Saturday, September 30, 2017

DWP #18: LONG {9.29.17}

It was a beautiful day here in southeast Wisconsin. Picture perfect in every sense of the word!

I took advantage of the day and took one last trip down to the Kenosha Harbor Market, a farmers' market located right on the shore of Lake Michigan in the city of Kenosha.
I walked the aisles.
Took in the beautiful flowers putting on the final show of the season.
Visited with a little bit of nature.
 (See the butterfly?)
Went to Common Grounds, sat on the patio, and enjoyed a cup of coffee with a view.
All in all, it was as perfect of a day as I could get.

I know it will be a long, long time before a day like today will return again. The Market has only two more weekends before it shuts down for the year. But what a beautiful way to end!

Friday, September 29, 2017

DWP #17: MELT {9.29.17}

It has amazed me the difference a few days can make in the weather.

The midwest heatwave began last Wednesday, causing the temperature to soar into the 80's and 90's and pretty-near melting everything in sight: me, my plants, my garden, the dogs. We were no longer interested in summer. We wanted fall.

Well, on Wednesday of this week, fall arrived. The temperatures were in the 60's today -- more like it for my tastes.

I took advantage of the cooler weather and made some roasted tomato soup using up some of the remaining tomatoes and basil from the garden. I think we are going to have it for dinner tomorrow night with some grilled cheese sandwiches. I'll be happy to have cheese be the only thing melting around here.

Ahhhh...comfort food.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DWP #16: REMARKABLE {9.28.17}

This crazy cold-then-hot-then-cold weather has got the trees all confused.

So many of them went from holding tufts of green leaves to having no leaves at all over the course of just a few days. What is supposed to take weeks has gotten stuck on fast-forward. It seems like fall will be over before we know it.

One good thing about trees dropping their leaves is that you can get a peek at the places birds chose to hide their nests for the season. I am fascinated by bird nests. I think they are so cool -- how birds can salvage bits and pieces of this and that and shape them into the perfect family home. It's quite remarkable, really.

I have a small maple tree in my front yard that was one of the early ones to drop its leaves. As I walked past the tree to get my mail, I noticed a tiny nest in its branches.
I found this nest to be extra interesting. Woven in among the usual dried grasses were dog hair, yarn, and pillow stuffing. The dog hair I could explain -- I always give my Springer Spaniel a trim outside --  but the yarn and pillow stuffing baffle me. This must have been one clever and resourceful bird. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

DWP #15: THOUGHTFUL {9.27.17}

There is so much disharmony in the world right now. It is easy to get sucked under the wave of despair and think that all goodness has left the world.

But it hasn't.

I was having lunch with my mom today and she told me a story about her trip to Home Depot yesterday.

As with many new-to-you homes, there are some renovations that need to be done when you move in. One thing that needed to be replaced was the toilet in the master bathroom.

My mom went to Home Depot, found the toilet she wanted, found someone to help her put the very large, very heavy box onto a cart.  She paid for it, pulled her car up, and got assistance from a very young, very skinny young stockman to help load it in her car.

Now my mom drives a regular car with a regular-sized trunk. The box did not want to fit and there was nothing the young man could do to make it so.

As my mom and this young man were trying to figure out what to do, a older man exited the store and saw their dilemma. He stopped and offered to deliver the toilet with his truck. My mom was about to take him up on the offer when another man exited the store and offered his help. He said he knew how to get the toilet in the trunk and with a few turns of the box, he made it happen. My mom set off for home with her new toilet. When she arrived home, a neighbor helped her finagle it out of the trunk and put it in the garage for the plumber.

The thoughtfulness of these three  people made a hard job much easier for my mom. I'm happy there are people in this world who still offer to help when there is nothing in it for them.

It made my mom's day and it made mine too.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DWP #14/SOL: VOICE {9.26.17}

"Hi, mama."

My daughter's voice came through the phone. It is 7:20 in the morning, the time she calls every day to say good morning.

Since leaving for college four weeks ago, she calls me at least twice a day, once to say good morning and the other time to tell me about her day and say goodnight. There's also the occasional call in the middle of the day as she waits for a bus or is walking to class. I probably talk to her more now than I did when she was living upstairs in her bedroom.

My son, on the other hand, calls about twice a week. During our calls, he fills me in on how classes are going, what tests he has coming up, how marching band is going, and how busy, busy, busy he is.

Either way, hearing their voices over the phone makes me miss them a little less.

This past weekend, we went to visit them at school. (They both attend the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.) As we were taking an off-campus excursion to the IKEA, I took a moment to practice the mindfulness I've been working so hard on lately and just listened, really listened, to their voices chatting away with each other in the back seat. I tried to memorize the sounds of their voices, locking their words into my mind and heart for the time when we are apart.

Monday, September 25, 2017

DWP #13: RED {9.25.17}

My son has red hair. He's the only one in our family who does, which I think is pretty cool.
Growing up, he was pretty sensitive to this trait that made him different from most people. He was called a lot of names and teased for his red hair. Over time, he has come to accept his unique hair color and has even discovered some interesting facts about redheads.

Did you know...

  • Only 2% of people in the world have red hair? (USA Today
  • Redheads are more sensitive to pain? They often require extra anesthesia when having surgery or dental work. (USA Today
  • Redheads don't usually go grey? Their hair just fades or turns lighter. (USA Today)
  • Redheads are more likely to be left handed than people of other hair color? (MSN)
  • Ancient Greeks considered redheads to be vampires? (MSN)

Adding to my son's uniqueness is not only his red hair, but he also has dichromatic eye color -- one is hazel and the other is grey.  (We were not able to find any interesting facts about this combination, probably because it is soooo rare.)
We love his red hair and we love him!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

DWP #12: SHARE {9.24.17}

The mother’s patience was getting short.

Her two teenagers were fighting like young puppies. One would take a nip at the other with some snide comment then that one would respond with a paw to the side of the head with a biting response. This went on an on throughout dinner.

She could hardly take it anymore. 

“That’s enough you two,” the mother snapped at her kids. “I’ve had it with all this hate talk between the both of you.”

The kids, who had become oblivious to their mother even being in the room, paused and turned to look at her.

“I've had it. You are brother and sister. You are supposed to LOVE each other. All of this name calling is driving me crazy. I want to hear some sweetness for once." The mother paused to think before continuing,  "I want you to each share something you like about each other,” the mother ordered. 

Both of the kids' faces went blank.

“You want us to do what?” the daughter asked.

“I want you to say something nice to each other for a change. A compliment.”  A long pause.  “Now!”

Both kids just stared back at their mother.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll go first,” said the mom. “T, I think you take really good care of your friends. They know they can count on you.” The daughter smiled back at her mother.  "J, I think you have an amazing work ethic. You are not afraid of hard work and you’ve set high goals for yourself.” The son smiled, but looked down. “Now it’s your turn to share.”

Silence again.

Then the daughter, who enjoyed trying to one-up her brother, went first.

“Okaaaayyyy….I like it when you help me with physics. You know that it’s hard for me and you explain it in a way that makes sense. I appreciate that.” The daughter smiled at her brother for the first time all day. Her brother rolled his eyes.

“Okay, J, your turn,” the mother nudged the son to return a compliment.

The son sat in his chair, purposefully examining the tabletop when a sly smile came across his face.

“I’ve got one you're gonna like:  You don’t smell,” he blurted out at his sister, smiling widely at her.

“Mom! That’s not a compliment! He didn’t share something nice,” the daughter shrieked at her mom.

Now it was mom's turn to roll her eyes.

“J….let’s go. Give your sister a compliment.”

More silence and more examining the tabletop.

“You are really patient with me when I’m such a bonehead,” the son shared with his sister.

The sister smiled at her brother, amazed that he could actually come up with a compliment. 

“Well, I’ve had lots of practice,” she returned quickly, sparking the next round of arguing.

The mother then shared with them that they were now invited to spend the rest of their afternoon in their bedrooms. She would have peace at last.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

DWP #11: REFUSE {9.23.17}

Summer Lives On

Eighty-nine degrees--too hot!
Summer's time is up
yet she refuses to go.

Today's writing is short. I am traveling today, but refuse to let my daily writing chain break. I am up to writing 11 days in a row. As the days stack upon each other, I am feeling the excitement of turning to the page every day. Some days the writing comes easy. Other days, it challenges me. The important thing is that I keep answering.

Friday, September 22, 2017

DWP #10: GRAIN {9.22.17}

Dear Mother Nature,

I think you may be a bit confused.

It is September 22.

On September 22, we should expect to put on a light jacket to visit the apple orchard.

On September 22, we should be soaking in the beautiful landscape of green leaves changing to red, yellow and orange.

On September 22, we should pass fields of golden grain, waving in the breeze.

On September 22, we should NOT be wearing shorts while we are sitting inside in the air conditioning because it is too hot to go outside.

On September 22, we should NOT see trees losing their leaves already or see fields empty of their grain because the farmers have already harvested it from an early ripening.

On September 22, we should NOT be thinking of cooking dinner on the grill because it's too hot to turn on the oven to make the comfort foods we so desire.

I'm not sure what you're thinking, Mother Nature.

This is Wisconsin.

Please bring back fall.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

DWP #9: CAREFUL {9.21.17}

Mistakes are how we learn.

Thanks to the growth mindset framework of recent years, we are learning to embrace the messiness of learning in favor of stretching and trying new things then reflecting on the outcomes.

But how do you help a student who is too careful and will do anything in her power to avoid making a mistake?

The one who works so painstakingly slow that she has homework every night because she didn't finish in class?

The one who doesn't want to try new things?

I've had a few students like this in some of my classes of years past.

Heck, I was this student when I was younger.

(Oh, how I wish growth mindset existed when I was a student.)

Sure, doing careful work is important. But so is putting yourself out there and trying new things.

As I grow older, I am learning to embrace this and to teach my own children the value of reflection in their learning, whether these be classroom lessons or life lessons.

It is a work in progress.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

DWP #8: QUAINT {9.20.17}

The She Shed

Out beyond the grassy expanse
and just inside the tall oak trees
surrounded by flaming sumac bushes
sits a shed
that time forgot.

Walking past the sandbox
and the swing set
whose swings have sat empty for years
he leads her there
hand in hand
to that shed
that time forgot.

The late day sun
cast bright rays through the tall oaks
dancing off the panes
of two square windows
that sat beside the door
of that shed
that time forgot.

But the door --
that door.
What once was brown
is now bathed in royal amethyst,
standing in contrast to the golden yellow walls
and white rails.

A trailing vine of red roses
snake up a side trellis
to the top of the roof
where it reaches toward the sun.

How could this be that shed
that time forgot?

This place --
forgotten, neglected and worn
was now a quaint little hideaway
he made just for her.
"A room of your own,"
he says to her
as she pushes the door wide
and takes it all in.

This shed she will never forget.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

DWP #7: BUBBLE {9.19.17}

I am new to meditation, but it is something I'm trying very hard to include in my day.

I've heard a lot about the benefits of meditation: improved focus and creativity, lower blood pressure, increased sense of well-being, stronger immunity.....I could go on and on.

Some days of my meditation practice are easier than others. Other days, I can't keep my mind from going on a scavenger hunt. Instead of focusing on the breath, I find myself thinking about what I'm going to make for dinner, what someone said to me yesterday, when the last time was that I checked social media, and a million other things all at once.

This was definitely NOT meditating.

But the longer I practice, the more I learn that this "monkey mind" behavior is normal. The important part of meditation is being able to notice that your mind has wandered and bring it back to focusing on the breath.

At first, I struggled with this. Then I learned to think of each thought as a bubble and to visualize that thought bubble floating away, out of my reach.

And it worked!

So now when I meditate and notice my mind has wandered, I place that thought into a shiny bubble and watch it float away.

Monday, September 18, 2017

DWP #6: DELIVER {9.18.17}

It's been a long time since I've written a letter to be mailed.

With the advent of email, voicemail, Voxer, Facebook and that oldie-but-goodie, the phone, writing letters as a way to communicate and catch-up is a lost art.

I remember when I was a kid, I would write a letter to my grandfather who lived in Michigan. Putting a stamp on an envelope was a lot cheaper than calling him on the phone (that charged by the minute). He never wrote back, but I didn't care. When I put that letter in the mail, I was a way of connecting with him across the miles and it made me miss him a little less.

Now, both of my kids are away at college and I have found myself writing letters again. I talk to them both on the phone regularly (sometimes many times a day), but nothing beats going to your mailbox and finding a letter has been delivered.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

DWP #5: UNITE {9.17.17}

When I started the Daily Writing Project (DWP) a mere five days ago, I had no idea the response I would get.

I started the DWP because I needed a way to be accountable for returning to the page every day. I had fallen away from my daily writing (due to the 'busyness' of life and other lame excuses...) and wanted to get back at it.

Sharing my daily writing online was a way to be held accountable, even if only to myself.

Inviting others to join me on the DWP journey was a way maybe help others write every day and even build a little community in the process.'s working.

Others have contacted me and told me that the DWP was the spark they needed to get back to their own writing.

And they are inviting others to join their accountability circle.

Writers UNITE!

Looking to join in? Here's the info:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

DWP #4: EXPLAIN {9.16.17}

I didn't think I could possibly explain it one more time.

Our insurance is new.
We're not in their system yet.
My daughter needs to visit the clinic at school.
Needs a medication refill.

No, I don't know my member ID.
No, I don't know my group number.

Our insurance is new.
We're not in their system yet.

No, she can't wait until Monday.

I need to talk to who?

Could you transfer me?

What?! Disconnected?!


You are the fourth person I've talked to today.

Our insurance is new.
We're not in their system yet.
My daughter needs....

I'm sorry?

No, I don't want to take a customer satisfaction survey at the end of this call.
Do I have to explain why....

Friday, September 15, 2017

DWP #3: FLUTTER {9.15.17}

I hear it before I see it.

Its telltale whir
As it zip, zip, zags through the air
Searching for a bright larkspur or honeysuckle vine
To drink its sweet wine.

It pauses,
Realizes I am neither,
Then flutters away.

My heart,
Always in awe of the ruby-throated hummingbird,
Flutters a bit too.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


"A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking
because her trust is not on the branch, but on her wings.
Always believe in yourself."

This is one of my favorite quotes. A few years ago, my One Litte Word was FLY. I thought this quote was the perfect accompaniment to my OLW. It inspired me to believe that I always had the potential to do more than I thought I could do. 

Staying on the branch is easy. I know because I've been spending quite a bit of time there lately. So much time that I wonder if my wings even work anymore.

Starting a new business is not easy. Becoming an empty nester is not easy. Going from working around other people to just yourself every day is not easy.

Lately, I've found myself grasping tighter and tighter to my branch -- my home base where I know how everything works. Maybe I'm doing this because there's been so much change in my life over the past six months that this is an involuntary reaction.

But it's time to let go of my branch.

Time to venture out.

Time to be brave and get out there.

Time to see how those wings work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DWP: Garter {9.13.17}


I wasn't expecting to see it there.

I stood at the edge of my flower garden, the same garden I am in (sometimes barefoot) almost every day, and saw something wiggling in the grass out of the corner of my eye.

A thin, brown garter snake wove its way through the blades, trying to get away from me as quickly as possible. (I'm sure he wasn't expecting to see me there either!)

I let out a very loud yelp and jumped back.

The snake made a turn and slithered toward the garden.

Oh no, you don't! There was NO way I was going to let that snake get into my garden. I ran to get a shovel from the garage, but by the time I got back, the snake was gone.

I grabbed the hose and shot cold water into the tall flowers and plants, hoping to freeze the little guy out of there. 

I told myself it worked.

Two days later, I was walking back from our vegetable garden, arms full of tomatoes and cucumbers,  and there was another garter snake weaving through the grass -- much smaller than the first one.

Being someone who is petrified of snakes, I considered pelting it with tomatoes but quickly thought better of that idea.

I got a grip, reminded myself that I am a grown woman, took a deep breath, and followed the little guy for a bit (from a safe distance, of course). 

He was quite tiny, probably no wider than a pencil. If he stretched out, he was maybe 12" long. No big deal, I told myself, right before he disappeared down a hole in a grassy ravine.

We have lived in this house for 15 years and it's probably been five years since I've seen a snake. Now...I see two in the same week. Weird.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New Beginnings Begin Today {SOL 9.05.17}

Last Sunday, my husband and I settled our two kids into their home-away-from-home lives at college.

With both kids away, we are truly empty-nesters. The house has been very quiet. That's really hard to get used to. I think I've talked to the dog more this past week than anyone else. Luckily, the dog seems to get it and lets me babble away.

These past few months have seen many endings and new beginnings for me. Times of great change. Thinking of it all as a collective whole can be overwhelming, so I'll just take them one by one:

* In June, I left the classroom to begin my educational consulting business, Teach Write. Ending ten years in the classroom was very sad, but I'm looking forward to beginning this new adventure. Today would have been our first day of school. It's a strange feeling not to be there, but I know good things are ahead too.

* A new business means working from home -- alone -- all day long. Luckily, I'm someone who doesn't mind quiet and solitude, but it will take a little getting used to.

* Two kids away at college with huge beginnings ahead of them, but for me as well as I adjust to life in my empty nest.

* I'm looking for some new social groups to join to get me out of the house and to connect with others. (The dog will appreciate this.) Tonight, I'm going to a writing meeting at the library. I've been to meetings like this before and they did NOT work out for me, but I'm going to give it another try. You never know...

* I am helping my parents move into a new home, just little farther away from me. I know this is a good move for them, but I will miss the luxury of knowing my mom is just 10 minutes away.

* I am working on beginning new writing habits. I need to set the wheels in motion and get going. Those books aren't going to write themselves.

Today is the day I mark as the first day of my new beginnings. With what would have been the first day of school behind me now, I feel like I am fully ready to step into my new reality. What lies ahead is uncertain, but I'm excited to meet whatever comes.
Have a "Beginnings" story to share? Link up with the #TeachWrite chat monthly Invite to Write here.