"Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace, and power in it." Goethe

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Open Your Eyes: A Lenten Journey

Today, a pre-Lenten promise to myself: reflect here during the prelude to Easter. Think through the days and live them mindfully. I do not expect that to mean anything lofty. I mean it to have meaning for me, and perhaps for you. Maybe you will read the words here and find something in them that speaks to you, too. I hope so.

This morning, I wrote in my journal with two grand-babies underfoot. The older one grabbed an orange crayon and “wrote” on top of the words I was jotting down. It made me so happy. We do not learn to grab the crayons without help. Someone buys them, makes them available, reacts with wonder as the wax makes its way across the page. It all adds up over time. Then, one morning an 18 month old joins you as if it has always been this way–as if she came writing with her grandmother on a sunny porch since the day she arrived.

Lent has never been an easy season for me. I do not do well with giving things up. I have tried and failed throughout many years. Sometimes I say I’ll give up Coca-Cola. Or chips. Or eating out. These days wine would be a biggie. Or cheese. Or coffee…God forbid. So, I adjusted somewhere along the way. Now, I focus less on what to give up and more on what I might add.

Last year, that meant $40 extra in the collection basket at church each week. The 40 representative, of course, of the 40 days of Lent. I actually managed that one. This year, I have decided to set aside 40 minutes a day to disconnect. It doesn’t sound like a lot, I know. But if I use those minutes to just look and listen and think and observe, I think it will turn out to be quite a lot. I think I will see a change in myself that I will be able to sustain and increase over time.

This morning, Sofia and I sat on the sunporch and watched the birds. There were dozens of them. I saw a baby bluebird dart from the roof. The cardinals are busy, as are the robins. Two geese have taken up residence again at the pond. And a gold flash of feathers gave me pause–a bird I do not know. One I will look for again and learn about this year, I hope.  And this was during only a few of the 40 minutes I decided to set aside today.

What will I learn during these minutes? I have no idea…but you are welcome to accompany me. For some time now, I have been wanting to use my time more wisely. To create more during the day. To write. To read. To start some projects that have been making their way into my mind. So, that is what this Lent is going to be about for me.

I am still going to have the private offerings of the season that will be between just me and my God. But here, I will share a few other things. I realize He gave me so many gifts and it is time I started using them. I hope they will turn into something good. I am counting on it.

Happy Mardis Gras, dear readers, and here’s to a blessed and bountiful Lent. I invite you to join me in awakening to the world around us. There is so much to see.




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Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

It’s colorful and crazy, our fourth graders’ version of Jolene’s crazy quilt from the book Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt.
It’s a joyful explosion of color and texture and we agree that it puts us in a happy frame of mind as we pass by.


Teaching Tip: Buy Velvet

My students and I are reading Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt. It’s a wonderful book for students to read with the eyes of a writer, and that’s what we have been doing.
We talk about each chapter’s happenings, of course, but we dig deeper.
We look for onomatopoeia, similes, personification, ways italicized writing is used.
And, today, we held heavy shears and touched velvet.
My students don’t have the backgrounds and experiences that some children do, and I realized another opportunity to show them new things when we started reading about the Mother’s sewing with velvet.
I brought in my Gingher sewing shears, along with their sheath. Some deep blue velvet.
You should have heard the oohs and ahhs when I brought that velvet out.

I demonstrated cutting layers of fabric with school scissors and the real dressmaker’s scissors. The children nodded their approval.
We figured out how to cut enough pieces from 1/8 yard of fabric, and each child has enough velvet for the crazy quilt squares we’ll make soon.
We may tape a little piece into our journals and write where that blue velvet leads us.
Blue velvet. Just another way to get kids reading and writing.

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Teaching Tip: Jazz it Up!

Oh, I really like teaching through novels. Right now, my students and I are reading Mister and Me, a book by Kimberly Willis Holt.
Chapter 2 mentions the song One O’clock Jump by Count Basie.
So, my student teacher intern queued up the You Tube video of the song as an introduction to the chapter we were reading. Our students sat mesmerized.
They watched every move, took in every nuance. And, when one sentence in the chapter mentioned the song, they could make a connection.
From the 3 minute video, we discussed jazz, swing, instruments, dress, props, teamwork, and segregation. All this from a single sentence about a song playing on the radio, a song popular in the 1940s, the setting of the book.
I smile tonight thinking of those fourth graders sitting there, tapping their feet. I smile knowing they plan to go home and find out more about jazz and swing and Count Basie.
Novels open the door to lessons on everything imaginable. I’m excited to see where else this book will lead us, and I like the company.

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Teaching Tip: Images

Bear with me as I create a list:
a Marine playing Taps
silver bugle
American flag
white gloves
wooden casket
cars stopped on the road
blue lights

Today we said goodbye to a good man: Buddy Rose. My sister-in-law’s father. A retired police chief. A Marine.
I went to visitation and heard songs, listened to stories, a little preaching.
Hugged some family.
Thought about how important it is to pay our respects. How our presence matters. How every goodbye reminds us that life is fleeting.
How images tell a story.
Students need to know this. They need to hear poignant pieces sometimes, and they need to know how to shape them. They need to think of nouns that illustrate those moments. That stay in the mind’s eye. That remind us of what matters.


Teaching Tip: Quote ‘Em

Yesterday my intern and I took our students to the cafeteria for the daily writing lesson.
There is a display of posters there, posters spotlighting famous African Americans. Each one has a quotation on it.
We chose the ones we liked best. Some kids, like me, couldn’t decide–or liked them all. So we sat and copied.
We added these quotations to an ongoing list.
We are trying to help the children build a repertoire of words to pull from when they need them to illustrate a point, to start or end a paper.
We have a long way to go, but our efforts are paying off.
The kids are serious. They want to build up their “mental warehouses” with many words…their own as well as those of others.
I have hope when we write like this. I think the kids do, too.

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Neon Bright Life

It’s book fair week, so at elementary schools, that means THEMES.

Today was WEAR NEON. Who knows why…I think it had something to do with books making us brighter. Anyway.

I forgot, even though I’d written a note in my calendar. Regret it, too, because I have a neon pink warm up jacket that makes me happy to wear.

But, my friend Mrs. Cox didn’t forget.
Let’s just say She is unusual.

I saw her in a glorious blazing combination of brightness: from head to neon socked feet with a tutu ( yes, I said tutu!) in the middle.

There’s just something about Mrs. Cox.

She’s brave. She thinks bigger than most. She walks alone.

And today, she was my message.

Live that bright life.
Ignore the naysayers.
Smile at the whisperers.

All she needed was an excuse to be herself. And she ran with it.

Go, Mrs. Cox!
Live bright.