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Friday, September 22, 2017

Friendship is Impossible {CELEBRATE This Week: 211}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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Interestingly enough, I'm surprised by this post. A few lines in and I wondered if I was actually writing toward celebration. I wrote a little more and wondered if anyone would even want to read these words. I kept going and wondered where this was coming from? Why am writing about these memories? This isn't the kind of thing I planned to write or even typically write. Why are the words stacking up like this? Am I anywhere near celebration?

A few more lines and I wrote "and belonged everywhere and nowhere all at the same time." And just like that -- a slip, slap, loop -- I was reminded of a Maya Angelou quote that I read in Brene Brown's new book.

You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.
I realized I'm writing like Brene. I didn't set out to write like Brene. I didn't even want to write like Brene. But the words were stacking up and I decided to keep going...and push toward celebration. It may or may not be worth the read.

It was worth the writing, though. I'm reminded that sometimes the most important stories are the ones we don't even know we are carrying around with us. I'm reminded that what we read matters to how we write. And, most importantly, I'm reminded that a writing habit is the most important thing about being a writer.

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I've struggled with friendship. Do we all struggle with friendship sometimes? It's not easy and we can feed ourselves a lie that it's not essential.

Plus it's hard.

Being friendly is not the same as being friends.

I'm good at being friendly. 

Friendship...well, that's another story.

My whole life I've been really good at having friends for a season. Then something shifts and we take different paths. It started in third grade. My best friend decided to get a new best friend.

In 5th grade the bestest friend a kid could want moved into my class. We were a solid pair...until she moved away in seventh grade. 

I was friends with my cheer squad in 8th grade, but didn't make the cut in high school. They stopped being my friends.

I made new friends in high school, they were from the other middle school in our district. We had a lot of fun. One of my high school friends was my roommate our freshman year in college. She missed her boyfriend and went home. The rest of us went to different colleges. It was like different planets.

College brought more solid friends for the road. And graduation led to goodbyes. A new job and new friends. Then I became an instructional coach for the district and belonged everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.

We adopted kids from hard places. I didn't have energy to chop fresh vegetables for dinner, let alone keep a friend. I had some super friends. They didn't last through the first year after adopting the girls. I gave up on the idea of friendship, deciding I wasn't a very good friend.

My most consistent friends were the ones who shared their stories each week during Slice of Life. They were splattered around the globe. My writing group formed. We told stories and laughed, and I realized not all women are terrible at friendship.

I wish I knew when, but I don't really remember dates, and I wish I knew how, but life was overwhelming, being a new momma to four -- three of them from hard corners of the foster system -- but somehow I became friends with Becca and at the same time with Jasmine. They were from two different spheres of my life.

For awhile I wondered when our paths would diverge. It always happens with the greatest of friends. We walk closely and then our paths curve away from one another. Rarely is it because of a fault or an argument or a mishap. We simply turn different directions quietly and kindly.

Last week I opened up that kind of happy mail that arrives in the box at the end of my driveway. I found a card...

If this were the 50s, I'd bring you so many casseroles.
And I realized everyone has roads that are kinds of crazy twists and turns. The greatest of friends will have roads that turn away from one another. When that happens, friendship is about shouting across the distance and holding tight when it gets impossible.

Friendship can seem impossible -- but the truth is the best life is impossible without friendship. It is essential to a well-lived life. Throw yourself into being a friend and hold on when it gets impossible.

And maybe, just maybe, make a casserole.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Stack {CELEBRATE This Week: 210}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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This week I'm celebrating a rich book stack.


I can't believe I have COLBY SHARP'S new book in my hands. I opened it late last night while I was waiting for my daughter to get out of band practice. I'm torn between wanting to give it away to every single person I know. I keep reading one more bit and then a little more. This is going to be a sweet resources for teachers of writers in all grades.


Brene Brown's new book was released. I can't wait to read it. I know I should try and savor it, but instead I'm sure I'll gulp it in one big bite.


One day I will be in the same room as Simon Sinek. I hope you know his TED Talk regarding The Golden Circle. This gem is written by David Mead & Peter Docker and guides you in finding your Why...and helping teams and organizations find their Whys. It's written like a workbook and I'm inspired as a human and a writer.


You may remember that I've been inspired by cacti. Christy Rush-Levine did and she gave me this sweet calendar. I'm using it as a writing notebook of sorts -- collecting all kinds of ideas each day as possibilities to write about. My brain is exploding with ideas and there is no way I will ever remember them all. I like the way I'm encouraged to collect snippets so I can have a place to jump off into blog posts, articles and book chapters.



If you haven't had a chance to get the preview of my new book, feel free to do it now. Just add you email to the box below. Right now Stenhouse is offering a free eBook with the pre-purchase of a hard copy



Share your celebrations below...

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Not Busy {CELEBRATE This Week: 209}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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Weekly celebrations by the numbers...

  • 28 sandwiches for kid lunches
  • 5 games, matches or performances
  • 15 loads of laundry
  • 9 dishwasher fills and empties
  • 45+ showers
  • 7 gallons of milk
  • 8 dozen homemade cookies
  • 23 cups of hot tea (all of the kids are hot tea drinkers)
We are in the thick of life with kids. They are active. They are healthy. They are growing up. I celebrate these numbers.

There are some days when I write an after school schedule so Andy and I can be sure everyone is picked up, dropped off and back home. Usually we have an extra kid or two to pick up, drop off or take home.

We also believe in creating space for relaxation and play. So even though the schedule sees to bulge, each of our kids has time to be home and do their own things to relax. Sam builds with Legos. Jordan plays Madden football. Hannah watches a Hallmark show. Stephanie plays with the dog in the backyard.

I convince them to go on bike rides and walks with me. We throw the frisbee in the front yard. They make dessert with me in the kitchen. We squeeze in a game of Skipbo before bed.

Andy watches baseball (or football or hockey or basketball, depending on the season) with his friends. I write.

This week Andy and I sat together in the tippy-top of metal bleachers watching Jordan play football. Stephanie sat beside us eating the second meal of the day out of her lunch box. Hannah was at work and band practice. My mom helped out by picking up Sam from tennis practice. They had dinner for two at Dairy Queen.

Life is packed right now, but that doesn't mean we are busy. We are enjoying each beautiful moment and holding it tight. Perhaps the number that I'm celebrating most right now is: ONE.

1 full heart

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If you missed it, last week I shared a preview copy of my new book, Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers. Feel free to get your copy by completing the form below.


Friday, September 1, 2017

It's FINALLY Time!! {CELEBRATE This Week: 208}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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I've been waiting for a very long time to share this little gem with the world. It is my very favorite of all my favorites. I know you're not supposed to have a favorite, but this one is a favorite.

I want it in your hands and in the teacher across the hall's hands and in principals', coaches', paraprofessionals', counselors', administrators' hands. If someone is in contact with a kid, I want them to read this book.

Sure, it's about teaching writers because that's what I do...but it's so much more. It's really about the power of an adult to help a child rewrite the way the story they are living can go. It's about understanding the way trauma changes brains and how brains can heal when needs are met. It's about my journey as a momma to kids from foster care. It's about my journey as a teacher and learning to love those who are hardest to love.

It's a call to action. We need more adults turning darkness to light. This little book does just that.

It's a professional book, but it's also a memoir and a persuasive essay and some parts even dance a little like poetry. It's skinny and only takes a few hours to read.


You'll laugh.
You'll shake your head.
You'll want to do something different.

(You might want to have a tissue or two handy.)

This is the best I have to offer the world. 

I want to just give it away, but apparently publishers frown on this.

So I collected bits of it -- the intro and a chapter or two from each of the three parts -- and put it together in a little PDF. I'd love if you'd like to read the preview.

I imagine you snuggled in with my words and a mug of something warm. You can imagine me as I wrote it. Typically I'm under a quilt and it is black outside. In the wee morning hours, there's a cup of sweet coffee steaming next to me and when it's past bedtime, there's ice water on the bedside table.

I wrote it in the thick of the mess of life. I wrote it when things were too hard. I wrote it when I didn't have time...

Because this story matters...
Because we have the power to heal children from hard places...
Because educators might be the last hope for healing...
Because we can turn darkness to light.

Shoot me your email address in the box below, and I'll send you the preview copy. Click here if you want more information about the book.

Share your celebrations below!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

STEADFAST {CELEBRATE This Week: 207}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******


I love The Giving Keys. It's a company dedicated to fighting homelessness. They give jobs to people, because a good job is the best way to break the cycle of generational poverty and homelessness. They are a pay it forward company, always looking to make the world a little better through people and their products. 

The first key I bought was for my friend Kim when she retired from education. Kim and I shared a love for kitschy jewelry. We liked things with whimsy and the more offbeat, the better for both of us. Kim was also a realtor. A Giving Key was the perfect gift. I bought her one with INSPIRE imprinted on it because of the inspiration she was to me as a mom, educator and business woman. At the same time I bought myself one with the word LOVE. 

When you get a Giving Key you are encouraged to live your word until you meet someone who needs it more than you do. Then you pay it forward by giving your key to the person who needs it. 


I gave BELIEVE away last May to Monica, a person who invested in my daughter's life for 9 months. During that time, I was called to BELIEVE healing could happen. Monica was a key person in her healing. I like to think about Monica wearing BELIEVE around her neck and knowing that even though it's hard to bring light to dark places, she is capable of turning the course of lives.

Last week I gave away STEADFAST. If I'm honest, I wasn't planning to give away STEADFAST. It's my word for the year, so I expected to hold on to it. I didn't want to give it away. But when life got hairy and my friend Jasmine needed to cancel our get together, I knew it was time to send STEADFAST out into the world.

I kept wearing STEADFAST around my neck. I like the kitschy-ness of it. I like that it reminds me of Kim and the way she used to shake her key at me when I was wearing mine at the same time. I like the way I pray differently and live out the word when it travels with me all day.

A key gets real heavy around a neck, when you know it's supposed to be passed along and you're holding tight to it instead. I supposed this is true for most things, not just keys.

I saw Jas a few days later. I was beginning to feel like a thief, wearing her key around my neck. It was time to give STEADFAST away. And then I got all embarrassed. 

Why does this happen to me when I'm about to lean into love in a big, bold way? 

I did it anyway, mostly because I don't like the feeling of keeping something that's not mine. Jas knows about The Giving Keys, so there wasn't much explanation needed.

"I'm supposed to give you this. It says STEADFAST," I said passing the key from my neck to Jasmine's palm.

She laughed in her easy way. "God is funny, isn't he?" she said taking the necklace. 

"Wear it until you meet someone who needs it more than you. Then pass it on," I said.

She laughed again. "There's a good chance I'll need this for awhile."

Jasmine is in the middle of fighting the good fight and pressing on through the hard. They just finalized their most recent adoption, creating a forever family of 7.



"What key are you going to get next?" she asked. 

"LET GO," I said. "I'm not sure why, but I know a black LET GO key is definitely the one to order." 

That night, I ordered LET GO and HOPE and BE. Three keys -- I'm going to live them well and then pass them along. Isn't this what life is all about -- living well and making it possible for others to live well, too? 


Friday, August 18, 2017

Gnarled Healing {CELEBRATE This Week: 206}



I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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It's been a week of saying hello to the school year and adjusting our schedules. It's been ten years of learning to adjust from summer to school year with our kids. It's typically a rocky transition. Change isn't easy for kids who spend their early years in hard places. 

This year has been the greatest transition ever. It follows the greatest summer we've experienced since adopting kids from foster care. I am so grateful.

We had family pictures taken by Jami Stichter. She's a former student, making these special pictures even more dear to my heart.



I love them. 

I've been scrolling through the pictures instead of writing this blog post when it occurred to me, this is the moment to celebrate. 




I wish I had the words, but the feelings are too big for my heart, let alone for a text box. You know how you read stories about people overcoming the impossible and it feels so good for your soul? Even when you're in the middle of the book and the story is getting tough, it's still okay because you know it's going to be okay in the end. You read the last words, close the book, and breathe a sigh of relief. You smile and sit still for a few moments, because it feels good to know people are resilient. 


The thing that's impossible to capture in the books is how when the story is unfolding no one knows if resilience is going to win in the end. When you're walking alongside someone on the ugly road of healing, you don't know how close you are to the chapter where everything works out okay. You're not even sure if that chapter will ever be written.


And then someone takes your family pictures and you see the thing you've been hoping for is true.




You see that not only do you believe you're a forever family, but they know it's real too. You see they've stopped faking it and they really believe it. 


Loving kids from hard places is not for the faint-hearted. One day, I'll find the words to describe this gnarled journey, and I'm going to write them in a book. You might read it and when you get to the end it's going to feel so good for your soul.


Right now, though, the celebration is mine. These kids are healing and their stories are going to change the world.






Friday, August 11, 2017

Handwritten Notes {CELEBRATE This Week: 205}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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"I have a goal to write 500 handwritten notes each year," the superintendent told me. I smiled, because, really, how else should one respond to a gloriously gaudy goal like this? He continued, "I usually meet it, too."

I smiled bigger. I've been thinking about sending more handwritten notes. I have this terrible habit of writing notes and never sending them. The shaming evidence is currently in my car. I have a stack of 7 notes that have ridden miles over the course of many days just waiting to be dropped in the mail. A baby gift sits on the backseat with a handwritten note on top. I only need to take it to the post office and send it across the globe to Finland. Hopefully I'll do it before the sweet baby girl is too big to wear the outfits. 

"Over the years of writing notes," he said, "I've realized only good comes from it. Good for the receiver and good for me. Don't be afraid of caring too much."

I'd been thinking about it for a few days (the notes still hitchhiking in my car) when I received a piece of airmail. It traveled down the staircase and landed on my computer keyboard. I paused writing and looked up. Blond hair stuck through the banister, telling on Sam.

I opened the envelope.


Mom,I am happy with tennis. It is fun and I am learning a lot. 
I love you! 
YouTube is fun! Thank you for letting me post videos! 
LOVE,Sam
 I looked up the stairwell and a little boy smiled and waved. "Thanks for the card," I said.

"Thanks for being you," he said and blew me a kiss. "Night!"

I looked at the card again and knew it was time to stop thinking about sending handwritten notes and start doing. The card Sam sent me is incredibly ordinary. It took minutes for him to write. It warmed my heart -- for days.

I ordered 100 notecards with the intent to send them all before Thanksgiving. The next step is a stop at the post office to ditch the hitchhiking letters in my car. 

And then I need to let go of the lie that it's over-the-top to send notes. This is simply ridiculous. Gratitude isn't something that can be too much. 

I celebrate a gaudy goal and the ability to make it happen. Maybe you'll join me and send a few handwritten notes of your own. After all, only good will come -- good for the receiver and good for the writer.






Saturday, August 5, 2017

Small Acts; Big Kindness (CELEBRATE This Week: 204}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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Sometimes it takes longer to wrangle words than I expect. This celebration is an important one to document, but it feels so big that I keep sidestepping the time it takes to put corral some words on the page. I don't have time to write, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Last week I went to a conference with central office administrators, principals, coaches and teacher leaders from our school district. We were a big group and the conference was a long, three day conference. I was torn between being grateful for the new learning alongside school leadership and missing summer alongside my kids.

I was eating breakfast on the last day of the conference, and one of the principals said, "Oh, Ruth, I bought you something."

She sat a brown shopping bag on the table in front of me. I was surprised. Inside the bag was a white tea towel with stamped black words:

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
-- Benjamin Franklin

I was so taken back by this random act of kindness that I didn't know what to say. I blinked  too fast so that the tears pricking the back of my eyes wouldn't escape. 

Cindy, the principal, said, "I saw that and thought of you. I decided you just needed to have it."

I composed myself enough to say, "Thank you. It's a favorite writing quote of mine."

Cindy and I have crossed professional paths for nearly 15 years. I admire her from a  distance, never getting to know her well. She became a principal before it was common for women to be in leadership roles. She navigates the needs of a k-8 building and sticks to her core beliefs. She was Kim's best friend. 

This is what holds the most distinction. I wrote about Kim earlier this year. Her life ended abruptly in a car accident on Christmas day. Her legacy remains: It's all good. I also wrote about the way Kim inspired me to love in big, over-the-top ways, like when I gave love away

When Cindy handed me a bag with a gift simply because she thought of me, it meant more to me than an absent-minded gesture. It was Kim in action. 

It was a small act of kindness that reminded me it's all good

My towel hangs on the handle of my oven, in an old-fashioned tribute to my mom who loves to showcase favorite dishtowels. More importantly, I am reminded of the power of small acts of kindness in making people feel loved in big ways.