Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spiritual Journey Thursday - REJUVENATION

Thursdays were the days when I could publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly basis.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  I started SJT about two years ago.  Today, I 've decided to step away from the link up for a while.  I will miss my SJT community, but will still be reading and commenting on blog posts.  I'm not stepping away from my blog all together; I'll continue to post when I can, but it's time for some REJUVENATION.

REJUVENATE:  to give new strength or energy to something

As you may know, we recently downsized and moved into a condominium.  This was a somewhat stressful and grueling process, but now that we're here, we are so happy!  In the move we donated, gave away, sold, and threw away A LOT of stuff.  We feel lighter, freer, and rejuvenated!  This is not to say we don't have a lot to do and even more downsizing to go.  There are still boxes to unpack, a second round of stuff to get rid of (sometimes you have to take it with you and then decide you really don't need/want it after all), and things to install or hang.  However, it is definitely good for the spirit to simplify.

In the midst of the move, when we were finally in, there were several days of no Internet or television.  My mornings, previously, were usually spent with the tv on while making breakfast and then eating breakfast in front of the computer, reading through emails, blogs, and social media.  I wrote blog posts in the morning, also.  This wasn't a bad thing - I learn a lot through reading blogs - they give me teaching and writing ideas, and I connect to a positive social media community through writing blog posts and commenting on others'.  I've made good friends through blogging!  However, when I didn't have a screen to look at, and I was "forced" to eat breakfast at our picture window that overlooks the lake, I felt so peaceful.  I enjoyed being unplugged for awhile; it was rejuvenating.

When Internet and cable were back up and connected, I realized I had lost a little motivation to blog.  I wanted to read out on the deck or take a walk around the lake instead.  I even wanted to unpack a few more boxes and hang pictures on the wall.  I also realized how much time blogging takes!  This is not to say I don't enjoy being connected and learning/writing through blogging, and I hope after some time away from SJT, I will come back with fresh ideas and thoughts, and we can all reconnect again.  I'll also still be blogging about teaching and books.
I hope you all understand, and again, I plan on coming back, but for now, I need a little rejuvenation! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Where Two or Three are Gathered...

 I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly basis.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This is an odd week.  It's the first week since January that we aren't writing about someone's OLW, so I'm a little lost!  What should I write about?  After some careful thought, I realized there were a couple things that happened today that were important...
Image from

     I am an introvert.  I'm a social introvert (if that makes sense), but by the Myers & Briggs definition of an introvert, I get my energy from being alone or from a small group of people.  Large group events, even though I enjoy them, are usually draining.  I tend to be friends with introverts, also.  Social introverts, but still introverts. That's not to say we don't like a good party, but parties can be exhausting.  We need a little alone/small group time to re-energize.  Anyway, you probably know the whole Myers Briggs thing. 
   That being said, Jesus obviously understood both extroverts and introverts (He spent time alone to pray, and I would guess, reenergize), but when all is said and done, He made humans to be together.  We are meant to share struggles, successes, and life.  We were not meant to be isolated.  Sometimes, I think we feel so  overwhelmed by life that we hesitate to let other people in.  We think we are all alone with our issues, experiences, and difficulties.  But we're not.  The human condition is eerily the same.  That's why music, art, and literature are so important - they connect us to each to other.  So if you're feeling like you're better off laying low or not sharing your experiences (because you might be an introvert, and by all means, spend time alone when you need to), think again.  We can only make it though this crazy life by reaching out, loving each other, and making connections.  We can help each other.  The rewards are great!

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. - Matthew 18:20

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week.  I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.

I haven't posted a Monday post since February!  Oh my...
Here are some highlights since then...



PAX by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Oh, be still my heart. This was our first staff book club pick!  What a beautiful book - a story full of heart. A journey story. A redemption story. A friendship and family story. A home story. I chose this for a staff book club book, and my copy is full of post-it-notes with things to talk about: beautiful language, characterization, philosophy, etc. It would make the perfect read aloud or small group book for our JOURNEY unit. Vola might become one of my favorite characters in children's lit. I put this at the top of my Newbery contender list. It's going to be hard to beat.
Favorite quotes:
"'So which is is? You going back for your home or for your pet?'
'They're the same thing, "Peter said, the answer sudden and sure, although a surprise to him.'"

"'I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace.'"

"'All craftsmen are servants to the craft. Once you decide what you want to make, the project is boss. You know what you want to make?'"

"'The plain truth can be the hardest thing to see when it's about yourself. If you don't want to know the truth, you'll do anything to disguise it.'"

"Vola threw back her head and barked her startling laugh. 'Oh, let me tell you, feelings are ALL dangerous. Love, hope...Ha! Hope!'"

Hour of the Bees
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager
So, so good! This was our 2nd staff book club pick. Carolina reluctantly joins her family on a journey to the dry deserts of New Mexico to move her estranged grandfather to a care facility for people with dementia. Carol just wishes she could spend the summer with her friends. Serge scares her a little - he drifts in and out of reality and keeps mentioning bees and telling stories about trees. Carol reminds Serge of his beloved late Rosa, and sometimes Carol is not sure who he really sees. Intertwined throughout the novel are Biblical allusions - Eden with the tree of life and snakes, timelessness, life after death, and baptism. The magical realism keeps the reader guessing about what is real and what is magic. Our staff book club had a great discussion about it this morning and look forward to sharing it with kids.
Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal
I read this novel in verse on the plane on the way to Florida where we were embarking upon a 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal. I love learning about history through a great story, and Margarita Engle never disappoints. The way she engages us in stories through her verse is magical. The Panama Canal was on my parents' bucket list to see, so when the opportunity came up to see it, we all jumped at the chance. It was fascinating. Silver People gave me a glimpse of what it was really like to be one of the people who worked on that amazing engineering feat. Loved the points of view of the forest and the animals!

Pictures I took of the cruise ship passing through the Panama Canal
Carry On
Like all of Rainbow Rowell's books, witty humor and a compelling story captivated me right away. At first it seemed very Harry Potterish, but it took on its own twists and turns, and I really enjoyed it. I LOVED meeting Rainbow in February at OCTELA.

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)
family, fantasy-science-fiction, friendship, girls-book-club, romance, young-adult-book

I enjoyed reading this young adult novel while on spring break, preparing for my 7th grade girls' book club. It's the story of Addie, a girl with the power of seeing the future when she's presented with a choice. She can see both choices play out. When her parents tell her they're getting a divorce and she can either stay in the paranormal compound with her mother or go to the normal world with her father, she looks to the future. A few of us talked about how, at first, it's a little confusing when trying to figure out the changes in worlds - West goes back and forth with no font changes or anything - but a couple of the girls noticed that subtle (or maybe not so subtle) chapter titles clued you in. Duh. Sometimes my students are smarter than me. ;-) We had a good discussion over it. Some of the girls were already reading the sequel. #teamtrevor

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)
Oh my goodness. I can't believe this book. Read it on the plane on the way home from spring break. Scarred. I can't say too much about it or it would be a spoiler.  I was completely drawn in to this story from the beginning and loved the relationship between Lou and Will.  Apparently it's going to be a movie.  Oh my...

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook


After You (Me Before You, #2)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Celebration Saturday - An Amazing Day - Salva Dut's Visit

I love linking up to a wonderful celebratory community, inspired by Ruth Ayres, every Saturday!
Salva Dut with one of my 6th grade classes
Many of you have traveled this road with me through reading blog and Facebook posts.  I'm still reeling from the experience and need to capture it all in words before such an extraordinary day is in the distant past.  I thought the best way to do it is to follow the itinerary Tracy Kleis (we were co-leaders in this endeavor) and I created with help from Shelley Bogaert, Columbia Intermediate principal, Dawn Gould, our district's Community Relations Director, and Lynn Malooly, Executive Director of Water for South Sudan.  For those who need more background about the project, here is a blog post that gives information about it:  Celebration Saturday

MARCH 29, 2016
8:00 Tracy and I picked Salva and Lynn up from Cincinnati Marriott Northeast.  Kudos to the management there because they donated two rooms for two nights on the concierge floor for Lynn and Salva.  I'll never forget seeing them walk down the hallway to greet us - what a moment! We headed to Kings Junior High for Salva's first presentation (9:00-9:45). I remember thinking how surreal it was to look over to my passenger seat and seeing Salva there while I drove him to the school.  It was so important that the junior high kids see him because they were the pioneers of #ReadWalkWater.  The current 8th graders were the first kids to read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park together and get inspired to do something about the water crisis.  They responded with compassion and action.  The junior high principal (who also had a personal connection to the book and Salva's story because she adopted a little girl from Ethiopia - she saw her daughter in Nya) gathered all the 7th and 8th graders in the auditorium (about 680-700 kids) to hear Salva's inspiring message.  I chose two 8th graders who were very involved in our first campaign to introduce Salva.  They did a wonderful job.  We were impressed with the kids' rapt attention.  They loved Salva!  He graciously took pictures and signed books afterward.
Salva with the 8th graders who introduced him (Kyra and Gracie) and Kings Junior High principal, Nicole Huelsman

Signing one of my former student's book

Salva with our Kings knight!

Tracy, me, Salva, and our principal, Shelley
9:45  We headed to Columbia Intermediate School for Salva's 2nd presentation to the 6th graders (10:00-10:45).  Tracy chose two of her students to introduce Salva there, and again, they did a wonderful job.  The 6th graders were also completely engaged in Salva's talk and asked great questions.  We then took Salva to visit several of our 6th grade classes.   Little did I know when I first read A Long Walk to Water three years ago that the main real life character would be standing in my classroom with my students in 2016!!

11:15  We headed to the Blue Ash/Montgomery Rotary Club for lunch and Salva's third presentation (12:00-1:30).  What a warm and welcome greeting we got!  Our superintendent (Tim Ackerman) and assistant superintendent (Tim Spinner), Dawn, and our Ethicon liaison and supporter, Kim Lenahan, attended.  Because Salva is a Rotarian and has won Rotary's most prestigious "Service Above Self" award, it was exciting to connect him to one of our local clubs.  We hope it results in a future project with them.

2:00 A spontaneous invite to tour Ethicon Endo-Surgery!  Because Ethicon, our generous #ReadWalkWater supporter, was right around the corner from the Rotary site, Kim invited us to take a tour.  Wow!  What an impressive place!  Not only are their products fascinating (they make surgical tools), but the people who worked there were so friendly and generous with their time and knowledge.  You could certainly tell that the people of Ethicon live up to the Johnson & Johnson credo!
3:30 A much needed break for Salva and Lynn!  They rested at their hotel until our big evening event.
5:45 Started setting up for the evening event.  We displayed #ReadWalkWater rubber wristbands and Water for South Sudan water bottles to sell, Kim (from Ethicon) brought wireless computers so that guests could donate online, and the choir came early to rehearse.  We didn't know what to expect in attendance.  Dawn put out many press releases and Facebook posts, and our school notified parents and community members.  We invited staff, administrators, and board members.  I also invited a few neighboring districts who also held walks for Water for South Sudan.  At 6:15, a group from Mason, a district right next to us, presented a $1,000+ check to Salva and Lynn personally.  Also, a couple of teachers from Loveland (one of them a parent of Kings students, Jen Kirby), also a "next door" district, were able to meet him and have him sign their Iron Giraffe flag.  Loveland has raised around $15,000 for Water for South Sudan!
When people started pouring in at 6:00  for the 6:30 event, we knew were going to have a full house, and we did!  We estimated about 150 came - it was standing room only.  Many of our CIS choir members volunteered to sing for Salva, and they did a beautiful job.  They opened the presentation for us.
Mason kids, parents, and staff presenting Salva a check for Water for South Sudan

Our wonderful choir and choir director
6th graders introducing Salva

A full house!
Salva with Tracy and me
Salva and Lynn

Our superintendent, Tim Ackerman (to Salva's right, my left) and assistant superintendent, Tim Spinner (on Salva's left), CIS principal, Shelley Detmer-Bogaert on Tim Spinner's left, Lynn Malooly (Executive Director of Water for South Sudan) and Tracy Kleis to Lynn's left

A Salva Selfie!!
With CIS assistant principal, Lori Stovall (on Salva's right), and principal Shelley Detmer-Bogaert on Salva's left - Tracy to left of Shelley
Kim Lenahan (Ethicon) and Salva
Posing with one of my students (on his left) and her brother
Salva stayed after his last presentation and tirelessly signed books and took pictures with kids.  He was amazing!  We were able to give Lynn and Salva another $800+ to take back with them from cash donations and wristband and water bottle sales.  We hope they received online donations, also.
Lynn and Salva headed back to the hotel at about 9:00 if I remember correctly.  It was an amazing day!  We thank them profusely for the incredible honor of their visit.  Salva is truly an inspiration - he is just as kind, generous, and peaceful in person that you would imagine him to be.  It is an honor to call him a friend.  Thank you, thank you, Lynn and Salva, for coming to Kings, and thank you for all you're doing for the people of South Sudan.  We love being a part of your good works!  Thank you, too, to the generous folks at Ethicon, Cincinnati Marriott Northeast, the Blue Ash/Montgomery Rotary, Tracy for being an awesome co-leader and grant writer, the Kings administration and staff for all your support, the Kings parents and community, and especially the Kings kids who walked for water and raised funds - you are truly changing the world!