It Begins – Day 1

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Before writing this first post for the March challenge, I wondered how have I started the month in the past? I have vague memories of thinking will I be able to write all month. This is my sixth year of participating in the writing challenge. I should be confident in my abilities to construct a slice of life, but that is not the case. So I opened the March 1 blog post for each year. Here is what I’ve discovered by rereading my posts:

  • 2011 Change of Plans: I didn’t show any fear of writing for the month, what did I know at that point? My post was a snippet of irritation.
  • 2012 March 1 – Here We Go!: Here the OMG what will I write?! kicked in. My calendar was full to the brim. Now I was a little smarter, I knew what it felt like writing for the month. By the end of the post I talked myself into a “You can do it!” attitude.
  • 2013 Let the Fun Begin #1: I took stock of having a writing life, it still amazes me that I do have a writing life. I knew I could do it, I had done it for two years. Now let’s have fun.
  • 2014 Make Over: Here is when I changed the way the blog looked. I’d had the same look for three years, and thought I might try on a new style. I’m sad that it changed the style from the previous years, I’d like to have kept the original look for those posts. Once again, there was no mention of worry for the month.
  • 2015 Thirty-One Days: Last year I created a poem for my first post. I still like that poem. It encompasses all that I feel beginning the challenge.
  • 2016: It Begins – Day 1: So far it is a retrospect of past posts and each one is linked to the original post.

The time has come to be hyper-vigilant of the happenings in my life in order to record a single slice of my actions, thinking, observations. Welcome to this world, where bits of you are shared with the world. Don’t panic, savor the writing each and every day. Isn’t that what we ask students to do daily? Day 1 is written and posted, only thirty more to go. 🙂


Blog Post 365

I saw the numbers creeping up, up, up. Then it hit me 365 equals one year but this journey has been in progress for over five years. I began 1-11-11, I found myself in a motel waiting out a snow day when I decided to jump into the world of blogging as a participant rather than a lurker. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. My world is so much richer because of the friends I’ve made through words first.

I’ve just revisited my first post, my first sentences written for public viewing: “Today I jump into the blogging world. It’s a little scary, considering I don’t know what I am doing.” Three hundred sixty-five posts later I still think it’s a little scary to tell my story.

Many times I don’t know what I am doing when it comes to navigating the behind the scenes of the blog.Technical issues arise and the language is foreign. I would love to change fonts, but I guess this is not an option when you use a free format. I place words carefully in my draft, but on the preview they move to a new location. Sometimes I want the words to wrap around my picture, but they don’t want to bend to my will. And as to figuring out the automatic posting time schedule, I throw my hands into the air and admit defeat.

Three hundred sixty-five sent me to Steve Jenkins’s book Just a Second. just a secHere are some facts of what occurs in 365 days:

  • Mount Everest rises half an inch.
  • The moon moves 1.5 inches farther away from the Earth.
  • Sea floor spreading move the U.S. one inch away from Europe.
  • Humans cut down 4,000,000,000 trees.

I also Googled 365 and discovered a blog started in 2013 called 365 things in 365 days. A couple decided to take on the challenge of completing 365 things they had never done in 365 days. What an interesting concept and journey they took on with gusto. In their look back, they describe their learning:

  • Life moves fast. Take a risk.
  • Failure is healthy.
  • It takes a tribe to accomplish big goals.
  • If you put goodness out there, goodness will come back.

These statements can also be true of my journey in the slice of life world. So here’s to the beginning (tomorrow) of my second 365 days of blogging my slices of life. I hope you will join me as I live this ordinary, but extraordinary life as I search for the right words, and sometimes pictures, to tell my story.


Wisdom from Christopher Lehman

Day two of the conference provided me with two opportunities to learn from Chris Lehman. His topic for the keynote was Making Curiosity the Core. He stated “Kids are our curriculum.” Think about that, it is so true. How often do we live this with our work?

Children are born scientist. They are constantly checking out their hypotheses. Just watch a baby discover hands. Hands wave, can be placed in the mouth, fingers wiggle, hold on to objects, and what else can be done with these hands?

His message reminded us that curiosity is core to our teaching lives. The “what” might be important, but be sure to include the “why.” To be curious there has to be time and space. Do we give kids the time and space to develop their curiosity?

Later in the afternoon, I attended his session on close reading for grades K-2. This is something that he and Kate Roberts are working on right now. The impetus for this work came when his first grade daughter was subjected to thirty consecutive days of close reading of Stellaluna. I love Stellaluna, but how in the world could anyone think this was a good idea?

Loved this: The book shouldn’t be more important than the learner.

You can’t close read in the early primary grades the same way you do in the upper grades. Start with an object or a picture, zoom in to study it closely. Say something about it, think about what was said, add another part to the thought. Repeat. Key question: What’s worth thinking about?

He will be at the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana this June. I know I will learn more about close reading for the younger students. This just whet my appetite for the next time I get to learn from Christopher Lehman.chris l.

Write to Learn

The final three days of February sent me to a lake resort in the middle of my state for the Write to Learn conference. At one time the title of this conference made me tremble in my boots. Write? I’m okay with the learning part, but writing, that’s hard. I’m not a writer. I’m a listener, a reader, a synthesizer of information, but I’m not a writer.

That was my thinking before. Before I started reading Two Writing Teachers.  Before I was encouraged by Ruth Ayres posts begging the readers to jump into the blog world. Before I dipped my toe into writing weekly, then daily for a month.

That was five years ago, now I realize I am a writer. So writing to learn doesn’t make me tremble anymore. I see it as a challenge to create now. I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to spend and entire day with Rose Cappelli and Lynne Dorfman. I knew they would teach me new ways of looking at mentor texts and using those texts to raise the level of my writing. I was not disappointed.

The day flew by. We studied mentor texts. Then we had the gift of time to try it out. Here is one example I jotted in my notebook.

Pans clattering in the kitchen, as the smells filled the air, while family arrives, greetings and hugs, before finding their place at the table. Prayers of thanks offered. Silence.

Rose and Lynne became friends during those days of the conference, not just authors of books I own.

Friends, Rose Capelli and Lynne Dorfman.

Friends, Rose Cappelli and Lynne Dorfman.

Pausing This Morning

I cracked one eye open, the window was still dark. I gratefully closed that eye, did an internal sigh of contentment, and settled back into the bed, pulling the blanket just a bit closer. Today I don’t have to get up. Today I can enjoy the softness and warmth of the bed a few minutes longer. Tomorrow I can’t.

Outside was brittle cold. Record lows were noted for the record books. I knew I had a busy day ahead, but I had the luxury of setting my own time schedule. I was in no hurry to begin. Twenty minutes later, the sun was just making its presence known. It was time to get the day started, but I smiled as I thought of the extra few minutes I could take today.

Those moments used to be a rare happening. Busy family life always kept everyone on a frantic pace. Now, there is less family in the house. The pace has slowed. There are more quiet moments now. I enjoy the quiet, but yet I miss the earlier life too.

Happy New Year!

A sigh of relief, I made it through another March challenge. Each year I wonder, will I be able to find something to write about e-v-e-r-y day? How can I find a topic that is new? Is this interesting? Will anyone come to read? How long can I keep doing this?

I looked back over my posts from this month and I discovered a few things. I return to familiar writing territories, such as: food (breakfast, Rueben, Ham Salad, pizza), shopping experiences (books, Sam’s), very trivial things (emails, 1st world problems, my space at conference, scarves). Mostly my format is narrative, but occasionally I create a poem with book titles, inspired by nature, or attempting a rhyme. Most posts contain a picture or two. My camera or phone is a form of a notebook, preserving a moment to put into words.

I’ve been inspired by so many of you and your stories. I never know if I will need a tissue to wipe a tear or pick myself off the floor from laughing. “Writing is data with a soul,” says Brene Brown. How true this is! We have created a lot of data this month.

Thank you for every comment. Your words mean the world to me. Comments are the sweet frosting on top of the cake.

I feel like a year of blogging ends at the end of March. April brings a new year of writing. Every year there are new writers to follow. It’s a new beginning. If I can do thirty-one days, I can do four a month. You can too! So Happy New Year to blogging the slices of our lives. Elsie will continue to write and read. Will you?



Is It the End or Just a New Beginning? #31

Can you believe this month is over? I can’t.

I love the challenge of finding something hidden in every day I want to reveal to the person who happens to click on my link. Here are some things that I have noticed in my writing:

  • This year I see that I have written more poems as a post or within a post.
  • I had several cooking with recipes included. (If you ever try the crock pot one I’d love to know what you think. It’s okay if you don’t like it, but I think you will.)
  •  I have taken you into schools and shown work by special education students that inspired me. Then that post inspired Bonnie to write. Plus I happen to know that post was passed on to another special education teacher and a kindergarten teacher and they are planning their own writing. I am anxious to see the results. 
  • The weather played a big part in many posts. Mostly whining about winter hanging around too long.
  • I was a copycat. I read other posts and they became my mentor.
  • Emails were sources of posts.
  • Life gives me something to write about.
  • I like to include pictures, but I’ve always done that once I figured out how. 🙂

 Comments make me smile. So I smiled a lot this month. Thank you to all who left me something to go back and read. I hope I gave you something to smile about as you read my comments. If you left me a comment, I tried really hard to find you and return the favor. Sometimes it would have to be in the morning because my eyes couldn’t focus on the print as the evening progressed. (Plus I was just plain tired and had to go to bed. I am not a night owl.)

The sheer volume of posts available was overwhelming. I’m sorry I could not read every one. This challenge brings out the most interesting people who tell the most interesting stories of their lives.

  • My heart breaks for the sadness and troubles you have written about.
  • My heart fills with joy for the birth of new babies to the slicers.
  • I have laughed over the funny stories written.
  • I have lingered over stories that touched me.
  • I have made connections to stories you tell and related them to my life.
  • You have made me a better person by the examples you have shared.
  • You have pushed me to be a better writer.

So another challenge has been met. I have loved every day of it. This day will not be the end of my writing. Tuesday will be here and another slice will be linked. So this is the beginning of a new year of sharing a slice of my life, Elsie Tries Writing, and she likes it!

Thank you Stacey and Ruth, you are the rock stars of my writing world!

My Best Part #18

Yesterday I left the post pondering what is my best part? It is so easy to pick out the parts that I’d like to change, but that’s not the task.

I could pick my hair color. I had brownish hair growing up. I didn’t think there was anything special about the color.  It was what it was. I thought I wanted it to be lighter, but this was long before highlighting hair was done. Once I sat out in the sun, at the top of a slide in a park near my home, because someone told me the sun would bleach my hair. It didn’t.

In my twenties a gray hair was discovered mixed into the browns, but I didn’t bother it. I was too poor to go to the beauty shop for color. I looked at hair color products once, but found them confusing, so I walked away. Pulling the hair was not an option, I did not need to inflict pain upon my scalp. So the only option was leave it alone.

More and more gray hairs joined the first and eventually they took over. However, when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see gray, I still saw brown. Finally I had to admit I had gray hair when the hair on the floor of the salon looked as though Jack Frost had moved indoors (although I still see brown under the gray).

I have come to appreciate my color. Once I was shopping in Walmart when a lady (stranger to me) came up to me and asked, “Who does your hair? I love that color and that’s the color I want.”

I looked at her confused. What did she mean I thought. I replied, “I guess you could say God does my hair, because I don’t color it.” She walked off disappointed.

It's hard to take a picture of yourself.

It’s hard to take a picture of yourself.

But although my hair color is a great part, it is not the part I think is the best.

I have always loved the color of my eyes. They are green. Sometimes they are green-ish. But they are never blue or brown. My brothers and sister  have brown eyes. I have green. I am different from them. This is something that makes me unique in the family.

I love the flecks of amber that appear mixed in with the green. Maybe there are times they are hazel colored. But they are never blue or brown.

Green has always been my favorite color. I think it started with my eyes. The best part of me is my green eyes.

You can't really see the color, but they are green. Not blue or brown.

You can’t really see the color, but they are green. Not blue or brown.

Summing Up

The final day of March and I made it! It feels good to be able to say that. Let me savor those words a moment . . . I. MADE. IT!

As the month began I had worries. What would I write about? Could I do it every day? My work calender was facing me and it was far too busy for my liking. How would I find the time to read and comment? I knew how important comments had been to me last year. I wanted to continue to support the writers whose words I had grown to love through the year. I wanted to meet new people through their words of their daily life. This was going to be a jam packed month.

I wrote. I completed 31 days of writing. Mostly my writing was a moment of my day. Such as . . .

  • It may have been a moment as I shopped for food (often unsuccessfully finding the item on the quest) or fixing some part of a meal.
  • Several of the moments came because I was sitting in my car observing the world around me.
  •  Schools I worked in gave me something to write about.
  • I noticed the process of completing tasks and the process reminded me of the process of writing.
  •  Creatures of nature crept into my writing. Some were welcomed, but others were looked upon with abhorrence.
  • A milestone in my blogging career was observed.
  • Poetry crept into my blog. I tried a variety of forms.
  • Photographs aided my words and showed the world I live and walk in each day.
  • Plus I wrote on your blogs. My words are the words I would say to you if we were sitting somewhere sharing a beverage or perhaps a meal.

I read my friends from year round slicing and I discovered more amazing writers. You let me into your lives. You related joyous moments of celebration. You shared incredible stories of bravery and perseverance. You wrote of sadness and heartbreak. My mind was filled with your stories of your life, you affected me with the words you chose to share. I feel honored to count each and everyone of you as a friend. I also read the words you left for me. Those words of encouragement spurred me on to create another post for another day. Thank you!

Through all this reading and writing I had to continue my work. Too many lost hours were spent in the car, not being able to read. I traveled 2,519 miles this month. I have not been home for more than three days consecutively during the last three weeks. Today, I get to put my suitcase up for the next ten days. I will savor my time home. My plan is to sit on the patio and enter the world of Wonder. I need some time to breathe.

The joy this challenge brings to my life can’t be described by me. I have grown as a writer and thinker because of you. I can work with teachers and be authentic when I talk about the challenges of writing every day. I bring your voices to the teachers who don’t understand that to teach writing you have to write.

These are my final words . . . until Tuesday. See you there! 🙂

Changes (part two)

Where was I? Oh yes, due to the fact I could not go away to college, I met my husband. That changed the direction of my life.

We were both teachers, and we got jobs in a small rural town where we stayed for twenty years. Then, boom! A big change, my husband got a different job. We had to move, my son was going to be a sophomore in high school. I was not too excited about this move. Over time I discovered this was the best thing for us.

Because of the change to a new school, I was able to become a Reading Recovery teacher. That training changed my teaching in the most positive way. I am thankful I was able to get that training. It made me a better teacher for all my students. I wouldn’t have the “part-time” job of training teachers in balanced literacy practices if we hadn’t moved. So once again a change made me a better person.

After spending a year away attending (or should I say not attending) college and another semester in college closer to home, my son decided he wanted to move to California to work for his uncle instead of continuing his education. That change was a heartbreaker for me. However, he did return to school, he met a wonderful girl, and they are happily married. I can proudly say he completed his education and is a geophysicist. A heartbreaking change turned into a heart-happy life.

The newest change  about to happen is . . .  my brother-in-law is retiring and selling his house in California. He doesn’t know where he will live, but it won’t be California. When we go to visit our son and family, we stay at my brother-in-law’s house. He has a very nice house and there is a room for us. My son does not have a room for us (he barely has enough room for his family).

I thought, it will take a while for the house to sell, the market hasn’t recovered. My California home is safe, for a while. I was wrong. The house was on the market for four days and he has three offers for the house. No, no, say it isn’t sold! It will be, soon. This is not a change I am looking forward to. Now I will have to find other accommodations in California. Why does this have to change? Will this turn into a change for the good? I can’t see it that way right now. Our comfortable arrangement is about to hit a snag. I hate snags! (I told you it wasn’t bad, just inconvenient.)