Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My thirteenth slice-of-life story...

NO Definition

With rapt attention, I listened.  My hungry mind sprinted.  My note-taking fingers sped.  My eager spirit soared...then sputtered.

Sunday, like a 13-year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, I listened to Lucy Calkins present at my state’s annual reading conference.   Her topic: Ambitious Reform and Teaching Reading.  Lucy’s message was transcendent and big and transferable, as you may expect.  In Teachers College lingo, it excelled in 'stickiness'.

Which, leads me to the one statement that echoes through my mind and now stands before my carnival mirror perceptions:  your no’s define your brand. 

This thought from Tim Calkins, Lucy’s brother and prominent advertising executive, invited listeners to the core of our existence…if you never say no, then you don’t have a brand.  Even Warren Buffet maintains that every important yes requires 1000 no’s

So, what do I say no to?

Drugs, cigarettes, over-priced denim, deep-fried butter,
worksheets, 'busy' projects...
some important; some frivolous.
Desperately random.  Inconsistent.

But, looming in the shadows of this abbreviated list is another one...one much longer, more personal.  The list of things I'd like to say no to but currently can not, will not, or do not.

Starbucks everyday, my perfectionist tendencies,
et. al.
Many important.
Few frivolous.
Overly focused.
Yet, distorted.

Leaving Lucy's session, my uneasy thoughts danced before the mirror's sensational views.  Glance, avoid.  Glance, avoid.    

Where's my courage? 
What's my brand?
Why can't I, won't I, don't I say no when my heart pushes me to?

I think it's a case of  "NO definition"...what would you prescribe?

Write on,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My twelfth slice-of-life story...

Most of life isn't made up of grand gestures.  Instead, the littlest niceties are where we are most real and make the most impact.  Think The Power of Small by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.  This week, I'm especially thankful for the kindnesses shown by loved ones, colleagues, friends, and even strangers (like Morning Barista #2 and Rochelle --- see previous SOL stories for more details).  Here's an embellished list I could mine for later writing pieces:

1. My husband had dinner ready on the stove tonight when I returned home late from a PD.  The salty, gooey goodness of the Hamburger Helper enveloped my soul.  I felt like Queen for a Day!  Loving and kind; my hero...

2. Tonight during staff development, a friend was first to share during the whole-group idea swap.  She single-handedly got the ball rolling toward excellent discussion...but mostly, I think she jumped in to save me from the clutches of a quiet room.  Thank you.

3. My son's school recently sent me the kindest email about what a pleasure he is to have in class.  My five back-flips (all imagined) rivaled a warm hug.  We're doing something right...

4. A few days ago, two second-graders burst through my door with jack-o-lantern grins, candy corn, and a sealed-envelope surprise from their teacher.  A most thoughtful thank-you.  Nobody goes wrong with kind words and sweet treats.  Nobody.

5. Life Group friends, busy with jobs and three young children, invited us over for dinner because they could feel the stress of our impending move.  All worry swaddled up in their generous thoughts.  Unselfish and beautiful. 

6. A school parent, excited about the composition notebook clearance at Target last week left a message because she thought the tip would help our winter family writing night planning.  (Editorial comment on teacher shopping behaviors: cheap notebooks + cash-strapped educator = volume purchasing; see light hoarding in Webster's.  There are 160 composition notebooks in my trunk right now.)  I love that she loved our event last year enough to think about us during her weekly shopping.  Affirmation.

Last week my SOL story ended with Morning Barista #2 offering to "make my day better...by making the perfect drink."  This week, I thank my lucky stars that Morning Barista #2 walks this world with other like-minded do-gooders who, above all, are unselfishly good-natured and more caring than the average bear.

Our daily challenge:
Look for the little, for smallish gestures like these are the most powerful.  
Be real.  
Make an impact.
(And next week, YOU could be the focus of someone's blog entry...)  

Write on,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My eleventh slice-of-life story...

A Shot of Wisdom

"I'll be there in fifteen minutes..." I replied hurriedly to a colleague at school before me.

Fumbling to clear my makeshift office at Starbucks, I grabbed my wardrobe of bags, ice water, and cup containing the the last few sips of chai.  Approaching the door, proverbial bells, whistles, and signs beheld me, "Do not even try to grab that door handle; you'll lose your grip."  As a Super Woman (I'm sure you know the type), I stayed the course --- hand oustretched, contact made, push, keep walking, and...


My catlike reflexes (or mom/teacher behaviors, take your pick) flew to the fore: grab the napkins, sop the spill, shovel the belongings back into their rightful storage.  Make.it.out.the.door.on.time.

"Can I help you?" Morning Barista #2 offered kindly from above the pastry case.
"Let ME clean that up."

"No, no.  It was my mess. 
You don't have to clean this up,"
I replied...a little more pink than red.

"Well, then at least let me make you a new drink."

(I couldn't believe my good fortune...but my realistic side stormed through the flowery pause.)
"I only had a few sips left.  Like an inch.  You don't have to, but thanks."

"No, I want to make your day better.
I'll make you the perfect drink."

What an inspiring thought...I want to make your day better.  Another shot of Starbucks wisdom, but then again, I'm pretty sure I've heard that message before.  It goes way back.  So, the question is, am I always looking for the opportunity to make someone else's day better?  

I hope so.  And, I hope when I do I'm not just making it but making it perfect...like Morning Barista #2.

Write on,

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Incarnadine Seas"

I've always loved words.  Sitting in 'big church' with the adults as a little child, I distinctly remember the enaging missionary who used "arrested" to describe how he was taken by something...not put in jail.  My first recollection of the power and versatility of words...

From there, I've always wanted to know more.  After all, words are far better than stickers, or baseball cards, or recipes, or even shoes.  They make the mundane magical, they are always in style, and they always fit!  *And, an added benefit (as if I need to sell YOU on how great words are) is that they are the key to rich, meaningful writing.

Last night, I began flipping through the bounty of new professional books I received from my district.  Like a silver gilded leaf, Georgia Heard's "Incarnadine Seas" from Writing Toward Home landed serendipitously in my lap.  In this piece bearing a Shakespearian moniker, Heard talks about the wonder of keeping a word notebook --- "words like shiny red tomatoes, picked from the vine, and ripening..."  Beautiful.  She describes the notebook as a "cup of possibility on days where I'm thirsty for words." 

Duly noted.

Gwendolyn Brooks says, "COLLECT WORDS!"  So, the words I'm collecting right now....
  • grimalkin --- an old, female cat
  • amalgam --- combination of two or more components
  • lucidity --- easily understood, intelligent
  • nebulous --- hazy, vague, indistinct
What are your favorites?  Share a few snippets from your word page with LWT readers... 

Write on,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My tenth slice-of-life story...

A Known Quantity

I am a creature of habit:
morning routine,
glide through the Starbucks drive-thru before 7.
Same drink;

Baristas see me coming through their sign's tiny video camera out back.
She's here now; one extra-hot, extra-spicy chai tea latte coming up.
My drink's special spice ratio balanced by coffee house metrics ---
five pumps for tall, seven pumps for grande.

This morning, tall.

At the swing and shut window,
a grande is proffered magically by Rochelle, 
the weekday morning barista.

"I ordered a tall and this is a grande.  
         Can I pay you the difference?"

In typical Starbucks corporate generosity,
Rochelle replies, "No...
         but, since this drink is bigger,
         let me add more chai syrup to it
         so it's just how you like it."

Generosity, kindness, comfort, and joy.
Surprise, and delight.

Being known:
by habit,
by preference,
by quantity.

Write on,