Discovering and playing and building in this little corner of the world to document my writing life. I'm glad you're here. {If you want to receive updates via email, sign up below.}

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Saturday, September 20, 2014


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.

This week I'm celebrating connections between people. I'm celebrating the quiet encouragement I've received about my writing. I'm celebrating common experiences that link people together. I'm celebrating long-distance friends and across-the-road friends. I'm celebrating Autumn. And I'm celebrating sweet coffee.


Link-up with your celebrations. Make sure to check out other celebrations and leave some comment-love. The best part of celebrating on Saturdays is it become contagious!

Saturday, September 13, 2014


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.

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine is my celebration this week. I don't tend to read many books about parenting adopted kids. I'm cautious of theories. 

I think when a book is powerful it is mostly because of timing. It's been our experience that 18-24 months after adopting an older child is the most difficult period of becoming a forever family.

Jordan joined our family 21 months ago. 

I'm 23 pages in and this is hands down the best book I've ever read. It has already joined the best book ever ranks of  Roxaboxen and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Book of Esther and Ruby Holler and Speak and Old Turtle and Miss Rumphius.
It is exactly what I need to read right now. What makes it even better is Andy is reading it too. I love him all over again for agreeing to a reading schedule. He stole my heart (once again) when he suggested coffee and cookies be a part of the nights we talk about the chapters.

I hope you link your celebrations below. Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five Minute Friday {Ready}

So there's been this burden on my heart to share my faith and family stories to bring hope and encouragement to women. Sometimes I like to ignore this kind of thing.

Especially when it takes me out of my comfort zone.

You know, my writing life used to be so succinct. It was easy. I co-founded a blog that grew to thousands of readers each day. A book deal came from the blog.

And then it was like my whole writing life was shaken.

Nothing made sense. I walked away from the blog I founded and the community of teachers I loved.

Walking away is always about walking toward something else.

Sometimes you don't know what you are walking toward.

Then my writing territories expanded. It wasn't just about teaching and writing anymore. Instead topics about adoption and faith and family were growing out of my heart.

I've realized this has been a season of preparation. My heart is molded, shaped, and formed for a new calling, a new kind of work, that is laid before me.

If I said I'm not unsure, I'd be lying.
If I said I'm not ready, I'd be believing a lie.

It's time.
I'm ready.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Teach Writers Like Nate Taught Swimmers

My husband’s and my friend Nate taught three of our four children how to swim. Nate was 20 when I scribbled these lessons in my notebook after our final swim lesson.

Get in the pool. Nate was a competitive swimmer. He knows how to swim well, so he can teach in a richer way. As writing teachers, we need to put words on paper. It gives a deeper insight into how to teach writing well.

Teach one thing. After watching a swimmer he gave one suggestion to make the stroke better — Keep your legs straight, Get your elbows out of the water, OR Put your whole face in the water. He wouldn’t demand all of those things, just the ONE most pressing.

Model. With every bit of verbal instruction, Nate also showed what it looked like. He did this almost every time. He constantly modeled.

Give lots of encouragement. High fives, thumbs up, and verbal encouragement were as much a part of his time as anything else. When someone was nervous or didn’t think they could do something his response was, “Sure you can, watch me. Now let me help you. Just do this one part . . . ” Then after the attempt he celebrated with them until they were going to crack from smiling with pride.

Adjust to different personalities. My oldest daughter is sensitive and wants to please people. Nate’s work with her was quiet, gentle, and non-stop encouragement. My middle daughter is the complete opposite. Nate would yell across the pool to her. He was a little more “in her face” and demanding. She responded better to this kind of interaction. After each accomplishment Nate offered her a high-five and lots of encouragement. My son is four and ornery. Nate, once again, adjusted his teaching. He splashed back, did things to make him laugh, and teased more. The encouragement always continued.

Give everyone else time to practice while you work one on one. Nate took one person to the other end of the pool while everyone else practiced in the shallow end. Although the kids left in the shallow end weren’t always “on task,” they were in the pool and that was what mattered. Nate wanted them to enjoy being in the water.

Smile. Nate smiled a lot. When kids accomplished something, when they refused, when they were nervous, Nate smiled. Nate loved swimming and he loved kids. He couldn’t help but smile. Smiling goes a long way and we should do this more when teaching writing.

Set boundaries. When kids did something they weren’t supposed to, they paid the consequence. He made his explanations clear and the consequences for crossing a boundary were evident. Since he was clear and no one wanted to sit out of the water during practice time, they did what was expected.

Give challenges. Laced with the encouragement was a constant challenge. Since Nate was a swimmer himself, he was able to push each person to become stronger.

Give a small amount of whole group instruction and a lot of time for practice. His instruction with the whole group was a matter of minutes and he watched them all attempt the teaching point. Then he called them together and refined his instruction. He never “instructed” for more than a few minutes at a time. He knows learning happens by doing.

Teach the big things first. From a distance I watched kids attempting the different strokes. Although I know how to swim (I was a life guard throughout college), I don’t have the same kind of training as Nate. I watched an attempt and think “Where do you even begin to teach?” However, Nate could pinpoint one thing that would make a difference. Ignoring everything else, he said, “Good job, now this time would you try ______?” He made his teaching important by focusing on the things that made the biggest difference.

Ignore the mess. Learning something new can be messy. Nate ignored the mess. Instead he focused on encouragement and teaching one thing. As a writing teacher I need to ignore the mess a little more.

End with fun. The end of each session involved jumping off the diving board. For the little kids they jumped into Nate’s arms. Nothing is more fun than boinging off a diving board into the deep and either swimming to the side or being caught by someone special.

Give a reminder at the very end. As they were drying off, he said to each person, “Now what are you going to think about until you come back?” He gave one reminder -- the really big thing he expected of each person.

Celebrate BIG from time to time. At the end of all the lessons, we had a pool party. Nate played in the water with them. Tossed them, tipped them off of floaties, let them hang from his strong arms, showed them back dives, and made waves in the pool until their giggles left them breathless. He also arranged for his mom to make brownies, complete with gummy worms. We sat around a table by the pool and talked, laughed, and joked.

None of us knew, while eating gummy worm brownies, that we would never see Nate again. Although he planned to eat dinner at our house the next day, he never made it. Nate died at the lake while swimming with his friends. His heart quit working. The final lesson I learned from Nate is the one that changed me the most.  

Life is fragile. As writing teachers, our work revolves around stories. What I remember each day is these stories are precious. We don’t know how long we have. Like Nate, I want to make each moment matter. I want to smile and encourage and make others believe their stories matter.

Life is too fragile to spend it any other way. 

Find a PDF version of this post here.


To read more about Nate, see these posts.

The original version of this post was published here -- written the day before he died, completely oblivious to what the next 24 hours would hold.

I wrote about it raw here.

I wrote about how he impacts the way I parent here.

I wrote about how he influences me as a writer here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


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.

A list of celebrations...
Writing group
Football gear
Volleyball game
Blog posts
Early bedtime
Late night writing
Salty coffee
Letters mailed
Verses memorized
TOMS sandals
Vacation plans
Pasta dinner
Basketball hoops
Chocolate cake
Extra hugs
Wiped tears
Deep breaths
One run
New dress
Dinner table
Healed elbow
How about you? Link below!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Believe in Them

Sometimes the grind of parenting a child with a hard history gets to me. Sometimes I'm tattered teaching a child how to give and accept love. Sometimes I'm worn out fighting the same battle over the same boundary for 600 straight days.

And then someone says something like, "Wow, I just can't imagine becoming a mom the way you did."

On a day with grace, I'm able to seal my sharp tongue behind my lips.

Sometimes affirmation follows. It sounds like this, "I admire the way you see who they are made to be rather than who they are right now."

My knotted heart begins to untwist. Even if I get nothing else right as a mother, the only thing I really need to do is believe in them.

It is this simple. I believe in them.

A few weeks ago I was meeting with a team of teachers, talking about the possibilities ahead for their young writers. They were quick to tell me all of the things their students couldn't do.

It's easy to be tattered at the beginning of the school year by all our students aren't doing as writers. We remember the mature June writers who left a few months ago. Sometimes we get worn out fighting the same battles over conventions or writing process for years in a row.

So I said, "I admire the way you take students who don't do this and won't do that and transform them into independent writers with quirky stories and big voices by the end of the school year."

The teachers sat a little taller and smiled. "We do that, don't we?"

Yes. We do that, because we believe our students can.

Just like parenting, the one thing we must get right as teachers of writers is to believe in them.

Please plan on joining Christy Rush-Levine and me for the #TandCWriters Twitter chat on Sunday (9/7) at 8:00 pm. We will be talking about all of the ways we prevent our belief in student writers from becoming worn and tattered. Naturally celebration will weave throughout this conversation, but so will formative assessment, inspiring books, and good ol' grit. I hope you will join us!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's Just a Meatloaf

On Sundays, I move our meals for the upcoming week from the freezer to the refrigerator. This way they can thaw safely. In the middle of the week Andy's parents surprised us with smoked pork chops left over from a big shindig they hosted. Smoked pork chops are one of the kids' favorite meals. Of course we gobbled them up for dinner.

We now had one meal too many thawing in the fridge. Normally this isn't a big deal, but we were planning to leave for a long weekend visit to Tennessee. We wouldn't be around to use the extra meal and by the time we returned it would have gone to waste.

I could just bake it, then return the slices to the freezer for meatloaf sandwiches some other time. It would be done. Efficient. Not wasteful. We wouldn't lose a meal -- and let me tell you, those meals are precious.

It's just a meatloaf, but I wondered if God had another plan for it. As I've been trying to deepen my understanding of the authority of Christ, I'm convicted that God not only cares about the details in life, but He is in charge of them too.

I could take care of the issue. The meatloaf would be safely returned to my freezer so I could use it another time.

It's just a meatloaf, but what if there's a bigger picture than my dinner table? So I gave it to God. "Here's an extra meatloaf. I'm sure you can use it."

I know it's just a meatloaf, but as time marched through the day, I was expectant. I was sure that at any moment my path was going to cross with someone in need of a meatloaf.

I also knew I didn't need to search or corral or hunt down a meatloaf needing person. God was in charge of that. I simply needed to be ready for the opportunity to give away a meatloaf.

Near the end of the school day I was talking with a new teacher at my school. "What are you doing after school today?"

"I need to go home and take a meal to the church for a family."

The teacher is also a friend of mine. We live in the same town and she drives past my house on her way home. I poked a little more. "Do you have it made already or do you still need to make something?"

She smiled, "I know I'm making baked beans and blueberry muffins."

"Do you need a meatloaf?"

She laughed. "Do you have one to give away?"

I grinned. It's just a meatloaf, but it made a big difference in that moment.

And it makes me wonder, if God can use just a meatloaf, what could he do with a life totally surrendered to His authority?

Saturday, August 30, 2014


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.

Happy holiday weekend!
 I love questions. I ask a lot of questions, and have learned over the years this can be unsettling to people. But once you know me, you know I'm not trying to intimidate, I just think in questions.

This week I'm celebrating some of the questions rolling around my brain.

  1. Beyond notebook decorating day, how do writers take ownership of their notebooks? Once we open the covers, how do the pages fill up with meaning and purpose for a whole entire classroom of unique and independent writers?
  2. How can I help teachers believe in their students?
  3. How does organizing cross country pasta dinners and running kids and cleaning and laundry and running kids some more add up to my big dream of being a writer about faith and adoption and parenting?
  4. What does it mean to be under the authority of Christ?
  5. Should I put just one color of mums in my planters or a variety of colors?
  6. How do I love more when I'm exhausted and annoyed?
  7. What does it look like when "love does" in my corner of the world?
  8. What kind of system will allow me to document my conversations and remind me to follow up with people?
  9. What kind of commitment do I want to make to social media?
  10. How can Story connect home and school lives? How can I be the fuel for starting these connections.
I'm looking forward to celebrating with you today. Happy Saturday!