Negative Feedback Loop

Negative Feedback Loop

Between a phone meeting with my graduate advisor about my research study, thinking about getting out to the polling place for April elections that include voting for school board candidates, the snow that’s coming down, and a hair appointment later today, I forgot that it is time for a Slice of Life: Tuesday post. Part of this forgetfulness is due to the fact that I was somewhat relieved to have the Slice of Life Story Challenge over for this year. I relished in being able to post my photo-only, ever-popular, Silent Sunday thematic post this week. And, as usual and expected, I had a nice response to that.

Along withe a few other slicers this year, I felt a lack of support from the Slice of Life Community this year. I have only participated once before, and it was last year. So, I do not have much to which I can compare the experience. All I can tell you is that it just was not the same (for me).  Over all it is still a great experience, and I reflected on that in my blog on the 31st, as most of the slicers did this year.  However, it was the lack of or few comments I received on my blog from other slicers that bothered me. Some have said that it is because more people are participating and the requisite three comments do not spread very far. I am not sure that is the reason. I know there were many participants last year and I felt more connected. One wise blogger pointed out that my feeling that last year was better is probably  because I was new and received regular visits from welcome wagon participants. She could be entirely right. Still there were days I received no comments at all.

When I don’t get three comments from other slicers involved in the Slice of Life Challenge, it in turn served as a de-motivator for me to leave comments for others. Here is what my numbers show. My return comments (that I try to make to each blogger) are not included in these numbers. It isn’t pretty! But, thank you to those who did take the time to comment!

Commenting Numbers For March

March 1  – 5 comments from others

2nd – 2 comments from others 

3rd –  5 comments from others

4th –  3 comments from others

5th – 3 comments from others (one not a slicer but another friend that blogs)

6th – 4 comments from others

7th – 1 comment from another person

8th – 1 comment from another person

9th – 4 comments from others

10 – 3 comments from others (one not a slicer but another friend that blogs)

11 – 5 comments from others (2 comments from the same person who is not a slicer but a personal friend)

12th – 5 comments from others (2 comments of the five from the same person – a slicer)

13th – 2 comments from others

14th – 4 comments from others

15th – No comments from anyone!

16th – 6 comments – (2 from the same person)

17th – 10 comments

18th – 10 comments

19th – 1 comment

20th –  3 comments

21st – 6 comments

22nd – 5 comments pertaining to this post

23rd – No comments from anyone!

24th –  3 comments (2 from the same person)

25th –  6 comments

26th – 4 comments

27th – 3 comments (one not a slicer)

28th – 4 comments

29th – 2 comments

30th – 2 comments

31st – 2 comments

There are 14 days of the 31 days is March, that I did not receive the minimum number of comments from other slicers (3 comments). And, more notably 2 days during which I did not receive any comments at all. If part of the blogging challenge is to connect with others, these numbers tell me that I am not doing it! Certainly, I felt by participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge this year, I would receive more feedback.

Growing Pains

Let me be clear. I will continue to write. And, I will probably continue the SOL Tuesday postings, but I see some need for the guidelines of the annual March Slice of Life Story Challenge to change.  It is a huge undertaking that those at have made to host this blogging challenge and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the challenge.  I can only imagine the amount of work that is put into it. I just wish it had been more satisfying for me, personally.  But, maybe there are some growing pains that need to be addressed. Thoughtfully responding to the posts of others is part of blogging. I expected more.

Kindness Projects…Ideas for Making the World a Better Place

Kindness Projects…Ideas for Making the World a Better Place

This year my boys were involved in some unusual learning projects in high school.  My soon to graduate senior took a business course called Building Wealth that was more of a course about belief and value systems than the accumulation of physical wealth. It was a wonderful experience for him.  In that course, they had to explore what made them happy as a person. For three weeks, this was purposely explored, action plans were made and implemented, and discussed. I believe it benefited him greatly to explore what made him happy. This was aptly called the Happiness Project.

More specifically, each day for three weeks each student in the class:

  • wrote down three things for which they were grateful
  • wrote a paragraph on the best thing that had happened to them the day before
  • meditated for 10 minutes
  • performed a random act of kindness

For three weeks, these were the actions of juniors and seniors in high school. You know the significance of three weeks, don’t you? It is said that if you perform a task for three weeks, it becomes a habit! These students were taught to intentionally seek happiness! I think that being happy is the richest wealth one can have!

I am not sure if this curriculum was built around the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin or not. But, it sure sounds like something that could have spun off from her experience. Or, maybe the three weeks my son experienced were the result of one very creative teacher who knew of Rubin’s work or had seen some other applications of it. One thing is for sure, we all want to be happy! If there are some proven ways to get there, why not try it?! I will be buying Rubin’s bestselling book, because like everyone else I want to be happy too! And, as a mother, the one thing I really want for each of my three boys, is for them to be happy!

My youngest son, a sophomore, is an artist. He was involved, through his art teacher, in something called The Memory Project this year. The Memory Project in a non-profit, charitable organization that connects children around the globe who have experienced poverty, abuse, neglect, trauma, natural disasters, personal loss and other hardships with young artists who draw portraits of the children to help them feel happy and valued. It is a chance for those who have so much to practice kindness and global awareness through art.

My son was assigned a young Haitian girl to draw. For privacy reasons, I will not post the drawing here. But, what an experience! He and three other art students at our high school spent a large chunk of their last semester working on the portraits for the memory project. The art work is then sent back to the child in validation of their existence and worth as a fellow human. I can honestly say, it was one of the most incredible experiences!  Watching my student carefully put his time and talents into creating a piece for a child so far away, a piece that they would be happy and proud to have, was heartwarming! I think it is something he’ll always remember.  Hopefully, a good memory was also created for the young Haitian girl who received her portrait this spring.

As the month of Slice of Life Story Challenge blogging winds down, I wanted to share these experiences with fellow educators, as they might inspire you to add something to your arsenal or tool box of tricks for engaging students in more than just prepping for a test, but instilling the human qualities of caring and happiness that each of us need, no matter where we are around the world.






There Once was a House or Three, A Free Verse Poem

There Once was a House or Three, A Free Verse Poem

Today, I offer a free verse poem about progress. Our town has been one of the fastest growing communities in Wisconsin for many years now. Progress, they say. I say otherwise. Today, I lament the destruction of three houses that sat on a hill for as long as I’ve lived here – 19 years. They were there before we came. How long they were there? I am unsure. But, a long time.  Today, they were destroyed to make way for progress.

There Once was a House or Three

At a busy intersection,

perhaps unsafe four way stop,

there once sat a house.


It stood there,

upon a hill, like a sentry.

It stood there watching,

until today.


Behind it were two more houses.

Not on guard duty but lining the street

with variety and grace.


Our town is growing,

or so they say.


Development is good,

or so they say.


Stores, banks, cars, traffic,

and people all growing

exponentially to fill our needs

and our streets.


Gone are open spaces, fields,

green grass, lawns, flowers, &

the smell of clover in the damp night air.


Given way to concrete, parking lots,

store fronts, and traffic.


There once were three houses.

One stood sentry on a busy street corner

of our town.


Perhaps, guarding against the progress,

the development, the increasing population,

and the satiety of human need and greed.


There once were three houses.

Today, they are gone.



Celebrating being a Writer: A Room with a Desk (and a view)!

Celebrating being a Writer: A Room with a Desk (and a view)!

Today, I celebrate being a writer!

Today, I celebrate being a writer!  There are two main reasons for this celebration. The first reason is that about eight weeks ago, I ordered a modular desk to be made by the Amish in Ohio! It is solid Alder wood with a Honey Oak stain. Did you hear me? It is solid wood! Do you know how hard it is to find furniture made of solid wood? It is so difficult that practically every piece of wood furniture in our home – end tables, kitchen tables, book cases, entertainment units, and computer stations are all made by my husband. But, since he recently wanted me to choose something for our home that I really, really wanted, I chose this desk!

A New Desk

The desk has clean lines and really keeps the room spacious in appearance. Besides being solid wood, the other great feature of this desk is that I was able to order two filing cabinets to go with it. I have written curriculum for over ten years for my garden club lessons. In addition, I wrote four sets of math enrichment books – only one of which I have published digitally. I have also accumulated numerous resources during the last four years of graduate school for a degree in Environmental Education. Essays, papers, book chapters that I either have written or keep from other authors as inspiration. They can now all be stored in an organized fashion in my new desk!

Today, I celebrate being a writer. I have a brand new desk with brand new, empty, filing cabinets! I love how it looks and that I can gaze out the windows if I need a dose of nature while I am working!

How will my desk be used?

What is my intent for my desk? First and foremost, it is to claim a space for my own use. A place I can retreat to, a place to recharge, a place to contemplate life, reflect and creatively morph those reflections into something my growing audience will enjoy reading. My new desk is a place for me to write!  Since last February, I have written almost every day. My goal for the slice of life story challenge was passed yesterday as I accumulated more views for the month of March than I did last year.  In fact, this month I have more views on my blog than ever before! Thank you to each and every one of you who has visited! Most of my thanks go to my husband and boys who have all supported my writing habit over the last year. It was their encouragement that kept me going! It was at my husband’s insistence I buy the desk I wanted! I am ever so grateful! celebrating being a writer18I am a writer! This is something I have aspired to be for most of my life!  The arrival of my desk celebrates that accomplishment! (Now, I just can’t wait to decorate the rest of the room!)

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers. This challenge involves blogging daily in the month of March, as well as commenting on the posts of other bloggers. It is my second year of participation. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with others through this supportive community!

Searching for a Book

Searching for a Book

Yesterday, I made a quick trip to Barnes and Noble because I was looking for a specific book on nutrition. I did not find what I was looking for. However, it’s okay because I saw it first on Amazon and will order it from them.

During my visit, the employees were wandering around like they didn’t have enough to do. In the space of 8 minutes I was asked twice if I needed help. I tried to not show my frustration – “No, thanks. I am just looking.” I had my phone out at one point – turned on to silent to try to access my amazon account and look up the title of the nutrition book. For some reason I ended up explaining that to the second sales clerk that asked if she could help me! Anyway, no success.

I moved on from the Health and Nutrition section to fiction. As I  explained yesterday to a fellow slice of life blogger, I was in need of a new book for pleasure reading. I had one in mind but could not quite recall the author.  So, I ended up picking up one of Ruth Ware’s books, The Lying Game, since I had just finished The Woman in Cabin 10 and enjoyed it. Just about that time, the sales person who had most recently attended to me in the nutrition section, arrived again at my side to ask if I was still doing okay. To that I replied, “Well, actually, I am looking for a book by Laura Balfer (both names wrong) and I cannot seem to find it on the shelves. I am not sure I am spelling her name correctly, however. But, she wrote a book called City of Light I read quite a few years ago.”

The sales lady was very nice and looked up the author’s name according to how I spelled it.  No Luck. So, she put in City of Light and found Lauren Belfer. I had been spelling her name wrong! (So sorry, Ms. Belfer) But, it was enough to allow the sales person to lead me to her books in the fiction section. There, we found one copy of And After the Fire and a copy of A Fierce Radiance.  I explained how I had read A Fierce Radiance as well as City of Light and gushed about what a fabulous job Ms. Belfer does writing historical fiction. I grabbed the other book.

The sales person and I had a rapport. She immediately told me about  another historical fiction author, Kristin Hannah. The book she recommended by Ms. Hannah was Nightingale, a story about two sisters during WWII. Just as she told me that, a passerby – another customer, said “Oh, that’s one of my favorite book’s by Hannah.” The sales lady personally took me over to that book and ever so coyly placed a copy in my hands (to join the book by Lauren Belfer).  This action left me with a decision to make, or so I told her. Which one? But, before I took her advice and purchased both the book by Hannah and the book by Belfer, I told her of another historical fiction author who is also a favorite of mine – Mary Doria Russell.

I explained how Ms. Russell’s book A Thread of Grace also takes place during WWII and she does an incredible job of weaving true historical events with superbly developed characters. These books by Belfer and Russell are books you just don’t ever want to end!

In any case, my trip to Barnes and Noble was successful. I left with both historical fiction books, having returned the book by Ruth Ware for another day.  I was armed for my free pleasure reading for the next month…..or at least until I get bogged down with my grad courses again!  I guess it pays to go to the bookstore when it isn’t busy!

I Know I am Getting Old Because…..

I Know I am Getting Old Because…..

Lately, I am recognizing my age as a “50-something” woman. It’s okay. My husband is recognizing his, right along with me. These are the things that make me/us think that we are getting old:

  • This winter was long and cold. We started saying in January that we were ready for it to be over, already! Hawaii or Florida, anyone????
  • I am planning an escape for next February because I just can’t stand to think of another long gray, dark month! Maybe Arizona????
  • I just found out that Hamilton, The Musical had rap and hip-hop music in it! (Really? My thoughts were – no wonder it’s so popular!) Personally, I’ll take State Fair, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, any day.  Don’t get me wrong – I love all kinds of music and I love history.  I’m sure I’ll love Hamilton when I see it (someday).  I was just stuck in the groove of the traditional musical. Being “stuck” is a sign of age, don’t ya know?!
  • My contacts don’t seem to be cutting it anymore. By evening, I am wearing my glasses to see as clearly as possible.
  • I ache! Oh, how I ache. Name a body part and I’ll tell you how it hurts!
  • I hurt for no reason – except that I move. And, I keep moving.
  • Both my husband and I are starting to wake up earlier and earlier!                              4:30 a.m., anyone?!
  • My handwriting has become poor! It looks like chicken scratches! When I recently served as a judge for National History Day and had to write comments, I ended up hoping the student could read my cursive.
  • Being happy is better than having a clean house! (Okay, I’ll admit my house is pretty clean.) But, still, I no longer rush around cleaning like a madwoman. I mean who really cares if I have spotless countertops or not?
  • I don’t get some of the jokes with references to pop stars anymore. It doesn’t matter whether one of my teens is telling the joke or whether it’s a commercial on T.V.; I just don’t get it! Fortunately, this just happens sometimes, right now. I’m sure it will get worse.
  • We are mistaking domestic animals for wild animals! (Really! Read my post about the Cougar in the Coulee if you don’t believe me!)
  • I have serving plates that are older than our marriage! Seriously!
  • Fortunately, I got rid of all the towels that were older than the serving plates! And, we’ve been married a long time!
  • I cannot recall all the names of my teachers in grade school….I get to 7th and 8th grade and am stumped on a few! I suppose that isn’t too bad.
  • I can talk to almost anyone, anywhere, about anything!
  • Young adults (fortunately my own kids aren’t included here) think I don’t know anything and easily dismiss any contributions I might make. The trouble is, they don’t even want to know what experience I have – and, I have lots!  This particularly applies to the uppity young PhD student I met last week. Who needs it?

Yes, unfortunately, I recognize that I am getting older. And, wiser. But, sometimes I’d like to know what I know now but have my 25-year-old body back! Hey – there’s always wishful thinking!  Fantasy never gets old!

The Intangibles of an After-School Garden Club

The Intangibles of an After-School Garden Club

For thirteen years I ran an after school garden club at our local elementary school. From 2004-2017, I met with students once or twice a month to delve into the world of plants, garden based organisms, and our local environment.  Through my recent graduate work, I am starting to put this whole experience into a conceptual and theoretical context.

In mid-December, I sent a survey I constructed and had approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University I attend, to 115 participants. My sample was drawn from a population of about twice that size who were members of the garden club during the first five years, 2004-2009.

By mid-January, the digital survey response window had closed. I ended up with a fairly good response rate. This morning I finished my first analysis of the data, looking for themes and commonalities in the answers I received. Having done quantitative research before, this is my first experience with qualitative research, and I feel a little bit like a fish out of water.

But, one of the most interesting aspects of my study is the question that asked: Did being part of Evergreen Garden Club effect any of the following developmental traits?  (Check all that apply). MemoryStudyQ25graphicresultsqualtrics.jpg

Knowledge Level regarding local environments/habitats = 28.26%

Confidence Level = 4.35%

Comfort Level in working with multi-grade level peers = 19.57%

Sense of Belonging = 17.39%

Sense of Accomplishment = 19.57%

Sense of Pride = 10.87%

Given that I know the content of my lessons, it makes sense that the former garden club students thought their knowledge level had increased and that they considered this a benefit (considering the constant testing that takes place in today’s educational climate.)  But, what I find most interesting is the three intangible benefits of being in a multi-aged, after-school garden club. I highlighted these in orange.

In today’s educational climate, making sure each student feels connected and a sense of belonging is essential.  It appears this was an unintentional benefit from being in this club. Second graders worked with fifth graders – as well as third and fourth graders. High schooler’s came to assist with our lessons.  Students returned year after year for continued engagement with this group. They might not have been able to put what they felt into words at the time they were members, but as young adults, they now can! Evergreen Garden Club students felt like they belonged! They felt they were part of a community, working together to improve our little spot in the school yard on the edge of town.

Although I had a few students drop out over the years, I am proud that I was able to provide a long lasting group that fostered belonging and a sense of community as well as the accomplishment of beautifying the school grounds and providing habitat for butterflies. So, I ask you – how do you foster a sense of belonging for your students? From previous experience, I know what doesn’t work.  Now, I am starting to provide some evidence as to what can work to ensure students feel connected to their school community.

As I analyze more of the data, I am sure I will share more of my findings with you.  But, for now, it is very heartwarming to know that yes – together, we made a difference!

My Silent Sunday Photographic posts will return on 4/1/18, as the Slice of Life Challenge (described below) will be concluded at that time. Thank you!

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers. This challenge involves blogging daily in the month of March, as well as commenting on the posts of other bloggers. It is my second year of participation. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with others through this supportive community!