Posted by: Debby | February 24, 2017

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Do you have a lot on your mind? Doing a braindrain can be a great exercise to help you capture all the issues and ideas so that you can deal with them in a rational manner.

What’s a Braindrain?

A braindrain is like a brainstorm, only instead of trying to come up with as many ideas as you can that relate to a focused topic, your objective is to spill out all the busy-ness in your head onto paper. It’s a useful way to get an overview of the big picture.

Funnel Cloud

My Braindrain

I have been on medical leave for almost a month now. I’ve had lots of doctor appointments and email conversations. I’ve researched topics related to asthma and better self-care. I’ve had to do a lot of resting. And I’ve learned a lot of things I don’t want to forget. So, today I did a braindrain. You can type one on your computer or phone, write it in your journal, or just spill it out on a big piece of paper.

Here’s a sampling from mine:

  • If I use my emergency inhaler more than 2x per week, I need to call my allergist.
  • I like my job and miss my colleagues.
  • I enjoy seeing my friends’ and family’s facebook posts.
  • I enjoy writing to Mom.
  • Humidity is one of my big asthma triggers.
  • I’ve found some great new blogs to follow.
  • I love reading my Bible daily.
  • I need to add more fruits and veggies into my diet especially carotenoids and leafy greens.
  • I have learned how to use my planner more effectively.
  • It is good to sit still.
  • Dark chocolate is still good for me.
  • I need to be a more faithful vacuumer and duster for my health’s sake.
  • I can always remind myself my life is in God’s hands; God loves me; God is good; and God is in control. I have nothing to fear.

As you can see, I let the ideas come in random order, although thinking of one thing sometimes reminded me of other related topics.

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What Will I Do With My Braindrain?

When I look over my list, I see there are things I need to remember for when I get sick. I’ll gather these on an index card and put it on my bulletin board.

There were more healthy eating suggestions on the list than I included on your abbreviated version. I want to make another index card with an “Eat These!” list on one side and a “Limit These!” list on the other to keep in my wallet. I will also make an index card for each and put them on my fridge.

I tend to over-embrace the Puritan work ethic, and I tend to get stressed. I’m going to make another list, on a blank page in my planner, of things I enjoy doing that are restful and relaxing.  Then, I’m going to try to remember to look at it when I feel stressed.

I have also created a new daily item for my planner: Calming Activity.

The Braindrain: Another Great Benefit of a Literate Lifestyle

I am a person who thinks best with a pen in my hand. I love using the braindrain exercise  to capture or quiet what’s on my mind. It feels really good to get everything recorded in one place.

Your Turn

Please use the comment box below to share your own tips for coping with having a lot on your mind. Or share a braindrain of your own. I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by: Debby | February 21, 2017

Whilst I Lie Here Sick–My Life on Pinterest

Asthma! Grrr!

I am now on week 4 of lying about the house in an effort to recover from an “asthma exacerbation” brought about by high humidity and a respiratory virus. Basically I’ve been living at levels 1, 2, and 3 on the “Pain Scale” I adapted from the Samn-Perelli 7pt. Fatigue Scale.

Fatigue-Scale

Too Tired to Read! Don’t Want to Watch T.V.!

While being in the state of “Extremely tired, very difficult to concentrate,” let alone move around and do the simplest of chore,  yet highly susceptible to boredom, what have I been doing? Pinning. It is my favorite “brain-dead” activity. All I have to move are my fingers and my eyes, and as someone who loves visual imagery that is pleasure enough.

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What Have I Done on My Pinterest Boards!

Follow the links if you would like to check out any examples.

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Why I Love Pinterest:

As I already said, I am a very, visually oriented person, and so I love feasting my eyes on the beautiful images.

Better yet, Pinterest is eliminating my need for additional file cabinet space. No more clipping and filing writing information, historical references, recipes, and teaching, craft, and holiday ideas.

As a fiction writer, it has provided a quick and easy way to save other types of inspiration like art and photos for settings and characters.

And, it’s just a great place to collect things I love, all without having to take up physical space collecting them!

I think it has saved my sanity in these long boring days when even journaling felt like too much. Pop in on any of the links and take a peek. (Oh, and feel free to pin whatever you want; my boards are about sharing.)

Your Turn

Are you a pinner? Leave a link to your pinboards in the comment box. I would love to check them out!

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Posted by: Debby | February 16, 2017

Write Your Life: A Metaphor for Being

Write Your LifeWriting is a great way capture, reflect on, and enrich your life. It is even good for your health. And, as someone who has health issues, that is good news.

Write About Your Life

I write about my life for a variety of reasons, to celebrate, to mourn, to dream, to plan, to understand, to pray. Sometimes I do so intentionally, sometimes the words begin to spool out in my mind and I memorize like crazy until I can get my hands on paper and pencil or pen.

A Metaphor for BeingA Metaphor* for Being

Last week I returned to work after being ill for 13 days. I was not well, but I was out of sick leave and I wasn’t contagious. I am a high school writing coach and work one-on-one with students, and I figured, even running a little slow, I could do more for my students than could my sub. So, I went to work last Thursday.

My energy levels were at about .01 on a 0-1,000,000 scale, yet as I moved about the classroom, I felt an urgent need to go faster, even if it made my head ache, even if it made me more tired. My colleagues told me to slow down. I told me to slow down. I just couldn’t seem to do it.

Then, as I was attempting to poke my way along the long hallway, it came to me, “Move like fog.” And in the next instant, my mind took it further yet, saying, “You are fog.” I envisioned how fog slowly rolled in across the San Francisco Bay of my childhood. My pace slowed, my mind stilled, and I moved with the speed appropriate to me physical state! (I even, later that day, was inspired to write a poem about the experience.)

A Metaphor for the Moment

Whether you are struggling to do something or eagerly pursuing a goal, you can craft a metaphor to shape your frame of mind. Then repeat it to yourself when you feel the need for reinforcement.

Your Turn

Please use the comment space below to share a metaphor that would be useful to you today, in your life.

*A metaphor is a comparison that does not use like or said. It simply states the one thing is another.

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Purple WritingHappy Valentine’s Day!

Greetings my book-loving friends! While most of the world is busy celebrating (or mourning) Valentine’s Day, here is an international holiday that I think should get a lot more promotion. Today is International Book Giving Day!

While I like sweet cards from my hubby, chocolate, and roses, if you really want to give me something I’ll love, give me a book. Don’t you agree?

International Book Giving Day

I love that the emphasis on this holiday is not on getting, but giving. (I know, Valentine’s involve giving, too. However, so many people get so fixated on the receiving).

So who do you know that would be delighted by the gift of a book?

My List

  • my four adorable grandchildren who I love to encourage to read, write, and draw
  • a sci-fi writing friend (I reread Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book over Christmas and thought over and over as I read that I needed to pass it on to her. However, I felt conflicted, and as I didn’t see her, loved the book, and didn’t want to part with it, I did nothing. The solution: give her a copy of her own!)
  • my hubby: it is my great joy that he looks to me to be his personal librarian!
  • the teen parents who attend my school–I and several other staff members use Scholastic Reading Clubs‘ $1 and $2 deals to keep a box stocked with picture books that our students can take home for their kids. I frequently remind them that one of the best things they can do to help their children succeed is read to them.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, tell us who you would give a book to. Even better, tell what book and why. After all, as book lovers ourselves, aren’t we all looking for the next great read?

Posted by: Debby | February 9, 2017

President Abraham Lincoln–What a Writer!

happy-bd-president-lincolnAbraham Lincoln’s Birthday

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is this Sunday the 12th. (I know this dates me, but I still miss getting to celebrate Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays separately!)

Of all our U.S. Presidents, Lincoln is one of the one’s I most admire. Why?

  • He was a man of integrity.
  • He was not just faithful to God, but actually relied on him and spoke of his reliance publicly.
  • He held our country together through its greatest crisis.
  • He was gracious in victory.
  • He was a shrewd observer of humanity
  • He had a great sense of humor.
  • And, he was an awesome writer.

There are so many wonderful quotes attributed to him, for example:

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

“With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

 

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

The Gettysburg Address and Parallelism

When I began teaching 7th Grade Language Arts, I was surprised to find the Gettysburg Address included in the text-book. In reading the teacher’s guide, I discovered it was there not simply to reflect its period in the history of literature, but for the purpose of teaching the literary device, parallelism.

Parallelism is a technique used to condense long, similar sentences, but even more important its use creates a dynamic rhythm in the prose.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s Use of Parallelism

Lincoln uses this technique to connect just two ideas:

Instead of saying: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation.
It was conceived in liberty.
In addition, it was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

He said: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

He also uses it connect many ideas in his moving conclusion:

Instead of saying: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.
We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.
Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

He said: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vainthat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

To further complicate this sentence, one of the parallel clauses contains a parallelism of it’s own!

that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When analyzed, this short speech is incredibly complex in structure, creating an effect that is both eloquent and memorable which has contributed to its being treasured far beyond the dedication of the battlefield that was the context for which it was created.

Your Turn

Do you have favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln ? Please use the comment box below to share it with your fellow readers.

*The selection of quotes came from: BrainyQuote, and the Gettysburg Address from: The National Park Service: Lincoln Home.

Posted by: Debby | February 7, 2017

Send a Card to a Friend

radient-flower-cardToday is National Send a Card to a Friend Day. What a great way to promote the enjoyment of literacy (not to mention an opportunity for creativity)! Wouldn’t we all love getting a card from a friend? So, what might you do?

Send a Card To a Friend–Where to get the Card

Obvious resources are just using any stationary or blank notecards you already own.

Other options include making cards. Click on the link to my “Card Gallery” board on Pinterest. There are lots of ideas there. However, you do not need to do anything particularly complicated. You don’t even have to have special card stock, scrapbook paper, or those many delightfully tempting tools you can find at any craft store.

sun-greeting-cardHere is a simple, but striking idea using materials everyone probably has on hand:

  • Fold a piece of printer paper. This is your card.
  • Find a contrasting paper–it could be scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, a brown paper bag, or even a scrap of fabric.
  • Trace an interesting shape, no bigger than your “card” onto the paper/fabric. Cookie cutters work great for this.
  • Cut it out.
  • Glue the shape onto your card.
  • Embellish as you wish with colored pen or pencil, glitter, bows–whatever you fancy. Caution: because this is supposed to be a simple card I would do no more than one of these options.

Now you have a card.

Write a Note

  • What should you say? Here are some ideas:
  • share a memory
  • share a hope or dream for the two of you together–could be as simple as meeting for a walk next Tuesday
  • express appreciation for this relationship
  • encourage a friend who may be going through a rough time
  • just say, “Hi! I miss you.”

Easy Peasy, as a friend of mine might say.

Get the Kids Writing and Creating

Are you a parent or a teacher? What a great way to encourage literacy!

In the classroom, if you want to do this but don’t have a lot of time, pass out index cards, instruct the students to decorate the blank side with crayon, markers, or colored pencil, and write the note to a friend on the lined side.

At home? Have a blast making cards with your kids. Pull out all your crafting stuff. Make more than one. Make some to have on hand for next time you need a card.

When done crafting, each of you select a card–parents and kids; it is important we model our enjoyment of literacy for our children. Then write to a friend. (For pre-reader/writers, ask your child to dictate a letter and you write what they say down. After, read it back to your child pointing to each word as you say it, thus reinforcing their understanding of spoken to written word correspondence.) Use this as a learning activity to teach your kids how to address an envelope. Put a stamp on it, and send it off.

Your Turn

Please use the comment space below to share more ideas for topics that would make a good note to a friend or some other fun card making activities.

And…Dear friends, I am so grateful to have you as readers.

Posted by: Debby | January 31, 2017

Best Books of January

What was Your Favorite Read During the Month of January?

Here we go, it’s the end of another month. So, what is the best book you read in January (either for yourself or with your child)? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you really enjoy? Or, which one made a major impact on you?

Please use the comment space to share the title and author and to tell just a snippet about your book to whet our readers’ appetites. Is your child old enough to write? Invite him or her to write a recommendation for the blog.

The Kiss of DeceptionMy Reading Recommendation 

The book I would recommend from my January reading is The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I would recommend this novel for several reasons. First, like my own The Swallow’s Spring, its protagonist is a princess who does not want to marry as her parents have arranged for her to. Second, two of the secondary characters start out identified simply as “the prince” or “the assassin.” When these terms are used, you don’t know which male lead it is referring to. When these terms are not used, all you know are the male leads’ names. Therefore Pearson kept me wondering and hypothesizing about who is who. Third, it is one of only two books I finished reading this month. (The other was Thornspell by Helen Lowe–also a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy.)

Your Turn

What was the best book you read this month?

Posted by: Debby | January 26, 2017

Introductory Sentence Frame for Analyzing Two Texts

Common Core State Standards has brought some big changes to Language Arts education (along with much protest, praise, crazed hair-pulling, and an uptick in students abilities to read and analyze nonfiction texts).

The biggest challenge for my GED students was to transition from writing about their own opinions to writing critical analyses of texts. A challenge they either pass or fail in their opening paragraph–which sets the parameters for rest of the essay.

So, here is a sentence frame I use to teach them to establish an analytical focus for their work.

analytical-c-c-intro-sent-frame

Your Turn

How do you help students establish an analytical tone for their writing? Please share in the comments below.

*CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1A: Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Posted by: Debby | January 24, 2017

Wonderful Words on the World of Children’s Books

In an age when a limited diet for hundreds of millions of Americans daily is prescribed through the medium of TV, there is more nourishment, more privacy, and—best yet—more freedom of selection to be had in children’s reading. Because it is personal and powerful, reading can help weather children into an individuality which will help them to weather that which is impersonal and powerful.

~Gregory Maguire, from Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature: Introduction

Your Turn

Are you reading with your kids?
What would you recommend to read to a child? (Or simply to enjoy on your own!)
I’ll start the list with two, one an old favorite and one a new:

  1. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  2. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pierson

The Kiss of Deception

 

Posted by: Debby | January 19, 2017

Books and Hobbies

National Hobby Month

January is National Hobby Month. What a great idea–taking the time to celebrate all the things that help keep us creative. While I am a writer and many may say that is enough of an exercise in creativity, I would beg to differ.

Hobbies and Me

I have always had hobbies, activities that nourished and stretched me, before taking up writing professionally and after. My hobbies not only feed my spirit, but more important still, nourish my imagination.

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Hobbies Pre-Writing Life

These hobbies stretch all the way back to my early childhood. My mom has always been an artist. She loves to draw, and so our home was well stocked with paper, crayons, watercolors, glue, glitter… She even took art classes when I was a child, which helped me internalize the idea that creative activity is something to value.

The most awesome things she drew for me were paper dolls. I had a Little House on the Prairie doll. Mom drew two. Mine was Laura and my friend’s was Mary. (And no, she did not just favor me by giving me Laura. She put both drawings behind her back and we had to pick a hand. In my eyes, I lucked out and got Laura.) I had a Sleeping Beauty paper doll. And my best friend and I had paper dolls that were girls like us. I’d like to say we made up adventures and stories for our dolls which fed my love for writing. But the honest truth is, we spent more time making clothes for these dolls than actually playing with them. Each one had a “Guenevere going to the stake” gown, a Star Trek uniforms, and dresses copied from illustrations in books. Needless to say, the clothes we colored, colored our play. (And that, I suppose, is what nourished my storytelling.)

Mom also taught me to hand sew (and machine sew, but it is the hand sewing I love to this day). This took the form, mostly, of embroidery, which along with school art classes were my favored creative outlet through my teen years. I added in poetry writing from high school on.

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Hobbies + Writing Life

I’ve never lost my love for sewing handwork and drawing, and have pursued each with varying degrees of vigor alongside my writing life.

Hand sewing, be it hemming or embroidery, brings me such a sense of peace. I really ought to let myself do it more often, but, silly me, feeling peaceful doesn’t feel like I’m working. With my recovering-perfectionist, workaholic nature, I do not allow myself to indulge in it nearly as much as I would like. (Working nearly full-time and writing professionally do not leave a lot of time for other endeavors.)

Drawing, I neglected for very long time, unless I was drawing something to embroider–I seldom use purchased designs. However, for a short time when I was teaching middle school, I got to teach a couple of art classes. I used Jude Welton’s Tate Gallery Drawing: A Young Artist’s Guide as the core of my curriculum. Then, a few years ago, I read Sybil Macbeth‘s Praying in Color which opened my eyes to the many opportunities to squeeze in a little drawing time. I love taking blank index cards to church and doodling the sermon. I also enjoy doodling prayers for others. But my doodling and drawing have expanded way beyond sermon notes and prayers.

I find great joy playing with line and form, symmetry and asymmetry. And great joy in creating drawings, even though most are about the size of an index card. It’s a great way to celebrate, capture a moment, image, or mood, and–best of all–to play with my Grands. I justify these indulgences by telling myself I can use these drawings to make cards and therefore save some money. (Greeting cards are so expensive!) But the truth is, I haven’t made a card yet, and my file is full of many drawings.

402700Books and Hobbies

If you check out a book store, craft store, art store, library, or online you will find there are books for just about any hobby. I know people who like to tie flies, make jewelry, scrapbook, quilt, and sculpt. And there are oodles of books for each of them.

My Favorite Hobby Books

I have salivated and dreamed over many hobby books. However, my all-time favorites remain the ones I discovered when my children were young–the Ed Emberley drawing books (Be sure to follow the link. His website is really cool!). Emberley breaks drawing down into distinct add-a-shape steps. You can draw pirates, firetrucks, castles, fish, dragons, and knights. My favorite thing I drew from an Ed Emberley book is a deer. I still harbor dreams of turning it into a Christmas card one day.

What About You?

  • How does pursuing a hobby enrich your life?
  • Do you have hobbies you love or hobby books to recommend?
  • I’d so appreciate it if you’d leave a comment below. And take some time to celebrate your creativity this month!

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