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Friday, October 20, 2017

Shattered Composure {CELEBRATE This Week: 214}


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 the moment when I came completely undone. Stephanie sang a beautiful solo, and then took her place on the top riser. Quiet tears slid down my face because sometimes evidence of healing shatters my composure. The stark difference between now and a year ago was more than I could handle. For all those who are tattered and worn, press on.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Quirky {CELEBRATE This Week: 214}

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.
*******


Andy and the oldest three kids went to the Friday night high school football game. Sam and I stayed home because he's not feeling well. It might have more to do with his bearded dragon who died last night rather than actually being sick.

Sam said, "I could play video games, but I'd rather sit on the couch together while you write and I read. Do you mind, Mom?"

(I didn't mind.)

I've been reading Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal: not exactly a memoir since June. I haven't finished it. I don't want it to be over. I keep rereading some parts. I jump to new chapters every now and then. I haven't read it all. I didn't realize I was doing this, and now that I do, it seems too sad to finish the book. 

(I think Amy might have understood this better than I do.)

There are some bits called:

defining word.

I think I should write one of my own.

defining word

quirky

1. If you feel something, you feel it in
your heart and in your brain. You feel it
too big. This makes your eyes fill up and
your head hurt when your family goes to 
the football game, but you're still thinking
about your pet lizard who died the night 
before. You miss your lizard even if she
wasn't snuggly.

2. People often save things just for you 
that should be recycled because they know
you will appreciate the unique hinge of the 
box lid or the extra length of bubble wrap or
the odd size of a cardboard tube. You make 
things like giant robots and ATM machines. 
You add motors to ships and conveyor belts 
and airplanes. You create animals and race 
cars; machines and solutions. You might take
 over the dining room and tell everyone who 
comes in the front door, "Welcome to my 
inventor's studio. This is where the magic 
happens." Then you ask them to push a button
 on your Lego creation, which triggers a lever
 to set in motion a pulley that turns on a motor
 and cranks gears to create confetti. 

3. You can never have too much confetti (unless
 you're a dad...sometimes dads get tired of 
picking up little bits of confetti).

4. What if, instead of being enchanted by 
eccentricities and oddities, you conformed to be 
like everyone else. Maybe you would, say, only 
wear clothes that match. I imagine you wouldn't 
ever wear plaid and stripes together again. Your 
gym shoes would be white or grey, rather than fire 
engine red high tops that accentuate your knobby 
knees. Also, you would wear jeans, even if you think 
they are uncomfortable. And you would wear them 
with the button and zipper in front, even though the 
back pockets are more roomy and handy to have 
in front.

5. You sometimes get the sense that the important 
things to you aren't the things other people think are 
important. For example, it might be important to finish 
sorting all of the pieces from the Lego bin so you can 
make a candy machine for smarties instead of setting 
the dinner table. Even when dinner is on the plates and 
the plates on the table and your family is sitting at the 
table waiting for napkins and silverware and prayer, and 
you are looking for the remaining perfect piece to 
complete your candy machine, you still don't understand 
why they think forks are more important than the yellow 
Lego piece with the hole in the side.

6. You might smirk at the sky because a cloud shape 
reminds you of a silly fish you saw at the pet store last 
weekend. You chuckle at things the rest of the world is 
too busy to notice, and you never miss the oppor"pun"ity  
to be punny.

7. Theodor Seuss Geisel was proud of his quirk. Let's not 
forget his words -- "Today you are you, that is truer than 
true.There is no one alive who is you-er than you."

8. I like quirky. 

9. Always.

*****

I hope you have as much fun finding the celebrations as I did writing this "defining word." Share your celebrations below!



Friday, October 6, 2017

We need each other {CELEBRATE This Week: 213}

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.
*******


My car stopped at the intersection of Highway 30 and State Road 13. I was at the only stoplight in town, less than 2 miles south of my childhood home. One moment my car was running; then it wasn't. Soon the light was going to turn green and the line of cars behind me would want to go. 

I turned the key. My car refused start. I let out a sigh worthy of sitting in a dead car on Friday afternoon. The light turned green. I turned on my hazard blinkers. Cars went around me. The light turned red.

I didn't want to ask for help.

Andy was a half hour away, plus he was running kids. I called the person you call when you don't want to ask for help: Dad.

He was coming home from driving a patient to the Shriners Children's Hospital in Chicago. "I can be there in about 1 hour and 47 minutes," he said. "Do you want to just sit tight until I get there?"

I might have rolled my eyes. 

The light turned green. Cars honked behind me. I didn't move.

It was a Friday of a week where I felt pathetic. I knew I needed the perspective of a friend, but I was tired of feeling needy. I just wanted to believe I was fine. I didn't want to be a burden.

I know the truth is that everyone is fighting a hard battle. Some of us are more transparent about pressing on and fighting the good fight. I was tired of needing support and encouragement; I was tired of resisting isolating myself.

Now I was sitting at a traffic light in a car that wasn't going to move itself. It didn't really matter that I didn't want to ask for help. I called my mom, even though I knew she couldn't help. "You'll be okay," she said.

I got out of my car.

The passenger window of a white jeep in the turn lane rolled down, and a man leaned out. "Do you need help moving your car?"

I walked closer and smiled. Before I could say yes, the driver said, "What are you doing? We don't have time and you definitely don't need to help her." The woman sneered at me and scowled at him.

"Her car is stopped. It will only take a minute to push it out of the way. She can't do it alone."

The woman glared and said, "You're not getting out of this car. We don't have time." 

The light turned green. "Will you be okay?" he asked.

"No worries," I said as they squealed away.

I walked a few steps back to my car. I chuckled to myself. There are bigger problems than not wanting to ask for help.

A black car, reminiscent of Knight Rider, with the wear of 30 years since the show was on TV, pulled to the side of the road behind me. A man got out and asked, "Do you need some help."

I laughed a little and said, "It seems that way."

"What's the problem?" he asked. 

"It just stopped." 

He waited for me to say more, like he actually cared about the problem. I added, "I'm not sure why it stopped. I just got it a few weeks ago. Everything was fine and it just stopped."

"Try to start it," he said. 

I slid in to the driver's seat and tried to start the car. It wouldn't run.

"Okay, let's get it out of the way."

It didn't matter that I didn't want help. He was there. "I have no idea what to do," I said.

He laughed. "No problem..." and he walked me through each step. In a few seconds, my car was out of the way on the edge of the road.

"Do you have a plan?" he asked, "Or do you need more help?"

"I'll be fine," I said.

"You're sure?" My skills for moving the car out of the way must not have given me much credit as a problem solver.

I smiled. "Thank so much, but I'm okay now that it's out of the way."

He returned to his car and waved as he pulled away. 

I slid back into my car. I just wanted the car to start so I could go on my way. I didn't want to ask for help, even though I could think of a dozen people who I knew would be willing to help me. 

"I'm just so tired of feeling needy," I said out loud.  I looked at the three gas stations taunting me on each corner of the intersection. 

"Did I run out of gas?" I continued talking out loud.

There was a good chance that this was the problem. The gas gauge was a little funky in this car and it didn't ding or flash or do anything noticeable when I reached low fuel. 

I have a bad habit of driving until the ding and then getting gas.

Now I was embarrassed on top of being tired of asking for help. I rested my head against the seat and closed my eyes. The absurdity was clear. I needed gas and there were three gas stations within walking distance. I was going to sit there until I mustered enough spunk to walk to a gas station, buy a gas can, purchase case and walk back to my car.

There was a knock on the window. I looked over. 

There stood a friend of my parents. He was a staple from my childhood. He opened the door.

"Mr. Hartman," I said.

"Ruthie, it seems you have a problem. Do you have gas?"

"I was just sitting here thinking that might be the problem," I said.

"Ron called because your daddy is driving the Shriner van. They told me to come to the north side of the intersection of 30 and 13 because there was some help that needed delivered."

"I could use some help," said.

"Come on," he said. "I have a gas can in my garage."

Ol' Jer took me to his house, found a gas can (with gas) and took me back to my car. He poured it in my tank. Then he followed me to the gas pump. 

"You good, now?" he asked.

"I am," I said. "Thanks Mr. Hartman."

"No thanks needed," he said. "Happy to help." He drove away.

As I put gas in my car, I couldn't help but snicker. It was the end of a week when I was tired of fighting the lies of the enemy. I was weary from believing that I'm a burden as a friend. I wanted to hunker down and isolate myself.

I looked up at the crisp Autumn sky and the white jelly fish clouds. I closed my eyes and imagined a kind God just beyond the blue, smiling down from Heaven. I am not a burden.

We are not made to go at life alone. We are made for friendship. Pretending that I don't need help is as absurd as sitting in the middle of three gas stations and wishing my car to start rather than adding gas to the tank.

Too often we get trapped in isolation. Too often we think it is better to go at it alone. Too often we imagine we are more burdensome than we are.

This week I celebrate the truth -- we are all fighting a hard battle...and we need one another.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Have FUN {CELEBRATE This Week: 212}

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 sent this gif to Andy today with the message, "I want this."

He thought I was funny.

I like taking time to be lighthearted.

When life gets busy and important, the first thing to go is humor and smiles and cheer. The most important thing I've realized since starting my new job as a director of a professional development consortium is to remain lighthearted.

I used to think if I were lighthearted then I wouldn't be taken seriously. Now I just think this is a silly idea.

The best thing I have to offer is joy. 

If I want to be a leader who uplifts others, then I need to be a leader who is lighthearted. The same is true for my life as a momma...and a wife...and a friend...and a customer...and pretty much any other role in life.

The best way to uplift others is to be lighthearted. 

I'm celebrating the truth that lighthearted laughter is the mark of a strong leader. Just for fun, consider adding a gif to one of your emails or texts. Just do a quick Google search. For example, I searched "Mary Poppins GIF" and in a handful of seconds found exactly what I wanted.

Here's to having FUN!


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.
*******


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.

********

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.
*******


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.
*******



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

***



***
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.
*******



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!