A House that Love Built

We found some time this week for a fun family project (and finally got around to using a cookie house kit we purchased back in December!).

Before we started, I swapped some of the candies that came in the kit with pink and purple ones from our candy jar to make it feel a little more Valentine’s Day-ish.

My husband and I helped “construct” the house and handled of most of the icing, and then our little one took over all of the decorating!

He had so much fun with it, really concentrating on where to put each candy piece. (We noticed that some of the candy did manage to find its way to his mouth before it could become decoration! Shhh!)

Then, “teeee daaahh!” (as our son says), we finished making our family’s first Valentine’s Day project!

Once the house was finished, we cheered and clapped (took a quick photo of it), and then we had even more fun tearing it down and eating it together.

It was such a wonderful moment of hygge, so cozy and fun.

We weren’t rushing or worried about the mess.

We were spontaneous and creative and totally device free (until we needed a phone to take the picture — and that was it!), spending some fun, quality time together as a family.

I couldn’t dream of a more perfect Valentine this year! ‚̧ԳŹ

~Melissa

Taking a Deep Breath

It’s morning, and my toddler is still asleep. I watch him sleeping soundly, breathing deeply, and I am grateful for him and for this day that I will spend with him. I smile.

And then, I become aware of my own breathing.

I inhale.

I exhale.

I smile again.

There really is something so powerful in taking just a few seconds to concentrate on this thing we all do, all day long, usually without giving it a single thought. Inhale. Exhale.

So many of us are caught up in a million things each day. Regardless of what any of those particular things may be, regardless of who we are or where we are, I love that we can all do this same thing and find a moment of peace, a moment of gratitude, and feel the joy of a smile on our face.

I wish that for you today.

~Melissa

Public and Private Writing

Today, on the morning of this second day of the new year and the last day of winter break, I’m drawn to write. This is nothing new. Writing is a big part of who I am. It always has been. I imagine it always will be.

Like many other writers, as I contemplate my thoughts and capture words that pass through me in this creative process, I recognize that different kinds of writing serve different¬†purposes in my life and that the audience for whom I write changes largely depending on the topic. I have public writing — this blog is an example, and everything I write on a regular basis for work. Social media has also filled in for some of that public “sharing” and expressing of ideas as well.

I also have private writing — usually it’s handwritten, sometimes typed. It’s writing that helps me process ideas, navigate challenges, and it’s a raw record of my journey. It’s writing that I both intend to keep private, but at the same time hope¬†will eventually be for others to read. ¬†Often I wish to share these ideas out immediately because I can write about things that are hard for me to speak of, the challenges I am working though, disappointments that I face, what some people might even call hardships. In a way it would be so much easier for me to share out these experiences in real time so that friends and family can know why I may not call as often as¬†I want to or why I am not as social as I’d like to be. Perhaps it’s my nature (as an introvert), or perhaps I’m socially conditioned, either way I don’t want to burden anyone with my troubles. So that writing all stays private.

The same has been true of my most celebrated and exciting moments in my life. I’ve kept many of them private as well. I think in the same way I don’t want to bother or burden anyone with troubles, I also don’t want to brag or boast.

The thing is, as a reader I know I benefit greatly when others share their experiences through tough times, and I love to read about celebrations and expressions of joy. I read through these accounts and they help me put my own experiences into perspective; they give my ideas for how to address my own circumstances and opportunities. I know in my heart that this kind of raw, experiential writing is the most powerful writing of all. It’s something that my public writing¬†has been lacking, and I’m afraid it’s been holding me back from becoming the writer that I’m meant to be.

This blog post itself, about public and private writing, feels very personal, very private to me. It makes me wonder if our public and private writing is merely an extension of our public and private selves, and if these are fixed or fluid.

Do we as writers, as artists, ultimately need to merge these two selves? Can we be successful in our craft if we keep them apart?

A dear friend recently shared with me that she wanted to be more proactive in this new year with accomplishing the goals she’s set for herself and asked me for advice for how to do it. I was taken aback a bit, because¬†it’s honestly something I think I need work on myself (and something I write, privately, about quite often). After reflecting¬†on her request, I realized that I¬†may appear proactive and productive to others because of the¬†public writing that I share. There is, however, so much more that I’d like to do and accomplish, so much that¬†I’ve kept safely guarded¬†in my private writing.

While I can’t make any promises, and this is not a resolution, I am going to try to be more mindful and intentional this year about my writing practice. I will¬†try to push myself out of comfort zone and tackle projects that I might have shied away from before. They may not all make it out to the “public” just yet, but I am going to work on better merging these two sides of my writing process in hopes of creating more meaningful and authentic work.

Happy new year and happy writing.

~Melissa

 

 

Stacking the Shelves (4/30/16)

stsmall_thumb2.pngFor this week’s¬†Stacking the Shelves¬†blog¬†post, I’m very excited that, the newest books to my collection are all very different!

First, I lucked out and found a copy of The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty at the library — for just one dollar!

This book has been high on my list of books-to-read for quite a while now, especially because it comes so highly recommended by two of my favorite¬†coworkers who love to talk about books, Jaime (@JC0404) and Laura (@Lagnella)! I started reading it this week and can’t wait to chat with them about it.

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Next, my husband brought home a book for both of us to read called Vitamin N by Richard Louv. This book looks awesome!

It’s full of essays, resources, and ideas to connect with nature, live a healthier life, and bring happiness to our family and community.

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Finally, I received a copy of Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez at Edcamp Garden State today.

This book is a part of the Hack Learning Series, and I’m excited to add it to my professional collection and share the ideas I learn from it with my colleagues.

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What’s new on your bookshelf this week?

~Melissa 

 

Don’t Give Up! Give More.

A topic¬†I love to discuss (and read about) most is ideas: ¬†how we get ideas, creative ideas, sharing ideas, appreciating ideas, the transparency of ideas, and how one idea influences other ideas. It’s what prompted me to start writing this blog many years ago, and most recently it’s what brought me to¬†a graduate program studying the science behind Creativity and Innovation.

So I want to share a story about an idea from this morning.

CAPTURING IDEAS
There are many people who suggest keeping a notebook or other means of recording ideas near our beds so that we can write down our dreams as soon as we wake up.

This is not something I do.

(Maybe I don’t think my dreams¬†contain¬†interesting enough ideas? Maybe I don’t feel like I remember them well enough? Maybe I should just give it a try¬†anyway¬†and see where it goes?)

What does happen for me pretty consistently, however, is during the first few seconds of waking up, I tend to have new ideas or think about things in different ways than I had before. It doesn’t feel like the ideas are coming¬†from a dream; it’s not that I¬†remember¬†them¬†from anywhere. It feels much more like I’m eavesdropping on a conversation where my¬†consciousness is greeting my unconsciousness, saying, “Hey, thanks for¬†taking the night shift. I’ve got her now.”

What I do know, though, is that these ideas, the ones that occur¬†during the first few seconds when¬†I’m waking up,¬†are¬†ones that I want to write down. Like any imperfect person, sometimes I do write them down¬†and sometimes I don’t. On the days that I don’t write them down, the ideas pretty much just¬†fade away —¬†something¬†Elizabeth Gilbert might describe as¬†the idea moving along to find someone else to appreciate it¬†and give it the attention it deserves.*

On the days that I do write these early morning ideas down, they often stay with me for the rest of the day.

Like today.

TODAY’S IDEA
The idea that awoke with me today was about giving up¬†—¬†or not giving up, rather. At this intersection of conscious and unconscious thought, I must have been thinking (or maybe dreaming?) about recent disappointments and set backs, while still hanging on to the hope that it’s not over yet, that there’s still a lot that can happen and start going well.

The thought was this:

IMG_8460.JPG“Don’t give up!
Give more.”

This idea, this juxtaposition of words, came through loudly and clearly. It was persistent, demanding that I give it my full attention.

So I did.

I thought for a while about what it means to¬†“give more,” examples of how and when we give,¬†and¬†instances for when this idea might be applicable to the context of “giving up.”

It reminded me that¬†during times when things aren’t going well — whether it’s something I’m dealing with personally or encountering through someone else¬†— it’s helpful to focus¬†on the things that are going well, and when those are hard to find, focus instead on the things that we¬†can help¬†to go well.

This of course, requires us to give more intentional thought to what we might be ready to give up on.

Though to some¬†it might seem illogical or counterintuitive — to try giving more when we feeling like giving up — it’s really not a¬†complicated idea. It’s an idea that¬†synthesizes¬†resiliency,¬†perseverance, divergent thinking, and grit.¬†It’s not about doing more of the same thing and expecting different results (Einstein’s definition of insanity); it’s about tweaking what we’ve been¬†doing, evolving,¬†pivoting, innovating a little bit so that what we¬†do has more of an impact.

It’s an idea¬†that calls to mind that no¬†matter what is happening (or not happening) for us, that instead of giving up on what we want or we’re working for, we can always¬†give more: give more¬†attention to the task, give more attempts at trying at it, give more effort into coming up with other options,¬†give more praise, give more feedback,¬†give more of ourselves to others who might need help more than we do at that moment, and (the thing that is often hardest for me) is to allow ourselves the patience to give more time¬†– whether we need the time to figure out another strategy — or simply heal.

And so with this phrase, bouncing around with me all morning, I write this blog post. And give it to you.

EVEN MORE IDEAS…
In the¬†way that one idea will¬†often¬†inexplicably bring us to other ideas, this idea made me think, of course, about if and how I might want to share it, but then those thoughts brought me (somehow?) not just to posting on the blog, but to the¬†idea¬†of using¬†the time-lapse feature on my iPhone and the Vine account that I set up and haven’t yet used.

So, with the creative muse still hanging out by my side, urging me to try something new, I grabbed a bucket of markers and a sheet of paper, and I filmed my first-ever time-lapsed video to post on Vine and share with you.

Right now, I’m pretty excited about having a this new¬†mantra to help me navigate through future challenges (and by sharing it, I’m ¬†hoping it helps other people, too.) I’m also a little¬†excited about the video and the Vine post. ūüėČ

I can only imagine how my day might be shaping up¬†if I hadn’t slowed down to¬†listen to, and write down, that first early-morning idea.

~Melissa

*An idea Gilbert writes about in her book, Big Magic.

Stacking the Shelves (4/9/16)

It’s been a big week for books in our house!stsmall_thumb2.png

As I look at all of these new books on our shelves, I know I have to write a Stacking the Shelves post!


First, my team and I received copies of professional development books at work.

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Photo credit: Kim Lowden (@ms_itech)

We’ve been waiting for these titles to arrive for quite some time, so it was a really exciting¬†day to come back from spring break and find the books waiting for us!

The first of the three titles that we are going to read is Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros (@gcouros). This book appeals to me, largely, because of my graduate work studying creativity and innovation.¬†Besides discussing the book with one another, several of my coworkers and I are also participating in the #reflectiveteacher book study for this book¬†on Twitter, Tuesday nights through the month of April.

I’ve already read Daring Greatly by Bren√© Brown (@BreneBrown), and I’m looking forward to¬†re-reading it with the rest of my team. I had¬†many take-aways and ah-ha moments¬†the¬†first time I read it. I’m¬†sure that as I read it a second time¬†it will be with¬†a new lens, especially because I will get to reflect and discuss with my colleagues.


 

Then, another colleague of mine gave me a copy of her novel…that I’ve been really wanting to read. I’m so excited about this one as well!

I put Quantum Leaps in Princeton’s Place¬†on my to-be-read list as soon as I learned that IMG_8403.JPGDonna Clovis (@clovid01)¬†had written it.

It’s historical fiction¬†and¬†set in nearby Princeton, NJ. Over the years,¬†I’ve become more and more interested with reading historical fiction (a lot of that began when I started¬†researching my own family history), and I especially love local history and historical fiction.

I hope to start reading it tomorrow!


 

IMG_8404.JPGAs if it¬†wasn’t already¬†a very, very exciting week for books with those first few titles, I also¬†received¬†a couple more amazing professional books.

I¬†started¬†participating in a book study for¬†Effective Digital Learning Environments: Your Guide to the ISTE Standards for Coaches¬†this week, so The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar is going to¬†be a nice, related read! (I think it’s also interesting to note that Effective Digital Learning is my ONLY digital book for the week.)

Teacherpreneurs¬†looks like it will¬†be a related read as well; The Innovator’s Mindset¬†is all about innovation in education, so I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas these two books will have in common.


 

Finally, I visited a book sale at one of my local libraries this morning. It was packed! (Both with books and with people shopping for books!) My mom came with me, and we spent about an hour and a half there, sorting through tables and tables of books.

I managed to find a few interesting titles. (Actually, the greater feat is that I managed to leave some of the books there at the sale!)

IMG_8402.jpgI added two new books to my cookbook collection. While I normally look for older cookbooks, I couldn’t resist these two.

I love ordering risotto when I go out to eat, but I’ve only tried making it at home a few times (and it wasn’t easy!). I’m hoping that reading a book all about risotto will inspire me to¬†try again.

My husband and I are both crazy about onions, so how could I possibly resist an entire cookbook dedicated to one of our favorite foods? (He got a really big kick out of this one when I showed it to him.)

I found IMG_8406.JPGplenty of #Read4Fun books at the book sale, too.

After a week like this one, I’m sure that I’m not going to have any¬†problem completing my goal of reading #SixtyBooks* this year. My only problem is going to be trying to decide which book to read next!

Are you familiar with any of these titles? Have you already read any of them? What books did you stack the shelves with this week?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks and happy reading!

~Melissa 

*If you haven’t already taken the #SixtyBooks pledge, you can visit the website¬†for more information and to sign up today.

Stacking the Shelves (2/27/16)

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Stacking the Shelves is an idea hosted by Tynga’s Reviews,¬†and it is¬†“all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course¬†ebooks!”

Reading around #SixtyBooks a year, new titles come into our personal library on a regular basis. Here are two of the newest additions. Both of these books were gifts, and both are very high on my To Be Read list!

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I love the idea of Stacking the Shelves and sharing out titles that are new to us and our personal libraries. To find out more information about Stacking the Shelves, visit Tynga’s Reviews. I’m sure I’ll be back next Saturday with another title or two. ūüôā

Happy reading,

~Melissa