Do You Look? Do You See?

“Seeing is different from looking: in seeing we deliberately select from the environment. Seeing is essential to the artist and scientist as it is to the writer.”  Donald Graves, Bring Life into Learning

I have to practice seeing. We all know our days are busy.  Sometimes too busy to see what is right in front of us.  We have to raise our own awareness of what we see and what we simply look at.

So this week, I choose to see the hydrangeas.  I sketched to see the dried hydrangeas that have held their purple color for two years now.  I sketched to see the freshly cut deep purple burgundy hue of the hydrangea from rogue bush in the front of the house.  I sketched to see rosy shade of the hydrangea cut from the poolside garden.

While I sketched, my mind wandered.  I let it wander.  I found myself wondering, how is it that we create spaces for children to see in school?  Are we so busy in our schools that we fail to take time to teach into seeing?  If we believe what Donald Graves wrote, “Seeing is essential to the artist and scientist as it is to the writer.” then maybe we need to create space for seeing.

I have to practice seeing. We all know our days are busy.  Sometimes too busy to see what is right in front of us.  We have to raise our own awareness of what we see and what we simply look at.




As the snow fell outside, I watched the Amaryllis inside.  I watched it closely over the course of a week.  I observed the slow, yet steady changes of the stems and the blossoms.  Through the observation of the Amaryllis in January, I found my OLW for 2018 – reach.

Last Thursday, I worked with Jess and her fourth graders as we launched our first Journal Soft Start.  This is the fourth classroom, the fourth teacher, that has welcomed me to explore the role of Journals in Balanced Literacy.  I’ve worked with Megan and her second graders, Leigh-ann and her first graders, and Denia and her 5th graders.  I find myself, year after year, reaching for a class, and a curious teacher who wants to not only teach writing but grow writers.  These teachers and their children have been the inspiration for my own continued growth as writer. I am beyond thankful that for three years in a row, I have found that curious soul right in my building!

As I watched the fourth graders work, copying art cards, observing objects, settling in with their journals. Jess and I were instantly in awe at their quiet energy.  I watched as Jackson looked back and forth between his stick and his paper working on a line drawing. I saw Kaya coloring with oil pastel, observing the parts of his art card thinking all the time about a beach memory that he would write about.  I glanced over Logan’s shoulder as he carefully and purposefully captured the detail of the layers of the pine cone.

Reflecting on what I saw that morning made me realize that I thrive on reaching.  Reaching to share my experiences and habits as a writer.  Reaching to create spaces for writers to explore, play, and think in their Journals.  Reaching to create relationships with children through journals, pictures, and writing.

Reaching to grow myself as a teacher-writer.





My research question for the year, “What happens when we incorporate Journal Soft Starts into our day?”  will lead me as I reach to create new and deeper relationships with Jess and her fourth graders.

Just the Bare Essentials

We are all in the kitchen.  We are in the throws of kitchen chaos as Billy and Hannah get ready for the trek back to UVM.  It has been a long weekend with family and friends remembering and celebrating the stories of Billy’s dad.  Here we are, in the kitchen, the five of us.

“Just the bare essentials!  That’s all I need to go back to Vermont!”  Hannah proclaims as she returns from the basement, walking through the kitchen, skis in hand.

“Dad!  Just the bare essentials!  In case an September snow falls!”  Hannah finally reaches Billy who burst out with a cackle and a deep belly laugh at the sight of Hannah.

The sight of Hannah with skis in hand reminds Megan that she needs a new ski coat.  She senses the lightheartedness of the moment and shouts out “Hey Dad!  I need a new ski coat!”

“Really?  Don’t we have a coat that fits you?”  He goes to the closet and starts pulling out coats for Megan to try in.  She obliges.  The first one, formally, Hannah’s, is too big.

“Ok.  That one is too big. Billy concedes.  “Try this one.”  he says handing Megan a pink coat.

“Awwwww.  That was my coat!”  Grace looks up from her phone for a moment of nostalgia.  “That coat wasn’t very warm.”  She remarks.

“OK,”  Billy responds, “You need warm.”  Then he hands Megan a third coat that she puts on.

“MOM!!  MOM!!” I hear from upstairs.  In the middle of all this, I had gone upstairs to change some laundry.

“DAWN!  Get down here!  I think we’ve found the perfect, warm coat for Megan!”  Billy is yelling with sheer joy at his finding.

I come downstairs to see Megan standing in the kitchen in my ski coat.  “That’s mine!”

Hannah, Grace, and Billy laugh simultaneously.  “Yeah!  But doesn’t it fit her good?”

“Yes, it does kinda fit her, but what will I wear?  Am I getting a new coat?”

We laugh some more at the sight of Megan in my coat. I take it from her and put it on myself.  Everyone finally comes to their senses and agrees that the ladies petite size 4 fits me better than 12 year old Megan.

As this kitchen episode is winding down, Billy concedes once again to his daughters.

It’s been a long weekend, but the love and laughter and story making live on in our home.



A Blue Bic Pen

“Dawn!”  Billy shouts from somewhere in the house.

“What?”  I yell.

“Where are you?”  he questions.

“I’m in the laundry room.”

I finish folding clothes and deliver them to Grace’s room for putting away – eventually.

“Billy?”  I’m the one questioning now.  Two minutes ago, my whereabouts seemed of the utmost importance to him.  I need to know why.


“You want me for something.”

We need to stop yelling from room to room. Our house isn’t that big.  I walk over to our room where I find Billy, pile of papers in hand.  He’s pacing a bit.

“You want to hear it?”

“Yes.  I’ll fold these while you read.”

Billy had been working on the eulogy for his Dad’s funeral all day.  I mean ALL day.  He had a blue Bic pen in hand, lined paper piled up.  He sat outside, under the umbrella, periodically, taking a break to cool off in the pool and then returning to his writing spot.  I stayed out of his way, keeping quiet, not wanting to interrupt his process.  A process that he rarely engages in.  The writing process.  I let him be, I let him think.  I let him write.

“You ready?”

“I’m ready.”

He starts reading.  He reads more for him than for me.  That’s what a writer does.  I listen intently as he tells story after story, each making his Dad’s presence come alive.  His voice was steady throughout.  Then came the end. I could hear the change in tone, I could hear the quiver coming, and I felt my own eyes well up.  He carried through, reading every last word.  He stood and I sat there quietly. He piled his papers up, took a deep breath, stepped back and triumphantly raised his arms, looked firmly at me with a smile and proclaimed, “I AM A WRITER!”

Sometimes, a writer needs to hear their own written words in order to believe, that yes, they are a writer.

When you have a story to tell, you are a writer. We all have stories to tell. We are all writers.



An Unexpected Moment

Hancock, Vt is a home away from home for our family.  Debbie and PJ, our aunt and uncle, own the house and we’ve been going there for twenty plus years.  We’ve each got our own twin bed upstairs.  Even when we jam 17 or 18 people in the house during ski season, our beds are our beds.

When we got the word from The University of Vermont that Hannah’s move in time was 8:00am on Friday, we knew we’d spend Thursday night at Debbie and PJ’s.  We’d get up early and drive the additional hour north to Burlington.  Then we’d settle our freshman, our daughter, into her new home away from home in Wilkes Hall.

We left Connecticut at 6:50 on Thursday night.  The car was packed with all the college gear Hannah thought she needed and a few things her mom thought she needed.  We arrived in Hancock right before 11.  We were tired.  Hannah, Grace and Megan rolled out of the car and up to “the girls room”.  I’m not sure a word was spoken.  I followed suit. I put on my comfies and climbed into my bed to rest my head.  I heard Billy climb the creaky stairs and stumble into his bed beside mine.

The house was quiet.  Vermont quiet is different than Connecticut quiet.  I had been laying there for what seemed like and hour but was probably only 10 minutes when suddenly I sensed someone standing at my bed.  I rolled over and opened my eyes to see Hannah climbing in next to me.  I scooted over to make room.  No words were spoken – that’s Hannah’s way.  I heard a few sniffles and held her close.  I rubbed her back and wrapped my arm around her.  Then she rolled out of my bed and rolled over to Billy for more holding and hugs.  The bed hopping and holding didn’t last long.  When she had given and received the hugs and love she needed on this last night together before move in, she tiptoed back to her bed.

I was left in my bed, cherishing the gift of my daughter beside me.