Tag Archives: Maine

Slow Down, Look Around

IMG_8840 - Version 2Many teachers I know are familiar with the analogy of summer vacation being like a weekend; June is the Friday, July is the Saturday and August is the Sunday.  We tend to respond the same way to our summers as we do to our weekends, often driven by the same thoughts and behaviors.  As I write this, on my “Saturday evening”, I am pausing IMG_8817to reflect and project on the time I call vacation.  As much as I try, I cannot slow time, but I know I can be more present in the moments I am given, and that is about as close as I can come to deceleration.

So yesterdaIMG_8814y I decided that I was going to slow down and really look around.  I wanted to try to be present in each moment I could, appreciate how beautiful my world is and be grateful for the life I have.  I tried not to worry about ‘to do’ lists, work awaiting me at home or school, curriculum, manuscripts, housework, etc.  Whatever I was doing, or wherever I was, I wanted to experience it fully.

As you can see, it did not stop time-the day passed, as all do.  But I can already IMG_8912see that parts of that day are going to travel forward with me.  Some of the images, some of the thoughts, some of the feelings I experienced made a strong enough impression that I hope will sustain me when life seems to be racing far too fast.  When I revisit these images on those crazy days to come, I hope some of that peace and gratitude will revisit my spirit.

Now I happen to think I am incredibly lucky to live in a breathtakingly beautiful place.  Maine has such diverse natural IMG_8869beauty that I can’t possibly  experience it all in a single day, so I chose a few of my favorites to savor for my day.  Wherever you live, you can  find beauty as well.  Let yourself be drawn to the places that fill you with awe and gratitude; a park, a cornfield, a stream, aIMG_8874 city skyline or your backyard.  When you find it, slow down.  Look around.  Tune out the rest of the world for just a few moments.  Become awash with the sounds, the smells, the spectacle of what is in front of you and around you.  Draw it, photograph it, write about it so that you can return to it when you need to.

We cannot slow or stop time, but we can capture moments with intention, focus and gratefulness.  We can share them or stash them away for future reminiscence.  Where will you slow down and look around and capture a moment?IMG_8823

May you savor your summer and replenish your spirit, wherever you are.




What’s on My Book Radar?

IMG_8915I just finished Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.  I am not sure how this part of our nation’s history was something I knew almost nothing about.  From the 1850’s to the 1930’s children categorized as orphans from cities and towns on the east coast, boarded trains and were shipped west.  Though the benevolent intention was to find good homes for these unwanted children, that was not always the outcome.  Baker beautifully weaves the life of 90 year old Vivian, a former train rider, with Molly, a young foster child in Maine as the strike up an unlikely friendship.  You will truly appreciate how luck plays such a dramatic role in the fate of so many lives.  I couldn’t help but think of our modern day ‘orphan’ crisis on the southern borders of our country right now as I read about the disparate acts of kindness or contempt that these helpless children faced. History does have a way of repeating itself.




When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”-Wayne Dyer

For anyone who read the brilliant novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio, this precept is very familiar. It is one of my very favorite (of many) that Auggie’s teacher, Mr. Browne, shared with his students. Choosing kindness is just that, a choice, but it is also a principal to live by. After enough practice it becomes a habit, and habits become so ingrained that we sometimes don’t even notice.

But we do not need to wait for a situation to arise in which we are given the choice between being right or kind, we can live our life in search of opportunities to “Find Kind”. We can look for instances in which our acts of kindness would lift another person, benefit our community, or build the type of world in which we want to live.

To Find Kind, we just need to have empathy and an awareness of the struggles and challenges that those around us face.

I saw an amazing example of this precept this week. Some of us teachers were posting on Facebook about our frustration that an amazing education conference/retreat was taking place right here in our state (Maine) this summer and that the cost made it too prohibitive for any of us to attend. We were vexed by the notion of being ‘so close and yet so far’. Someone noticed that conversation and took it as an opportunity to FIND KIND!

Cynthia Lord, Maine author of Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance, and the Hot Rod Hamster series empathized with the frustration expressed, but moved beyond empathy to action. She responded in her own Facebook post that in part read,

I was sorry to read that some of my teacher friends would love to go to this event right in our own backyard, but it’s out of reach.

Another thing that I know about Maine is that people help each other. As a writer, I’ve been very fortunate this year. I just sold two more early readers and I figure what better way to celebrate that than to celebrate my state’s teachers who actually teach reading and writing.

This year, my family can afford this. So my husband and I want to send one of you to this amazing conference.”

From her own hard-earned money, Cynthia chose a teacher at random (from those who responded to her post) and paid for the registration and lodging for this teacher. All Cynthia asked was that this teacher share what she learned with the other teachers who also wanted to go.  Cynthia asked her to meet either online,  at a coffee shop, or in some other way to spread some of her new knowledge and learning. In that way, even more teachers and students would benefit from this act of kindness.

Needless to say, all of us were overwhelmed with Cynthia’s generosity and altruism. She went out of her way to find a way to show kindness to a group of teachers. Her husband, equally chose to be kind, to people he had never met. They weren’t asked for a donation or help…they created an opportunity for kindness. She did something as unexpected as it was generous to FIND KIND. Even those who weren’t ‘picked’ to attend the conference were changed by this act. I felt ‘lifted’ by knowing that I live in a state with such caring and compassionate people. The comments by others displayed genuine happiness for the teacher who was selected and not jealousy or resentment at missing out. I felt more hopeful and optimistic about people and life.

I didn’t write this post to encourage people to ask authors or celebrities or others to help them out. On the contrary, I wrote it to encourage people to find opportunities to offer kindness where it isn’t being solicited. To FIND KIND, you just need to notice, to observe, to listen, to care. To FIND KIND doesn’t require money either. Sure, money can help in a lot of ways, but so can a kind note, a home cooked meal, a ride to an appointment, a piece of chocolate! Random acts of kindness create ripples in our world. Many ripples can combine to create a wave.   Look around you, who do you know that could use a little ripple? Who do you know that is good at creating ripples? Your noticing and responding will help create a wave.

What will you do to contribute to a wave of kindness in your world?

How will you, FIND KIND?

What’s on my Book Radar?

Last month the Maine Student Book Award winners were chosen by students all across Maine.  Here are the top 10 and the number of votes they received.

1. Wonder                                 713
2. Cardboard                           433
3. The One and Only Ivan  365
4. One for the Murphys      308
5. The False Prince                233
6. Earthling!                            156
7. The Ghost of Graylock   139
8. Ungifted                               138
9. Capture the Flag               125
10. Island of Thieves            114

Students had to have read at least 3 of the nominated books in order to vote.  I was able to read 20 of the 40 titles.  There were 4 of the top 10 I missed, but rather than reveal them, I will quietly put them on my book radar and get them read by summer’s end. I’m happy to say I have a good start on next year’s nominees!!

MSBA Book Nominees 2014-2015