The Write Timing

My voyage toward publication

Mommy, sit. January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!!!  2016 was a year of blessings and sadness (as most every year is), but the birth of our sweet and adorable son, Nathan, topped the list of 2016 events.  Baby Nate is a perfect addition to our family and has allowed me to shake my head when I hear others talk about what a horrible year 2016 was.  Not for me – I got sweet baby Nate!

 

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As most of the rest of the world settles on a resolution or two, I have made some of my own.  Do I want to be healthier?  Sure.  Exercise more often?  Yep.  Stay more organized?  Uh huh.  All of these are lofty (though they shouldn’t be) goals, but they are not my tip top resolution for 2017.  That one came about with a little inspiration from my daughter, Olivia.  The day after Christmas, I was flitting from room to room, unpacking gift bags (and folding the tissue paper so as to save it for next year), opening new toys, and attempting to bring a semblance of order back to our house.  Olivia was playing with her new Beauty and the Beast tea cart and had brought Mrs. Potts, Chip, and the other tea cup to our front staircase.  She was seated about two steps up, tea service spread in front of her.  She looked up as I walked into the laundry room to drop off some new baby clothes I wanted to launder before Nate wore them (yep, I’m that mom), and smiled.  “Mommy, sit.”  She pointed to the step next to her.

 

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I looked at my sweet 2 year-old and responded, mid-step.  “I will in a little bit, sweetie.  I’m just trying to get some of these things put away.”  I continued into the kitchen and grabbed something off the island.

 

Then I stopped.  What am I doing?

 

My daughter didn’t ask much.  She wasn’t for the world.  Nothing extraordinary or expensive.  She just wanted mommy to sit with her and play with her new toy from Santa.

 

So what did I do?

 

I sat.  We drank pretend tea and talked about how delicious it was.  She made me banana pie and I raved about its flavor.  We toasted and giggled and cuddled.  It was the best.  And it took absolutely nothing from me but time.

 

So the gift bags stayed packed, the tissue unfolded, the new clothes unwashed for one more day.  And it was totally worth it.

 

My most important, Olivia-inspired, New Year’s resolution: be more present.  The mess will be there (try as I may to clean it up).  The Facebook updates will still be scrolling.  But the time I spend with my children and my husband won’t always be there.  So I will commit to being more present in the moment in 2017.  Cheers!

 

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A Few Minutes November 7, 2016

Filed under: Blogs,Dreams,Family,Goals,Life Lessons,Writing — michellephillips @ 6:20 am
Tags: , ,

Well, it would appear that I am here once again, ready to apologize for my lack of consistency in blogging.  As always, life (with two small children!) has gotten in the way and I’ve taken an unplanned hiatus.  But this weekend, I attended a retreat where one of the presenters, the amazing and awe-inspiring Donna Johnson of Arbonne fame, encouraged us to wake up “just a little bit earlier” and spend some time on ourselves in the morning.

She gave us some suggestions of things to do in these extra minutes: read, pray, meditate, have gratitude.  She didn’t say write, but I’m pretty sure it was implied.  What she also didn’t say were things like, “clean up the kitchen” or “organize the cubbies.”  Though these are things that need to be done and I certainly debated doing this morning, I sat down instead to say a prayer and to write.  Even though I can hear my son starting to wake upstairs.  Even though the bathroom needs to be swept.  Even though I haven’t made a lunch for today.  These things will get done, and  so I’m going to take a few minutes.  Some time for me.  I even made a cup of tea.

I hope today that you can take some time for yourself to pause.  Reflect.  Read.  Write.  Pray.  Be grateful.  And then do it again tomorrow.

 

Goals for the 2015-2016 School Year August 8, 2015

Filed under: Classroom,Goals — michellephillips @ 9:24 am
Tags: , , ,
Image courtesy of Pexels.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

It’s about that time!  School supplies fill the aisles, my Pinterest account is dominated by lesson ideas, and I’ve ordered my first ever Erin Condren planner (I cannot WAIT for it to arrive!).  That means it is time to set some goals for my 2015-2016 school year.

I am a firm believer in setting goals and in documenting those goals.  If they aren’t written down, it is a lot easier to let yourself slack (at least it is for me!).  So, I’m posting my goals today.  In addition, I will be posting the list of goals by my desk at school and the cabinet at home.

1.) Complete lesson plans for the following week before I leave the building on Friday.

My lesson plans have to be turned in by the end of the day on Monday of each week.  Last year, my first year in second grade at a new school, I had them turned in on time (almost always) and even had them turned in by Friday during some weeks.  I noticed that my weekend was so much more relaxing if my plans had been completed and emailed before I left school on Friday.  In the interest of relaxing weekends this year, my goal is to submit my plans by Friday afternoon.

2.) Implement a Math Workshop model.

I’ve read a lot about math workshops on some of the teacher blogs I follow and in other professional reading.  I have a difficult time teaching whole group math to a mixed ability group of learners, and I think a math workshop model will help me feel like I can better serve the students I teach.  I know in the beginning of a new method of teaching, there can be a learning curve, so I hope I can adjust quickly and my students will be game to try this new model along with me!

3.) Write every week.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of the school year.  Once that bell rings on the first day of school,

many other things in my life that I enjoy get pushed to the backburner.  This year, since I am dedicating more time to submissions with the hope of finally being published, I know I need to dedicate time to my writing.

4.) Read for pleasure.

One of my favorite parts of summer is being able to read what I want to read.  Don’t get me wrong, I love reading professional development books (I love the new ideas!), but there is nothing like picking out a book and reading the whole thing just for fun.  After all, that’s what I want my students to do!

5.) Stay positive.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a positive person.  I smile a lot, I’m friendly, and I always try to look on the bright side.  In the education field, that isn’t always an easy thing to do.  I can sometimes fall into the negativity trap (especially on a gray or rainy day).  This year, I will surround myself with positive people, try new things, and keep smiling.

I’m certain I’ll come up with more goals as the year progresses, but for now – this is where I’ll begin.  It’s the 2015-2016 school year.  Here we go!!!

 

Journey to Joy – Part 1 July 16, 2015

Filed under: Dreams,Family,Goals,Starting Our Family — michellephillips @ 8:04 am
Tags: , , , ,

For a while now, I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about something incredibly personal and close to my heart.  What’s held me back is not being sure my words can capture these experiences.  In fact, I’m certain I can’t capture them as fully as I’d like.  However, what I know for sure is that they have to be shared.  Our journey may encourage others and give them a gift I’m sure many have left behind: hope.

My husband Dave and I met in 2003 in the most romantic of locations: the juvenile justice unit of a group home for boys age 12-18.  I know – how could we not have fallen in love against such a backdrop?  We dated for two years before getting engaged and then married in August of 2006.  We were young: 24 and 25.  We had so many goals and dreams: buying a house, traveling, finishing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and eventually – having children.

As newlyweds, we decided we would wait two years before starting our family.  Two years seemed like a decent amount of time to accomplish some of our goals and settle into married life before bringing a little one on board.  We moved into our house.  We visited Jamaica, Washington, D.C., and Italy.  Dave finished his degree and I continued taking classes toward my Master’s.

The summer of 2008 arrived – two years had passed! – and we decided we were ready to start trying.  Each month, we waited; we hoped.  Each month, we were disappointed.  The first few months weren’t bad.  We knew it often took a few months for conception to occur once couples started trying.  But as summer turned into fall and then winter, we started to get a bit discouraged.  Every month, I’d fool myself into thinking I was pregnant.  Oh – I think my sense of smell is heightened – I must be pregnant.  I’m tired today – maybe I’m pregnant!

Many of our friends were announcing their pregnancies.  We waited for the day we would announce ours.  But as the calendar turned to 2009 and then 2010, our discouraged feeling turned into concern.  Why wasn’t this working?  We thought we would have a baby in our arms by now.  Heck – we thought we’d have a toddler!  What was going on?  Something had to be wrong.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

I talked to my doctor.  She ran some blood work and didn’t find anything amiss.  She recommended going to see a specialist who could complete additional testing.  So we made an appointment at a local reproductive center ($$$).  We got tested.  The results: We can’t find anything wrong.  But we can try a hysterosalpingogram.  (For those who don’t know, a hysterosalpingogram is a procedure where dye is injected into the uterus and fallopian tubes to see if the tubes are open or blocked.  For those who do know about it, I’m sorry.  It probably means you’ve had one and they are hella painful.)  The results:  You have a beautiful uterus.  Okaaaaay, that’s nice to hear?  Weird, but nice.  And now, dear doctor, tell me why I haven’t been able to conceive a child in my beautiful uterus.

The doctors could not find anything wrong with my husband or me.  But they decided to treat me anyway.  Six years later, I still have a problem with that.  How can you treat symptoms without knowing the cause?  Because the fact of the matter of this: infertility is not a diagnosis.  It is a symptom.  It is a symptom that SOMETHING ELSE IS GOING ON.  But, this doctor was not of that same opinion.  So he decided I should go on Clomid.

Here’s the thing – you cant just “go on Clomid.”  Oh no.  You have to come into the office for an initial ultrasound ($$$).  Then you take your Clomid like a good girl and deal with the wonderful side effects of nausea, weight gain, etc.  Then your husband has to give you a shot to make you ovulate at the appropriate time ($$$).  Then you have to come back in for another ultrasound to see how many follicles have developed ($$$).  And it goes on and on – every time you arrive at the office, you take out your checkbook – and you are totally willing to hand over the cash if it means you’ll end up a parent.  Every time you hope and pray it’s going to work.  Something that they’re doing, something they’re trying is going to work.

But it doesn’t.

The testing, the procedures, the medication – none of it works.  There is no resolution.

There is only heartache and arms that remain empty.

Attribution at bottom of post.

Image attribution at bottom of post.

Teddy bear photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/61629383@N08/16133347587″>Flash of the Blade</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

Leap July 6, 2015

At the beginning of every summer, I set goals: how many books I’m going to read, healthy recipes I’m going to try, and opportunities I’m going to have to get together with friends.  And at the beginning of every summer, I decide that THIS will be the summer I really focus on my writing.

And, truthfully, I have.  For the past handful of years, I dove into my writing.  I submitted query letters, entered writing contests, and attended workshops.  I blogged, edited, and tweeted.  But this summer, I’ve taken a leap and added something else to the mix.

This Claes Oldenburg sculpture on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's campus always inspires the writer in me.

This Claes Oldenburg sculpture on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus always inspires the writer in me.

A writing community.

Last week, I joined an online writing community called Becoming Writer through The Write Practice.  I didn’t know much about it, but decided that if I want my writing to actually take me places in the future, I’m going to have to be more active about it.  I need to take myself seriously as a writer – think about my writing as a profession and not a hobby.  So I took the leap and joined.  Last week, I submitted my first piece to the forum, something I will do every week for the next year.  I will admit, I was nervous.  Posting my work for other writers to see was frightening – what if they don’t like my tone?  Voice?  What if they don’t think I’m a good writer?

Five days and four feedbacks (is that a word?) later, I’m already grateful I took this leap.

My fellow writers gave me suggestions on ways to make my first paragraph stronger and flow more smoothly.  They pointed out typos (two of them) that I could easily remedy.  But more importantly, their feedback gave me something I have not felt in a while: affirmation of myself as a writer.

So today, while my mom watched my daughter, Writer Michelle stole some time to work on query letters.  And I set another goal – this time, I am posting it here so you can all hold me accountable (gulp).  I’ve been pining away for a Macbook of my very own.  I miss the Mac I had in my former school tremendously, but haven’t felt like I should spend the considerable amount of money it costs to buy one.  But here is my goal:

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

When I get published – when one of my query letters results in my first freelance writing gig – I get to buy myself a Macbook.

Until then, I will continue writing.  I will continue querying.  And I will continue dreaming in apples.

 

International Literacy Day September 9, 2013

Today will quite possibly rank as one of the best in my teaching career.  A few weeks ago, I opened an email from one of my favorite professional organizations, the International Reading Association.  It heralded the upcoming International Literacy Day, a day to celebrate the gift of literacy and promote literacy throughout the world.  I knew immediately that I wanted my class to celebrate it, but the question was – how?

As I pondered and brainstormed, our celebration day grew from a single guest reader to a day completely filled with literacy activities!  Here’s how our day looked in Room 311:

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9:05 am – Students tumbled into the room, lugging pillows, stuffed animals, and bags full of books for our afternoon “Read In.”  One student brought me a wonderful sign to post in the room – Hooray for Literacy Day!

9:15 am – Dancing Classrooms and Music Class – Our physical activity and musical experience for the day!

11:00 am – Special guest reader, assistant principal, Mrs. Simmons came in and read The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns.  We talked as a class about literacy and how it relates to math.  The students came up with all kinds of ways we use mathematical literacy (in algebra, reading and writing story problems, interpreting graphs, etc.).

11:30 am – We discussed literacy facts and figures from around the world.  My students learned that 115 million children around the world cannot read and write.  My students wrote the figures in standard, expanded, and word forms.  We tried to imagine how many people that would be and discussed what those children would be doing instead of going to school.  We all agreed that receiving an education is a tremendous gift.

12:20 – Recess and Lunch (Literacy loves sustenance.)

1:00 – Reading class!!!
Read In – Students camped out around the classroom with pillows, blankets, and books galore!  They munched on read-and-feed snacks, played literary element charades, and read some more!

Passing It On – Students were paired and went into a primary classroom (K-3) to talk about literacy and then read a picture book aloud.  The students were SO excited to share what they knew about literacy with the youngest students in our school.  They came back to the classroom chattering with stories to tell and grins from ear to ear.

Writing Prompt – Students responded to one or both of the following prompts: Because I am literate, I can… AND Literacy allows me to invent my future by…

3:00 – Science Literacy and Experiments

Throughout the day and evening, I was able to tweet from my classroom account all of the wonderful activities we were doing to promote literacy throughout our building and our community.  The cherry on top was a retweet this evening by the International Reading Foundation.  It was a quote from a student who is not my most confident reader, but who fully embraced World Literacy Day.  I can hardly WAIT to tell him about it tomorrow!

“Because I am literate, I can be the smartest me I can be.”

 

Writerly Notes February 22, 2013

It’s kind of funny; sometimes the universe sends you a message in any way it possibly can.  Lately, the message I’ve been receiving is about my writing.  Allow me to explain…

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1.) Revision Workshop

About a month ago, I read a posting in the Omaha World Herald about a revision workshop that would take place at The Bookworm on February 23 (tomorrow!).  It was inexpensive, with a discount for SCBWI members (score!), at a place I love (with connected coffee shop – win/win), and the focus is something I need – revision.  We are bringing multiple copies of the first 5 pages of our current work-in-progress and an assortment of highlighters.  I have no idea what kinds of exercises are in store, but I’m looking forward to getting feedback on those vital first 5 pages from some new sets of eyes.

2.) Another Agent Politely Declines

Over the summer of 2012, I sent out a number of queries to agents.  A couple responded quickly (polite “no thank yous”), some did not respond at all (a different way to say “no thank you” in the agent world), and one responded this week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This week, approximately 9 months later, with….a no.  Which is fine.  After a number of potential agents say no, the rejections don’t sting as much, but I was surprised by the email.  I had already assumed this particular query was a “no” since the agent had been radio-silent for 9 months, but I did appreciate his recognition of receiving my query and sample of my manuscript.  It would have been easier for him to simply ignore the query.  As a writer, I appreciate knowing that someone has looked at my work, even if it is to determine that it’s not for them.  It’s classy.  And I like it.

3.) A Contest!

I am a member of a number of associations for teaching (International Reading Association, Nebraska State Reading Association, Metropolitan Reading Council, Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics).  Because of this, I often receive emails updating me on the goings-on of each group.  One of these emails brought something interesting to my attention.  The National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, along with a Boston publishing company, Charlesbridge Publishing, is holding a children’s book contest.  Contestants (me!) can submit picture books or chapter books to become one of at least two books that will be published by Charlesbridge.  There will be 25 finalists and at least two of them will result in publication.  I just so happen to have a picture book AND a chapter book that are currently seeking a home.  Perfect opportunity, right?  Time to brush up my manuscripts and put them in their Sunday-best.

4.) Fine Lines

As you, my beloved readers, may remember, last summer, I participated in some writing workshops and camps.  One of these was Fine Lines Summer Camp, held during June.  I attended as a camper, and was grateful not only for the time to focus on my writing, but the opportunity to network with fellow local writers.  I was recently contacted by the wonderful David Martin, editor of Fine Lines journal and organizer of summer camp, and asked to be an educator at this summer’s camp.  I will work as the assistant coordinator for the elementary side of camp and and am very much looking forward to it!  I’m hoping that I can recruit some of my current students (and future students recommended by some of my colleagues – hint, hint) to attend summer camp.

It’s been a bit of writing whirlwind lately with things popping up when I least expected them.  But the things that surprise us are often some of the best things in life.  I’m hoping these will be just some of those things.

 

 
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