Saturday, August 30, 2014

Celebrating My To Do List {8-20-14}

School begins on Tuesday and I am in a good place.

I have my "To Do List" to thank for this.

All week long, I have been getting ready for school to begin, adding both large and small tasks to my list of things I need to finish.  Tasks from "make copies" to "first week lesson plans."

As the week progressed, I was very diligent in making sure that a task was completed before moving on to the next one.

You see, in the past I have been the kind of person who has twenty balls up in the air at the same time.  I spend so much of my mental energy trying to keep those balls from falling down on my head that I don't get anything really finished.

The result?  Lots of stress.

But not this year.

This year, I am ready.

That is definitely worth celebrating.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Signs of Fall {SOL 8-26-14}

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for helping us all share a Slice of Life.
Today is my first official day back to work.  Like many of you, I have spent several hours getting ready for today, but today is the day when it all becomes official.

Back in June, this day seemed so far away.....


To help ease back into a new year, I have been trying to convince myself that summer is over.  You see, it is much easier to get back into the mood of school if I'm not still thinking about swimming pools, afternoons on the patio, and wearing shorts.

Here are the ways that I've noticed that summer is coming to an end and fall is here:

* My purple cone flowers have faded to a dull pink.  Their prickly, seedy centers are being visited by the gold finches who flit from flower to flower gathering seed.  (I love to watch the gold finches!)

* The feathers of the Sandhill Cranes that I pass in fields are also fading from a rich brown to a dull grey.  Soon they will take flight for Mexico.

* The tomatoes are ready!  Every visit to the garden yields armfuls of fresh produce that I have been waiting all summer to enjoy.

* The sun is sleeping in.  She doesn't rise until after 6:00 am now.  She worked hard during the summer and is taking a well deserved rest.

* I am craving pumpkin, apples, and cinnamon.  This weekend, I will take the short ride to the local apple orchard for some of the early season offerings.

* Football!  I'm ready to spend Sunday afternoons watching my beloved Packers.

* The bunches of grasses that I have planted around my patio have sent up the most beautiful wispy seed stalks.  I love to watch them dance in the wind.

Like every season, fall offers so many delights to be enjoyed.  It is a time to come back into yourself, to nurture your body, mind, and soul with all of the comforts that have been absent for the past several months.

I am ready.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Celebrating a Summer Night {8-23-14)

Last night, my husband and I went out for dinner.  As it was a warm summer evening, we took his convertible, a snappy little red thing that he bought himself when he turned 40.  (I call it his 'midlife crisis car', but that is another story for another day...)

As we were driving home, it was dark -- country road dark -- No street lights, no passing cars, no light from the moon.

I put my head back on the headrest, closed my eyes, and became mindful of the sounds and scents around me.

As we drove past corn fields, there was the song of the crickets, high pitched and shrill.  Even though my eyes were closed, I knew when we passed by a driveway or house because the song temporarily stopped and then resumed again as we moved down the road.

As we went past wooded areas, the scent of the air because sweet and spicy from the evergreens.  For a moment, I was transported back to my childhood and summer vacations up north at my uncle's cabin.

Opening my eyes, there were hundreds of fireflies lingering above the corn stalks in the fields.  Their yellow flashes were going off both singularly and simultaneously.  I wondered if their glowing lights made them an easier target for predators.  I remembered when I was a kid, stuffing grass clippings and twigs in a mason jar to try to keep some fireflies as pets.  (I guess I was acting as a predator then, so answer to that wondering is 'yes, their glowing lights do make them an easy target.')

Soon summer will be gone and the convertible will be put into the garage until next spring.

That makes it even more important that we stop and savor these last sips of summer while we can.

Thank you, Ruth Ayres, for reminding us to celebrate even the littlest things in life.
Make today count,

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celebrating Things Not Done {8-16-14}

Back in June, when summer vacation was about to begin, I had such grand summer reading plans.  The stack of professional books that I wanted to plow through this summer was at least a foot tall and ranged from books on writing instruction to writing a novel.  I was excited to think of long reading days ahead and all the new things I would learn.

Now, I'm standing close to the finish line of summer and that stack of books-to-be-read is still a foot tall.  I may have read bits and pieces of several of them, but not a one is finished.  Every time I see the stack, it is no longer generating feelings of anticipation, but rather feelings of stress and frustration over my failed plans.

But this is no way to spend my last week of summer vacation, focusing on what I DIDN'T get done this summer, instead of what I DID.  So I decided to make myself a list of what my summer involved and focus on that instead:

1.  Hosted Cecile from France for three weeks.
2.  Went to Bastille Days, Festa Italiana, and the Milwaukee Art Museum for the first time
3.  Spent many Saturdays at the Kenosha Harbor Market
4.  Attended the All-Write Conference (all by myself!) and met and learned from some wonderful people!

 5.  Began using Twitter and made some great connections
6.  Went to the WI State Fair and took a trip down the big slide
7.  Began a daily walking/running habit

8.  Wrote more (Morning Pages)
9.  Spent more time just watching nature from my back patio and front porch swing
10.  Captured sunrises
 11.  ...and sunsets
12.  Went to Great America
13.  Made memories with family

 14.  Practiced being mindful: hearing the birds sing in the morning, seeing all the colors of green when I walked, stopping to take in the scent of a rose bush.
15.  Napped when I needed it.
16.  Spent more time with Jeremy
 So the truth is, if I had spent my summer reading all of those books, there would have been little time for all of this.

So today I am celebrating that my stack of books still exists and all of these great memories are tucked away forever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sounds of Summer {SOL 8-12-14}

Summer is coming to an end.  This is not a secret, especially to teachers and students who are getting ready to go back to school.
This summer, I have captured some wonderful pictures of life around me on my phone.  As I look back on them, they remind me of some precious moments that my mind may have already forgotten.

Recently, I have found myself using my phone to capture moments in another way.  Using the Voice Memo app on my phone, I have been making audio recordings of life around me.

The other day on my walk, I walked past a stream that runs alongside the road.  That day, there was water running in the stream and it was making the most wonderful babbling sound.  I pulled my phone out of my pocket and stopped to record about 30 seconds of it.

Last week, I was reading on my patio.  The sprinkler was running, watering my perennial garden a short distance away.  Again, I pulled out my phone and recorded the sound of the sprinkler.  When I went back and listened to it, I also heard birds chirping and a lawnmower in the distance.

I have also recorded the morning rain from my front porch swing and the sound of my dog snoring as she slept on my lap.  Each recording I make is short and very unique, just like a picture.

What will I do with these recordings?  Probably nothing more than go back and listen to them once in awhile, the way I look at those pictures.  

But they will also bring back good memories of a time when I stopped and slowed down to listen to life around me.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful opportunity to capture this moment of life.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Celebrating the Slow Down {8-09-14}

This week was a busy one...and then it wasn't.

It began on Monday with teaching a writing class for a group of 17 teachers from my district.  This was my first time teaching such a class and I feel it went very well.  I tried to balance sharing ideas about writing instruction with a healthy dose of writing time.  (I'm a firm believer that teachers who write make the best teachers of writing.)  All of it was well received and it was very exciting to watch the enthusiasm for writing grow throughout the day.

On Tuesday, I attended an EdCamp in Oconomowoc, WI.  If you've never attended an EdCamp, I highly recommend it.  (You can find on in your area on this website.)
While this EdCamp gave me lots of ideas to begin my year, the best part of my day was spending it going to and from Oconomowoc with my friend and fellow teacher, Heather.  Heather is one of those people that I feel very blessed to know.  In addition to being a wonderful friend, she pushes me and challenges me in ways that I don't even know I need.  Knowing her is a celebration.

After a busy two days, there was nothing...No place I had to be, nothing that had to be done.  I enjoyed the time just "being." I read a little, walked some, and spent a lot of time just sitting and being mindful of the beautiful summer days before they disappear.  This was the view from my patio last night.
I am going to soak up as much of this as I can before the busyness of life and work creeps back in.

One last celebration -- a beautiful sunrise this morning.
Thank you, Ruth, for hosting this weekly celebration party.  It is an important reminder to cherish the best in life!
Make it a great day!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {8-7-14}

Happy Thursday!  Are you ready for some positive thoughts today?  Please visit my teaching blog, Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, for the Positive Thinking Thursday linky party. I hope to see you there!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Celebrating New Habits {8-02-14}

I always look forward to Saturdays to catch up on the celebrations of the week.  What's yours?
This week, I am celebrating some new behaviors that I am working hard to turn into new habits.  It is said that you have to do something 21 times to make it become a habit.  If that's true, then I'm almost there.

Walking:  Two weeks ago I went for a health analysis and almost choked when the nurse weighed me.  (It's a good thing she was standing behind me.) I try to look at weight as just a number, but this number was telling me I needed to move more.  So for the past 16 days, I have been walking anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 miles a day. I love walking in the early morning when the air is still crisp and cool and there's no one else out. Sometimes, Rosie comes with me, but she hasn't been too keen on that since I accidentally forgot to remove her shock collar from the electric fence one day. (Ouch!!)
Writing:  I have been reading The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, one short chapter every day.  She writes a lot about Morning Pages, three handwritten pages written longhand first thing in the morning.  I have been trying really hard to develop this into a habit.  When I finish the day's Morning Pages, I tweet about it using #WriteEveryDay.  Care to join me???
Reading:  Donalyn Miller has inspired me to read as many kid lit books that I possibly can this summer to prepare for book recommendations for my students.  This week I finished Absolutely Almost, One for the Murphys, and the Brilliant Life of Gianna Z.

Thank you, Ruth, for continuing to host this weekly Celebration!

Have a wonderful week!