Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My twenty-fifth slice-of-life story...


There's a table with an extra chair
My writing spot, I'd like to share
With you, your notebook open wide
Like writers we'll journey side by side

Today's the day my little one
Our pens to paper, it's so much fun
Let loose your thoughts and watch them make
rainbows and ballgames and bright cupcakes

In our softly-lit spot I sip my tea
(And you're convinced the mermaid is me)
It's quiet in a purposeful way
Inviting our minds to come and play

First one page and after that more
Creativity flows through this little store
That's why, my dear, it's my favorite place
My mind hungry then fed; a magical space

Today's the day, my little one
Your writing journey has just begun
Take hold, my dear and notice it all
To the page your special thoughts will fall

Like mist at first before the rain
Then in rapid succession ideas will sustain
The writerly work you came to do
With head, heart, and memories too

The words you'll create, their swirl and swing
You'll find your rhythm {my heart will sing}
You'll know what feels right plus a little more
Simplicity reigns the writer's core

So, continue our travels and grow my dear
Keenly observant in advancing years
What a treasure trove your mind will be
A writer, at heart, just like me

There's a table with an extra chair
My writing spot, I'd like to share
With you, your notebook open wide
Like writers we'll journey side by side

Write on,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

True attentiveness...

So, many posts have been written about conferring and the power in really listening to a fellow writer describe his work in order to promote growth, independence, and confidence.  But this morning, while I'm at Starbucks gearing up to work on a couple school presentations, I am privy to a remarkable display of true attentiveness --- one that speaks to my heart as a writing teacher.  You see, from across the store where my coffee shop office is set up on the comfy banquette, a pair of fifty-something ladies showcase that language extends far beyond the spoken word.  They've arrested me with the strength of their silent conversation.  Let me invite you into this coffee date...
  • Eye contact: Both ladies eyes never leave the other; there seems to be mutual affection, respect, and care in each deep and knowing connection.  With no concern for anybody else's goings-on, their gazes are glued and centered in the store's most removed corner.  
  • Body position: Knee-to-knee, these friends sit squarely facing each other...despite the beckoning of the comfy, slouchy leather armchairs they've snagged.  With amazing posture, they hang on precious conversational snippets.  Later, their hands clasp beneath a casual slump with elbows planted on knees.  But always, the positioning of these two friends is reflective; a true mirror as one echoes the other.
  • Proximity: Even though Starbucks' well-loved chairs are arranged in a right angle near the glassy store corner, these friends sit on the edge of their seats to catch the next thought or make the next connection.  Toes nearly touch, hands almost hold. 
  • Head tilt: Left, [left]...middle, [middle]...right, [right].  Wherever the one goes, the other follows.  Not in a weird, synchopated conversation kind of way...but in the manner of a pair truly listening.  An angled head classically conveys attentiveness and even empathy.
What's inspiring today about this pair is their complete focus.  My favorite barista, Deb, could've walked around offering free drinks and they wouldn't have noticed.  President Obama, flanked by a band of suited Secret Service, could've slid in for his daily joe and they wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.   An over-caffeinated guest could've yelled "FIRE!" in this under-crowded space and they wouldn't have run.

These ladies beg me to consider how attentive I am during a conference...  Am I putting most of my mental energy into managing the other writers who are supposed to be deep into their own projects?  If the principal or another adult joins us during workshop, am I more engaged in their response quotient?  If I notice a particular student behavior emerging that I'd rather squelch to increase productivity, do I let myself fixate on it?  Each of these scenarios is costly to my current conference and counter-productive to the respectful, engaging, fruitful workshop I desire to nurture through these individualized interactions.

Am I really listening to the writer I'm sitting next to?  Where's my gaze?  Does it let him know I'm hanging intently on each word?  How's my body positioning?  Does it tell everyone else in the space that I'm completely and totally into this specific writer?  How's my proximity?  Does my closeness build the connection the writer needs to grow?  How's my head tilt?  Am I sending this writer signs that I'm truly processing his words and thoughts?

Friend to friend or writer to writer, our interactions --- small or large --- chart the course we'll travel.  If it is rich, these four nonverbal dimensions will be prominent and will encourage the special person we're with to grow.  When I sit down next to a writer in the coming days, my mind will always travel back to Starbucks on this warm January morning...and the lessons I learned by watching the silent conversation of two old friends.

Write on,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My twenty-fourth slice-of-life story...

Toddler World

I've been caught;
in toddler world.

No baby.
No big boy.

No sink bath.
No shower.

No mystery crying.
No silence.

No stroller.
No walking the whole way.

No complete dependence.
No complete independence.

No crib.
No twin.
Just a new toddler bed.

[And, thanks to this transitional piece, no naps either: three days straight.]

I've been caught;
in toddler world.

So, I guess we'll just bake cookies instead of rest.

Write on,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My one little word...2012!

So, last year zoomed past...much like my son's matchbox cars along our antique carpenter's chest in the living room.  And, as I reflected yesterday over chai at Starbucks...so much happened in 2011.  Selling our house.  Moving into an apartment while we search for the perfect new house.  School.  School.  More school.  Conferences.  In my mind, events wiz by blurry from their speed and my lack of focus.  

This year, I vow to focus.  To savor.  To relish.  To enjoy unhurriedly the moments that make my life.  I've been blessed with a family I love...with a school community that I enjoy working in to grow readers and writers...with a faith that holds firm when I'm at the mountaintop or in the valley.   

Now, I know myself well enough to recognize that this will be a challenge: I'm driven.  I'm task-oriented.  I'm goal-oriented.  I'm a perfectionist.  {There, I said it.}  Savoring isn't necessarily my style because I could be tweaking, building, tinkering, or starting something new.  But, I want to commit to it.  A life of savoring will invite me to slow down enough to enjoy all the small things I miss while manning TASK CENTRAL.

Yesterday I serendipitously stumbled upon Thomas Newkirk's quote above.  It resonates with me not only because I heard him speak with Ellin Keene at NCTE, but also because it melds so seamlessly into the notion of savoring.

I will not live life like it's a to-do list this year.
I will take my time and accept that well done doesn't have to be perfect.
I will focus intently, lovingly on the lives of those I'm gifted to have around me.  
All things, little and big, are important and worth celebrating.

And, on that note, I think I'll savor some chocolate mint crinkles and drink in a little toddler laughter...

Happy New Year!

Write on,