Monday, March 28, 2016


I'm sure we are all guilty of it, in some form or another.  Not being present.  Not being mindful or in the moment.  Whatever you want to call it, it often means that we aren't focused on what is right in front of us (In this digital age, it also means spending way too much time attending to our devices. Checking one more email in class when your students need your attention.  Looking at your phone instead of into the eyes of the person you are with.  Watching the TV instead of focusing on a conversation with your spouse.  Looking at your Twitter feed instead of playing with your children.  Sound familiar?)  As hard as we try not to, we do this.  I do this.

I recently read The Happiness Project, a book by Gretchen Rubin.  She devoted a year of her life to figuring out how to bring more positivity and happiness into her world.  She identified several things that she focused on each month to increase her happiness: getting organized, capturing memories, starting a collection, and creating a blog, among a number of other things.  So much of what the author suggested resonated with me, but the one that stood out the most was mindfulness.  Like Rubin, I don't want to take up meditation or learn yoga.  I just want to make a conscience choice to focus on the people I'm with and not take that time for granted.

I'm an educator, an author, a wife, a mom.  I struggle to balance these in my life and often allow myself to get distracted much more than I should.  (I hope that it doesn't show, although I'm sure that it does.)  When I'm at work, I think about the plans I want to make for an upcoming party for my sons.  When I'm writing, I think about the favor my husband asked me to do, which I forgot.  When I'm at home, I think about the meeting I need to schedule with a colleague.  My mind is always in a dozen different places--and often not in the place where it's supposed to be. 

So after reading Rubin's book, I thought more about the time and energy she dedicated to increasing what happiness meant for her.  If she can commit to 12 months and over 40 different tasks that she accomplished, I could at least try to focus on one, right?

So, I figured that the best way to commit to something is to put it in writing.  I'm going to take the next 30 days and among all of the balls that I try to juggle, I am going to make a concerted effort to be more mindful.  There are 3 things within my personal resolution that I'm going to do:

1.  Ditch the devices at home. 
As a first step, I'm going to put my personal electronic devices aside, including my old-fashioned paper planner and my notebook. I'm going to push away all potential distractions and focus my attention on my family.  Our time in the evenings and on weekends is precious and I need to appreciate it.

2.  Engage with people.
I'm going to check in more with friends and show thoughtful support.  I'm going to have more face-to-face conversations at work instead of emails. I'm going to devote more time to my husband (who is a saint) who stays at home with our boys and give him the adult conversations he misses during the day.  I'm going to engage with my kids-- play and laugh, run and chase, draw and sing, even when I'm tired and have work to do. 

3.  Reflect
Every night, I'm going to write down one positive step that I've made and another thing that I still need to work on. These quick notes will help me stay on track and be accountable.

So, should I have been doing all of these things all along?  Yes . . . and I do try, but some days I'm better at doing it than others.  Some days I get pulled into work drama that carries over into home time and I miss out on doing a puzzle with my son.  Or I'm so tired at night that I fall asleep before taking time and talking with my husband.  I've found it easy to let those things slip, which is why I am making this commitment to be more mindful. As Rubin reminded me, I don't want to set a goal that I accomplish once and disregard. This is my resolution moving forward to changing my practice. 

  • What habits have you developed to become more mindful? 
  • What tips can you share for those who want to be more present with their families?

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016

Writing and I have had a love-hate relationship for a long time.  We've spent long, lazy afternoons together dreaming about our future.  We've fought and spent months apart trying to figure out how to reconnect. We've had ups and downs, just like any partnership.  While our bond is strong now, our relationship had a rocky start.

As an elementary student, I'm pretty sure writing hated me---and I hated it right back.  I wrote because I had to.  I reluctantly completed class assignments and awaited the painful feedback.  My grades were primarily good, but not in English class.  Writing and I just couldn't work well together but we struggled though this rough patch.

In middle school, writing and I got back together when I started writing in a diary.  This became an outlet for me, writing of the drama of the day, venting about friends, school, and my parents.  Reflecting at the end of a day was my relaxation and my counseling.  While most middle school relationships don't last long, writing and I were actually getting along!

In high school, the challenging course work put a strain on writing and I.  Honors English was almost the demise of our entire relationship.  Analyzing Shakespeare's sonnets, learning MLA format, discussing political satire, developing character traits, and writing multiple drafts with specific narrative elements. Writing and I were growing up and improving, or so I thought.

Off to college thinking that writing and I were in a good place, but my professors disagreed.  I soon lost touch with writing (and my grades suffered).  Writing seemed like a moving target.  I was never sure how to make it happy or what to do to improve our relationship, so I gave up.  I wrote as little as I possibly could to get by and washed my hands of the whole relationship.

Years passed, and as many couples reunite, writing and I met again.  I committed to a doctoral program, where writing and I would inevitably have to co-exist.  With a dissertation looming, writing and I started from scratch, learning to get along and communicate again. With help from a passionate and demanding professor, writing and I finally felt supported.  Ongoing feedback about our relationship helped writing and I to grow stronger.  After two years of research, revision, and more revision, we completed the dissertation.  The hard work was rewarding and invigorating.  So much so, that writing and I continued to try new things--publishing several articles and writing proposals for conferences.

Commitment in relationships can be a scary, daunting phase, but writing and I were sure that we were going to stay together.  We took the ultimate step--a book.  Over the course of a year and half, writing and I took everything we've learned throughout out relationship and put it to the test.  The book STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in the Elementary Classroom will be out next week!

So after some 30 years together, how will writing and I continue to keep our relationship going strong?  How will we keep things vibrant and engaging?  What goals would we work towards next? When I heard about the Compelled Tribe on Twitter (the greatest personal professional development tool ever!) it was perfect timing for writing and I get involved in a new phase of our relationship. So along with others in the Tribe, writing and I will share our work every month on this blog.  We hope that it brings us closer together as we continue to share ideas and learn from others.

As with any, this relationship with writing hasn't been easy.  It has taken hard work and commitment. Some days its fueled by creativity; other days it requires loads of patience.  In the end, it is a relationship that I value and promise to develop for better or worse, in sickness and in health til death do us part.

What is your relationship with writing?  What tips can you share about keeping the relationship strong?