Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Fair

It's book fair week for me! That means it's in my best interests to take a blogging break so I can conserve my time and energy for the work that needs to be done this week. I'll be back next week to let you know how things worked out with my Countdown to Spring Break Survival Kit, because by the time I post again, I will be ON Spring Break.

I'll leave you with this picture - my bulletin board for Book Fair - each teacher's section is a pocket for their book fair wish list. I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

52 Lists - List Your Current and Future Goals

It's time for the "Week Four" list for 52 Lists. This has been one of my favorites. In fact, I left extra pages in my journal where I am writing these so I can keep adding to my lists.

Here are a few of my goals that I recorded:

  • Work diligently now so I can take June and July off
  • Develop systems for the library to help next year go smoothly
  • Organize my book shelves (DONE)
  • Be under ___ lbs by my dr appointment (did not meet this one)
  • Write a book
  • Get a graduate degree in Children's Literature
  • Cultivate our home to have less clutter and more space to move around

This is only a sampling - I always have goals and tasks I am working on or hoping for the future. I like seeing them in writing, even if there are some that I missed.

Going over my list again made me think of this blog post by Jon Acuff. There is some great stuff in here about dealing rationally with that voice inside you that says your goal/dream is ridiculous and will never happen. I walked through his process with my graduate school dream and I feel like it helped me think through the logistics that can help me eventually move this dream towards reality. I hope you will check it out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Countdown Continues

My Countdown to Spring Break Survival Kit continues to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. This is crunch time. This is when life is ridiculously busy and when the days will barrel on with little break until Spring Break arrives.

The envelopes are losing a little of their umph on their own. Opening one has gotten to be a little "old hat." But the blessings inside have taken on increased importance. They feel like a message from the Lord and from myself every day. I take a picture of each day's message and post it on Facebook in case any one else is playing along. I find myself pulling that picture up on my phone several times a day to remind me of the message - a little encouragement for the moment or hours ahead.

I am very glad I did this. And I am glad I have kept each message and each envelope. I hope I won't need this level of encouragement for awhile, but I'm glad to know I have it available if I do!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bookstore Advice: Hire Right

Kirk Kazanjian wrote an article/essay for the February 25, 2013 issue of Publisher's Weekly called, "Building Loyalty: Four Tips for Booksellers to create die-hard fans." You can read about his new book, releasing in April here.

Second on his list was "Hire right." I saw this in action a week ago while shopping in my favorite store, Barnes and Noble.

When my son was a toddler, there was one bookseller who seemed to always be working in the children's section. She was delightful. She related well to the children, and she was always ready with a recommendation or help in finding things. While I know several of the booksellers in this store on sight (we are there at least once a month), I don't see that sort of consistency  in the children's section any more. I know I am biased by my job and my personal passion for children's literature, but lately books for children and teens are the ones selling, showing growth in sales over last year rather than slowing down, so it seems like "hiring right" for the children's section would be an important consideration.

As I was browsing shelves in the children's section, a mother and her daughter approached the bookseller in the department. They explained that they had seen a Babymouse book through Scholastic, maybe in a classroom flyer, and they were looking for the book. The bookseller (a) wasn't familiar with Babymouse, (b) couldn't find it on the computer, and (c) suggested the mother look for the book from Scholastic.

It took all my restraint not to jump into the conversation.

(a) I know there's no way for one person to know about every book that comes out for kids. My students tell me about books all the time that are unfamiliar to me. To me, Babymouse is fairly well known, but I can see where a bookseller might not be familiar with that line of books. So this issue can be excused.

(b) When the bookseller said they weren't in the computer, I assumed she meant they were out of stock in the store. But ten minutes later I come across a set of twelve or fifteen books from the series. They weren't where they were supposed to be, but they were obviously in stock. Even if they were mis-shelved, they would have still been in the computer. I don't know what happened on the computer searching side that failed so badly.

(c) Because the bookseller couldn't sort out the computer/searching issue for finding information on the books she hadn't heard of, she sent business AWAY from the store. She didn't offer to order the book from the online store (something other booksellers have done for me time and time again when they don't have something I want in stock). Because she had no idea what she was looking for and didn't know her department enough to know what or where the books were, she suggested her customers go somewhere else rather than offer a way to get them what they wanted while keeping the business at her company.

Once I saw the big display, I tracked down the mom and showed her where the books were. I didn't hang around to see what book they wanted or if it was there. But I couldn't get over the whole interaction.

Kazajian recommends asking potential booksellers to describe the last three books they read and gauge their passion and excitement for the business. I think this is a sound recommendation. I think it is also important to make sure you adequately train your staff  (especially those working in specialty departments) and get them to buy into your business so they want to see it succeed and will think outside the box to take care of the customer and keep her business with your company.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

52 Lists - List the Things You Should be Proud Of

Week three of the 52 Lists project is "List the things you should be proud of." Here are a few things off my list:

  • My work with students - relationships built at school as well as previous work with students/youth
  • The progress I have made in 18 months of a new job
  • The number of new books in the library
  • Connecting readers (all ages) to books they like
  • How I took care of Dad at the end of his life
  • Four years of book blogging - over 850 posts
  • My family
  • Our home

What are you proud of? I especially like this list because I think it is tempting too often to downplay the things we should be proud of because we don't want to be prideful. But it is also a danger to downplay the things we do with the gifts God gives - and then we can't be thankful for them and we can't use them to spur us on to more good and useful work in His name. Embrace your accomplishments - give thanks for them and look for ways to build on them for the good of others.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Survival Kit Update

The survival kit is working! I enjoy re-reading each day's scripture or blessing as a reminder of positive ways to focus my mind each day. The tasks so far have been small but enjoyable - something else I look forward to every day. I look forward to getting up in the morning and opening my envelope - and sharing the picture on Facebook. I've had fun conversations with folks about the project - I might even make one for our school's auction later this spring.

So far this has been an entirely worthwhile investment of time, energy and a little bit of money - and it is making the incredibly busy days leading up to spring break a little more positive!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

52 Days

There's a lot of the number 52 floating around here lately. There's the 52 Lists project I'm doing and the 52 Days system I've been trying this year.

This is an update on the 52 Days deal. That's the one where the year is broken in to 7 sections of 52 days each. You set some goals for the first 52 days (January 2- February 22). If they don't work, or if your life changes too much for them to make sense any more, you change them up for the second round.

Someone figured up the following days to start each round of 52: January 2, February 23, April 16, June 7, July 29, September 19, and November 10.

So, I'm now in the second round. Here's where my goals stand:
Spiritual - I am keeping my goal of daily devotions. That's gone well and I like the three apps I decided to use.
Financial - that one went okay. I was working to only buy books with gift cards rather than the credit card. Now I want to keep that and expand it, working to make our credit card bill only have automatic charges on it, rather than a variety of online shopping, etc. We've gotten lax with our charging and I want to reign that back in.
Physical - I have been waffling on my weekly commitment to Weight Watchers. Some weeks are good and some feel like a lost cause two days in. I want to re-commit to that process and I have set a specific goal and time frame for myself.
Social - This one was pretty vague last time. I'm trying to tighten that up with a more explicit plan to reach out socially every week in some way.
Mental - This was the other goal that was vague last time. This time I want to read one non-fiction book each month (I read Quitter in February) as well as reading one e-book (this was my goal last time - in February I read Buried in Buttercream  on my Nook) and one Advance Reader Copy (ARC) that I have received for my blog (In February I read Killer Honeymoon).
Career - I want to keep the goal of adding 10 new books to the library every week. I haven't done this for a couple weeks, but I haven't felt too badly about that considering I was doing more than that for all of January. I want to get back to that and get caught up on the batch that is almost ready to go before I do another book fair at the end of the month.
Family - This was another vague one last time. This time I want to keep up our reading routine which we re-established at the start of the year. Then I want to add a movie or game night every week where we do that together, really focused on being together rather than just being in the same room but all doing our own thing.

So, those are my new goals for this next block of 52 days.

How are your New Year's goals holding up now that March is here?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

52 Lists - List Your Greatest Comforts

Last week I posed about the 52 Lists project. Here are some of my answers to the prompt from Week 2

List Your Greatest Comforts
a warm bed in the morning
snuggling with my son
sunshine through a window - or on my face
John 14: 1-3
Barnes and Noble
things that belonged to my parents - things with their handwriting, for instance
caffeine-free diet Pepsi
Psalm 16
the Kitty Katt series by Gini Koch
the Harry Potter series

If you are joining in on the list project, I would love to know and here some of the things on YOUR list!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Survival Kit

Once upon a time I worked for a non-profit that was pursuing national accreditation. I was responsible for coordinating everything and everyone across two agencies in different states to make that happen.

As we moved closer to "crunch time," I decided to make a survival kit for each member of our leadership team. I don't remember how many envelopes there were, but there were several and each one had a treat of some sort: a comic, some gum, a note of encouragement, money for a can of soda, something from our reward system, etc. The staff could pull an envelope any time they needed a break or a reward for their work. I'm sure there were some who didn't care and never opened an envelope, but others seemed to enjoy the fun and surprise. I know I did, and I made the thing in the first place.

Recently I have been struggling emotionally. I don't know what it's from - delayed grief/depression, the consequence of two summers full of work (one dealing with Dad's estate and one working at school) without a break, the winter blahs, or some combination - but it's been a daily struggle. And frankly, March is too busy for me this year to deal with a daily struggle to just get out of bed.

This "survival kit" idea came back to me as I was reading a book about creativity. When I put the memory of those long-ago survival kits together with how I was feeling, I started to get excited about creating a countdown to spring break that might make the next few weeks tolerable. So, I made this:

This is my Countdown to Spring Break Survival Kit. I started it this past Monday and I have enough envelopes to open one a day until Good Friday, which is the first official day of Spring Break. 

I made each envelope by cutting down some of my favorite 12x12 scrapbook papers to 8x10 and then folding them to 8x5 and gluing the sides together. I didn't seal the tops, so I can use them again.

Then I took some resume paper and cut them into 4 squares (5.5x4.25) and I wrote a blessing or note of encouragement on each one. The blessings were either scriptural blessings (the "May God..." passages from the New Testament, like Romans 15:13) or blessings from Max Lucado's piece on blessings

On the back side of those blessings, I wrote a task. Here are some examples:
  • Schedule a one hour date with yourself - take a nap, listen to headphones, write - be alone for awhile and take a break
  • Research something you have been wondering about - grad school, vacation spot, etc.
  • Read a chapter from a book you have wanted to read for awhile
  • Read a chapter from your favorite book
  • Write out your to do list. Then tear it up and take the day off.
  • Write about your earliest memories for 30 minutes
  • Order a treat for yourself from Amazon that will deliver after Spring Break - extend the joy beyond these 26 days

Frankly, I had more ideas of tasks than I used. If I ever want/need to do this again, I could try some different things. I also included some cash to buy myself lunch a couple times and I put a candy bar or a gift card in a couple of the envelopes instead of a task.

I had my husband actually load the envelopes for me and put them in order on his own, except for the final envelope which I planned myself. That way, I have NO IDEA what each envelope holds. 

I am hopeful this will add some joy and fun to the next few weeks of hard work and anticipation of a much needed break.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Jon Acuff is a writer and blogger I follow. I've blogged about him before, most recently about breaking your year into 52 day chunks to help you accomplish your goals.

I've become a fan of Jon's book, Quitter. In fact, I've bought copies for two friends and talked my husband into getting a copy as well (I've written in my copy, which makes it hard to lend). In a sentence, it is about pursuing your dream the smart way.

Jon is releasing a new book called Start in April. He has started doing events around the book in various parts of the country. I was fortunate to catch a webcast of the Nashville event recently. I thought it was inspiring - and funny! (My husband said he was glad he didn't want to go to bed early that night because I was laughing so much.) I have pre-ordered the new book (actually, I ordered one for me and another for a friend) and signed up for a newsletter. The newsletter got me a copy of the first chapter of Start. There was a good bit of material from the webcast I watched, but it was just as inspiring (and funny) the second time around. Pre-ordering the book got me two small e-books - Three Stages of an Awesome Idea,  and The Hater Handbook.

Here are a couple of highlights from my notes on these three pieces:

  • Retirement is dead - and this is an opportunity. It used to be that life followed a liner path, but now that path works in a circle. You can get a fresh start at the cycle any time.
  • Be productive now so you can be awesome later. Take time to generate ideas - brainstorming without critique - so you can cultivate the most awesome ones later.
  • Make decisions that will create a story you will be proud of - decisions about your priorities, how you invest your time, etc.
  • Love your dreams too much to hate somebody else's. The more time and energy you invest in your dream, the less time you have for jealousy and pettiness about another person's dreams. 

You can go to Jon's site here. Take a look at his blog to get a feel for his writing style and humor. If it clicks for you like it did for me, check out Quitter and Start. Hope you find some inspiration for your dreams!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Confidence Has Its Limits

One of the devotional pieces I have added to my life this year is an app based on The Confident Woman by Joyce Meyer. In the devotional for February 9th, she wrote this:

"Trial and error is the road to success, and you can't drive that road as long as your car is parked. So get moving, and God will direct you. When people are confident, they try things, and they keep trying until they find a way to be successful in what God has called them to do."

I guess that means I am usually confident. I am always trying (and failing) things. Something doesn't work in my lesson plan? I try something new. I re-order the rooms in our house several times a year hoping a new system will make things work better. I've had several different schedule/planner systems that have worked, but I'm always up for trying something new.

Every once in a while, though, I hit a wall. I feel so overwhelmed by something that I shut down almost completely. I can't make decisions and have a hard time motivating myself to do anything. This happened last weekend. We had a snow day from school, my son had a friend over and my husband was working from home. This seemed like the perfect time to dive into my latest cleaning project, the office/craft room. This is the catch all room in our house for things that don't have a home. It tends to get over cluttered very quickly.

In my head I had already decided that I was going to get rid of a good amount of craft supplies that I'm not using and turn them into craft baskets for our school's auction in April. I easily have a four inch stack of beautiful papers as well as embellishments and fabric and other things that are in great shape but need a new home.

But there's just so much - my intentions and ideas are bigger than my schedule or my space. I see something and think, "I can make something with that!" and I buy it and then it sits.

I pulled all the craft materials out and spread them on our bed. Soon I had to move some piles to the living room because the bed was full and I was afraid it would collapse under the weight. I made some decisions about things I wanted to keep and how I wanted to order things. I emptied file cabinets and moved things around so I could get to the things we need more often. Then I hit the wall, figuratively speaking. I couldn't will myself out of the chair. I had to ask my husband what to do with this pile or that because I just couldn't make another decision. The only thing that eventually got me back to work was the idea that I would have to sleep on the floor because our bed was unavailable and the boys wouldn't share the new couch.

By Saturday, I was calling the office The Pit of Dispair. All my good intentions and motivation for making the office usable again was gone.

Honestly, it does look better. There's less clutter on the floor, there's a drawer and a half empty in a file cabinet. Pictures are consolidated rather than scattered. But another day or two of work is still necessary. But that will not happen any time soon. I need a break. I made the office tolerable and moved things off the bed and couch so we can move around freely, but that's as far as I'm willing to go for now.

Hopefully my confidence will replenish after a few days' rest.