Reading, Teaching, Learning

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - TURN

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
 
For the next month and a half, we are writing about the Spiritual Journey Thursday community's One Little Words.  We'd love for you to join us!  If you have a OLW and would like us all to write about it, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@muellerholly), and I will add you to our calendar.
 
This week we are writing about Leigh Anne's word, TURN.
 
Earlier this week, I wrote for our church's upcoming Lenten Devotional.  When I started writing about the verses I was assigned,  I saw the words TURN and RETURN emerge. 
John 14:1-6
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

The apostles had just heard the most distressful news.  Jesus told them, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer.  You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.”  When Peter asked Jesus where he was going, he answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  This must have been devastating, and quite frankly, a little hurtful.  Was Jesus turning his back on his disciples?  How could he have brought them this far, just to leave them?  Do you ever feel like God has turned His back on you?
Thankfully, Jesus knew his beloved disciples were frightened, maybe even angry, at the possibility of his turning away from them.  He took the time to comfort and assure them that he was preparing a place for them.  He said that his absence was only going to be temporary, and he would return for them.  What a relief!   When you feel like God is absent from your life, rest assured that he hasn’t left you.  He is preparing a place for you.  He has called you a friend and has chosen you.  You already know the way home.  Follow him – the way, the truth, and the life.  Can you see him beckoning?  Turn toward him!
 
Join us in upcoming link-ups about more OLWs!
 
FEBRUARY 5th: Margaret Simon's OLW, REACH
FEBRUARY 12th: Justin Stygles's OLW, LOOK
FEBRUARY 19th: Greg Armamentos's OLW, DIVE (Dwell, Ignite, Venture, Embody)
FEBRUARY 26th: Ramona Behnke's OLW, STRETCH 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Slice of Life - Death of a Goldfish


I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
     I've read three middle grade books lately that featured the perils of having goldfish:  The Fourteenth Goldfish, Out of Mind, and Death by Toilet Paper.  In Fourteenth Goldfish, Ellie's mother tried to protect her from the inevitable by replacing fish before she knew anything happened to each one (thus the title).  Melody was devastated in Out of Mind when she couldn't communicate to her mother that her beloved fish had jumped out of the fish bowl, virtually committing suicide, and her mother misunderstands.  The fish also became a symbol of Melody's own feelings of being trapped inside.  The death of Benjamin's fish is heartbreaking amidst all the other troubles he's having.  And remember this scene from "The Bill Cosby Show?"
     
     All these episodes in books and sitcoms make me feel like I wasn't so crazy when I flipped out at the death of my goldfish when I was young.  I'm not exactly sure how old I was when my goldfish died, but I remember completely overreacting with devastation - pointing to the poor floating creature, screaming, and crying.  It seems ridiculous given that I'm sure I had other animals die by then.  I lived in the country for goodness sake and other pets and animals.  What was it about that goldfish?  I remember my mom comforting me, but also looking a little bewildered at my great emotion. 

     I wonder if it is because they are so completely helpless and dependent on us?  Other pets are, too, I suppose; but goldfish aren't exactly hardy.  They can't last long without us.  Or maybe because it's that lack of hardiness - that fragility - that makes us want to rescue and care for them.  I don't know.  But clearly, because of the stories written about them, I'm not the only one who cried over the death of a goldfish!

Addendum:  I got an insightful comment on my Facebook post about this Slice.  She said,  "Memories of goldfish experiences are strong - maybe because it was MY goldfish in a bowl in MY room, MY first responsibility of significance.  So when that goldfish dies (as they all do), it was like part of ME died, too."  Isn't that so true?!  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

DigiLit Sunday



      I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
 
 
     Today is not so much a blog post about  something I'm trying out in my classroom, but a request for advice.  This year I've created blogs for all my students (33 5th graders and 56 6th graders) on Kidblog.  They have a requirement to write one Slice of Life a week and comment on three others.  It has been an extremely rewarding experience.  I have kept their Kidblogs private, but now would like to open them up to the public.  I've enjoyed their Slices so much, and I'd love to expand their audience so they could get even more feedback.   I've written and asked about this before, and I keep hesitating.  I e-mailed all my parents about it and have gotten some very positive responses.  What are your thoughts/advice/ideas about taking Kidblog public?  Monitoring comments would be difficult for me because of the sheer volume of comments the kids give each other and the number of students I have.  I'd love to hear back from you! 
 

 
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Celebration Saturday

 
I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
 
It's been three weeks since I posted a Celebration Saturday - how did that happen?! 
 
1.  We took a break from dreary January and visited Mom and Dad in Florida.  We soaked up the sunshine and Mom and Dad's company!  It was an extra bonus to get a visit from Ed's mom and dad, too, who live just two hours up the road from my parents.  It's so nice to see Mom and Dad happy in their new digs.

Selfie with Mom and Dad!

Sigh - this was a sight for sore January eyes!

Ed's mom and dad - they brought a fun new game with them.

 Cheers to sunny Florida!
 
Sandhill Crane Crossing!

 
 
2.  Tuesday night a colleague, Tracy Kleis, and I gave a #ReadWalkWater presentation to the Kings Board of Education.  We were so proud to celebrate our sixth graders' generosity.  We've raised almost $15,000 - enough to build a well in South Sudan.  One board member even gave us a donation!  Our sixth graders were also written up in a wonderful article in the local newspaper.
 
 
3.  I'm enjoying a Wednesday night Bible class at my church on the Gospel of Mark and learning lots of new things.
 
 
4.  I enjoyed a visit and dinner with Libby Thursday evening.  She's back safe and sound from her amazing trip to South America with her uncle T.J.  This is my favorite picture from her adventures:
 

5.  A couple celebrations from earlier in the month include Jamie (Libby's fiancĂ©) and I choosing the reception dinner items.  It was just the two of us because everyone else was busy or out of town.  We had a great time at the wonderful event.  We got to see the reception room that will be the same one we reserved for their wedding all decked out in wedding attire, and it was beautiful. The food was delish, the service top-notch, and we agreed on all our favorites.  I'm so lucky I am going to have a wonderful son-in-law!


6.  Another celebration from the past month was Ed's company holiday party.  We decided to have it January this year, which was really nice.  We always have a great time when we get together with people from his company.  This year we extended it in order to show some friends around our historic town of Lebanon. 


7.  It was exciting to learn that three conference proposals for February have been accepted.  I will be presenting at Dublin Literacy, OCTELA, and OMLA.  I've also submitted an NCTE proposal with Megan Ginther and was asked to be on a panel of another.  Fingers crossed!
 
8.  I sure was a proud Ohio State mom this month!  How exciting was that game?!  I was sad to say goodbye to Katie when she had to go back to school.  Winter break was so nice!
 

9.  I'm REALLY enjoying being a Round 2 Cybils' Judge!!  The books on the Middle Grade Fiction list have been fantastic!  We're starting our Google chats now and will be announcing winners in February.  I can't wait to see what we decide on!
 
10.  My students have been great in January.  I can see that all the hard work of the first semester has really paid off - the writing they are producing and the amount and quality of things they're reading have been excellent.  I've also enjoyed some wonderful words of affirmation from parents and students lately, and that makes my job even better!
 
Whew!  I think I'm all caught up on celebrating now!
 



 
 
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Poetry Friday - OLW Acrostic Poem


 
Today I'm going to invite my students to create acrostic poems from their One Little Words, so I'm doing it myself first.  Next week I plan on sharing what my students write!

FOCUS

Follow truth, righteousness, kindness, and loveliness
Offer one's whole self in this transient world to whatever is admirable
Center the heart and capture every fleeting moment with gratitude
Understand that aligning one's soul to what is important will
Spark creativity, positivity, and joy

 
Hop on over to Tara Smith's blog, A Teaching Life, to join in the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - FLY

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
 
For the next month and a half, we are writing about the Spiritual Journey Thursday community's One Little Words.  We'd love for you to join us!  If you have a OLW and would like us all to write about it, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@muellerholly), and I will add you to our calendar.
 
This week, we are writing about Michelle Haseltine's One Little Word: FLY
 
 
 Photo taken by my daughter, Katie.
 
     I love birds.  My family teases me a bit about it.  And yet, they indulge me.  My husband constructed a focal point of bird feeders in our perennial garden in the backyard, and my daughters have given me hummingbird feeders and bird-watching books for various special occasions. There is something so endearing about birds.  They can be so innocent, so bright-eyed, so majestic, so symbolic.  Apparently, I'm in good company with my affection for birds.  God loves them, too.  Did you know there are about 90 Bible verses that refer to birds?  Here are some of my favorite:
 
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  Matthew 6: 25-27a
  
"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40: 31


     Even the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove, descending on Jesus upon baptism. 

"And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove."  - Mark 1:10
 
     Therefore, when I think of Michelle's word FLY in its spiritual realm, I think of how God cares for the sparrow and us so much more, bestows upon us the dove of the Holy Spirit, and ignites our strength so we can soar like the eagle. 
 
 
Join us in upcoming link-ups about more OLWs!
 
JANUARY 29th: Leigh Anne Eck's OLW, TURN
FEBRUARY 5th: Margaret Simon's OLW, REACH
FEBRUARY 12th: Justin Stygles's OLW, LOOK
FEBRUARY 19th: Greg Armamentos's OLW, DIVE (Dwell, Ignite, Venture, Embody)
FEBRUARY 26th: Ramona Behnke's OLW, STRETCH 
 
 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

DigiLit Sunday - One Little Word and Tagxedo



      I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.

Whew!  It's been awhile since I wrote a DigiLit Sunday post.  Weekends have been whirlwinds, and I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and reflect on the technology being used in my classroom.  Even this weekend is full of traveling, but I thought ahead and am writing this on Friday and scheduling this post to publish on Sunday!

I borrowed this One Little Word lesson from our DigiLit leader herself, Margaret Simon!  I wanted to share with you know how it turned out.  The kids really enjoyed it, and I think it expanded their understanding of their OLWs.  First, I showed them the slides of the questions from Margaret's Emaze presentation.  I had them spend 7-10 writing a Quick Write in their Writer's Notebooks reflecting on the questions.  Once they had their words, we made semantic webs from Thesaurus.com.  They really enjoyed this part and marveled at the number of synonyms that the online thesaurus could give them.  This also gave me an opportunity to discuss connotations of words.  We talked about how we wanted our OLWs and their synonyms to have positive connotations. For instance, one student's OLW was SMILE, but smirk came up as a synonym. 

When the semantic webs were finished, each student typed all their words into a Google Doc, typing their OLWs and most important synonyms more than once so they will come up bigger, and copied and pasted them into a Tagxedo.  What fun they had experimenting with different shapes (some went to Google images to save shapes that Tagxedo didn't have), themes, and fonts.  Many students then wrote the stories of their One Little Words in Slices of Life in their Kidblogs.

Throughout all these activities, I heard, "This is fun!" more than once.  I love the creative visual Tagxedo generates.  I know Margaret had trouble with the site at school.  We couldn't get Tagxedo on the Chromebooks, but we had access to it on the desktop computers in the lab.  Here are some student samples:

protect tagxedo.jpg

Brynna - PROTECT

light bulb.jpg

Sierra - GLEAM

smile for OLW.jpg

Mackenzie - SMILE

Displaying magnifine glass.jpg

Ethan - EXPLORE

Lion.jpg

Jaidyn - CONFIDENT

Maddie OLW.jpg

Maddie - FOCUS (She shares my word!)

one little word.jpg

Logan - BOLDNESS
tagxedo.jpg

Carter - STRIVING

There are many, many more student-created wonderful Tagxedos and Slices of Life that expand and explain the One Little Words in our classroom.  Thank you, Margaret, for your marvelous ideas!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - LISTEN

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
 
For the next several months, we are writing about the Spiritual Journey Thursday community's One Little Words.  We'd love for you to join us!  If you have a OLW and would like us all to write about it, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@muellerholly), and I will add you to our calendar.
 
This week, we are writing about Carol Varselona's One Little Word: LISTEN
 
"Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." - Deuteronomy 30: 19b - 20a
 
"The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, 'Samuel!  Samuel!' Then Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.'" - 1 Samuel 3: 10-11
 
     On February 26, 1996, our youngest daughter, Katie, was born.  She came into this world after many hours of labor and a fairly uneventful birth.  We felt exhausted, joyful, and relieved.  She was a healthy baby girl with a full head of curly dark hair, just like her sister's.  Family came into the delivery room to take a look and celebrate with us.  The nurses eventually took her out of the room to clean her up and the doctor tended to me, while Ed took the video camera to follow her out and record her first hour of life. 
 
     Soon, I was taken back to my room, and I started making phone calls, telling everyone the great news of her birthday.  I'm not sure how much time went by, but as I was talking on the phone, Ed came back to the room with a grim expression on his face.  I turned cold, realizing something was wrong.  "I have to go!" I said shakily, and got off the phone, dreading what he was going to say.  He reassured me first, trying to help me understand what was going on.  He explained that as he was videotaping the nurses cleaning Katie up and preparing her for the nursery, he saw that they were starting to react urgently, their expressions worried. They started talking agitatedly to each other behind the glass.  Ed couldn't tell what was going on, but he knew it wasn't good.  He turned off the video camera, and tried to get some answers.  A doctor came out to explain that Katie's oxygen level was very low, and she needed to be taken to the ICU quickly so they could take care of her.
 
     This was scary news, and totally unexpected.  I remember people coming in, explaining more of the situation, telling us what Katie needed and how she was going to be treated.  It all seemed slightly surreal.  Why was this happening?  Would she be okay?  Many of the details seem foggy now.  I couldn't tell you exactly what we said in conversations, the timing of everything, or all the diagnoses and treatments.  But there is one moment I remember clearly. 
 
     Ed and I slept fitfully in my little hospital room that night.  However, when we woke up the next morning, Ed seemed completely calm.  He told me that during the night he was awakened by an audible voice.  The voice said, "It will be all right."  Ed knew it was the voice of God, and he knew everything was going to be all right.  I was able to also relax in that knowledge. 
 
     Fortunately, everything did turn out all right.  Katie had to stay in the ICU for several days, and the hospital was able to get me a room on another floor so I could stay.  Big sister Libby, friends, and family came and visited, reaching over her ICU bed and in between tubes and paraphernalia to touch her cheek, her toes, her hands.  It wasn't the same as everyone being able to hold her, but she got lots of attention.  Finally, when her oxygen levels stabilized, she was able to go home.  She was completely healthy from then on. 
 
     Since then I'm not sure God has spoken to Ed or me that clearly and audibly.  I know I hear Him through song lyrics, whisperings of ideas or important words, through reading the Bible, through a friend, or hearing a sermon.  I know that I am oftentimes too impatient, busy, distracted, or loud to hear him speak to me.  I know I am a poor listener much of the time.  But I know He is speaking.  And I know that He loves us enough to tell us, "It will be all right."

 
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your unconditional love for us.  Thank you for your Word. Thank you for speaking to us, even when we don't always listen.  Help us pay attention with all our hearts and minds to hear what you have to say.
 
 
 
  Below is the current OLW Spiritual Journey Thursday schedule - if you're not on the schedule, and you'd like us to write about the spiritual aspects of YOUR OLW, please let me know your word and blog URL, and I'll add you!  Also, if I made a mistake or didn't add you, and I was supposed to, let me know!
JANUARY 22nd: Michelle Haseltine's OLW, FLY
JANUARY 29th: Leigh Anne Eck's OLW, TURN
FEBRUARY 5th: Margaret Simon's OLW, REACH
FEBRUARY 12th: Justin Stygles's OLW, LOOK
FEBRUARY 19th: Greg Armamentos's OLW, DIVE (Dwell, Ignite, Venture, Embody)
FEBRUARY 26th: Ramona Behnke's OLW, STRETCH 
 
 

Nonfiction Wednesday

 
I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the fourth year in a row.
 
The nonfiction picture books I read this week featured wild animals that were a feast for the eyes!
 
 
 
 
Brilliant photographs of rain forest animals accompany descriptions and facts about each one. "Did you know?" questions cover interesting trivia such as "Cockatoos usually mate for life, which in the wild can be more than 40 years." I love the idea of colors to bring all these animals to life - I looked forward to turning each page to see the blue Ulysses butterfly, the yellow orb weaver spider, the red scarlet ibis, etc. More animal facts, a map of rain forests around the world, and a glossary are found in the back.
 
 
 
 
Structured around questions such as "Dear leaf-nosed bat: Seriously, is that your nose?" and answered by the animals, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page explain many outrageous features of wild animals. Steve Jenkins's paper collage illustrations of each animal's face stare right at you with expressive eyes. Interesting nonfiction text feature in the back - a look at the size of each animal compared to a human, the diet, and location of each featured creature. Another brilliant book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.
 
 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Focus

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
 
"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.  Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.  Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." - Proverbs 4: 25-27
 
In other words, FOCUS!!! 
 
     I loved the idea Margaret Simon had to look up synonyms for her OLW and to put them into Tagxedo.  I decided to do the same and chose words that spoke to me spiritually.  I love that the word focus can be a noun or verb, so I chose synonyms for both.  I kept in mind all that I want to focus on when it comes to God, and many words appeared more than once in Thesaurus.com since there are synonyms for each main synonym.  The words speak for themselves, but I'm going to choose a few and define them below the image.
 
 
     I've taken the liberty of choosing the definition(s) that describe my aspirations for FOCUSing on God.
 
NOUNS
 
polestar - North Star; directing principle, guide; center of attraction 
mecca - a place regarded as a center
soul - the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever ; a person's deeply felt moral and emotional nature; the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.
vanguard - the forefront of an action or movement
nucleus - a central or most important part of something
 
VERBS
 
align - to arrange things so that they form a line or are in proper position
discern - to come to know or recognize mentally
examine - to look at (something) closely and carefully in order to learn more about it
follow - to engage in as a calling or way of life
intensify - to make intense or more intensive:  strengthen; to make more acute: sharpen
 
         To consider God as the center of my focus; to align my thoughts, prayers, and desires with His Word - the result being a closer walk with Him...that is the power of my OLW for 2015.  I look forward to reading YOUR blog posts about FOCUS now! 
 
     Below is the current OLW Spiritual Journey Thursday schedule - if you're not on the schedule, and you'd like us to write about the spiritual aspects of YOUR OLW, please let me know your word and blog URL, and I'll add you!  Also, if I made a mistake or didn't add you, and I was supposed to, let me know!

JANUARY 15th:  Carol Varselona's OLW, LISTEN
JANUARY 22nd: Michelle Haseltine's OLW, FLY
JANUARY 29th: Leigh Anne Eck's OLW, TURN
FEBRUARY 5th: Margaret Simon's OLW, REACH
FEBRUARY 12th: Justin Stygles's OLW, LOOK
FEBRUARY 19th: Greg Armamentos's OLW, DIVE (Dwell, Ignite, Venture, Embody)
FEBRUARY 26th: Ramona Behnke's OLW, STRETCH 
 
 
 
 
 

Nonfiction Wednesday

 
I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the fourth year in a row.

My goal is to read 100 nonfiction books  in 2015- including picture books, long picture books, YA, or adult.  My overall reading goal is 250 books, so that's not quite half my overall reading, but it's respectable. ;-)
 
I'm still catching up on a few nonfiction picture books from 2014.  There are SO many good ones!
 
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas
 
 
2014-book, animals, home, journey, mock-caldecott-2015, nonfiction, nonfictionchallenge2015, picture-book

 
I loved this story about Elizabeth, the elephant seal, who considered the Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand her home. Floca's illustrations, especially of Elizabeth's expressions, are wonderful. I'm so glad long-distance, open-water swimmer, Lynne Cox, chose to tell this story.
 
Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes
 
 
 
 
My last 2014 Winter #Bookaday! The illustrations are fantastic in this simple picture book about microbes and their role as "the invisible transformers of our world - the tiniest lives doing some of the biggest jobs." On a side note, I have students who LOVE microbes and collect GIANT microbes.  Have you seen them?!  If not, you have to check them out!
 
Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home
 
 
 
I'm so glad I was introduced to this book by reading Alyson Beecher's "Best Of" post for nonfiction picture books. I loved Michelle Mulder's conversational and friendly tone as she teaches all about the history of water, how various cultures get water, the struggle for water in various places of the world, and the calling us to action to conserve water and help others' get water. It's PERFECT for our #ReadWalkWater/Social Responsibility unit! Great photos, too.

 
 
 

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Slice of Life - 2015 OLW

 
I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
 
HAPPY SNOW DAY HERE IN SOUTHWEST OHIO!
      I discovered OLW much later than many of the bloggers I know.  I first heard about it at a Debbie Macomber Fan Retreat with my mom.  Debbie talked about having a word to live by each year that came to her through prayer and scripture, and I loved the idea.  My first word, which I've actually had for a year and a half, was JOURNEY.  You can read about that choice here.  Poor Aaron Becker had to put up with my stalking for that time period because I loved his book and that word so much.  When I finally met him at the ALA Annual Convention in Las Vegas last summer, I felt like I had met a rock star.  I celebrated his book over and over again, and it became the symbol for my OLW.  The first half of 2013 and the whole of 2014 was filled with amazing journeys, and I enjoyed every one.  I said goodbye to JOURNEY in a Poetry Friday post with a poem.  I'll never forget my first OLW, and it will always remind me to enjoy every journey life presents. 

     But alas, it's finally time to choose a new OLW!  One Twitter friend suggested I choose QUEST, but I think it's time to leave poor Aaron alone. ;-)  My new word was discovered on Christmas evening.  We were driving home from dinner at my sister's-in-law, and I saw that one of my student's wrote a blog post on Kidblog that morning.  You can read it here (Spiritual Journey Thursdays were born from OLW!). I asked my husband if  I could read it aloud to him because I was so moved.  He responded by saying, "You know, you need to focus on things like that when school gets crazy for you."  I took that in, nodding in agreement.  He hears it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  There are things happening in education that can get the best of me sometimes, but he was right.  That student's writing and all the writing students are doing this year, books they read, stories they tell, the lives they share - those are the things that make my job a dream job, and if I focus on them, I'm so much happier.

     I realized a new OLW had made its way into my life: FOCUS.  I need to focus on what's important - not just at school, but in life.  There are so many distractions in this world - distractions that waste time, energy, and creativity.  I want to focus on students, family, friends, God, and the positive.  This is not easy.  JOURNEY was a little easier, to be honest.  I could just think about journeys as opportunities and adventures.  FOCUS is more, like my daughter, Libby, said a OLW word should be...an aspiration.  It's a discipline.  It's much easier to get caught up in the mundane, the fruitless, the anxieties, the negative, the overwhelming, than to keep FOCUS on a higher power and positivity.  Speaking of Libby, one of our biggest life events this year will be her wedding.  It's really important that we all FOCUS on the real reason for her wedding and enjoy every moment.

     Because I am who I am, my OLW needs to be sealed with a book.  Several days after Christmas I read Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord.  Photography played a central role in the story. Here is my Goodreads review:

I finished this book on my birthday; it was like unwrapping a gift. What a beautiful story! Lucy just moved with her family to a lake house in New Hampshire, and her dad, whom she admires, is frequently gone on photography assignments for work. She is a budding photographer herself, but needs approval from her father, which she doesn't always get. When a photography contest comes up that her dad is judging, she decides it's the perfect opportunity to show off her talent and hopefully get validation. Lucy befriends a boy who summers at the lake and lives with his grandmother in the next cottage every summer. He helps her with the contest (I know this is crazy, but at first, I missed the fact that the chapter titles coincided with the topics of the contest - don't make the same mistake), and together they look for the perfect shots. To complicate things, Nate's grandmother is showing signs of Alzheimer's, a long-time friend of Nate seems jealous of Lucy, and Lucy can't decide what to do since her father is the judge of the contest - should she enter under a different name? I thought this book had interesting topics for thought and discussion - should art always be honest? What if a piece of art hurts someone? "It was a truthful photo, even if that truth wasn't beautiful." Who owns art? "And whose photo was it? Did it belong to Grandma Lilah because she was in it? Or did it belong to me because I had taken it?" I even have a further question: Does it belong to the viewer of the photo? Would there be art without truth and honesty, even if it's hard to bear? There are further topics of when to say goodbye, what home means, what memory is, living in the moment, how to discover your gifts and talents, when to focus on what's important, and more. Have some tissues nearby for the ending. This book helped me cinch my 2015 One Little Word. Thank you, Cynthia Lord, for the beautiful gift of your art. 

     When I closed that book, I knew beyond a doubt that FOCUS was the perfect word, and that a camera was the perfect symbol.
 
 
 Cynthia, I will try really hard not to stalk you in 2015 like I did Aaron. ;-)
 
     One thing I'm doing to try to keep FOCUS is to take a photograph each day of something that is important to me.  Michelle Haseltine gave me that idea.  Thank you, Michelle!  I post it to Instagram and sometimes Facebook with #OLW and #Focus.  Another idea that came to me was to devote as many Spiritual Journey Thursday posts as possible with other bloggers' OLWs as the theme topic was all write about for that week.  I will be writing about FOCUS this week and what it means spiritually. We have quite a few weeks filled. I'm excited!   If you're interested in us exploring the spiritual aspects of your OLW, let me know your word, the week you want, and your blog link, and I'll add you!  The schedule can be found in the same post as above.
 
Here's to a year of FOCUS!!  I can't wait to see what it reveals.