I haven’t posted in a long time – a month. It isn’t that I haven’t been writing. I have: letters to my congregation, articles for newsletters, some carefully crafted emails and some slap-dash ones, progress notes at school, documentation on students, professional development plans for colleagues. All kinds of writing, writing, writing and I’m realizing that putting myself out in words in all these ways zaps my inclination to do it here.
I’ve also become aware of the role of vulnerability in my writing. In other years, most of my writing beyond my blog was information based – someone asking a question and me answering, or I was doing some note taking for myself or someone else, or drafting reflections that I eventually posted here. My blog was a place for me to “show up” in a vulnerable way.
But recently, the writing I’ve been doing for my church and at work has demanded that my vulnerability “show up” there as well – as a professional, as a member of a church community, as a person with values and principals, a caring individual with energy to lend or listen or lift up a common concern. Tapping my inner resources for this other writing has tapped me out for my blog writing.
I just got an image of a maple syrup tap in a tree – maybe I just need to get my sap running again.
My daughter introduces me to her favorite new music whenever I visit and we are driving in her car. I used to become nervous every time she started fiddling around with her dashboard while she drove – now she has voice command and I can relax and just listen to the lyrics.
I envy songwriters. They get to write poetry and then take their insight up a notch by putting music to it. I usually love the songs Brittany shares with me. I listen carefully knowing these songwriters are telling me what is uppermost on her mind and heart – she is just using the music and the sharing of it with me to communicate what she sometimes has difficulty saying. Often she is paying attention to messages I have been trying to tell her for years. I’m glad she can hear them from some one!
So, fresh from my most recent visit with my daughter, I offer these thank you’s: to Joshua Radin and Pink, for the poetry and insight you have added to my life and the joy you bring my daughter.
Dear family, friends and followers,
I will be participating in Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life writing challenge which happens in March. This means I will be trying to write everyday. While I hope you stick with me throughout the month, I know from experience that receiving an email notice or a notification on Facebook can become a bit annoying over time. I’ll appreciate whatever support you can give me to stick with this challenge as I’ve learned from the past few years of participating what a rewarding experience it is and find it feeds my spirit in many, many ways. Maybe you’d like to join me!!
I am going to try a new way to participate in this challenge which is to use the daily prompts offered by Write Alm. Lucky for me they are posted all together at the beginning of the month so I can ponder them. This first day, the prompt is “verdant” – so here goes:
needled branches weighted by snow
new growth emerging furled and sticky from the bud
vine leaves bright against windblown grasses
leaves fading to gold and russet in the fall
blades of grass mingled with mud and debris
we ask our students to write to prompts all the time, so hey, I’m going to see how it feels….I noticed Julianne has been using prompts posted by Writealm.com so I’m accepting the challenge today. Appropriate since the prompt is:
C is for…..
Cold. It is cold outside this morning. The fog is that bone-chilling kind that seeps in through my coat no matter how thick.
I finish my coffee. No staying in comfy clothes this morning. It’s Sunday and I’ll be off to the church soon. Today is the date of our annual meeting. It should be a celebration as we’ve been a church in this county for 130 years. But instead, I’m expecting a contentious debate due to the fact we have less in our coffers. While our community collectively wrestles with this crisis, I will sit calmly to the side witnessing a process I’m so familiar with having been part of the United Church of Christ for some four decades.
I know I can be patient while comments and suggestions for dealing with current condition are put forth by the usual cast of concerned citizens, one by one in this democratic process we cherish. No matter the occasions of discord, we always come to consensus. It just takes time.
At the end of the meeting, the gavel is to be passed to me; this year it will be my charge to chair the church council for the coming year. I’m up to the challenge but we are in uncharted waters.
Maybe another cup of coffee before I get in the car.
Recently I gathered with a group of colleagues who will be the new coaching group in our area. As many of us were new faces to each other we spent some time at the beginning of the meeting to connect and introduce ourselves. Of course the common question of “what do you like to do best?” was a part of the share circle.
It has been awhile since I’ve had to introduce myself to a group or answer this question. In the past, I often spoke to my crafty activities of knitting, doll making and photography. But this time, writing rose to the top. I realized that while I still love to create in those other arenas, it is my involvement in words and thinking about words and how and what I will write that I am enjoying most at this time in my life. I listen to others speak and I jot down words or phrases I want to ponder more about – and possibly write about. Plus, I can write in my brain while I’m driving, walking, swimming. Writing affords expansive creativity; I certainly don’t need much at hand to do it.
It has been an intriguing journey to get to this place where writing has bubbled to the top as one of my joys. I thank the community of writers at Two Writing Teacher’s Slice of Life Tuesdays for nurturing this new-found “like.” I started writing on a blog in 2009 but it has been as much about reading and responding to others who write that has nurtured me. Creating my own connections to, or being challenged by, the words of others has certainly given me a rich palette for my own work.
As I listened to the others introduce themselves, I heard about passions for gardening, travel, music, cooking, stained glass. At similar gatherings, I usually hear people mention activities on my list but I didn’t this time, no knitters, quilters, camera buffs. Everything people spoke to involves learning, creativity, experimentation. I am glad we all have options for this necessary outlet in our busy lives.
I probably spend more time actually doing the other things I enjoy but it seems my mind is always writing.
Stacey’s question warrants a whole entry for me:
Three years ago I probably would have scoffed at the notion of my writing blog entries impacting my instruction as a preschool teacher in any other way than as a tool for reflecting on my practice. Now I know better and I know more. While my blog writing has become a proven outlet for reflection and being able to speak more coherently about my work as an early childhood professional, I have slowly become aware of the way my “Writing” impacts my instruction with these most vulnerable and immature writers.
Just as a young writer begins by writing almost anything and calling it “a story,” so I began in my blog entries. But soon I realized that to add punch to my writing, I needed to trim it up, keep it focused, choose the very best words and structure to communicate my intent. So it is with my preschool writers. They begin with the tools they have, drawing people or scribbling while they talk and think, creating a vision of their thoughts on paper. Writing with a big “W” helped me think about how I can walk the tools necessary to the craft of writing back to their infancy and support my immature writers as they begin. We talk about being particular about the shapes they draw, the colors they choose and how they organize their picture on the page.
The way I confer with my preschoolers has changed as well. I’m not sure how much I can attribute to the fact that I am a practicing Writer, but my awareness of what it takes to practice writing has helped me think about supporting practice in my students as well. The best example of this can be seen in my exchanges with students who draw the same picture over and over and over again. It used to drive me nuts and I wasn’t sure how to budge them off of this ledge – especially when I had a difficult time communicating with them because they were a young ELL.
Now my perspective is that my students’ pictures are my best source for opening a line of real communication and oral language development, foundational to their becoming fluent in English and writing, so even if the picture looks the same every day, what we say and write about it can be strengthened every day. Just as you would respond to a toddler who says “ball” by saying, “yes, a red ball,” I have learned to confer with my students by extending their picture story just a bit over time. “You and your mom,” becomes “You and your mom are going for a walk,” and then I help the child add the details in the picture to match our words.
This is a provocative question and as I go back to teaching in the fall, I want to keep it in front of me and look more deeply at my instruction and my Writing and find more connections – because I have no doubt any more they are there.
So tell me, how is it going?
Well I have some ideas but they are the really dense kind.
What do you mean by that?
The ideas that have come to me in the past few days have a lot of emotions attached to them and while I know what sparked them is significant and I want to pay attention by writing, I haven’t been able to sift and sort through all that has been caught up with the initial thought. “Trolling” through life over the past week has snagged a bunch of good stuff, I just need to haul it on board and figure out what to throw and what to keep.
Tell me about something you’ve caught in your net.
Well I went to a meeting on Sunday with a group of artists in our church. Some of them are professional artists, some are like me – dabblers. Both kinds of artists have produced work for our church and we ended up having an interesting discussion that I would like to process by writing about it.
Why is that important to you?
Because there were interesting perspectives shared. Because I had an emotional response. Because I want to figure out more about what I think and feel about the topic.
So start there, start with an outline with each of those statements and tease them out.
Good idea, maybe I’ll find out what to keep and throw from my net.
Why do I write? I responded to this question on my blog with a poem almost a year and a half ago. I still like my poem and think that it expresses my feelings about writing. But my experience of writing on my blogs has made me keenly aware of other reasons I write.
At first, with One Sunflower, it was all about telling a story, airing my opinions, sharing my discoveries as a classroom teacher. My family and friends responded in such a positive way that the blog became a repository for more – photos of my art and essays about my work. Participating in the March Slice of Life challenge that first year of blogging made me realize I wanted a place just to play with writing.
Wake Up and Write was born and I love it here. I put all kinds of stuff into this blog; it is a catch-all for poetry, stories, photos, word experiments. Although I have linked to Facebook, that is mostly for the convenience of my daughter and other friends. I am often baffled to note new “followers” appearing or “likes.” I, myself, follow blogs just so I don’t have to go searching for them on the internet but I feel a connection to those writers. I have never tagged anything with a “like;” I’d rather just comment.
My newest realization about why I write is that it has become a promise I make to myself. It is a promise to reflect on my day, to pay attention to little thoughts that keep appearing in my brain and need to be teased out and integrated into my thinking more fully. Composing and playing with words helps me exercise my intelligence as I work to choose the correct word and construct meaningful sentences and phrases.
Writing with some regularity is therapeutic gardening for me. I can till, and weed, and plant and reap. I feel more alive because of it.
The entry I wanted to write yesterday….
I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stick with this March Slice of Life challenge of writing everyday. I decided to make it a “quest,” as in: The journey is the destination. I decided from the beginning to spend less time composing my entries than I have in year’s past and to just write about whatever was bubbling up in my heart on that day.
I feel like I fulfilled my mission. I only missed 2 days – although the last day was a flop because I couldn’t access the internet. As in the past, writing every day was indeed a challenge but I can state unequivocally that the experience is worth every extra minute it takes to participate.
It is interesting for me to compare my engagement in the daily writing experience from one year to the next. My first year participating in the challenge was 3 years ago. I only had one blog and I took a lot of time planning my entries and writing them each day. The second year, I started this blog as a place to focus on writing only, not necessarily my experience as a teacher but I still spent a lot of time each day composing my entries. This year, I couldn’t afford to do that because of other activities I’ve taken on – but I still thought about my writing each day. I just don’t think I was as particular about topics and composition.
Cannon Beach, OR 4-1-2013
My slices have been snapshots of my thoughts over the month. I wanted participation in this challenge to be like a road trip with stops at view points and places of interest, side journeys on dirt roads, breathless gasps at amazing vistas. Maybe I didn’t get to many “vistas” but it was definitely a trip off the beaten track.
And I plan to be back for another road trip next year.
This past month has brought me some sweet recognition as a writer. It began early in February when I reacted to a note from our district superintendent about his response to the Super Bowl commercial about farmers. He commented about to district staff and thought there should be the same kind of commercial for teachers. I wrote a piece titled “So God Made Teachers” modeled after Paul Harvey’s essay and my superintendent then sent it to everyone in the district and had it published in the district newspaper this month. Employees from across the district have communicated their appreciation for my effort.
Then in late February, my church published a Lenten Devotional which included 2 of my poems and 5 of my photographs. Again, numerous people have sought me out on Sunday to tell me how impressed they were with my work.
But this last Sunday produced a most tender response to my writing. A gentleman came up to me and asked if he could use my poem, Sabbath, in a ceremony to renew his wedding vows with his wife. Oh my, tears in my eyes.
That poem was inspired and birthed last year during this March challenge. So I owe this complement to all of you, Slice of Lifers at Two Writing Teachers, THANKS!!
You can read my “So God Made Teachers” spin off here, my Sabbath poem here, and if you’d like me to send you a pdf of our Lenten Devotional, just send me your email.
Being a Pilgrim by Mark Nepo
To journey without being changed
is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon.
To journey and to be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim.