Monday, March 31, 2014


At the time I started this blog, approximately ten months ago, I knew that it would be a temporary space.  My first blog, My Cozy Book Nook, seemed too confining for the diversified posts I wanted to write, and yet my life was in transition and I was not sure what the next step should be.

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A year ago I was overwhelmed by the changes in life, seemingly all at the same time:  hitting that "half century" mark which officially qualified me to become a member of AARP; the death of my mother which resulted in me becoming an orphan and the matriarch of the family; and the birth of my granddaughter on the day of Mom's memorial service - and only six months after my youngest left the nest.  I needed to retreat and regroup and I did so... here in the cocoon and at home in the nook.

Over these past few months I have done much soul searching and gained quite a bit of insight.  I am learning to accept myself more and compare myself with others less.  I am learning to come to grips with my perfectionism and realize that I do not have to be the best to have purpose in life.  I am learning that God does not love me because of what I do, but simply because of who I am.

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This transformation takes about two weeks in the life of a butterfly - a bit longer for me.  But that's ok.  Through this process I have discovered my next step.

I will be retiring in six weeks:  May 16, 2014.  I have adored my teaching career and I know that I will miss it greatly; but it is time to move on.  I plan to follow a passion, something I have never done in life.  I plan to write.

I have developed a business website, Stepping Stones Publications, where you can learn more about my interest in becoming a personal historian.  I have also developed three blogs that will allow me to write more freely without self-imposed limitations.

Stepping Stones Blog will be my personal blog.  I anticipate many entries will focus on my writing endeavors, or books read, or personal discoveries.  The first post will be up tomorrow.

Stepping Stones:  Travels will document all my posts related to exploring the world, from local Kansas City to exotic Europe and beyond.  The first post should be up by the end of this week.

Stepping Stones:  Photos will not only showcase pictures I have taken, but will also discuss how photography has taught me valuable life lessons.  I hope to have something to share in the next couple of weeks.

As with any venture, I am a bit tentative.  There is comfort in the cocoon, even if the space is cramped and confining.  But I know that staying within prevents me from becoming the person God desires me to be.  The wings have developed, it is now time to take a step of faith and fly.  I hope you will join me on this journey...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Salon: March 9, 2014

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Today's Weather:  This time last week the temperature was below zero.... today the high will be in the 60s.  I wish I could say this was uncommon for Kansas...

What's on the menu:  I think in celebration of our extra hour of light this evening... as well as spring-like temperatures... we may grill something for dinner.

Highlights of the week:  In some respects, this week was no different than the past two:  a limited focus on teaching, a greater focus on Stepping Stones, and some time connecting with friends.  However I would have to say that the highlight was spending time with my granddaughter last night while her parents went out to dinner.

We took her to the mall where we shopped at Barnes and Noble, American Girl, and the Disney Store; we ate dinner at 5 Guys Burger and Fries; and we rode the carousel.  Afterwards we came back to our house and had a tea party with my mom's china set.  While tending to a (nearly) three-year-old can be exhausting, it can also be energizing and ever so rewarding.

Teaching Overview:  Brit Lit is still conducting read-arounds of the research paper - spending on average about thirty minutes per student - revising three paragraphs.  It is my sincere hope that these students are learning the craft of writing while listening to these suggestions for improvement.

English Comp has finished the required textbook assignments (except for the research paper, of course) and we are now experimenting with other writing styles.  On Thursday we took a break and just played.... but I was so impressed how ALL the students stayed on task and helped create a viable story.  We used Rory's Story Cubes as the basis for our narratives and shared many laughs.

Currently Reading:  I read/skimmed about six books on the writing of memoir - three of which I loved and have added to my own personal library for on-going reference:

While I won't take the time to review each one of the books here (perhaps I will in a separate post), I can summarize and tell you the reason why I loved them is because they are concise, informative, and focused on the writing craft as opposed to writing prompts.  I have plenty of books (and online resources) should I need help in what to write; I am looking to learn how to write a life story in an engaging way.

I am currently reading Beth Kephart's Handling the Truth, which I am enjoying.  The author knows her craft and she presents the material in an informative way.  However, she uses many examples from published memoirs to help the reader understand her teaching point, which I do not think is my learning style.  I would rather read the author's words and then read the memoirs for myself.

I still have about ten more library books to review on the subject, and then I plan to transition to reading memoirs themselves.  There are several that are mentioned in nearly every book on the subject:  An American Childhood by Annie Dillard, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Liar's Club by Mary Karr, Growing Up by Russell Baker, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didon, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, and Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen.

If you have read a worthy memoir lately, I would love to hear your recommendations.

Writing Progress:  I have met with the two beta readers for First Impressionism (my NaNoWriMo piece) and discussed their valuable input.  I will now begin to assemble those comments, as well as my own, on the excel spread sheet with the hopes of starting the revision process by this time next week (this is taking longer than I first while it appears that I have made little progress in this area, it is not because I have lost focus)

Weekly Exercise:  Ok... it is hard to get motivated to exercise when it's below zero outside (I can justify anything...)  BUT... the weather is warming up and spring break is next week.  It is my intention to get back into a routine during the break and hopefully maintain it until the end of the school year.  Once June arrives, I am confident that I will return to the 5k walk-a-day routine that I began last summer.  And I am excited!

Stepping Stones:  Since developing this Sunday Salon template, my life has changed significantly.  And while I want to try to incorporate Artist's Dates, Craftiness and Photography into my life, I feel as though the development of this new venture feeds that "creative" side.  Perhaps this summer I will delve into those activities on a weekly basis, but for now, all my free time seems to focus on this area.

Developing a website --- what a learning curve!  Two weeks ago I had no idea that and were two completely different animals.  Now I do... and while I know that offers more versatility, I am not sure I want the hassle of transferring the domain name (which is another steep learning curve...)

The reason for the possible transfer is that allows for little customization.  It is not that I want to do anything flashy --- just have the ability to use different font sizes and colors for subheadings on a individual pages (a piece of cake in Blogger)... but apparently that requires learning the basics of CSS code (?)  Since I only discovered yesterday that CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets you can understand how inept I am.

And then there is Twitter.... I have never experienced such poor customer support.  And if I could find a way to communicate that to Twitter, I would write them a terse email.  However, the only way to contact Twitter with a question is to send a form email... which results in an instant canned reply that directs you to support links on the website (which I have already read.. multiple times).  Perhaps my "business" can survive using other social media like Facebook and Google Plus.

What's on the Horizon:  Grading compare and contrast papers before Tuesday; introducing Tale of Two Cities (my favorite unit of the year); reading more books on memoir; developing a revision schedule for First Impressionism; working on the business website.  In other words... more of the same, and I LOVE it!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Salon: March 2, 2014

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Today's Weather:  March certainly came in like a roaring lion this year!  We have a couple of inches of snow/ice on the ground with a couple more expected throughout the morning and afternoon.  The high today is seven (7) degrees!!  I am missing the consistently topical temperatures of St. Martin....

What's on the menu:  Since my husband has to be in Des Moines by 8:00am Monday morning, he left yesterday afternoon to avoid the hazardous weather.  It's just me and the dogs... and I don't cook much for us.  I made sure to have enough staples in the house to see me through Monday afternoon, but I anticipate some warm soup and a hot sandwich with several cups of steaming tea.

Highlights of the week:  Unfortunately the highlight - the memory that I won't soon forget - was having to replace everything on my hard drive; not a task I had anticipated this week.  It all started rather innocently.... my system was a little sluggish and I made an appointment with an Apple Genius.  I figured there was quite a bit of unnecessary "stuff" running in the background and they might be able to clean it up for me.  Just a little.... not a big deal.

The genius who ran the diagnostic test concluded that my "1's and 0's" were confused (whatever that means.. I don't speak binary code) and he recommended erasing the hard drive and starting over.  I expressed GREAT concern:  erasing the hard drive sounds like the equivalent of a major stroke to me.  He indicated that my time machine had completed a backup just two hour before, and there would be no problem.  Well, he was the expert, right?  So I agreed.

It was a relatively quick and easy operation.  I left the store with instructions of how to transfer the backed up files from my time machine and was told that everything would be exactly as it had been.  It should take a couple of hours.  Perfect.

Except - as the Apple Care representative told me in a ninety minute subsequent conversation - my time machine had a little "hiccup" and we eventually determined that I had to manually move all the files.  What he did not tell me ... and I eventually realized... is that not all files are backed up every day.  So I had to search through several folders to find everything that I think I need.

Needless to say... it was a tense, frustrating, L-O-N-G Friday afternoon.

Teaching Overview:  Brit Lit completed Pride and Prejudice and all scored well on the final exam.  We have now begun the read-arounds for their research papers.  This group of students have been leery of read-arounds in the past... not understanding the process that many minds make for positive improvements.  But I had a couple of English Comp students volunteer to come to this class to help them feel comfortable with the process.  It was WONDERFUL --- one of the rare teaching days when I left the classroom completely satisfied with the positive learning that took place.  We will continue with read-arounds this week until all students have had the opportunity to receive appropriate feedback.

Currently Reading:  As is my typical Mode of Operation, once I get an idea I run full-speed ahead.  I have developed a library list of about 15-20 books related to the craft and/or importance of writing personal stories/memoirs.  About half of those were currently available and they are now home ready for the next step.

Typically, I skim through the table of contents and read the first few pages.  If it seems to be a book that I know I will want to read in more depth, I will put in the "keep" pile.  If it is a book that I think might be too much review of what I have already read, I will put it in the "return" pile.  This process can be done rather quickly.

Next, I will begin to read the books from the "keep" pile and perhaps find one or two that I really enjoy and want to add them to my own personal library.  The remaining books I will read, take notes, and then return.

Today's weather is perfect for this kind of leisurely reading activity.

Writing Progress:  I commented to a good friend earlier this week that I "felt like a writer" today ... It wasn't that I wrote new material, but I focused my efforts on writerly activities.

I modified my Editorial Calendar, which I think will keep me focused not only on the micro tasks that need to be completed in a given week, but also on the macro view of maintaining and developing new projects for the future.

In addition, I received the edits and suggestions from one beta reader regarding my NaNoWriMo project.  I am now in the process of reviewing those suggestions and making a spreadsheet that summarizes those comments per chapter.  Later this week I hope to start the rewrite, with the goal of completing about two chapters per week.

I met with my writing coach, and she seems to think I have enough valid material to try writing a travel essay for publication.  Just typing that causes my palms to sweat, but it is an exciting challenge to pursue.

Stepping Stones Publications continues to be a focus for me as well.  I have created a website, a Facebook page, and a twitter account.  I managed to learn how to create a designated email, and I have ordered business cards.  Now I need to put flesh on the bones - especially with regards to the website.

Weekly Exercise:  UGH... need I say more?

Artist's Date:  I am having such fun with the creation of a new business, that I feel as though each day is an artist date; however, I know that I need to get outside the house and rejuvenate the other senses.  I did manage to take time Saturday afternoon to watch my favorite movie of all time:  You've Got Mail.  It was the perfect stress-reliever following the computer experience of the day before.

Craftiness:  I am excited that Stepping Stones Publications can incorporate a bit of craftiness as well.  Finding the perfect photo to coordinate with the meaningful story to create a lasting legacy has been my vision for a very long time.

Photography:  I did manage to select, edit, and upload about 125 cruise pictures to Flickr and then take advantage of a Shutterfly special to print those photos.  While digital photography is convenient to view and share with others, there is nothing quite like looking through a stack of pictures and reliving each moment.

What's on the Horizon:  More of the same... and I love it!  There are two more weeks of classes until spring break, so there will be a focus on preparing the students for that last push to the end; I will continue to read memoir writing books to help me identify key elements that I need and want to include to create my own writing style; and I will use my editorial calendar to keep me on task for developing the  website in order to make it a viable presence ... as well as revising my NaNo manuscript.  Busy... and it's all good!