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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.
*******


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.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Small Acts of Great Kindness {CELEBRATE This Week: 203}

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 cannot wait to write the celebration behind this tea towel. Later today I'll be wrangling some words in order to celebrate small acts of kindness. I hope you'll join me!



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Charming Nonfiction {CELEBRATE This Week: 202}

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'm celebrating this book. The writing is admirable, and the topic is splendid. Each time I read a bit, I feel like I've been given a rich gift. I've dabbled in all kinds of writing, and it's taken me awhile to feel accepting of being a nonfiction writer.

I'm always drawn to story.

This book is charming me to all of the ways I can use story to craft nonfiction writing. It lays out sophisticated moves to make nonfiction writing beautiful. It makes feel challenged to write the finest nonfiction possible.

I can't think of a better celebration in the heart of summer when I'm reclaiming time to be a writer.

Share your celebrations...





Friday, July 14, 2017

Why I Still Celebrate {CELEBRATE This Week: 201}

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 written over 200 celebration posts, which has caused me to ask:

Do I still want to celebrate?

I cringe and look away from the sharp words. Not-thinking about something doesn't make it go away. The question taunts, demanding an answer.

The past twelve months have been grueling. Sometimes I've wondered if I'm a fake digging up something to celebrate each week.

There's nothing fake about my celebrations.

I dredge celebrations because the world is dark. 

Dreadfully dark. 
Disturbingly dark. 
Dismally dark.

The whole wide world is dark. It isn't only in shadowy remote corners, but dark is in our backyards, with kids living in cars and abandoned barns; teens lonely or drunk or hungry; dads in handcuffs and moms strung out. The world is dark.

There's a lot of talk these days about grit -- rugged toughness to get through life. Often I consider gritty celebration. I like the juxtaposition of the terms.

Grit is plowing through the dark.
Celebration is shining a light.

Maybe we wouldn't need so much grit to face the world if we took more time to celebrate.

I still celebrate because, as Kate DiCamillo wisely states, light is precious in a world so dark.

Thank you for Celebrating This Week, whether you've been joining in for hundreds of celebrations or if this week is your first. Together, we will change the world from darkness to light.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

What's fun? {CELEBRATE This Week: 200}

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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Sam is 11 and an early riser, like his momma. Often it is just the two of us who bring in the day. One morning he hugged me, then opened the curtains and said, "Look at the beautiful world!" I looked out the window and the sun was painting the sky above the tree line. 

I said, "I was thinking about going for a run. Do you want to come along?"

"Sure thing!" he said. 

These days it's harder for me to get out for a run. It seems that my energy is gone before my feet even hit the floor each morning. Instead of feeling invigorated after a run (or a walk or bike ride), I'm empty and ready to drop. The low energy remains all day. I was grateful for the extra motivation to put one foot in front of the other.

In the garage, Sam snapped on his bike helmet and wheeled his bike outside. I asked, "Do you want me to ride my bike or run?"

He looked up from his kickstand and said, "Whatever is most fun for you. It doesn't matter to me."

He hopped on his bike and spun around the driveway. I stood watching him. His response gave me pause...whatever is most fun for you.

He skidded to a stop in front of me and smirked. "I love it when I skid and spin my bike," he said. "Are you ready?"

I was still trying to figure out how to decide whether to go for a bike ride, a walk, or a run. I was filtering my choice through Sam's decision maker: whatever is most fun...

He pushed off and zipped around the driveway again. I watched him ride with no hands, then circle back and pull a wheelie before coasting past me. He gave a little wave. 

I admire the way Sam is carefree and fun loving. Sometimes I get perturbed by his panache for creativity and the mess left in his wake. This summer he has taken over the dining room and dubbed it his "Inventor's Studio." The table is littered with Legos and cardboard; marbles and balloons. He stores large cardboard creations underneath the table. Currently it is the home to the makings of a train engine. The cardboard contraption barely fits under the table. He leaves a trail in his creative wake, much like Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs. Sam leaves scissors and cardboard scraps; lengths of yarn and fallen domino runs, the hot glue gun on the counter, the mat on the table with paint brushes in water.  Often he is no where in sight because he's in the basement working on his train layout or outside, riding his bike, shooting baskets, digging in the back yard, starting a fire in the fire pit...

He's busy having fun.

This summer I'm fighting the culture of busy. Most days I feel like I'm losing the battle I've waged. Is it an impossible fight? 

I watch Sam stand up to pedal and then make a sharp turn and head down the grassy north hill. He laughter adds a sound track to the rising sun. He jumps off his bike and pushes it up the steep hill. "Are you about ready, Mom?" he calls. 

At the top he puffs heavy breaths. "That's so much fun! It's worth  having to push your bike back up. Wanna try it with me?"

Maybe it's not so much about fighting busy, but deciding what to be busy doing. 

"Sure thing," I say and snap my bike helmet on my head.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Holiday, USA! {CELEBRATE This Week: 199}

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 hope you have a weekend of rest, watermelon and big belly laughs!



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!