Small Gestures

Every week Ruth Ayres invites us to celebrate the little moments in our lives.  Thank you, Ruth for reminding us to do this.

Sometimes the littlest gestures have the most impact.

Yesterday was a rough day for my family.  My stepmom had a heart attack and was hospitalized.  After discovering her main artery was 100% blocked, she had a procedure to try and help stop the blockage.

My dad was understandably shaken.   After the third report/check in with my family, I could tell he couldn’t go down the chain of family that needed to be called again, so I volunteered to take over his list to call along with mine.  This meant I made the report to twice as many people.  I tried to keep my voice down and not disturb others visiting their loved ones, but it was inevitable that those around me heard the details of my calls: blockage, stent, staying until at least Christmas Eve, …

On the fifth phone call, the gentleman who had been sitting by me minutes prior approached me, knelt down beside me, and said, “I wasn’t trying to listen, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and I just wanted to say everything is going to be okay; your mom is in great hands at this hospital.  Merry Christmas.”

This interaction took all but 30 seconds, but it left such an impression.  I nearly cried right there and then, but I felt so grateful this man took time to be a blessing to me and my family during such a tough moment.

I’m grateful for this man’s kind words.

I’m grateful for the doctors who continue to help my stepmom.

Most of all, I’m grateful for beautiful moments, even in the midst of crummy ones.

It’s a great reminder of how little it takes to be a blessing to others.


Words from Grandma

Thank you, Ruth Ayres for reminding me to celebrate daily blessings and for sharing a platform to post my celebrations.

Last year I called two of my grandmas one night to catch up.  I was in a funk, but I was hoping talking with them might help.

My grandma with Alzheimer’s delighted in my call, thanking me repeatedly for taking the time to call and telling me how much I made her day. The other grandma gave me relationship advice, telling me not to worry about my future. She pointed out all of my accomplishments and told me I should be so proud of all I had done and that if I kept doing the right thing that it usually always works out. She told me, “Most people get what they want eventually.”

My grandma knew I had just ended a 7 year relationship and although the relationship wasn’t right for me, I was still struggling. It took every effort to get out of bed in the mornings, and I retreated to my bed the moment I got home from anywhere. I still fulfilled my commitments, but after every one, I rushed back to bed. It’s the only place I felt safe- the only place I wanted to be. Unlike relationships from my past, I knew I had to grieve this one.

I wanted to throw myself into another relationship and stick a band-aid on my wounds, but I also wanted it to be different. It hurt like hell. I spent most days in my pajamas- wasting the days away binge watching Netflix and crying.

My grandmas’ words resounded with me that evening. I frantically reached into the kitchen drawer for paper to jot down their wisdom. I tried to scribe their advice on the post-it’s I fished out, and I hung them up to serve as mantras.

My Grandma Ginny reminded me that I’m okay just being by myself; I don’t have to have another person to be okay, and if I want that, I’ll eventually find it when the time is right. My Grandma Ferguson reminded me that sometimes when you are struggling, it’s best to reach out and be there for someone else. This in turn usually helps you, too.

These post-it’s have been on my full length mirror ever since. Some days I notice their words and other days they blend in with the surroundings. But I noticed them this week, and I couldn’t help but laugh- so much had changed in a year. I met an amazing man and suddenly all of that worry and fear seems so silly.

I’m celebrating today that like the seasons: life changes. Nothing is permanent. And when life is not going great, helping others can make you feel better.


There was a moment in my yoga class today where I felt a surging sense of self-confidence as I held challenging positions I wasn’t able to before.  I slightly giggled at the person next to me, their face asking, “What the hell is she talking about?” as they stared at the instructor in utter confusion, trying to mimic a pose named something I can’t pronounce.

You want me to do what? Their face questioned as they lowered themselves in defeat to their mat.

For a moment, this knowing what to do and being able to hold the position when the person next to me didn’t/couldn’t, filled me with pride.

Until…the next pose when I nearly face planted.

Suddenly, I wished I could take back all the silent bragging I just did in my head.  It’s like the yoga gods provided some instant karma, defending the newbie who should be commended for just showing up.

As I was snapped back to that moment and put in my place, I realized I’m not a yoga guru, not even close.  (I can’t even touch my toes after all.)  But I realized even more that it was never about the person next to me.

I’m not competing with them.

They aren’t competing with me.

My pride came back when I recognized it as my own, knowing I’m a little stronger than before and that’s all that matters.

Me just continuing to show up is all that matters.



I’m often reminded to celebrate the small victories. To focus on the positive, the haves, instead of have nots. Thank you, Ruth Ayres for reminding me to do this and sharing a platform to post my celebrations.

In summer especially, my to dos feel daunting, like I have to get my life back together after 10 months of neglecting bills, house repairs, etc. I don’t even know where to begin, and some days I don’t even start.

I coined the term reverse lists (probably not an original idea), but it has made all the difference in my days and has combatted some of my anxiety about being overwhelmed with all I need to do. Throughout the day, I write down what I have accomplished. Therefore, when my to do list feels daunting, I can celebrate the tiny victories of my day (recorded on my reverse list) and see what I’ve done, instead of where I’m coming up short in the never ending list of life.

I’d also like to celebrate all the other blessings in my life right now:

1. I joined a local writing club. These ladies and one gentleman stretch my thinking and encourage me when I don’t feel comfortable putting words to the page.
2. I have time to get stuff done and think about what I want, even if it feels like it’s not enough time.
3. I’m establishing a morning ritual and realizing the importance of taking care of myself first. My morning involves daily prayer reading, making my bed, and exercise before making a healthy breakfast. I’m grateful for having time now to establish this and hope it will continue once the school year gets underway.
4. I’m learning the importance of living simply and not having to have things just to have them. I feel best when my space is decluttered, and I’ve started piles to get rid of unwanted items and even started making money for my old junk. I sold several unwanted items this week!
5. I’ve finished two professional books in the last couple weeks that have me buzzing with new ideas to try for next year.
6. My sister had an amazing time in Grenada, and I’m so happy for her.  I’m grateful the Viber app helped us keep in touch and being able to see pictures of her trip.


Jessica holding a sheep’s heart

7. I reconnected with an old friend and am grateful for restarting our friendship.
8. The people in my life push me to become better. They are always encouraging me and sharing what has helped them on their journey. I am so grateful for all of the wonderful people and networks in my life.

9. My hydrangeas are finally blooming (after three years), and I’m able to cut some and bring to people.  It’s so fun to say, “These are from my garden.”


Sister Travels

Every now and then I marvel at the fact that I’m an adult.  I tell my students when I’m giving a “you need to work hard to get a good job and have a good life” pep talk about how I can go home and eat ice cream all night in my underwear if I want to.  I even remember first living with someone years ago and saying aloud, “We can do whatever we want to!”

Sometimes this sense of independence gets muddled and overlooked, though, as the bills roll in or you walk past the weeds needing your attention. But I was reminded of the joys of adulthood today as I helped my sister navigate through her first trip abroad.

She’s flying to Grenada today for a ten day veterinary camp and has two flights before arriving.  I’m not sure how well my parents prepped her, so I started sending texts as I thought of things and as a response to her question texts she was sending me.  I was immediately reminded of all of the travel details you take for granted when you are with someone, especially your parents.  You can just follow their lead to your connecting gate, never really having paid attention to how to get from point A to point B.

Traveling alone, however, takes much more attention.  I wondered if she even knew how to check for her next gate.  When she confidently texted about how easy it was to get to her first gate at the St. Louis airport, I realized I needed to prep, but try to not scare her, about how large her next airport would be.  She innocently asked if there would be a charge for the tram that I just told her she would probably have to take to get to a different section of the airport.

Although I am anxiously awaiting my Viber messages from her telling me she’s arrived safely and enjoying herself, I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement at the feelings of confidence that I know are  developing inside of her as she successfully navigates each aspect of her trip.  There is nothing quite like traveling alone, and I’m so proud that she was brave enough to pursue this opportunity.

And, I think looking at flights for my next potential trip is definitely moving to the top of my to dos for today.




I haven’t celebrated on a Saturday in forever, but it’s not because I don’t have things worth celebrating.  I’m so glad to be sharing my celebrations with you today. Ruth, thank you for encouraging us to notice all that we have to be grateful for.

1. I’ve got my first day gear ready to go.  This will be year two of me as a pilot/flight attendant.  It was a big hit last year (some of them thought I was crazy, but they were intrigued). I wear this on the first day and do a whole spiel about the places reading and writing can “take” you.


2. My friend, Troy, asked me to join a writing group with him.  Troy is one of the most brilliant teacher’s I’ve ever met.  I got to pick his brain last week about trying to implement some things he does in his classroom. I’m so excited to try out some of the stuff he shared and to continue to grow as a writer by starting a writing group with him.

3. I get to work with my very best friend this year.  Gwyn, one of my best friend’s from my first teaching job, got a job at my school.  I wish I could insert a scream here to show you just how awesome that is.  We are going to be an amazing team.

4. I finished my push pin map to document my travels. I’ve wanted one of these forever, but they are super expensive.  I found an extra map in my basement that was leftover from one of my old classrooms, so I made my own.  I love how big it is and how it fills what was an empty wall.  I hope it will encourage me to get traveling.  I’m ready for my next big trip.


5. I got to visit this week with a dear friend that I went to China with last summer.  She is so much fun to be around and loves to travel.  I feel so blessed to have met her.  We are already planning trips for this year and there’s talk of an international trip for next summer. She’s definitely gonna help me add some pins to my map.

Celebrations – It’s Saturday!

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth for reminding me to celebrate. Share your celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes.

1.Good Music: Pandora has been making my afternoon grading session much more enjoyable.  I’ve been toe tapping and bouncing back and forth all day at my local Panera. (I’ve probably been getting some stares too, but I don’t care.)  It makes me laugh when I remind myself that I should like what I’m hearing since I’ve selected the stations.

2. Growing as a Teacher: I had an informational session for the National Writing Project this morning, and I was reminded how my kids must feel in their classes.  It was hard.  I felt out of my comfort zone.  I was so excited, but I had so many feelings of insecurity.  What if I can’t do it?  What if I have nothing to contribute?  What is my writing is horrible?  It was scary to sit with strangers and write and hear their words; I couldn’t help but compare.  However, as much as I had an inner struggle, I noted this in my writer’s notebook. I already feel more empathetic for my kiddos who want to do what you are asking of them, but they are scared, unsure of what you are asking, or just need some time to process.  My friend told me to think of this experience with a growth mindset and to consider that I wouldn’t be learning if I surrounded myself with people who weren’t smart.  She said it’s a good thing I will be with intelligent people, even if it makes me second guess myself.

3. Surprise Meeting: Two of my former students just ran up to me while I was sitting here.  They are all grown up and have turned into such beautiful young women.  It feels nice to see old faces and to think of our time together fondly.

4. Proud Teacher Moment: I almost cried on Friday when my most challenging class did an amazing job during our first Socratic seminar.  It was unbelievable.  They were in their element.  They usually need the most redirection of all of my sections, but they didn’t need it for this form of learning; they were fine without me.  I was so proud, and I couldn’t help but realize that maybe what I’ve been doing doesn’t fit them/their personalities.  It’s me that has to change, not them.  It was an awesome way to end a Friday.

5. Finished Testing: We completed our language arts testing last week, so I feel like I can share some fun, authentic writing ideas with my kids that I’ve been wanting to try.  We started playing around with blogging on Thursday, and they loved it.  Most of the other teachers have been complaining about students’ behaviors, but I feel like my kids have been enjoying what we are doing, so I’m not having that issue.  I feel re-energized and excited about the rest of the year.  Thank you, Christy for inspiring me to try out a 30 day writing challenge with my students.  It was a big hit.

Wish I Would Have Read Nancie’s Advice Before I Peed My Pants

I really wish I had read Nancie Atwell’s advice to people considering the teaching profession before I peed in my pants.

I have an amazing bladder.

It’s a teacher’s bladder.

On most days I can wait to pee until early evening.  (I know my teacher friends will understand this.)

It wasn’t always this way, though.

I sat with some friends in a book club tonight and one of them remarked, “Did you see what Nancie Atwell said about how she wouldn’t advise others considering teaching to go into the profession?”

At first I couldn’t believe that she came out and said this, but before you know it, my friends and I started laughing about how crazy this profession can be as we shared teaching stories that only other teachers can relate to.

My friend explained she had spent the day learning how to use her power and computer cords as a weapon, if needed, against potential intruders.  The other friend explained how she watched as her boss and co-workers tried to get a kid refusing to do his work to return to his classroom.  Our stories seemed to crazy to be real.  We laughed imagining inviting others from outside professions to lunch while we simultaneously ate and had cafeteria duty.  We pictured interrupted conversations while we reminded our students of the expectations in the 8th month of the school year.  The laughter erupted as we mentioned the meals we had to scarf down in front of our students because we didn’t get our lunch break. And we all agreed that we had developed superhuman bladders.

That’s when I remembered when I peed in my pants.  In my classroom!

It was my first year of teaching. I worked even more than I do know (if that’s possible), and I often stayed after school until the wee hours prepping for the next day.  Most days I brought a change of clothes so I could get more comfortable while I worked late in my room.

That particular day I put off using the restroom after school for even longer than normal.  I was in the zone with my work, and I kept dismissing my urge to pee (and change into comfy clothes).  I sort of did a toddler dance around my room so I could get just one more stack of papers organized before succumbing to my bladder.  Finally, I decided I would have to cave.  I couldn’t hold it anymore; it was probably after 6:30 after all.

Although I made the decision to go and started toward the bathroom, I think my brain had already told my body that it was time to go.

Keep in mind that the bathroom was only a stone’s throw away from my classroom.  Unfortunately, that was just too far on that early fall day, when my bladder was not what it is now.  I rushed quicker across the hall to the little girls’ room as I could feel the sensation of my pee already trickling out.  At that point, it was a lost cause; I peed in my pants somewhere between my classroom and the restroom.  I couldn’t believe this just happened.  I looked around and thankfully no one else was in sight.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I changed my clothes and continued working.

My friends always tell me about their young children and how they have to be potty trained and cannot have more than a certain number of accidents in order to make it into and stay in the older room.  I’m proud to say that I haven’t had any accidents since my first year!

I know Nancie’s comments were more geared toward problems with over-testing our students (not teachers peeing in their pants), but I can’t help but laugh at the little quirks of my job that most other professions won’t understand.  Despite the challenges our profession is facing, I can’t imagine doing anything else, even if I have to do my little toddler dance as I dash to the restroom each day.

Fellow teachers, we need to make a reality show to help others see a glimpse into our crazy days.

Eggs and Steak

I’ve decided to start focusing on myself more.  Making myself the best version of me.  I talk about this A LOT, but it seems as though I don’t do much to get there.  I know many things I should be doing: yoga, meditating, going to church, etc.  I’ve read tons of books on the key to happiness and finding yourself, but I continue to stay stuck, expecting a change without changing anything.  I’m pretty sure they say this is the definition of insanity.

The problem is, though, that I’m scared to work on myself.  Scared of what I might find out or that something I’m doing won’t match what I decide I want.  I avoid writing, because I’m scared of what I might “say.”  (This is obviously strange, unhealthy, and not normal, but I think the first step is noticing this.)


Starting my Search

So, I’m starting small.  I’m trying to think about what I want, and I’ve decided that I want to be the type of person who makes an amazing breakfast (eggs specifically) and a really good steak. (I realize I’m not getting too deep here, but I’m just getting my feet wet with the whole figuring myself out thing.)

I want people to wake up at my house and pray I’m cooking in the morning.  Sure, I’ve made eggs before, but they aren’t overly exceptional.  As far as the steak goes, I just think it would be cool to be able to cook an amazing steak.

In my quest to find myself, I’m declaring tomorrow my first egg cooking day.  I even have a whole carton in case I mess up.  Today I’m devoting to my online search for the perfect way to cook scrambled eggs (clearly I’m on spring break, or I wouldn’t have time to think about this).

I’m declaring it now – by 2016, I will make an amazing breakfast and steak dinner!  If you are hungry, please don’t come by for food before then. 🙂

There is obviously more to face than just my cooking, but I have to start somewhere.

Saturday Celebrations

Discover. Play. Build.

I haven’t celebrated or written in a long time.  It seems like I end up in a funk, and I’m scared my words will show the state I’m in.  I like how Ruth says to celebrate in the “muddle.” Maybe I should have been doing that these past few months.

Either way, I’m here to celebrate now:

1 There’s been a breakthrough at my house that can’t be undone.  I’m moving forward.  It’s been a long, painful journey, so I’m excited to start fresh.

2. I ran into Leigh Anne last week at the Write to Learn Conference, unexpectedly.  It was so nice to see her and catch up.  I was reminded of the kind community I love and want to be a part of.  I loved when she said she was looking on my blog and almost commented on an old thread to check on me and get me writing again.  I’m grateful for my All Write friends.

3. A woman I taught with in China was also at the conference.  I almost screamed when I saw her name tweeting about the session she was in.  We were able to find each other and chat and decided to plan a future date to swap stories about our adventures last summer.

4. I began a new book that I got at the conference that I love.  I’m so excited to implement what  I’m learning.

5. My school has been very receptive of the ideas my coworkers and I have about things we want to do next year.  “Next year” has become my new favorite saying.  I am ready to have some downtime to reflect on this year and make next year even better.


Shalan and me outside our classrooms


A night on the Chinese town

6. A different friend from China that taught with me last summer is coming in town next weekend.  She’s hysterical, and I can’t wait to spend time with her again.