Weekend Getaways

This weekend, my sister, daughter and I had a getaway to the Berkshires.  We drove north on Saturday in the early afternoon taking in the breathtaking beauty of the fall leaves along a road that meanders along a stream and then through woods, farmland, and the rolling hills of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

When we arrived at what would be our accommodation for the weekend (a beautiful home on a vast property with apple orchards, rock gardens and views of a mountain painted with splashes of orange, red, yellow, and green), we unpacked, strolled around the property, and then headed into town to pick up some provisions for the weekend. We went to a farm stand and a bookstore.  Food and books would be all that would be necessary for this weekend away!

When we returned to the house, we started cooking.  My sister Lisa had decided that moussaka would be on the menu for dinner.  My daughter Mackensie is an amazing cook.  I’m a good assistant! The three of us all worked side-by-side in the kitchen for hours.  I sautéed the lamb, Mackensie made the béchamel sauce,  and Lisa created a beautiful Greek salad.  We sipped wine and ate cheese as we worked, occasionally moving to the living room to catch parts of The Iron Chef.   Once everything was ready, we took our plates into the living room and ate, laughed, talked, and just spent time together.

We woke Sunday to rain.  In some ways it was the perfect weather for us.  We got up slowly, sipped our coffee and tea, and read the Sunday Times. Eventually we all moved to the kitchen and created another beautiful meal.  This time we baked coffee cake, scrambled eggs, cooked up some bacon, and broiled some tomatoes. We are quite a team in the kitchen!

After breakfast (Well, maybe it was brunch!), we packed up and prepared to head home. We wandered through Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, stopping in cute towns along the way, listening to music, talking, and just riding along together, back to our homes and our work and our lives.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately.  I’m dreading my upcoming birthday, I’m worried about my dad’s surgery, work isn’t as satisfying as I want it to be, and I’m feeling unsure about where I’m heading and who I want to be.  Spending this weekend with my sister and daughter in a beautiful setting reminded me, once again, how lucky I am to live in this incredible world, and to be able to enjoy this life in the company of people I love.


A Small Celebration

This past Sunday was the National Day on Writing. It seems there is now a National Day for just about everything.  There is a National Day on Doughnuts, A National Daughters’ Day, Sons’ Day, Puppy Day, Coffee Day, and then some.  But on this annual day on writing, I’ve decided that I want to take a moment to celebrate  the writer I have become.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I was young, I filled many a diary with my day to day happenings. As I got older, I tried to capture special moments, memories, dreams, and ideas. As a young teacher, I kept a writers’ notebook alongside my third grade students, capturing observations, glueing in tickets and a lock of hair from my daughter’s first haircut, seed ideas for stories, and even a few sketches.  A few years ago, I read about the Two Writing Teachers’ March Slice of Life Challenge.  The post encouraged teachers of writing to become writers in order to better teach our student writers.  I was ready to push myself to another level as a writer, so I asked a few of my colleagues if they wanted to take on the challenge.  They said yes, and we jumped in.  We’ve been writing ever since.

I now blog once a week and even write other entries in between.  All week I plan and gather ideas for my weekly post.  I plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish.  I put my writing and my voice out into the world, I take risks, I receive feedback from other writers, and I am part of a writing community. I’m not sure the writing is all that good, but I am writing and on a regular basis.  I’m going through the process.  I’m capturing some stuff on paper (or screen). I’m walking the talk.

Today I am a writer.  That’s something to celebrate.

Is It Love That’s Missing?

I’ve recently started following the work of professor and researcher, Brene Brown.  This week I read her post Doubling Down on Love and it gave me hope.  I too have been feeling a bit down, a bit frustrated, a bit disheartened with all that is going on in the world around me.  I am feeling this way about the political situation we find ourselves in, the social problems that surround us, and even in my work as an elementary literacy coach. This dissatisfaction and disappointment have made me tired and feeling unusually negative about my work. I’m usually the eternal optimist.  That part of me has been struggling lately.

I’ve been questioning my impact at both the building and district levels.  Is my work really making a difference for all learners?  Is our literacy work taking hold at increasingly higher levels (Are we moving from good to great?)?  Are children who are striving to become stronger readers and writers moving forward fast enough?  Are the thriving readers and writers being challenged to continue to grow? Are we all reading professionally and having hard conversations about our work? Are we reading and recommending books to each other and to our students? Are teachers and students finding joy?  Are teachers and students engaged?  Are teachers and students taking on this work because they believe in it, or is it a matter of compliance?  These are the questions that matter to me.  These are the questions that keep me up at night.

So when I read about the Love Ethic (from the work of bell hooks) in Brown’s post, it resonated with me and gave me hope.  According to hooks, “Individuals who choose to love can and do alter our lives in ways that honor the primacy of a love ethic. We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet. Commitment to a love ethic transforms our lives by offering us a different set of values to live by. In large and small ways, we make choices based on a belief that honesty, openness, and personal integrity need to be expressed in public and private decisions.”
I’m working to embrace some of these ideas and make a commitment to a love ethic – a different set of values to live by.  I’m going to set some goals for the rest of this school year.

  1.  I need to make more time to rest, reflect, and create.
  2. When things get hard, I need to spend more time with my family and friends.
  3. (This one I’m lifting right from Brene Brown.  I just love it the way it is!) I want to co-create a love ethic in our organization and in our communities – an ethic that informs how we show up with each other, serve the work, and cultivate belonging. Lovelessness corrodes organizational culture. We need love wherever there are humans – that means at work too.
  4. (OK….stealing this one too.) I’m going to live into my values and stand up for what I believe in from a place of love. And I’m not talking about rainbow and unicorn love. I’m talking about learning how to stay fueled by a gritty, dangerous, wild-eyed, radical, change-the-world kinda love when disdain, judgment, and contempt are so much easier and when fear is seducing me into staying quiet.

I’m so glad I’ve found Brene Brown.  I’ve been searching for some inspirational leadership, and she is proving to be pretty powerful.