Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cousins, Friends, A Marathon - #Celebrate 5/1/16

It is the weekend, and even though most people post their celebrations on Saturday, I'd like to post mine today. Thanks so much to Ruth for hosting all of these celebrations and giving us a forum.


I read recently that cousins are some of your very first friends. I'm not sure if that is exactly true, but I do know that from an early age, my cousins were a huge part of my life. My mom came from a family of eleven brothers and sisters, most living within an easy 45 minute car drive from our house. I have incredibly fond memories of much time traveling to and from cousins' houses for family visits, or to have overnight stays. As fun as those early memories are, it is even more sweet when those cousin relationships continue to grow into deeper friendships as we are now adults.

I'm sad to say that, with the deaths of both of my parents in the last 18 months, and all the grieving and issues that needed to be dealt with, I have only seen these special people at my mom's calling hours, her funeral, and then again, last July, at my father's calling hours.

I am celebrating that the drought of not seeing them has come to an end. A group of those adult cousins gathered at a Mexican restaurant this past Friday. There was laughter, oh yes, there was lots of laughter. There were hugs given multiple times, but definitely as we gathered in the beginning, and then again, as we left. There was talking, sometimes multiple conversations at one time. There was a lot of catching up to do; it was difficult to know which topic to tackle next. There were tears as we shared about health, children, worry about parents, loss, and much more.

But, most importantly, there was love. And that love is both a gift and a celebration.


I took a personal day this past Thursday, and spent the day with my friend from college. We began at the newly renovated art museum in our city, did lunch, and then browsed in the North Market, a space filled with a bounty of specialty foods.

At the museum, we made it to each and every exhibit, making time to discuss works of art that spoke to each of us, and allowing ourselves to be awestruck by the genius of the various artists. The exhibit of the featured artist, Melvin Edwards, is an area we spent a lot of time, reading about each of his pieces, and then bringing our life experiences to each piece to help us understand. I was amazed at his use of welding iron materials, chains, and barbed wire to make statements.

We had a delicious lunch at the new museum cafe, and then strolled the courtyard to discover even more wonderful pieces of art.

The North Market found us sampling, tasting, and buying many things. No plans for dinner that night?? -- no worries! We had it covered with our samples of this and that!

But, as fun as the art experience and food browsing was, much like with my cousins, it was the time to be together that made this a spectacular day. And it is a huge celebration that, almost 43 years after we first met, we are the kind of friends who are family. Another gift in my life.

A Marathon

Our youngest daughter ran the Nashville marathon yesterday, and got a Personal Best Record for her time. She had worked and trained with diligence. And then yesterday, she had to overcome some obstacles along the way - a delay of the start for 40 minutes due to lightning in the area, rain (heavy at times), humidity, and hills. If you've ever been to Nashville, you know there are hills everywhere, and over a 26.2 mile course, she ran many of them.

So, I'm very proud of her, and this accomplishment. I am celebrating for her diligence, her perseverance, her strength, and her PR.

I look forward to this next week, and whatever celebration awaits!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Anniversary Memories and Word Study - #SOL 4/24/16

I love the concept of celebrating events from the week on Saturday (or usually for me, on Sunday). Focusing on the positives of our personal and professional lives is wonderful. Thanks to Ruth for each week hosting celebrations from us all. What a gift to have a place each week to celebrate! 

Personal celebration:

This past week, my husband and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. When I posted one of our wedding pictures on Facebook to commemorate the day, several of our cousins chimed in with memories of our wedding. One of the comments that made me smile came from my side of the family:

I remember that day well. Your wedding was the first ever Wallace cousins' party.

I love my cousins and I so distinctly remember where they were sitting, and how much fun they were having. A memory like that is so precious to me as I think about the huge family to which we belong - their parents and my mom came from a family of eleven brothers and sisters. As we've lost members of this family I cherish, that comment really resonated with me. The importance of family cannot be overstated.

But back to my husband - like most married couples, the road to getting to 31 years hasn't always been a smooth one. Laughter, tears, happiness, sorrow, celebrations, grief, anger, forgiveness, illness, good health - so many stops along this road. But I love the ability to look back at all those events, and know we are better people because of each one. I feel very fortunate to be continuing on life's journey with this man.

Professional celebration:

I was collaborating with a teacher on word study the past two weeks. We were fine-tuning his instruction about words, and getting it aligned with our district's word study parameters. We planned and co-taught a focus study on the Greek and Latin roots: dif-, dis-, and di-.

We had a lot of fun talking about words, observing them, and connecting to other words we might know because we knew these words. Due to state assessments, we only got to co-teach for 5 days; about half of the entire focus study. But one of the strategies we practiced while I was there, was the syllable strategy: sounding out a longer word, and spelling it by syllables. They loved knowing they could take a larger word and break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.

On my last day in their classroom, I was presented with a card that they had designed, written, and signed. I'm putting the picture of two of the pages below to show just why I was so touched by their learning and thoughtfulness:

Have a wonderful week, and I hope there are celebrations waiting to happen for you this coming week!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gifts - #Celebrate 4/17/16

Thanks also to Ruth for each week hosting celebrations from us all. What a gift to have a place each week to celebrate! 
And a huge congratulations to Ruth on publishing her first eBook, Jump In, Great Teaching Begins In the Pool!!!! For more information on how to get this eBook - it's FREE!! - check out Ruth's blog.

This week made me reflect on the concept that celebrations are really the flip side of something unpleasant or unhappy. Most of my celebrations this week focus on this idea of two sides of a coin:

Celebration #1 - Though a loved one just got very difficult medical news this week and was in the hospital through Thursday, on a beautiful, brilliantly sunny day here in Columbus, he was able to attend the Spring Game for his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes yesterday. I am so happy he got to have this wonderful day with his son and grandson.

Celebration #2 - This week began our state assessments, and third through fifth graders took the English and Language Arts component of the test - a two day assessment. Though the math and science/social studies components are still ahead of us in two weeks, I'm celebrating that now the ELA test is behind them, teachers are really thinking about things they want to refine in their classroom instruction, and different things they want to try on for size with me as their literacy coach.  The work we have planned together in the near future is so exciting, and I can't wait to learn and collaborate with all of these teachers!

Celebration #3 - Though I was groggy and exhausted all day Wednesday, on Tuesday night my husband and I went with friends to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. Man, oh man! Almost four hours of singing and dancing (me!) without any breaks. Bruce really knows how to tell a story with his music and words, as well as entertain. At one point, he even body surfed through the crowd! A fun, fun concert!

Celebration #4 - I woke up this morning and could barely move because of all my aches and pains, However, I reflect back to yesterday, and I have to celebrate. I started my day working with my trainer, and she really kicked my behind. Legs, arms, core -- all were pushed to the max yesterday. But at one point I said to Tami (my trainer) - This is killing me but I am so much stronger than I used to be so I'm calling it a 'win'. And then, after training, on a gorgeous Saturday, I did yard work which uses muscles that aren't frequently used. I'm truly celebrating the good fortune I have to be outside to work in our yard, and to be getting stronger each week as I work with my trainer.

Thinking about my celebrations brings to mind another analogy:
Is your glass half-empty or half-full?
I am fortunate that my glass tends to be half-full on most occasions.

I look forward to hearing about your celebrations this week!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

#IMWAYR - April 11, 2016

A huge thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for hosting us for the kidlit version of #IMWAYR!!

I read several books this week, but I loved one book so very much, I am going to devote this week's entire #IMWAYR post to that book.

So, Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo... LOVED it!!! Unlike some DiCamillo fans, I have really liked, but not loved everything she's written. However, for me, Raymie Nightingale is made of the pure gold that she achieved with Because of Winn Dixie.

First, I loved the quirky characters. Maybe it's because they are from the South - I really don't know that many people who were born and raised in the South so I don't have a truly accurate measuring stick. But, much like other authors (Pat Conroy, Barbara O'Connor, Sue Monk Kidd, Rebecca Wells, to name a few)  who have created Southern characters I loved, that is what DiCamillo achieves with this story. I fell in love with Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly, the main characters of this story. The three of them couldn't be more different, but I loved them, quirks and all.

Second, these characters all have unique issues in their lives, and how they move on is central to the themes I took away from this story. The most important theme being that our strength lies in numbers at times, and how the unique parts of all of us lead to solving problems in a better way.

Finally, Kate DiCamillo's use of words and language is delightful. Rather it was describing Louisiana's bunny barrettes, or how Raymie's soul fills up at times, or the first description of Beverly's grubby hands, all of these words and phrases, and so many more, weave magic around the reader time and time again.

I'm trying hard not to give out any plot secrets here as this book is due out tomorrow, April 12. I would hate to ruin the joy of reading Raymie Nightingale for the first time for any reader. It's just that good.

I hope you have a wonderful week of reading!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tracking my clothing - March 29 SOL

It's Tuesday and time for Slice of Life! Thanks so much to the entire crew at Two Writing Teachers for  hosting this group the entire month of March, and then again, every Tuesday!

As I continue to tap into "joy" as the motivation for my writing, I am also tracking the territories about which I tend to write (and sometimes intertwine). Current writing territories are teaching, family, friends, travel, working with a personal trainer, the quirks of being me. And this post is most definitely about one of my quirks!!!

Many educators have concerns about how best to support children, others have concerns about how best to support adult learners, everyone cares about the well-being of their children (personal families and school communities). Me... I worry about not wearing the same outfit multiple times in the two weeks I am in a building.

Okay, yes, I do worry about supporting young learners, supporting adult learners, and the well-being of my family and friends, but a new issued cropped up when I began my literacy coaching position last year. I noticed that coaching in four different buildings has provided some wardrobe challenges for me.

I realize that this is totally a first-world problem, but a problem nonetheless, and one I have worked to solve. Last year was difficult when I rotated every three weeks to a new building, but this year got very complicated when we adopted a slightly more flexible schedule - 2 week rotations between the four buildings, but this year we can offer PD/ release time/ planning for teachers at a time that best meets their needs, which may or may not fall within the assigned two week cycle. How could I possibly keep track of which buildings had seen which outfits?!

Now, I can imagine some of you are snickering, but when your wardrobe consists of a great deal of black, white, and gray, as mine does, it is sometimes difficult to remember which black, white, or gray combination I put on last.

So my solution - a wardrobe notebook/log. When I shared this with educator friends recently, there was a great deal of laughter. But when they realized I was talking about just 10 days worth of outfits - combinations that were enough different that it didn't look as if I had come to school in the same outfit 2 days in a row - ok, they still laughed...

But, in case you were wondering, the system is working. The wardrobe notebook/log helps track what I've worn in a 2 week cycle and what buildings I was in within that cycle. Does it make me a better literacy coach? Nope. Does it make me happy? Yep.

Hope you have a great week. Happy Slice of Life Tuesday!

Monday, April 4, 2016

#IMWAYR - April 4, 2016

A huge thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for hosting us for the kidlit version of #IMWAYR!!

I finished two fabulous books this weekend. The first was Booked by Kwame Alexander. This man is magical - he has such a gift with words and telling a story. Which makes this story that much more delicious since the main character says of himself, "... the truth is you HATE words."

The main character, Nick, has a dad whose job is words; he's even written a dictionary of unusual words and their definitions; he constantly reminds Nick to study said dictionary. All this studying has had an adverse effect on Nick; he strongly dislikes words.

But all that studying has had an influence on Nick rather he wants to admit it or not. One of the many joys of Booked is how Kwame Alexander intersperses so many great vocabulary words into Nick's speech. For a word lover, this book is a must!

Much like the 2nd book I read, Booked has some wonderful, quirky supporting characters. One of my favorite scenes takes place in the hospital when the librarian from Nick's school, The Mac, reads aloud to Nick for two hours and created magic with his voice and flow.

As a reader, I got a kick out of how much effort Nick puts in to not reading. So another favorite part is when he begins to read Out of the Dust, and by "page 60 the monsoon comes and the book is 'unputdownable'." I love that Nick gets sucked into the story of the book.

This book, as well as the 2nd book I read, deals with the reality of divorce and how that affects all members of that family unit, especially the children. It's a realistic look at a very troubling time for a child when their family splits apart.

This book is coming out tomorrow; I highly recommend getting Booked!!

In my second great read, Linda Urban has a brand new book out titled Weekends with Max and his Dad. I was able to finish it yesterday, and I am so excited for this to get in the hands of young readers for many reasons.

The first, and foremost, is because this book is just so delightful. Max is a great character, and the supporting characters are all full of a great kind of quirkiness that makes meeting them fun for the reader.

In addition, Weekends with Max and his Dad is divided into three sections, which will make it easier for transitional readers to get through one section and maintain the story line the entire way.

The fact that all three story lines are the backdrops for what it is like to have divorced parents, and only be with your dad in his brand new apartment is another wonderful layer. It allows some readers in similar situations to have a window into a world of divorce that is similar to theirs.

Not only would this be a great book to have in classroom libraries, but guidance counselors could benefit by adding this book to their collection of books to help children in similar circumstances.

Linda Urban's books were always a hit in my classroom, and I envision readers falling in love with Max and the other quirky supporting characters in the stories. The good news is that this book appears to be the first book of a series. I look forward to finding out what adventures Max will get into next! The even better news is Weekends with Max and his Dad comes out tomorrow!!!!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Synopsis of a Vacation - #SOL March 26

 It's March and time for the Slice of Life Challenge! Thanks so much to the entire crew at Two Writing Teachers for organizing and hosting this massive event! 

Thanks also to Ruth for each week hosting celebrations from us all. What a gift.

I'm excited to be part of the Challenge again this year. As I continue to tap into "joy" as the motivation for my writing, I am also tracking the territories about which I tend to write (and sometimes intertwine). Current writing territories are teaching, family, friends, travel, working with a personal trainer, the quirks of being me. Today, I am celebrating the gift of travel and time to recharge.

It is Saturday and time for both a slice and a celebration. As I look back on this week, there is much to celebrate. It was a week away at Hilton Head to rest, recharge, and rejuvenate for both my husband and me. Reflecting back on the week, here's a synopsis of all the things I'm celebrating:

Lots of activity.
Having the opportunity to take a daily walk with my husband.
Then, moving on to an hour-long beach walk on my own.
Daily bike rides, sometimes on the beach and other times on the many bike paths of the island.
Golfing - two rounds of 18 holes with my husband.
Only lost 1 golf  ball to the golf gods or alligators.

Wonderful food.
Seafood with each dinner except one - she-crab soup, shrimp, lobster, grouper - lots of yummy!
Publix subs - I read this article (see #1) and this article a few years ago and I couldn't agree more with both!
Piggly-Wiggly - the best place to go to ask for local shrimp to be steamed while you wait.

Finished 4 books out of 11 I brought.
(But I had choices!)
Found a new author to me - Laura Lippman - and loved her.
Many different places to settle in and read - our balcony, poolside, at the beach (my feet buried in the sand), in my corner chair in the condo with a view of the ocean.
Listened to my first-ever audio book during our drive from home and back.

Saw them two different days
First day saw pod of 10 on two separate occasions while on my walk.
Next day, saw 2 dolphins looking for dinner.
Dolphins bring out the kid in me; I got so excited when I saw them.

The blessing of time not scheduled.
Time to breathe.
A gift to celebrate.