Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Slice of Life: 13 Mini-Slices of 2013

Reflections of 13 big happenings in my 2013—professional, personal, and other.
(In chronological order, mostly.)

(1) Beauty & the Beast The Disney classic, a favorite of mine, was the musical staged by the Oxford Elementary School Drama Club in May. This was my seventh production as the director of the club, it was no less magical than the first. Every year I wonder if it will come together, if maybe the project is too much for the students. And every year I am taken by how beautiful the experience is—beyond the show. The new friendships, uncovered skills and talents, self-confidence and pride. This was one of my favorite things I did for students this year.

(2) The Donut Day GiveawayI was still new to Twitter in the spring, and—as I let myself believe is true of all new Twitter-users—my early action was mostly retweeting and signing up for giveaways. When Linda Urban first wrote me to say I had been selected to receive a copy of her brand-new book The Center of Everything, a Skype visit with her, and donuts for my whole-class on National Donut Day, I thought I had been pretty lucky. After our Skype, I floated on air, knowing in my heart that I had just witnessed a most incredible interaction between a gold-hearted author and some authentic readers. (When did that happen, I found myself asking. When did my kiddos become so good at talking about reading?) I got to meet Linda in person at NCTE, and I’m excited about connecting with her.
With Loree Griffin Burns, Kate Messner, and Linda Urban at NCTE '13.
(3) One Amazing Class This year brought one of the hardest ever end-of-year goodbyes. After a second year with more than half my 4th grade class, it was time for the 5th graders to move on. This group of students taught me so much, and they gave me more than I can adequately express. They taught me about relationships with students. They taught me about perseverance and taking a different route. They taught me that there was still a better teacher residing within, and they brought it out. This class underwent an amazing transformation, and they have lots to be proud of about themselves.

(4) Denver - Keeping this “mini,” I hopped on a plane the day after school finished for the year and flew to Denver, Colorado—solo.  Fresh off the plane, I caught up with Joey, a friend from high school who I had not seen since 1998. I rented a car and navigated Denver on my own. Later that night, I met up with Amy and her husband, Ed, who were kind enough to let me stay with them on my quick getaway. I had not spent time with Amy since she graduated from Saint Mike’s in 2000. In both cases, it was easy to pass time with Joey and Amy, making it hard to believe any time had passed at all. The next day, I drove myself north through beautiful Colorado to meet up with my GPN friend, Trish, and we spent most of the day driving the heights of Rocky Mountain National Park. Everything about this dash to Denver was incredible, from the friendship to the freedom of being independent.

(5) Red Rocks(I had to break Denver up a little to avoid a “maxi-slice.”) On my last night in Denver, I had tickets to see Grace Potter & the Nocturnals play Red Rocks. My ticket was a birthday gift from David and good for a seat in the center of row 30, which was about halfway up the venue. Thanks to some other generous fan friends who had waited in line (while Trish and I were gaping at the beauty of the Rockies), we were summoned to the third row during the break between the opener and GPN’s set.  I was simply in awe of the whole experience-music, surroundings, and company. Of the 22 shows I’ve seen, this may be the GPN show I remember the least because I remember everything else about it the most.

(6) Less Pain & More NormalcyIn what is perhaps my most personal mini-slice (skip to #7 if you want), this summer I had many large tumors removed from my uterus. I had experienced a lot of pain and inconvenience for as long as I can remember. I was fearful of surgery and possible risks and prolonged the inevitable for two years while the tumors’ measurements were monitored. However, the June surgery and my recovery were picture perfect, and the results were immediate. I was blessed with a very patient and skilled doctor.

(7) TanglewoodTanglewood was the second stop in my bucket-list venue summer. I traveled to western Massachusetts to meet up with Trish. The venue was picturesque, and so were we as we shared a pizza picnic style on a blanket from her car. We took in the sights and sounds of his historic location and greeted old friends—other longtime fans with more Grace Potter & the Nocturnal shows to their names than me. But this was one of those times when I felt aware that I’ve found my place among them, and I’m part of a bigger community of devoted fans. (It was three years ago this night that I first met up with Trish to attend a GPN show solo—I guess it was inevitable?)

(8) NERA Author/Illustrator EventFor more than a year I helped plan the New England Reading Association conference that was held in Portland, Maine in September. Early on, I assumed responsibility for organizing an author/illustrator meet and greet style event. We were overwhelmed to have 27 authors and illustrators accept the invitation to attend. Guests happily milled about, visiting tables, purchasing books, taking photos. It was special to be breathing the air of literary excitement, and I was proud to have played a part in the orchestration.

With Donalyn at dinner in September
(9) Blogging for Nerdy Book ClubWhy didn’t this happen sooner? I suppose this was a text-book case of “the right thing at the right time.” In September I was lucky to join Maine Reading Association friends at dinner with Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle. In conversation with Donalyn that night, she asked why I hadn’t written something for Nerdy Book Club, and when was I going to? It was a challenge I couldn’t leave unanswered, but more than that, I knew deep down it was a chance I needed to take. But I was afraid! What did I have to share? Would anyone be interested in reading what I wrote? I sat with it, quietly, introspectively. And then my post fell in my lap. The composition came together quick, and it was posted, and…now I’m awaiting inspiration to write for Nerdy Book Club again. (See my post here.)

(10) NCTEThis past NCTE in Boston was my first experience attending a national conference, and I was doubly fortunate because I presented material about reading communities with two colleagues from my school district, also. I am grateful for the day my friend Justin insisted I/we had something worth sharing and asked me to help with a proposal. My maiden blog post about my NCTE experience captures more of the spirit of the weekend, but suffice it to say it was incredible to feel connected and embraced by a wider, literacy-oriented community. There ARE other people like me, and now I know where they hang out.

(11) NBCT – I did it. It: I achieved National Board Certification for Teachers. I completed the Middle Childhood Generalist certificate. I am one of 254 teachers in the state of Maine who hold this certification. It took me two years and a whole lot of energy, tears, and plain ol' umph to get there, but I did it, and I’m all the better for the journey. (Blog post to come, someday, when I can put words to the experience.
With colleagues Justin & Jenn, who also achieved!

Brandon's Benefit Quilt
(12) Benefit Quilt RaffleIn May my cousin (read:  a third little sister) and her fiancĂ© learned he had testicular cancer. He has fought courageously all year through chemo, transfusions, and stem cell treatments. A lot of the time we feel helpless because there isn’t much we can do, but it was a gift for me to be able to make a quilt in their honor that could be raffled as a fundraiser to support their expenses. There are no words for the gratitude I felt as family and friends stepped up to help sell tickets, when donations rolled in from friends near and far, even those who have no connection to Kassie & Brandon other than through me, and when we finally gave them $2,675 the weekend of Thanksgiving.

(13) FamilyTime spent with my family is dear and there are too many varied options to choose from to pick only one memory to feature. My family is fortunate to have two young, spirited boys in our lives—my nephews who are 2 and 5. To see their joy in our outing to the beach or the adventure we had at Storyland is a gift of 2013. Time away with my parents and one sister in Rangeley for a cousin’s wedding was quiet, calm, and too infrequent. Busy holidays, graduations, birthdays, and other excuses for getting together are irreplaceable and will, always, have a spot in my mini-slices of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
  • The Donald Graves Legacy Breakfast
  • Champion the Cure Challenge with Team Fishing for a Cure
  • Submitting my first co-authored manuscript
  • Skyping with Sarah Aronson
  • The First-ever OES READS!

Thank you, to all of you who have shared in my 2013. I'm hopeful for what 2014 may bring!

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