January 31, 2014

January in Pictures

January Reflections: 
Bitter Cold, Beautiful Palette
Keep trying to explore outside, 
but find ways to warm up inside!


January 30, 2014 Photo (030/365): "Enough"

Are you sick of pictures like these:
Snow clinging to branches and 
drifts obscuring the landscape,
the bluish hue of the January air...?


Sure, the snow is beautiful
and I really do love this color palette,
but I've had ENOUGH:
Enough of bone chilling temperatures,
Enough of salt-stained boots and cars,
Enough of cabin fever,
Enough January!

Yes, I know that February 
will likely bring more of the same... 
Yet the promise of one fewer month of winter:
a month filled with crêpes for la Chandeleur,
hearts, flowers, and words of love for Valentine's Day,
Marquette basketball and the Winter Olympics,
birthday wishes and time with family,
a month with only twenty-eight days...
That's ENOUGH!

January 30, 2014


January 30, 2014 Photo of the day:
"Old School Technology"

A pipe burst at school last night causing us to lose all Internet connection for the whole day (so far...). For a 1:1 school with teachers and students so dependent upon technology, today certainly presented unique challenges. As tech coach, I spent the day brainstorming, troubleshooting, and setting up mobile hotspots for teachers and students who didn't even know they had such capabilities. Technology has really changed the way we deliver instruction in Pewaukee. Yet, as I've always said, good teaching really isn't about access to technology. Good lessons have everything to do with good teachers, clear and challenging learning targets, engaging lessons, effective assessment, differentiation, and feedback. Technology is an excellent tool for increasing efficiency and productivity, for making lessons more engaging, collaborative, and authentic. And although, I am the first to look to technology to transform my lessons, today reminded me that sometimes it is cathartic to unplug. Once and a while, it feels good to read a book, to write on paper, to walk down the hall and talk to someone face-to-face rather than simply sending an email. I am a digital immigrant after all! (Shhhhh...don't tell my administrators ;)

January 29, 2014


January 29, 2014 Photo (029/365): "Inner Beauty"

"Everything has inner beauty, but not everyone sees it." ~ Confucius

January 28, 2014


January 28, 2014 Photo (028/365): "Hot Cocoa"

Comfort on another sub-zero day:
Hot cocoa in my grandma's china tea cup
and Masterpiece Theatre: Downton Abbey

Although I spent most of the day working from home on lesson plans and website updates, it was nice to have a cozy change of venue. Being so productive got me thinking: How could we flip these cold days? How could we leverage technology so that we don't lose instruction time? I think it's something to consider as this wicked Wisconsin winter rages on...

January 27, 2014


January 27, 2014 Photo (027/365): "Encore"

Maybe I'm going out on a limb 
since we're not even a month in yet, 
but I'm already convinced that 
2014's Term of the Year will be Polar Vortex.

Monday & Tuesday: No School 
Closed Due to Extreme Cold, The Sequel

January 6, 7, 27, 28...
At this rate, we'll be going to school until July!

January 26, 2014


January 26, 2013 Photo (026/365):
"The Windy City"

I usually love visiting Chicago, but this time, the bitter cold, snow, and sloppy roads
made it really hard to enjoy the Windy City. I need a do-over of this weekend when the wind chill is about 100° warmer!

January 25, 2014


January 25, 2014 Photo (025/365): "Chiberia"

I can't decide whether it's fun to think about
sailing on this bitter January day in Chicago, 
or if it makes the cold even harder to bear.
Summer seems so far away...

We are Strictly Sail in Chicago this weekend.

But we'd rather be here...

...or someplace tropical!

At least we can go to Margaritaville...

...but even there, we couldn't escape from Wisconsin ;)

January 24, 2014


January 24, 2014 Photo (024/365): "Drifting"

"To reach a port, we must sail, sometimes with the wind,
 and sometimes against it, but we must not drift or lie at anchor."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

(How hard it is to think of sailing when the snow is blowing and drifting...)
January 23, 2014


January 23, 2014 Photo (023/365):  "One"

It's difficult to feel creative when the polar vortex prevents you from really exploring. The walls of work and home feel restrictive. Everything seems so cold, gray, and uninspiring, yet it's easier to stay inside, distracted by work and routine, repressing the urge to see differently, to think differently. 

Outside my window, this singular icicle stands out against the tangled branches. It is attached and structured, yet its unique form continues evolving independently. Inside it seems to be bubbling with potential for continued growth. 

The beauty of the icicle amid the chaotic tangle of branches reminded me of the book I finished reading today, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie. The Hairball is a metaphor for the traditional business model, "a tangled, impenetrable mass of rules, traditions, and systems, all based on what worked in the past--that exercises an inexorable pull into mediocrity".  MacKenzie's insightful and entertaining book offers ideas for avoiding the loss of one's creativity and vision, techniques to resist getting sucked into the "Giant Hairball" of corporate life.

Although the book is primarily intended for business people, it begins in an elementary school where the author is shocked by how young students seem to have lost their inventiveness and even their willingness to admit their creativity. As an educator and instructional coach, I view the book as an endorsement of the "Genius Hour" philosophy. Students and teachers need time to work on their own passion projects; to read and learn and create something that will contribute to their own education and success while also benefiting the organization. I recommend Orbiting the Giant Hairball to educators who crave Genius Hour time, as well as to administrators who want to nurture teachers' and students' innovation, and in turn, increase their productivity.

Finally, recognizing people's need to be creative, to explore, to take risks, to learn and to grow, to write their own verse, Apple's new iPad Air commercial features Walt Whitman's "O Me, O Life"  (recited by Robin William's in Dead Poet's Society). The commercial gives me goosebumps! Earlier this winter, I challenged my American Literature class to think about what their verse would be. We may not have a Genius Hour (yet?), but our ten-minute "Trust the Gush" writing activity allows us the freedom to express ourselves without restrictions, to awaken and foster our own creative geniuses!  "What will your verse be?"

January 22, 2014


January 22, 2014 Photo (022/365):  "Chokeberries"

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. 
Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, 
but we hope it, we know it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

January 21, 2014


January 21, 2014 Photo (021/365): "Oh deer!"

A fresh snowfall and 
a renewed awareness...

Rabbit tracks

Beagle tracks

Diminutive human tracks...

Am I on the right track?

"The first step toward change is awareness." ~ Bertrand Russell

January 20, 2014


January 20, 2014 Photo (020/365): "Dragonflicicle"

"Children see magic 
because they look for it."
~ Christopher Moore

Yesterday, we celebrated my mom's 76th birthday with brunch at the Silver Spring Country Club. My nephews love Grandma, but not even a chocolate fountain is enough to keep them busy for over two hours. While the adults chatted, sipping champagne and coffee, I suggested that the boys go for a walk to help Auntie take pictures for her blog. It was so much fun to witness their excitement when Chase spotted the tiny icicles on this shrub and Alec pointed out that one looked like a dragonfly! The boys have an amazing ability to use their imaginations to see things that are less than obvious. 

Unfortunately, this remarkable talent is often lost when children grow up. Le Petit Prince teaches us that "all grown-ups were once children...but only a few of them remember it." He laments the fact that “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” By taking photos each day and writing about the ideas that these images evoke, I hope to regain some capacity for childlike wonder and imagination.

January 19, 2014


January 19, 2013 Photo (019/365): "Nuages"

Today's photos feel reminiscent of the art of Belgian surrealist, René Magritte.

Magritte maintained. "The mind loves the unknown.
It loves images whose meaning is unknown,
since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown."

"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."

What to write today is a mystery, and the meaning of this post is unknown.

January 18, 2014


January 18, 2014 Photo (018/365): "Reminiscing"

A year ago today, I was in Paris...

It was a quick weekend trip for a conference.
I had no intention of playing tourist.
My plans were to stroll and write in cafés,
to take unpredictable photos like this one:

Who loses a baguette on their way into the Metro?
Anyway, I didn't plan on running from monument to monument...

...that is, until I arrived in time for Paris' biggest snowfall in recent history (over 20 cm)!

How could I resist Paris sous la neige?

The already breathtaking French capital was transformed into a Winter Wonderland!

(Failed Selfie!  I maintain that my arms are too short ;)

How fun for this Wisconsin girl to watch 
the blissful French children and dogs play in the snow
(as well as the chic Parisians slipping & sliding in
fashionable yet completely inappropriate footwear ;)

Even though it was a quick trip to Paris,
it was also one of my most memorable, and I know I'll be back...

...the sooner the better! Paris, je t'aime et tu me manques beaucoup!

Jusqu'à la fois prochaine! Bisous!

For more photos of Paris in the snow, revisit Paris sous la neige 2013
(originally posted 1/25/13)

January 17, 2014


January 17, 2014 Photo (017/365): "Snowflakes"

"Nature is full of genius, full of divinity;
so that not a snowflake escapes
its fashioning hand."
~ Henry David Thoreau

January 16, 2014


January 16, 2014 Photo (016/365): "Lichen"

Do you see the resemblance?

I liken this lichen to coral "under the...tree!"

Maybe it's my desire to be in a tropical paradise rather than in wintery Wisconsin, but the lichen on this tree reminds me of undersea coral formations. I can almost imagine colorful schools of fish or funny sea turtles swimming among the crevices.

Lichens are formed when green algae combines with a compatible fungus. The algae produces the food for the duo, while the fungus provides support and moisture. This codependent relationship is beneficial for both partners as well as for the surrounding ecosystem.  Lichens are able to survive extreme cold and heat to thrive throughout the year. A bit of research revealed that lichens can soak up excess gasses such as carbon monoxide from the atmosphere, thus serving as natural air filters. Some lichens even provide nitrogen to fertilize the surrounding soil. Since they produce their own food from moisture and sunlight, they do not compromise the health of the trees on which they grow.  In fact, I think that their lovely green-gray color and abstract shapes only add to the beauty and interest of this maple tree's bark.

January 15, 2014


January  15, 2014 Photo (015/365): "Above"

"I love being outdoors, love taking a long walk...
looking at trees...and the sky" ~ Audrey Hepburn

My personal "photo safaris" often lead me on long walks in search of unique points of view. Yet how often do I only focus on what is right in front of me? How often do I forget to look down at the fallen treasures beneath my feet or to look up at the lofty scenes above my head. Happily today, a little bird reminded me to change my perspective! 
January 14, 2014


January 14, 2014 Photo (014/365): "Potential"

« Et le jour est venu quand le risque à rester fortement dans un bourgeon 
était plus douloureux que le risque qu'il a pris à la fleur. » ~  Anaïs Nin

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

The buds on these trees have already begun to emerge. With months to go until spring, they cling to their branches, closed tightly against January's harsh realities. Yet inside those fixed buds, the tree's glorious potential continues to grow, until one day, it will no longer be contained. The root of the word potential is potentia: power, ability. What a wonderful notion! Imagine what potential is germinating within us? When will we take that risk and blossom?

January 13, 2014


January 13, 2014 Photo (013/365):
"Once there was a tree..."

As I walked through the woods yesterday, I was discouraged by the lack of obvious beauty. I found little of interest to capture with my camera. However, upon further observation, I noticed the textures and colors of this old tree, its layers of bark and its amber drops of sap. I was suddenly reminded of one of my favorite children's books, Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.

This old tree seems to have lost much of its energy, having shed its leaves, many branches, and much of its bark. Yet it still remains vital, providing shelter and food for birds and woodland creatures over this particularly harsh winter. Imagine what this tree has given in its time...What have you been given and what will you give in your time?

"...and the tree was happy."

"Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation... 
even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind." ~ Leonardo da Vinci