Celebrate this week: a list of good


“Okay,” she said, looking me in the eye, ‘but if all of that hadn’t happened, what else might never have been? What are the good things that you’ve experienced during this time? Make a list.”

I looked back at her and took a deep breath. It felt like some combination of suggestion and challenge.

“I’d be curious to see that list. I’m betting it’s got a lot on it.” she added.

Her suggestion settled into my brain over the next few days. Perhaps, I thought, I should use my 2018 OLW “shine” to guide me in casting light into the corners of my life, the quiet but lovely happenings, all the good stuff.

the list:

the quirky barn with beautiful views that we’ve made into a home

new friendships

a year of keeping a gratitude journal that I continue to reread three years later

a rewarding and challenging position at school

writing- with others, professionally, and just for me…this blog

a cozy christmas dinner in the dining room that was once mine, and now was bursting with  laughter and love

a year of time with claire, where she was not the younger but the “only,” and it was just the two of us

long walks on my country road

discovering and loving the russian stove

learning to grill- sort of

rekindling old friendships

sunday morning yoga

sunday afternoon walks in the woods

a teaching award I never imagined receiving

rediscovering my love of lap swimming

phone calls that mattered

evenings on the sofa with dear friends discussing big things

beach afternoons with my mom, sitting and talking about everything and nothing


learning to care less about the mess

baking nights with my girls

fireside games on snow days when all three of us were home from school

kindness from friends at unexpected moments

a winter long workshop based on Brene Brown’s research

learning to play paddle tennis

reading more mary oliver

discovering acupuncture

stand up paddle boarding

two summer writing institutes

hikes on trails new to me

discovering podcasts

beach walks in maine

delicious dinners

vineyard visits

sunsets in jamaica

finally understanding the benefits of massage

seeing and smelling the lavender of provence

afternoons and evenings with family and friends around the firepit

raw oysters and steamed mussels

laughter- lots and lots of laughter

the care of compassionate clergy

a little book of love from frances

the honor and pleasure of reading beautiful writing crafted by a friend who continues to work through unimaginable heartache and loss

tennis with katie

It’s a long list… and it’s not complete. I’ll be back…









2018 One Little Word


As I got closer to settling on my 2018 One Little Word, I realized that it was important to me that my word be not only one that would help me stretch and grow in the coming year, but one that would also remind me to share. To share myself, my time, my ear. I contemplated quite a few words during the month of December including be, explore, forward, rise, and believe. Each of them held appeal for me, but none seemed quite right. And I couldn’t figure out why until just a few days ago when I understood that I was looking for a word that would reflect the precious connections I have with friends, family, and colleagues…a word that would also encourage me to be open to new experiences and relationships.

A few days ago I wrote a Celebrate This Week post  in which I reflected on all of the lovely in the midst of hard. Two commenters used the word “shine” in their responses to my post. That word, shine, has been hanging around at the top of my list and the front of my brain, but I wasn’t convinced I was brave enough to commit to it. I went in search of dictionary definitions and synonyms. To give out light,  to glow with reflected light, a quality of brightness, to perform well… I found my word that will encourage me to stretch and share.

So… shine it is. I’m still thinking about how this word will stretch and guide me and what goals I might form around the word shine.

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to the shining—they just shine.”

– Dwight L. Moody

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

– Edith Wharton

If you’d like to learn more about the tradition of choosing one little word, in lieu of making resolutions, check out Ali Edward’s blog . If you are an educator, consider sharing your word here at Two Writing Teachers.

Celebrate This Week; Celebrating 2017


The final months of 2017 have been full of hard. Hard conversations, hard news, hard goodbyes, hard days. I am more than ready for a new year to begin. When I saw Ruth’s email inviting nudging us to celebrate this week/year, I wondered what I’d celebrate. My 2017 One Little Word- breathe? It’s been a good word for me. Breathing through the hard helps. I’m still choosing my 2018 word and am grateful to be part of a writing community that will connect and celebrate as we reveal our choices.

Not long ago I listened to a podcast that included a conversation about happiness versus joy. Happiness, it was suggested, is not a sustainable state. We experience moments of joy rather than a perpetual state of happiness. And it is those moments of joy that sustain us during the hard. 2017 has held many moments of joy for me.

  • Putting together a new resume and applying for an instructional coaching position at my school, and being offered the job.
  • Being a member of the Two Writing Teachers team. While I was only part of that for a year, it was an amazing experience and opportunity for me to grow as an educator and writer.
  • My older daughter deciding to apply to transfer to a larger, more rigorous university and being accepted.
  • My younger daughter coming home from college with friends for supper and sleepovers.
  • Attending my 30th college reunion and spending the weekend catching up with some of my favorite people. Surviving the hike. Staying and reconnecting with a couple whose children I babysat when I was in college.
  • Working closely with three women I admire deeply, and from whom I learn daily.
  • Laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Laughing with colleagues during a game of pictionary. Laughing with friends at the dinner table. Laughing at myself.
  • Friends who recommend books. Even better, friends who show up to visit with a stack of books for me to read.
  • That morning when Melanie drove 45 minutes to walk for an hour with me, just so we could talk about everything and nothing.
  • Spending a week during each month of the summer with my mom at my family’s summer cottage. In August my girls came too and we celebrated birthdays and family time.
  • Attending a fantastic two day coaching institute at Teachers College and learning so much about adult development and feedback. And sneaking in an unexpected weekend visit with my mom in Connecticut at the end of the workshop.
  • My cousin’s oldest daughter becoming engaged and his youngest daughter and her husband announcing they are expecting their first baby.
  • Attending an amazing concert for unity in Charlottesville in September.
  • Reconnecting with a friend I’ve known since I was four, but with whom I’d fallen out of touch, and picking up right where we’d left off.
  • A winter break full of wonderful gatherings and time with family and friends.
  • And on almost this last day of vacation, spending a snowy afternoon planning a three generation trip to Paris in March with my mom and my girls.


Thank you Ruth Ayres for being steadfast in your belief that we can write and through our writing share our stories and connect.

The Gift of Time #celebrateu


Those of us who teach are blessed with moments during the school year when everything comes to a halt, temporarily. It’s as if the pause button is pressed. Our work in the classroom, our work with students,  our work on our professional growth all goes on hold for a moment. And for a few days, or weeks, we get to catch our breath, catch up with family and friends, and catch up on our sleep. We have time to attend to life beyond school.

The older I get, the more I see time as a gift and the more I want to slow down and savor the moments. Many years ago I heard Anne Lamott speak. She shared all kinds of wisdom in her sassy, faith infused way. But the line that has stuck with me most is “Be where your butt is.” Those words, for me, are not just about being present, but about honoring time.

Today is the first day of my winter break. I plan to celebrate time over these next two weeks. It’s a gift.

Thank you Ruth Ayres for reminding us to celebrate this and every week.

Celebrate This Week: Full


Lights. Sparkle. Laughter. Love. Gatherings. Music. Family. Friends. Food and drink.  Expectation. Anticipation.

December is full. Full of so many of my favorite things. Full of precious moments with people I love. School is full of excited children who are wishing for snow and making lists for Santa. School days are full of happy interruptions- the upper school choir caroling through our halls, holiday concerts, the annual reading of The Polar Express. Our all-school Lessons and Carols service. The mailbox is full of cards from faraway friends. The house is full as my children move home while studying for final exams. The kitchen sink full of their dishes, the fridge stocked with foods they can eat on the run. The calendar is full too.

And while I love it all, there are moments when I find this month exhausting. Moments when I need to take a pause, crawl into bed early in the evening with my book or the next episode in the new season of The Crown and take a break from the full. Last week I wrote about how this season  has changed for our family. I am grateful that four years later it feels more joyful than bittersweet, that we’ve learned how to do it differently.

Today I’m celebrating full. And the moments of fatigue that come because of the blessings of this full month.

Thank you Ruth Ayres for reminding us to stop and celebrate this week.

The Same But Different

slice of life updated

I often refer to it as a left turn. “My life took a left turn, ” I say when referring to this time four years ago. And from the moment things changed, I looked for ways to keep them the “same” for my children. Sort of.

That first year we went to the same Christmas Eve service. We saw the same friends we see during our winter break. I baked the same treats. Put the same ornaments on the tree and the same bow on the wreath at the front door. Even though everything was different. It was different to stay up late on Christmas Eve, just three of us sprawled on the rug in the family room, sifting through photos, putting together an album for the girls to give their father the next day when they went to be with him and his parents. It was different to be on my own watching them slowly unpack their stockings. It was different when Claire said mind-morning, “We need to laugh. Let’s watch Elf.” It was different when I took a Christmas afternoon walk alone and returned to an empty house.

But with each year, what was different became familiar. The girls and I kept alive some traditions our family had created. They continued others with their father. And what seemed almost impossible in the beginning became doable, even good. Things changed too. We’d get the tree into the stand at the end of their Thanksgiving  break. I began giving each of the girls an ornament for their own someday Christmas tree.  We sent out a holiday card that now read “with love from Lisa, Frances, and Claire.” I took that Christmas afternoon walk alone, but each time it was easier. And I looked forward to joining family friends for Christmas night dinner.

Much of it is different. Some of it is the same. All of it is just fine.


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the weekly nudge to write.

So Much for Making Plans

slice of life updated

At my school, we have the whole week off for Thanksgiving. And I always have big plans. Plans to do lots of cooking, plans to finish a knitting project or two, plans to attend my favorite exercise classes, plans to read and write and clean and organize. Plans to take long walks with my girls and mom, and to play paddle tennis with friends.  This year is no different. After a busy fall, full of unexpected challenges, I was ready for a week off. And I had plans.

My plans did not include tearing a muscle in my quadricep the day before the start of vacation. Not a terrible injury, it requires rest and ice and patience. Sigh. So much for the long walks, paddle tennis, and extra exercise classes.  And my plans most definitely did not include falling on the stairs and breaking a finger when that injured leg gave out late the other evening. There goes the knitting, and I’ll need more help than usual with the cooking.

What’s that saying? “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I think I’ll just sit down by the fire, enjoy my people, and live.

A Teacher Is Born

slice of life updated

I heard the back door close and then listened to the clomp, clomp of her footsteps as she climbed the stairs to my bedroom. Home from college just for the evening, she peeked around the corner, talking a million miles a minute like she often does when we haven’t seen each other for a while. I turned off the hair dryer and put it down so I could give her a hug.

“Look,” she said, reaching in her bag and pulling out a children’s chapter book. “I brought this home so you could see how great he’s doing!”

“He,” is the third grader she tutors twice a week as part of her reading development class.

She opened the book to a page where he’d stopped and written a prediction on a sticky note.

“I bought larger sticky notes with lines and look how much more he’s writing,” she said, grinning.

I smiled. It was true. Progress. My smile wasn’t just for him though. It was for her. She was already figuring out ways to support and encourage growth.

She turned to another page in the short chapter book. “And look at what he wrote here!” She pointed to another sticky note. “He’s doing so much better. He’s reading more. He likes this series. I got him some football stickers too,’ she continued. “And the other day, at the end of our time, he leaned against me and just for a second he put his head on my shoulder, and Mom, my heart just melted.”

“Mmmhmmm,” I thought, “she’s hooked.”

A teacher is born.