Friday, May 27, 2016

WRITE: You're Beautiful. Don't Change.

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In December of 2013 I wrote a blog post at Teach Mentor Texts called, “The One Where I Write YOU A Letter”.

Here’s the letter I wrote and shared with my readers:

Dear YOU,

I believe in you. I know you can do anything you want to accomplish. You have dreams and aspirations and there isn't any reason you can't make them come true. Let yourself be in the moment. Let yourself put your heart into everything that you do. Let yourself embrace all the opportunities available to you. Don't let anything hold you back. Follow your heart and follow your head. You have a great mind and you need to let yourself be free to do what makes you feel empowered. Know that you are important to this world. It's a big, giant place with so many people all here to make an impact in some small or huge way but a significant way no matter the size. You may be one of many, but you can still make a difference. Believe in yourself because you rock, inside and out. You're beautiful. Don't change. Just be awesome.

Love,
Jen

Some of my readers responded to tell me what they thought of the letter.

Margaret wrote, “Thanks. I felt your words were written just for me, and at a time (this crazy holiday season) when I needed them.”

Catherine wrote, “Love this! Sometimes it's easy to forget that we ‘are important to this world.’ Thank you so much, Jen, for reminding us and giving us these words of encouragement. And thanks for being awesome!”

Tara wrote,  “Thank you! Thank you for thinking of me, of writing to me, and including words of comfort and encouragement. I will try to be awesome, even if it's at the end of the day and all I can be awesome about is eating the remaining three cookies in the cookie jar.”

Leigh Anne wrote, “Oh, Jen. I have been thinking a lot lately about goals, dreams, and changes. I needed this.”

Michelle wrote, “First of all, thank you! I needed that! Secondly, the letter is so heartfelt and genuine...I felt like it was written directly to me. Wow, I'm impressed. Thank YOU for making me feel seen and important this morning!”

But I'll tell you a secret, that letter was actually a letter to myself. 

I'm so glad I wrote it! Now I can look back and feel strength in my words. I believed in myself then and I should believe in myself now. And you should believe in yourself too!

Let's Write! Write a letter to yourself. What do you want to tell yourself? What advice might you give yourself? What words do you need to hear most? Maybe you tuck it into an envelope and open it in six months. Maybe you send it to a friend who might need to hear those same words. Maybe you share it on your blog. 

There is power in words.
And we can remind ourselves of that power when we write messages we need to hear.
I would love to hear what you want to say to yourself!
Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

WATCH: How Yarn Bombing Grew Into a Worldwide Movement

One of my favorite books is Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen. It makes me happy to think of Annabelle and her generous spirit and remember all the times I've read the book aloud. It's such a fun book to read aloud because of all the unique characters. 
Before reading Extra Yarn, I hadn't seen yarn bombing in real life...but since then, I've stumbled upon it a few different times. Here's a picture of me with my boys a little over a year ago with a yarn-bombed tree in Minnesota!
So here's the story behind yarn bombing, how it and how it has spread. I'm fascinated by how something small can spread into something bigger, how something inside each of us might expand and grow even bigger when others catch hold of it. But the trick is, if we never let our little idea out, it might never have the potential to shine.

Some of Magda's words really speak to me:

"Hidden power can be found 
in the most unassuming places."

"We all possess skills that are 
just waiting to be discovered."

Watch and think about what skills you have. Are you already sharing your ideas, skills, knowledge with others? How might you let your ideas out into the world? How might you share your knowledge and expertise with others? What are some brave things you might do to let your hidden powers out?

We all have super powers we can use to make the world a better place!
Thanks for stopping by to explore with me!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

JOIN: The Muckiness of Life


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


On Friday night I drove in afternoon rush hour traffic to a retirement party for a teacher I worked with my first year of teaching and in all the years since. I spent a couple of hours catching up with close friends I used to work with. There's nothing like trying something new or going somewhere different to make you appreciate familiar people or places or experiences. 

When I think of good friends who know me, trust and value me, tears sting at my eyes. Growing and stretching and being pushed out of my comfort zone is powerful and I'm glad for it, but a real hug from a true friend is soul-filling.

Of course, they wanted to hear how my new job is going. The first year in a new job is tricky. It's fun and exciting but it's also difficult. 

I learned how everything works. 
I met new people. 
I relied on others for help...a lot.

It's been kind of a mucky year.

Now that I've made it through on year, I'm looking forward to the next. I'm sure next year I'll find my stride.

I'll make the work more my own.
I'll collaborate with people. 
I'll pave my own way, add my own style.

Wading through the muck is part of the journey. 

In my writing journey, revising has been mucky lately too. 

I hit a point this weekend when my revisions didn't seem like they were making my manuscript any better. I was standing in a puddle of words, turning in circles, tapping my compass that just couldn't find true north. My story was muddled. In my attempt to zone in on what my character is really, truly dealing with in the story, I was sinking into quicksand.

It felt hopeless. And then I read through some tweets from the Storymakers Conference (#storymakers16) and Ali Cross shared some tidbits from Jennifer Nielsen. (By the way, I absolutely adore Jennifer Nielsen and her False Prince series if you haven't read it!)


Life gets mucky sometimes.

"Do not give up.
You're closer than you think."
-Jennifer Nielsen

No matter what it is, maybe a new job or manuscript revisions, just keep going. Sludge through that muck, brave the murkiness, and just keep going.

Have you been in the muckiness of life before?
Got any ideas or advice to share? I would love to hear it!
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 2, 2016

READ: Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert


I find power in others telling their stories and 
I hope you do too!
Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Book Date
For the kidlit version, visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.


I'm sure you've heard people buzzing about Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. It's definitely an inspiring book to read for anyone living a creative life. Some of it is a little out there but in general, I love her laid back, go-for-it attitude when it comes to living a creative life. 

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book: 

Honestly, this is about where I feel about my writing at this point. I've been writing for about five years now and I keep promising myself that I just need to keep going. In the newsletter I sent out over the weekend, I shared my thoughts on the word persist. What I know best about the writing process at this point is that I just have to keep going. 

"Do whatever you want to do.
Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life.
Create whatever you want to create - 
and let it be stupendously imperfect, 
because it's exceedingly  likely that no one will even notice.
And that's awesome."

"Do what you love to do, 
and do it with both seriousness and lightness.
At least then you will know that you have tried and that
- whatever the outcome - 
you have traveled a noble path."

I love her thoughts on curiosity. She talks about passion being a scary and maybe elusive thing but that we can be curious and follow our curiosity and it feels possible and fun.

"I believe that curiosity is the secret. Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Furthermore, curiosity is accessible to everyone."

 She gives us permission to live a creative life. For whatever reason, there are so many things - people? society? - that hold us back from living a creative life and thinking it's worth living. But she says just be curious, be creative, make time for it. Just do it. It's okay to let our creativity out.

"Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart.
Share whatever you are driven to share.
If it's authentic enough, believe me - it will feel original."

Too often we get stuck. Either we are scared to start or we aren't sure where to start or we don't want to make a mistake. But in the end, we just have to beign. 

"Begin anywhere. Preferably right now."

If you're looking for a soul-filling type of book to help you think about, embrace, get started or keep going with your creative life, this is it!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

EXPLORE This Week: PERSIST

Mindfulness through writing is a powerful thing. 
I invite you to take a few minutes. 
Free write, 
make a list, 
write a poem, 
craft a blog post, 
draw a doodle, 
take a picture. 
You pick. 
PERSIST is your word to explore this week.
Share your story in the comments! I can't wait to read about your week!
Thanks for exploring your story with me!  
Psst! Yes, you!
Wanna read what I wrote about when I explored the word persist this week?
Sign up for my newsletter here!