Favorite Thing Friday: Making the Top 10

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This was a good week for poetry! After three months of waiting for results, a partial list of finalists and winners for the 2015 April Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides via Writer’s Digest) has been posted.

When I scrolled down to Day 6, I was ecstatic to see my name listed as a Top Ten finalist!!!  The challenge included so many amazing and talented poets, I am incredibly honored to be part of this list (fourth from the bottom):

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Though making this list was incredible all by itself, I’m thrilled that it was accomplished with a haiku. For the last year, I’ve been honing my skill in the art of haiku. In this practice, I have found immense admiration and passion for the form.

To see my little haiku break through in the PAD Challenge gives me even more encouragement to continue writing those three little lines.

Here’s the haiku that made the Day 6 Top Ten:

a stone on the shore
until it hops
lakeside toad

 

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c.b.w. 2015

Favorite Thing Friday: That New Start Smell

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A friend of mine loves this time of year because she loves the way a new box of crayons smells. I’m with her on this – there is nothing quite as wonderful as that waxy Crayola aroma. It means the crayons are perfectly sharp and that a new school year is about to begin.

At this time last year, I didn’t want to go back to work. My usual enthusiasm for teaching was buried under the huge weight of grief. Within days of losing a close friend to cancer I was expected to show up at work with a smile on my face and “get pumped” at professional development meetings. No amount of welcome back activities or fresh crayon smell was going to get me excited for a new school year.

Things only got worse as the school year progressed: Three more people passed on, including my Grandfather. I found myself pretending to be enthusiastic and happy, when I really  just wanted to go home and cry. Some saw through it, but many did not. It’s funny how you find out who your real friends are when you are stuck in a very black hole. Even when I folded in on myself, they never gave up on me. I credit them with keeping me afloat.

I walked away from the last school year knowing I could’ve and should’ve done better. I didn’t do a horrible job, but I certainly didn’t reach my personal standard. My inner critic wanted to harp on this fact, but when it comes down to it, I was in survival mode. I did my job and my students learned what they needed to learn, but I couldn’t connect to them in a way I’ve been able to in the past. Quite honestly, I couldn’t connect with anyone.

After a year like that, I spent my summer healing and rediscovering my spark. It’s been two months of exploration. Two months of renewal. Two months of learning to live again for the sheer thrill of it. I did the things I loved most, traveled, and spent time with friends and family. It was all about reconnecting to everything that mattered most to me. And it worked.

I am excited to go back to work this year. So excited, in fact, that I’ve been working on curriculum for the last two weeks. I decided it was time to give my arsenal of lesson plans a much needed refresh. Instead of rehashing the same old thing, I’m opting to experiment with the Flipped Classroom Model.

It’s a terrifying thing to suddenly shift gears, but I’m relishing in the challenge. Aside from the issues I had to deal with last year, I realized I was bored. The last thing I want is for my students to feel the same way, so it’s time to shake things up.

So far, I’ve got class websites set up for both of my content areas and two weeks worth of lesson plans/assignments constructed and uploaded. I am literally getting up early in the morning to have extra time to work on it. Everything is looking awesome and I can’t wait to try it all out on my students.

Next, I’ll be heading into my classroom, (four days early!). I’m giving the place a mini-refresh by getting rid of some furniture and clutter. Since I got new student desks this year (OMG, so thrilled for this – the previous desks were over 20 years old), I’m considering a new desk configuration. I’ve had the same configuration for ten years, and I think it’s run its course. For the walls, I’ve ordered some new posters and they should be here any day!

It’s a new start and it feels really good. The grief is still there, but it serves as a more of a reminder that I was loved and I know how to love. That’s a powerful thing. Far more powerful than sadness or self-criticism.

My first official day back at work is next week. The day before, I plan on buying a fresh box of crayons. In the moments before a long day of professional meetings, I’m going to open the box and enjoy that “new start” smell.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015

Favorite Thing Friday: Powell’s Books

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As world traveler who has visited countless bookstores all over the world, I thought I had seen it all. Then, I realized how wrong I was when I walked up to Powell’s on Burnside Street in Portland, OR. I knew this place was the largest new/used bookstore in the world, but I had no idea just how big. They don’t call it a “city of books” for nothing!

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Powell’s City of Books, Burnside St., c.b.w. 2015

I literally froze in the middle of the lobby when I first walked in. My eyes didn’t know where to look first and my mouth was hanging open as if an alien mothership had just landed. Table after table of books followed by walls (floor to ceiling) of books, and then doorways that lead to shelf after shelf of more books. They should put a sign on the door that says, “Caution: Drooling May Occur.”

Realizing this was no ordinary bookshop, I went straight to the information desk and picked up a map. This was not a place where I could wander aimlessly and not get lost! To my shock, the map unfolded like a roadmap: Three floors cover a city block and contain color coded rooms that are further organized by genre specific stacks. There’s a coffee shop, too!

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It actually took two trips to wander through the entire store. The first time through, I went from room to room, floor to floor, just get a sense of the place and stand in awe of such a giant collection of books. The second time through, I went with a list of books I hoped to find.

First, I hoped to find some new haiku books. The well has run dry at my local bookstores and on amazon, so I hoped Powell’s would have something I haven’t read. Not only did I find haiku books, but I think I witnessed the largest poetry section I’ve ever seen in a bookstore. I ended up buying three haiku books out of the 20 or so they had available, (including original printings of R.H. Blyth’s four volume interpretation of haiku – Wow!).

Second, I dared myself to believe I could find the Fates series by Lanie Bross. My local bookstore no longer had it and amazon wanted too much for it. I wandered into the YA section and was again blown away by the sheer size of it. After scanning through two aisles, I actually found what I was looking for along with a bonus. Fates and it’s sequel Chaos, were sitting on the shelf together like they were waiting for me. I hugged them as I walked through the rest of the store.

As a writer of YA fiction, the scope of Powell’s YA section left me feeling so giddy – so many teens were wandering through the aisles with books in their hands! And look what was lingering near the YA entrance . . .

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Motivational Stairs, Powell’s, c.b.w. 2015

How’s that for some motivation!

Two trips and five books later, I am convinced that if Powell’s doesn’t have a book, it doesn’t exist. I’m still drooling over this place and still hugging the books that have become my Powell’s souvenirs.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015

Favorite Thing Friday: Seascape Melody Socks

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After the challenge of knitting lace socks, I decided to go the simple route for my next project. I pulled out my trusty KB sock loom and got to work on Seascape Melody Socks (via Loom Knitting Socks by Isela Phelps).

Hiding in my yarn stash was a gorgeous skein of ONline Supersocke in Ocean Color, Colorway 1577. How perfect given the name of the sock pattern! I got this yarn while on vacation a couple of years ago and I was so excited to finally find the right pattern for it. Sadly, however, I think this yarn is discontinued.

The yarn is self-striping and mixes solids with heather effects. Beautiful shades of pink, blue, brown, cream, and green pull together to make a simple alternating ribbed pattern something really special.

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Seascape Melody Socks

Seascape Melody uses only knit and purl stitches. It’s basically an interrupted ribbed pattern. As usual, the heel and toe are worked using the short row method with a series of wrapped stitches.

I worked this sock over 56 pegs on the original fine gauge KB sock loom. I arrived at this peg count because the yarn I used had the same gauge (28 sts = 4″) as my favorite sock yarn, Paton’s Kroy. Experience has taught me 56 pegs with a 28 st gauge makes a perfectly fitting sock for my 8″ diameter foot.

My goal this summer is to clear out my sock yarn stash, so more sock posts are on the horizon!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015

 

Favorite Thing Friday: Letting Stuff Go

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We all have that one closet. You know, the one that hasn’t been opened in months for fear of an avalanche. Such a closet lurks within the clean exterior of my guest bedroom. For years, I’ve been slowly filling it with scrapbooking supplies, beads, buttons, ribbon, fabric, tools, glue, paint, and about a million other things.  Yup, my avalanche closet is the craft closet. Every time I open the door, I wonder if I should have worn a helmut. How scary is that??

Every crafter has the same problem. Where do you put all the little odds and ends left over from a project? Or the supplies you bought for a project you’ll make in the future? What about the half finished projects you’ll get around to finishing later? Before you know it, an entire closet is filled from floor to ceiling.

My craft closet may classify me as a pre-hoarder. For the last 15 years, I’ve saved everything craft related because I kept thinking there would be a project down the line where a thingamabob would be useful. On top of that, I inherited a bunch of stuff from my grandma’s craft closet. Saving her craft items went beyond possible future use. In many ways, holding onto her things helped me hold onto her.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that saving a mountain of objects to preserve an emotional attachment to a loved one is not healthy. Nor is it a good idea to hold onto five different colors of unused raffia for ten years. There comes a point where it’s time to clear things out and let them go.

This week, I started the grueling process of pulling out boxes, sorting items, and organizing. Despite my practical attachment to useful items, I’m finding it surprisingly easy to discard items I no longer need, (no matter how good it is). Some things end up in the trash, while others go in a donation box. I found a great little thrift store that accepts gently used craft items. Boy, are they in for a windfall donation when I get done with this closet!

While the clearing out process has been invigorating, there are moments of struggle. Yesterday, I went through all of my paper crafting  supplies and rubber stamps. Making cards and scrapbook journals were projects I did with my Grandma and many of the items I have belonged to her.

As I sat with two giant boxes of stamps and stacks of decorative card stock, I thought about a conversation I had with my mother. She reminded me that I don’t have to hold onto every little thing my Grandma owned in order to remember her. The memories are always going to be there, even without the stuff. And you know what? My mother is 100% right.

I kept a few things I know I’ll use, but I got rid of the rest. Another donation box is full and I have a feeling my Grandma would approve. As more things leave my closet, so does the weight of keeping all of that stuff. What a nice feeling it is to be so light.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015