A Little Saturday Afternoon Joy


slice of life updated

On Saturday afternoon I carved out time I didn’t think I had to join a friend last minute at an event where Leslie Odom, Jr. was speaking.  He was this year’s Speaker for the Arts at the University of Virginia and he spent an hour or so in conversation with the University’s new president Jim Ryan. Ryan, author of Wait, What, a New York Times bestseller inspired by this commencement address asked questions and mostly listened as Leslie Odom, Jr spoke with humor and humility on a variety of topics including the willingness to take risks, the importance of nurturing a creative and spiritual life, and the experience of playing a white man in Hamilton. The presentation was full of things I love- food for thought, funny moments, smart questions, hard subjects, and honest answers. I wish you could have heard it all, including his spontaneous serenade at the end. (If we are “friends on Instagram, you can see my video post there.)

As I drove home in cold rain, I was grinning, inside and out. And I thought to myself, “This is joy.” For me anyway. Joy feels like warmth and wonder, laughter and learning, honesty and humor. How glad I was that I’d dropped everything I “should have been doing,” and made space for a little Saturday afternoon joy.

Happy to be “slicing” today with Two Writing Teachers.



on joy…

I’ve been thinking about my One Little Word (#OLW) for a while now, but especially since sharing it publicly on Tuesday. When you say something aloud, or write it and share, it feels a bit more formal, don’t you think?

Joy is the word I need right now, in much the same way that I needed a gratitude journal in 2014. I have no grand expectation for the word, nor do I anticipate a sudden revelation or dramatic transformation in my life. My hope is that my word and I will coexist and that my ability to notice and appreciate moments of joy and my energy for seeking it out and creating joy will increase. And so, in that spirit, I hope to pause every so often and celebrate the joy I’ve discovered lately.

I spend a lot of time in the car this past week, driving to and from Washington, D.C. for two funeral. They were not joyful of course. And the second trip up was terrifying because I drove straight into a snowstorm I thought had ended and onto roads that nobody should have been on. But during the other three legs of those two trips, I listened to several excellent podcasts ( this , and Krista Tippet’s conversations with Maira Kalman and David Wythe )all of which brought me joy.

Last Saturday I had friends I’ve known for over thirty years in for dinner. Readying the house for guests, preparing a meal, and most of all catching up with them, was joyful.

I filled up my bird feeder and used up some overripe bananas to make banana bread. Small joys.

And my twenty-three-year-old chairs came back home recovered and looking better than new.

img_8720I decided they needed something behind them and I bought a fiddle leaf fig plant that is practically taller than me. Its big green leaves make me smile.

56954125131__1fc40077-d30d-4874-9906-6ee7d66efaa0Over the last month I’ve made several changes and updates in my home, buying new rugs for two rooms, finally adding a headboard to my bed, and moving around art, lamps and bookcases, all of which are bringing me joy.

And I finished Kate diCamillo’s newest book, Louisiana’s Way Home. It’s not a joyful story, but there are lines in it that will stay with me.

Like this. “The world was beautiful. It surprised me, how beautiful it kept on insisting on being. In spite of all the lies, it was beautiful.”

And this.“What matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down, but who picks us up.”

And wonderful lines crafted by gifted writers bring me joy.

So far so good for joy and me.

Late to the #OLW party

slice of life updated

I’ve got all kinds of excuses for why I’m only now settling on and sharing my 2019 One Little Word. But you didn’t come here to read excuses and excuses aren’t the point. The most honest thing I can offer is that I have known what my word should be since before New Year’s Day. And, I’ve been avoiding it. That pesky little word had other ideas and it has found some extraordinary ways in the last few days to remind me to get on with things.

Last Monday evening my phone rang and much to my delight there was Melanie on the other end of the line. We had a wonderful catch up and by the time our conversation was over, my heart was full. Full of happy and gratitude. Minutes later though, I found myself on another call, and this one was full of hard news. A dear friend was suddenly and gravely ill.

And the next day she was gone.

I attended her funeral yesterday and in the gathering with friends, and as a result of the words and memories shared, and most of all because of who my friend was and how she lived and shared her love with us, I knew my word was a keeper. And I know my friend would say, “Okay Lisa, now just get on with it.”


That’s my word. A much needed word. It won’t be an easy one for me. Joy and I are teaming up to see what we can accomplish in the next 11.5 months. Big and small. Significant and ordinary. Planned and unexpected. I am looking forward to finding, creating, and living with joy. Stay tuned.

Thank you as always Two Writing Teachers for the writing nudge, another thing I’ve avoided of late.

It Felt So Risky

The topic for our faculty meeting, loosely planned weeks earlier, was risk taking and goal setting in our classrooms. The beginning of a new (calendar) year and the first meeting post-winter break felt like an appropriate time to think back to words our head-of-school had shared in August about taking risks in our teaching and learning. It seemed like a good moment to think ahead too. How might we find opportunities during the balance of the school year to attempt something new, to stretch ourselves as educators, to venture beyond that which is tried and true?

I didn’t know that in the weeks leading up to this meeting I would experience several crushing events in my own life- things that left me shaken and deeply sad.  And I didn’t know I would begin the meeting by talking about risk as so much more than our professional choices and plans. That I would take a deep breath and look carefully around the roomful of colleagues and share with them that risk is about being vulnerable and answering honestly when someone asks, “How are you?”  That I would tell them that lately I have not been at my best, that a difficult visit with a family member and the unexpected death of a childhood friend had left me feeling fragile and grief stricken. But that is how I began the meeting about risk taking in our classrooms. I began by suggesting that risk is about vulnerability, about knowing and being known, and sometimes it’s about scary honesty. I began by suggesting to this group of teachers/caregivers/tireless cheerleaders that the risk in honesty is maybe the first step in self-care.

Most of all what I didn’t know is that after the meeting, after we shared about the risks we were taking as educators… in our classrooms…with our students, many who were there would tell me how glad they were for the moment to connect, how grateful they were for my raw opening, how good they felt at the end of the meeting, how much they appreciated the reminder that it is ok to be human and sometimes even a little bit broken. It was a risk. It worked out even better than I could have imagined.

#WhyIWrite; NCTE National Day On Writing 2018

October 20 is NCTE’s National Day On Writing. Writers and students and teachers everywhere will take time tomorrow and Saturday to reflect on why we write. Follow the hashtag #WhyIWrite on social media to see more.

Why do I write? It’s strange. I’m a latecomer to the writing party, having only just taken it up five years ago with any regularity and seriousness.

I write because sometimes the words, sentences, and sometimes whole paragraphs fill my brain to the point of near bursting and I need to take them from there and put them somewhere else to make room for new thoughts.

I write to think. To think about thinking. To clarify my thinking. To quiet my thinking. And to give voice to my thinking.

I write to celebrate and grieve. I write to ponder and analyze.

I write to honor my father who was a beautiful writer.

I write to share what I sometimes cannot say aloud.

I write to play with words.

I write to learn how to write and to exercise a muscle in me that gets restless when I go too long without flexing it. If only my abs would behave the same way.

I write to share- to share with children- those I teach and those I bore.

I write to take risks. I won’t ride a roller coaster. But I’ll write something raw and invite you to read it, trusting you will respond gently.

Sometimes I write because I have to- to meet a requirement or deadline. Not my favorite kind of writing.

I write to remember the big ideas, the small details, someone else’s brilliant thought or gorgeous words.

I write because I can. Because it brings me peace and joy.


What’s New

slice of life updated

In my many years of teaching- twenty four in all now- I had never taught second graders. Kindergarten, first, third, fourth, preschool, and even college students, yes. But never second grade. Until this year. This year I’m teaching reading to a group of second graders. And I’s so very grateful to be in the midst of an experience that is completely new. New books, new methods, new milestones, new challenges. It’s so very good for this old teacher.

I decided that as long as I was embracing new, this might be the year to jump into Pernille Ripp’s Global Read Aloud, and I’m so very glad we did.

My group of second graders and I gather each day on the rug for another chapter of A Boy Called Bat. They can hardly wait to find out what happens next. I can hardly wait to share with them. We’ve connected with a class in Ohio and will have a Google Hangout today with a class in Alberta. We’ve posted on Padlets and read what other GRA classes are thinking. One of my students has two autistic brothers and this book has given her a chance to serve as an expert and share openly and honestly. The book has also created opportunities for us to talk about word choice, kindness, empathy, patience and compassion.

What’s new for me this year? Lots. Practically everything. SO good for this old teacher.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the writing community you nurture year in and year out.

I Think I Can

slice of life updated

All summer long I put it off. All summer long I wasn’t sure I could. All summer long I didn’t really want to know if I couldn’t. But this afternoon I decided it was time to try. The water looked calm enough. The breeze was soft. There weren’t too many people or boats in the bay out front, just a couple of kayakers. There weren’t too many beachgoers on the sand to witness my possible failure. It felt like a now or never moment. So I put on my suit, picked up the board and paddle and made my way down to the beach. As I  waded out a few feet and lowered the SUP to the surface, I wondered if my leg would be strong enough to steady me on the wobbly surface. I thought about all the things I took for granted this time last year, things my leg cannot do right now. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if paddle boarding was still in the can-do column. I climbed on, got on both knees, and considered which leg to put forward first- the good one or the one that hasn’t been working so well. I thought about how now so often I have to plan for the possibility that the leg not might not work quite right. I thought about how it could be a lot worse. And then I stood it. It wasn’t hard. I steadied myself and that wasn’t hard either. I began to paddle out into the bay. And I grinned as I went. Paddle boarding is definitely in the can-do column.

what remains

the roundish roots now tender, ready to peel and eat

have left behind ruby water

that begs to be considered

before being discarded without thought

and so i stare at it, knowing a splash on my shirt will be a forever stain

and yet wondering what else i could do with

this hot bold liquid that remains

behind- below the basket that held the contents that bled into water and colored it so

too beautiful to pour down the drain

and yet i do