Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sankalpa 8

Sometimes, in order to be a creative risk-taker, you need the right supplies.

Last weekend, I was having a little coffee and breakfast with my birth mom, Martha.  Towards the end of our catch-up, I said we had to scoot next door because I wanted to buy a new notebook from the paper and scrapbooking store.

Sometimes a new notebook with silver dots against a seafoam background is what you need to live a creative risk-taking life.  To enhance the effect, I also needed some Le Pens.  These are small writing instruments with fine, marker-tipped points that you can clip easily to the spiral of the notebook.  Sublime.

Let's be honest, I also needed some Gelly Roll pens in multiple colors.  I used the purple one to take fluid notes during a parent phone-call yesterday, and it really enhanced the experience.  When I think about next steps for that child this morning, I'll use the pen to write my thoughts, and I'll probably come up with more creative ideas for a good outcome because of the Gelly.  I'll probably switch colors to distinguish between my initial notes and my solution-seeking notes.  It'll be amazing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sankalpa 7

Can we talk a little bit about psoriasis?  I have the worst psoriasis I've ever had right now.  I realize that's hard to believe because I've complained about it so much over the years.  Still, it's a fact.

Beginning at (and in my estimation, BECAUSE OF) Christmas, which other people seem to consider a joyous occasion and I each year endure, I'm 16% covered with red spots.  My previous high was 11%.  Educational fact: one side of your hand is 1% surface area of your skin.  I have about 16 palms  + fingers worth of dots and spots spread over my torso and limbs.  Yuck.

Can we celebrate for a second, though, with a very important piece of information?  IT'S NOT ON MY FACE.

And now let me hit you with the sankalpa:  As a creative risk-taker, I've continued to just live my life with the dots.  They show at school depending on what I'm wearing.

"What is that?" ask the kids.  "Does it hurt?"  At which point (daily), I explain it calmly.  "I hate having it," I say, "but things could be worse."

I look in the mirror without feeling like a leper.  I shrug, instead.

I make jokes to the nurses at the light booth, which I've been visiting thrice weekly.  "Crank her up!" I laugh, and we smile at each other. "Any clearance?" they ask.  "Nope," I say.  But, I have hope that it will, indeed, start to clear.

I'm just carrying on, not hating myself, with psoriasis.  It's chronic, as I've mentioned.  So, I might as well find a way to live with it with grace and creativity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


How's this for a creative risk?  We've got lemon and hammer.  If you don't respect my identity as a creative risk-taker, I've got a weapon at the ready?

Seriously, my co-advisor and I submitted the first half of the yearbook pages yesterday, and now I feel as if I can slip into the light a little bit.  I'm ready to email my writing partner and get back in it.  Maybe I can insert a little more general cheer into my days and remain open to creative opportunities.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sankalpa 6

Here we are: a family of creative risk-takers, making culinary magic on a rockin' Friday night.  Dan has rolled sushi before, but none of the rest of us have.  Here he is coaching us with patience and good humor.  I needed this little adventure after another task-oriented week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Ok, confession: I feel like I'm totally failing my sankalpa.  I'm pretty sure "fail" is not a part of the sankalpa practice.  But, I just feel like all I'm doing is checking dumb stuff off the to-do list.  I'm not feeling like a creative risk-taker.

I'm feeling like a bogged-down hockey mom schoolmarm.  Not particularly glamorous, creative, or risky. 

Hmm.  There's tomorrow, I suppose.  The photo above is a figurine and cheese grater.  I had no part of coming up with this duo.  I barely got it posted. Leeway had to remind me and make the magic happen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sankalpa 5

Truth: It's hard to be a creative risk-taker in January.  I have so many grindish tasks in January that don't really invite creative risks.  One of those tasks I've been working on all weekend.  It's report cards.  It's not that I don't love my students and think they're fascinating - I totally do!  It's just that I've written 21 single-spaced pages in 3 days.  Usually, I start early and spread the task over a week, which can be quite pleasant.  But, this year I was doing other grind-like things during the week before the due date and three of us in the family got a energy-sapping virus.  So, I have to do them all in one long weekend. Sigh.

To accomplish all of the work-related grinds, I stopped writing my book, stopped practicing violin, and in the last three days, stopped exercising.

Here's the plus: I have witnessed creative risk-taking on the hockey rink by both Shef and Mac.  I've taken breaks from the report cards to watch their dangles, goals, saves, and cellies.  So, there's that.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sankalpa 4

I feel like I've done a pretty good job of embracing my identity as a creative risk-taker.  Unfortunately,  I've been too encumbered lately to really act like a creative risk-taker.  It's that time of year when there are a bazillion meetings, grades and narrative comments, yearbook deadlines, new units... To be honest, I've been a bit run down by those serious obligations.

Still, I'm confident in my sankalpa. I don't think I have to prove my creative risk-taking in order to adopt this identity. Just in case, here are some creative risk-taking actions I've embraced:

  • I've been reading a book about the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching young children.  There are a couple of practices I'm excited to try with my middle schoolers.  One is documentation, wherein the teacher writes about and photographs the learning that happens in the classroom.  This can be a good way, the Reggio people say, to get parents on your side.  It works because they see what's happening and buy in and want to be a part of it.
  • I agreed to help my boss think about how to infuse reflection on life skills - things like resilience, curiosity, teamwork, and time management - into our parent-teacher-student conferences.  It actually occurred to me that we could use the Reggio practice of documentation to help us structure productive conferences in which kids can really reflect on life skills, with traditional academics on the side.  I don't really want to talk to sixth grade families and kids about straight As.  Who cares?  Let's talk abut whole people.
  • I'm hitting publish on this entry even though I don't really have a 3rd bullet point.  You're supposed to have 3 to do a bulleted list.  But, today I only have two.  Oh well!  I'm a creative risk-taker.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Today's pairing is cinnamon stick + star.  Lucky for me, I have a shirt with a star pattern, which I think is quite pleasing.

In creative risk-taking news, I want to tell you about a recent risk I've taken: While I like making new friends, sometimes I feel intimidated in the hockey department.  I feel a little nervous to join the hockey mom fray in the stands, and I almost never go out for hockey parent drinks with the team.  The people are all really nice.  I just want to go home and wear my sweatpants, is the honest-to-goodness truth of the situation.

But at last week's tournament, I took a risk and parked myself right in there with the hockey moms.  When one of them suggested that we have a Powerball Pool to become billionaires, I agreed even though I'm not a huge lottery fan.  I gave her five of my dollars.  I'll let you know if we win.  If we win, I will be forever bonded with these hockey parents.  I'll never regret sitting next to them in the stands.  I already don't regret it, actually.  It was a nice risk to take.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sankalpa 3

Friday was a major creative risk-taking kind of day.  We installed a #MigrantCrisis Instagram wall outside our classroom.  This was a week-long research project which culminated in a community art project.  See photo by KK below:

As part of my duties as facilitator, I had to use spray glue.  Here's the truth: I do not enjoy using adhesives under aerosol pressure.  Besides having to spray from the correct distance and with the nozzle pointing in the correct direction, I had to spray it outside in freezing temperatures because of the pungent fumes.

Basically, I took a creative risk, especially with the glue.  Another adhesive risk was taken by using velcro to put the Instagram posts on the wall.  We think it'll hold.  I'm basing this on a teacher's review of the particular velcro product I purchased.  The teacher used it to build shelves, a reading corner, and basically her entire classroom.  All held together by velcro.  Certainly it can hold some cardboard and paper.  We only need it to hold for a year.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sankalpa 2

Geez!  Back to school has been fun and furious.  I've thought about my sankalpa, "I am a creative risk-taker" each day, and yesterday, in its spirit, I addressed some common middle school problems head on.

I passed one research group and noticed an offensive smell.  "Someone keeps farting," Michelle reported.

"I smell that," I said.  "If you need to use the bathroom, you can sign out."

In spite of my friendly advice about minimizing smells, I noticed members of that group with their shirts pulled up over their faces like gas masks for the next 20 minutes.  Things were getting out of control.  At the same time, Robin got an email asking for feedback on a student in the same class who has persistent body odor.

"Oh for goodness sake," Robin said.  "Let's just handle this."  Because I'm a creative risk-taker, I agreed.

A few minutes later, I rang the bell for attention.  "Close your Chrome Books," I sang.  "This is critical."  I did a few-minutes-long monologue about the realities of sixth grade.  If your tummy is rumbling, you need to excuse yourself, rather than letting it rip in the classroom.  We all have b.o. from time to time, it's natural!  Let's make sure we're wearing deodorant that's an antiperspirant, as well.  Sometimes, Robin added, you need to reapply deodorant after lunch.  I keep it in my desk drawer!  You have to wash your clothes, I added.  Shower at least every-other day - get the soap in your pits.

"Are you trying to make us feel uncomfortable?" asked Michelle.

"This isn't uncomfortable," I said.  "It's life!  Should I cover any other puberty-related topics while I'm at it?  Should we move onto menstruation?"  Everyone, as it turns out, was happy to return to their work.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sankalpa, Take 2

In 2014, I joined Lee in practicing sankalpa.  Sankalpa comes from yoga, with its origins all the way back in the Vedas, and it's about awakening your true nature.  My 2014 sankalpa was "I am intentional." Basically, I started being deliberate with my time.  Looking back on it, it had real staying power.  At the end of the 24 days, I had a whole different conception of time, a conception that still enriches my life and helps me be my true self.

I'm totally serious.

So, my 2016 sankalpa came to me as I was waking up this morning.  It's "I am a creative risk-taker." It's about letting go of fear and competition, and instead embracing my identity as a thinker, a teacher, and a writer.

I'm trying to think of a joke to go with this post because that's usually what I do - I write amusing little anecdotes.  But, maybe today, because I'm a creative risk-taker, I'm just telling you clearly and directly what's up next for me in this space.  So, there you go.