Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

Monday, July 15, 2013

You Teach Writing by Writing. Brilliant!

Today I sat down to write so I could post on the Teachers Write website. I was coerced into joining this online writing class by my colleague, Andrea Page, who has already written a book, belongs to a writing group, and is regularly encouraging me to write. She knows I have a story I could write. I am not so sure. I love to write though and through the process of signing up for the class started to blog. So, if you come to my blog and see just a few posts, don't abandon me like you would a boring book. Stick around long enough to give me chance. I am still figuring out this medium.

I purchased an e-book last week for my Kindle, Blog It by Molly Green, that I thought might help me with this process. If she were reading my blog right now, she would know which chapters I have already read! I believe there is much I need to learn as I venture into the land of blogging.  With Molly by my side, I feel braver already!

I am still not sure though, if I really have things to say that others will like to read. In my 6th grade classroom, I often model quick writes for them. They seem truly surprised that I can sit down in the time it takes them to sharpen their pencils, get out their journals, dream up an idea and have two pages of text already written. I write as they write and always finish first.

Bandit "Houdini Dog"
They often ask me to write about the stories I tell them. I had several to tell about our Houdini Dog who is able to escape from any and all kennels known to mankind given enough time and, perhaps, the added incentive of a scary thunderstorm.

 I regularly tell them about the mishaps that often occurred in classes before them. Hence the advice, "When the teacher leaves the room, do NOT fall out the window!" This is just to remind them that similar to what  Art Linkletter used to say, 6th Graders do the darndest things!

One day they suggested I write about coffee since ala Nancy Atwell's Writing workshop, you need to write about something you have strong feelings about. Well, clearly they heard me that day! They reminded me they often see me clutching my coffee cup as they work in my room.

So, I wrote in my first period class about coffee and read it to them. I boasted to them I had much more to say on the topic.  My next period class demanded to hear what I had written and challenged me to write again about coffee. So, I did and read it to that class and the next. By the end of the day, I had written four short essays on the topic of coffee. When I shared my writing with the 1st period class the next day, they were astounded. Incredulous even. Even I wasn't sure how I had continued to write about a fairly minor topic in my life. Well, but maybe, then again, it wasn't all that unimportant.  That was the lesson I followed up with. They needed to add to their writing territories often with topics and ideas because you just never know when you may be inspired to write about one of them.

Writing is not hard for me, well, this kind of writing. But, I may be the only person really ever interested in reading it. Well, me and, perhaps, my students. That's ok for now.  If I ever figure out how to write the story that Andrea keeps telling me to write, I will be ready.  Practice makes perfect, right?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Projects

Having the summers off is a blessing, that is for sure.  I am desperately in need of time to breathe, to unwind, to find myself again after a hectic school year.  You will never hear me complain about too much time off in the summer. You will never hear me complain about the days seeming to drag. But, (you could hear the "but" coming, couldn't you?) there is a certain pressure to summer also. There is a pressure to finish all those projects you put off all year long. Remember the ones where you said, "Boy, I wish I could get to that ...for sure I will in the summer." There is a pressure to plan events and activities. The cruise director position is mine and mine alone. Finally, there is a pressure to find the perfect ideas to use in the classroom next year. You know, ...if I just had this, could make this, could do this, do what she did etc.. my year would be so much better. I call it "Pressured Optimism." If I can just figure it out, my upcoming 180 some days will perfection. 

I am at that point right now. It's been a few weeks of blissful rest and now I am starting to feel like the family is looking at me and saying, "Hmmm, what did she do today?" Sometimes even I look at myself and say, "What did I do today?"  Somehow, I don't think they will find "I read a book from start to finish!" any great accomplishment.  It is though.  If I said, " Hah, I killed the laundry pile -- 12 loads washed, folded, put away!" my husband would be impressed. yuk. If I said, " Went grocery shopping, dropped off dry cleaning, scheduled hair appointments and dentist appointments," my husband would be impressed.Not me. 

I have read three books already. That is low for me.  I usually head to the library on the first Monday of break and lug home 10 or 12 books. Haven't done that yet.  I do have a Kindle. Don't love it.  Like it ..sorta. Will at some point sit at my computer and upload some books. (no wifi in my house) I have started this blog. No one in the house will care about that either. My grown son, Bill, is impressed but he lives in Minnesota and not in my household anymore. Not sure he counts (in that way..).So, even at trying to be mildly ambitious, I am failing in the reading regard. But I think I am winning in the writing regard.

I have accomplished a few projects so far.  I managed to get/hire someone to put hardwood flooring in my daughter's bedroom.  That has been on the list for a couple of years.  I also have just purchased the flooring for a second bedroom. Will need to completely empty that room this week.  :( That is simply not fun and ends up being very much like work. But when it is done, I will feel accomplished again.  I also assembled a shoe organizer for my daughter today. HAH! That included using a screw driver and a hammer. Definitely feeling accomplished about that. Even Ally (my daughter) commented as she was filling it up (way too quickly with her millions of shoes), "This is flipping genius, Mother!" A good day indeed.
The Shoe Storage Project

 I have planned a few events so far. I had a July 4th picnic here and it went off without a hitch except for the 88% humidity... that was unpleasant.  However, I have been lobbying for a while to have some sort of shade created for my deck and that picnic was the defining moment. My husband has agreed now that we do indeed need more shade on the deck! Victory is mine.  This is important because I have another event planned for that deck, an Engagement Celebration Picnic for Billy and his fiance, Erin. That is a few weeks away.  Hopefully, the deck will be gloriously shaded by then.  

I have a few ideas percolating with regards to the upcoming school year. I hesitate to say I am working on them because, well, I am not. It is just too soon. I need the month of July to clear my head and heart from the previous year. I love my kiddos and they seem to love me back. I just don't want to think about grading or planning or evaluations, Common Core, APPR ...yuk. I am having none of it right now. August is when I am ready. August is when I will drag out the bag of materials I brought home to work on over the summer. August, which often seems like a very long Sunday night, is when I begin to sit up and think about what I can do to make it the very best year ever. August.  It is only July 9th. I can wait. Can you hear me breathing?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hamlin Beach State Park, Lake Ontario

Went to the lake yesterday. Well, not yesterday. It was true when I first tried to find time to write. Then I had to stop to help my daughter find all her soccer gear for her game yesterday. Mind you, I had asked her to get it all ready the night before so that she wouldn't struggle to find things at 7:30 am.  What do I know...I am just "the mother."

Our Favorite Tree
But, we did go to the lake two days ago.  We started this tradition some years ago. I love just sitting and looking at the lake. Boy, does that make me sound old. But it is true. There is something truly relaxing about the water with the breeze blowing past you and the familiar comforting sounds. The sounds that are the same ones I heard as a child at my grandparent's cottage wrapping themselves around me.. Never mind it isn't the same spot I used to hear them from. The sounds, the smells, the's all the same.  The water was crystal clear on Saturday. Barely a ripple. So you really had to listen for the soft shush, shush, shush as the waves gently lapped onto the shore. But those sounds triggered a memory of lying upstairs at the cottage  in the squishy twin bed with the white dotted-swiss comforter feeling  totally worn out from a whole day of swimming. You know the feeling when you close your eyes it feels like you are still in the water being shoved around by the waves? The gentle shush, shush, shush of the lake would send me to sleep in minutes. I heard that sound clearly.

The water looked so inviting; I had to give it a try. My husband and I walked down by the shore and I took off my socks and shoes to put my feet in. Icy. That is what it was. I gingerly stepped in to just below my knees. Icy. It was really cold. Looking around at the roped-off swimming area, I saw people in up to their shoulders. Impressive! Apparently, the water temp was about 57 degrees. I don't remember that! I don't ever remember, as a kid, saying the water was too cold to swim. No one ever said that.

This has been a very rainy stormy summer so my guess is that the water turned over and that is why it was so cold. We chatted about husband, "the king of informational tidbits gleaned from the local pennysavers," questioned the validity of my "lake turns over in a storm" theory.  How do I know that? Harummph. Cause that's what I always heard about the lake. He never went to a cottage. I cupped the water and poured it over my arms. Also amazing. So refreshing. No way I would go in any further but it just felt so crisp and inviting and invigorating. My husband was content to watch me from the shore line. He had no interest in dipping any part of himself into that icy lake.

My Brother and his family
We worked our way up the sandy incline to the sidewalk above.  There are so many areas to Hamlin Beach State Park that are soooo beautiful. It always astounds me that it is hardly ever crowded there. Rochesterians are so silly to ignore this treasure that is a mere 30 minutes away from the city.  However, I love the way the park seems to be waiting just for me. Our favorite spots are always available for us. They are all ready to choose to set up our picnics.  The tree that the kids love to climb up into is ready for boarding.  The grassy area just right for bocce? Yep, was waiting for us.  Picnic tables ready for picnicking? well, they were broken at our favorite spot but, no worries...we just (well, I say "we" but it really was my daughter and husband) dragged one over from another location to our spot.

Hamlin Beach Sunset
I can feel my blood pressure dropping whenever we go to the park. The lake, the sounds, the smells, the trees...just all of it makes you feel so much happier. It doesn't even bother me that it costs $7.00 to enter the park. That is a small price to pay for a whole day of relaxation.  Even better? I can usually get my husband to pack up all the food, coolers, and games etc. to get us on the road.  Love, love, love me some picnicking at Hamlin. One of my favorite summer things to do.