Foster Parenting

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Finally Get It...Slice of Life

Back in 2008, I distinctly remember reading Franki Sibberson's first post about Twitter.  It sounded intriguing...a way to connect with other learners who did not live close by? I was attracted to the possibilities right away.   Usually, when I hear about something new, I'm one to jump in and figure things out as I go.  I know that not everyone learns this way, and I'll admit, I probably make it harder on myself sometimes as I work through challenges, but overall, it works for me.

It took me another seven months to read and think about Twitter.  Believe it or not, my first tweet went out four years ago today.  Only July 30, 2009, I tweeted, "New to Twitter.  Any advice?"  I was excited as I anticipated all the new learning, and new friends I would make.  I followed a few people, hesitantly sent out tweets, linked my blog, and hoped for the best.  It wasn't long before I was drowning.  I was overwhelmed with all the tweets as I tried to follow conversations and read everything that came through my feed.  #Hashtags?  @ signs?  Whew!  I was in way over my head.  I treaded water for awhile and then decided to take a break until I had a better sense of what this Twitter mania was all about.

For the last four years, I've dabbled in and out of using Twitter.  I send out a tweet now and then, share ideas, and participate in Twitter chats every once in awhile.  I absolutely believe in its power. I think that's why I haven't been willing to completely give it up.  Troy Hicks introduced our teacher group to Twitter in January as we prepared for our Advanced Summer Institute. I started to think again about how Twitter could move me forward as an educator.  How could I make it work for me?   Cathy Mere and I  had some great conversations about Twitter.  Thank goodness she's patient because I keep asking the same questions over and over.  I've watched how both her professional and personal lives have grown due to her connectedness.  I've even made some "friends" whom I've never met, but feel like I know them based on our Twitter conversations.  I decided I wanted to give it one more try.  I gave myself permission to take in what I could and not worry if I wasn't getting every bit of information out there.

Now, I say I gave myself permission to let some of it go, but deep down, I still felt like a failure.  I wasn't tweeting up to my expectations.  (Remember, I've got that perfectionistic thing down pat).  I constantly compared myself to my Twitter savvy friends, and I always came up short.  I did not see myself as a connected learner.  That is until yesterday.

 Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach presented at the ILE Ohio conference on the importance of connected learning.  One of our tasks was to sign up for Twitter (check, had that done), and send out a tweet (another check...I've done that before).  I wondered if I'd be able to stick with it this time.  I want to be a connected learner.  Then Sheryl said something that gave me pause...She said (I've taken liberties as I was writing the quote quickly), "I think of Twitter like a river.  It is always flowing by.  Sometimes I just want to dip my toes in and I spend 10 minutes or so reading a few tweets.  Other times, I might want to wade in a bit and I will follow a # conversation and be on for a little longer.  Then there are the times I want to dive in and swim.  I'll spend an hour or so delving into a deep conversation with one or several people."

Wow!  That statement released all of my guilt, my perfectionistic expectations, and my feelings of being a Twitter loser.  If an expert like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach uses Twitter in these different ways, then I certainly could too.  I don't have to spend hours getting the latest updates every day.  I CAN check in for different amounts of time and if I have to miss a day, that's ok too.  For right now, I am going to focus on spending a few minutes every day and commit to two Twitter chats a week.  I'm excited about the possibilities now and I'm looking forward to building stronger relationships within my learning community.

Thank you to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  You can view other slices on their blog.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gift of Time

One of my writing spaces at the Inn at Cedar Falls.
Imagine being given the gift of time to reflect, write, and  connect with other writers who have become friends.  I received that gift last week when I attended the Central Ohio Choice Literacy writing retreat hosted by editor, Brenda Power in the beautiful Hocking Hills.  We had 2 1/2 glorious days of uninterrupted time to write, talk to other writers, hike, laugh, eat wonderful food, share our stories, and strengthen friendships.  I arrived excited about the time to write and reconnect with friends. I left feeling refreshed, refocused, and determined to create new habits that included giving myself time every day to write.  And as it always happens when I spend time with these fabulous people, I gained a bit more perspective about myself as well as my students.

Our theme was Habits.  I am a perfectionist.  I want to start a job and finish it, and I want to get it done quickly and correctly the first time. That attitude doesn't lend itself to writing.  As a result, ideas swirl around in my head, I jot down ideas, but I never get back to them because I know it's going to take more time than I have to write a complete piece, be it a blog post, an article for Choice Literacy, or something for school.

Sage Cohen says in The Productive Writer, "We all get the same twenty-four hours in a day.  What you do with yours is up to you.  You may believe that you have no time, but the fact is, you have as much time as anyone else."  She tells the reader to pay attention to how she spends her time.  Then, "Once you become conscious that your relationship with time is not something that happens to you but a dynamic orchestrated by you through dozens of large and small choices you make every day, you can evaluate if you would like to choose to continue the pattern you are in or create a new one."

One of my writing spaces at home.
I am all about creating some new patterns.  I don't want to continue on this perfectionistic path.  I want to create the habit of writing every day and give myself permission to not have a completed piece of writing at the end of each writing session.

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing some of my takeaways from these fabulous days. For now, I'm going to hit the publish button and head outside on this beautiful morning for a walk, another habit I am trying to instill.  :)

What habits are you trying to instill in your life?  How can you make it happen?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Slice of Life: New Chapters

Thank you to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  You can read more slices on their blog.  

My FB status says it all.  I'm sitting at the main campus of the Columbus Metropolitan Library while Annie registers for classes for her freshman year at the local college.  I wondered if it would be creepy...a grown woman sitting in the children's section, with no children in tow. Surely there are quiet sections of the library reserved for adults where tables are scattered for those intent on getting some research or serious reading done.  If there are, I didn't look for them.  I gravitated to the bright, bustling area where children and parents can search for books, sing songs (happening in the room behind me), and play in one of the many areas designated for kids' exploration.  This is where I feel at home.  Memories tumble in of bringing my  three young children here for story time or just to get books.  We would make a day of it...library time, picnic much fun.  I am happy here amidst all the kids and books.

And yet today is bittersweet for me for several reasons.

Three sticky notes attached to the microwave greeted me this morning.  A note from Annie with: the times she needed to be at school to register for classes (and she needs a ride, please), a request for more black ink (she couldn't print her ACT scores), and a plea to put her jeans in the dryer.   My plans for holing up in the office to get some needed reading and writing done completely evaporated.  Temporarily, frustration welled up inside of me as I grumbled about having to give up my plans to accommodate hers...when will she grow up (blah, blah, blah), while at the same time, I was secretly glad that she still needed me and I had the flexibility to help her.  I can read and write anywhere.

A few hours later, my phone rang:  a call from Molly, my oldest who is completing her summer internship in California.'s not like her to call me during the day.  I know I'm not supposed to talk on my cell phone at the library, but it isn't exactly quiet here in the children's section, so I cautiously answered, hoping that the library czars wouldn't swoop down on me and snatch my phone away.

"Hello," I whispered.
"Mom, why are you talking so quietly?"
"I'm in the library."
"You're not supposed to talk on the phone at the library."  (Molly is a rule follower like me)
"I know.  But there's lots of noise from the kids, so I think it will be ok.  What's up?"
"Well, I called to tell you I've been offered a full-time job in San Francisco."

My heart immediately jumped into my throat and tears crept up into my eyes.  I knew this day was coming.  She's so good at what she does and design jobs are hard basically impossible to find in the middle of Ohio.  The best jobs are on the east and west coasts.  She still has a year of grad school to finish at Carnegie Melon, so the move isn't immediate, but it's on the horizon.  My secret wish that she would settle relatively close to us began to dissolve.

So many feelings swirl around me as this chapter in my life ends.  I know the story isn't over; there's lots more to come, but it's with a little sadness that I say good-bye to the hectic years of raising children.  They've grown into their own people who have goals and dreams.  They no longer need me to kiss their scraped knees or create costumes for the school play (or run to the store at 10:00 pm for a forgotten whatever for the next day).  At the same time, it's with excitement and joy that I anticipate what comes next not only for my kids, but for me as well.  Change is upon us.  I don't know what exactly it will bring, but I do know that even though I'm going to miss the first part, I'm looking forward to the next part of the story.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Slice of Life Tuesday...The Love of a Mother

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  You can view other slices on their blog every Tuesday and lots of other great information throughout the week.

It's been a week since I've been home from Turkey.  Between jet lag (my first experience with it) and getting ready for Annie's Welcome Home party, last week went by in a blur.  We are settling into a new routine...Annie getting used to living back in the USA and my husband and I living with a young adult again.  I've had some time to reflect on our trip to Turkey.  I have so many stories, that I will share over the next weeks, but the story that sticks with me now is how similar we human beings are, no matter where we live.

Annie chose to go to Turkey because she wanted to experience a culture very different from ours.  99% of the country is Muslim.  They have call to prayer five times a day.  Where churches dot our cities and towns, beautiful mosques with their tall minerets stand out in Turkey.  Its history is rich in ancient ruins, Biblical
references, and the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire to name only a few.  Muslim women dress according to their beliefs from the very traditional to those more progressive.   We saw women in long black robes and headscarves that showed only their eyes, other women who also covered their bodies, wearing light weight long coats with more colorful scarves that showed their entire faces, and others who wore colorful headscarves with traditional western wear.  Annie's host families and many others that we saw, wore western clothes with no head coverings.  And the traffic!  Our tour guide jokingly told us that Turkey's traffic laws are only suggestions.  Cars, buses and taxis weave in and out of traffic,  beeping their horns to alert other drivers that they are coming into their lanes, all at a great speed.  I was very glad to not have to drive.  I'm afraid I would have been stuck in the middle of the road waiting for someone to let me in the entire time I was there if I had been behind the wheel.

Turkish ladies making g√∂zleme.
I will agree that Annie did experience a culture different from ours in America.  But at the same time, I observed that the people of Turkey were just like us in so many ways.  I think I found more similarities than differences.  Annie's second host mom, Gulcin, loves to cook like I do.  We found that we could bond over food.  Gulcin and Ihsan took us to many wonderful restaurants before we started our formal 11 day tour.  At each restaurant, Gulcin, invited me back to the kitchens to meet the cooks and watch food being prepared.  She didn't know these ladies.  She told them that I was visiting from America and asked if I could come back.  Through hand gestures, basic English words (and some Turkish words that I learned on the spot), I got to observe the wonderful cooking and the lovely ladies who very proudly showed me their handiwork.  We laughed and shared stories over meals, Annie helping us translate when we needed her.  It felt like home.

Another are kids are kids.  I saw happy kids darting in and out of crowds as they played, I saw cranky kids in strollers who were at their limit and needed a nap, I saw kids of all sizes and skin colors doing what kids do best...soaking in life.

And then there's the "vacation bickering."  We laughed when Annie translated a conversation she overheard between a Turkish husband and wife while we toured Cappadocia. In a nutshell, the wife wanted a family picture taken at one of the rooms at the top of a volcanic hill, and the husband, obviously tired of trudging through the extreme heat, told her that they could take the picture right where they were.  It all looked the same anyway.  Yes, it brought back memories of traveling when our children were little and we were all hot and tired.

Annie and Keith dancing as the Turks do
The most poignant moment for me was the evening before we left for our tour.  We had spent two days with Annie's second host family and our final get together was at a Rotary meeting with Annie's hosting club, and both of her host families.  It was a night filled with good food, laughter and dancing.  My husband, who does not like to dance, was up with all the other Turkish men, dancing the night away.  Annie, who shares her father's proclivity to avoid the dance floor, was showing us all how to dance like the Turks.  She and Sana even had everyone doing the twist at one point.  It was when we took a break from dancing that we stepped out into the foyer for some pictures with our "new family."  Everything I had hoped for Annie became a reality.

Riad, Gulcin, and Annie
Gulcin was posing with Annie and Riad (an exchange student from Indonesia who spent the year with the same host families as Annie).  Riad became Annie's second brother.  I glanced over and watched as Gulcin looked at Annie and Riad with so much tenderness and love.  It was the look that only a mother can give. The look lasted only a few seconds, but in those seconds, I saw the love of a mother.   My heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears as I watched
Annie with both of her moms.
her with Annie and Riad.  I could tell that she loved them both no matter what and for that I was so grateful.  (In that instant, we were all crying).  Letting my daughter go across the world to live with people we didn't know was the hardest thing I've done as a mother.  I had to trust that strangers were going to look out for Annie's best interest and give her the support and love that I wouldn't be able to give from far away.  I knew in the instant that I saw Gulcin's expression that my fears were unfounded.  Annie became her daughter this year and I gained a new friend.  The look upon Gulcin's face and her love, were gifts to not only Annie, but also to me.
Our family...Ibrahim and Sevgi (Annie's first host parents), Riad, Sana (our daughter from India), Annie, Gulcin, Keith, me, Ihsan

Our lives have been touched by  many.  I am so very thankful to everyone who had a hand in making Annie's exchange year successful.  This year has given me many opportunities to ponder and wonder...

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all take a moment to notice the similarities between ourselves and those we deem to be different?  Who knows what we might discover.