Writing Challenge #12

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 No comments

Holy cow!  This is writing challenge #12, which marks a whole year of challenges.

Nameless

Describe people in your life without using any names.  Share your writing with friends and family and see who recognizes themselves in your words.

Soundtrack of Your Life

Think of 12 songs that represent your life, either in terms of your personality or events that have taken place throughout your life.  Describe the significance of each song you choose.

Reflection

Reflect upon the past year of writing.  Which pieces were your favorites?  Reread and revise your writing to make it the best it can be!

Benchmark

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 No comments
I feel like I've always had benchmarks to refer to in terms of time passing. Many times, the benchmarks have been based on schools I've attended, graduating, et cetera, but sometimes they're just based on life events.

Basically, I've broken my life down into these divisions:

  • Before we moved to Lockport (I was only 2-1/2 years old, but I still refer to this time on occasion)
  • Before I started school (again, still before I was 4-1/2, but still significant - my brother, Alex, was born; kids my age were in the house when my mom babysat)
  • Elementary School Years
  • Middle School Years
  • High School Years
  • College Years
  • My "loser-on-a-beach" phase after I graduated college and took some time off from doing, well, pretty much anything. Ironically, I never went to the beach!
  • When I was working for my family's business (I didn't think I was going to find a job teaching, so I decided instead of subbing, I would work for my parents for a while)
  • When I moved out
  • After I moved back home (I started subbing, tutoring, and got back on the teaching-track full force)
  • When I was heavily focused on grad school
  • When I graduated grad school and finally had time to enjoy life a little!
  • When I started dating Nick
  • When I moved in with Nick
  • When Nick and I got engaged
  • When Nick and I got married
  • Now
It's definitely easier to compartmentalize parts of your life after you've lived them. Right now, I'm guessing I'm in the "honeymoon" phase of my life with Nick and the next big benchmark will be having a baby. It's weird, though, because I've always sort of been able to predict when that next phase will begin. But now it's sort of up to fate and biology more than a date circled on a calendar.

How do you look back on your life? What "benchmarks" have you set in your personal history?

Review of Go Set a Watchman

Monday, November 16, 2015 No comments
I don't often write book reviews, but I just finished reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, and I was so inspired to reflect upon it that I decided to devote a blog post to it.

If you have yet to read the novel, I would recommend it especially if you have read To Kill a Mockingbird. But since I don't want to spoil it for anyone, you can click the button below to read my thoughts on the story.



My Animal Counting Book (0-20)

Thursday, November 12, 2015 No comments
I posted a new resource at my online shop yesterday. You can find it here.

I post new products all the time, but don't typically mention them on my blog. I've decided to change that, though. I think that sometimes it's worth explaining how I would use a resource in the classroom or with a student I'm working with. It could give other teachers ideas that they wouldn't have necessarily thought of. I hope it also invites other teachers to comment to share their ideas with me and any other educators who check out my blog. So here goes!


Intended Grade Level: Early Childhood (Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st Grade)
Subject: Math
Skills: Numeracy, Counting, Printing
File Details: 24 page PDF document

This resource contains 21 student work pages as well as a cover page. Depending on how much paper and toner you're allowed to use at your school, I would either print a book for each student in my class, or I would create a few copies and put them in binders in plastic sheet protectors for a math learning center.

Individual Pages

Want to focus on a different number each week? Print out the page you need and allow the students to work on their printing and counting. Each page also allows students to color, which is a great way to develop fine motor skills, a crucial activity in early childhood classrooms. Printing out individual pages also allows you to focus on a specific number and ensures that students aren't "going ahead" in their booklets or misplacing their booklets, if you're planning on using them over the course of a period of time.

1-to-1 Student Workbooks

If each student had his own copy of the booklet, I would have him work on it in various ways. It could be done in a whole group setting, especially if the students are just learning to write numerals and/or assign numbers to objects while counting. This is the type of activity I enjoy doing with the document camera over the classroom projector so the students can follow along. After doing a few pages as a class, I would allow the students to work on pages in small groups or individually.

This is also a great independent activity for students. If they have this booklet in their desks and they finish another activity quickly (I know I always like when I'm working in a room where teachers have provided coloring sheets for early finishers!), they can color some of the animals or work on their numeral printing.

Set for Small Group Learning Center

If you have a small printing budget in your school, a challenge I know many teachers are faced with, print out a few copies so that the students in a small group can utilize them. If you put the pages in sheet projectors, allow students to write with dry erase markers. At the end of their station, they can erase and the page is brand new for the next student to get to work. The only disadvantage is the lack of the tactile practice students gain when working with paper and pencil.

I'm hoping to have some more resources posted soon! I have a few new ones I just need to get posted. I hope you'll find them beneficial in your classroom.

Happy Teaching!
Katrina

Birthday Reflections

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 No comments
Is it just me, or does everybody get irrationally stressed out about their lives around their birthday?

I turned 29 on October 31st (yes, yes, I know... Halloween! Yay! Omigod, do you get candy and presents?! That must be the best. day. ever.) and I have to admit... It was tough knowing this is my last birthday in my twenties.

Don't get me wrong, I feel like I have so many amazing things in my life to be happy about and thankful for. I have an incredible husband, an awesome family, and great friends. I live in a great house in a wonderful neighborhood that I really like. I have two super energetic puppers who I know I couldn't live without. I have the privilege of cooking a yummy and (basically) healthy dinner every night. I can enjoy downtime in many ways, whether it's watching television, going to the movies, reading on my Kindle, writing, talking a walk, or going out. I have my health and energy to do things.

I can list the people in my life who I feel fortunate to have, the things I am lucky to own, and I can admit that when someone asks me what I "need", I have trouble coming up with a response. But now, at 29 years of age, I feel as if I fall short in other aspects... I don't have a full-time job, which makes me feel financially unstable and dependent, and I'm not a mom, which makes me feel behind and, frankly, a little bummed out.

I know, it's a big taboo thing... Women are supposed to feel "enough" just on their own. They don't need men or babies to be complete. They don't need to prove themselves in any way. They are enough on their own. And I agree. I am enough. I try to be a good human being. I try to be a person I would enjoy knowing. I try to forgive myself when I make mistakes. I try. I really do.

But there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a good wife and a good mother. It doesn't make me weak to admit that the moment I look forward to most in a day is when I get to see my husband and talk about our days. It doesn't make me an anti-feminist to express the desire to have babies and raise a family with the man I love. And honestly, I get annoyed when I'm criticized for being this way.

So I guess we'll see where I'm at when I reflect upon my life when I turn 30. Here's hoping I have a baby bouncing in my lap instead of a pupper!

Writing Challenge #11

Sunday, November 1, 2015 No comments

November's writing challenges are ready for your review!

Traffic Patterns

Describe a road on which you frequently travel.  What is the traffic like?  Describe the landscape.  What kind of structures are present on the street - homes, retail stores, businesses, parks, farmland?

Fashion Statement

What have you found to be the strangest fashion statement that you've experienced firsthand in your life?  Why do you find it strange?  Is it popular today?  If not, when was it popular?

Thankful Thoughts

Write about the things in your life that you are most thankful for having, earning, or enjoying.  The challenge?  Write a letter to yourself regarding the people or things you are most appreciate of in your life today.

Writing Challenge #10

Thursday, October 1, 2015 No comments

Time for October's writing challenges!

Fairy Tale Endings

Rewrite one of William Shakespeare's famous tragedies to have a happy ending.  Romeo and Juliet ride off into the sunset together, happily ever after?  Lady Macbeth finally gets the spots off her hands?  You figure it out!

Disguises

Make a list of occasions, other than Halloween, that require people to wear disguises - literal or metaphorical.

Dream Home

Describe your dream home and property.

Writing Challenge #9

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 No comments

Summer is winding down, a new school year is starting...  September challenges are ready!

Copycat

Science fiction, romance, horror, drama...  Pick a favorite author and write in his or her style.

He Said, She Said

Write a story using only the dialogue between characters.  As an added challenge, have someone read your finished piece and guess who the characters may be and what they are doing.

Course Listings

It has been said that experience is the best teacher.  We learn by doing, by making mistakes, and by trial and error.  Think about the biggest learning experiences you have been through.  Come up with a title for the "course" you took and describe it as if it was in a college course book.

365 Days Ago

Saturday, August 22, 2015 No comments
A lot can happen in a year.

It's true. And the more Facebook insists that I look back on "memories" (a.k.a. seemingly inane posts from years gone by), the more I realize this is to be true.

I think that sometimes, we get so caught up in what's going on in our lives day to day that we don't realize how far we've come in a short time. Because, honestly, a year is a pretty short time in the grand scheme of things.

Last year? I was newly engaged. I was feeling like we had SO MUCH TIME before the wedding would arrive. We had already chosen a date and booked the hall, but everything else was up in the air. Did we want to get married in a church? Where did we want to honeymoon? It seemed like nothing would ever get decided.

But it did. Everything was decided and chosen and scheduled and booked and paid for. Everything went really well. I was really amazed with how well the wedding day went - so smoothly, so completely according to plan. It was great. So maybe there was no reason for all of the stress and all of the worry that accompanied the planning.

If I know that, then why do I continue to torture myself and worry about what the future will hold? I know that whenever I've had something to do, I've done it. I've managed. The road was not always smooth and things didn't always go according to plan and the end result wasn't always what I envisioned, but I got out alive and I'm [probably] a better person for it (or at least a different person).

Call Me Mrs. Martin!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 No comments
So...  I'm married!

Nick and I walked down the aisle on August 8th and immediately took off for our honeymoon to Cape Cod the next morning. It was a beautiful, love-filled day and a wonderful, relaxing week away, but I'm so glad to be finished with the "wedding planning" time in our lives and onto the "marriage" part (and the "cute babies" part, too!).

Needless to say, this summer has been such a whirlwind... and it's left me seriously neglecting not only my blog, but also my personal writing in my journal. I'm hoping that once I get back into the swing of things with the new school year starting, I'll start writing more often.

Hope everyone else is having a fabulous summer! I'll try to update soon as well as add some new products to my online store.

Getting Started with Teacher Created Resources

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 No comments
I was fortunate enough to be able to present at the annual N.E.T.T. Conference at NCCC today and some of the educators who attended my session asked that I share the link to the slideshow that went along with my presentation. If you'd like to view it, click here.

If you have any questions or comments for me, feel free to comment below or email me.

Writing Challenge #8

Saturday, August 1, 2015 No comments

In one week, I will be walking down the aisle and becoming Mrs. Martin!  It seems like just yesterday when Nick got down on one knee and proposed.  Here are a few writing challenges for this extra exciting month!

Love It!

I think as a whole, our culture throws around the L word.  We "love" the food we eat, the cars we drive, the phones we text on, the shows we watch...  But do we really?  Think about the people you love and the things you claim to love, then determine which items really belong on your "love list".

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Animals are amazing creatures.  They can run fast, climb high, swim smoothly, fly gracefully...  So if you could choose to have the abilities of any animal in particular, which animal would you choose and why would you like to have its abilities?

Bare Essentials

What are the ten things you would deem "absolutely essential" in your life?  Make a list and describe why each and every item on it is necessary!

Writing Challenge #7

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 No comments

July 1st.  We are officially in the second half of 2015.  Crazy!  Here are some challenges for you to work on in the summer sun (or a rainy day, if you'd prefer!).

Say What?

We've all done it...  We're singing along to a new song on the radio and then someone looks as us weird and says, "What do you think the words are?!"  Okay, so maybe some artists don't articulate well or maybe some of our ears aren't as great as we think they are.  It happens.  Write about your favorite misheard lyrics - what you thought they sang and what they actually sang.

Childhood Influences

Disney's The Little Mermaid was always my favorite movie as a kid.  My friend, Hannah, and I used to sing the songs, pretend we were Ariel, and watch the movie constantly.  Nowadays, I've seen a lot of articles regarding the negative things children (particularly girls) have learned from classic Disney movies.  Do I think I internalized the fact that I should need to change to earn the love of the man I love?  Do I subconsciously seek the approval of my father in order to achieve my dreams?  Do I need to leave everything I grew up with and adopt a new way of life after I get married?  No.  I don't really buy into the theories that say I'm ruined by fairy tales.  But I do think I learned a love of music by listening to the soundtrack (and other Disney soundtracks).  I do think I learned that dreams can be achieved through perseverance.  I do think I learned to believe in "happily ever after" love.  So how about you?  What television shows or movies did you grow up with that may have influenced who you are today?

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Take a walk down memory road and look through a photo album of yours.  Pick a photograph and describe what was happening in it.  Who is in the photo?  What is taking place?  What year was it?  Which season was it taken in?  Provide as many details as you can.  You may be surprised with how much of a story you come away with!

Two Sides

Monday, June 8, 2015 No comments
If you always remember to bring an umbrella, you'll never get caught in the rain... you'll never have a stranger share his umbrella with you... But then again, there's always a chance you'll end up alone, cold and soaked through.

If you always order the same meal at the restaurant, you'll always know you'll be happy with what you get... but you'll never get to taste something new.

Sometimes I actually like when Tim Horton's screws up my order because I end up trying something new that I would've never tried on my own. Sometimes, though, I was really hankering for whatever it was I ordered and I get it corrected.

Bottom line is, there are two sides to everything that happens... every choice you could make... every road you could take. It depends on your outlook, the situation, even your mood... So the next time something doesn't go your way, consider the alternative. It might make you look at things differently.

Math Integration in the Early Childhood Classroom

Thursday, June 4, 2015 No comments
It’s not always easy to integrate mathematics into the early childhood classroom.  Perusing the Common Core Standards for math can be a bit daunting, even when you’re teaching three- and four-year-olds.  However, when you stop to think about all of the ways you’re already using math in your daily routine, it becomes a lot simpler. 

Calendar

During most early childhood circle times, the calendar is covered.  This not only reinforces a sense of understanding of the year, each month, and the days of the week, but also gives your students a chance to look at numbers (at least numbers 1 through 31) and put them in sequential order. 

Weather

The daily weather report is not only a daily science lesson and a way to increase your students’ awareness of the world around them, but also a great opportunity for students to practice graphing skills. By having the students make a pictograph or bar graph of the types of weather they are observing each day, they will have an early introduction to graphing.

Days of School

The Hundredth Day of School celebration is nothing new to most pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and other early elementary classrooms’ annual calendars, but doing simple math operations with the days of school is a great way to introduce addition to early childhood students.

Attendance

Even helping your students take attendance can be a daily lesson in math.  Counting their classmates not only reinforces basic counting, but (especially early in the year) helps them learn each other's names.

Transitions

During transitional times, such as lining up to go to the playground or even lining up to wash hands prior to mealtimes, you can call students in groups of two or three, having them count themselves. It also introduces students to skip-counting early on.

What ways do you incorporate mathematics into your early childhood classroom?

Writing Challenge #6

Monday, June 1, 2015 No comments

Scariest Fictional World

Today's culture is riddled with apocalypses, caused by zombies, aliensextreme weather, and lack of natural resources.  Describe the scariest fictional world you have come across in literature, television, or film.  Or, if you have imagined your own "end of days" world, describe it!

It's a Date!

Throughout the course of a year, we have many special occasions to remember.  Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, reunions...  The list goes on and on.  I know I would be completely lost without my Google Calendar.  But there are certain dates I remember without needing to refer to my calendar.  What dates do you always remember and why are they special enough for you to have committed to memory?

Customer Loyalty Program

I love Kohl's.  I love getting Kohl's Rewards back for shopping, love finding a 30% off coupon in my mailbox every few months, and love receiving deals and discounts for having a Kohl's Charge card.  I am loyal to the store because I feel like I get rewarded for shopping there.  I don't feel that way when I go to Walmart.  Although I might find some decent prices compared to other stores, I resent spending my money there compared to other grocery or department stores.  So what stores do you enjoy and why do you feel good about patronizing them versus other retailers?

Distractibility

Thursday, May 21, 2015 No comments
One of the biggest challenges I need to overcome is how distracted I am when I'm writing.  When I'm not subbing or I have a free evening alone, I try to set aside time to write.  Does that time always end up devoted to writing?  Unfortunately, no.  Most of the time is actually devoted to anything and everything except writing.

Why?

I end up doing laundry, washing the dishes, feeding the dogs, taking the dogs outside, having a snack, cooking dinner, watering the plants, answering a phone call, reading an email...  Basically, anything you can imagine, I end up doing it.

Having my new office upstairs in a room where I have everything I need does help.  I can let the dogs nap on the couch, I have a bathroom attached to the room, and I can listen to music to help me concentrate.  Usually, Nick is downstairs watching television, sleeping (especially since he's on the night shift), working outside, or out with friends when I'm working, so that helps, too.  If I know I don't need to stop for a while to make dinner or something, I'm a lot more apt to be able to relax and let the words flow.

Unfortunately, though, most of my inspiration comes late at night, when I can't afford to stay up and run with it.  I try to be in bed by 11:00 at the latest, but even that is pushing it most nights.  My sleep schedule has changed a great deal in the past couple of years and while I used to be a night owl, I currently tend to wake up automatically by 7:30 or 8:00.  That makes me want to be in bed earlier, even if it's not a school night.

So what are your strategies for avoiding distractions while you're working or writing?

I Still Get Jealous

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 No comments
The song "I Still Get Jealous" by Nick Jonas is currently a guilty pleasure of mine.  I always forget who sings it, but hopefully now that I'm referencing it in text, I'll commit it to memory.  Anyhow, the title reminds me of something I'm usually afraid of touching on.  In the spirit of encouraging others to being braver with their writing abilities, I'd like to begin being braver with my own writing.

Jealousy.

It's an interesting concept.  It's typically viewed as a negative quality to have, but I can see both sides of the situation.  I am a very jealous person when it comes to Nick with other girls, but I am not a jealous person when it comes to the "stuff" other people have.  The difference?  I value Nick greatly, but I don't really care about "keeping up with the Joneses" (or the Kardashians, or whomever we're supposed to be "keeping up with" these days).

Do I really think Nick would cheat on me with some other girl?  No, not at all.  I trust him.  On the flip side, I know how some women can be and I don't trust them to respect the relationship of a committed man.  I know Nick is a great guy and any woman would be lucky to have him.  He's smart, funny, charming, sexy, creative, spontaneous, hardworking...  The list goes on and on, trust me.  I'm incredibly lucky.  He's a catch.  But I'm pretty sure he thinks I am, too, so he's not going to go elsewhere to find someone else.  Plus he's also faithful, reliable, and trustworthy in general.  It doesn't mean that paranoia and jealousy can kick in when a waitress is flirting with him or some cashier is laughing at his jokes.  I'm only human, after all, and I admit it...  I get jealous.

But jealous of "things"?  Objects?  Never.  There are things I would like to have, but it's not because another person has them.  I would love a new living room set, but that's just because our current one is uncomfortable.  I don't have to have it "right now" like a spoiled child, even though I know there are a lot of people who have new furniture.  It makes no difference to me what other people have or don't have.  I have my own tastes, my own budget, my own possessions...  And I couldn't care less about what others have.  People who are jealous of others, in my opinion, are just unhappy with who they are (and sometimes wish they were just more like those people) and covet others' "things" because they think that's going to make them happy or complete. Newsflash: the things people have don't make them the type of people that they are.

So there you have it...  Good jealousy and bad jealousy.  Which category do you tend to fall under, or are you immune to the green-eyed monster?

Writing Challenge #5

Friday, May 1, 2015 No comments

It's that time of the month again!  (No, not that time...)  As always, I'm shocked that it's the beginning of yet another new month, but here is May's writing challenge, ready to go!

If, Then...

Inspired by Laura Numeroff's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, or any of her "cause and effect" books, write a story using "if" and "when" statements.  And P.S., if you haven't read any of her books, check them out!

Ch-Ch-Changes!

Think of something that has changed during your lifetime.  It could be something that has changed repeatedly (for me, a cassette tape has evolved into a CD, and now almost all of my music is digital) or something that has gone through a minor change.  Describe how it started and where it is today.

Accentuate the Positive

Let's be real: we all have flaws.  But some of our flaws could be spun into strengths if we consider all sides.  I might be bossy, which could be considered a flaw, but my bossiness also helps me be a good leader and urge others to get things done.  Make a list of your "flaws" and see how many you can turn into positive qualities.

There's No Such Thing As a Stupid Question!

Friday, April 24, 2015 No comments
...Really?

I know that many of us have been taught that there is no such thing as a stupid question.  If you don't know something, you should ask.  Asking and receiving answers is how you learn new things.  And if you don't ask, you'll never know.  Plus, if you're in a classroom and a teacher asks if you have any questions, you should be brave enough to raise your hand and ask a question that's on your mind because (chances are) someone else in the classroom is wondering the same thing you are, but they're too shy to say so.

Sound familiar?

Based on the questions I read that come up on Google's Autocomplete, I'm not so sure that there really is no such thing as a stupid question.  And this is coming from the self-proclaimed Queen of Stupid Questions.  (I ask Nick the dumbest and most inane questions while we're watching television or movies...  Trust me.  But that's in the comfort of my own home with the person I'm most comfortable with in the world.)

But my question is...  Based on the availability and anonymity Google (and other search engines) provide for us, are we, as a society, becoming more informed as a whole?  Are we able to learn more new facts?  Are we able to ask more questions?  Do we feel comfortable typing a question into Google and finding the answer as opposed to admitting to another human being that we don't know what something is or the definition of a word or what that actor's name is?  Or do we just come up with queries like, "Does that cat really play the keyboard?"

Personally, I know that there are many education buzzwords that I don't know the meaning of.  It happens.  Education evolves rapidly and there are so many acronyms, terms, and labels that aren't always on the top of my head while reading or having a conversation.  You can bet that when I don't know what something means, however, I run and look it up right away!  And that way, I can do it without letting anyone know I'm ignorant of anything.  I don't know about you, but I know that I have learned a great deal by asking "the internet" when I've been too shy to ask a person.

Questions to Consider:

  • Are you comfortable asking a question when you don't know an answer?
  • Does Googling a question make it easier to ask?
  • Do you believe there is such a thing as a stupid question?

Do As I Do

Thursday, April 23, 2015 No comments
Mom has a headache.
What can we do?
     Let's try to help her.
     You can help us, too!

Mom has a headache.
Does she want a snack?
     Mom says, "No thanks."
     So we take the snack back.

Mom has a headache.
Does she want to watch TV?
     Mom says, "Not now."
     Good thing it's a repeat.

Mom has a headache.
Does she want to play a game?
     Mom says, "Maybe later."
     Sounds like more of the same.

Mom has a headache.
Does she want a drink?
     Mom says, "Another time."
     Now we really have to think.

Mom has a headache.
I have a bright idea!
     Let's ask HER what she wants.
     Mom says, "Just c'mere."

Cuddling and napping
     with her favorite pair of kids
          was just exactly what Mom needed
               to cure her aching head!



No, poetry is not my regular genre.  I'm very uncomfortable writing it and even more uncomfortable sharing it.  So why did I share this poem?  Why did I even write it?

Whenever I facilitate a writing workshop, I write alongside the kids in my group.  I think it's important that, as educators, we don't just ask our students to "do as I say", but actually "do as I do".  It gives added value to the activity if we show them that we're taking the time to do it, too.  Too often, I've observed teachers explaining the directions for an activity, then going to their desk and sitting down to monitor the activity.  This has led students to ask questions, such as: "What's the point of this activity?"; "Am I ever going to use this in my real life?"; "Why do we need to know how to do this?"; and the like.  But when we, as adults, also do the same activity, it shows them that we value the skill, we use it in our every day lives, and we find it important to know how to do.  And, the more we practice various skills which we are teaching, the better we'll get.  I don't know about you, but I've always found that it's a whole lot easier teaching something that I know how to do and understand rather than something I just "sort of get", so ultimately, it's a win-win for everyone.

Now I know what you might be thinking.  Not everyone needs to write.  Not everyone needs to know how to write poetry.  It's not something that anyone really needs or uses after they graduate from high school or college.  Sure, maybe a dental hygienist rarely writes a haiku in her day to day life.  I doubt a marine biologist is found penning an acrostic regularly.  I've never visited a grocery store and found the manager working on a sonnet.  It's true that many professions will not utilize a poetry-writing skill on a daily basis.  But does everyone need "basic writing skills" to function in today's society?  I would say so.  Even if you just want to casually communicate with an acquaintance, you're going to find yourself writing.  Maybe it's going to be a short literary piece, limited to 160 characters in a text message, but you will still be writing.  So why not gain the basic skills needed to do so?

As teachers, we don't know which skills are going to be necessary in your future endeavors, but we can help you build a strong foundation in a little bit of a lot of areas so that you can decide to go forth and learn more.  You only get one education, so why not soak it all in while you have the chance and see where the knowledge takes you?  And teachers, take advantage of the time you spend with your students to show them that the skills are important - you just might be making a difference in a student's opinion of the skill at hand.

Things That Are... PURPLE

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 No comments
Here is a list of things that are purple off the top of my head...
  1. eggplant
  2. One-Eyed, One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater
  3. grapes
  4. my bedroom walls when I was a kid
  5. the trim of my sneakers
  6. one of my purses
  7. my pom-pom pen
  8. a set of t-shirt sheets I have
  9. one of the new Paper Mate pens I ordered from Amazon
  10. Beebe Bluff
  11. one of our mixing bowls
  12. my gigantic water bottle
  13. the bottom of a rainbow
  14. the question mark on the poster in this Spanish classroom I'm subbing in today
  15. my old iPhone case
  16. my old flip phone (before I finally gave in to the iPhone)
  17. a visited link on most websites
List generation is a great way to exercise your mind.  Give yourself 5-10 minutes, a sheet of paper or a page in your notebook and think of as many things as you can that fit the parameters!  Good luck.

Writing Challenge #4

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 No comments

April's writing challenge is here!  This month is all about making lists.  And who knows, maybe after reviewing each list, you'll take one of the items and write a whole lot about it!

Spring v. Winter List

I think we all have a bit of cabin fever after being cooped up inside throughout the long winter.  The good news is, spring weather is nearly here!  Make a list of things you can do in the spring that you cannot do in the winter.  If you live in a moderate climate, try to imagine a drastic change in seasonal weather, from snow storms to sunny days.

Past & Present Pets

Make a list of pets you've had throughout your lifetime.  Pets at home, classroom pets, etc.  Never had a pet before?  Make a list of pets you'd wished you had throughout your life or pets your close friends or family members have had.

Millionaire Shopping Spree

Nick and I have been trying to rationalize purchasing a 3D printer from Sam's Club ever since we saw it there.  (Of course, it's probably not going to happen, but we can dream.)  Make a list of items you would purchase if you had the money to burn.  Get as creative as you can - you have an unlimited budget for gadgets and gizmos!

Post-Reading Activities

Monday, March 23, 2015 No comments
After reading, there are many writing activities that you can do to check for comprehension and understanding.  Here are a few...
  • Summarize the text (chapter, scene, novel, poem, article)
  • Describe the main character
  • Compare and contrast yourself to a character
  • Make a list of vocabulary words you learned in the reading
  • Create a timeline of events from the text
  • Describe a connection between the text and another text (novel, short story, magazine article, comic book, poem)
  • Rewrite the ending to the story, describing what you would have liked to happen
  • Imagine you are a character in the story and write a shopping list of items he or she could have used in the story
  • Make a list of facts you learned from reading an expository text
  • Write questions you have after reading
  • Describe Cause and Effect relationships within the reading
  • Before reading the next chapter, predict what will happen next
  • Describe the setting (where and when the story takes place)
  • Draft a journal entry from the point of view of a character
  • Write a letter from one character to another
  • Identify the author's purpose for writing the text
  • Describe the central conflict in the story
  • Write a poem about the story, character(s), setting, or conflict
  • Create a travel brochure for the setting of the story
  • Make a list of memorable events in the main character's life

March Ahead

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 No comments
March Ahead... Get it?  Are you shaking your head?  Sorry, I love puns.

I can't believe it's already March!  It seems like with each new month, I find myself in the same state of mind, thinking...  Where has the time gone?  How is a new month already beginning?  What did I accomplish last month?  Did I change the calendar yet?  Which bills are due this week?  Where is this year going?  How much closer am I to being Mrs. Martin?  (The last thought has me particularly glowing lately.)  Sunday will mark five months until the big walk down the aisle.  It's crazy, but wonderful to think about...

But before we can get to the wedding date, before we can even get to the summertime, we have to get through spring (if it ever arrives), and the rest of this winter.  It's finally starting to warm up and thaw out, but if yesterday's commute home gave any indication, the thaw isn't going to be a fun, easy time either.  I actually had to cancel the first session of my workshop due to the inclement weather (super bummer!).  I drove home through a mix of snow, sleet, hail, and rain (hopefully no postal carriers were walking at the time!).  Luckily, I drove slowly enough to avoid slipping on the icy roads and didn't encounter any impatient drivers who were rushing to get from Point A to Point B (those drivers drive me crazy).

Lists always help me accomplish things, so I've decided to make a "March List" of things I'd like to do.  I know it'll change and I'll add to it as the month goes on, but here are some items on my mind this morning.  Here goes.

  1. Finish Lockport Activity Book for the Book Fair on March 21st
  2. Complete 15 hours of professional development
  3. Read 5 books
  4. Try 2+ new recipes for dinner
  5. Make a corned beef brisket for St. Patty's Day
  6. Finish editing the Brainstorming Writing Book and post on TeachersPayTeachers
  7. Decide on a honeymoon location and book it
  8. Start using my elliptical as more than just a dust collector in the spare TV room

So at the beginning of this new month, what are some things you'd like to accomplish?  What do you want to finish before we arrive at April 1st, seemingly blindsided by the fact that another month is upon us?  Make a list!  It'll help you keep track of everything easier.

Writing Challenge #3

Sunday, March 1, 2015 No comments

March's writing challenge!

Now I Know My ABCs

Write a story in which you begin each sentence with a different letter of the alphabet, beginning with A and ending with Z.  How far can you get without stopping?

My Un-Future

We spend a lot of time discussing where we'd like to be in a year, five years, ten years, et cetera; rarely do we think about where we would not like to end up.  Think about the events you'd like to avoid.  Discover the moments you don't want to realize.  Vocalize the habits you hope you don't find routine.  Explore the professions you don't aspire to have.

Invented Spelling

When children are learning to be readers and writers in primary grades, they don't worry about spelling as much as content.  They write the sounds they hear based on the knowledge they have of letters.  As adults, many of us stress about spelling things correctly.  For this exercise, don't worry about your spelling...  Write quickly and worry only about getting your thoughts and content on the page.

Inconvenient Inspiration

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 No comments
I find myself inspired to write in the most inconvenient moments!

...in the shower...  falling asleep at night...  while driving...  during a lesson I'm teaching and can't take a break from... in the middle of a movie I'm watching with Nick...  

Then, on nights like tonight, when I have plenty of time to sit alone and write and really concentrate, my mind is clouded with other thoughts and I have no motivation to get anything significant accomplished.  Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe how it feels.

Questions to Consider:
  • When are you most inspired?

An-ti-ci-pa-tion

I'm a person who enjoys the anticipation.

I prefer Christmas Eve over Christmas; the suspense over the resolution of a novel; the aroma of a pot roast cooking over the full feeling after eating.  Part of it, I believe, it just because I have an extremely overactive imagination.  Before the impending event happens, I can imagine all of the possibilities associated with it.  I can imagine that anything is in the carefully wrapped packages under the tree.  I can predict the ending of a book I'm on the edge of my seat reading, but still hope my mind will be blown when I read the actual ending.  I can feel my mouth water over the great meal that's cooking instead of finding I used too much pepper.

No, I'm not disappointed when a moment I've been waiting for comes to fruition.  In fact, usually the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction feels much better than the nerves and anxiety that overtake my body when I'm w...a...i...t...i...n...g...  I think I just like the butterflies and blood-pumping, heart-racing feeling that comes along with that waiting.

That being said, I am starting to feel super anxious when it comes to my upcoming wedding.  I feel like now that a majority of the plans are in place, I'm not feeling as overwhelmed as I was when nothing was planned.  Instead, I'm just excited for the day to arrive.  Stay tuned to see how I handle the next five months or so!

Questions to Consider:

  • How do you handle having to wait for something?
  • What is the most difficult part of waiting?

Passionate Writing

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 1 comment


Writing itself has never been an issue.  I can exhaust a topic if I have enough information - or opinions - about it.  It can be a piece about washing machines and I can write it.  I have the ability, even if the interest isn't there.  No, writing has never been the problem.  Letting words flow from my brain to paper through the point of my pencil (or the clicking of keys) comes easily.

The problem, therefore, has always been finding inspiration.  Deciding on the "what" I will be writing about is the tough part.  My objective for a given piece makes or breaks what I write.  Sure, I could write all about the Spanish-American War based on information I've picked up on, books I've read, or television programs I've viewed.  Am I truly passionate about the war, though?  Not really.  On the other hand, the American Revolution gets my mind - and pulse - racing.  A small group of men willing to bring forth the ideas they believed in...  People fighting for independence from a stronger, more powerful, and established country...  The Founding Fathers jotting down ideas and creating a constitution - one that would still be in effect hundreds of years later...  A war fought with the American spirit behind it...  Each of those things give me goosebumps, make me bite my lip, and truly cause me to pause and think.  It's not only a factual event from our nation's history that I could describe with facts I've learned, but it's something that's feeling-based, that provides me with a truly emotional connection to a remarkable event in time.  What is that caused by?  Passion.

If you have passion for a subject, a topic, a person, a place...  Trust me, you can write about it.  It doesn't have to be profound.  It doesn't have to sound smart.  You don't have to spell all of the words correctly.  You aren't bound to traditional English language conventions.  Just write.  If you're passionate enough, the words will flow...

So what am I passionate about?  (Besides Thomas Jefferson and the Constitutional Convention, of course.)  I'm passionate about Nick... Our dogs... My family... Cooking a good meal... Trying new recipes for delicious desserts... Having a clean house I'm proud to invite friends to visit... Making a difference in the lives of the students I teach... Reading books that leave me on the edge of my seat... Being friendly toward strangers in my community (you never know when the stranger you're talking to is your new friend)... Watching TV shows that make me laugh, think, feel, cry... Listening to music of all varieties... Singing along and feeling the words... Sleeping in and relaxing on weekend mornings... Eating breakfast (especially bacon!)... Organizing rooms in our house that aren't quite lived in yet... Finishing a story I've been working on for a long time... Writing thank-you notes to those who helped me or gifted me in some way... Sending Christmas cards in early December to all of our closest family and friends... Expressing myself in a "just because" note to Nick just to let him know how much I love him... And so, so many other seemingly mundane, everyday things that I encounter.

So perhaps I'm guilty of claiming from time to time that I'm passionate about writing.  When, in reality, I'm passionate about writing about the things I'm passionate about.  I think there's a big difference.  How about you?

Questions to Consider:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Do you enjoy writing for the sake of writing, or do you find yourself interested in writing about the topics that you fancy?

Cluttered Mind, Cluttered Desk

Monday, February 9, 2015 2 comments
I'm one of the most organized and anal people I know when it comes to having things just so, but when it comes to my desk?  It's a mess!  I pile up "important" papers on one side; books on another; and have sticky notes covering my computer monitor's perimeter and open areas on my desk.  I have a desktop calendar, but instead of having it full of important appointments or dates to remember, it has seemingly endless scribbles with phone numbers, things to do, and ideas to follow through on.

So why is this the only area in the house that seems to be plagued by so much clutter?  And why is it that I can't seem to keep it from happening, even if I put things away on a regular basis?

I think that my desk is a representation of what my mind is like at any given moment.  I always have something on my mind, whether it be a project I'm working on, my current to-do list, people I need to call, a resource idea I need to design, or an event I want to plan.  I've been like this for as long as I can remember, but over time the "content" I'm focused on has changed.  When I was younger, I was mostly focused on school and my "businesses" - travel agency, real estate agency, restaurant, school.  As I got older, it became more about school, friends, and boys (let's be honest, we all went through that stage).  Then in college, it became mostly about school and extracurricular ways I could be involved in education.

Now?  I feel like it's a little bit of everything mushed together.  I know I've said it before, but my mind is always going in a zillion directions.

I'm always thinking about my wedding plans.  I'm always thinking about what I'm going to be cooking for dinner throughout the week (just in case I need to take something out of the freezer or stop at the grocery store).  I'm always thinking about what chores need to be done and which ones can wait a day or two.  I'm always thinking about which schools I'll be working in this week.  I'm always thinking about how I think my current book is going to end.  I'm always thinking of ways I can extend my business to reach new clientele and enrich people's lives more.  I'm always thinking about what plans I have this weekend and if I need to do anything to prepare for them.

Therefore, when my "thoughts" materialize in the real world, they turn into a cluttered desk.

Questions to Consider:

  • What object or physical "thing" would you use to give others a glimpse into how your mind works?
  • Do you have an "exception" to your personality?  For instance, my cluttered desk goes against my organized and neat nature.  What goes against your "typical" way of being?
  • What's on your desk?

My Writing Goals

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 No comments
There are many things I'd like to improve in my writing, so I know this list will be constantly evolving (as I think all goals should), but off the top of my head, these things come to mind:
  • I would like to become a braver writer, writing about things that scare me and topics I'm afraid to touch upon for fear of controversy.
  • I would like to write every day, no matter what I write and no matter how much it ends up being.
  • I would like to finish outlining the novel idea I've had for a while and actually make progress toward finishing it.
  • I would like to write within genres that I'm totally uncomfortable, just to know I can say I tried.  Genres that would fall into that category include: suspense, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Questions to Consider:

  • What are some of your writing goals?
  • How can you set forth to achieve those goals?

Writing Challenge #2

Sunday, February 1, 2015 No comments

I can't believe the first month of 2015 is already over!  I don't know about you, but it went incredibly quickly for me (I'm guessing it's partially due to the fact that I'm counting down to my wedding!).  With a new month comes a new Writing Challenge...

The End's the Beginning

Start a writing piece describing an event, but start at the end.  That way, you'll have to describe the steps in backward order.  Instead of using the typical transitional words like: first, then, next, and finally, you'll end up using words and phrases like: in the end, before that, prior, formerly, and at the beginning.

Anti-Biography

Write a biography about a famous figure without researching the person.  Describe details such as: birth date, birthplace, parents' occupations, how they became well-known, etc.  Then, do some fact-checking and see how close (or far) you were to the truth!

A Bird's Eye View

Imagine a bird is flying over you throughout the course of an average day.  Write from the bird's perspective, describing what he sees, where he flies, and how long he spends at each location you visit.  You could even have him speculate on what you're up to!

How-To Writing

Saturday, January 31, 2015 No comments
How-to writing pieces are a great assignment for emergent writers.  In a how-to piece, the writer describes how to do a task they complete on a regular basis using transitional words and phrases.  After deciding what to write about, it's simple to jot down the steps it takes to complete the task and turn it into an informative writing piece.  But it's deciding what to write about that's the difficult part.  Typically, the task the writer describes is something he has expertise in.  Sometimes, that's not as easy as it seems.  After all, many students in first or second grade don't feel as if they're experts at anything.  Below, I've listed some key attributes of a how-to piece and some ideas to get your students started.

How-To Pieces:

  • Use transitional words, such as: first, next, after, then, finally or last
  • Describe how to do a simple task in a step-by-step format
  • Review the materials needed to complete the task

Examples of Tasks to Write About:

  • How to make a sandwich
  • How to get ready to play outside in the snow
  • How to feed your cat
  • How to have a picnic
  • How to get ready for school
  • How to watch a movie
  • How to brush your teeth
  • How to take a photograph

Words are to Atoms...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 No comments
Without words, there are no sentences.  Without sentences, there are no paragraphs.  Without paragraphs, there are no chapters.  Without chapters, there is no book.

You can see how words can be important then, can't you?

Words in our books are like atoms in our universe.  They are the basic building blocks which make up everything.  It's understandable, therefore, that we should consider which words we are using in our writing to be certain we are being as succinct and intentional as we are trying to be.
Note: You may be younger than me, you may be older than me; you may read more than I do, or less than I do; but you have surely had different life experiences than I have.  The bottom line is, I may know different words than you do.  If you don't know what a word means, LOOK IT UP!  (Yes, it's that easy!)  Even if you think you can assume its definition by context clues, sometimes it's good to look it up anyway.  I look up plenty of words while I'm reading.  You know what?  That's how I've learned so many words!  It works.  I have even included a dictionary widget in the top left sidebar for your convenience.
I think the worst thing that can happen is that we fall into a comfort zone with the diction we use.  Instead of expanding our lexicons on a regular basis by reading and studying words, we may reach a supposed apex in our knowledge of words and our writing can bottom out into a plateau.  It's important that we continue reading and strive to always improve.  It's a part of being a good writer and a lifelong learner.

Questions to Consider:

  • Which words come to mind when I ask what your favorite words are?
  • Why is it important to have a vast vocabulary?
  • What is the last word you remember looking up?

Flashback to the Future

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 No comments
Ever since my birthday when Nick surprised me with a Kindle for a gift, I have been reading much more (my eyes especially thank him, since it is much easier on them than my iPhone was).  After reading the Divergent trilogy, the Harry Potter series, a few classics, and a few comedic romances, I've found my way back to reading my favorite genre.  Out of anything I read, my favorite subject areas have always included crime, psychological thrillers, suspense, and mystery.  Currently, I am reading Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane.

While I was reading yesterday on my break, a particular quotation stood out to me.  The scene was a between a private investigator and a high school administrator.  The administrator explains that high school isn't what it used to be, but the PI's point of view is just the opposite:
"I kept my face noncommittal.  I wasn't sure if high school was much different than it had ever been; only the accessories were."
I obviously notice differences between my high school experience and the high schools I substitute teach in, but I also notice a lot of similarities.  There have actually been students that I could've sworn I knew when I was in high school; that's how close the similarities of personalities have been at times.  I think that many of the same issues that we dealt with when I was in high school exist in today's classrooms, too.  I believe that people think that things have "gotten worse" in schools or children have changed a great deal, but I don't agree that's so.  I constantly see myself in students I teach and I see my friends in others, as well.  I think that sometimes we lose sight of the people we used to be when we were young and we like to pretend we were more innocent or less jaded.  Perhaps some of us were, but I believe the same is true of today's youth.

Whether we're talking high schools or society, there are always going to be the innocent people and the more experienced.  There are always going to be the "cool kids" and the "black sheep"; the "haves" and the "have-nots"; the leaders and the followers.  I'm not saying you can't have attributes of all different groups and you can't hang out with people who aren't like you, but typically, there are differences.  We may live in a Casteless society, but there are certainly variables that we acknowledge, even if we pretend not to in the sake of being uncontroversial.

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you think that the saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is true?
  • Have you ever returned to a place you have not been in a long time and found it to be very similar?

Have It All

Monday, January 26, 2015 No comments
I remember when I was younger and I used to want it all.  I wanted the guy who was right for me and the guy who gave me butterflies.  I wanted the good man who treated me nicely, but the one who challenged me.  I wanted the one who supported me, but let me be independent.  I wanted the guy who would be my shoulder to cry on, but who wasn't too soft that he was afraid to bring something controversial to the table.  I wanted someone to take care of, but who would take care of me, too.

A lot of people used to tell me that I was too picky, that I was too much of an idealist who would never be happy and never find a guy to live up to my unrealistic high standards.  Sometimes I believed them, and I tried dating around, even if guys weren't exactly who I wanted.  Ultimately, though, I realized that I was always much happier single than attached.  I felt like that spoke volumes.  I would much rather be alone than be with someone who didn't contribute to my happiness.  So I continued to listen to the "you're too picky" comments and the naysayers, but I never gave up on finding the right guy.  And you know what?  I did find him.

Nick and I have been together for a year and eight months now.  We'll be married in just about six months.  I can honestly admit that he's not perfect, but I can admit that I'm not either.  But with Nick, I don't feel as if I have to be perfect to be loved.  In fact, sometimes it's when I'm feeling my least perfect that I end up feeling the most loved.  (Go figure that one out.)

I still get butterflies when I hear his car pull into the driveway.  I still wake up easier when I feel him breathing next to me in our bed.  I know that even if we disagree on something or if I'm in a bad mood or if he's stressed out from work, we still love each other and we can lean on each other through anything.  It's an amazing feeling.

I think that no matter what you set your mind to, you can achieve.  You don't have to settle.  You don't have to stop believing (seriously, just listen to Journey on that one!).  You can have it all - I suppose it just depends on what you believe "having it all" means!

Questions to Consider:

  • Has someone ever told you something was impossible, but you have continued believing in it regardless?
  • What desires did you have when you were younger than you have been able to realize through strong beliefs and perseverance?  

Professional Development for Teachers

Sunday, January 25, 2015 No comments
In order to maintain your teaching certification in New York State, you're currently required to fulfill 175 hours of professional development every five years.  The problem is, many of us certificate holders do not have full-time teaching jobs in districts that offer Professional Development workshops and seminars.  Therefore, we are required to find PD opportunities on our own.  I have put together a list of venues I have found valuable PD that will hopefully help you, too!  Some are online resources while others are local to the Western New York area.

If you have additional places to earn PD hours, please leave a comment below!

EdWeb.net

EdWeb has a huge selection of free webinars about pretty much any educational topic you could ask for.  It is easy to register for upcoming webinars, simple to participate in the chat during the webinar, and effortless to access documents (such as slideshows, audio, and video) after the webinar is over.  After participating in the webinar, a certificate is emailed to you the following day.  What is even better is that you can also watch webinars from the past and take a quiz in order to receive a certificate when you're finished.

PBS TeacherLine

PBS TeacherLine offers self-paced online courses in a variety of subject areas that are relevant to teachers today.  I have found many courses that relate to the Common Core, assessment, and instruction.  Many of the courses are worth 2 or 4 PD hours, which I've found is a great way to add a lot of hours to my ever-growing list of PD.  Some of the courses on the site are paid, while others are free of charge.

ProLiteracy

The ProLiteracy Education Network offers online courses related to literacy.  They are free of charge and you may take them at your own pace.  After you're finished, your certificate appears on your account page and you are able to download it or print it.

Orleans/Niagara Teacher Center

Orleans/Niagara BOCES has a Teacher Center full of professional development opportunities throughout the year.  They offer workshops, most of which are $5 per hour, across the spectrum of educational topics, including instructional practice, classroom management, and technology.  Many workshops are offered right at O/N BOCES, while others are offered online.  In the latest catalog, they even added book studies that focus upon books popular in today's education community.

Far West Teacher Center Network

The Far West Teacher Center Network offers free seminars at locations around Western New York.  Their website is continuously updated with new events and registration is online.

Buffalo Museum of Science

The Buffalo Museum of Science offers professional development opportunities for teachers.  The topics are interesting and fit a variety of teachers' needs and interests.  Each workshop is 3 hours long and costs $30 for non-members and $25 for members of the museum.

Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY

Monthly or bimonthly, the DDAWNY offers a workshop at Temple Beth Zion Play and Learn School in Amherst.  The two-hour, free workshop is usually related to the field of early childhood.  If you attend a workshop and provide your email address, you will receive a flier via email letting you know when the next workshop is taking place.

Introduction to Green

Friday, January 23, 2015 No comments
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who had never heard of the color "green."  The grass, the leaves on the trees, the broccoli on her dinner plate...  None of them seemed to have any color whatsoever.  Then one day, her father pointed out how green a dress she was wearing was.  Suddenly, upon learning the new color, she saw green everywhere...  She saw green in cars that zoomed down the road.  She saw green specks in her baby brother's hazel eyes.  She saw green, green, green, everywhere she looked.

Words are like that, too.  As soon as you learn a new one, you hear it, read it, and see it everywhere!  Perhaps you had never heard the word before, but as soon as you have heard it and assigned it a definition you understand, it suddenly pops up everywhere and anywhere!

Questions to Consider:

  • Have you ever been introduced to a new word, concept, symbol, logo, or idea that you never noticed was all around your environment until after you became consciously aware of it?
  • What is the last new word you learned?

Scare Me

Thursday, January 22, 2015 No comments
Someone silently follows me as I walk from my bedroom to the bathroom for a shower in the dark hours of the early morning.

I reach underneath my bed on a Saturday morning to grab my slippers and feel fingertips graze my hand.

A stranger crouches in my trunk as I drive home alone at night, listening as I sing along to the radio, talk to myself, and breathe in what I believe is total solitude.

My dog barks at something I cannot see in a windowless corner of my home.

I walk alone through the snow and when I turn to see how far I've come, two sets of footprints are on the ground behind me.

Questions to Consider:

  • What scares you?
  • Why does our culture create art and media that entices fear within us?

Make Me Happy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 No comments
Do you ever think about the little things that make you happy?  I love the simple, unexpected moments that happen on ordinary days.
  • Receiving a handwritten card in the mail.
  • Having rainbow sprinkles on my ice cream.
  • Getting a text message from Nick with a "❤️" in it.
  • Hearing an old favorite song on the radio.
  • Finding out something I want is on sale when I go to buy it at the store.
  • Driving toward an intersection just as the traffic light turns green.
  • Running into an old friend at a store and catching up.
  • Finding money in a pair of jeans I haven't worn in a while.
  • Checking my DVR playlist and find a show I forgot I set to record.
  • Winning a couple of bucks on a scratch-off lottery ticket.
  • Waking up before the alarm clock.
  • Even better... Waking up and thinking it's time to get up, but it's only midnight or 2am.
  • Learning that I have something in common with Nick that we never realized before.
  • Getting a message that I sold something from my TeachersPayTeachers store.
  • Being completely surprised by the ending of a suspense novel.

Questions to Consider:

  • What are everyday moments that make you happy?

Blur

Monday, January 19, 2015 No comments
Today, I met with my mom and a Nick's mom to discuss our wedding shower.  I finally feel as if we have most of our ducks in a row when it comes to the wedding and the preceding festivities.  It feels good and I can say that I am finally excited more than stressed about everything.  It's a welcome change, that's for sure!

When I started planning my wedding, I noticed that many people had the same piece of advice for us: enjoy the wedding day as much as you can because it goes by in a blur.  What they didn't say, however, is that the engagement goes by in a blur as well.  Nick proposed on August 15th, just over five months ago.  In that time, we've seen our lawn lose its bright green shade, leaves change and foliage disappear, snow fall and ice harden.  We've celebrated holidays with our families, enjoyed countless football games on lazy Sundays, eaten many meals, played games, celebrated our birthdays, and (enjoyed) wasting time in front of the television.

It will be summer again when we walk down the aisle, but I know it will be here before we know it.  I never imagined it would go so quickly!  If months can pass so swiftly, I can only imagine that the day itself will go by in the blink of an eye.  I just hope I'm not the one blinking because if there's anything I know for sure, it's that I don't want to miss a second of it!

Questions to Consider:

  • Which day or time in your life passed by quickly?
  • Does time only seem to pass by quicker when we have something to "count down" to or does it always pass at the same speed for you?

So Many Thoughts, So Little Time...

Sunday, January 18, 2015 No comments
Life is busy.  There's no doubt about that.  But the fact is, I'm not busy 24/7.  In fact, I'm far from it.  But I would consider my mind busy 24/7.  Even if I'm relaxing, zoning out in front of a rerun of The Big Bang Theory on TBS spending time with Nick and the dogs, I'm still thinking a million miles a minute and my brain is usually not merely focused on Sheldon's latest social faux pas.  What, you ask, is my mind zeroing in on?  Absolutely nothing specific and probably nothing urgent.

Here's an example of my thought process on any given week night:

I need to do laundry... I'm thirsty... What do we have to drink in the fridge?... I wonder if that V8 juice is still in there... If I put a load of laundry in the washer now, I can get it in the dryer by 8:20 and still have enough time to fold it before I want to go to sleep... Hmm, popcorn might be good... But then I'd definitely have to get a drink cause the salt will make me thirsty... I remember finishing that V8 juice because I put the empty jug in the recycling bin... What am I wearing to work tomorrow?... Do I need to do laundry or can I do it after I get home tomorrow?... I need to finish that book on my Kindle before it gets returned to the library automatically... Which day did I check it out?... Let's see, I was subbing in the middle school, so it must've been Thursday... 

And that's just a snippet of about two minutes of thoughts.  There's a whole lot of nothing in that example, but sometimes I must admit that it's difficult to focus on relaxing (sounds like it should be an oxymoron, right?) when I have so much going on in my brain.  The good thing is, I've found a solution that works 95% of the time (the other 5% accounts for when I have overpowering thoughts about deadlines, finances, and relationships).  I write.

It seems as if when I'm writing out my thoughts and feelings, I can expunge them from my mind for at least a little while.  It also helps me gain clarity on everything happening in my head.  Maybe I'm feeling overwhelmed by some looming deadlines or things I need to get done; making a to-do list and writing down each item I need to complete does wonders.  Perhaps I'm stressed about plans for my upcoming wedding; writing out a text and letting my fiance or Maid of Honor know I need some moral support is a huge help.  It's really amazing how much writing aids me on a daily basis.

Questions to Consider:

  • How does writing help you on a daily basis?
  • How do you use the written word for focus, evaluation, or expression?

Writing Challenge #1

Thursday, January 1, 2015 No comments

I may be a cliche first-born who tends to be bossy and adamant about what I want, but when it comes to writing, I don't like to dictate too many rules.  Challenges, however, are another category altogether.  I think that it's fun to put parameters on what you're writing and how you're writing it.  When you enforce limits in your writing, you consciously think about your writing in a different way than you're used to doing.  That being said, I have thought of a few fun challenges for you to try in your writing this month...

Words Per Sentence

Put a limit on the number of Words per Sentence (WPS) you can use.  Let's say each sentence has to be five words or less (choppy, to-the-point sentences).  Or, try the opposite, and write very verbose sentences of five or more words.  Have fun with it.  When you read your stories back to yourself, you'll find that the tone and mood changes depending on the number of WPS.

Alliteration Avenue

Create a list of words that each begin with the same letter.  After compiling a good-sized list, start writing.  The challenge is to try to use mostly the words from your list (and not many other words that begin with different letters/sounds).  Read it back to yourself when you've finished and see how poetic and flowing it sounds.

Playing with Point of View

Think of a situation that you've been in (or could be in).  Write it down quickly from your perspective in the first person point of view (using words like I, we, my, me).  Then, rewrite the same situation from the second person point of view as if it's someone else describing what happened to you (using words like you, your).  Finally, rewrite the same situation a third time in the third person point of view (using words like he, she, it, they) from an unbiased, omniscient perspective.  Notice how details changed in your storytelling across all three perspectives.