Category Archives: Life Lessons

The Kindness Bug

Be kind.

I know it’s a popular expression lately, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The more people who say it, believe it, do it….the better, right?

Maybe it’s because of the constant school violence and threats of violence.

Maybe it’s because of the increasing number of teen suicides my area of the state has seen.

Maybe it’s because I finally saw the movie, Wonder, last weekend.

Maybe it’s because I am trying really hard in some areas of my life to show extra kindness.

It could be a combination.

It doesn’t matter why. Do I need a reason to remind my students to be kind?

This week I decided to put a quote in place of the typical school events on the white board each day.

My 2nd period class gets 15 minutes to 1) copy the quote in their agenda (instead of homework this week) and 2) respond to the quote in their journals.

Some students have chosen to share what they’ve written. I hope by the end of the week everyone will share at least one journal entry.

This afternoon I asked my hallway custodian, who is an incredible example of KIND, to give me the quote for tomorrow. She was so happy I asked her.

I’ve opened Thursday and Friday’s slots up to my Instagram followers.

What’s your favorite kindness quote?

Do you have a good theme for next week?

Leave a comment. I’d love to share your idea with my class.


Freedom from the Grip of Facebook

When I first came back on the blogging scene a month and a half ago, I wrote about the app called “Freedom”. The app allows me to block websites and certain apps on my phone.

I basically have all social media (except Instagram) blocked for 23 hours a day. I can only access those sites from 9 pm-10 pm.

It’s been over a month, and my Facebook habit has been broken. I don’t miss it at all.

Maybe twice a week I will use my Chromebook to just check my notifications, but I’m realizing the less I use it, the fewer notifications I receive.

Before I tell you the positive changes it has made in my life, let me put a few disclaimers out there.

First of all, if you enjoy Facebook and other forms of social media, I respect that. This is about me and my personal decision.

Now, onto why I had to get away from Facebook, in particular.

It’s not that I don’t care about people’s lives, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to read about every tragedy. The world is so full of sad news, and it hurts my heart to read more. I would often find myself in tears over a link I clicked on, but I had absolutely no connection to the person whatsoever. I would hope if something tragic happens that I need to know about right away, I would be contacted outside of Facebook.

Sometimes the negativity of every gripe and “Dear (fill-in-the-blank)” letter that is posted brings me down. I know people use FB as a sounding board, a dumping ground, and place to vent, and that’s ok. I used to do it too ~ before I broadened my circle of Facebook friends beyond my immediate family and closest friends. Once I added colleagues and old high school acquaintances, it just felt weird to post those personal complaints.

Then there are the time-sucks ~ mainly the quizzes (for example, Which Disney Princess are You?) Let’s be honest, any true princess fan knows how to pick the right answers to get the princess you already think you are or want to be. (If I want to be Jasmine – which of course I do, I mean have you seen Aladdin? – I pick a tiger for a pet.)

All of this probably sounds harsh, so let’s get to the focus of this post: What positive things has Freedom (and leaving Facebook) done for me?

I read more. Always an avid reader, I now grab the iPad instead of my phone. I’m on my third book of the year already.

I truly relax. Instead of scrolling during lunch, I read a magazine. I pet the dogs while I drink my coffee.

I get on that stinking treadmill. I’ll admit, right here, that part of the treadmill habit is because I’ve learned about the joy of binge-watching on Netflix. Now I make myself watch at least one episode of a binge on the treadmill.

I feel happier. First off, see above. More exercise leads to better moods (so I read in a magazine at lunch one day). But also… less comparing, less jealously, less wanting of things I don’t have in my life. Less reminders of bad or sad break-ups because a post is similar to something I once felt or said or thought or shared on Facebook.

I plan. I am of a special group of people they call “planner addicts” or “planner girls.” My Erin Condren Life Planner obsession is a hobby, provides a creative outlet, and balances my work and play.

I create. Blogging, writing, bullet journaling and lettering are other things I’ve been working on instead of getting lost in Facebook.

I listen. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. I listen more – to my kids talk, to music – I’m particularly obsessed with the soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman”- and to the music my kids make.

After the free trial of Freedom was up, I did pay the full-year “premium” price for the app. I think it was about $20, which seemed worth the time and peace I gained from it.

What app could you/would you say “Good-bye” to if you could?

How could it/would it change your life?

My Felt-Board Message is Different than Yours, and That’s Okay.

2018 is here! Happy New Year!

As I sat home last night with my two dogs and 1.5 cats (Ellie was around somewhere, I suppose) waiting for my teenagers to come home from parent-chaperoned parties, I scrolled through Instagram.

I’ve done that a lot over break. Probably too much.

As much as love the written word, I love the images more. The whole “a picture speaks a thousand words” concept, you know?

I enjoy seeing the happiness of others – my extended family, my work friends, people I don’t even know – celebrating major life events.

Sometimes, I admit, it leaves me thinking, “What would I put on one of those trendy felt-boards if I owned one?”

What if I owned one when I was me ….20, 18, 12, or 8 years ago?

Would I have jumped on the felt-board bandwagon?

Would my life have been captured in public posts announcing the biggest moments of my life?

I’m sure it would have been.

We all want to share our happiness, our joy, and our life-changing moments with the world.

But what if my happiness this past year was different than yours?

What if the things you celebrated seemed like tiny accomplishments or things you wouldn’t carefully spell out on a felt-board, but they made you feel good just the same?

It’s ok.


We are all in our own seasons of life, and all the things that make each season exciting are going to look a little different in photos and on felt-boards.

It doesn’t mean my 2017 was less than, or greater than, yours.

My 2017 was just different.

I suspect my 2018 will be exactly the same – different.

May your 2018 be felt-board worthy, if not on Instagram, then simply in your heart.


Celebrating #1 and #2

Today is Father’s Day – a  day we celebrate our dads and those who’ve acted as dads in some capacity. We miss the dads who are no longer with us, we mourn the loss of dads through troubled relationships, we post pictures, and we all proclaim we have the “Best Dad in the World.”

I am fortunate enough to have two dads.  I have my #1 Dad, who I see on a regular basis because he lives 4 miles from me, and I have my #2 Dad, my step-dad, who I don’t see nearly as often (400+ miles), although he’s been a father-figure since I was 7 years old.  IMG_0966

dennisHow lucky am I to have two men who have taken the time over the years to help me, teach me, and raise me?  I know they love me, and they love my kids, and would do anything for me.  It doesn’t matter that one came before or after the other. If I didn’t have my step dad, he wouldn’t have me.  I am sure he is ok with being #2.  I have two dads to celebrate. Happy Father’s Day, Dad and Dennis!


Now it’s time to move on to the next big celebration of the day.

This is “potentially the biggest day of my life so far”, or so Ian told me this morning, as he struggled to eat breakfast because of his nerves.

Today could possibly be the day that Ohioans have been waiting on for over 50 years.

Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Tonight the Cavs could bring home a championship.

This is probably not news to many of you.  Not if you live in my state anyway, especially if you live with a sports nut like Ian.  I am a mom that knows and cares far more about the NBA than I ever thought I would.

All In

If you’ve grown up in Ohio, you know of the Cleveland Curse, and if you’re on Facebook, you’ve read these comments more than once after a Cleveland loss:

  • “Cleveland never comes through for us.”
  • “I’m never watching Cleveland sports again.”
  • “It stinks to be a Cleveland fan.”
  • “Another disappointment.”
  • “Why do I even bother watching?”
  • “I’m done.”

I hear it from my son….who loves to win and supports his Cleveland teams, but always feels that same letdown.

Until a few nights ago…when every thing changed in Game 5, and winning became a very real possibility.  But now, it’s strangely hard to be this close and know that we could still lose.

With some luck, Ian’s dad was able to get two tickets to the Watch Party in Cleveland tonight, and they are already up there with thousands of others waiting to get into the Q. 

Ian told me, “It’s going to be insane in the Q if we win, but it’s going to be even worse if we lose.”

“Yes, disappointing,”I tell him. “But you are going to the NBA FINALS WATCH PARTY…the closest you can get without hopping on a plane. You COULD see history being made tonight.”

I am sure statistically the odds are in one team’s favor, but haven’t we beaten the odds already?

Isn’t there still a chance?

Isn’t there room for a miraCLE?

Trying to remain optimistic, but preparing him for the worst, I reminded Ian of a quote he had shared with me from Tuesdays with Morrie not too long ago. Tuesdays was a required reading for his 7th grade Enrichment Language Arts class this year, and while it seems somewhat mature in content, Ian said it was one of his favorite books ever, and he cited this specific line in one of his essays.  He wasn’t exactly happy to have me throw this quote back at him.


Ian seems to think that Cleveland fans will hate the Cavs if they can’t win this tonight. That “the rest of the season won’t even matter.”

“How can you say that?” I argue with him. “How can anyone hate the Cavs for doing almost the absolute best they could do? There can only be one winner. What’s wrong with being number two?”

For the last two years we’ve seen improvement in the Cavs. They’ve gone one step further than last year. Who says they can’t take it another step further this year?

And even if they fail, I think the fans in Cleveland, and my son, should be pretty darn proud of the effort, the excitement, and the hope that has transpired in our area.

Please, if we lose, don’t be the person who quits, who says, “I’m done.”  Don’t hate on the Cavs. Be proud of them.  While being #1 is going to be amazing, what’s wrong with being #2?



Summer TIME

Today is the first official day that my kids and I have been home together since school got out last Thursday.

I had two days of teacher in-service following their last day, and they were also with their dad for a few days.

So today is OUR first day of summer.

This is OUR time.

How nice is it to be able to sit and talk and relax and have no cares about tomorrow.

No rushing, no scrambling, no giant To Do list. Just time.

Will we go get groceries today? Probably not.

Will I let my new licensed driver go pick up our favorite pizza? More than likely.

Will someone say they are bored? Already happened.

Will I let my son stay up to watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals? Absolutely.

Will I fall asleep while reading? Every night.

Will I sleep in tomorrow? Ask my dog.

Will I blog again soon? Only time will tell.

Mini Unit: Go, Fight, Win!

As the year begins, one of my co-workers has been assigned a “Plus” class, where she will provide reading instruction to a small group of students who will benefit from an additional period of language arts.

She came to ask me for some ideas, and together we figured out a good starting point.

I figured as we developed the lessons, I could share them here as Mini-Units.

The resource I gave her was from Achieve the Core. (Click here to go to the Fluency Packet for the 6th-8th Grade Band.) The passages are going to be used to work on fluency, but also as a springboard/mentor text for the week’s plans.

We are starting with the first text selection which is a speech by Muhammad Ali called I am Still the Greatest. For an audio, click here.

This is a good starting point for the year because it sends a great message about not giving up.

We liked the Achieve the Core resources because each of the passages comes with  a few extended response questions and some vocabulary to teach, as well.

I then showed her this video, which I was already planning to use on the 2nd day of school.

I just love Mr. Humphrey’s energy, delivery, and message.

At the end of the video he says, “That is what defines who.. .you… are.”

…A perfect lead-in to some positive self-affirmations (an idea I stole from my blogger friend, Miss AuburnChick) and our bulletin board entitled “I Am…” where students will post their affirmations.

Finally, we talked about adding some current music, and I immediately thought of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten and all of the figurative language. Plus it’s just a great song.

Other ideas:

  • Speaking and Listening: Performance Fridays
  • Possible Research Topics: Muhammad Ali, Olympics, Parkinson’s Disease
  • Language skills are hidden throughout the passage for use with mentor sentences
  • Text-to-Media connections

As we come up with more ideas, I’ll add them here.  As always, if you have a great idea to add, share it in the comments!! 

Back-to-School Love

For some reason, our district is a week behind everyone else in the area so we still have a few days left of summer vacation. However, seeing all the Back-to-School pics on Facebook, makes me a little excited for the big day.

So, last night I bought poster board at the Dollar Tree (5 Sheets for $1) and broke out the Sharpies. I could easily buy posters at the teacher store, but there is just something special about making my own.

This is going to go on my closet door, and each student will write about their dreams and goals.

This is going to go on my closet door, and each student will write about their dreams and goals.

This year’s theme is all about believing in your self, going after dreams, and loving your life…no matter where you are.  Wonder where I got that inspiration!?

I am so excited to talk to my 8th graders and share the exciting news of my first book.  I know that they will be proud of me, and I hope that it will serve as an inspiration and a reminder of how much I love them!

This will go in the center of my bulletin board above my desk, surrounded by photos of my family and pets.

This will go in the center of my bulletin board above my desk, surrounded by photos of my family and pets.

What’s your theme for this year?
Do you make your own posters and decorations?
What would YOU attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
Share some Back-To-School love in the comments!

Loved to Pieces

Ian has a teddy bear named “Rattle-ly.” (Once pronounced “Lattle-Ree”)  He’s had him for almost 12 years; my substitute bought him as a gift for Ian when he was born.

Last weekend I had to do some surgery on the little fellow.  This wasn’t his first time on the operating table, but this was definitely the most involved surgery to date. His right leg was shortened, his left arm and leg were patched, and he got some mending on left his side and over his heart.



I wonder how long this little guy can hang on? I guess this is what it means to be “loved to pieces.”

*Let’s cherish every moment we have been given…The time is passing by*

I had Miss Taylor for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, and we had a special connection.  She had beautiful blond hair and a quiet disposition. She was shy and very nervous when we first met. She remained quiet, but she was always sweet. She made so much progress and “grew” in so many ways.  She will always be one of my favorites.

I am now friends with both her and her mother on Facebook, and I see regularly that she has grown up to be a beautiful person both inside and out.

Our bond was confirmed when I recently received this message:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.14.07 PM

The picture that made the shoebox?

Ian Kristopher - only a few days old

Ian Kristopher – only a few days old


This picture dates back to 2003, when I ended the school year on maternity leave. After 13 weeks of bed rest, I came in to see my class with my baby boy. I had given each student a tiny 2×3 photograph of him.  Obviously, it meant a lot to Taylor. And it must have also meant a lot to her mother ~ to share this moment with me.

Looking at this photo, I am amazed it has been almost 12 years, and that Taylor is 21.  This is just a reminder that we should cherish every moment, because the time is passing by… so very quickly.

*Title from the lyrics of Kool & the Gang’s “Cherish” which, oddly enough, I played for the kids two nights ago after dinner. Earlier that day they had gone to the Skate Place, a childhood hangout of mine, and I was reminded of this song.  They didn’t appreciate it so much, but I sang my heart out. 


Total Admiration

I have such admiration for the twenty-one students in my class.

~These students who quietly and apprehensively entered the room, followed my directions, and politely helped themselves to the pumpkin muffins I had made.

~These students who dressed up for this very special day and the students who talked non-stop about Rick D. Niece during homeroom that morning.

~The young man who entered the room and confidently went up to our guest, stuck out his hand for a firm handshake and said, “Hi Mr. Niece. My name is C. It’s nice to meet you.” I wish his mother could have seen how grown up he was at that moment.

~The boy who knew the answers to Rick’s questions, but was just too shy to answer. But finally, with some gentle coaxing, got the courage to raise his hand, clear his throat, and answer in a complete sentence. I am so glad he could leave class that day with no regrets.

~The star-struck girls who raised their hands for every question, who knew every little detail, and remembered things I didn’t even remember.

~The 13 and 14-year old boys with nervous, cracking voices, who showed the maturity and compassion I always knew was deep down inside. They were not afraid to ask questions and share their feelings.

~Those boys who were too shy to speak, but were respectful listeners, and still had a one-on-one conversation with Rick during the book signing.

~The very bravest ones who confidently stood and read one of Rick’s poems out loud to him.

~These students, many who struggle with reading, who stood and read a poem called “Small Towns” in unison and brought tears to my eyes.

I have such admiration for this man, Mr. Rick D. Niece, who let my students call him “Rick” or “Rickie, my boy!”

~ The man who met my students at their level, but never talked down to them.

~ The man who answered every question – even “What’s your favorite color?”

~ The man whose favorite color on this particular day was green.

~ The man who quickly learned their names and praised them for their questions and thoughts.

~The man who spoke personally with each student as he autographed each book and took pictures.

~The man who asked my spunky girl, “What do you want to do with your life?” (Does he know how important that made her feel?)

~The man who spent a few extra minutes with the little girl who had lost her book, but finally found it in time for an autograph.

~The man who fought back tears when my students read his poem “Small Towns” in unison.

~The man who told my class, “You guys couldn’t give me a better gift.”

Taking in every bit of advice from "that man" after our amazing class discussion.

Taking in every bit of advice from Rick D. Niece – as an author, teacher, and friend.

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