way with the school's discipline system so that I can use it in a way that feels natural.


This past Sunday in church, the pastor was talking about how God speaks. He mentioned God speaking through

  • the way God made us
  • gifts and graces
  • the community where God places us
As I listened, I realized that I have finally found what I was searching for through all those years of reading and researching and conferences and inventories. I have never felt so at home in a job - or in my own skin - in my life. I can't find words big enough or strong enough to reflect the joy and the "rightness" of this stage in my life. I feel connected with God in a new way because I feel like the way He made me is lining up with the gifts and experiences I have had and He has placed me in a community where I can be myself and serve in a way that is true to who I am.  The fact that it has happened during a year of such tremendous loss makes me that much more grateful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Missing Christmas

If you had talked to me a month ago, I would have told you that I was crazy-excited for Christmas. I could not wait for December to get here and to get the holiday preparations started.


Now that December is here, I wonder if I peaked too soon. I've lost my enthusiasm. Lord knows I could blame it on a lot of things - the sale of Dad's house (which did go through. My joy lasted exactly 5 seconds before the tears started. I was not as happy when it was done as I thought I would be), anticipating Christmas and my birthday without Dad... You get the idea. But I am not conscious of any of those things yet. Now that the house is sold, that issue is done. The other two haven't arrived yet. I can only imagine how I will feel when they actually get here.


All I know for now is that we are two weeks into Advent and up until this weekend, we had no plans to put up a tree. I even tried to talk my husband into buying a metal one we could hang ornaments on and call it good. (He said no.)


I think part of our hesitation is that no one was looking forward to pulling out our old artificial tree. We tried to find a new one, but had no luck. Then we stopped by Lowe's on Saturday. When we were done, we had a live Christmas tree in our trunk. We have never had a live tree before. That seemed to help us kick start the season. At least now we have a tree and some lights. We'll see how much farther we go and if it brings back the festive feelings or not. This may just be an "off" year for Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wishes, Dreams and Affirmation

Through the course of our marriage, my husband and I have talked about the theory of the Five Love Languages. For the uninitiated, the five languages are physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and receiving gifts. (You can go here and take a quiz to see what your love language might be.) In marriage, it can be helpful to know the ways you "hear" love as well as how your spouse "speaks" it.


My top love language is words of affirmation. This became clear to me again this year when I realized how much I miss talking to my father and hearing him say he believes in me or hearing his excitement when I tell him about the things I am doing. He would have loved hearing about my new job. And especially when it has come to all the things that I've needed to do for his care and his estate this year, I miss the chance to have him tell me I am doing all right with the things he left for me to do.


Hopefully by the time this posts, the sale of his house will be completed. It has been a source of considerable stress over the last 6 months. In a recent conversation with Dad's attorney, I was surprised how much I clung to the lawyer's affirmation that, despite the hassles, I was doing precisely what Dad wanted me to do (although, I think deep down the lawyer disagreed with Dad's wishes).


When I woke up Sunday morning, I could tell I had been dreaming about the house. I couldn't remember a lot of details; Dad was present in some of them and absent in others. My subconscious often deals with stress - and grief - in dreams. Anyway, just as I was coming awake, I heard a voice that seemed un-dreamlike and didn't fit in the dream I was having. And I was still asleep enough that I feel like I missed a portion of what was said. But what I heard was that I was doing all right with the tasks left for me and that my perseverance was important or appreciated (that part wasn't clear to me - mostly just the word "persevere.").


The mystical little girl inside me would love to think that was a message from my father. And I know God can do all things, so it is possible. But maybe it was only a dream. Either way, I am hanging on to it - clinging to it, desperately, with hope that the words are true - that I have honored my father this year - and that the business part of my grief is almost completed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Choose Joy

Almost a year ago, I chose my word for 2011 and the word I picked was "choice." So often we feel trapped in circumstances and I wanted to remind myself that I could choose to change my circumstances - or at least choose how I was going to deal with them.


Last week I had a young student come into the library and announce to me that she wouldn't be smiling because she was just too sad. After a little conversation I found out her parents were going to be travelling and she was already missing them, before they had even left.


As class went on, I caught her starting to laugh at a book I was reading. When I pointed it out to her, she went back to frowning and didn't change her expression for the rest of the class.


Her reaction is developmentally reasonable, considering her age. But I realized that I could easily fall into the same pattern. I look back at 2011 and see all the sadness and trials and grief. Sometimes I feel like I should be more serious because of the serious sort of year it has been. But there have been plenty of joys and gifts this year, too. 


I get to choose what to focus on. So do you.


Choose joy this holiday season.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Ideas - final

My absolute favorite part of Christmas is putting together (and opening) the stocking. 


As a kid, that was the best part, for me. I always had a new stuffed animal. Then it was full of all sorts of wrapped little goodies. Now, as an adult, we try to follow a Christmas/birthday budget, but the stockings are off-budget. I'm always on the lookout for little treasures I can tuck in. Here are some fun ones I have used.



Small ornaments are always fun to tuck into a stocking. I found this little guy at Target this year.
Small stuffed animals are also fun. 



We usually have candy in our stockings, too. The mint Hershey's miniatures are one of my favorite treats of this season. I also found these "candy sticks" at Hallmark this year - chocolate covered candy canes. Yum!


Finally, gift cards are a GREAT stocking stuffers. But these Lego ones from Target are fantastic! They come with a gift card (you pick your own dollar amount) and a Lego set with instructions for making three figures.



Love, love, love these!


So, what are your holiday ideas? I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Ideas - part 2

Here are a few more things I have enjoyed lately that might work for someone on your Christmas shopping list.


Bath and Body Works have these Peppermint candles (and hand soap and sanitizer). I love peppermint, and I can actually smell this fragrance when I first use it. It makes me think fondly of candy canes. Perfect for Christmas!


Then, they have these fun candle holders. I got this one this fall because I love owls, but they have fun winter-y ones for Christmas.


I also think anything personalized is a great way to go for the holidays. Cafe Press is a fun place to shop - you can choose designs that fit the hobbies or favorite TV shows/movies of the person you are buying for. I love this shirt based on the TV Show Big Bang Theory, but I couldn't get it because of the language.


This year I have also gotten things from Expressionary.com. Cute stationary, book plates, stamps, etc.


You can do a search for "personalized" and find all sorts of things on the web. Think of the joy of a child who finds his/her names in a book or on a set of notecards or a notebook/journal! Personalization Mall is another site to check out - look at these cute ornaments!


Okay - come back Saturday for one final set of ideas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Ideas - part one

Just a few holiday ideas for you! If you are looking for book recommendations, check out my Bring on the Books blog entry for November 29th.


Today I want to focus on some Lego options. 






One of the best "decorations" I bought for my new job as an elementary librarian was the Lego Brick Calendar. The bricks are pre-printed with date numbers and months. Each month you re-assemble the calendar to reflect the new month. I thought that my students would get used to it after a couple months, but four months into the school year I am still getting comments from my kids each week about the calendar.




Along the same line, Lego puts out an Advent Calendar each year. We are itching to crack ours open - the Star Wars one - on Thursday this week.


Finally, stores like Walmart and Target - as well as The Lego Store - often have small bagged Lego sets for sale this time of year. These, as well as the mini-figure packages, make great stocking stuffers.


Come back Thursday for some more holiday gift ideas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cherish and Be Thankful

Tis the season for thankfulness. I'm going to take a blogging break to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be back after Thanksgiving with some holiday gift recommendations in case you are looking for some ideas. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lead Me to Rest (part 2)

Last week, I caught myself saying, "It's been a bad week." This wasn't at all true, though. I had one bad day last week. Just one. It was a doozy, but it was only one day. The rest of the days were pretty good, if not great. Why did I keep saying it was a bad week? 


It's easy to let the dark moments overtake the good times. It's too easy to let one bad day - or one bad moment - corrupt the days around it. I had to keep reminding myself that every time I did that, I gave that one day way too much power.


I mentioned on Tuesday that I spent a recent Saturday at a Sabbath event. The point of the day was to rest and to reconnect with ourselves and with God. And I did that, not by engaging in the wonderful experiences the planners spent weeks designing but by curling up in a chair and writing, writing, writing. It was something I easily could have done at home. But I wouldn't have. I hadn't. I needed to put the time in my schedule. I needed to set aside the time and walk away from my to do lists in order to do something my soul desperately needed.


In the course of my writing, writing, writing, I realized something about this year - this crummy, sad, grief- and stress-filled year.


It hasn't all been bad. Yes, the bad parts have been deeply disturbing. But there have been a lot of great moments in there, too. I started to think of those great moments as "Sabbath." This fall I started a job that has kept me running harder than I have for a job in a very long time. And I have loved it more than anything I have ever done in my life. This job is an emotional Sabbath from the grief of this year.


Every December I put together a huge poster of pictures from the year. I have it printed up with the year and then "A Year to Remember." I've had a hard time thinking very positively about that poster for this year. 2011 will always be the year of 3 major family deaths in 9 months. How could I possibly find 10 pictures to celebrate this year, much less 30?


But there is plenty to celebrate this year. Plenty of joys to off-set the pain. I'm trying to see those moments as gifts from the Lord. Times of rest to help me reflect, recharge and refocus before dealing with whatever comes next. I am so thankful for that gift of Sabbath.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lead Me to Rest (part 1)

The Women's Ministry group at church planned a Saturday Sabbath event recently. We have been so disconnected from church this year as we have been away so much, I felt like it would be a good way to reconnect.


But I had to wonder about the wisdom of taking four hours away from my to do list. My house is a mess. I have piles on top of my piles. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. Up until I locked the house behind me, I wasn't 100% sure I would go. I finally decided that it was because of my mess and my piles and the trials of this year that I needed to go. And I'm so glad I did.


The ladies who planned the event did a really nice job of creating a guided experience for the day. There were multiple stations that participants could walk through at their own pace and in their own order. Some stations were visual while others were tactile or auditory. It was well designed. And I ignored every part of it.


Honestly, I just needed a good chunk of time away from my piles and my to dos and my distractions to process life. I needed time to journal and put my churning thoughts down on paper so I could get a handle on them. I needed quiet. I'm starting to wonder if this sort of personal time needs to be just as much a part of my to do list as household chores and work tasks.


I'll write a little more about my Sabbath experience later this week.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bad Book Seller

I learned at my recent school book fair that I am a bad book seller. Here are my reasons:

1) I told families not to buy a certain series if they did not care for books like Harry Potter.

2) I told families who weren't sure about a particular book - or its price - to try it from the public library instead.

3) When one father choked on the $30 price tag for Wonderstruck, especially when I explained that one of the two story lines is told completely in gorgeous illustrations (something I thought made the book kind of cool), I told him I was buying a copy for the library, so his daughter would be able to just check it out from there.

4) I could not generate enough enthusiasm about a couple of my preview books to sell any of them. Of the 8 or so that I read and shared with my students, two of them did not click for me. I told my kids about them, but I know my heart wasn't in it. I did sell a couple copies of the picture book anyway, but NOT ONE copy of the chapter book. The sad thing is, the story is fine - just not a great fit personally. Hopefully some kids will discover it on our library shelves and read it anyway.

5) When we had a book in paperback and hardcover, I assumed the buyer wanted the cheaper paperback.

I'm really not sad about my lack of sales skill. I felt like the store manager in the new Miracle on 34th Street when Allison Janney pokes her finger in his chest because Santa is telling parents where to get toys for the best deal. She says the store putting parents ahead of the "almighty-dollar at Christmas time" has made her a Cole's shopper for life. I figure if parents know my goal is more to get kids reading rather than making as much off them as possible, everyone wins.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bring on the Holidays

And by "holidays" I really mean Christmas. I know, Thanksgiving is still a couple weeks away, but I am ready to start the Christmas preparations NOW.

Sure, I am one of those people who starts thinking about (and shopping for) Christmas in September (and then chewing on my nails, trying to keep from spilling all my Christmas secrets in October). But I usually want to get through Thanksgiving before starting on Christmas. Not this year. This year I want to start now. I want to draw in and pour on the magic of Christmas. 

This year has been emotionally horrible. I am perpetually aware that a year ago we were prepping for a trip home for Thanksgiving to see Dad in person for the first time since he started his chemo regimen. So much has happened since then, and so much of it sad. 

I am ready for some happy. 

I am ready for some magic. 


I am ready for some Christmas.


So, don't judge me if you hear me humming Christmas carols two weeks before Turkey Day, or snuggling under a blanket watching Christmas movies on my day off. I am so thankful our family calendar ends in months of birthdays and holidays because 2011 really needs to finish strong to balance out its beginning. 


Merry Christmas season to you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Fair Update

Book Fair is complete - and it was a BLAST!

This is my first year serving as an elementary school librarian. I have been a parent helper with the Fair before, and last year I was the volunteer chairperson, working with two librarians. This year, I was on my own. Thankfully, I had an amazing group of parents step up and volunteer. This was especially important as my husband's grandmother passed away right before the Fair started, so I had to turn things over to a substitute just a couple days into this major event. My volunteers really came through in a spectacular way.

My students seemed to have a great time. Scholastic sent us a TON of books, so we had plenty of things for families to choose from. The three classes I have had so far have all given the fair a thumbs up, although my 6th graders wanted a few more titles for older students. While Scholastic sent us a fair number of chapter books targeted at 4th through 8th grade students, I have several strong readers who wanted things geared to teens in the 6th grade+ range. We'll have to see what we can do for them in the future.

I've already been making lists of things to do again next year (tag books for AR, post my "Five Favorites from the Fair") and things NOT to do (like tape the hall display so that the topmost layer is bearing its own weight as well as that of the layer below it).

Here are a few pictures from one of the best weeks of this school year!



The theme was space.

We did the teacher wish lists next to a rocket with the teacher's picture in the window. 


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Birthday crafts

My son recently celebrated a birthday. We wanted to have an Angry Birds party, but no one is making party supplies yet, so we had to make our own.







Our treat bag contents were a hodge podge of things - candy, a Lego Star Wars cup, Angry Bird stickers and a book mark I made based on an Angry Birds/Star Wars mash up I found here


I figure in a month or two, once I no longer need them, someone will start making cups and napkins and plates and all sorts of cool Angry Bird gear. May just have to make up an occasion to use them!



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Prayer

I think prayer is an amazing and puzzling thing.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5). The Gospels tell us to ask, seek and knock and we will get results. I wrestle with the idea of prayer. Am I trying to convince God to do what He already is going to do? Am I trying to change His mind about something? Doesn't He already know what I'm thinking, what I need, and what He's going to do?

Sometimes I think prayer is less about God and more about me. I can be a pretty independent person. I know how I want things and I'll do them myself if necessary to get what I want, the way I want it. Maybe prayer is about acknowledging my true "power" in the universe - or lack thereof. Maybe prayer is saying, "You are God and I am not."

I am reading a great book on prayer right now called Pray Big. I don't have a picture for you because I am reading it electronically. [It could very well be the first book I finish on an e-reader (no matter how much I love my Nook, I am more of a tangible book person).] I like its message about praying specifically, praying for things that are bigger than I am, and honoring God with God-sized requests.

Recently I was reading a section where the author talked about a time when he was in big trouble. His prayer was just one word - "Help." And help arrived. Prayer doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to be real - authentic.

Last week, after we received word that my husband's grandmother had passed away, we all sat around trying to take it all in. My husband was grieving the fact that we had plans to talk with her and see her soon, but wouldn't have the chance. I was thinking through all the other things we already had going on and how to work travel and a funeral in with it all. 

I pulled my son close to me and started talking to him about my ideas - things we were going to have to miss because of the funeral and other things we would try to work out. He was understandably sad, and I pulled him close and talked softly about my husband's grief and our sadness and acknowledged how hard this year has been for all of us. Then I closed my eyes and said, "Lord, help us. Amen."

My son looked at me. "That was short." Yes, it was, but it was exactly what that moment needed. Prayer doesn't have to be long words and a formal tone. It can be a sigh, a plea, a whoop or a wail.

Lord, hear our prayers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Picture Book Idea Month

You can say it. It's okay. I know.


I am crazy.


I am always starting new things when I have entirely too much to do in the first place. 


In the midst of starting a new job and planning Book Fair back in September/October, I signed up for two online classes.


Now, I signed on for Picture Book Idea Month. It's sort of like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where writers work for 30 days to write 50,000 words. (I did it in 2009 - follow the link if you want to know more). This time the goal is to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.


I love picture books. In fact, November is Picture Book Month, so the timing is perfect. I don't know if I'll come up 30, but I like the idea of giving it a try. And the resources and camaraderie online is fun.


If you want to join me, click the PiBoIdMo badge on the right hand side of my blog and check out the blog there - guest bloggers, prizes, and more.


So, do you have a favorite picture book?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Break

I had planned to take a step back from writing for a few days because I am hosting my first Scholastic Book Fair as the school librarian this week.

But my husband's grandmother passed away early this week, so we are dealing with that on top of the other busy-ness of life. So, I will be away from the blog for a few days, but for different reasons than I had originally planned.

This year has been so hard. In our household, we have lost my husband's two grandmothers (the only grandparents he has had for the last 20 years) and my father (the only parent I've had for 20 years - and my grandparents have been gone for 20 years, too). 


I have a friend who lost her mother a few weeks after Dad died. Her mom was a friend of mine, too.

Another friend, who is RVing around the country with his family this year, lost his father unexpectedly this summer.

Another friend lost his grandfather this summer, and his wife lost her grandmother a couple months later.


Dad's college roommate and his wife came and did Dad's service for me in June. This summer, the wife's mother passed away and a few weeks ago their oldest grandchild died after an illness.

I know death is inescapable - it is a part of the course of life. In my experience, though, at times it really bunches up. Loss after loss after loss. I often find myself looking Heavenward and asking, "Really? Now? Again? Couldn't You have waited a little longer?"


So, I'll be away for a few days, unless the urge to write is too strong.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading Levels

It's no secret to people who know me or follow me on Facebook or Twitter that I am a fanatic when it comes to books, especially books for kids.

I recently signed up for a reading instruction class online through the American Library Association. I didn't expect it to be as much work as it is, or to enjoy it as much as I have.

Our primary tasks were to research one method of teaching reading and to practice different leveling methods. This last one has been the most fascinating part of the whole process.

I had no idea there were so many ways to level a piece of reading material! Our school uses Accelerated Reader and I have come to appreciate it in part because it puts our whole school on the same page regarding reading. We all have a common language that enables us to talk about helping our students improve their reading skills.

For my online class, though, I have sampled a variety of methods. For one, I had to pick some passages in a book and count how many 3+syllable words were in the passage. I used Rick Riordan's new book, The Son of Neptune because my students have been asking what its level will be for AR, but it is too new to be leveled yet. This first method - based on the passages I chose - came up with 7.1, or seventh grade, first month.

The AR system has a few ways for you to get a rough level estimate, so I tried that with the same book. I had to type in three 150-word passages and estimate the number of words in the entire book. It came up with a 5.9 level.

Our other assignments were to level a kid's magazine passage and a kids website. While it might have been self-serving, I did the latter on my own reviews of kids books. I got a reading level of 8th grade. (Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to blogging!) We also noted that publishers will list their own opinion on the back of books.

All this got me wondering how "regular" parents, who don't read kids books - or read about kids books - 85+% of the time,  help their kids choose books that will be a good fit for age and maturity.

So, parents, chime in! How do you help your kids choose books?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Favorite Places - part 3

It seems odd, but "potential" plays a big part in my favorite places. I already mentioned that in regard to bookstores and libraries. I also love craft stores. I love thinking about all the projects that could be made with those supplies!

We have a needlework store about 45 minutes from the house. I don't go there often, but when I do, I love to linger. The shop models make me want to stitch 24/7. I spin the display racks and try to remember what I already own but haven't had time to make yet. I think about people in my life and how they would love this or that.

We used to have a couple scrapbooking stores in the area, but we are down to one shop from a large chain. Again, it is 45 minutes away, so I don't go there often. But when I do, the sample projects inspire me - to buy as well as to create. I think about cards I could make or scrapbooks. I think about papers my students would enjoy if I put them on a clipboard for school.

I will visit our local chains for quick fixes or for cheaper supplies/better deals. The most tempting for me is the fabric shop. For a person who hasn't used a sewing machine since the 7th grade, I buy an awful lot of fabric. It inspires me. I want to look at it and touch it and imagine it making something useful like a dress or a quilt.

While I haven't had much time to be crafty in the last year or two, the desire is still there. Walking into a craft store tugs at that part of me. Seeing rows of supplies or patterns or bolts of fabric makes me think of all the potential creations, potential gifts that could be made. My fingers itch to create something.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Favorite Places - Part 2

In the last year or so, we have done some redesign to our bedroom. We reconfigured the furniture, added some shelves, replaced our comforter. 

Now, our bedroom is one of my favorite places to relax. I'd rather work on the checkbook there than at the table. It's a comfortable setting for a not-so-fun chore.

I love to open the blinds in the summer and read or just hang out in the room in the natural light. On quiet days, my son and I would both hang out there, enjoying the sun, snuggled on the bed reading. 

It has become a sanctuary of peace, and it is one of my favorite places.

What are some of your favorite places?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Favorite places - part 1

This week's writing prompt is about three favorite places. I am going to write about one each day.


1) Library/book store - I know, I talk about books ALL the time! But I love them. I can't help it. I love walking through the library to see what's new. I love wandering the shelves and discovering a little gem I would never have known to even look for. I love the freedom of checking things out knowing I can just return them if I don't like them. 


I love the potential in a book store or a library - the stories, the information, the ideas that are waiting to be discovered. I love the peacefulness I usually find in those places.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How you see me

Writing prompt - How do you think people see you? How do you want people to see you? How does God see you?


This one was hard for me. I have no idea how others see me. I'm often afraid people see me as someone who talks too much, someone who takes charge too much, and someone who doesn't let others in very easily.


I want people to see me as compassionate, competent, and approachable. 


I think God sees me as a flawed child who wants to get everything right but rarely does.




So, how would YOU answer these questions?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Marriage

Writing prompt - What does marriage mean to you?

To me, marriage is forever. Marriage is companionship, commitment, and sacrifice. Marriage is putting someone else's needs before your own. Marriage is partnership. Marriage is communication, especially about your expectations. Marriage is ups and downs. Marriage is hard work and great bliss. Marriage is being known. 

So, what does marriage mean to YOU?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Happy List

Today's writing prompt is - 10 things that make you happy and why?


1. My son - He's an interesting boy with a lot of interests and great conversational skills. I love talking with him and hearing what is on his mind.
2. My husband - I enjoy talking with him and spending time together.
3. Kindergarteners - In general, I am not a "fan" of young children. I thought my son's kindergarten class was okay, but once he moved on, I was ready to leave kindergarten behind. This year I have two kindergarten classes that come to the library and I adore them. They make me smile. They are fun, excited about things going on in their lives, and they want to read books.
4. My work - I can't imagine what this fall would have been like if I hadn't had this new job to throw myself into. I look forward to going to school every day, eager to see my students.
5. Book release Tuesdays - I love going to the bookstore on Tuesdays and checking out new books. I keep track of when new books are coming out and I love to see those books in person.
6. The Green Bay Packers - I love cheering for my Packers every week!
7. Talking to people about books - I love when kids come into our library and tell me what they thought of the book they read. I love talking to strangers in the bookstore about books. I love talking with the tweens at church about favorite series like Harry Potter or 39 Clues or Mysterious Benedict Society or Heroes of Olympus.
8. New cross stitch magazines - Honestly, I love most crafting magazines - quilting, card making, scrapbooking, etc., - but cross stitch is my current favorite. 
9. Psych - Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster are my favorite fellas on television. I love watching them banter on TV and reading about them in paperbacks. The gang from Big Bang Theory are a close second.
10. Laughing with family and friends - I spent a lunch hour at school the other day laughing. We laughed about 80s fashion and things we did as kids. It felt great. Fellowship and laughter make me happy.


So, what makes YOU happy?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Another writing prompt today - What did you want to be as a child? How does that fit with the person you are today?




I have been thinking about this a lot lately. 


I always thought I would be a teacher. I hit a snag in those plans in college, and went a different direction. Here I am, though, almost 20 years later, and I am teaching. So, I feel like, in a way, I came back full circle, although not in any way I ever considered as a kid.


I wonder why it never occurred to me as a child to be a librarian. I have always been a book freak yet "librarian" was never a primary plan for me. I do wonder if my university had a library program when I knew I wouldn't be a music teacher if I would have put 2 and 2 together and tried a library career.


During the book festival I attended recently, I was reminded that I said I wanted to be an illustrator for awhile when I was a kid - maybe even an author, too. I wonder, though, if I really wanted that sort of job or if I just liked using the word "illustrator" in conversation.




What did you want to be? How did those aspirations work out for you?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

10 Things

I've got another writing prompt for today - What are 10 things you want to accomplish by the end of the year?


Wow! The end of the year is less than 3 months away! I can't say I will be sad to see 2011 move behind me. This has been a cruel year.


Okay - 10 things


1. Add at least 30 new books to the school library's catalog and shelves.
2. Clean and organize my house so that I feel like I could have someone over without embarrassment.
3. Hold a book fair at least as successful as last year.
4. Clean out the magazine box of "new" magazines I haven't gotten around to reading.
5. Clean off crafting table.
6. Move scrapbook albums into new shelves (which means the new shelves have to be built)
7. Finish a cross stitch project started already
8. Organize enough of my work to be able to take most of Christmas break "off."
9. Finish a book on my Nook
10. Survive the rest of the year's estate activities for Dad.










So, what 10 things (or 5 things or 3 things) do you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Children's Literature Festival

A couple weeks ago I was able to attend a free Children's Literature Festival. It was a great event and I left inspired.


Two sessions were led by Bryan Collier, the illustrator of books like Martin's Big Words and Dave the Potter. Mr. Collier is also an author. I loved listening to him talk about art, about history and about his research process.


April Pulley Sayre also did a session about non-fiction picture books that was a lot more fun than I expected it to be. She had a great sense of humor.


I hadn't planned to buy any books at the festival, but after each of the authors spoke, I just had to have something they created for our school library or my personal library.


The fourth session was about book collecting, which wasn't as good of a fit for me but it was cool to see some of the books from the local rare book collection. 


The whole thing renewed my desire to some day attend the National Book Festival in Washington DC. I love the idea of being surrounded by books and other people who love books as much as I do.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Secret

Question for the day: Tell about a time you did something in secret.


When my son and I were in Wisconsin taking care of my dad's house, we talked with friends about things we needed to do to thank people. I had a huge list of thank you notes that needed to be written, but I thought there might be folks who needed something MORE.


We realized that, while we wanted to thank Dad's friends for taking such great care of him over the last year (taking him to chemo and dr. appointments, visiting him at the house and in the hospital, etc.), they wouldn't let us do much for them.


So, my son and I went to the restaurant where these guys always meet for breakfast every Tuesday. We timed it so we got there early enough to already be eating when they arrived. We said hello, chatted, and then left with the check for their entire group. I wish I could have been there when they asked their server for the check and she told them it was already taken care of.


It was a great feeling!








So, have you ever done anything in secret?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's time

Question of the day: Finish this statement - "It's time for me to start_________."

It's time for me to start getting my groove back. Things are piled around my house and I seem to be several steps behind all the time. I'd like to get back to a routine that feels right for us. I'd like to get into a flow where I have time for all the things that make me feel like me - reading, blogging, spending time online and time with family. I want to feel like my life is manageable again.

Now the question for me is how do I get there? I feel like I need a week of doing nothing to get on track (if not ahead). That's not going to happen for awhile.

I probably need to just spend a few days compiling a list of all the things that need to be done and then start scheduling each task. Little by little I can start reclaiming my life. I just have to get started with something.



So, how about you? What is it time for you to start?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First things

Question for the day: What's the first thing you think of when you wake up? Is that a good thing or something you want to change?


In general, my first thought is "Do I have time to hit the snooze or do I have to get up right now?" It's probably a sign that I need to get more sleep. 


My next thought usually has to do with "How much are my feet going to hurt when I stand up?" Standing in class all day has been killing my feet. I have finally found some shoes that actually feel good on my feet after a normal day, but I still have to undo the damage done those first few weeks.


I guess, all things considered, those are too bad, are they?








So, what do you think of first thing in the morning?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Three Things, part 2

Another journalling prompt asked me to pick three things - this time, three things that make a day better.


Here are my three:
1) Snuggling with my son. It won't be long before he's too big and/or decides he's too old to hang out with Mom. I want to soak up as much time being physically close to him before he outgrows that connection.


2) Reading. Losing myself in a book for awhile makes a day feel "right." I have so many books I want to read - and should read - I also feel some pressure to read and keep up, so the more I read, the better I feel about that.


3) Connecting with people. Tweeting things people connect with, making a comment on a blog or a Facebook post, a fun talk with my husband while we watch TV, lunch out with a friend. All of these things make me feel better about life.


4) Singing. Yeah, I know I was supposed to choose three, but I honestly feel better if I have some time each day to sing a little - really belt something out without worrying about anyone watching or listening.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Doubt and Insecurity

One post in the journalling series was about a new book that talks about doubt and insecurity. So the challenge was to journal about those things. This is what I wrote:






I read a great book by Kevin Lehman (the birth order guy) called What Your Childhood Memories Say About You. In it, he asks readers to finish the statement, "I feel I matter in life when...."


I jotted some ideas in the margin as ways I could answer that, but the one that really clicked was, "I feel I matter in life when I get things right."


My doubts and insecurities are directly related to that core of perfectionism. When I make a mistake, I berate myself, kicking myself over and over about how I goofed. When I'm in a situation where I'm in over my head, I second guess the decisions that led me there. I think longingly of the last place I was where I felt like I knew what I was doing. I hate feeling incompetent.


Several years ago, when I was working daily with recovering addicts who were also mentally ill, I did a session with my clients where I played a Steven Curtis Chapman song called, "Burn the Ships." The chorus and bridge say


Burn the ships, we're here to stay
There's no way we could go back
Now that we've come this far by faith
Burn the ships, we've passed the point of no return
Our life is here
So let the ships burn

Nobody said it would be easy
But the one who brought us here
Is never gonna leave us alone



For addicts, the correlation is clear - they have to leave their old life and old friends behind if they want to be in recovery. This chorus returns to me in those moments of doubt and insecurity. I have to tell myself that I am in the place I'm supposed to be, I will learn what I need to learn, I will build competence in time. I have to close the door on the idea of going back to what was comfortable and embrace the new challenge. Some times that is a lot harder than others!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nicest Thing

Another journalling question from Cheaper by the Dozen.


What is the nicest thing someone has recently said to you? Why did the compliment matter?


After a day of meetings at my new job, a co-worker popped her head into the library and said, "I appreciate you."


I have no idea what prompted her to say it. I am always self-conscious after events like that one, afraid that I talked too much, feeling a little like an outsider still, wondering where I fit in. 


This is a woman I hold in high regard. She has scads of experience that she offers in a gracious, helpful way. She is a professional, taking her role - but not herself - seriously. She is organized. She follows and enforces the rules. She is classy. And she said she appreciates me.


I don't know if it was prompted by something I did or something I said or if it was just a general word of encouragement, but I really appreciated it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three Things

I follow a blogger who was posting journalling questions back in August. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting my responses to some of her questions. I'd love to hear your responses!


What are three things you would change about your life right now and why?


1) Dad would still be alive. I miss calling him and talking to him. He is missing a great chapter in my life and I would love to share it with him.


2) My husband and I would have maintained our healthier Weight Watcher's lifestyle from 5 years ago. I think we would both feel better if we had stayed with that.


3) I would have started my job a month sooner so I would have had more time to prepare and feel really ready. Right now I feel like I am a step or two - or twelve - behind when I'd like to be a step or two ahead.


So, what would you change? Post your list or a link to your list!



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Divinely Prepared

I recently heard a "sermon" where the speaker talked about different life experiences that prepared him for other experiences later. When he found himself in a job where he felt under-educated and ill-prepared, a mentor reminded him that he had been divinely prepared along the path where God had led him.

He then went on to show our group where we had been divinely led to where we were. Even though some of us were feeling out of our depth, we were right where we were supposed to be. 

The story, the message, and a subsequent video about praying "BIG," were inspiring. For the last few years, as I have enjoyed building relationships with students and watching them grow into adults, and have developed a passion for children's books, I have wondered where these experiences were leading.

These days I find myself in the middle of great adventure. I'm in a job that is challenging in all the right ways. I am acutely aware of all the things I don't know. Some days I feel completely unprepared and under-qualified for the responsibilities I now hold. But I know my life experiences have led me here. I have been divinely prepared for this place, this opportunity. I will learn the things I still need to learn. I will make mistakes - and hopefully learn from them

As the speaker talked, the image in my head was of Jericho (with vegetables for Israelites, but I digress). God had given the Israelites the land. They just had to keep marching.

The opportunity has been given to me - and it is a gift and a great responsibility. It's my job to keep marching - to show up, to put in the planning time, to learn from those who've walked the road before me, and to keep watching for ways God will prepare me for whatever's next.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grief Is Like the Ocean

Grief is like the ocean. You wade into the water - you expect this sorrow. Sometimes it barely covers your toes and other times it climbs higher and higher. You acknowledge it. You live with it. It is part of a new "normal."

Waves of grief swell. Sometimes you see the wave coming - an anniversary, a birthday, Christmas or event you thought you'd share. You watch the wave start to build and you brace yourself for it. It jostles you, but you stay standing.

Then sometimes your focus turns back to the beach. You watch other people go on about their business, oblivious to your grief. You watch them wistfully, remembering a distant time when you were a little more carefree. You focus on other aspects of your own life. You start to feel like yourself again.

As your focus is on the beach, you never see the new wave coming. It slams into you. It crashes over the top of you, taking your breath away - taking your feet out from under you. Your butt's in the sand, you're coughing and sputtering, wiping the water from your eyes and wondering where the wave came from.

That is grief.

[written 3.27.10]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Observations

I am convinced that an elementary school cafeteria would be a great location for a psychological/ sociological study. Every day at school, I am fascinated by watching the students in the lunch room. 

Who sits with whom? 
Why are the kids who were inseparable last year now sitting at different tables? 
What is the difference between the sixth grade boys who huddle together day after day and the ones who integrate with the girls? 
How do these students eat when they are at home? 
Do they clean up after themselves at home any better than they do at school?
What do different parents send for school lunches?

I'm telling you, the elementary cafeteria is fascinating! I may not be actively using my psychology degrees, but those corners of my brain are getting a work out nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Great Expectations

Awhile back, I had some discussions with a couple planning their wedding - and their marriage. One of the things we talked most about was expectations. 

Expectations, especially unspoken ones, can be the root of a lot of strife in a marriage. Expectations for how to spend the holidays, how to do the grocery shopping, how to share the bathroom, how to divide the chores, etc. are best dealt with up front and out in the open.

The importance of clear and shared expectations was shown to me again a couple weeks ago when my son had some friends spend the night. There were four of them - the most we had ever had for a sleepover. 

Apparently, one boy and my son had shared the story of a Lego "war" they had had at a sleepover earlier in the year. They had had so much fun with it, they wanted to do it again as a group. This seemed like a no-brainer because it had gone so well when the boys did it the first time.

It was soon apparent that we we headed for a different sort of war. The two boys who had played it before wanted it to be like they had had it then. My son, in particular, wanted to pull out all the same pieces and set it up in a very particular way, and he wanted the other boys to wait while he got everything in place. The other two boys just wanted to play. They had their own ideas of what this war might be like. My son's expectations were leading to a lot of "Guys.... guys!" and finally I had to step in. I pulled him aside and tried to convince him that it would be more fun, and less stress, if he went with the flow rather than trying to recreate the war they had the last time.

I tried to explain to him the next day that the four of them came to the "war" with different expectations about what it was going to be like, and because of that, they had trouble actually getting to play what they wanted. I don't know if he "got" it, but I know I sure did. 

In my marriage, I have learned to say things like, "Tell me what you think this weekend is going to look like," or "In your head, how do you have this playing out." It's a really fast way to discover if we are headed for disaster. I've learned to ask my new boss, "Where do you want me," or "What do you see my role being for this event" so hopefully I can be where I am supposed to be, or I can seek clarification or compromise rather than dealing with problems later.

Clarify your expectations. Ask others what their expectations are. Clarity can lead to peace.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lopsided

Growing up an only child, my family was like a three-legged stool. For the most part, we balanced. My parents did their thing (golf, Friday nights out), Dad and I were buddies (spending a lot of time together since we were both on a school schedule), and Mom and I had our connections (primarily books and crafts).

When my mom died, Dad and I had to figure out how to get this new two-legged stool to work. And we did. We each found external things to help prop us up. Dad became more involved in the after school activities at his school, and I met my husband and got married. Dad and I found a comfortable way to lean on each other while primarily engaging in our new lives.

That worked and evolved over 20 years. He dated, he retired, he joined a book group, he met weekly with other retirees. I found work I enjoyed, spent time with my husband, obsessively pursued many hobbies and had a baby. Our lives looked different, but our "lean" was what it always had been - strong, encouraging, dependable, available.

Then Dad got sick and things started to change. We talked regularly, but mostly about his illness and treatment. Sometimes a month went by before I told him the latest news. I guess I tried to let him lean a little more and tried to hold up my end on my own. Less than a year later, he was gone.


Now, I feel lopsided. Twenty years is a long time to lean in one particular direction. I feel as though I have been holding up a wall, and that wall is gone. I am precariously perched. The only things keeping me from toppling over are the external connections I've built that helped me keep up my end of the two-legged stool.


That "lean" defined so much of who I am, I feel quite lost sometimes without it. Most days I can keep my balance, but other times I feel like I am about to topple over. I'm having to learn to lean in a whole new way, and some days I am more successful than others.