Friday, March 31, 2017

March 31: Things to know if your kids are my teenagers

Things I should know more about, because they matter to my children:

Do you know who Casey Neistat is? He's a New York City-based vlogger who my son adores. Casey uploaded a video blog post (a vlog) every day for 300+ days, and not just him in front of a computer. The guy is all about incredible production (music, drones, world travel). Well, he took a vlogging hiatus, but now -- he's back! And my son is back online, consuming a lot of Casey again (and he's not alone -- some of his videos have 15,000,000 views!).

Rookie (online and in annual Yearbooks) was founded by fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson. Rookie publishes a ton of content (I would say female focused, but I betcha my daughter would push back on that), and the talk is straight-up honest and covers it all -- sex, drugs, rock and roll. 

Instagram. Snapchat. Vsco. My kids love these apps, and I can't figure out Snapchat for the life of me. And now kids have Finstagram Accounts (their "fake" Instagram identities). And I'm way lost, seeing way too much skin, and wondering if Snapchat is replacing real conversation. At least VSCO seems artsy (she says naively).

Chance the Rapper. Glad he gave Chicago schools a big check. Not sure I should allow this to be my son's first concert (without us), but that's the almost daily discussion in my house right now. It's six weeks away. I better start figuring this out, and I don't think a "No; because I said so." is gonna work here.

Keeping up with my kids and their passions is part of how I stay connected to them, but I do find I need to be careful not to seem too informed or too excited about "their" things -- I try to take their lead, grateful when the door is open, and keep my cool without asking too many "mom" questions!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30: An acrostic poem (I know, I know!) to celebrate slicing

(We are going to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime tonight, so I'm slicing SUPER EARLY for me, because I know I'll be tired tonight.)

Listen up, my friends!
I've got big news
Since we last spoke (OK, I kept it a secret, it's true)
And it may surprise you...

(It definitely
Surprised me.)

After many years of supporting teachers with workshop, and supporting students with workshop, I am now a

Realizing I wouldn't do it on my own,
I jumped into Slicing. I stuck with it. And
Thanks to this writing community,
Every day this month, I put pen to paper. The month is ending, but April 4 will be here soon. A new Slicer is born. A writer is here. I'm
Ready to keep going.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 29: The Queen has spoken -- books for everyone!

Today, I got to read aloud in two multiage K-2 classrooms. I read Cannonball Simp by John Burningham and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña.
If I was queen of the world:
* Every classroom would have a robust classroom library. New teachers would have a library mentor to help them ensure quality. There would be some guidance on how to develop this library, plenty of baskets and shelving, and a cozy rug, a lamp and a few beanbag chairs, too. Some books might be leveled; some organized in genres. But many are organized by the kids themselves, to help build their ownership and investment.
* Children would be able to take books home. If they were lost, it would be OK. No threats, no "no more books for you."
* Every teacher would get $100 for new books the 1st of each month. They would be delivered by the 5th.
* At the beginning of each year, and then at the beginning of each quarter, each teacher would get a set of new books -- the top recently released books to inspire, build communities of readers, dazzle with knowledge presented in interesting, engaging ways. (Choosing these books is a special honor for a group of teachers; the committee rotates every two years.)
* Every day, there would be read aloud at least twice. Guest readers are the norm, too -- parents, family members, visitors, the principal. It's not a special thing, it's just how we do business.
* After we read, we might draw or share a response. We might write a review or take a picture of the book and put it on our list to read again. We might compare it to other books or gobble up everything by this author. Or we might just sit in quiet appreciation and let the book be in our heart.
Yes... just planning this makes me feel better... the library is the soul of the classroom and without amazing books, I would never be able to teach. So I'm going to be running for queen of the world soon! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 28: Three Little Words Collection

I am tired.

A full day
Coaching engaged teachers
Assessing growing readers.

Three phone calls,
Supporting leaders and
brainstorming possible solutions.

A nonstop inbox
That needs attention.
Too many "urgents"!

A full workout
14 grueling miles,
yet feeling good.

Last minute stop
Picking up groceries
And late dinner.

Finally sitting down
And putting together
Three little words.

This writing habit
Is getting easier
At day 28!

I am grateful.

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27: Secret Slicer

So, here's the deal: I haven't told anyone I'm slicing.

Well, that's not totally true -- I've read one post to my husband, and he knows I'm doing something with a blog. And I also told a random person visiting a school (in from NYC) who asked me "if I was a writer" and I replied "Well, not really, but there is this crazy slicing thing I'm doing this month!"

And it IS crazy because:

* I love sleep. I love it so much. I'm 51 and I'm OLD! I've gone from needing 6, then 7 and now 8 beautiful hours of sleep a night, and when you slice, YOU GET LESS SLEEP! You're not only creating your post, but drawn into others', too -- not just 3 comments (that's the bare minimum), but I'm always finding a teacher-writer who has a voice that I admire, a story I want to learn from, a blog that draws me in. So if you're slicing, be ready to give up those zzzzz's.

* I'm not a writer! But wait -- 27 days of posting. Twenty-seven new ideas, and at least two comments/day means 54 READERS (albeit strangers). So, maybe that's not crazy, because if you write every day, and people read what you write, then you may be, by definition, a writer. So I. May. Be. A. Writer.

* This is hard work! And not just the time commitment (see "less sleep", above), but the work of drawing out ideas. Of writing drafts and rejecting them; crafting ideas then abandoning them as they lack substance; even scribbling notes and struggling to find those elusive post-its at the bottom of your backpack. But just like working out, if you plank every day for 10 seconds, eventually you can add 2 seconds. Then 2 more. And your new muscles make you proud (but not proud enough to share -- I'm still a secret slicer!), because your daily hard work is paying off, even if only you and 54 strangers can see it.

* Your heart gets involved. How many of you wrote about loved ones? About the heartache of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's death? About losses and sadnesses and terrible, horrible, no good very bad days? Yep, I see your hands going up. When we write, those emotions race to our finger tips and tap onto our screens and before we know it, our words & our heart are tangled on the page. Sometimes, that makes us feel better. Other times, less so. But that is part of our task, if we are to truly become writers -- to share/show our emotions, and to invite our reader into our hearts.

So maybe I will tuck this blog away until it's time for slicing in 2018 and be oh-so embarrassed when I see how green my writing is; how I lack muscle and how tired I sound. Or maybe, just maybe, I will find a way to share it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 26: Food diary

Today's food diary:

Breakfast: a cheddar/scallion scone with corn meal at our neighborhood bakery with a very strong latte; it was savory yumminess. Saw a friend, stayed at bakery for an hour, leading to half a sticky roll, split with my husband. Conversation on effective teaching, effective parenting of teens, effective caring for parents as they age. No wonder I needed that extra sticky bun.

Snack: six water crackers dipped in spicy carrot hummus eaten to stave off hunger before heading to the gym. Delish! Watch Chopped Junior while riding bike at gym. Wish I'd eaten more. 

Back from gym: one piece of Honey Baked Ham from the Honey Baked Ham store (a super-special treat for my son that I snapped at my husband for eating earlier; so I had to sneak my piece!) and a huge glass of milk. A slice of bakery bread -- Pullman loaf, one of our favorites. Add cheese to shopping list -- grilled cheeses tomorrow, for sure.

Dinner out with friends: blood orange margarita with salt on the rim, the perfect balance to the sweetness and a decadent treat for a "school night". Incredibly rich lobster enchilada with crema sauce. And lots of chips dipped in the sauce. What creamy deliciousness this main course was, so no dessert needed.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25: So far today

So far today... I woke up before my alarm, a New Yorker on the pillow next to me... must've fallen asleep reading.

Since I'm the only one home, I had half a chocolate cupcake and some leftover pasta for breakfast. I was bummed to see we were out of milk. Made a quick grocery list.

I talked to a friend about her job search. We practiced how to ask someone for an informational coffee without sound too "down" on your current job. We made a Google doc with over 10 ideas of people to contact. We promised to talk again for a few minutes tomorrow. When we got off, I said a quick prayer for her success.

I've done 3 loads of laundry:
  stinky workout clothes
  stinky 14 year old boy clothes
  flannel sheets that I think I'll now tuck away until next fall.

I had a super quick chat with my husband and son, away on their ski trip for 12 more hours. They are squeezing in a half-day on slopes in Utah before they come home to me. I can't wait to see them, but I suspect they will bring stinky laundry home with them. And I probably won't be having cupcake for breakfast tomorrow.

I cleaned out our two disgusting refrigerator drawers. ICK! How did they get so moldy? When do other people find time to clean out their fridge? Am I hoarding old cheese on purpose? Must not let this happen again. Such a gross surprise.

I folded a load of laundry and set aside workout clothes -- they didn't even go back in the drawer, so when my alarm goes off in 9 minutes, it will be super easy to shift to gym time.

So far today... I found 3 podcasts I want to listen to, but my tech was fritzy, so I decide to slice before noon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

March 24: 8 words

My internet is down, so I’ve made my phone into a “hot spot” in order to post a Slice tonight; my letter to my daughter will need to wait. Instead here are:

8 words for my Friday

sunny: 70 degrees and a bright blue sky and saw my first crocuses. Welcome spring!

technology: My internet has become unreliable, which makes me realize how much I need tech. Is this OK? Yes, I know I need it to consult, and email is my lifeblood of communication, but in realizing how reliant I am, I’m reflecting a bit and asking: is it too much?

handyman: I need one. There are 27 projects that each need 10 minutes of skill, tools and project know-how that does not exist in this family. I’m going to post a note on our neighbor list serve tomorrow.

thin mints: I’ve already sliced about them once. They are so perfect, especially out of the freezer. Today I ate three. The last three. I need another box.

catfish: This is the name of a strange show on MTV I watched while I worked out on the treadmill today (usually I watch cooking shows, but I worked out at an unusually awful time for TV). I was unfamiliar with the concept (people tricking each other online by pretending to be someone they aren't), and it creeps me out. Must talk with kids about this.

equity: I’m reading a LOT about disrupting racism, and today, I spent some time webbing out some thoughts about “my” definition of equity (as well as other’s). It was helpful to write, not just read, and I’m going to keep working on this personal project.

optimist: Tonight, I had dinner with a friend who is a 50 year old widow with a 7 year old daughter. She described herself as an optimist and shared all the things she has to be grateful for, raising her daughter alone after losing her husband to a massive heart attack less than a year ago. I need to give my friend some support and joy, in quiet, behind-the- scenes ways. She is amazing. I need to feed her heart and am excited to find ways to do this for her.

addict: Three new books today, and I didn't even purchase the book I went to the bookstore to get! I can't really control myself. I realize it. So finishing this Slice and hopping in bed early. With a book!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23: To my daughter, who is far away, part 1

My brave & bold daughter is spending her sophomore year living and going to high school in Goslar, Germany. This letter is a love note to her (using her nickname, Joe).

Ah, my wonderful girl,
I have tried not to send too many "I miss you" notes (or chats!) to you. You know I miss you, and we know we will see each other in June, for an intense 14 days straight, and get all caught up (and then, we will need another break!). So this note is not about the many ways I miss you, but instead, about the many ways I love you and keep you in my heart when you are far away.

Joe, I love your inquisitiveness. You never lead with opinion, but with wondering. When we have discussions about what's happened at school, you're able to hold multiple points of view (even the teacher's) without judgment, in order to understand a complex situation (one that often involves unchecked, race-based bias). And even when you see bias, you probe to get at the heart of the challenge, so that if hearts and minds need to be changed, you're digging down deeply into issues rather than skating the surface. (I think you choose your school activities -- writing for the paper, being in the Student Group on Race Relations, and sitting on the Student Advisory Group -- because they mesh with your talent of asking questions and listening carefully to responses.)

Your friends seem to know they can count on you to use this skill to support them (and love them, in fact). The way you help A. untangle fickle high school friendship and discover how to be friendly to all, but careful with her deep friendships. The way you've been able to maintain far-away friendship with Chicago friends and camp friends, because when you connect with them, your authentic curiosity brings you back into their lives and the topics that matter most: their passions, their loves, their futures. I promise you, I don't read your texts and eavesdrop on calls, but I know you bring this strength to your friendships -- in the snippets of conversation that float to me, the sharing you do with me... and from the moms who tell me how much you love and care for their kids. (Yes -- the mom network is powerful!)

You share this gift with our family, too. Loads of making sure we consider our "whys" -- by asking questions, you've been a catalyst for ensuring our actions match with our values. Attending to and engaging with church. Deciding to attend the Women's March. Finding articles to read and discuss. And as you grow older, you need "us" -- Dad and me -- less and less as your spread your wings and ask your questions (and seek your answers) further from us. Tomorrow, I'll share how you're growing into independence -- and how proud that makes me.

xo xo Mom

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22: A quote to guide my year

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

This quote is my mantra for the year, and I thought I would dedicate a slice to reflecting on why it matters so much to me this year. It's from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's book Strength to Love, a collection of his homilies. Last year, for my 50th birthday, I gave away a copy of Martin's Big Words at almost every professional development session I led (and I share my b'day with MLK, so this was especially meaningful for me), and often directed teachers to this page, which I think contains some of Martin's most important teachings: what will you do when faced with darkness? With hate?

I have always protected myself with the cloak of "I'm an urban teacher, of course I'm doing my part of equity." But in the past 2 years, I've grown new muscles and a renewed commitment to not only "being for equity" but engaging in hard conversations, taking political action, fighting for policies and making the work of allyship (as a privileged white straight woman) waaay more active. My partner in this work is often my friend L, who reminds me that it's important to "be intentional" and the brilliant role model Bryan Stevenson tells us that we need to "be proximate" to our work and step toward and into inequality if you want to change it. And I hold MLK's quote with me, as I get into that uncomfortable space:

"I see injustice and unfairness. Tell me what you're feeling. I am hear to listen, and to respond with light and respond with love." 

Doing the work with light and love is HARD. MAN! I want to gossip. I want to judge. I want to roll over & pretend "this is not my problem." I want to fix, to talk, to shake someone. And I have to hold those responses in check; take a breath; and recognize my place. To hold silence and to hold judgment. To engage when asked, and when not asked to engage, decide carefully, not impulsively, what to do next. To recognize the huge amount of privilege I bring into a room without even talking. To focus on trust-building all the time. To minimize assumptions. And let me say again: to listen.

The past two years, I have made mistakes, and I have been granted forgiveness. I have taken on a leadership role in a complicated space in a wealthy community with a persistent achievement gap. I have far to go in learning how to ally, how to listen, and how to work for change. But I will continue to go with light and love as my guidance.

from Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Bryan Collier

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 21: 10 Little Things About D

Today, my husband is 53. And I adore him... read on to see how awesome he is!


10. The way he picks up the slack in our family when I am gone (which is a lot) and is famous for prepping "Breakfast for Dinner" no matter what food I left for them all to eat.

9. That he still has a turntable, and we regularly listen to old Genesis and Supertramp and Madonna. On vinyl! And it does sound better, and our kids are learning the classics.

8. How he and his best friend (who lives in Boston) talk on the phone about their jobs, families, skiing, politics, and life... they chat 2-3 times/week, and this friend makes my husband laugh really hard, like no one else can.

7. Our ability to live without TV. Even if it means watching the Olympics (one of his favorite things) in bars.

6. His commitment to a certain kind of mechanical pencil (which is almost always has with him).

5. That after 30 years in insurance, he is starting a new business and getting after it -- with passion and energy and vitality and a deep commitment to this new idea (and a plan for making it work).

4. How he puts articles on my pillow for me... OK, it used to be on my pillow (cut from the newspaper) but now it's an email. But he's always thinking about what I might be interested in.

3. That he is wants us all to be adventurous. I might not choose a life of adventure on my own, but with him & our kids, I'm exploring the world in ways that I know will keep me young. AND open my eyes. In 3 months, we are going to bike from Prague to Vienna. WHAT? Yep... like, real adventure!

2. His incredible love of our children. It's bottomless and smart and thoughtful love that helps our kids become better people, since he truly listens to them and knows them. He is so present for them. They know their dad. It's beautiful.

1. The sense that I have a partner who loves the "professional (very busy) me", even when I make terrible mistakes, forget promises (or even worse, disregard them), and feel defeated. I left a job that made me miserable (now 2 years ago), and in my darkest days, he was there. And in the light of transition, he cheered me on. Since I am very committed to my work, to have a partner this supportive of my success is more important than I could have dreamed.


Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20: Notes from a Fan Girl -- Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Tonight, I rallied after our school board meeting to hear Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, the team who wrote All American Boys. WOW -- what a reward for rallying. I was a huge fan of the book, told in two voices of two experiences of police violence (one the black victim, one the white observer).

Here are some quotes that I will be taking with me:

JR, after telling a story of being stopped by cops when he was 16 (in a car that did nothing wrong, with 3 other black boys; made to lay on their bellies, handcuffed, the car totally searched):
  "We didn't realize we were living in a traumatic state... psychologically abused... made to feel small. Victims of police violence often don't die. But with that kind of trauma... they die a death every single day."

BK, after sharing his story of being stopped by cops when he was 16; and let go with no ticket, not even a warning. The cop said "Go home. Be safe. And keep your friends safe." "This is white privilege. Safety and comfort are not the same thing. Quinn (the character he wrote) had an invisible wall around him, and I wanted him to break down that wall... to choose to live in safety and justice for all."

JR writes because he wants to tell stories about kids like me. There are no books from his childhood that acknowledge what was going on: HIV. Crack cocaine. And hip hop music. So he writes so others can have "a relationship with language, an archive of your life."

BK asks us to not only be "against racism" but be actively anti-racist. Privilege gives you the option to opt out. Don't do it. Quinn attends the march, and we need to, too. Our actions say "This story is real. I heard you. I see you. It's not my story, but I acknowledge that it's true." He quotes Henry Louis Gates, Jr: "How dare I not have hope?"

WHAT A NIGHT of seeing hope through literature and readers. My heart is full, and I'm ready to be a stronger listener.

Jason, me, Deborah, Brendan -- BIG SMILES at 8:45 pm!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19: N C Double YAY, I'm having a super lucky day!

I am NOT a big NCAA March Madness person, but we do a neighborhood bracket (and hey, I live in Cleveland, so we are riding a basketball wave here!), including our many teenage kids, and there is a very wry dad who acts as our commissioner, sending us updates that make you laugh and feel involved and invested (he's a great writer, so I love his clever emails).

Well, here we are, the Sunday when many games are played to help decide the "sweet sixteen" -- in fact, there are 16 games (see, I'm pretty new at this!). My husband kindly explained that this crazy day of basketball is the madness part (I'm catching on!).

So far, I've got:

2 wrong picks
and 3 games still being played (and I won't be updating you guys, because they will going on way too late for this fan)

Yowza, folks, that's 11 for 13, and maybe as high as 14 for 16 -- that's exciting, and I'm in FIRST PLACE among the 49 people in our pool, beating out several cats & dogs, as well as humans. And though I'm a much bigger fan of the awesome "Book March Madness" brackets that I see on the Units of Study Facebook pages, I have to admit, it's fun to be thinking of winning something (and the "something" is bragging rights -- no money involved here). I picked based on emotions, how much I liked the college, and a few glances at the records and ratings that were on the bracket form. I'm not even sure when/where the finals are, but this competition is helping me see that low-stakes friendly competition can be fun, but it's especially fun when you're lucky enough to be winning. Yep, that's right -- it's just luck, not skill or knowledge, practice or commitment. And if we're going to have winners and losers, I'm a fan of hard work, dedication and persistence paying off in victories-- like the work of these basketball players (hopefully, there are many scholar-athletes in the bunch). So I'll be sure to keep my cheers moderate and hope that all this madness doesn't go to my head.

Friday, March 17, 2017

March 17: Haiku Day x 5

Spring, you seem to be
Terribly far away and
I'm worried you're lost.

I received a book
At exactly the right time
To learn something new.

"Once upon a time"
Is great for princesses but
Off base for rock stars.

Checking to see if
It's safe to eat the whole sleeve
Of thin mints... ... ...  too late.

And one more, in honor of AKR (inspiration link below):

She told us all to
"Make the most of your time here."
YEEESSS! I'm in! Are you?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16: "I'll keep you in my prayers" -- and I really will

I'm sitting down at the computer with few ideas this morning and a jam-packed day ahead of me (including an evening event -- watching middle schoolers put on the play "Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- which will either be fantastically wonderful or full of awkward moments), but wanting to slice, because today is MORE than half-way, and I don't want to lose my momentum!

Here's a personal bit about our family...

We have a small book (tiny -- maybe 2 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches), made of plain white paper and an orange cover, that we use to write down all of the people we say we'll pray for. So often, I see a post on Facebook or get a text from a friend, sharing difficult news -- a sick parent, a miscarriage, a challenge with a teenager's choices, a heartache. And sometimes, the prayer request is bigger -- for our nation, for families experiencing racism and police violence, for travelers. For many years, I just said "You're in my prayers." or "I'll keep you in my prayers." And I did. Usually. Sometimes. You know, good intentions and all...

But now, I've gotten in the habit of writing it down in the "prayer book" after I send the text, make the post, say the words. It's created a small but important ritual for our family... adding the names, and then reading the names every so often during dinner (the full book). It can be sad in a very personal way: a prayer for my father-in-law and his memory unit caregivers always brings an aching, as we lost him last December. There are also far-away sadnesses: a child of a friend who waited years for a lung transplant -- they received their miracle, but her frail body did not accept the lungs and this bright 20 year-old young woman died. It's been comforting to know that when I say "I'll keep you in my prayers" that I really will. Such a small phrase that I repeat pretty often (32 times, by count of our book in the past 15 months), and this book has stood the test of time, reminding us of the promise of our prayers.

I am finding, as I skim through it, that I often ask for help/healing/grace/peace but not as many prayers of gratitude. Perhaps I need to create another little book of celebration prayers... we're lucky to have much joy in our lives, too.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15: Loving high schoolers

For about 2 months, I've been working with about 30 volunteers from our community to support struggling high school readers. For the record, I'm a K-3 person (give me a picture book read aloud any day), and my own kids are 14 and 16, so I'm thick into raising teens (but my no means an expert at raisin' 'em or teaching them!).

Yet because I care about our community's kids and saw an opportunity to step-up and do something, I worked hard to get buy-in from teachers to let us try something, created a program (based on the *amazing* and free resource, Word Generation), trained the 30 folks in our community who signed up to help, and hustled like HECK to get kids there (bribes of pizza and Subway; calls home; notes to their 9th period class; text & email reminders and last but not least, walking the hallways and luring them in!).

So here's the thing: I ended up adoring these kids. They all struggled with our state's assessment as freshman, and yet -- they have such strong personalities, it was easy to identify a "hook" to connect with them, and their energy (once fed) was so upbeat. Yes, there were times when a kid was oh-so tired, and oh-so did not feel like coming to tutoring. Once when that happened, I looked the kid right in the eye and said, "OK, so you're tired. If you're too tired to come to tutoring, just say it to me. 'Mrs. V, I'm too tired to come today.' And I'll give you a high five and remind you to come on Wednesday. But if you can rally, we want you here. What do you think?" And he dragged-dragged-dragged himself in, and I set-up him with a rock star tutor (frankly, so many of them were rock stars, that was easy) and brought over a brownie and he, well, he rallied. Another girl was super distracted by boys (or, to be more precise, by flirting with boys). She would always end up in the hallway by the library at 3:55, giggling & shoulder touching & being enchanting, as only 16 year old girls can do, and I'd pop my head out and say "Miss K, you are welcome to come in, we are here with Rolos (her favorite candy), but you must come in now and not delay...". I think she put herself near that library at 3:55 (we are big building; there are plenty of ways to NOT be near me at 4:00, when tutoring starts), and wanted to be wanted. Instead of seeing tutoring as a burden, we were a little club and my teasing to bring her in helped make it even more exclusive. Lucky us!

I shout out teachers who hang with high schoolers all day. My tiny project is nothing like bringing positive energy, strong/engaging/relevant curriculum, and a repertoire of management skills living in that "warm demander" space for hours all day. In fact, I think I need to hang with one of these teachers for a day and build my chops, so I can continue to bring a good game. We've decided to have another go at the program in April -- 8 sessions on poetry -- who has ideas for me??!!

Books for Give-Away our last 2 sessions:          

The chart where kids (yellow cards) would match-up with adults (white cards) at every session:

The squad -- partnerships in action (and some posing, too!):

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 14: Back to the Harvard Business Review -- productive generosity

This post is my final set of learnings, reflections and personal application of ideas from the Harvard Business Review article Beat Generosity Burnout by Adam Grant & Reb Rebele (link at the bottom of this post).

"Although giving makes our jobs and our lives more meaningful, it doesn’t always make us more energized. On average, helping others makes people only modestly happier -- and in some studies, takers actually report more pleasure in life than givers. It’s not hard to figure out why. When people are selfless to the point of burnout, they undermine their own ability to give and the satisfaction that comes from it.

Generosity means caring about others, but not at the expense of caring for yourself. By protecting yourself from exhaustion, you may feel less altruistic. Yet you will actually end up giving more."

So, I bolded the sentence above and again here: Generosity means caring about others, but not at the expense of caring for yourself. This statement is hard for me to read, but I think I am growing to believe it. I have had too many days when I come home too tired to take care of myself (and therefore -- unhealthy dinner, no workout, tears, mean mom/disengaged wife syndrome creeps in), and I complain that I've been giving-giving-giving all day long. SOME of that giving is part of the job, but some of it is being an over-committed, let-me-do-it-all lifelong habit that needs attention.

As a coach, this jibes with some of what I've learned:
* ask good questions to truly understand the challenges;
* help others seek solutions, don't be the solution-guru;
* if I do the work solo, that won't build capacity or be sustainable -- create right-sized plans that empower others.

Adam and Reb wrap-up the article with suggested good habits. As I read through them, I know that I need to embrace 1-2 of these if I want to be a stronger, sustained giver to the people and organizations I care so deeply about. AND not only do I need to make the commitment to shifting my practice, I need to have a way of sharing that with folks that doesn't make me feel terrible or guilty, but instead, acknowledges my care. Again, just like I do as a coach, I think I'm doing to need to rehearse my language, so it feels comfortable and authentic, rather than a bumbling "uhm, I don't think I can but let me check, I'm so busy but you know how important this is to me and I want to help but..." (I'm really good at THAT already!).

So my big takeaways:
* Being generous is worthy and important in the workplace.
* Being a stressed giver isn't good -- for the giver or receiver.
* There are concrete ways to reflect on your giving and make it more productive.
* AND it's possible for ME to be a more productive giver -- but for that to happen, I need to commit to changing some of my bad habits.

I know so many educators who give-give-give, and while some of the stories in this article may feel too "corporate", I bet you'll recognize yourself in here, as I did, and be inspired to make some meaningful changes -- for your OWN good and the good of those you help, too!

Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13: A list of good things when I'm sad about Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I know I need to finish my "generosity" reflection, but I'm feeling so sad about Amy Krouse Rosenthal's death. She was an 100% generous kind of person, and when I saw the news, I took time to cry. And I'm making a list of 10 things that are joyful:

1. Finding a book that you know you can give to a student or teacher at the exact right moment. Seeing their eyes light up and feeling the "YES" that radiates from their joy. 
2. A cupcake with perfect cake-to-frosting ratio. Had one for dessert tonight, made by a neighbor. So yummy and so much better than my baking.
3. Hearing an a cappella choir sing "Happy". I heard Morehouse Mens Choir sing tonight... and yes, I clapped along, because it did make me happy!
4. When someone else empties the dishwasher... without being nagged.
5. Letters in the mail. Real letters! (Birthday cards are great, but I'm talking letters here.)
6. Discovering a new, helpful type of post-it note, then buying extra, so she can share them with another post-it note aficionado. (I was going to use "addict" but that makes loving post-its sound like a tough sickness.)
7. Tights without holes.
8. Big big tight hugs from my rough and tumble 14 year old son. The kind that I fear will disappear in a few years, and that I'll long for... 
9. A free lunch. I love when someone unexpectedly treats me to lunch or coffee, without making a big deal about it. A simple, gracious "Let me treat you today." That's a treat. (And I should do this more often for others.)

You know what? I'm leaving #10 open, in honor of Amy. In honor of the space she left behind.
Amy, thank you for your gift of words and humor. Your passion for love, people, and generosity. For leaving so much evidence of love in the world. I will keep wishing others MORE. Big love to your family. I know there hearts must be breaking.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12: A break from generosity to be generous -- thank you, Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is dying of cancer.

She's a favorite children's author... and adult books, too. Check out her Amazon site, I bet you know a ton of her stuff.

She wrote an essay in the New York Times, in Modern Love (how I love Modern Love), about loving her husband and wanting him to find love after her death (but how much it truly sucks not to have more time with him). There's not an ounce of self pity in it. Please take time to read You May Want to Marry My Husband. Have kleenex close by. It will be one of the essay you'll every read, I promise.

BUT the most important thing about this post, my post, is that Chronicle Books is asking us to step into the LOVE Amy has put in the world (and is putting in the world -- how does she do this?). They posted a note about her work, life and generosity and are asking us to print an awesome card they designed and get it OUT THERE in the world! The directions are simple (link is below, too).

I'm going to do this every day next week, in gratitude for Amy's writerly life, and to spread joy and make sure that Amy's MORE lives on and on. Will you join me?

Print this card and give it to someone you know, or to someone you don’t. Leave it for a stranger to find in a lovely moment of serendipity.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March 11: Generosity -- improving my profile

Today's post continues my reflections after reading Beat Generosity Burnout by Adam Grant & Reb Rebele in the Harvard Business Review (link below).

Adam & Reb explain that my giving would be more effective if I was more proactive (rather than reactive). So instead of being all-things-to-all-people (= spread thin = worse for me, therefore less good done for others), it's important for me to identify the ways I want to give, and focus on bringing those skills to my relationships and organizations that matter most to me.

I LOVED the six profiles of giving; just reading through them was incredibly helpful in realizing I'm NOT being discerning in sharing my talents. Copied from the article, Adam & Reb describe the following profiles:

Experts share knowledge.
Coaches teach skills.
Mentors give advice and guidance.
Connectors make introductions.
Extra-milers show up early, stay late, and volunteer for extra work.
Helpers provide hands-on task support and emotional support.

So, I'm thinking aloud here: I have many individuals that I coach & mentor as a giver (after all, that's my professional work, too). Perhaps I should recognize that I can't really be the helpers in their lives, as well. There's a board I'm on that recently asked me to step up and become an expert; but as I'm already the expert on another board, I think I just need to continue to be the extra-miler (with a monthly dose of connector thrown in, as we strive to grow the work. When I think deeply about my commitment to generosity with these profiles in mind, I'm coming to a big a-ha: now that I'm raising teenagers, I need to keep my "helper" hat on for them -- in fact, I want to carefully pull back from providing too much emotional support to others (outside of my family), so I can be prepared for the ebbs and flows of emotional TLC my kids seem to need right now (so often, it comes via tears at 10:30 pm at night).

My haphazard generosity, if more carefully organized, might help me decrease my resentfulness (after all, giving is supposed to be joyful!) and also me be better a better helper, too. To personally propel this concept forward, I'm going to make a list of my commitments and honestly label the TOP 2 ways I feel I can be generous, as well as acknowledge the things I need to do better (or even -- and I'll say it boldly -- let go of). Then, I'm going to share with my husband, my #1 supporter and a kind truth-teller, too.

I'll share more and wrap-up my own reflections will wrap-up tomorrow

Friday, March 10, 2017

March 10: Harvard Business Review gives me advice on generosity. Will I listen? Will I learn?

Beat Generosity Burnout by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele in the Harvard Business Review (link below)
Selflessness at work leads to exhaustion -- and often hurts the very people you want to help. Here's how to share your time and expertise more effectively.

I'm reading and blogging about this article the next few days, because it really pushed my thinking about my own work and life commitment to generosity. I do feel like I've sorta gone over the edge in being super-volunteer and super-nonprofit-consultant (and super-mom but only half-way decent-wife/daughter/friend, and that's only if I've had caffeine). I've read all the Real Simple "How to Say No" articles, so I'm stepping up to Harvard Business Review and trying to learn something here.

First, let me also add: I think our country has had some crisis days lately, but I should note that I've been super-volunteer for a while now (which is why it has its own section in my resume). However, in the past few months (let's say since early November, for anyone keeping track), I have felt my urgency RISE and I've matched that with some increased action. But, politics aside, let me make it personal.

WHERE AM I on the generosity spectrum? (graphic below)

First off, who knew there was such a thing?! So I take a deep breath and read the descriptions.
Taker? Nope, swipe left.
Matcher? Hmmm... I think I have a few people with whom I dance this dance. But it's not my daily diet, so moving on.
Self-protective givers. I can see this is where I should be. (I know how the Cosmo Quiz works!) "THIS IS ME!" Oh no, let me read more carefully. This is NOT me. Shoot, shoot, shoot.
My eyes sneak over to the right and the glimmers of self-recognition brighten.
Yep -- this description is a place I visit pretty regularly.

There is SO MUCH NEED! How can I not have "high concern for others"? Plus, to whom much is given, much is expected, right? (I'm a white, straight, upper middle class woman with a husband, masters degree, a retirement account, two cars, and a home I own. AND a super great job. And two kids -- a girl and a boy. I am privileged.) I live in a community where there is need, and work in schools where there is tremendous need, and live 9 minutes from Cleveland, where there is need. Kids to be tutored, cookies to be baked, lasagnas to be delivered. Boards to sit on, events to be planned, coffees to attend, connections to be made. Documents to be drafted, meetings to attend, documents to be revised, and now it's time to tutor again, how did that happen?

Adam & Reb are telling me, f I'm running on fumes, I am less effective as a giver.
AM I running on fumes?
Tune in tomorrow for more self-reflection and some personal goal-setting.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 9: Where I Review Blue Apron

Blue Apron: A Working Mom's New Friend

About twice a month, a heavy cardboard box arrives on our front porch. Sometimes, one of my kids or my husband will lug it in inside, and sometimes it even makes its way onto the kitchen counter. But it always stays shut until I get home.

I slice open the seal and pull out two glossy, full-color cards: our Blue Apron recipes and easy-to-follow directions. Then I pull back the silver quilted bag that holds the ingredients. Produce on top, then two small brown bags that contain the "knick knacks" for each meal -- often a spice sack, sometimes a small container of special oil. I love that it's actually got a "knick knack" label! Finally, at the bottom, always protected by 2 large, long-lasting cold ice packs, is the protein -- chicken breasts or ground turkey, catfish or shrimp. 

I often take a quick survey to decide which meal sounds most appealing to the family, but often times, I let myself judge a book by its title:

Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry with Tango Mandarins & Jasmine Rice
Blackened Cajun Catfish with Sweet Potato & Collard Green Gratin
Seared Pork Chops with Farro, Brussel Sprouts & Cranberry Chutney
Shokichi Squash Pasta with Walnuts, Sage & Kale

Once I make my choice, a put on a little smooth jazz, preheat the oven and start cooking. Usually there's a slew of chopping to "prepare the ingredients".  One out of every two recipes includes garlic and the smell of freshly chopped garlic always sends the signal "There is a real dinner coming out of this kitchen tonight!" I've never used tango mandarins or baked a sweet potato & collard green gratin, so I take the recipe card to my cabinet, at eye level, so I can follow along closely -- words and pictures always make this "How to" easier for me (and the bold print when they reference ingredients is another helpful text feature!). Within 15 minutes, there is usually a bubbling pot or a timer ticking and I skim ahead to see how I'll "assemble the food and plate my dish" (usually I just serve it up, but with Blue Apron, I'm plating!). Sure, there have been some misfires (seared chicken with turnip, apple and barley salad was 4 thumbs down), and occasionally, I'm crazed for time (pimento cheeseburgers with roasted carrots and parsnips became "regular burgers and carrot sticks on the side"; parsnips were never used), but for the most part, new foods + detailed recipes = a meal everyone is willing to take a bite out of.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 8: Building Beloved Community

I didn't even KNOW my friend Lisa 2 years ago. She has become my sister-friend, my journeyer, my partner in work & in celebration. So here's a poem in her honor about being PTO leaders together (yep... PTO leaders) and our commitment to building beloved community in OUR community.

Lisa. And Lisa.
White. Black.
Black. White.
But the same four letters make up our name. And sharing that name connected us.

“Let’s plan this meeting!”
A document opens, ideas start flying. We catch one, and tease it out. “If we do less of this and more of that, I think we’ve got a plan.”
We remind ourselves that meetings need connecting, need comfort with discomfort, if we want to do important work. And why meet, if you’re not doing important work, right?
Ten new possibilities sit on our post-its, ready for next month.
Agendas are printed, snacks are ready, and folks continue to join us, month in, month out.

“Let’s organize this activity!”
We start HUGE. Then scale way back. Then find the just-right balance of changing the whole big world and just changing our bit of it. “Building beloved community” we say, feeling humbled by Martin’s words and embracing the idea that we should and we must and we can do this work.
Sleeves roll. Committees form.
“What were we thinking?” we take turns saying. And “We’ve got this, we’ve got this,,” we take turns replying.
Plans made, revised, finalized. And beloved community fills our school, making
a day off
a day on
for love.

“Let’s do more.”
I think she is
But it’s the chance to show others that
two Lisas
one black
one white
can be partners.
“If not us, who?” we whisper over tea. And then our whispers become
yelps of “yes, yes, YES!” and before we know it,

beloved community grows.