#sol15 To Give is Divine

The March Slice of Life Story Challenge
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Something crazy special happened to me yesterday. I had planned to write about something else today, but this cannot be ignored.

I went to my school mailbox and there, among the usual stuff to put in kids' boxes, was a greeting card envelope. It was addressed to me. There was a stamp on it which was postmarked. I don't get many cards anymore. People send me email or texts; they don't even leave me voicemail messages much these days. So my heart was happy as I slid my finger along the edge and opened it up. This is what I saw
 The sentiment on the card was lovely. Then I opened it
Inside were 5 gift cards for $50 EACH to stores where I often get supplies for my classroom. It was simply the most amazing kindness I have received in a very long time. The sentiment on the card inside read "Here's a little GOLD to help keep your classroom Treasure Chest filled to the brim." I can only assume that this lovely soul reads my blog and recently read this post: Treasure Chest. I am flabbergasted and honored and completely delighted. It feels like when I first found out I was pregnant with my now 9 year old son. I would walk around knowing I had a miraculous secret.

Thank you dear kind soul who understood and took the time to show me it matters more than you can say. These children I care for are gold.


#sol15 Word Collector

The March Slice of Life Story Challenge
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I'm a word collector. I love how they sound in my mouth. I like to think about words and what they mean. I can't stop correcting people who use words incorrectly. I feel like it's offensive to the English language. Words are the only thing I collect, well, words and egg cups (but that's another story). I give everything else away. My stuff can come and go. I've been known to invite people over to buy anything they want inside my house. I own so few clothes, I could pack them all in one suitcase--but not that small rolling airport kind, that would be too small. I form no emotional attachment to things. It's probably deeply psychological, but let's not get into that if you don't mind. Because if we get into that, we have to get into that time when I was on vacation in the mountains. I woke up at 2am and hissed my husband awake. 
     What? he said sleepily. 
     Can you imagine if right now our whole house is on fire and EVERYTHING is gone?! We could start fresh with just a couple of rooms painted white. If that happened, I would totally wear jeans and white t-shirts all the time probably with converse low tops.

He looked at me like I was a complete stranger, rolled over and went back to sleep, but not before muttering, You really are crazy. 

So let's just let sleeping dogs lie on that one. 

I'm a word collector. I save all my old letters, and I've written and received lots. I was raised by a mother who believed wholeheartedly in the appropriate etiquette of thank you letters. I save them and reread them and smile when I read about my old camp friendships and my loves who understood that the written word meant so much to me. They are treasures. Each word chosen just for me...Dear Kimberley, I loved getting your letter. I read it over and over. It was made more special because you took the time to write a list of things I could read over the summer. Thank you for that.

You're welcome.


#sol15 Introduction

The March Slice of Life Story Challenge
Join us for month of writing
Day 1 is finally here. I've been waiting not so patiently. It's funny because I feel like writing and those who write are such a big part of my life, but when I say You know, Slice of Life? people look confused. Then I realize that this is my world with its own community. It's like I spent summers in a small town in Idaho and I think everyone in Maine knows the owner of the general store too. P.S. They don't. 

I've prepared for this day. I have a purple journal where I keep my writing ideas, but I can't find it. I know I will find it and I know that on Day 1 I said I was just going to introduce myself, but I'm mad for being this excited and not paying attention to my writing journal's whereabouts.

My name is Kimberley. I am 46 years old. I live in Hampden Maine which is right next to Bangor.
I haven't lived here all my life. In fact I just moved here in July 2013 after a bout of trying to find jobs in the southern Maine area where I've lived for a long time. I grew up in NYC, but call Maine my home state at this point. 

When I was young, as young as 5 or 6, I had four loves: writing, reading, fishing, and Welch's Grape Soda. I think I'd still love all of those things now and I wonder if I should pick grape soda and fishing back up.
Now you can find me teaching 2nd grade, reading, writing, and spending time with my 7 year old daughter Annie and 9 year old son Felix. Everyone told me that they were sad when their babies got older, but I am loving every minute of their growing up. As they become themselves, I feel such a sense of amazement. It is also giving me a chance to think about why I am who I am. Enter writing.

I write a lot of essays about my growing up. Many aren't suitable for children to read. I had a tumultuous childhood. I also write a lot of picture books. I dream of becoming the next Mac Barnett. I want to write about things that matter to children but also let grown ups stop and reflect.

I can't wait to bring you on this month's writing journey. 

hint: When you comment on a blogger account, check to see if the arrow below the comment (where it says comment as) says google or your name. If it says your name, you're all set. If it says google => write your comment, but then highlight it and copy it. Click the google button. Your name will appear but your comment will disappear (DRAT!), now paste your copied comment in and click it again. Voila! Use this whenever you are commenting on a blogger blog and you won't waste your writing time. You're welcome. :-)


SOL: Getting it on paper

My friend Jen and I have been working together. We live far from each other, but we have similar writing goals. We like each other. We share our thoughts and images on Voxer. It's been very motivating for me. She is pushing me to try to write 4-5 more picture books so that I have samples of my writing.

Here's the deal. Once, about 4 years ago, I wrote a beautiful picture book. I loved it, lots of other people loved it. I revised it until I was sick of it. Then I sent it to a publisher. I didn't understand the whole pitch and query thing. I never heard back. I felt a kind of shame over it. I've heard about this before, but I let it happen to me anyway. Then...I stopped writing.

Enter Jen. Suddenly at her suggestion, I'm writing again. I'm making time to write more and more. I sat up last night and tried to crank out a picture book. Just get the words down I told myself. I did just that. I wrote a pitch to give myself an outline and then I cranked it out and it was awful...and sad. I tried to fix it but it was 11 and I was tired. After a good night's sleep, I still think it's awful. I decided to share how I feel with my kids and husband. So tonight at dinner, I told them how bad it was. My kids nodded like they understood.

Enter Dick (my husband). He said Why don't you just let it go and try another one tonight.?Keep going, getting one draft after another done until you've got your 4 or 5. Maybe one of them will feel like it's worth working on. And to my shock--I said That's a great idea. I didn't tell him he didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't come up with another reason why I am bad. I just accepted it.

Tonight, I'll work on another idea I've had cooking.


DigiLit Sunday: images

DigiLit Sunday brought to you by the inimitable Margaret Simon over at Reflections on the Teche.

I've been thinking about how images affect the blogging experience. It's taken me a long time to realize that people who blog well and effectively use a lot of images and they use them well. When I took part in the Non Fiction Picture Book 10 for 10 #NFPB10for10
I almost did what I always do and pasted an image of a book followed by a description. Then I thought, I wonder if it'll be more interesting if people don't have to scroll way down to read my post. I think research has proven that the less work people have to do, the more likely they are to have that feel good experience.

So I looked for a way to share the images without scrolling down. I found Photo Snack which I also though was a fabulous name. After fooling around with it for a very short period of time, I created a slideshow of images which could be embedded into my blog post. You just have to select your pictures and drag them in. Then, you click the template you want to use and boom...done. I've gotten a lot of kudos for that slideshow so my theory worked. I write this post so you'll consider how images work for your blogging and for your kids. See a lovely photo snack of the children in my class reading and writing.


Treasure Chest?

I have written ad nauseum about how I don't use behavior charts. I've read and researched a lot about how they don't work very well as they are a reinforcer for kids who can fit in the box. Those kids feel great, but the kids who just can't do it feel worse.

So why you may ask do I need to stock up my Treasure Chest? And why, again you might say, do I even have a Treasure Chest in my classroom?
I haven't always been a teacher. In fact this is only my 6th year teaching. I worked at nonprofits for most of my life. It was while working at the American Red Cross in disaster services that I would get called to disasters all over the U.S. When I got there, I would often be assigned to manage the snacks that are handed out to victims. My biggest observation during this time is that sometimes people have a hole so big it cannot be filled. The snacks we served them helped them feel cared for, loved, and like things might be okay. In a nutshell, snacks provided hope.

When I am working in my classroom, I watch children function quite well and independently. I also see my share of kids who are hungry, tired, angry, and lonely. These children sometimes have a hole inside them so big, it cannot be filled. It is those days I work to find something they are doing during the day showing me they can push through and persevere. I offer them them a choice from the treasure box for something that seems like a reward so they feel good about getting it. It is the smile they give me that shows they feel cared for, loved, and like things might be okay. In a nutshell, treasures in my room provide hope.


This Moment

I was recently reminded of why I am someone who goes after life. Someone who doesn't waste time talking about what I want to do. A friend asked me why I thought she procrastinated so much. As my story to her unfolded, I knew it was one I wanted to share on this blog as well.

I had been working for a nonprofit called Rippleffect where everyone was outdoors-y and crunchy. Sometimes I like to try on new personalities, so for the time I became Outdoors Kimberley.

One night I agreed to head out to Cow Island (in Casco Bay) overnight. 
During my night of outdoor cooking, singing around the campfire, and roaming around the island in the pitch black dark--something which terrified Regular Kimberley but brought a thrill to Outdoors Kimberley--I met a woman named Erin. I confessed to her that I was more of a sailor, that I had never been in a kayak before. We planned to wake at sunrise for my first ever kayak trip.  

We slept in sleeping bags inside one of the old forts on the island. It was (and still is) thrilling that I pushed through my fears and actually felt happy to be there. When the sun was coming up, Erin said "Okay! Let's get up and go." 

It was a chilly summer morning. 

Despite my joy of the night before, I became hesitant and nervous. I told her I just wanted to sleep. She said words I will never forget, 
You cannot procrastinate. This moment is ours and we can't just let it go. We need to respect it. Get up now. Let's own our time.
So I did. That morning was one I'll never forget. The kayak fit me perfectly. The water flowed against my legs under the boat. I felt so small in the ocean and so powerful at the same time. This moment was mine and I owned it. I took control of it. 
I save this in my mind every time I try not to do something right now. I go after what I love even when I can't get there right away.