Azure Sky


Azure sky

Sunny rays

Illuminate Winter shadows


Clouds vanish

Flee away

Loosen Winter’s frozen grip


Gentle breezes

Chilly still

Lift hope on wistful wings


Robins chirp

Hearts stir

Yearn for frollicking Spring


Practicing What I Preach…as a Coach


Today, I had fun.  I had the opportunity to model a Writer’s Workshop minilesson in a second grade classroom.  The teacher asked me to teach a minilesson on how to add dialogue to writing. It was exciting.  One of the only downfalls of coaching, in my opinion, is the missed opportunities to work with students on a daily basis.  So, here was my chance.

First, I had to plan the lesson.  The class is revisiting narrative writing, personal narrative writing.  I knew I wanted to demonstrate how to come up with an idea, how to get my ideas down quickly, how to illustrate, and, finally, how to add dialogue.  

My lesson started with the minilesson statement, Writers add dialogue to their writing to make it more interesting for the reader.  Then, I added, “I’m so happy I get to write with you today because I’ll be writing in my favorite genre–narrative.  I get to write stories, stories about me, stories about my life!”  Of course, as you know, kids love it when we tell our stories.  It reels them right in. On I went, “I have to think of an idea.  What do I like to write about?” Yep, you guessed it. I whipped out my heart map of my writing territories and listed a few. “I love to write about my dog, but I know some of you heard those stories last year.  I like to write about beaches…and my family…and my grandma and Papa. Hmm… I just saw a photograph of my Papa the another day where he was husking corn, and it reminded me of that time he taught me to husk corn on his back porch.  That’s what I’ll write about.”  And on I go with my story idea. “I have to think about what was happening and what I saw and what we said.”  Next, mentioning the kind of paper, the kind with a place for an illustration at the top and lines at the bottom, I begin to quickly write my story.  I scribble about 4 sentences. Rereading, I add onamonapia, Bang! the sound of the back door slamming behind me…always nice to model revision.

Then, the fun really began.  I start talking about about all the details on the back porch:  the nylon-webbed, folding chairs; the cellar door which required pantomiming and descriptions; the clothes Papa and I wore, colors and all; the large, grocery bag of unhusked corn on the bench, etc., etc., etc.  I was drawing the whole time I was talking. Instant student engagement.

As I finished my rough sketch, I thought out loud, “What did Papa say to me?  Hmmm… Do you think he just pointed to the bag? No. He said, ‘I’m going to husk some corn,’” and I wrote that in a talking bubble.  “Do you want to help me?” I added to the talking bubble. Continuing my think-aloud, I began “I was a little nervous because I didn’t really know how to husk corn, but do you know what I answered?” looking straight into the sparkling eyes of my audience waiting in rapt attention.

Hands flew up, smiles breaking out on different faces.  One student, unable to contain his excitement, shouted, “Sure!”

“Yea, yea,” chorused others.

“Yes, that is exactly what I said!”  I added the word to a talking bubble by the little girl drawing of myself.  I went on about how I wanted the reader to be able to read that in my writing, how to mark the beginning and end of the exact talking–the exact words in the speech bubble–with quotation marks.  The lesson finished up with, “Who has an idea they are going to write about from your life?” and “Turn and tell a neighbor what you are going to write about.”  Reminded them to add dialogue, I continued, “Off you go, Writers!” My little writers scampered happily to their desks.

Pencils scratched across papers.  The time flew. Two students added dialogue, shared out at the end.  I felt the thrill of teaching! ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Today, for once, I thought to bring the video camera.  I wanted to reflect on my practice, even though I knew I wouldn’t like my outfit with my green head scarf, in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day.  Later, watching myself, I noticed my timing was pretty great, just a smidge long. Time and I continually battle for supremacy. Time usually wins. Reflecting, I mentally plan for next time: write part of the story ahead of time, stand facing the clock, skip the revision on day 1, change this,  change that. I have some good ideas for next time.

Mostly, today reminded me that it is important to continually practice what I preach. What is it I ask teachers to do? That I, too, need to do. Teach, reflect, respond, reflect, change, reflect…


Sharpening Pencils


Grrrr…grrrr…grrrr.   I love sharpening pencils, sharpening pencils at the end of the day.  I love the sound. I love the satisfaction of its routine. When day is done, as I am preparing to head home, I straighten my desk, putting in order all the papers and books.  I put the Post-its into the drawer; slide opened books back into their homes in the bookcase; clink the stray paper clips into my clay bowl, a clay bowl created by my long-grown, then, first grade daughter.  Its hand rolled coils, green and turquoise, snake around into the shape of a leaning cone. Push the shutdown button, click the laptop shut. Push the chair, with its black polyester cushion, neatly under the golden oak desk.  I grab my black leather purse and lunchbox, orange and empty, and place them on the upholstered blue chair. There they tarry, ready to be clutched as I saunter out the door. Then, last of all, my hand gathers all the used pencils, in various states of dullness and grrrr…grrrr…grrrr.  Sharpening pencils. Each, pointy and new, waiting to be used, are slipped into the top drawer and tucked in bed on the curved, wooden pencil tray.  They, like I, are ready for repose, ready to start a new day, sharpened and refreshed. I love sharpening pencils.



Helping Hands


Looking up from my bus duty line, an unexpected sight caught my eye.  A little boy, toddling along, suddenly fell. There, on all fours like a little puppy, he froze.  No tears trickled down his face; not yells of pain; no shouts for help. Frozen like a sculpture he remained until the two hands of Mom, following closely behind, reached down and grasped both sides of his coat-covered waist.  Gently, those hand lifted him back on his two feet. Secure again and without a look behind, or even a casual, “Thank you, Mommy,” he started on his merry way again.  On he toddled, seeming to forget those helping hands.

This scene has stayed in my thoughts as I puzzle over it.  What a beautiful scene it was! So much love and tenderness from Mom.  So much caring and protecting. So much helping and guiding. We all need helping hands, I thought.     

Life is like that, I continued my musings.  Sometimes we fall, and for some inexplicable reason, we seem frozen, unable to ask for help and, yet, unable to move forward.  That is when we need helping hands. Sometimes those hands lift; sometimes those hands guide; sometimes those hands steady us; sometimes those hands comfort.  Whatever the case, those helping hands give us what we need to move on again.   

Coaching is like that.  Sometimes we come alongside a colleague when they seem frozen–discouraged, uninformed, questioning–in their journey.  Then, Coach, following closely beside, gives a helping hand–a lift, a listening ear, a suggestion, an idea–just a bit.  Then, that colleague is able to move happly forward again, confident and secure, scarcely remembering the helper. So is life, so is the role of Coach.

I Discovered a Book!


Have you ever suddenly and unexpectedly come across something that at first seems common, but upon investigation, is a treasure?  Have you ever walked drearily along in late winter seeing only snow, but there, right in front of you, like a flash in the darkness, is a purple crocus pushing up through the winter’s white mantle?  This discovery brings the warmth of hope that thaws the frozen void within.

In the same manner, I discovered a new book!  Always on the look-out for children’s picture books for interactive read-alouds, I intently listened to a wonderful Lover of Books share her most glorious finds from the last publishing year.  Taking copious amounts of notes on this one or that one, I considered which might be the best choices for our students. Then, this Lover of Books held up a mostly maroon-colored book. It had, on the cover, a book with a key hole on it and a bluish girl sitting upon the book. It was entitled, A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and illustrated by Sam Winston.  A bit of it was read aloud, and it didn’t catch my attention.  I decided to pass on this book. “Too plain,” I thought to myself

Later, at another session at this conference, the same Lover of Books, share this identical maroon-covered book again!  “Wow!” I thought to myself, “She must really like this book.”

At about the same moment, a very literary friend of mine and fellow literacy coach, leaned over and whispered, “I have that book in my office.”  Sitting up a bit straighter, I paid closer attention to this second reading of the book.

“Isn’t this cool?  All the illustrations are made up of words.  Words from different books,” the Lover of Books enthused.  My eyes narrowed, squinting, as I tried to see the illustrations better.  Then, exploding like a bomb, “I have this book sitting out in my office,” exclaimed the presenter.

“You better pay attention,” I thought to myself,  “maybe this book is worth purchasing.”  I only had a few moments after the presentation to glance at the book.  “Still a little sparse looking…I’ll order it.” With a click of a few buttons on my computer, my decision was final.  “It’ll be fun to get a package on my doorstep when I get home. Amazon Prime, I love you!”

After opening the package that indeed was waiting for me when I got home and having time,  I really read and studied the book. Each page, starting with the end pages, have wonderful quotes from books,classics, like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Rubinson Crusoe and A Christmas Carol and… the list goes on and on.  There are other wonderful quotes from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, ones we all know like “Hush-a-Bye Baby” or “Brahms’ Lullaby” or “Snow White and Red Rose”  and “Rapunzel” and…. A smile spread across my face as I read on and on,examining “…Sam Winston’s fascinating typographical landscapes…” (from book jacket). Here is a book that lifts up the worlds that can be imagined on the sea of stories.  

And, the best, to me, was the illustration on the last page:
Imaginatin is Free

Isn’t this what we want for all people everywhere?  To have the key to read and travel through the worlds of books, of stories?

This book will be on display in my office, too.  

A Child of Books


Thank you, Bayer!


For Cold or Flu

Doctors Recommend:

  1. Rest in bed
  2. Drink plenty of fluids
  3. Take  2 aspirin to reduce fever and relieve pain

That was a Bayer advertisement on television when I was a little girl; I can remember it still.  Straight forward, logical recommendations. It seems like this advice has been squeezed out of our busy, hurry-up lives.  I wonder why?

When a little girl, I remember, under the care of my mom, following this advice.  If I was sick (which was very rare) and at home, Mom tucked me in bed, brought me orange juice, hot tea, or water, and gave me 2 aspirin.  Then, I slept or read or, the best option, Mom came and sat with me for a while. She held my hand or read me a story or just talked. Having her there was really comforting.  By next morning, my happy, healthy self was back running around, full of energy and sparkle.

Today, no one is allowed to be sick.  If we are, run to the doctor, get antibiotics, and  return to the usual hectic pace without even a slowdown.  Or, we just power through. The malaise, not surprisingly, seems to linger on and on.

Well, today, a stomach flu laid me low.  When you are vomiting, you can’t really go into work.  Very inconvenient to be turning green and running for the bathroom every half hour!  I stayed home, wrapped up in a quilt and rested on the loveseat; drank as much fluid as I could handle; and took pain relievers to help with an accompanying, splitting headache.  I watched some t.v. and dozed most of the day. I didn’t have energy or desire for much else, even this slice. Several family members stopped by to see how I was doing and cheer me up.  I don’t think I’m 100% right now, but I am mending fast.

As I followed what doctors recommended from the 1960s, I got to thinking that this is the way recuperation should be when sick with colds or flu (or some stomach bugs): rest in bed (or on the loveseat), drink plenty of fluids, and take pain medicine as needed.  I’m glad I did.

Thank you, Bayer!





“It’s a Girl!”


These memories came flooding back, with accompanying waves of emotion, as I was writing a birthday card to my sweet daughter, now a grown-up woman.  

“It’s a girl!” the resident exclaimed.  

After a few, brief moments my husband’s arms reached tentatively out to take the pink-faced, black-haired little bundle from the nurse who, all smiles, was handing her to him. Time seemed to slow down, wait, and almost stand still. Wonder spread across John’s face like sunbeams bursting through clouds after a storm as he gazed into the now-seeing, but bleary eyes of the daughter he was now holding.  Those sea-green eyes, so full of emotion, like lakes brimming over after the spring thaw, sought mine. A wobbly smile and tearfilled eyes answered that lover’s call. This beautiful miracle represented all our love and hopes and dreams. How could this perfect, 10-fingered, 10-toed little girl be all that?  

“She’s beautiful!” he said huskily, then added, “I love you.”  A kiss sealed those words–and his love-in my heart forever as he gently placed our new daughter in my waiting arms.

Life’s Little Pleasures


The day has been a peaceful one, full of the pleasures that make my heart happy.  The kind of pleasures that just make life beautiful. First, when I did my Saturday banking, I chatted and laughed with the teller.  I greeted the next teller by name. A smile lit my face as a strode out the door.

Then, my husband and I went to Starbucks for a quick cup of coffee. Before we went in, we stopped to chat with a stranger.  And his two Corgis, one was 7, and one was 3. Strangers connected by a common love for dogs.

As we sat down with our coffee, my husband and I happened to see an acquaintance from work, and we chatted how we ended up in Wisconsin.  It was just everyday conversation about the weather and the merits of living in our community. A conversation where we made a little connection.  I walked out of the shop into the brisk wind with warmth in my heart.

Then, my little, sweet granddaughter came over to visit and showed me how she can toddle across the room now.  Then, “Where is Mabel?” A pink-cheeked face wreathed in smiles, peeked out from behind the table. “There she is!”  More baby giggles. Ah, that is pleasure.

Next, off to the airport to collect my third son and his new bride from their belated honeymoon.  The Florida sun could not match the sunshine that broke across their faces as they told me of their 5th story balcony overlooking the private beach.  Cool weather was not enough to dampen their pleasure in being together or freeze their fun. How wonderful for me to be a willing listener in this happy discourse.

Yes, this was a peaceful day full of life’s simple pleasures! There is a smile and glow in my heart.

My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go


IMG-3219I’m sitting at my hotel desk eating my breakfast. My mind is not here, though.  I’m already, in my mind’s eye, on the long road home. The congestion and buildings of the city thin.  Little communities with welcoming signs invite me to linger, but I can’t visit now, not now. I’m watching the farmlands, some beginning to green up, some still slumbering in winter hibernation, some churned up, whisking by.  With each passing mile, my heart’s song is a little more joyous, a little more lyrical, a little more liting. Farmhouses, snug and warm, nestled in the land and dreaming of the coming spring, wink at me as I pass. Tall windmills, spinning and twirling high in the air, greet me as I pass.  Pick-up trucks and 18-wheelers and passenger cars join my along the highways, racing beside me as if to say, “You’re almost there! The journey almost is done!” Rivers and creeks, friends with fascinating names, like Kankakee and Potato, give a cheery gurgle as I pass.

I smile to myself, reflecting on my week.  How anxious I anticipated the trip, the learning, the journey!  Oh, and it was so worthwhile. I wouldn’t have stayed away for anything, but now my focus is homeward, my eyes to the north.  

Indianapolis, 35 miles.  Chicago, 95 miles.  Milwaukee 65 miles. The road signs, green, with envy perhaps, count off the miles and guide the way.  Then, there it is, Cedarburg, 4 miles!  And, oh, how long are those last 4 miles!  My eyes sparkle, my pulse quickens, my foot presses the accelerator just a little bit harder.  How the miles creep by! Like a snail running, that is my speed.

My hands turn the steering wheel to the left and then to the right.  My foot gently pushes on the brake. Grabbing the gear, I put the van in park.  I grip the door handle, push open the door, glance up, heart pounding in my chest.  And there, a pair of sea-blue eyes look for me, a familiar grin slides across the face.  Two warm arms reach out and enfold me. I’m home!

One of the Best People in My Life


Have you thought about those people in your life who are your cheerleaders?  The kind of person who, when you are with them, always is building into your life?  The kind of person who, when you are with them, leaves you with the feeling that you are loved and important and special? The kind of person, when you are with them, makes you believe in yourself and make you want to be the best you possible?

I have someone who is that person.  Let me give you an example, a little vignette, of what I mean.  (It is kind of long…sorry about that!):

This is year 3 for me in the SOL challenge, and for some reason, life seems to be pushing in on me this year.  Time is a tyrant, not giving me extra “slicing” time. My slices don’t seem as powerful as in the past. Being a perfectionist, I want them to be perfect, but I haven’t had the time I need to ponder, revise, refine, and ponder again.  In addition to that, I don’t have the “Welcome Wagon” volunteers who read and comment on newbies’ slices. (Year 1 was so great!) So…a bit more discouraging. And the 2 slices that are my favorites didn’t really get any comments.  (Just as an aside, I bless you, the “Welcome Wagon” volunteers, who built into me as a writer in my first year.  Wow! Did I feel the power of having an audience read my first real, risk-taking attempts at writing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  Hmm, that might be another slicing topic to stash away…)  Anyway, even though it has been a bit discouraging this year in the “not receiving very many comments” sense, I still personally am committed to writing everyday.  Go me!

With my hectic schedule this March when the Literacy Coaches in our district travel to Ohio (all 500 miles of it)  for 3 days of ongoing professional development through Literacy Collaborative at The Ohio State University (for which I am super thankful and appreciative), I have the added bonus of getting to see One of the Best People in My Life while here!  This person travels up to Columbus from Yellow Springs to spend one evening with me. She travels up and is waiting at the hotel for me when I finish my sessions at 4:00. We then have such a sweet time together, catching up on all the gossip: “How is so-and-so doing?”  “How is the baby?” “Is she already a year?” “Did I tell you the funny story about…?” “How is your friend who was sick?” And so it goes happily through the evening.

Then I remember…in the middle of a sentence…that slice!  I forgot to finish it. I run to my computer. (“Grrr,” I think, as this is eating into my precious time with One of the Best People in My Life).  I quickly finish it up and post it. Then, One of the Best People in My Life comes over and looks over my shoulder, trying to see what I am up to so frantically.  I decide to take a risk and read it aloud to her.

“That is really good!  I love it! I can’t believe you wrote that! I could never write like that.”

This is exactly why this person is One of the Best People in My Life!  I don’t have to tell you how that made me feel!

I didn’t even feel the need to endlessly check my blog for comments.  I am walking on Cloud 9…I still am!

Next, pizza.  We have a tradition of picking up pizza at Tommy’s Pizza on Lane Avenue and bringing it back to the hotel to eat.  We want to have as much time to chat as possible. (Sadly, we can never remember what size pizza we ordered last time and end up with way too much left over!  I can tell you positively that we should be ordering the SMALL!)  We chatter and laugh as the evening is slipping away.

Then, in the middle of a funny story, “Oh no, I forgot to comment on 3 other Slicers’ pieces!” I grumble to myself.  MORE time away from One of the Best People in My Life.  I zip over to my computer, praying I’ll find 3 short slices on which to comment.  I comment on 2 slicers who use WordPress. (Yah! That always is quick.)  After reading the third slice with which I can really relate, I notice too late is a Blogger site.  Boo! That always takes me about 10 times as long, because it doesn’t let me comment without first signing out from one account and logging into another one.  But, I do it anyway because I really want to encourage my new “friend” on her honest slice. Done.

The evening fades with heavy eyes and quiet, “Good night! Sleep well.”

Today is Day 8.  As the soothing water of my morning shower flows, my mind is busy thinking, thinking, thinking.  You guessed it, What will I slice about today?   And then it comes to me like a bolt of lightning flashing across the blackened sky:  I’ll write about One of the Best People in My Life.  

Did you guess who it is?

Yes, my Mom. Thank you, God, for this wonderful person who is One of the Best People in My Life.  

One of the Best People in My LifeOne of the Best People in My Life

I hope you have one of these people in your life, too…