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Saturday, June 24, 2017

It's Official! {CELEBRATE This Week: 198}

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.
*******



Yesterday, on her way past me, dear Diane slipped this onto my computer. "I've been thinking about this conference and how last year others gave me little gifts, so last night I put this together."

I hugged her tight. I couldn't resist. I met Diane, like I've met many who are dear to me,  years ago through our blogs.

This year's conference was a very different experience for me. It began with Mindy announcing her retirement and that this year will be a transition year. Through a grant supported by Dekko, the new director will work alongside Mindy for the year. The grant also provided a web coordinator, adding one more person to the team.

Mindy announced Inga Omondi as the new web coordinator.

Then she introduced me as the new All Write Director.



I smiled and brought my composition notebook to the stage with me. It is not a surprise that I returned to a composition notebook and Flair pen to determine what words to say. I ended with these:


One of my favorite picture books (as if I could select a favorite) is Miss Rumphius. In it, Miss Rumphius is challenged by her grandfather--
You must do something to make the world more beautiful.
Miss Rumphius sows lupine seeds.
I find it a delightful privilege to be like Miss Rumphius by sowing seeds. Although not lupines, the seeds I sow will grow educators -- teachers, coaches, support staff, instructional leaders, and administrators. And in a serendipitous occurrence, you will in turn sow more seeds, investing in the lives of children. I can think of no better way to make the world more beautiful.
This year, I was an observer at the conference. I stayed aware of the behind the scenes happenings. I watched, documented and snuck away for lunch with those who make me feel good about being me. 


Today I celebrate a new job and the new adventures it will entail. 




Saturday, June 17, 2017

An Uninhibited Playful Writer {CELEBRATE This Week: 197}

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.
*******


In February 2016 I was a mess as a writer. I was struggling with my most recent book and my editor from Stenhouse, Bill, said, "Keep going."

"It's kind of hard to keep going when I don't know what I'm making." The words may have been spoken in a tone more whiney than I care to admit. It wasn't the first time I defined the problem for him. I wasn't sure what I was creating. Was it memoir? Narrative? Informative? Professional and practical?

"I can't really find a mentor," I said, "And I need one."

There was silence on the other end of the phone and I wondered if maybe this were the end of the line. Maybe this was the point when Bill realized I wasn't going to cut it as a writer. Maybe this was when we just gave up on the book and on me.

"I think you're writing lyrical essay," he said.

Having no idea what a lyrical essay is, I googled it. 

Bill said, "It's not exactly what you're doing, but I think it's close enough to help you have something similar to look at."

I kept scanning the Google results. and he said, "Have you ever read anything by Eula Biss?"

"No," I said scribbling her name on a sticky note.

"I've been reading her essays and her writing reminds me a little of the way you write. Not exactly, but there are lines that are reminiscent of the way you write."

Before we hung up, I'd found an essay online by Eula Biss. "Time and Distance Overcome" changed me as a person and as a writer. I bought her book, Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays, a collection exploring race in America and her response. Often I read snippets of Eula's writing before diving into my own work on the book.

This week I was at a Choice Literacy writing retreat. The theme was Ourselves in Our Writing and the anchor was Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  It was a perfect place to live my decision to embrace a playful spirit. It occurred to me that perhaps Amy was writing lyrical essay also. She is definitely more playful than Eula, but both weave facts and poetry and story together to leave the reader deeply moved.

Decidedly uninhibited, I stopped thinking and jumped into the essayist pool. 

I decided to begin with No. 2 pencils. Brenda (my Choice Literacy editor) thought it would be a good idea for me to jump. She even had a story to share with me about No. 2 pencils.

The next morning, she laughed when I told her at breakfast how hard the writing was. "I bet," she said. "You're going to have to write a lot of the wrong things in order to find just the right things for your essay."

I brought a meager 339 words to response group and explained that I was trying to learn how to craft a lyrical essay. I knew they would be kind with their encouragement, but I didn't' expect it to be so energetic. Maybe I wasn't going to drown in the essayist pool. Perhaps I have a little more than a doggie paddle to keep me afloat.

They didn't have any No. 2 pencil stories, but they did have glue stories. The idea of school supply nostalgia grew out of our discussion. Earlier, Brenda mentioned she hadn't thought of the No. 2 pencil story for years. It only came to mind because of my topic. I began wondering what other school supply stories are buried.

Why not throw it out to the universe and see what people have to say? It's the kind of thing a person with an uninhibited playful spirit would do. Do you have anything to share with me about No. 2 pencils? It can be a joke, quote, passage, poem or story obviously or thinly connected to a pencil. Will you help me spread the word? Please use #SchoolSupplyStories so I can find them in social media. 

Cheers to playing as writers!



Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Goals {CELEBRATE This Week: 196}

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.
*******


This summer I've decided to be completely inspired by Lin Yutang and his words:

“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live”

This is a counter-cultural decision. The world tells us if we're busy, we're living right. 

I don't want to be busy.

I'm discovering it's a battle to find useless afternoons to spend in perfectly useless manners. I'm learning to fight the good fight. 

On Tuesday we were driving home from Steph's softball game and I saw The Sandlot advertised as the Retro Reel for the drive-in movie. My first thought was, It would be fun to get a group of friends to go together. 

Immediately I thought of all the reasons it wouldn't work. I thought of the hassle of arranging schedules. I thought of the risk of melt downs and ungrateful attitudes. I thought of the inevitable embarrassment of rude words and unkind actions that are guaranteed when we are around other families. I thought of the battle that always comes with a late bedtime. 

I thought of the space between what I used to dream for our family and what the reality is for turning darkness to light for kids who come from hard places.

Then I thought about Sam and his buddies. "The Guys" is a fluid group of fun loving kids. They're rare in their joy and their uncanny ability to include rather than exclude others. 

I decided to fight back and find a perfectly useless way to spend an evening. I figured since "The Guys" are awesome, they probably have cool parental units. I sent a text out to 7 moms telling them about the drive-in movie. Anyone in? I asked.

We all have to learn to fight busy.

We ended up with 6 carloads heading to the drive-in to spend an evening in a perfectly useless manner. There was a ragtag game of football and frisbee and kickball. We shared watermelon and Twizzlers and popcorn.

Little did I know we were living out the lessons from The Sandlot, a movie all about the power of perfectly useless afternoons spent in perfectly useless manners. This is where real living happens. 

Just like in the movie the themes of learning to live run deep. Good things happen when you are brave enough invite a new kid to play. You almost always have to leave your house to make friends. Rarely are things what they seem. And don't overthink it -- just keep trying. 

This summer I'm determined to spend more perfectly useless afternoons (or days or nights) in perfectly useless manners. In the end, I think all of the perfectly useless choices of how to spend the summer will turn out to be the wisest investment any of us could make.

Happy summer! I hope you, too, will choose to spend some perfectly useless afternoons in a perfectly useless manner. Here's to living life to the fullest! Share your celebrations below. 





My newest book is getting closer to publication. Check out this free eBook I put together that highlights 7 Leaps of Faith (and 35 Moves to Make) to use with hard-to-reach writers.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Persist {CELEBRATE This Week: 195}

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 have too much to say for a single blog post. So I'll boil it down to the most important information:

I bought a new pair of shoes this week.

They are proving to be wise investment. I was looking for a pair of grass green shoes, but ended up with red...bright red...suede red on the toes and shiny red on the heels.

I bought them for an interview.

Since it's a little bit of a dream job, I decided it warranted a new pair of kicks.

I got the job.

I'm the new All Write Director. 

All Write is a professional development consortium, and I'll get to coordinate area PD for 30+ school districts.

Tonight I wore my new shoes again to graduation.

As a school board member,  I have the privilege of handing out diplomas. 

I loved it.

I smiled and shook the hands of 2017 graduates.

I kept thinking about how it couldn't have been all rainbows and roses for them to reach this point. By the time you graduate high school, you've faced a few struggles in life. 

I stood there in my new shoes and I was reminded that life is all about persistence. In the end it doesn't matter what the struggles were...it just matters that we keep pressing on. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

We made it! {CELEBRATE This Week: 194}

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.
*******


We made it. The 2016-2017 school year is officially closed.

You may have heard my sigh of relief. 
The relief I feel from making it to the end of the school year is abnormal. 
Perhaps it's because it was an abnormally difficult school year.

I'm not sure how to sort it all out. 

I return to celebration.

This I celebrate:
  1. We are together.
  2. We have a summer full of special things.
  3. I'm still writing.
  4. There's still laughter.
This summer will be one of rejuvenating and anchoring myself. I am slowing down. I will scrapbook. I will write a flash draft of a book about faith. I will write stories from the classroom. I will take more walks. 

I will laugh.

It is laughter that makes it possible to overcome the hard of life. It is laughter that is my gauge of celebration. This summer I will laugh.

[My apologies for the late linkup post. It seems we made it to the end of the school year and then I caught a bug that landed me in bed from 9:30 pm on Friday night until 6:00 am on Sunday morning. Still, I celebrate the good of starting summer.]




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Let me help you plan a writing celebration!

Are you looking for a fast way to plan a formal writing celebration?

Sometimes at the end of the year, it can feel overwhelming to plan one more thing. The truth of the matter is you have time to make a plan for a meaningful writing celebration.

I know because I've helped lots of teachers make quick plans for powerful writing celebrations.

Last weekend I found myself with a little extra time, so I began imagining ways I could help more teachers plan an end of the year writing celebration.


By the end of the weekend, I created a new mini-course. It's designed to be a fast guide to help you plan a writing celebration. I pretended that we had time to grab a cup of coffee and chat through a celebration for your classroom. I created a few videos inspired by the conversations I've been having with teachers in my neck of the woods.

Then I thought about the things I would offer to print for your students. I created a handful of PDFs and added them to the mini-course.

In just an hour or two, you'll have a meaningful writing celebration planned for your students.

Check out the Fast Guide to Writing Celebrations. Because I'm trained in education and not in business, there's an insane early bird price for the mini-course.

For just a few dollars, you'll learn:

  • Celebration messages to anchor your celebration
  • The three components to a genuine celebration -- 
    • Response
    • Reflection
    • Rejoicing
  • A process for planning a meaningful writing celebration
And you'll get:
  • 5 video lessons (each around 5 minutes)
  • A printable PDF of the Celebration Messages
  • A Response Sheet for primary grades
  • A Comment Sheet for upper grades
  • A list of Interview Questions for Writers to use as a reflection
  • A template to guide you in planning a formal celebration

Leave a comment and let me know about your plans to celebrate your students as writers. Happy teaching, everyone!



on mission


Recently someone said to me:

Ruth, you need to figure out what you want to do with your career.

It was matter-of-fact, and the directive gave me pause. I couldn't decide if it was a statement of encouragement or admonishment.  Either way, these words tumbled through my brain and clunked around my heart.

Truth be told, they're still punching my guts.

Figure out what you want...

Fundamentally, I'm not sure it's something I believe is mine to do. Maybe it's not up to me to figure out what I want. Maybe what's mine to do is to show up where I'm positioned and give all I have to offer.

If I keep trying to get things right, then I miss the living right in front of me. Perfectionism comes at a high cost. It's why I decided to become a recovering perfectionist.

To become a recovering perfectionist, there are things one must pretend to know. For example, one might pretend to know how to relax. One might pretend to know how to let things go. One might pretend to know that things will be okay if not on time.

Lately, I've not had to pretend quite so much, because I've been learning to be okay with living my mission.

Years ago I gave it a name...
Honestly, I didn't really know what it meant, but I sure liked the sound of it. Sometimes the sound of things is enough for my writer soul to pursue it. I started tugging on the idea, seeing if I could unravel the meaning of Mission Story. I delivered a keynote based on the idea and have tagged 177 blog posts.

Often I unravel meaning by weaving words.

I don't need to figure out what I'm going to do with my career, because I've already determined how I'm going to live my life.

 I'm living Mission Story.

It's not streamlined; Story is organic. It is alive, constantly changing and adapting. It is unwritten. It's unfolding moments making days unfurling into months and seasons and years.

It doesn't go how it's suppose to go; Story is unpredictable. It's intertwined with others and together we move forward.

Because I trust Story, I don't need to figure out what I want to do. Instead, I collect and curate and connect the stories entrusted to me.

The important thing is I don't give up. As I hold firm to Mission Story, I see things more clearly. The ordinary, nearly insignificant moments that pile together to make a day are my most valued treasures.

 I'm living Mission Story.

I believe in this wild and precious Story I'm living, and I know it is worthy. So no matter how blurry the world looks or how busy I think things are or how counterintuitive my decisions seem, it all comes down to one mission --

Mission Story.

I find significance in story. I find magic in moments posing as meaningless. I seek these bits and write them down. This is my mission -- to find significance in story and inspire others to do the same.

It's not the sort of mission that marches with dominance across the top of a resume. It's not really a mission to support a career.

It's a good thing I don't really want a career.
I want to live a good story.
And inspire others to do the same.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Summer Plans: CELEBRATE This Week {193}

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.
*******


Summer is coming and I'm reminded of a long-forgotten favorite quote.

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.
[Lin Yutang]

This is going to be my short-term goal. 
Useless afternoons.
Useless manners.

Because, in the end, spending useless afternoons in perfectly useless manners, is what matters most.

Let me know some of your favorite ways to spend a useless afternoon.

*****



Friday, May 12, 2017

Six Weeks {CELEBRATE This Week: 192}

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 have six weeks until a milestone birthday. I'm not one who marks time according to numbers, but when I consider that it is likely I'm nearing (or past) the midway point of life on this earth, it gives me a little pause.

I've been thinking about what I ought to accomplish in the next six weeks to be ready to face the big four-oh. For me it has centered around physical health. I've been rolling around all of the things I should be doing.

My thoughts were stirring things like running again and drinking more water and lifting weights. I walked out of the same building where I started teaching 17 years ago. The sun winked at me and fresh air tickled my nose. I was reminded to live in the moment.

I shook the should-be's until all that was left was be

It's not easy for a thinker to be. I'm training myself to stop reflecting and wondering and questioning and planning and whirling.

I'm learning to be.
They've not been easy lessons. 
I'm not a fast learner.

Maybe instead of training for a 5K, I'll bring home learning how to be.

The six week plan --
  1. Say YES more.
  2. Sit outside.
  3. Take time to walk slow.
  4. Send handwritten notes.
  5. Cook (or bake) because it's fun.
  6. Plant flowers.
I think this will be the best way to enter the next decade with grace and grit.







Saturday, May 6, 2017

Press On {CELEBRATE This Week: 191}

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.

*******



It's been a week of pressing on and so I pause to press some letters to build some words to stack some sentences in order to claim celebration. In a way, it feels like an act of rebellion. 

A long time ago (it almost feels like another life time), I was a 7th grade language arts teacher and had the opportunity to go to a conference at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. It was the first conference I attended as an educator. It remains the one which has impacted me the most.

It was a four day conference. In the morning there were traditional conference sessions about teaching students about the Holocaust. Each afternoon was devoted to speakers who experienced different aspects of the Holocaust. There was a concentration camp survivor, a member of the Hitler Youth, a rabbi, the daughter of someone who died in the Warsaw ghetto, an American soldier...the experience of hearing stories was moving, but their words have faded over the years.

One speaker, though, wove her words into my soul and changed me in fundamental ways. She was young on the night of Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass. This was a turning point event in 1938 when store windows and synagogues were destroyed. The speaker remembered the sounds of shattering store windows and shrieking families. She was supposed to smash the glass alongside her friends, but she couldn't. She stood and listened. She didn't destroy.

In that moment she became a resistor.

I began learning as much as I could about resistors during the Holocaust. They were remarkable and risky. As a teacher, I often angled our focus of the Holocaust toward resistors. As a human, I never felt like much of a resistor. 

One of my favorite resistor groups of the Holocaust was the White Rose. They used their words to speak out against the Nazi Regime. They were a non-violent underground group of German college students who gave hope with their words in leaflets and graffiti. I like to think I would have found kindred spirits in the White Rose.

It is a lie to believe we must claw, fight and destroy to get our ways in the world today. Sometimes it seems acceptable to be mean back. The world says to speak your mind and be bold. Kindness is sometimes hard to find when people stand up for causes. 

Right now, in my tiny corner of the world, the community is rallying around teachers. As a member of the school board, I have been receiving emails, letters, and phone calls from people who want me to hear their stories. Week by week, the newspaper unfolds more of the story.

I've been struck by the way Story fights harder than ugly words. 

The beauty of a school board is the way it is a group of individuals who function collectively. I have deep respect for those who serve on the Board. Board members lives have been usurped in the past few weeks and it has been difficult to give business and families and other duties attention. It has been exhausting.

The stories continue to flood our inboxes, mailboxes and voicemails. 

I'm realizing the best response is listening. It's not flashy. It doesn't yield immediate results. And it's hard. You want to say more, offer encouragement or hope or promises that things will be better. Sometimes you want to defend yourself or those you serve alongside. You want to tell the rest of the story. You want everyone to stand together and sing "We are the Champions" as one big community singalong. (Cue the rainbows and butterflies.)

Instead I listen and allow stories to wrap around my heart. No matter what, there are going to be people in our community who feel their voices don't matter. There are always two sides to every issue. 

It is my hope (no matter how Pollyanna it might be) that rather than splitting sides, we keep listening to finally find a single story that will unite rather than divide.

Share your celebrations...

Friday, April 28, 2017

This is how it starts {CELEBRATE This Week: 190}

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.

*******



This is what it looks like when I start a new writing project. It starts to prick at my brain. I find myself thinking through chapters and testing lines aloud while I drive.

This week these things arrived: A nonfiction book about cacti; a new water glass for early morning (and late night) writing sessions; and the pull of the notebook.

It's the insistence of the words...the demand of the story...the swirl of snippets that are becoming harder to resist. I thought it would be many months, maybe years, decades really, before I would be ready to tug at this storyline.

It's time.

My new book, Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers is going to make it's debut this year...and I'm going to be writing the next one.

It doesn't seem possible, except it's impossible not to write. (This seems like a pretty good celebration.)





Do you have my latest eBook? It's an excerpt from Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers. (It's the first reveal of 35 moves to make in order to entice kids to write.)